Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome Back Mike

Sunday I had the most emotional finish of my life, and I wasn't even racing. I had the honor of witnessing the most inspirational person I know complete his comeback to triathlon after being hit on a bike ride by a drunk driver over 7 years ago. He has done a few swim/ bike events in the last few years but this was his first triathlon and he chose a tough half ironman. I wouldn't expect anything less from him than picking a tough race because this guy is one tough dude. I still tear up now 5 days later when I think about seeing him crossing that finish line. When I tell Mike that he inspires all who know him and his story he responds with 'Nah, I'm just doing what I do'. We should all Be Like Mike and do everything we do with an infectious positive attitude. Mike was a triathlete prior to his accident but it is with pleasure that I say Welcome Back Mike, it's nice to have you home and out on the race course is where you belong!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fallen Tree 50km

On Saturday I completed the Fallen Tree 50km trail run. It was hot and long and this is my race report.

A little back story. I have never run over 26.2 miles at one time before. That is to say the farthest I have ever run in one day is a marathon. Some people who run marathons run further than the marathon on the day because they do a warm up and a cool down. I do not. I get to the start line and use the beginning to warm up and I cross the finish line and I stop. Therefore this was completely uncharted territory. I have been doing some training runs in the mountains with ultra runners (which is what people who run further than a marathon are called) in preparation for races they have coming up. I even am on tap to pace one of them for the last 19 miles of her 100km event but I have felt like an impostor out there with them. The Fallen Tree 50km on September 15th it would be, I would be at the starting line and I would lose my ultra running virginity.

On Friday the weather was fore casted to be very hot and very dry on Saturday. Some lesser people might have decided it wasn't a good day to do their first ultra run, the hottest day of the year. I was not that person. I had committed to the event and from what I know of ultra runners a little heat doesn't stop them. (they have this 135 run that starts in Death Valley for crying out loud, these people are the original honey badgers!).

At 7:01  on Saturday I crossed the starting line. Official start was 0700hrs but chip time had me at 0701. I had my new camel back LR vest with 70oz of fresh water in the bladder and food to survive a long time. The time cut off was at 1600hrs 9 hours into the event. (we had a dinner party to attend). I also carried a hand held bottle with electrolyte mix in it. As I clicked off the first miles I noticed that it was already quite toasty out and the sun was out in full force. I like the heat so just needed to make sure I stayed on top of my hydration. Carrying your water on your back makes you want to drink it, the more you drink the lighter your load becomes. I concentrated on pacing myself but two miles in I made my first pass. She wasn't in my event, was doing a much shorter run so I found my head playing games with me. My internal dialogue went a bit like this 'you are going out too fast, you shouldn't be passing someone, but I feel like I am basically crawling I'm going so slow, okay make sure you don't push too hard on the uphills, remember the experienced girls walk the hills even at the start'.

Just over two hours in after I made the creek crossing on slippery moss covered rocks without slipping and falling in the water (score one for keeping dry feet) I hit the first water station. A quick fill of the hand held at the water fountain and stop in the porta potty (yes, I was on top of my hydration) and I headed up the 2 mile climb. I made my second and fifteenth pass of the day in one swoop as I went by a large group at the base of the trail up. (it was a boy scout troop). The whole way up the switchbacks I kept checking down to make sure that they weren't gaining on me. I have read many ultra runners talk about the importance of getting out of sight with the pass so I made sure I did that. There must have been another event using part of the same course, or the other runners I saw had gotten lost and off course because as I was heading up, they were heading down. I knew that the Fallen Tree 50km did not do any backtracking. Smuggly I carried on.

At three hours in, my pack had gotten fairly light and my hand held bottle had less than a half left in it. As the day heated up I was needing more and more fluid. I had just come down a very steep, very exposed trail with no breeze and I knew I was going to need more water soon. Prior to the event the crew station locations were a little vague so I pulled out my phone and called my support crew. No answer. That's okay, he's probably driving to meet me and is going to surprise me early. I held on to the belief for the next 4 miles. I saw several mountain bikers through this section and they all were very encouraging. I got to where I thought my crew would be and they were not there. A guy who had just finished his mountain bike stepped in and gave me the two mouthfuls of water he had left in his bottles. I tried calling my crew again, still nothing. I started to look at the lake I was passing and wonder how sick the water would make me and why I was not carrying purification tablets like a seasoned pro would have been? Still have so much to learn! Suddenly my phone rang and my support crew was on the way.

I plugged along, running when I could and walking the steep uphills. I was starting to find the flats a  little tough. Suddenly I turned a corner and there in the distance was the crewing station. I picked up my pace with thoughts of cold beverages and fresh squeezed OJ. My crew was awesome. He totally took charge. Slathered me in sunscreen, filled my pack, insisted on filling my hand held when I said I didn't need it since I had no electrolyte to mix in it and he wet me down and put my hat on me. Off I went completely refreshed and in disbelief. I wasn't sure it was true that me hearty had actually touched my disgusting, salt encrusted sweaty body but the evidence was there when I looked down and saw the sheen of sunscreen on my arms and legs.

The next section of the run saw me enter the hottest part of the course. The trail was lined with vegetation and deep in a valley so there was no breeze. It was sweltering and I was beginning to have lots of self doubts. Really, who was I kidding, I had barely trained for this thing, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I was fairly familiar with this trail from mountain biking it and knew that soon I would be going up some switchbacks out of the valley. Just around the next corner for sure I would say. Amazing how much faster you get there on a mountain bike. Finally, I saw the climb and rejoiced in the fact that I could walk up it. About an hour after I left my crew I noticed that my pack was surprisingly light and the hand held he made me take was dry. I still had some time to go and this was not good. I may have just climbed out of the valley but I was now in the proverbial valley of the run. It was not a good place, things started to hurt, I started to dread the downhills. I called my crew and arranged another meeting.

When I had been running with the veterans they had told me that they use music when it gets rough to motivate themselves. I poo pooed that idea as not being purest. Well can I just say I have never been so happy to have a speaker on my phone and pandora available. I pulled out that crutch, put it on the 80's hair band station and suddenly my legs came to life. Nothing like a little ACDC to turn me into a fast machine. I may have been shuffling, but I was making forward progress and then suddenly I took a huge pull from my straw and got the dreaded dry sucking sounded. I felt back and sure enough my pack was empty of water. I told myself it was okay, my awesome crew would be there in no time. Once again he appeared like an oasis and this time he not only brought me water and electrolyte but an ice cold coke. I let him take charge and did what he said and was out of the crewing station in no time and on my way to the finish. I was buoyed for the remainder of the run by two things, first the charge I got from the caffeine and sugar and second as I headed out me hearty told me he was proud of me for getting it done.

As I started up the final climb into the home stretch the words coming out of my speaker were 'you may be right, I may be crazy, but it just might be a lunatic you're looking for'. The universe made me smile with how fitting the songs were that came out of that little piece of magic. As I crossed the finish line in first place I had a wash of overwhelming relief and pride. I had accomplished what I set out to do. Does it make me an ultra runner? I don't know, they say if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it that it doesn't make a sound. Even without a witness though, the tree still goes from standing to being fallen. It may not have been a sanctioned event, but I still covered 50km with my own feet in one shot and I hold the course record for the Fallen Tree 50km.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Go Go Girls

This past week I had the great opportunity to test ride and Elliptigo. The last time I received so much attention going down the street I was wearing a go go girl costume in bright daylight. Everyone was very curious about the machine we were on. Originally, we weren't sure that we had blocked off enough time to get in a good workout but the 90 minutes that we had them out on the roads were plenty. Immediately I noticed how high it got my heart rate and I was working hard. These machines mimic running and are great for the injured runner or someone who wants to put in more running miles without getting injured. You can also cover way more territory on one of these than regular running. We were able to keep up with some bikes on a slight incline, and we didn't really know what we were doing. With a little practice we could have chicked them!

I had to concentrate quite hard on not trying to make the circular movement that I do while on a bike and try to mimic the running motion more. By the end I was getting more comfortable with it. The Elliptigo balances easily and I never felt like I was going to tip over, but I never got to the point where I would have been comfortable one handed riding either. (not surprising since it took me years to ride a bike without hands as an adult). They come in several different models with the high end one having more gearing and carbon parts. The ones we were on had 8 gears which are in an internal hub. When asked about maintenance we were told it is pretty easy. Clean and lube the chain, keep the tracks clean and adjust the gearing with a hub on the cables. Since the gear cassette is internally housed it doesn't get dirty and apparently lasts at least 1000 miles before it needs any kind of maintenance. My final take was if you love to run and can't anymore this is the tool for you. If you love the be outside and live in a climate like I do then this is a great cross training tool year round. They can be put on an indoor bike trainer as long as it accepts smaller wheel sizes, so you could have it indoors as well. Much better than a stationary close hanger, er I mean elliptical. How many people can say they ride their close hanger. All in all it was a great workout, and a great social tool. You are guaranteed to meet people while out riding one of these, everyone had their interest piqued! Next time I might just don my go go girl halloween costume and really give them something to see:)


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dusty and Rusty

In my attempt to put the dirty back in dirty hundy I have been out on the trails quite a bit lately. I have come home dusty and noticed that I am also a little rusty. I squeak a little too much when I am attempting to roll over things on my mountain bike that I have had no problem clearly in the past and like a rusty tin man I am not moving as quickly with my joints to counter my crappy choices in lines through the rock gardens. One thing that my poor choices in places to roll my tires has shown me is that the path of least resistance does not always lead to where you want to go. On the mountain bike trail and in life sometimes you have to go over or through obstacles to get to where you want to go. The trail that originally looks easy and obstruction free may end up being strewn with debris and dead end. So when you are faced with the choice, sometimes pick the tougher way to get there. I have learned that you feel really good about yourself when you actually clear the boulder and get to the other side. It may take a few tries but overcoming a challenge is very rewarding and the views when you get there are usually spectacular.