Apr 30, 2016

Meow...

Last year, something new was added to the Growler family of events - the Meowler bike-run-bike duathlon. Ride out to the base of Skull Pass, drop the bike for a running tour of Aberdeen, then finish out the rest of the Growler loop. It sounded like fun, a different kind of challenge - but I was already committed to the Full Growler and the Meowler was on the same day. So there was no way I could do both. I also figured that until I didn't want to do the Full Growler, I wouldn't be able to do the Meowler. To my surprise, this year the Growler and Meowler were separated, with the Growler on the traditional Memorial weekend and the Meowler now the week before with the Sage Burner Trail runs. It would be possible to do both if I wanted to. That seemed like a lot of racing and a lot of travel, so I again put the Meowler on the back burner. My focus would be on the Growler, like it had been for the past few years.

Then my mother brought up traveling to do a marathon with her the weekend after Growler. Not the best time for a marathon, but that got me thinking. With all the running I've been doing, this would be the perfect year to try my hand at the Meowler. With the Sage Burner the day before the Meowler, there was a good chance that she would be interested in that. It was a 50k/25k trail run - something that she would be able to do.  Maybe... 

And yes. Time to change up my training just a little! Still doing the running workouts and the bike workouts for my individual races - Growler and Sheep Mountain - but modifying the schedule just a little so my single sport legs are ready for a multisport event. In addition to that, there's the logistics of the race to practice. Like carrying my running shoes and running gear - which pack? Everything fits in the Rev 6, but does the Rev 12 ride better? There's only one aid station on the run - do I need a better, more comfortable hand held in case it's a hot day? Which also means getting used to running with a hand held, something I'm not that good at. And the most basic of multisport things - comfort running in my cycling clothes! It's a fairly long run, but I need to get back on the bike right way, so some Tri-tricks won't work at all.  So many things to think about and prepare for! It's going to be a different challenge and something new. Here I thought I was done with multisport stuff...

Apr 28, 2016

Into the Unknown - Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race 50k

What a difference a week makes...
On April 16th, I was getting ready to run a 50k in a blizzard, only to have that race canceled. But I wouldn't lose my chance at my first ultra as the race directors from the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race offered all us snowed out Rattler Runners entry into their race. So on April 23rd, I was once again getting ready to run a 50k. I had a small drop bag packed with some food, new shirt and spare socks. My Osprey Rev 1.5 was ready to go with number pinned, food tucked in pockets and a half full bladder. But I still didn't know what to expect - I knew it would be a long day and my legs would be tired at the end. I also knew that the climbs would be the challenge, not the technical running at Palmer Park. I also knew that while I'd done one run of 24 miles and several of 15-20, a well as long mountain bike rides, I wasn't as trained or tapered going into the race like many of the other fast women toeing the line. Not only was it my first ultra, it was my first race past the marathon distance since 2010, when I finished the 50 states with Vermont.
The starting line as the National Anthem was played.
Photo Peter Maksimo

Apr 19, 2016

Ultra - take two

Well, I didn't get to run my first 50k on Saturday. At packet pickup, the wind was howling and clouds hung low over the mountains. But no snow or rain yet. We were all hopeful that Colorado Springs would dodge the weather bullet and the race would be a chilly, fun day. The race directors had taken the precaution of moving the aid stations to allow the volunteers to be dry under pavilions and we were all ready to face what promised to be epic conditions.  I had a tub full of clothes for all conditions and all kinds of options for water proof and wind proof gear. I was ready - maybe not looking forward to spending 5+ hours in the howling wind, wet conditions and mud, but I was ready.

The first thing I did when I got up Saturday was check Facebook for any news on the race. Nothing at 4:30. Time to eat and get mentally ready for the race. It was just blowing like crazy outside, with some rain and a few white flakes drifting down. I had my breakfast, enjoyed my coffee and made a thermos of tea to bring with me. I figured something warm to drink at the halfway point would be a nice treat! At 6:00, I was getting ready to go - with my tub of gear in the living room to be loaded and my car warming up. Hadn't checked my phone yet. The weather hadn't changed in my neck of the woods, so I figured that I would still be slogging my way through the snow and wind. Just before I loaded up my gear, I checked my phone to see an email saying that they "might" cancel as the weather had deteriorated in the last hour or so. Huh. A quick check of Facebook revealed that yep, the race was canceled. The weather wasn't safe enough to have volunteers standing out for hours, let alone having stubborn runners attempting to finish 50k of mud and snowy slush while battling blizzard conditions. After the initial wave of disappointment, I crawled back into bed. It was only 6:30 and I'd been up for two hours. I should have just headed out the door for a long run before the weather went to hell! As it was, I slugged my way through 15 miles on the roads, cursing the wind and cranky before calling it a day. A super long run was not to be that day.

The poor race number and shoes that didn't get abused as planned...

And then the good news. Colorado Springs' running community is pretty tight and news of a race cancelation spreads pretty darn quickly. Before too long, the plan B was in place. Tim and Michael stepped up to offer all Rattler runners an entry into the Cheyenne Mountain State Park Trail Race - the following Saturday and offering the same spread of race distances. Extend the taper a little, modify the training and there was another race to do! If that didn't work, Mad Moose was offering 50% off another event within a year. Options. It's very rare to have one, let alone two options for racing when weather forces a cancelation. Lyme events didn't have to extend the invitation to their races. Mad Moose didn't have to offer the discount to future races. I've seen bigger race organizers do far less for runners when Mother Nature decides it's time to have a fit.

So now instead of the rocks of Palmer Park, I'll be tackling the hills of Cheyenne Mountain State Park for my first ultra. A few modifications to my training schedule and it will be a great weekend for a long run with some friends. Hopefully the weather will cooperate this time!

Apr 13, 2016

Ultra

Years ago, when I was running a lot more then I am now (and not mountain biking at all...) I wanted to do an ultra. The "normal" path is do the marathon, then a 50k before jumping into the longer distances. My plan was to skip the 50k and go straight into the 50m race, even back then. After all, a 50k isn't that much further then a marathon and I was running a marathon a month during the spring and fall. The 50k didn't phase me and I was looking for something that would really challenge me.

Fast forward to now. Not running nearly as much or as focused, but that 50m race I always wanted to do is on my schedule. (Yikes!) I was still planning on jumping straight into the 50m race and not doing a formal 50k before the race. I would be running more then the 50k distance through the course of training for Sheep Mountain, but I really anticipated that the first ultra with a bib number would be that race. Turns out, I wasn't quite right about that one. Sometimes, the local racing schedule plays right into the need for distance and time on feet. So Sheep Mountain won't actually be my first formal ultra. That's coming this Saturday.

The Rattler Trail Race, put on by Mad Moose Events. It's in Palmer Park and uses the same course as the Bobcat race I did last September. I loved that course - fun trail running, but not easy in any way. Lots of rocks, lots of short little climbs and nearly all on single track. The time was perfect for me to run the 50k and I signed up months ago without even questioning that it would make Sheep Mountain my second "official" ultra. And now that weekend is here and I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into. I've done enough long runs and rides already to make the distance easy-ish, but am I ready for a 50k, even at a training pace? I'll find out Saturday. Add in the ever changing weather forecast - some saying rain and wind, some saying cold and cloudy - and it will be even more of an adventure. Lots of things to do to get ready, from having a bag of spare clothes at the finish of the first loop to figuring out if I'm going to wear my pack the whole race or just the second loop. A lot of those decisions will be dependent on the weather I wake up to, but I need to have everything ready. It might be my first Ultra, but I'm not new to the running rodeo, just a little out of practice!

Mar 22, 2016

Learning My Lines

Back in high school, that phrase meant something completely different. Learning my lines, the emotion behind them and the marks on stage where I needed to be to deliver them. Now, when asked about learning my lines, I think about the smoothest and fastest way through a rock garden or down a trick descent. There is an art to reading the rocks and seeing the best path from Point A to Point B. The best technical mountain bikers don't even thing about it, they just see the line, painting it in their minds as they ride. As the slower rider, I'm rarely in the front of the pack. I don't usually get the chance to pick my own lines and find my own way down. I'm following Nick, trusting that the line he selected is the best for me as well. And while that has definitely improved my technical riding, its not the same as learning my lines. Every time I ride without him, I'm reminded of how important it is to be able to make those split second choices - left or right, over or around, when to unweight the front and when to let the rear tire roll.

Playing in the Klondike Bluffs area
 
Small among the rocks and mountains on the top of Klondike Bluffs
So after True Grit, when I realized that I was too tired to ride both smoothly and try to keep up with Nick, I got the perfect chance to practice finding my own lines. We rode in the Amasa Back area on Monday and I told Nick as we were rolling up Hymasa that he should do two loops of Upper Captain Ahab and I would do one. Then we would ride Lower Ahab together. It was perfect - he would get to ride at a more comfortable pace and I would be able to work on riding technical smoothly when tired. I would also get the chance to stop, take pictures and generally have my own time on the trail. Even with the early Spring Break crowds we'd seen in the parking lot and passed on the climb up Hymasa, Upper Ahab was empty. Time for me to settle down, ride my bike and focus.

Why not stop for a selfie at the top of Hymasa?
 
Fire and ice - the red rocks of Moab and the snow on the La Sals
Only the third time I've ridden Ahab, so I definitely don't have the lines down. Which was perfect. I had to see where the trail was going, decide as I entered an obstacle what would be the best line. I didn't have Nick advising me as to gearing and the transitions between descending, traversing and climbing. As I'd anticipated, I was a little hesitant in spots, slowly approaching the blind drops before picking my line to roll down them. I'm faster following Nick, but I don't have to think or process as much information when I follow him. It was good practice for me and I was feeling really comfortable when I finally reached the start of Lower Ahab.

Playing on rocks and following the blue line

I rode back up Upper Ahab a little, taking the time to practice a few different lines as I retraced my steps. And then I saw Nick blazing down towards me. I took a few pictures, but he wasn't in the best spot for any epic shots. Then it was time to finish out Ahab. I got to follow Nick's lines this time, feeling even more comfortable then I had in November. There was only one thing that I didn't ride this time, and that was because Nick told me not too. I saw what he did, how he rolled it, but it was a little bigger then he wanted me to do without a spot. So something for next time. But the rest of the trail - places that I'd struggled with last year were still big, but not scary. I know some people might look at Ahab and think, what's scary there? But for me, the processing still takes longer then it could and there's that cliff in places. I don't like cliffs....