Halfway

Halfway through the year and halfway through the Transcendence Series . Back in February when I was getting organized for Stories, this poin...

Aug 12, 2019

Leave what is heavy behind

That was the theme of the Sheep Mountain Endurance Run - to leave what was heavy behind and find the strength to maintain the ultimate goal of forward momentum. To further that purpose of that goal, John handed each runner a small black rock when they checked in. Carry the rock throughout the course while you figure out what is heavy and weighing you down. When you did, drop the rock and the worries associated with that stress. Leave What is Heavy Behind.

Getting ready to start. It was a little chilly in the morning!
For me, some of that was the course its self. In 2016, I’d lined up for the Sheep Mountain 50 Mile (which was more like 54 miles!), thinking that I’d done everything needed and would not only finish, but crush that course. While I finished (in what still stands as the “Long Course” record from the Fair Grounds) I did not crush that course. The course crushed me - I’d not only underestimated the distance, I’d underestimated the elevation and the challenge. I remember looking up at Round Hill, wondering why I couldn’t make my legs run. And the final climb halfway back up Sheep Mountain nearly broke me. So I was eager to return to Sheep Mountain - even with doing the shorter distance, I wanted to see if the things I’ve learned would translate into a more enjoyable day. I’d pondered jumping up to the 50 mile, but after twisting my ankle at the Barr Trail Mountain Race, I was happy to just feel confident in starting the 50k. I know better now - rocks are the other theme of Sheep Mountain, and I didn’t need to expose a tired and still tender ankle to an additional 22 miles of rocks for just my pride. Leave what is heavy behind - the stupidity produced by pride.

Aug 1, 2019

Barr Trail Mountain Race

Some things sound like great ideas when they pop into your head. Things like running to Barr Camp and back down as a way to celebrate entering a new age group. Yep, sounded like a great idea back in June! Then July arrived and I realized what I’d gotten myself into. Barr Trail Mountain Race is a big time event - attracting runners from all over the country to test their legs before the Pikes Peak Marathon. And this year, it was the SkyRunner North American Championships, so lots of young, fast kids were going to show up in addition to the local speedsters. Yikes! Seriously, what was I thinking that I could be competitive at this race? So of course, I decided to summit Mount Shavano as part of my long run before the race. Nothing like hiking up a mountain and then back down to get some confidence, right? Nope, all it got me was some sore quads, less miles then I’d planned on running, but a solid day on foot in the mountains. Not the best prep, but...

Volunteering for packet pickup the day before allowed me some time to calm the nerves and write some good luck notes on friend’s bibs. That didn’t last long though as I returned home to organize my crap to race. Ugh. What had I really really gotten myself into? I wasn’t training to run hard up a hill and then come flying down! I was in full on ultra training - run comfortably on the flats and gently rolling stuff, power hike anything that looked like a hill and then be steady down the hills. That’s not how the Barr Trail Mountain Race works though - it’s all in from the gun, into the red within the first minutes and holding red for the six miles up to Barr Camp. Then it’s time for reckless abandon back down to the finish line. My reckless abandon has tempered in the past few year, so I was a little concerned about the downhill as well.

Race morning. Slightly overcast when I woke up but with brilliant blue skies over the Peak. I jogged from my car up Ruxton to the start for my warm up and added in a little bit of the start. Whoa... When I said it would be all in and redlined from the start, I wasn’t kidding! I remembered all the years of doing the Ascent and Marathon in the late 90s. I never ran up that stretch of road and was always hiking up the Ws. Staying out of my head was challenging as I looked around at the other women on the line. And then we were off, charging up the hill like it was a flat road race!

Surprisingly, I felt half decent as we started climbing. I was well down in the field, but maintaining visual contact with a few of the faster women. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t last as we started up the Ws, but kept pushing the pace. This wasn’t an ultra - this was pure trail running and I had to try to run as much as I could. Eyes on the trail, keep glancing up and down few switchbacks to see if I was maintain my place. Not too bad, not to good either. I was still hiking more then the women I could see ahead of me, but keeping tempo with the guys around me. The power hiking was working! Still slower then running, but still a good effort. I could hear the first aid station well before I reached them - the high schoolers heading up the Incline station were taking their job seriously. I didn’t need anything - it was still early in the race and cool out. Time to focus on the next aid station - the No-Name Creek station halfway up the hill. I knew once I hit No-Name, the majority of the climbing was finished. I just needed to keep pushing to get there!

Charging up the Ws
Photo - Jay Watts

I was doing a good job of not looking at the watch on that first part of the climb. I was hoping for a specific time up to Barr, but didn’t really know any of my splits. That’s what happens when you haven’t set foot on the mountain in years! So the plan was to just keep pushing hard and hope that I would be close to that goal time. Meanwhile, just keep going! One foot in front of the other, run when I could, keep the power hiking up when the running was to hard. The next aid station was Bob’s Road - only a mile or so away. A little more climbing, but mostly runnable. I could remember the landmarks somewhat, but not enough to have the entire course dialed. I know the women who trained on the mountain knew exactly each turn and switch back, but to me - it was all brand new. Kinda fun that way! A vague sense of familiarity, but still the unknown. And as we climbed, the anticipation of seeing the leaders come flying around the corner! It didn’t take long - after I passed Bob’s Road aid, the men’s leader blasted by us. Wow. Almost four miles ahead of me! The second place runner was quite a ways behind, with third right on his heels. One nice thing about out and backs is seeing the entire race unfold - from leaders to middle of the pack to DFL. It also meant it was time to start looking for the women.

Enjoying the downhill before my mis-step
Photo - Todd Short

I wasn’t as high as I wanted - my goal was top ten and I was just on the edge of 15th. I would have to take some chances to move up. The gaps weren’t too bad, but more then what I would have liked at that point. I refilled my hand held from the super enthusiastic Palmer High School students and turned my attention to the descent. Time to fly. At least that’s what the plan was... I caught one of the women fairly quickly after we turned around and set my eyes down the trail. I was running down the like I hadn’t done in years - leaping from rocks, bouncing from trail edge to trail edge. I was having a blast and quickly catching Emily. I made my move, smoothly getting around her. And then... My reckless abandon got the better of me. I stepped down and felt my left ankle give way underneath me.  My leg buckled, but I was able to shift to my right leg within seconds. The damage was done though. My ankle protested loudly as I slowed to a near walk. Panic set in - I had five miles left to run down the mountain, with no other way. How much damage would be done in those five miles? I hobbled along for a few minutes, assessing my options. While my ankle was throbbing, it wasn’t race ending pain. It just hurt. I could run again, but gingerly, measuring each step carefully. No more reckless abandon for me. I had to be careful and be steady. One more wrong step and the entire season would be over.

At No Name, I got a cup of water and continued on my way. I caught Emily again, but had been passed by another woman just before No Name. I was not looking forward to the Ws. I know the steep descents and switchbacks would be painful and challenging. Still, I was feeling comfortable as long as I didn’t take chances. A steady pace and smooth gait was working, but I had to slow on each rock obstacle. I was wishing I’d remembered more of the climb as I descended. That would have helped with tempering how much to push. There were a few times that insteps wrong and felt my ankle wobbling. Every time, that sense of panic that I was done, but every time I was able to recovery. Hearing the Incline aid station was a needed boost - once I hit that point, it was less then two miles to the finish.

Finally, I was starting to remember things and recognize landmarks. The trail was busy with day hikers, but luckily most of them got out of the way. I was taking a few more chances here and there, but mostly trying to stay steady. One more women passed me just before the turn off Barr Trail, but I’d survived the descent with no further damage. Just one little stretch and the final hill up Hydro to the finish. I’d hoped for a 2:10 time, but my finish was 2:20. Still a decent time given everything that happened! And while I hadn’t met my other goal of top 10, I’ll take 15th and first masters. That was the ultimate goal for the race - my first masters event and I wanted a win. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but I got it done.

Women's Masters - Second Place Amber Wood-Jensen (2:33:54), Me - 2:20:41 and RD Katie Benzel
Photo - Peter Maksimow

Jul 31, 2019

Return to Sheep Mountain

Saturday I step to the line of the fourth race in the Transcendence series. This is also a return to my first 50 mile race, a day that nearly broke me. I remember climbing up Round Hill, wondering why I was moving so slowly until I turned around to see the trail falling away behind me. I remember reading the pre-race emails, with John’s warning about the 8.5 miles between Pasture and Horseshoe being a long, slow slog and laughing. Surely he couldn’t be serious about how slow that section was! And then when I was struggling on that seemingly unending climb, watching my goal time slip away I couldn’t believe how long it was taking to just hike two miles. I wasn't ready for that day, mentally. 

Looking up at Sheep Moutanin
I return to Sheep Mountain, to where this whole thing really started. I will once again climb into the wind atop Sheep Mountain, surrounded by the views of the Mosquito Range and South Park. I will take on that long, slow slog between Pasture and Horseshoe - hoping to banish the demons from 2016. I was tempted to step up to the 50 mile and really put to the test everything I’ve learned so far. But one of the things I’ve learned is that less is more sometimes and just because I can do the 50 mile, doesn’t mean I should. So instead of the 50 mile, with the plunge off Brown’s Pass to the flowing singletrack of Sheep Creek Trail and then the heart breaking climb up Round Hill, I will be turning left to drop directly to Pasture. That doesn’t mean it will be any easier of a day - because it is shorter, that means I have more expectations upon myself. I want to tackle that 8.5 miles and enjoy it, while going faster then before. And then the final miles returning to Fairplay Town Beach - I want to be strong covering those miles

Trying to make running look easy on the return to Fairplay back in 2016


In some ways, I’m looking forward to this return. Sheep Mountain showed me the possibilities surrounding trail running. It was the spark I needed to return to running - but that spark needed some time to grow into a fire. I will nurture that spark while I’m running through the Fairplay suburbs, waiting for that first glimpse of Sheep Mountain. It was awe inspiring back in 2016 and I’m sure that it will be just as inspiring this year. I will take the time to enjoy the views as I traverse Sheep Mountain before the descent into Brown’s Pass. There is a lot to take in along the 31 miles I will be covering on Saturday. Unlike in 2016, I plan on taking it in - there is more to the race then the time as I’ve learned over the past few months. The community is just as important - that is source of the spark that keeps us going. This time I will embrace the community and allow the spark to grow into a flame. I will need that flame come September.

Jul 27, 2019

Master Class!

Some people make a big deal about all birthdays - celebrating the entire month. Not me. I’ve always been a quiet person when it comes to my birthday. Never seemed like something important as I got older - except for certain birthdays. Even 21 wasn’t as important as other birthdays - the ones where I entered new age groups. Only runners would consider 25 more important then 21...

2019 is a big year in regards to the new age groups. Not only do I enter a new age group - but a new class! Yup - into the Masters Class. It’s been a strange build and anticipation of the new age group. I still have my eyes on the overall, but I know there’s more now - a whole different playing field. And this one you can’t tell just by counting the women ahead of you! After all, I might be 40 now, but I don’t feel it. So how do you tell where are in the new class? You don’t. You just run - just like I did on July 18th. Run as hard as I can, with my eyes on the total number of women in front of me.

As I get ready for my first race in the new age group, I’m a little torn. This is a big race for a new age group - not one of the little local events for the Brewer’s Cup. The Barr Trail Mountain Race - up to Barr Camp and back down. This race attracts people from all over the country and is one of the major prep races for the Pikes Peak Marathon. Some of the strongest women in the state show up to test themselves against the mountain - and they have trained for it! Me? I’ve been training for ultras, for power hiking up hills and ultra-sauntering down them. BTMR is the exact opposite of that - dig deep and run up the hill, then blast down as fast as you can go. Add into that I haven’t been on the mountain in years. I was planning on some mountain running, but just ran out of time. Sure, I’ve done my share of hill running, but nothing like Barr Trail. I don’t know what to expect come 7:00 tomorrow. Will I be able to run all the way up or will the training I have done force me into a hike?

A few years ago, I wouldn’t be concerned about the possibility of having to hike. I was able to make up all the time and more on the downhills when I was younger. I had no fears at all when it came to blazing down the hills. Now? I might not feel older then the others on the line, but I don’t bounce like used to! I’m a little more cautious about running downhill - the cavalier attitude has been replaced with increased attentiveness and awareness. How will that affect me tomorrow? Will I be able to use my former speed and fly down Barr or will it be a struggle to catch up with the younger women? Time will tell.

Here’s to four decades on this planet! Now let’s go run up a mountain to celebrate!

Jul 25, 2019

Birthday adventures

Nothing like a whirlwind trip to celebrate a new decade! This past weekend was a quick trip to Grand Junction and back for some exploring, new trails and a little business. I learned plenty during the business part of the trip and will see if more information comes of it. But the rest of the trip was worth it!

Saturday, after a cool night atopt Monarch Pass, we headed for Hartman Rocks. Sure, We’ve ridden there plenty of time between 24 Hours in the Sage, Growler and all the pre-rides for those events. Those days we headed out specifically to check out sections of the courses. This ride we had no agenda. Just ride bikes. Okay, one agenda - Nick wanted to ride Rattlesnake. He always wants to ride Rattlesnake! We did a little meandering to get there, hitting up some trails that Nick never gets to ride. When the Growler goes counter clockwise, he misses the fun descent off Ridge Trail, so that was also on the trail menu. Despite it being a Saturday, the trails were empty. I’m sure everyone was riding up in CB, dealing with the snow and mud on the high alpine trails. Made it better for us! We were able to session a few rocks obstacles that I always struggle with during Growler. This time, I figured out my line and got that rock on Gateway. Hartmans is growing on me - I was terrified of the rocks and spent every section between the rocks on my first Growler looking towards the next outcropping. Now, I look forward to them!

Nick studying the trail as the sun set over Grand Junction

The plan for Saturday night was to head up the Grand Mesa and find a spot to camp there. I’ve never been up on the Grand Mesa, so was really looking forward to exploring the trails up there. The drive up was amazing - the contrast between the desert in the valley below and the green near alpine of the Mesa. It was almost 11,000 feet at the Mesa Top parking lot. I spent some time studying the maps, trying to figure out where would be the best place to set up camp for the night. I wanted to run in the morning and then we would ride. Except... When we got out of the van and walked over to one of the map kiosks on the mesa top, we were swarmed. Beyond swarmed. The mosquitos were Minnesota quality in both size and quantity! Even with copious amounts of bug spray, we couldn’t hike down one of the trails near Carson Lake without clouds surrounding us. Um, yeah. Not gonna try camping there! I didn’t feel like getting eaten alive just to check out some new trails. So down we went into the Grand Valley. We would deal with the heat of the desert over the mosquitos of the mesa. We actually found a decent place to park for the night and settled in. It would be hot, but there were no bugs! And we were close enough to the trails for me to get up at sunrise and run before it got hot.

A short run on the Lunch Loop trails and then it was time to head to ride. Since we weren’t going to explore Grand Mesa, the next best thing was another new trail. Palisade Rim this time! It wasn’t quite dry last time we were in Grand Junction, but with 90* heat it was definitely dry now! Our goal was both the lower and the upper loops. The step of the lollipop from HWY 6 up was quite the climb. And there was something that our trails in COS are now lacking - technical features and rocks to have to climb. Nope, no nearly smooth path here - this was a challenging and fun climb. The first half of the lower loop was pretty easy - more climbing on fairly mellow singletrack. We kept climbing after reaching the junction with the stem to the upper loop. Not hard climbing, but sustained and hot. No shade at all! Wasn’t too bad as long as we kept the pace easy, which Nick was happy to do for me. Once we started downhill though, the trail edged ever closer to the cliff side. Too close for comfort for me! Focusing on the trail was all I could do to keep moving. I was still struggling as we got closer and closer to a huge drop off. Me and left exposures don’t do well at all! I couldn’t get out of my head, even just looking at the trail right in front of me. Then finally, we go back onto the stem again. I could relax for a little! There was more chunky left exposure coming and I wanted to have gotten out of my head before we hit it. No such luck. We were quickly in the exposure section and while I was able to ride some things, there were other things I had to walk. Not because of the technical features, but because of the exposure. That is life. I know when it’s coming and when I need to just get off and walk. But overall, Palisade Rim was a fun trail. It’s always nice to get something different. And with the Palisade Plunge coming, there’s going to be more there!

Monday afternoon, on the way out of Grand Junction, we decided to check out the RAT. It was a bit of a detour, but again - new trails! We didn’t know what to expect at the Ridgeway Area Trails, but worth a chance. While the trails weren’t the techy, rock filled trails Nick loves there was still plenty of fun to be had. Too bad I was feeling like crap after a busy morning! We stuck to the easier trails - the flow trails and the steady climbing. I was definitely sluggish and cranky with how I was riding. There will be another day to fully explore the RAT.

And finally - the last day before it was time to start heading home and reentering "real life." Long run time! I had grand plans of covering 25 miles on the CT. Keep it simple and easy - just a straight up out and back. Maybe a double out and back pending on where we camped for the night. But when we got parked and settled for the night, I started looking at the maps. Sure, I could do the planned long run and get the miles. Or.. We were camped in the shadow of two 14ers - Shavano and Tabaguche. Maybe I could work those into my run? I’m not going to start peak bagging any time soon, but I’ve ridden past the start of the Shavano trail so many times. This would be the perfect opportunity to explore. Of course, I conveniently ignored the more then 4,000 foot elevation gain from start of the trail to the summit - in less then 5 miles. Why let reality get in the way of a good idea?  I might need to drop the total distance of the run - I only had six hours - but I could get a lot of ground covered in six hours.

Taking the left this time!
In the morning, I headed north on the CT. I was at least going to do Shavano - I'd decided that much. If the trail got too sketchy or I started running out of time, I would bail on Tabaguche. It didn't take me too long to get to Blanks Cabin. The trail was pretty easy running once I got to top of the climb out of the North Fork drainage. And this time, at the sign I'd passed so many times, I turned up. Right away, I knew the climb would be slow. I settled into my ultra power hike mode and started marching up the hill. The trail was loose, rocky and full of baby heads - perfect training for Sheep Mountain! Of course, I stopped plenty of times to look around, take photos and generally enjoy the time being in the mountains. There was so much water and so many flowers!

Because you can't NOT take a photo of columbines....

The trail was steeper then I'd anticipated - that convenient fact about ignoring 4,000 feet of elevation gain coming back to bite me. I pondered turning around a few times. It was slower going then I'd wanted and steep enough that the descent wouldn't be all that fast either. I kept telling myself that I had six hours - I would be able to make up the time once I got off the mountain and get some solid distance still. Once I hit tree line, the trail started getting crowded. Seriously - it was Tuesday and I hadn't gotten as early a start as I wanted. Yet there were so many people on the trail, both still climbing and descending! Welcome to the trail leading to the summit of a 14er.... At the saddle just south of Shavano, the trail deteriorated into near rock scrambling. I picked my way up and up, dodging hikers. They were all giving me looks like I wasn't prepared with my little pack, but I was probably carrying more emergency gear then any of them. Finally, I reached the summit. More people - which made getting the summit photo nice, but I was in awe of how many people were there. Once I glanced over towards Tabaguche, I decided that I wasn't going to tag both on that day. There was a long snow field that I could see people climbing up. Add that into descending back down onto a ridge line, then having to climb back up I would run out of time. Clouds were also starting to build around me, so after photos, I hightailed it down and off the mountain. They aren't going anywhere.


At the summit of Shavano


View to the north - Mount Elbert looming close and the snow field across the Tabaguche trail to the left

Those clouds started rumbling just after I got back onto the CT, with pea sized hail and heavy rain soon following. I'd continued a little further north on the CT and turned around as the rain picked up. Again, time was getting short and I didn't want Nick to be waiting too long. He'd gone on his own adventure up the North Fork Road, but that mean he wouldn't start getting worried as my six hour deadline approached. The running back south to van was pretty smooth, but my distance was no where near what I'd wanted. When I reached the van, I told Nick I was going to go south for a little longer, figuring it would be easy to get a few more miles. Yeah - the CT climbed right away from the road and my anticipated 20 minutes turned into 30. Whoops...

Clouds loom over the North Fork valley


There's a good reason the road was closed. Avalanche!

Jul 17, 2019

Halfway

Halfway through the year and halfway through the Transcendence Series. Back in February when I was getting organized for Stories, this point seemed so far away. Far enough away that I couldn't really look head towards July. I had plenty to get through before even reaching the second race -  Tommyknocker. So the focus was kept narrow - in that month and that week, without psyching myself out about what was to come. There would be plenty of time for getting psyched out later. I knew that the first half of the series was really the hardest. The scheduled races were two of the longer events and just one 50k.

A Fairplay sunset the Friday before Last Call

There was a brief moment of panic when Tommyknocker got cancelled due to weather. I had a backup race available to ensure I would get the third 50k, but really didn't want to use it. It would mean leaving things really to the last minute with no wiggle room at all. But luckily, the rescheduled date for Tommyknocker worked perfectly. Sure, instead of having to behave because I had a mountain bike race in two weeks, I had to behave because I was tired from a mountain bike race the day before! In all actuality, that was perfect training though. Nothing like two really hard events back to back to simulate what I'll see in September.

I finished Tommyknocker 12 with a solid 34 miles - just over the 50k mark I needed. Tommyknocker was the event that intrigued me the most. Utterly random - no way for me to really prepare. That alone was mentally challenging. I'm used to having the set course and being able to plan a little. Times between aid stations, distances covered, anticipated finish times. There was nothing like that at Tommyknocker - just little balls deciding my fate until I decided that I was done running. And it was a lot of fun! Instead of focusing on the course and the time, I allowed myself to focus on the event and the people around me. While I know that it was a race and the distance covered was important to some runners, as long as I got my 50k I was happy. That lack of personal expectation for placement was freeing. I could just run! I could take my black balls with a smile. I could experiment with food and drink - knowing that I had 12 hours to run 50k. If my stomach went south because of a new snack, all i had to do was back off and start hiking. I could play with my poles - practicing ups and downs, checking my stowage system for comfort and security before Last Call. All very important things to work on but things that are hard to address in a solo long run.

Runners assembling for the 6:00 AM start of Tommyknocker 12

Last Call was my goal 50 before all this started and as I wrote before the race, one of the events I was most looking forward to. A return to the 50 mile distance, the distance the nearly broke me in 2016. A chance to see if I'd really learned anything in the last three years. There's more to ultras then just the physical training. While I may have had the physical training for Sheep Moutain, I did not have the mental training. I suffered because of that. Even though you can't really compare the physical challenges between 50 mile races, the mental challenges are similar. This year? Even Nick commented on how much clearer I was during the race, how much happier I seemed.

The over-arching goal of this quest was for knowledge, breaking through the limits. Without that awareness that there should be growth over the course of the year, it's just six big races tied together.  It really is important to have that positive mindset. I've said it before - there's a huge mental component to ultra running. If you allow the mental aspect to drag you down, then it doesn't matter how good you are feeling physically. Your day is done. Part of that is staying in the moment - being aware of both mental and physical and working through things as they arise. You aren't going to be able to anticipate everything, but you can break almost anything down into simpler issues. The format for Tommyknocker was the perfect representation of that mindset. I couldn't anticipate what color ball I would draw, but I could break the day down into each loop - each ball represented a fresh start. Get some food, get some water and head out for the next adventure. I couldn't look a head and guess as to what would be waiting for me when I finished that loop, so there was no option but to stay in the moment.
This is where we get to play....
The other thing that helps when things are low mentally? Smile. I've said this before as well - your energy is reflected on the other people in the race and the volunteers. If you just smile, everything around you will be brightened. Sounds trite, but it works! You can be deep in the pain cave, struggling and suffering, but seeing a smile can make the stress lift for a bit. So can taking a moment to enjoy the surroundings. We are running and racing in some of the most beautiful areas in the world. What good is being there if you don't look up from the trail to take it in? That was the key at Last Call. Yes, I made some mistakes over the course of 54 miles. But instead of dwelling on those mistakes, I was able to refocus on where I was, the hills, the flowers and the amazing views. And then smile. Because really, I was out in the woods, doing something incredible. There were outstanding volunteers giving their time to help us - how could I be cranky with them? There was Nick, who'd kicked me out of the van and then driven to the first crew point to help me - at 3:15 in the morning - and then drove to the next point, hiked in a half mile with all my crap and waited. How could I not smile when I saw him, ready to spring into action to help with anything I needed?

So here I am, halfway finished with the Transcendence Series. I have two of the longer races finished with the Stories 30 Hour and Last Call 50. I have one of the three 50ks completed with Tommyknocker 12. What remains? Sheep Mountain 50k - a return to the beginning if you will. Strangely, I find myself temped to tackle the 50 mile again, to see if I really have learned anything in the last six months. Then the Sangre de Cristo Ultra. I have decided that I will still do the 100 mile race there. It's such a difference from Stories - and if I am to tackle any of the dream races I am eyeing, I need the classic Colorado 100 mile experience. Besides, what better way to discover my true potential then in the wilderness setting that is the Rainbow Trail? And finally, I changed it up to do the Indian Creek 55k instead of the Sawmill race. No sense in waiting till the last minute to finish! And fittingly, since this was my change of decade birthday adventure, the remaining races will be after my birthday!

Jul 12, 2019

Lessons from Last Call

As with any event, I always like taking a step back and looking at what I learned. It's important to do, especially with the longer events, so you don't make the same mistakes twice. There's a lot to take in during a race that lasts 10+ hours and there's always that "aha" moment that you want to remember for the next times. Last Call was no different - the unusual start time just changed the focus of the race from managing heat to dealing with dark and cold.

Don't second guess.
There were a few times after I'd left the Poor Man's Gulch aid station and headed out into the hills that I debated changing socks. I mentioned in my race report that the soles of my feet were really painful when I finished, but I didn't mentioning walking more then I wanted in the last three miles because of the pain. Had I put dry socks on after the river crossing, the maceration that was starting to develop might have been avoided. I was carrying around the socks - I should have just changed. Even when I hit High Park for the second time, I was second guessing keeping the knee socks on because of various hot spots that were developing. At that point, I was running scared, so didn't want to take the time to change. I do think I would have run faster and would have been much more comfortable had I changed. With this being a 50 miler, I could get away with that mistake. I will not be able to get away with something like that for anything longer. Go with the first instinct.

Permission to hike.
At my first 50 mile race, I knew I needed to hike the steeper hills. But giving myself permission to hike was hard. When I slowed to a hike, it was mentally hard to accept. I was in a race, I should be running! But running wasn’t efficient given the steepness of some of the hills. This time? I gave myself permission to hike - but it had to be hiking with a purpose. Yes, I could slow and look around, but forward momentum was key. That was all I needed to stay out of my head - knowing that while it was a race, hiking was faster then running. I was content with the hiking, motoring along as smoothly as I could and staying positive.

Stay positive.
Things can go sideways over the course of 12+ hours. There’s two ways of dealing with that - freaking out and letting affect the day or staying positive and adjusting the plan. On some of the other long races I’ve done, I’ve let the negative talk affect me mentally. This time when I didn’t hit the times I’d anticipated, I shrugged it off and just added the extra time to the plan. There were a few sections where I had been a little too optimistic about how long it would take, but instead of freaking out - I accepted where I was at the moment, The plan would shift based the actual time. Again, not being rigid with the times and staying positive throughout the day helped with staying out of my head.

There were more things - but those are the ones that stuck with me. The key with any ultra really is forward momentum - as long you can maintain forward momentum, you are moving towards the finish. Go with the first instinct out on course if you are questioning things. Even though it’s a race, hiking can be quicker and more efficient so accept that and give yourself permission to hike with a purpose. And no matter what happens, stay positive! Smile and find the positive regardless what is going on. It’s hard to stay negative with a smile on your face, and your smile will brighten up everyone around you. And most important - have fun! That’s why we are out there - for a long day in the woods with some new friends. How can you not have fun?