Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Jun 24, 2019

Luck of the Draw - Tommyknocker 12

Race 2 of my Transcendence challenge for my 40th trip around the sun - the reschedule Tommyknocker 12 Hour. This was the race that promised to be the most fun if you accepted the challenge and also one of the hardest. I had to make sure I got at least a 50k on "Official Distance," which meant trying to figure out how much my Garmin would be off for distance on the fly. Nothing would have been worse then having a nice 50k on my Garmin and then having the official distance be something like 30 miles. Then it all would have been for naught. So my plan was to hit 50k on my watch at the top and then head down. I anticipated the run back to the finish would be enough to buffer any Garmin weirdness. I also wanted to run every loop on the course if possible!

Sunrise from the White Ranch Parking lot 

The format was simple on the front - run as many miles as possible in the 12 hours. But there were some catches - instead of running on the same loops in the same order for the duration, everything was random. Nobody ran the same race, which was part of the challenge. We all started with running up Purple aka Purgatory - 5.48 miles with a gain/loss of 2,205/892. Then everyone one did one Green loop - 2.18 miles with a gain/loss of 488. At this point the half marathoners headed back down Purple to finish their race, while us 12 hour runners started the real party. A bucket of balls waited for us, enticing us to tempt fate with our random choices.
Black - either do a meaningless task like marking the trail to outhouse or making the perfect banana and Nutella sandwich or take a 15 minute time penalty. The task also provided an override ticket. More on that later...
Green - the easiest loop at 2.18 miles with 488 feet of climbing/descending
Orange - the second shortest loop for 3.38 miles, but with 741 feet of gain and loss
Red - the second longest, but slightly easier loop at 4.53 miles and 1,086 feet of gain and loss
Yellow - the hardest and longest loop with an apt distance of 6.66 and 1,988 feet of climbing

The HPRS banner under the sunrise. We lucked out with nearly perfect - if a bit windy - weather.

After the pre-race meeting, we headed off into the hills. Or up the hill. Belcher Hill. I remembered riding my bike up it once when we lived in Golden and how much it sucked. Maybe a little easier on foot, but there wasn't much running! Since I'd accidentally started in the back of the group, I had no clue where I was in the race. But I also really didn't care. I wasn't racing anyone but myself, the voices in my head and the fatigue from the day before. The no-pressure attitude allowed me to just relax and focus on smooth hiking. I thought about breaking out the poles, but decided I'd do that after the 12 hour party started. No sense fussing with them with all the half marathoners around and the increased traffic. After we turned off Belcher, I was spending as much time looking around as I was looking at the trail. It was so green! And so pretty! The mountains and clouds all around, North Table to the east and even further east Downtown Denver all illuminated by the morning sun. And then we turned to finish the climb up Mustang Trail and the city vanished.

Denver from somewhere on Mustang Trail
We ran through the Main Aid on our way to start the first Green Loop. A nice winding single track descent through the trees, the course marked clearly with both red and green ribbons. Red climbed back up what we were currently running... I was just behind another runner as we passed a trail junction. The sign said Wrangler's Run and I slowed for a minute. That name sounded familiar But there was a green ribbon on the sing going straight and no green noticeable up the other trail, so I kept going straight. It didn't feel right though and the next ribbon only had red. Humm. After another two red only ribbons, the guy in front of stopped. "Are we going the right direction?" I don't know - but I haven't seen any green in a while either. Fingers crossed, I still had the map on my phone. Yes! And whoops.. Yup, we were supposed to turn at Wrangler's Run. Luckily, we'd stopped early and I had a map. We only added about half a mile in bonus miles to our Green. Some other people weren't so lucky - they had kept going even when there were no green flags and run a few extra miles on their first loop. When we got back to the junction, we adjusted a few ribbons to hopefully make the turn onto Green more noticeable. A prime example of needing to know the course and having the resources available to stay on course. I take full responsibility for getting turned around - I forgot to double check the map Saturday evening to re-familiarize myself with the course.

And then it was time for the real party to start. I reached into the bucket, stirred the balls around and withdrew... Black! My task? Mark the trail to the out-house. Perfect. I needed to go to the bathroom anyway!

My second ball was only a little better. Yellow. What the heck - I wanted to run every loop anyways. Might as well do Yellow first when I was still fresh. I took off down the trail for a clockwise lollipop down almost to the bottom of Belcher and then back up! I actually really liked Yellow. It was a hard loop, but the run down was really nice. Rocky and technical, but a fun trail. I saw a few runners and hikers coming up to start their day, but it was really quiet. I also pulled my phone out a few times to check that I was still on the right course! The yellow loop was perfectly marked, but I wasn't taking any chances. Then I popped out onto Belcher to start my hike back up. This time I got the poles out. I was carrying them - might as well use them! Having yellow for my first loop was also nice because I got to see some of the Half Marathoners coming down Belcher at the end of their race. A bit of a cheering squad going both ways. The end of yellow merged with Orange, so I was now seeing the other 12 hour runners. And something else... In the distance, just above the trail and another runner. I wasn't sure at first, so when I asked one of the orange runners about it and he looked confused I brushed it off. But really, I knew. When I got closer, I was able to get my phone out for a photo. Not quite close enough to really show him off, but...

Bear!!! Black spot above the foreground rocks - he ambled across the trail just after a runner and then started heading down the hill
I think I was the only runner who saw the bear, so I'm happy I got the photo! I showed everyone the photo when I got back to the Main Aid. That didn't help my luck though - I drew another Black. This time, I got to play a quick card game. And my fourth draw? Yellow! Humm... tempting, but that would be a long time and lot of climbing. Besides, repeating the longest loop didn't help with trying to run every color loop. So I used one of my overrides for a runners choice. Red seemed like a good idea at the time. After inhaling a handful of Tator Tots, I started out for Red. Something new! There was some cross traffic with runners climbing up Green, so the usual nods and high-fives. It was easy running on double track, trending down for a while. Then after then split from green, the double track pointed straight uphill. I'd holstered my poles while play cards, and didn't feel like getting them out again. Just keep power hiking. Red was a nice loop. A few steep climbs, but some really sweet rolling single track once you got to the top. The climb up to the Main Aid was a little bit of a bugger, but not that crazy. I could feel the fatigue deep in my legs on that climb though. The mountain bike race was catching up to me.

Back at the Main Aid and I drew Green. Easy loop! I was happy to have the easy loop and set out. I'd grabbed more tater tots and an avocado/hummus wrap at the aid this time. I was also refilling my soft flask every stop and getting some ginger ale as well. The calorie deficit was building. I definitely hadn't done a good job eating the two days before the mountain bike race and I hadn't been able to choke down enough during the race to really keep the stores topped off like needed. I knew that was going to happen, but hey... It's part of a crazy back to back weekend. It was also great training for the longer distances coming up. Green was as easy as I remembered and no time - ultra speaking that is - I'd finished my loop. What would the balls dictate next? Another Red. I thought about overriding it for Orange, but decided not to. Red wasn't that bad. Better to save that override for something else if I needed. A quick stop to tape my heel - I was developing a hot spot on both heels in the same spot, which was a little concerning. I have a few areas that tend to develop hot spots, but the insides of both heels was new. Something to keep an eye on. This time I pulled the poles out when I hit the climb. Much easier! I never really thought I'd be a pole person, but they do serve a purpose. I still need a little practice for running downhill with them - I frequently just hold them so I can use my arms a little better. As I climbed up the last hill on that second red, I was debating. Runner math... I wanted more miles, but I was also really starting to get tired. Sleepy tired, muscularly tired - everything. If I stopped then and headed down, would that be enough? It was tempting. But I hadn't done Orange yet!

When I got to the Main Aid, I scarfed down some more food. Things I don't usually eat during a race, but I was craving calories. The tator tots were hitting the spot and if I'd had a bowl, I would have taken a pile with me on a few laps. The crew at the Main Aid were awesome - they had all the food and drinks ready, were consistently on point for refilling things and just generally there to help us crazy runners. And that was with first trying to hold the canopy down against the wind and then finally giving up on the canopy. I know I said thanks a few times, but should have said it a few more!

I was still pondering my options when I dug into the bucket. John assured me I would have my 50k if I headed down. I was 6:30 into the race, with 29 miles on my watch. Even if I took out the extra mile I had a buffer. But I still hadn't done Orange. I think I'd already planned on overriding anything I got for Orange when I opened my hand. And for once, the balls played in my favor! I would get one lap of every color. Orange was harder then I though it would be. The start was easy enough - a rolling traverse back along where I'd seen the bear. Then the trail tipped up as we climbed to the top of Belcher Hill. Ouch. I wasn't fast hiking, but I was steady. At the top, the trail merged with Purple. A few runners had called it a day already and were heading back to the finish. My turn would be next. I was pretty happy with how I was feeling - legs were tired, but nothing super sore. Just the hot spots on my feet. I was still running smoothly on the gentle climbs and such, and able to switch into hiking quickly and efficiently.

When I got back to the Main Aid, I was tempted to draw again, just to override for a green. Then I'd have 40 miles on my watch for sure and a solid day of running. But I'd already turned my phone on and texted Nick that I was on my last loop before heading down while out on Orange. As tempting a few more miles were, that wouldn't be fair to Nick. So back to the barn it would be. Time to climb back up to the top of Belcher and then start the plunge down to the bottom. 

My Garmin distance was 38.8 miles when I finished in just about 9 hours. My official distance when I add all my loops up was 34.5 miles. So either way I got my 50k. I know I added about a mile in distance from the wrong turn and from the out-house marking and had factored that into my runner math.

Overall, Tommyknocker was a blast. Even with being tired and having a really crazy weekend it was such a fun event. The randomness of the course kept me anticipating returning the Main Aid to see what would come next. The loops were challenging - fun technical running with a boatload of climbing as well. It required a different mindset from most ultras - just being open to the unexpected and dealing with the hand er, ball you drew. Every one I saw looked like they were having fun - even in the middle of mindless tasks like carrying M&Ms with chopsticks. I know I bailed early on the race, but I'd met my distance goal. Better to call it a day early and finish strong then to get greedy and have something happen. Besides, in two weeks I'll be toeing the line at Last Call 50! Race number three...

Jun 19, 2019

Double Header

Finally. The weekend I’ve been both eagerly waiting for and silently dreading has arrived. A rare double header weekend that has morphed from primarily being a mountain bike focused exploration weekend to a jam packed race weekend. Originally, we were going to take advantaged of racing up at Casper for the Bear Bait 8 hour race to check out some of Wyoming’s state parks. We’ve ridden at Curt Gowdy - super fun, techy and rocky trails, but not at Glendo State Park on the way up to Casper. Given that there’s a small 24 hour race there in September, hitting those trails seemed like a good idea after the race. Camp there, ride a few days and head home. Then the mid may snowstorm hit and everything changed. With the new date for the Tommyknocker 12 being June 23rd, our planned camping trip was upended. I didn’t want to miss Tommyknocker, even with the mountain bike race being the day before. Luckily, Nick was willing to adjust things.

First up - Bear Bait 8. Last year, this was a whim race. Coming off two weeks in the van traveling across the Midwest, neither of us were in prim racing shape. Never mind that this was only 6 weeks post op from Nick’s surgery! But we were impressed with the course - short enough that everyone on a four person 4 hour team could do a lap, but still fun. It’s one of those courses where the faster you go, the harder it actually gets. There’s a lot to remember in the eight miles, from which tree you have to duck under to what root will eat your tires. Old school riding with no flow trail involved! Lots of short, punchy climbs with short descents. You have to ride the entire lap. The environment of the race was also a lot of fun last year - well marked course with a killer after party. The only race we’ve done that has had a better food spread was the 24 Hours in the Sage! This year we are taking it a little more seriously - we have our usual plan and the bikes are dialed. The pit area won’t be a set up as we normally roll though - the less we have set up, the less we have to tear down! And since time is a premium, we will most likely be rolling down the mountain right after the awards this year.

Why? Because at 6:00 the next day, I get to run a few hours in White Ranch in Golden! That’s going to be a bit of a drive, but luckily the traffic on a Saturday night is usually pretty light. Tommyknocker 12 is the second race in the Transcendence series which is why I really wanted to make it happen. If I didn’t start TommyKnocker, then I would have lost my one backup race for the 50ks before the series even started really. So I’ll be showing up a little tired from Bear Bait 8. I have 12 hours to run at least 50k - which should be doable. The hard part will be focusing on each race in the moment. I can’t let Tommyknocker distract me while racing Bear Bait. I have to be present on every section of trail during that race. I also have to race full out since it’s not just me. Bear Bait is a Duo race, so Nick is also relying on me to perform at my best ability. Holding back because of a running race the next day isn’t fair to him.

In some ways though, the timing of this weekend works better then the original date. Had Tommyknocker 12 been on May 11th as scheduled, I would have had to limit my miles due to the Growler in two weeks. I would have run my 50k, then headed back down for the finish. Going much further then that would have hindered my performance at Growler. Now? Sure, I’ll be tired from racing hard the day before, but I won’t have to limit my miles any more then what my legs tell me. If the 50k is all I feel like running, so be it. If I feel like going a little longer, then again - it’s my call. I’m not racing anyone but myself up there - the format of the event dictates that. It’s also now two weeks before my 50 mile race at Last Call, so the weekend makes great training. Might be quite a bit more hectic then anticipated, but still a fun weekend. Hopefully I won't forget anything packing!

Jun 13, 2019

Return to the Hills

Last year, the Garden of the Gods 10k was one of those FOMO things. Everyone was racing! I wanted to join the fun - even if it was the shorter distance. This year? The race was planned and I even made the effort to go to the Garden to get a few training runs done. After all, it's not every year you get the chance to defend a win! I have a hard time actually tapering for these kinds of things though - riding for about 2 hours in heat on Saturday with friends definitely counts as a taper, right? I know full well that I'd have a much better performance if I really tapered and came into the race rested. But at least I didn't run to the summit of Mount Rosa the Wednesday before the race this year!

Anyway, after the 80s of Saturday, I was looking forward to the cold front that was supposed to blow in Saturday night. I really didn't feel like dealing with the heat for a hard race. With the expected high forecast as mid 60s, it was looking like perfect running weather - nice and cool in the morning, but not windy or wet out. That was the forecast. What we all woke up too was much different. Thick clouds covered the horizon. Wind gusted through the trees around my house. The temperature was 35* and not showing many indications that it was going to get warmer. Hummm. Good thing I was running the 10k! Easy to dress for that distance - just wear as little as possible, add in gloves and a headband and time to race. As long as I have warm clothes for before and after, I can still get away with running in just skirt and singlet for that short a time. This time, I made sure I had my puffy coat in the car for after the race. While it was supposed to warm up more, I wasn't taking a chance with waiting around afterwards.

This time, I felt like I got the warm up right. A quick stop to take group photo with some friends before the 10m start, a few trips to the portapotties and my legs were feeling pretty good. Good enough to run faster then last year? It would be time to find out. I dropped my warm clothes at the car, changed shoes and hustled to the race start. At least in the crowd, there would be some protection from the wind! I didn't feel any guilt worming my way to the start line this year. I wanted to be on that line - to be able to see the race around me. Again, the feeling of dread staring up at the hill, knowing it was just the start of the unending hills of the Garden of the Gods. But this year, I knew the hills. I'd trained in the Garden, worked on my hills and my turnover for the downhills. As with any race, it also depends on who shows up. The woman who'd gotten second last year was also on the line with me, looking much more determined then last year.

Then the gun. Time for thinking was over. Time for running. I put the pressure on right away from the start, moving into the lead on the first hill. Caroline caught me as we started the second hill up to the high point, moving much smoother then last year. I wanted to go with her, but didn't want to burn that many matches in the first mile. Was I watching the race get away from me so quickly into the day? As the hill got steeper she started slowing down. I was able to make the catch and take the lead just before we crested the high point. I didn't get the gap I wanted though - I could hear footsteps and breathing behind me. Was it her or one of the guys? I wasn't going to look. Just focus on moving forward and maintaining the pace. Onto one of the few level spots on the course and Caroline again moved into the lead. This time I wasn't able to answer as we started plunging downhill. This was unusual - I was being out run on the downhill! We merged with the 10 mile runners, but I kept my eyes on Caroline. I wanted to keep her in sight, which became more challenging as we wove in and out of the 10 mile runners. I did the same as last year, parking on the yellow line which provided me the clearest line. Might not have been able to use tangents to my advantaged, but that was better then slowing down, speeding up and dodging other runners. At least until the first water station! Then it got a little crazy for about 15 seconds. I was was able to get through cleanly thankfully. Caroline was still just ahead of me, but edging further away with each downhill and level section. I'd bring her back a little on on the climbs, but lose it again once the terrain changed. Gah!

Flying down the final hill
Photo - Shae Comstock
One thing with the 10k is the lack of mile markers. Outside the first mile, the markers are in place for the 10m race. That just meant that I wasn't able to look at my watch and get freaked out by how fast - or how slow - I was running. I didn't remember my splits from last year and really had no clue if I was running slower or faster. I just kept pushing the pace, trying my hardest to catch up to Caroline. At the top of the steepest hill, when we turned back onto the central Garden Loop, she stopped to walk for a few feet. So close, so close! But by the time I turned onto the downhill, the gap had already grown. I was running out of miles and feeling the lack of flat speed training. I could still get the turnover going, but it was a struggle. I didn't feel smooth running of fluid. I could drive up the hills easily, but the quick speed on the downhill just wasn't there. As we made the right turn onto the entrance road, I took a quick glance behind. There was no one in sight. I pondered backing off for a little, but that didn't last long. One of the 10m women was right with me. Pride took over a little - I wasn't going to let the 10 mile runners catch and pass me in the last mile! So I found a little extra, keeping the speed as high as I could. Along the parking, into the Rock Ledge Range. This time I knew the finish loop was a little longer and there was the one little hill. As I was cresting the hill, I could hear them announcing Caroline finishing. That last stretch seemed to task forever - and looking at the photos, I was definitely NOT smiling! But when I rounded the bend and was able to see the finish clock, the reason it felt so hard was clear. Last year, I'd run 44:48 - this year, the clock had just ticked over into the low 43:00s... Over a minute faster then last year - 10 seconds per mile in a 10k is huge! I finished in 43:32, one of my faster 10ks in a while. On the flat ADT 10k, a few years ago, I'd run 42:31. To be able to be within a minute of that time on the Garden course? Worth it! Sure, I hadn't been able to defend and I'd lost my course record from last year. But still...

10k Women's Podium
Caroline Karunde - 1st
Me - 2nd
Una Broderick - 3rd
Bart Yasso

Even better? Despite the cold, there were people hanging out in the festival after the race. I joined the party after part of my cooldown - after having gotten my warm pants and puffy coat. Yes, it was cold enough for the puffy coat!

Jun 5, 2019

First loser?

When I was in college, working on my psychology degree I read a 1995 study on how Silver medalists were often the most disappointed person on the podium. They are doing an upwards comparison towards the person on the top step, while bronze medalist is doing a downward comparison of everyone one else. In other words, second place is looking at first, going “what if I’d done this or if that had happened?” while third place is standing on the smallest box, thinking “I beat everyone else for this last award!” Third is ecstatic to be standing on the box, getting the medal. Second is stuck in the middle - happy to have won something, but feeling so close to having won everything. I thought it was an interesting study, but never really paid much more attention as I transitioned into different phases of my life.

Looking out over the sea of sage, the riders on the road and the mountains of CB in the background
For some reason, standing on podium at the Original Growler brought back the idea of the study. I found myself having all those conversations in my mind. I’d placed second - the highest I’ve ever placed at Growler. Yet there I was, thinking that if I’d trained harder on the bike, maybe I could have gotten those 4 minutes I needed. Maybe I stopped too long at the aid stations and there’s where I lost the time. I should have done more technical riding and intervals so I had the strength and the fitness needed to make up the lost time. I was definitely doing an upward comparison instead of being happy with being on the podium. In contrast, in 2017 when I got third I was ecstatic. Finally! On the podium. The two photos also show the contrast in mentality. Granted, 2017 was a lovely day for the awards and everyone hung out for the party. This year was a little chillier. Not too many people stuck around and the temperature dropped throughout the awards ceremony. That was part of the difference between the photos. But there was more then just the weather.

But what is it really? That psychological difference between second and third? Is it really a thing? Yes - it’s called counterfactual thinking and it’s actually been studied more then I realized. It means thinking about alternative possibilities for past or future events - what might happen or might have happen. It’s imagining the consequences of something is contrary to what actually happened. That classic if I’d trained harder I could have won thinking. There’s both good and bad to conterfactual thinking. It opens you up to looking at events from different perspectives which can boost creativity and change paths in future. But... While there’s nothing wrong with those “what ifs” and taking the time to ponder the events, but you have to let go of those thoughts at some time. Learn from the experience and use it to grow, but don’t dwell in the past. What is done is done. Pouting on the podium won’t help you get faster for next year!

May 30, 2019

Always the Hunter...

There is a moment before a race starts, when the corals are filled with a quiet anticipation of what to come. The heartbeats of the racers, echoing the nerves. Then the shotgun blasts and the nervous energy is transformed into pedal strokes. Where will those pedal strokes take you? That is the question to be answered over then next 64 miles and untold hours in the saddle. It is up to each racer to decide how those hours will be approached and how the race will unfold.

Such was the setting Sunday morning when Nick dropped me off for the Original Growler. A quiet group of cyclists gathering in downtown Gunnison - unsure of what the day would bring. For me, I just wanted to get through the neutral start and onto the single track. Ever since I almost went down after a guy tangled his handlebars with mine a few years ago, the start makes me nervous. I just want to get to Kill Hill in one piece. It also doesn't help the nerves when the escort vehicle doesn't keep a steady pace - the yo-yoing causes havoc. For the most part, we had a decent start - but there were a few times when people slammed on their brakes, with skidding and a few choice words exchanged later. The slow starts might keep the group together better, but they are definitely stressful! I’ve made it a point to try to stay as close to the front as I can in these starts and this year was no different.

Leading a small train on Graceland
Photo - Dave Kozlowski 
Finally, the escort stepped on the gas, accelerating away from the peloton. We charged up the last hill on Gold Basin Rd before turning onto the dirt. Let the racing begin! At least the race to the top of Kill Hill that is... Before the day, I was hopeful that I’d be strong on Kill Hill and maybe even take the prime this year. But ugh - while I could quite comfortably spin to climb, there was no attacking the hill for me today. I wasn’t swamped like I’ve been in the past, but it was not my strongest performance on Kill Hill by a long shot. Even so, I was right there - in the mix with Sparky and two other women. The hard part about going counter clockwise is the second hill though - you get just enough time to recover and then it's another steep road climb. That one I know well from the years of racing 24 hours in the Sage, so I was ready for it. The other hard part about counter clockwise is the fast road descent before the climb up Top of the World. Yes, it spreads the field out well, but with the fitness riders getting a better jump. So the first major rock feature on Top of the World becomes a bit of a conga line if you aren't in a good position. I was lucky. I pushed hard enough and took enough chances on the double track descent that I got through the rocks before the conga line!

Focused on the trail ahead of me
Photo - Matt Burt
Time to settle in - ride hard, ride smart and focus on my primary goal for the day. Always, the primary goal for Growler is to ride everything I can. I know a few things like the Skull Pass climb aren't in my wheelhouse for riding, but everything else on that course? Going counter clockwise, I should be able to make everything else! At least that's what I think. How did I do this year? Well two stupid mistakes where I had to unclip and get off the bike, three dabs plus two areas that I ran into traffic and couldn't take the line I needed and that was it. Not bad. There's a few rock things that I need to work on for next time we go counter clockwise, but overall I was pleased with my riding. Given that I haven't been riding that much and haven't really hit up much of the technical riding lately, the confidence and smoothness throughout the day was a good boost. Even when I was tired, I was still working hard on the rocks and taking some of the big lines. The two stupid mistakes on the first lap were corrected on the second lap. The areas with traffic, I was able to make on the second lap. One of the things I dabbed on Gateway, I missed the second lap, but it wasn't for lack of trying! I also had no issues with guys this year. I was leading a little train at one point, feeling bad that I was climbing slower then usual. But none of them asked, so I didn't worry too much. And the reason none of the asked? Usually by the time they caught up with me, it was almost time to go downhill or through a rock obstacle again! So it went. I will say though - if it's your second time racing the Growler and you haven't gone counter clockwise before, please. Don't try to coach me through the technical sections!

Motion in the stillness of the sage
Photo - Matt Burt

But anyways. While I was riding the technical sections well, I was definitely feeling the lack of cycling fitness. I thought I'd gotten a decent gap on third and fourth when I was climbing out of Skull Pass on the first lap, only to see both of them right behind me on the top of the climb up Nine-O! Whoops... Last year I'd melted in the heat, dropping solidly out of podium contention on the second lap. Was the same fate waiting for me this year? I knew I had the endurance to keep riding steady, but I didn't have the bike specific fitness to really pick up the pace that much. I would have to use mental strength and really hope the endurance from all the running would carry over. My first lap was my slowest first lap ever. Not good for the mental boost. I knew it would be slow based on the times through all the checkpoints, but I didn't realize it was quite that slow. But when I stopped at the top of Jacks for Nick to do a quick lube and wipe on my chain, the gap to first was only 6 minutes. Not much at all. It was even closer to third - less then a minute and a half behind me. I dug deep on the technical sections of Ridge and Top of the World, knowing that I needed to have more time before we hit the fitness sections in last third of the day. And there's always the hope for negative splits! To my surprise, as the race got longer, I actually was feeling better! Granted, better didn't mean much faster - I was nine minutes slower on that second lap then the first. But I turned in the fastest second lap for all the women in the race.

Dropping off Ridge Trail
Photo - Dave Kozlowski 
I was the hunter for that entire last lap, hearing the gap to Sparky slowly, slowly coming down. But I was running out of trails and the gap wasn't close enough. In the end, I'd brought back three and a half minutes - finishing a mere 3:44 behind Sparky. It was my slowest Growler finish time by a good half an hour, but one that I was the most satisfied with. Despite a severe lack of time on my bike in favor for time on feet, I was able to hold strong and ride harder in the end of the day. There were a few low points mentally, but I was always able to come back and focus on the positive of the day.

Women's Podium - Sparky Sears 1st, Me 2nd, Erin Weber 3rd
And the podium puppies!

May 23, 2019

Shifting Gears

Literally! After a winter and spring focused on running, Memorial Day is fast approaching. And that means one thing - Growler weekend. As usual, Nick will be tackling the half on Saturday and I will be enjoying two laps Sunday. I use the term enjoying loosely here... I love the course for sure, but it’s a hard day for one lap and even harder for for two laps. I keep wondering what the Half Growler is like - how nice it must be to roll across the finish line and not have to climb back up in Hartman Rocks, but that’s Nick’s day to race. In fact, the only time we haven’t done it that was was last year when Nick had his surgery. That would have been the year to test my mettle in the half! But otherwise, it’s just worked best for me to race the full. I don’t have the top end speed for the half, but can survive the hours of pedaling required for the full. Usually.

This year? Not so sure about those hours of pedaling. As in, I haven’t really done too many hours of pedaling at all. Even with sprained ankle and Nick’s surgery last year, I still got some good 5 hour rides done. Had some solid 4 hour rides with good workouts done last year, so there was plenty of time on the bike and pedaling. Sure, I wasn’t really running that much last year, with the primary running races some 25ks before Growler and then a few 50ks after Growler. So the focus last year was on the bike for the most part. This year, I really haven’t done any long rides. I’ve gotten a few four hour rides in - maybe two? A few more three hour rides. The week in Moab/Grand Junction with a number of hard, technical riding. But really, that was it in terms of riding. I was doing the interval workouts like I needed, just not the long rides.

Why? Because of the running focus this year. In 2016, when I was preparing for my first 50m race, I tried doing it all. The long runs, the run workouts, the endurance rides, the intervals on the bike. And with the benefit of hindsight, I know that it was too much. I dug such a deep hole trying to do it all, that when I got to Sheep Mountain, I wasn’t able to recover properly afterwards. This year, I had a choice - the long rides or the long runs. It had to be one or the other this year - I wasn’t going to try to destroy myself. With a few exceptions, I opted for the long runs and then quality time on the bike. Cardiovascular endurance is developed the same, running or riding and the tolerance of time on feet is more important this year then time in saddle. Sure, the specificity of training on the bike isn’t there, but the endurance still will be. After all, running for 5-6 hours is harder on the body then riding 5 hours. I kept the bike intervals focused on the top end speed, hoping that it would be enough. I know the numbers are lower then what I’d like to see, but I’ve been able to recover well after all the workouts.

So hopefully, I’ll survive the Growler this year. I’m not getting my hopes up for a super fast time - I’ll be happy to break 7:00s as usual. And of course, I want to ride all the technical stuff! That’s always the primary goal!

May 22, 2019


Cheyenne Mountain State Park - I just can't seem to get enough miles there! Between four races (WS 2, Stories Ultra, CMTR 50k and now NORAD) and all the training miles both on foot and on wheels, I've covered every trail in the park multiple times (except for Dixon and the top of the mountain - that will come later).  I've probably run and ridden at least 250 miles in the park if I was actually counting. Good thing I really love the trails and the hills there, otherwise it would have been a challenging spring.  But I do - I really enjoy running at CMPS.

Sunrise over the cloud bank to the east. Getting creative with the yucca!