Halfway

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

Feb 28, 2014

Runner, Cyclist - Both

It's not a secret that I came to mountain biking from a marathon and endurance background. After I left triathlons, I kept the two pretty separate. I'd plan on a half marathon for fun after the cycling season was over, but that was it. Low mileage on the running with some big hours on the bike. In fact, I ran less last year then I used to run in two months! The running was t important though, it was something to do to keep active while taking some time off the bike. So come the middle of December every year, it was time to refocus on the bike and start preparing for 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. The mild winters helped keep me on the bike, playing in the dirt and off the trainer. I didn't need to run much with the intensity I was doing on the bike.

Well, this has not been a mild winter and so my training was a little different leading into the first bike race of the season. For some reason, I decided to sign up for a half marathon two weeks before Old Pueblo. Then I decided I want to do more then just run the half marathon. So it was time for some bigger miles running. Less then what I was doing when trying to qualify, but much more then last year at this time and at a much higher intensity. As a result, there were fewer hours on the bike. No Saturday Sunday long ride combos, or twice a day ride schedules. Instead, if I was on the bike, I had a purpose - intervals of some kind or another. It's not that I was slacking. I was training harder then last year, but splitting my attention between foot and wheels. It was two workouts a day frequently - both high intensity. The weekend featured a Saturday ride and a Sunday long run. It was striking a balance between my two personalities - runner and cyclist. I was worried that one or the other would suffer, especially with the two races so close together. As February drew closer, I also started worrying about the two weeks of cycling training I would be missing with the taper and recovery from the half marathon.

Well, now that the dust has settled and I've had a good chance to review the results with Coach Adam, I think it worked great. I had a good half marathon and I still had the cycling strength for a solid performance at Old Pueblo. I did notice that I was lacking some of the spunk and explosive power from cycling only years, but everything else was there. In fact, I think it only benefited me to be able to run and not worry about the lack of hours on the bike. It's a lot easier to bundle up for a freezing run the ride and there was plenty of that this year. I'm also lucky that I work near a park that always gets plowed so I could run at lunch and not worry about the ice. I wasn't as lucky with the riding. The trails and roads haven't been exactly clear this year. It's all about doing work and training right. The specificity of sport definitely applies, but there is plenty of carry over. And now that Coach Adam and I know that both running and riding lead to solid results on the bike for me, we will be able to balance and build on the cycling to ensure a well rounded approach to the rest of the season. It's always a long one and always fun. Lots of challenges this year that I will need to be ready for!

Feb 25, 2014

Seeking Sun - 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, 2014

Our annual winter vacation to Tuscon found a 100 degree temperature swing from one ride to another. Nick rode home from work on the 7th in -17 below zero temperatures, while I bundled up and hit the trainer in the garage. Add in ice and snow and the riding outside was less the stellar. So we were looking forward to some sun and dry trails! 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo more then delivered on the sun and dry trails this year, with the nicest and warmest weather we've seen in seven years. It was a bit of a shock to the system - a 100 degree temperature swing from -17 to 80+ degrees! The nice weather meant for some very fast racing and crowded trails all day and into the night. It was another tight race in the Coed Duo top three again, with only 20 minutes separating the teams at midnight. El Rootsriachi would eventually prevail thanks to the consistency of Tour Divide winner Kurt Refsnider and his partner Kaitlin Boyle. They set a class record of 21 laps, finishing at 1:42:31. Nick and I held onto our favorite position on the second step with 20 laps in 12:38:05. Third place went to Christine Jeffrey and Jon Roberts of AZ, EH?, also with 20 laps at 12:44:19. Team Griggs Ortho riders Sean Riley/Elizabeth Shaner and Joshua Johnson/Tayor Shekell of Beer Rangers rounded out the podium - both teams with 18 laps at 12:24 and 12:29 respectively. 
CoEd Duo Podium, 2014

Feb 21, 2014

Unleash the EVO!

My new race machine - the Specialized Camber Carbon EVO, with 120mm of rock loving suspension, a buttery pike fork, dropper post and the efficient 1x11 gearing. Sexy green and gloss black colors make the bike just look fast. I didn't get to test ride the bike, so we knew there would be some tweaks to make before the maiden pedal. We've had the bike since the end of January, but the weather precluded getting out and riding prior to our trip to Tucson. Snow, mud and ice do not make for a good quality or safe maiden ride on any bike except for a snow bike. So we got the bike all fitted and hoped for the best. We would be bringing a bike I hadn't even ridden to 24 Hours in the Old  Pueblo - breaking one of our most fundamental rules. We couldn't bring my Era since we already stripped it down and brought it to be sold. Our mistake. We usually wait until the new bike has been ridden and is all dialed before selling the old bike. I'd wanted some of the components off the Era for the Camber anyway to get it fit right. Because of the newness and lack of riding on the Camber, we also brought the Stumpy with us. If there was an issue with the camber and I still needed a spare bike, I could at least ride the Stumpy. Overkill for the 24 hour course, but as an emergency spare, it would work.

So when we got to 24 Hour Town and it was time to ride, I immediately went for the Camber. We would have another full lap on the course to get the race bikes dialed. I wanted to ride my new bike. It was a short ride - only 45 minutes - but I was grinning up a storm when we finished. I was even debating riding the Camber for the entire race because it was so much fun. The suspension soaked up all the loose rocks and brake ruts, while still allowing fast pedaling. I was running a little bigger tires then on my Fate and they held the sandy and loose corners perfectly at speed. Even though there's nothing technical on the 24 Hour course, I was still impressed by the handling, efficiency and feel of the Camber. The perfect bike for what I like riding and racing. I did end up going with the Fate as my primary bike for the race for a number of issues, but the Camber got the second number plate. Waiting just in case I needed a change from the Fate.

After five laps on the Fate, I knew I loosing the battle with the dust. I was trying to keep it clean, but the bottom bracket and chain were starting to grind. I'd get it semi smooth and free moving after a lap, but the creaking and grinding would start earlier and earlier each lap. It was only a matter of time. So I decided to swap bikes - or as Nick said "unleash the EVO!" The 1x shifting did take a little getting used to on the bitches, since I couldn't shift into my little chain ring and spin up the hills. Had to trudge up like a SS sometimes since I wasn't sure about shifting under such tension. But the reward was the backside. I knew the lines and the loose rocks littering the back of the bitches and took advantage of my new bike. I have never caught so much air on those little kickers and still landed so confidently as this year. And it didn't matter if I took the smooth line or the rocky line - I still flew. Yay! Super fun! And the rest of the course was just as fun - I was able to float the bike around all the corners and launch the rocks on the descent thru 24 Hour Town.

I'd call four laps a successful maiden ride - especially in a race. I'm looking forward to even more fun on the Camber on some rocks and technical courses. It's going to be a great summer!

Feb 19, 2014

Putting on a show at 24 Hour Town!

This is all about sunrises, sunsets, moon rises and moon sets. Full moon on the same weekend as 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo? That added to the fun of playing with my camera. I didn't get as many creative shots as some other people, but I was able to capture the colors of the desert well.

Full moon rising Thursday evening as town begins to set up
Sunrise Monday morning - a treat for those who stayed till the end

Another moon rise, capturing the colors of the setting sun as well
Sunrise on a quiet morning - all the racers have left the desert

The full moon sliding below the horizon

Sunset Wednesday was just a hint of the show we would see later




Feb 17, 2014

Something different at 24 Hour Town

For the last four years, Nick and I have made an effort to get as close as possible to the transition tent, not wanting to waste any energy or time during the race. We had to make some pretty big sacrifices in order to be close though - camping in the middle of generatorville, surrounded by towering RVs and getting coated with dust as the Friday move in became crazy. Last year was the worst - we hadn't noticed how loud most of the generators were because we had our little home on wheels before. But last year, after the Turtle died, it was clear just how nuts the center of town really was. Loud, windy, dusty and cramped. Not a comfortable or relaxing place to be before the race. We've also spent a lot of the pre-race hours hanging out with the Back of the Pack gang, enjoying company, hilarious stories and just being with people who want to ride bikes.

Judd, Nick, Jeff and Brian getting comfortable in the BPR living room on Thursday before the race

So this year, we hooked up with BPR before the race even started and decided to camp up with them. It was a bit of little longer of a ride between laps, but everything else was much better. Our campsite was dust free and calm even as the town swelled to bursting on Friday. No roaring generators - being so close to solo row meant everyone up there was very respectful of quiet hours. We didn't have to worry about our campsite getting invade or someone running over our bikes. And since we were camped up there, the trek to watch some movies on Thursday was nothing! Yes, BPR had a TV and we were the envy of the camps around as we entertained ourselves.

This is how you get ready for a race - good company, drinks and some entertainment!

Anyone up for a movie? Sunset screening of Pulp Fiction....
We also spent more time just relaxing before this race. Two short rides and getting our pit set up - after that, it was hide in the shade, take a nap, stay hydrated and have fun.
Snow Blind Moon rising on Friday - we would wish for the snow!

A10 flyover on Friday - circled three times, then buzzed town before heading back to Tuscon!


Feb 14, 2014

Trepidation

Five years. That's how along we've been doing 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. And in those five years, it's always been the same. I hold Nick's bike and watch the chaos running by for the start lap. And chaos it is - a herd of riders sprinting down a narrow road. Grabbing bikes and then vanishing into an ever growing cloud of dust. Beyond that - the next glimpse I have is of the riders flying into the transition tent. Then it's my turn to face the cacti. Nick has told me stories about the start lap, about the crazy passes, about the speed and pure power needed to hold position. Yikes. It scares me, the stories I've heard. It's something I've only wanted to experience if I was racing Solo. To try and do the start lap against the men of other coed duos? Seems like we'd be giving up time for no reason. I know I can't match Nick on the start lap - I don't have the power, the speed or the aggressiveness needed for some of the passes. And I'm generally slower then Nick, which means he'd have more people to pass on his first lap. So it's more then just tradition - it's smart racing.

So.... Why do we have a plan that has Nick holding my bike, sending me off with the noon chaos? A few reasons, including an untimely calf injury that has limited his ability to run over the past few weeks. We overdid our fun in the snow at the beginning of the year and Nick irritated a muscle in his ankle. He didn't ride for a week and a half and still hasn't tried running. So he is very concerned about the start lap and the chance of irritating that muscle again during the Le Mans run. We need him to be able to ride hard for at least nine laps and if he irritates his ankle in the start, we might not get all his laps. I've also been running a lot more this year then prior years, and am just coming off a fast half marathon. So I've got the running fitness that won't send me anaerobic with an 800m sprint, but will happen when I get on the bike? Will I get swallowed by the mass of riders that Nick usually leaves in the dust? Or will I be able to hold my own and turn a respectable first lap time? Maybe Nick will be able to start - but if he can't.... We will find out.

Feb 11, 2014

New faces, new challenges

There will be no rematch with the King and Queen of Pain this year. Rebecca is racing on a four woman team with three lucky high school racers and I don't know if Nat is racing. Both Nick and I are kinda bummed - we were honestly hoping for another chance to test ourselves against them. Last year was close, with racing until the very end among the top three CoEd Duo teams. We wanted to see if we could bring it even closer and push the pace even more. Alas, not to be. But that doesn't mean there won't be other fast duos lining up. There always are - 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is always the most competitive event for the CoEd Duos. I'm eager to find out who will be toeing to line. We won't know who we will be racing until after the race starts since Epic Ride doesn't publicize a team list. I've always liked that - it keeps everyone in the dark. People who are going to race will sign up regardless since there's no way of knowing the competition. Training has to be done with the purpose of getting faster and stronger, not to beat another team. The unknown eliminates getting cocky as well. Since we don't know who we're racing, there's no chance to do research, to scope out the rest of the field. It boils down to training hard over the winter and showing up with a plan. The team that trained the smartest and executes their plan the best usually prevails. All the training is done and we have a plan. Will this be our year? We will find what the trail gods decree and what the final outcome is Sunday at noon. 

Feb 4, 2014

Super Half!

After two years of nice weather, it was bound to happen. Watching the weather and seeing the cold front moving in, the snow falling and the temperature plummeting, I knew it was going to be an odd race on Sunday for the Super Half Marathon. We got snow Tuesday, then a Chinook wind on Thursday. I was hopeful that we wouldn't have to deal with snow for the race. The weather man proved to be right this time as we woke up to fresh snow Friday with more coming down. Tim B, race organizer assured us that the course would be plowed, but the snow kept falling Friday and most of Saturday. The other issue was the falling mercury - from a week before the race to the day before the race the high dropped from 45 to 20 degrees! Yikes! So when I laid out my clothes (had to go with blue and orange)  I was prepared for the cold. And it was super cold. So to all the volunteers who were there, directing traffic, handing out water or doing results - a huge thank you! I can't imagine being stationary under this conditions. And the Woodland Park HS Pep Band - they came down and played their hearts out, freezing fingers and all. Everyone who helped the race deserves kudos - it takes a lot of work under the best of conditions, let alone a deep freeze with inches of snow.

It was a balmy 8 degrees when I got to the race staging area. Luckily, we were able to wait inside at the Plaza of the Rockies, so we had shelter from the cold. It was pretty funny - all the runners all bundled up, wondering if they were overdressed. Then someone would go outside and come back in shivering. "Nope! Not overdressed!" I ventured outside for my warmup, wanting to check out the course and see which shoes to wear. I'm not sure I've done a warmup for a race wearing my down jacket before! But I was even a little chilly with the down puffy, especially in the shade. I knew it would warm up a little before the start - maybe up to 11 degrees. I had to trust my clothing choices - wool socks, heavy tights and two wool shirts along with my head tube and gloves. Nick was really smart - he insisted that I bring a pair of toe warmer with me. I'd originally argued against them, but after my warmup, those puppies went into my shoes until the start. And I had some toasty toes! I kept the toe warmers even after the race, first in my bra then just holding them. I had gloves on at the start, but my hands usually get too warm with gloves. Taking the gloves off and holding the heat packs was perfect. My hands could breath, but were still nice and warm. Bringing them with me was smart - and keeping them during the race was even smarter. Under those conditions, using all available method to stay warm wad just logical.

The start was low key - a sea of blue and orange on the line, all eager to get going and get warmed up. I started a row back from the line and had a good start. A few words with Conliee, who was doing a workout during the race, then I settled into a solid pace. I knew the times I needed to run for my goal, but was also hesitant about the snow further up the trail. The city had done the best job it could with plowing, but there was a thin layer of ice under the snow in places. Attention to footing was definitely needed - there would be no zoning out and just running. For the first few miles, it was comfortable running. We started right down town, then got on the Santa Fe trail and headed North. An easy out and back course, with a few hills and a mix of pavement and gravel trail. I was cold for the first mile but started to warm up and the sun was nice on my shoulders. The first water station was just before the 5k turn around and I really felt for those volunteers. One of them was holding a water cup and just laughing "this water is frozen solid!" Good thing I didn't need water just that soon into the race. I hope all the volunteers had plenty of warm clothes for standing around in....

This part of the trail was nicely plowed!
Photo - Nick Thelen

I was maintaining right around the pace I wanted for the first five miles and felt pretty good. The footing wasn't great, but I could still get a nice quick stride and smooth turnover. I was starting to look forward to the turn around and finally getting to see where the rest of the woman's field was. I hadn't seen another woman since the start, but knew there were several very fast ladies behind me. And while I've been running a lot this past few months, it's not much compared to what most of them run. But first I had to reach the turn-around. My first inkling that there was someone amiss was when I saw the volunteer with the snow shovel just north of CostCo. Huh. Though the course was plowed - it had been really good for the prior miles. Then I crossed the bridge back over it the west side of Fountain Creek. And I think the city miscalculated how far a half marathon was! All of a sudden, the easy plowed trail was snowed in. There was a faint double track shoveled as best as the volunteers could, but it wasn't much. The footing went to heck and I really had to slow down to keep from twisting an ankle in the deep snow. There went my time! I wasn't as worried about getting caught in the snow since everyone had to run in it. Sure, I was going slower right now, but once I was off, I'd be able to pick up the pace again. It was just frustrating and momentum sucking trying to run hard and fast in five inches of slightly packed powder. Running in the unshoveled sections was even harder. Again, everyone had to run in it, so I really can't complain. And I got my first look at the women's race behind me. I had a good gap - one that would be hard to make up in six miles. But there was about 6 women running close together behind the second place woman. I was happy I wasn't closer to them!
 
On the return trip back to the finish line.
Photo - Anya Inman
 

It was a constant stream of runners heading north on the Santa Fe Trail as I ran south. Ninty percent of them were wearing orange and blue or Denver Bronocs colors. There were a few brave souls decked out in Seahawks clothes, but orange seemed to be the primary color of the day. I was as guilty as the next person - with an orange short sleeved top over my blue long sleeved top. One of the biggest concerns I've had about doing this race was the narrowness of the trail and the possibility for congestion. But I had no issues. Everyone was happy and smiling despite the cold weather. I did however notice that the footing had significantly changed from the trip north. The trail was tracked up and slicker, with traction a little harder to find. Oh well - part of running and racing on a cold winters day! It could have been much much worse. With my goal time well out of reach at that point, it wasn't worth taking a chance. I backed off a little and made sure I was running smart. The miles were clicking down quickly and I was feeling very comfortable. As I approached the Bijou bridge, I saw a guy wearing blue and yellow with a fat bike next to him. Nick had stopped by after his ride to watch the finish! Keeping with the football theme of the race, I crossed the line holding a golden ball. It's a good thing I'm not a reciver or something! I have no clue how to hold a football tightly! I ended up running 1:33:13, good enough for 17th overall. Not bad considering the conditions!

Yeah, football player I am not! How does one hold that thing?
Photo - Nancy Hobbs

This was a fundraiser race for pikespeaksports.us - a local website that supports all kinds of outdoor pursuits. I've been lucky enough to work with Tim and Andy for the Ascent Cycling Series for the last few years, so it was time to give back and support them. Now it's time to return to playing mountain biker - assuming the snow ever melts and I get to ride my bike.....