Transcendence

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...

Dec 26, 2015

Back to the drawing board

Here we go again - after getting my hamstring healed up during our Utah trip and after, I though I was in the clear to resume intensity and building out my long runs. I got back on the track and started doing some of my speed workouts on the flat trails of Monument Valley park. I was missing the forest for the trees though - with all the little races packed in January and February, I was working too hard to try to reclaim by speed. I should know by know that the runner I was in 2005 no longer exists and trying to find her again is near futile. But I still think I should be able to run as far as fast as I used to too. Everything was going well and I was turning in some good workouts over the past month. I was starting to feel more like the runner I used to be instead of the jogging cyclists I am now. And then Monday, five minutes into my last interval, the hamstring twinged. Nothing major - but noticeable. I attributed to the cold. It was a little nippy and I'd opted to wear shorts. Maybe a mistake as my legs were cold and it took me a little finger going. I could feel the tightness the rest of the day and in the run the following day. But it didn't affect my running - just a little tighter then usual. So I didn't pay much attention to the twinge. I knew it was there - could feel it through most of my activities.

And the came my Christmas Day long run - hoping for 15 miles, nice and easy. Nick started with me, planning on doing 3. I was feeling good, much better then in past days. The pace felt easy. But just shy of 1.5 miles in, my hamstring spasmed. It was worse then the gradual tightening that has happened before. It was a sudden spasming that felt like a loose string going taut. And I was done. There was no way I was going any more then it was going to take me to get back home. Walking was fine, but trying to run? Not so much. I couldn't straighten out my leg for a full stride at all. Pain in the same spot as before, but more intense. I could see my entire January and Feburary falling apart. 

So it's back to the drawing board for my running. I need to cut the mileage down for a few weeks and eliminate all the intensity for at least a month. And when I start feeling better, I need to behave. Even if I feel like I can run fast, keep it chill. It's not going to be easy - I was getting amped up for two very busy months of racing. I'm still going to do the races, but throwing expectations out the door. I think they will have to be my intensity. The expection management will be the hardest part. Still trying to recapture the runner I was, with the expectations that I had whenever I lined up does not fit with me babying my hamstring like it needs. Showing up with a false expection of where I am will only lead to further injury. It's what I have to do if I want to see my entire season through to completion. 

Dec 16, 2015

Commitment

Winter time seems like all fun and games sometimes - playing in the snow on the fat bikes or skis. But its also when registration season for the next season begins and when the commitment to the dreams become finalized. I've talked about the Sheep Mountain 50 Mile race since July. Well, registration is open and that means one thing - time to commit. Nothing says "I'm doing this race" more then the registration confirmation email. So on the day registration opened, I signed up - diving in head first. Sure, I could have waited. It's not like the race will fill quickly. But it's a personal thing - with that registration confirmation sitting in my inbox, it's a constant reminder of what I am working towards with all the pre-dawn, sub freezing runs. Seven months might seem like such a long time from now, but it will go so quickly.

My history is in distance running - marathons and such. Having finished the 50 states back in 2010, complete with some of the traditional 50 state craziness like double weekends and three marathons in 8 days, I am comfortable with the thought of training for a 50 mile race. But I want to do this smart - after all, commitment means nothing if you get injured in the process! Since finished up, I haven't been running nearly as much. The focus shifted to first triathlons and then to mountain biking. So the frequency, volume and intensity for my running hasn't been there like in the past. I couldn't hop off the couch and casually jog a 3:10 marathon right now - unlike back then. Luckily, I've been building up the volume a little in the past year - trying to edge closer and closer to 30 miles a week from the start. But without any intensity or the frequency I will need. I know many in the ultra running community don't think intensity is required for simply finishing a 50 mile race - which is my primary goal. There are other races on the schedule - including a flat and fast half marathon. I need the speed for that - the 6:50s that used to come so easily to me. Thus the intensity, at least until then. I'm also doing a trail marathon and a 50k, even though I initially said that the 50 miler would be my first official race over the marathon distance. But I love the course for the 50k and it's at a good time for super long run.

It will be a very busy first half of the year. Two hard mountain bike races, snow bike racing, and all the running. I'm looking forward to mixing it up again, balancing the running and the mountain biking and just getting out and having fun.

Dec 2, 2015

Oven Mitts....

Unlike Nick, I have never struggled with cold hands. I'm usually happy with three layers less of glove then what he's using, or my heavy gloves if he's got his bar mitts on. In the spring and fall, that's fine. I can wear my thin wool liner under a heavy pair of gloves and be happy - despite the lack of dexterity and other issues. Even at the Leadville Winter Bike Series last year, I tried to avoid wearing my really heavy gloves. Had slightly cold hands a few times, but didn't think much of it. But for whatever reason, when Nick and I went out on the fatbikes on Sunday, I wasn't happy with the glove situation. It seemed like no matter how I tucked in cuffs or layered gloves, I just wasn't comfortable. My hands were warm for sure, but I couldn't manipulate the shifters or brakes like I wanted. And I made my discomfort evident to Nick, even mentioning that maybe I should try the bar mitts we had at home. What could it hurt?

When I got home from work Monday, my bike was decked out with our spare pair of bar mitts. Made for an ATV, they don't necessarily fit the best, but for a trial run, it was perfect. Would I have the comfort and dexterity I wanted to and have nice and toasty hands? I got to test it out on Tuesday. Sure, it wasn't super chilly - but I had my lightest gloves on and some comfortable hands. I also didn't have the extra pressure around my wrists from layers of gloves in addition to my jacket. Even better, I could feel the grips and manipulate everything without struggling. I did a few short intervals to see how it felt riding hard - awesome. And then I decided to ride down Columbine, knowing that the stretch of trail down in the canyon has always been a weak point for my hands. Got into the shady part along the creek and while my nose and ears were rightly cold, my hands were still warm. Win!

Today was another snowy fatbike ride with plenty of climbing and descending. Amber and I headed up the Chutes, Gold Camp and High Drive, with assurances from Nick that the boys had gotten Jacks well packed in the prior night. It was mostly packed in - the wind had formed some new drifts in spots. But for the most part, it was the best Jack's has been riding all fall. Just stay in the tracks and let the tires float! I had my summer gloves on again, but my hands were warm. And I had no issues with riding fast on the descent. I could get my hands in and out of the mitts easy enough. We did Columbine again and the same result. Where my hands usually go numb, I was perfectly fine. And I was wearing a layer less then normal for the temperatures today!

So I'm a convert. From making fun of Nick and his bar mitts, I'm going to get a nice pair for my bike. After all, if I'm going to be riding that bike all winter (and racing!) I might as well have happy hands and be able to feel my bars. No more making fun of the oven mitts on other people's bikes - I'm right there with them now!

Dec 1, 2015

Conquering the demons

Last year when we hit Moab after the trip, we got in some of the classics like Porcupine Rim. Unfortunately, our last ride there was tainted by my issues with the exposures and a mini melt down on Captain Ahab. After that, I wanted to go back - test myself with the exposure and the technical riding of Ahab. We drove from St George straight to Moab, hoping to beat the forecasted storm moving in. As anticipate, the weather on Monday wasn't idea - raining most of the morning in the city and generally cold and cloudy. Perfect day for chores and laundry! After a week of riding in St George and Hurricane, we had a bunch of laundry....

View from Pothole Arch - LaSals covered in snow from the storm the previous day
Tuesday was Ahab. Since it was our second trip to that trail system, we knew a little more then last year - and had a better map. We took Hymasa all the way up, riding easy and steady. Much more fun then fussing with the huge steps on Amasa Back. Hymasa really was put together well, with good flow over the rocks and still plenty of challenge and views. As we took the jeep road Cliffhanger out to the Pothole Arch trail, I really couldn't remember anything. I knew we'd ridden it, but I didn't remember. I remembered more about Pothole, following the blue lines across the sandstone and the expansive views where the trail ended. Instead of taking the left down Rockstacker, we stayed on Pothole back to the jeep trail. I could tell that Nick wanted to ride Rockstacker again, but this was my ride and we didn't.  Maybe next time - but my primary goal was to ride Ahab and have fun. And fun was had. It was like riding a brand new trail! Every corner revealed something new that I didn't remember. And I loved it. Such a great trail. I even figured out why it was named Captain Ahab - there's a huge rock that the trail circles that looks just like a whale from most angles. The fact that I'd completely missed that last year was kinda shocking to me - it's so right there if you just look around.

Smiling this time around! It was never too warm on any of our Moab rides this year.
Wendsday was time for something completely new - not just something I couldn't remember. We wanted to do Mag 7, but were too late in the season for a shuttle. Scratch that idea at that point in the trip - there was no way I wanted to ride all the way up from town to the start of Mag 7. So we studied the map a little more and decided on a route. With the rain Moab had gotten on Monday, the sand of Poison Spider should be okay to ride through. And we could make a good loop out of that - up Poison Spider, then Golden Spike and returning on Gold Bar Rim and Portal. Perfect. One thing that I have learned over our few trips to Moab is that just because something is a "road" on the map doesn't mean it's easy. Both Poison Spider and Golden Spike had some hard stuff. It was near constant climbing, up from river level, then across the mesa. Once we got on Golden Spike, the road got a little harder, snaking between huge rock formations and up narrow canyons. I really don't see how anyone could drive a jeep up through that - but I know they do. There were plenty of tire tracks to prove it.

Nick checking out the drop down to the valley from Gold Bar Rim trail
Even with a good map, we almost missed the first junction with Gold Bar Rim. We'd had two choices - ride all the way out the start of Gold Bar or the jump in half way, depending on how long the climb up took. Well, it was nearly two hours and we weren't quite sure how much longer it would take to get to the start of Gold Bar. Time to start looking for the trail junction. On happenstance, we went out to an over look and there it was - the mountain bike trail crossing the jeep road. Perfect! Gold Bar Rim - wow. The little sampler of that trail was enough to make me want to ride the entire thing. Hard but fun technical riding, dancing with the rim of the canyon. In and out of the rocks, with every line ridable, but some requiring some through and guts. And then came Portal. The first section wasn't took bad, but the edge was uncomfortably close. And when there's a sign saying people have died and be ready to dismount? Yeah... As the trail snuck closer and closer to the 300 foot sheer plummet down to the Colorado River, I was getting closer and closer to getting off. There was nothing major technical on the trail - it was actually pretty wide by singletrack standards. But there was also nothing but air over my left shoulder... I got back on my bike after the death rock to tackle to final descent down to river level.  And I was less then two minutes away from the "safety" of the road only to get kicked off the trail by a babyhead. Into a prickly pear cactus I tumbled. There was no avoiding the spines....




There is a trail there! Nick's orange helmet is on the right, upper third. The little white dot is actually a sign warning riders to not attempt the next rock. Can't understand why....