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...

May 31, 2017

Dancing Shoes

It's become the Growler tradition for Nick and I - he races Saturday in the Half Growler and I take on the full Growler Sunday. That way we can be out at Hartmans to provide support for each other. The first year, I could only meet Nick in one place, since I was also babysitting Matt and Lonna's little boy. But since then - especially as my comfort driving the van has increased, I've been able to get to a few more places on course. The first year I drove the van out into Hartman, I didn't wear my running shoes - after missing a handoff and having to sprint across the sage to meet Nick, I've worn my running shoes ever since. I've been able to move along the course quickly and get a short little run in as well. Sure, a bike ride might be a little better for opening the legs, but it's easier for me to move around on foot and then I don't have to worry about my bike.

View from my run across Rocky Ridge - those clouds would become something later...

Making the turn onto Main Street!
This year was no different. Nick and I discussed our plan the night before. In the morning, he peddled to the start and I piloted the van into the Sage. Found a parking spot for the van near the first transition point and then headed out for the first part of my run. Across Rocky Ridge to Becks, down Becks to Main Street with a few minutes to spare. I heard the riders on Kill Hill, accompanied by the waves of cheering. Brian Smith had already taken his flyer off the front - into the lead where he would stay. I took some photos and then bolted down the road. I had a mile and a half to run to get back to the van and I wasn't sure how much time I had to get back! I had to grab Nick's camelbak and find a good spot on Broken Shovel to make the exchange. The plan was that he'd stop and take the camelbak, so I was looking for a wider spot in the trail so he'd have room to pull over. At least that's what the plan was! I was also counting riders so I'd be able to tell Nick where he was in the field. Not gears this time - total riders. Nick was racing gears for his last Growler in the 30-39 age group. When I saw Nick, it was pretty clear he wasn't gonna stop. Time for an on the fly handoff. We've done it before, but hadn't practiced this year. Luckily, we nailed the handoff and he was off. Time for me to head off to the next location!
Nick after I got him his camebak - not sure which trail
Photo - Dave Kozlowski

Storm clouds were brewing to the north over CB as I drove down to the bottom of Luge. Nick had warned me about the potential for mud, but it looked clear. This time, I was taking bottles up to the end of Josie's. I'd take his camelbak and bottle and then give him a new bottle. So lots of stuff to accomplish in a short period of time. But I had plenty of time to wait once I got out there - I figured I wouldn't see the first riders until about 2 hours into the race. Brian was ahead of my schedule, rolling through about 1:50 - with nothing but daylight behind him. Not a rider in sight. As more riders rolled though, I cheered and offered encouragement. Then I saw Nick's helmet on the rock gardens. Time to get organized. I didn't know what Nick would want - so I had everything ready. He tossed his bottle and then got ready to ditch his camelbak. But he wasn't really slowing down! He shouted what he wanted, so I grabbed the bottle. I could see the train of riders behind him - no wonder he didn't want to stop! I shoved the bottle in his cage, and he was off again. It took me a bit of time to find his bottle in the sage, but then I was gone, running back to the van.

Dancing shoes! A moment of calm, watching the clouds building over CB before the riders came through
This clouds were looming closer as I started getting the next round of bottles organized. And then it started spitting raining. Harder and harder. The rain coalesced into tiny white pellets, whipped against the van by the wind. Hail! I put coke in Nick's camelbak, mixed up bottle of of tea and dug through my clothes for my tights and rain coat. Thank goodness I'd left my clothes bag in the van! Then out into the maelstrom I went. I wasn't going to let a little water keep me from delivering bottles. I was more then a little worried about getting back out after the race though. The bottom of Luge is where Nick got stuck three years ago when the the Growlers faced the mud. Luckily it was already blowing over by the time I got to the mini aid station. Even better was it had taken the riders longer then I'd anticipated to get there. Despite my mixup with filling things and needing to get my warm clothes, I was still there with plenty of time. The riders coming through that point were shelled. It had been hot for most of the day - minus the little hail squall and people were suffering. Good thing that aid station had almost everything! From water, to electrolyte drink to gummy chews and sandwiches. And a bottle of tequila... There were a few takers for a shot of tequila while I was standing there! Mid race, in the front of the pack! Lots of riders stopped to refill water bottles as well. It was only 4 miles left to the finish, but it was one of the hardest chunks of trail left in the races. Some long climbs and some really techy rock gardens. When Nick came through, he tossed his empty bottle and took another bottle. I jogged along side for a minute to make sure he didn't need anything else. Then, my job done - it was time to head back to the base area to wait for him to finish!

Nick on Ridge Trail, near the finish
Photo - Matt Burt,

Nick had a decent race - not as strong as he would have liked, but his stomach didn't bother him. It's something he's been struggling with for a while, so that was a success. It was also his first (and only?) time racing with gears at Growler.

May 21, 2017

Go Till it Hurts...

Last year was the year of distance - I finally ran my first ultra and finished my 50 mile race. This year? Because of my eye, any distance plans I might have had for the year quickly evaporated. Something about not running for three weeks and then having to build back up while trying to avoid jarring... So that leaves one option! If I can't go long, I'm gonna seriously focus on my speed. And focusing on my speed means short and hard - the two things I struggle with and have struggled with even more since my 50. The furthest I've been able to run since March has been 5 miles. I started with a mere two miles - just to test things out. Then it was three miles, three times a week for a few weeks. Since that's all I was doing, I figured that I might as make it quality. Which meant running a little faster then I usually do and really pushing the pace during the intervals. Even the intervals were shorter then what I would normally run - five minutes or less. When you're only running three - four miles you don't have much time to get long intervals done. I had some really good quality days, then showed up for the May Neilson. I wasn't sure of what to expect. Would it be a struggle or would I be able to run a decent time? Decent time was the answer - faster then I'd enticipated for sure. Humm... With the Meowler canceled, I would be home for the Women's Distance Festival 5k this year. Test out my legs and get a point for Fieldhouse? Sounded like a plan! I still sat on the fence for a while. I wasn't sure if that extra mile would more stress then I wanted or if I would be able to hold the Neilson pace for another mile.
Gulp... What am I getting myself into! A 5k?!?
I was more nervous picking up my bib for this race then I have been in a while. I haven't run a 5k in years! This was also on a course I've very familiar with. I ran this course three times in one week back in high school! So between the fear of speed that I haven't experienced in a while and the history on that course there's plenty of reason for me to be nervous. Add in the fact that I really haven't been running much and there's even more mental pressure. Yikes. I decided to get there early, get my number and go warm up away from the crowds. I needed a solid warmup for something as hard as a 5k, but didn't really want to be around people that much. A few miles, some drills and some stretching and then I was ready to face the people and the fear of the unknown. The fear of going till it hurt and then going harder if I could. Luckily, there was a large group of Team Fieldhouse assembled. I'm not a really social runner, but the Brewers Cup has really encouraged me to come out of my shell. I stretched some more as we gabbed and then it was time.

The runners assembled on the starting line and I was momentarily back in high school, staring down the long grass fields to the narrow opening of the gravel path. Then the gun and we were off. I tried to start conservatively, knowing I have a bad habit of jackrabbiting off the start. There were four women in front me as we started on the gravel. Two of them were already slowing down, so I knew I just needed to run smart. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of time in a 5k to run smart! Up the middle trail, then the turn to head back down towards the start/finish. I made my way around three of the women ahead of me before the turn and had my eyes on the tiny girl in the lead. She was running smoothly,  but with the slightly gangly stride of young teen. Would she slow down or keep up the pace? As we rounded Boddington Field, another young woman moved around me. She got a few feet distance, but didn't pull too far away. Huh. I tried to speed up just a little as we approached the first mile and re-passed her. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hold it, so just decided to run steady. Sure enough, she once again moved around me on the long stretch downhill to the turning tree. This time it was a little more of a gap - not much but a gap.
Not as comfortable as I look at that pace and just about to be passed
Photo - Marty France,
Around the turning tree - the speed was starting to hurt. Go hard until it hurts and keep going. I repeated that a few times and focused on the ponytail in front of me. She'd gotten a gap, but wasn't pulling away anymore. Humm. One more obstacle ahead of me - the only major hill on the course. Back in high school, that hill was a race killer - situated just at mile two, when you wanted to start speeding up. Charge up the hill and that last mile could hurt. Take it easy and the race could just run away from you. I opted for a course in the middle - just try to hold my pace as best as I could. I closed the gap down just a little on second place women. She was fading just a little. We were now facing oncoming traffic, so I wasn't able to really open it up and try to make the catch. It was more a slow reeling in. Finally, as we turned for the final half mile southbound, I was able to really start making up ground. I originally planned on tucking in behind her for a bit, use some of the tactics I've learned over years of racing. But it came too quickly and I was around her. I was the hunted, but without the speed of youth on my side. I was pulling away, but could still hear the footsteps behind me. Onto the final stretch of grass and the footsteps softened. But I could feel the rush of someone pulling along side me. Yup! Still don't have that finishing sprint!
Yeah, I didn't have much of a sprint back in High School - some things haven't changed!
Photo - Marty France,

Regardless, I crossed the line in 20:37 - faster then I'd anticipated and one of my better times on that course. The winner - a 13 year old! - ran 19:58 and second - 17 years old - ran 20:33. Man, I feel old looking at those ages... more then twice their ages! I was the old lady on the podium for sure...

It did reveal something to me - a short, hard 5k hurts just as much, if not more then a longer race. The pain is just over sooner. It's more intense then the longer races, but over sooner. And you can walk easily afterwards! It doesn't take weeks to recover from a hard 5k, but the satisfaction is still there with a strong race. I'm actually looking forward to running a few more hard, painful 5k this year. Like I said, if I'm not going run long, I'll work on that speed. And have some fun doing it!

May 17, 2017

Chase Adventure

Chase Adventure. That phrase invokes dreams of big mountains, winding singletrack and epic days in the woods. We tend to picture adventure as being solo explorers, seeking out new trails and destinations. But that picture paints a narrow and limiting view of what adventure really is - and maybe holding some people back from going out on their terms and defining their own adventure.

Where does that long, winding road lead to? Adventure is calling
Adventure can be found in the city park you never explore. The one only a few minutes from home, but not as convenient as the go-trails just around the block. Who knows what you'll find. It might be a seldom used but well designed section of trail that challenges new skills and sharpens old ones. There might be a new little hill or loop that is perfect for some hot laps. It might not be far, but the adventure is in the exploration. The brain can go on autopilot on the same route day in and day out. Shake it up. Take your morning run and turn it around. The familiar will become new and exciting. Chase adventure by changing the routine. It doesn't need to be a huge epic day to become an adventure.

And then there's the snack break on a new trail in a local park. Close to home, but still an adventure
Another way to chase adventure that we never think about? A new race or a new distance. Falling into a routine of the same races every year creates staleness. The training becomes the same every year - the same intervals, same trails. Pick something different and see what happens. You might find a new favorite by shaking things up. And even if you don't, the training will be an adventure. New tactics, new trails to learn. Or take a step up or down in distance - throw your hat into a new arena. Usually race trail 25ks? Turn your focus to speed and try a road 5k. Races like that challenge us in different ways. All out speed is just as challenging as distance - but in a different way. It might be just enough to spice up a staid routine of long runs and hills.

Adventures happen when we open our eyes to the possibilities all around us. It doesn't have to be planned - the best adventures often happen without plans. You just need to be prepared to chase the adventures when they present themselves. So be you, whoever that is - but challenge the old you to find a new adventure. It's your life and your adventure. Make it fit you and don't beholden to other's expectations.

Dawn Patrol - each day is a new adventure

May 8, 2017

A Map!! Let's go exploring...

Amber and I had a plan. It was a good plan - a chance to do some easier riding, get away from the Canon for a bit and generally ride something new. We'd pathalete from ProCycling up to the AFA, then do Falcon trail, make our way to Blodgett Peak and then meander through Ute to get back to the path for the return to Pro. A solid day of pedaling, some trails that I haven't ridden in a while and some new trails in Blodgett Peak. Since a lot of the ride was on path, I decided to ride my Fate - just change things up a little. I knew we'd be able to stop and get water if we wanted since we weren't really heading off the grid, but for some reason I still decided to nearly fill the bladder in my Osprey. I also tossed the spot tracker into the pack, just because. Not sure why, but...

The first part of the plan when as anticipated. Some nice flattish pedaling up to Ice Lake, then the cut off to the Falcon Trail. We jumped on the trail at the Fire Station, meandered through the meadow, practiced the rocks a little and then reached a kiosk. With a map... Now, according to plan, we'd stay on the Falcon Trail for the Stanley Canyon Climb, make our loop and get back on the Santa Fe. But. There was a loop that looked intriguing. How much of it would be trail vs road I didn't know. How much riding vs hiking was another question. But. If all else failed, we could always turn around and come back down and finish out the Falcon loop right?
The map. You are here. And going exploring sounds like an even better plan!
So off we went into the unknown. At first, there were copious trail signs marking the 713 as we climbed higher and higher. We looped around the Tesla hydroplant, then dropped down to the creek. A fence blocked the road, with the trail peeling off to the right. Up and loose. It would be HAB for sure. Amber was game, so up we went. The trail signs diminished, but the road (ish) was pretty easy to follow. There were cairns and markers to keep us going. It was a combo of hiking and riding most of the way, with the trail fairly narrow in places.
When presented with a choice between a road and a goat trail, we followed the arrow. Goat trail!
We reached what felt like a high point and weighed the options. Keep going or turn around. The gated road was just below us, but there had been enough of a gap to squeeze through. If we wanted, we could bushwack down to the road and bail without an issue. So up we went, following the narrow trail along the end of the mountain. Eventually, the cairns pointed us down to the road, with the trail petering out along a rocky cliff. On the road, we of course decided to keep climbing. Why not? We'd gotten that far already - might as well keep forging ahead. Teammates and riding partners are always up for challenge and adventure!
There is a trail there somewhere! And a road...
We rode past the containment pond put in place after the Waldo Canyon Fire, climbing higher and higher. We saw a sign indicating trail 713 peeling off to the right - but I never saw the trail... Finally, we reached a reservoir. We checked the photo I'd taken of the map. Yup, right where we wanted to be. Time for some real gravel grinding... The road was really well maintained, so the riding was pretty easy - but steep. We were among the scrags and burnt trunks left behind by the Waldo Canyon Fire, the dead trees a contrast between the small stands of evergreens remaining and the new growth among the ashes.
Whoops! There was no signs telling us not to get on the road at the bottom!

Rampart Reservoir hidden among the scrags.  

Pikes Peak!
And then between the trees, we saw Rampart. We were that high - having climbed up to the top of the Rampart Range. Seeing Rampart Res was surprising though, having not anticipated actually getting up there. That meant the next sight would be Pikes Peak, standing tall among the angry looking clouds. It also meant that we really only had one way back to town. Finish the gravel grinding out to Rampart Range Road and then descend down to the Garden of the Gods. At least we thought it would be all descending down to the Garden - oh no. There was still plenty of climbing left to be done before we stared down at the city. As for that descent? While it wasn't blazing down single track, it was still fun. It took us over 30 minutes to drop from the highest point down to the Garden - and that was with only three cars on the road!

Once we got back to Pro, Amber described the ride quite well. We pathaleted, we Falconed for a bit, then hiked our bikes up a canyon, gravel grinded even higher and bombed down back to the city!

May 1, 2017

Ode to the trainer

I did something different this past April - while I didn't raise any money doing it, I challenged myself to partipate and complete the #30daysofbiking during April. Why? After all, I usually have my well throughout out balance between running, cycling and rest days. I've never done a streak and have really never had the desire to do a streak of anything. But with my eye, I wasn't going to be running for the first half of the month at least - so I would need to do something to maintain the fitness that I would loose without running. Riding a little more sounded like just the plan. That meant it couldn't just be spin around the block or a jaunt to the bar. It had to be a worthwhile, meaningful ride that would actually develop fitness and strength. And there was another kicker - I was also still on limited mountain biking or riding outside when I started this. I would be doing many of the rides inside, on the trainer. And out of the 30 days of biking, 12 were inside. My shortest inside ride was 40 minutes - I ran out of time when Nick had company over. My longest ride was 3 hours, covering more then 50 miles on the trainer. Perhaps my next challlenge will be the 100 miles of nowhere....

After this, I might still be calling the trainer time fake miles - but I won't badmouth the trainer. Without it, I wouldn't have ridden every day and the riding I did do wouldn't have been quality. When my eye first started flaring in March, I was able to get on and pedal, keep the HR low, but still do something form going stir crazy. On the second flare, I was able to get the workouts done when I wasn't allowed to go outside yet. And I quickly became good at the power hour after work - instead of a jaunt through Stratton, some subthreshold intervals and cadence drills to emulate the work of riding outside. I never used Zwift - just the workouts as written and the display on my Garmin. If I was doing a workout, either music or an audio book. No computer set up to stream movies, no smart trainer dictating what I was going to do - just me and the mental energy required to focus on the workouts and the rides. For easier rides or during my warm up and cool down, I read - the kindle is great for that. Would I have rather been outside - of course! But when I was cleared to start riding outside, I could tell I hadn't lost anything for my hours on the trainer.

And hours there were - most days were between 1:30-2:00 as that was the best duration for a solid workout. What I was lacking in long rides, I was making up for in simple accumulated fatigue. I did get one three hour ride and a few 2-2:30 rides in however, but the goal inside was always quality over quantity. When I have to go through three water bottles and use two sweat bands on my head, that's a solid set of fake miles I also noticed that the mental distraction that lured me off the bike earlier in the month was easier to keep at bay near the end of the month. Since the mental focus is a big part of the ultra endurance racing, that is an added bonus.

But with that said, when I was able to get back on the mountain bike - it wasn't a smooth transition. I was hesitant at first, not wanting to really get after it. Afraid of the jarring and afraid of crashing, with my bike handling skills less then ideal due to the stationary miles. I was far from smooth on the rock gardens, bobbling all kinds of things. A lack of the body English needed to maneuver the bike and just out of practice. I was also slow on the descents - I wasn't used to the speed of trees flowing by or the split second processing to choose my line. Those first few outside rides on single track were a little offsetting. I hadn't slowed on the climbs, but I wasn't myself on anything else. Wow. A strange feeling for sure. It's taken a bit to start working though some of the hesitation and to remember how to read the trails. If that's the only thing I have to regain following the forced sessions on the trainer, I'm fine with a little slower to start on the singletrack and rocks. It will come back. And I also won't be as quick to judge the trainer. While nothing replaces the actual feel and body mechanics of riding outside - both for balance and bike handling - if its a choice between not riding and the trainer, I know where I'm going. To the basement!