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...

Jul 31, 2017

Summer Plotting and True North

Summer is a hard time of year when the focus is on one big event. Summer is the time for having fun, traveling and expoloring - not buckling down and focusing. Everyone else is racing all over the country or going on exciting trips for new singletrack. The Facebook and instagram highlight reel from friends is filled with awesome vistas and sweet trails, as well as the occasional podium shot. It's easy to get distracted by everyone one else's adventures and worried that no matter how much you are doing it's not enough. There's always the fear of missing out with the coverage of other races and other riders. It's something I've dealt with for the last few years and I'm very familiar with the feeling.
Focus on the goals doesn't mean you don't pause for the views
After Growler, I turned my focus to August - to the one kind of racing I have never done. Stage racing. The Breck Epic in fact - six days of big, high country singletrack around Breckenridge. With stages between 20 and 40 miles, it's going to be a long week of riding and racing. Breck isn't a place we get to for riding, so most of the trails will be new and the courses unknown. I know Breck delivers on both the epic and the alpine singletrack I love. I did my best to simulate the demands of stage racing in my training, stacking hard workouts into long endurance days. I didn't have any of the huge endurance rides like I usually do in the summer, but that's not the current goal. Having the ability to ride hard multiple days in a row is more important and the accumulated fatigue will provide the endurance I need.

Tackling the hard line - always willing to give something a try
 But there's one more thing to make this run at the Breck Epic even more exciting and interesting. Instead of racing solo or Coed Duo with Nick, I'm racing with Amber in Duo Women. I've never done this kind of Duo racing before. In 24 hour races, it's a handoff. One lap at a time, constantly swapping back and forth. If one teammate is having a bad day, the other one can do a few more laps to make up for it. Not with this kind of Duo racing. Amber and I will both be riding every stage, staying together through good days and bad. We have to be our own rolling support system for the mental and emotional stress of racing. If one person is flagging, the other needs to step up and carry the load. I know Amber's been asked a few times if she's ready and if we are a good match for this kind of racing. And yes - I think we are a perfect match. We are both stubborn and focused and willing to tolerate discomfort to reach our goals. We climb together well and her descending skills have blossomed over the last three years. There might even be times where I am the weakest link! I'm looking forward to the challenge of both Stage Racing and racing with Amber.


Amber's rubbing off on me - baggies, no jersey and some fancy Swiftwick socks

Those two bikes have seen some amazing adventures - and more to come!


Jul 24, 2017

Dawn Patrol

Guess what! It's summer and that means it's hot. Really hot. Okay, not Arizona hot and we don't have the humidity of the east coast or south. But still, hot is relative and when it's 90 before noon, you know it's going to be a long day. How to manage getting workouts and long rides done with that kind of heat? My personal favorite is dawn patrol - getting up early and getting out there before the sunrise, in the cool temperatures of the morning. Granted, that's something all runners know about and usually do - especially the people running before running of to work. It's easy with running though - not much more then an hour gets you a solid workout and a few good miles. I think nothing of getting my run started before the sun after doing it for years. Before school, then before work. I always ran in the morning. Got it done, and then had the rest of the day for the rest of the things I needed to do without stressing about when I was going to run.

Sunrise from the Chamberlin extension in Stratton Open Space
Cycling seems to be a little different. It's more involved getting out early - or so it seems. Between funny clothes, getting either a pack or two water bottles, checking air pressure on tires and suspension... So much to do before actually starting the ride. The workouts are usually longer, even when kept short and sweet, so even in the dead of summer lights are usually required. For the past few years, I've shied away from the dawn patrol rides. Just haven't been motivated to get out for a hard ride before the sun comes up. I tried to avoid scheduling bike workouts on days I was working so I didn't have to deal all of the "hassles" of a pre-work workout.

On my way through Bear Creek Park to start my workout.
This year hasn't quite worked out that way. There's been a days where I needed to ride hard on a work day so I could spread things out a little more. Given how hot it's been lately, that means one thing. Dawn Patrol. I'm not going to try to ride when it's 90 degrees after work - that's asking for a crappy workout that will take far too long to recover from. If I want quality and I want a good day on the bike, I'll have to do it in the morning. I think its the change from running that makes it that much more exciting. It's something different - the trails are quiet with more rabbits then people and there are no cars on the roads yet. The sun is rising as I'm starting my intervals right now - and soon it will still be dark for the first few intervals. And I'm finishing just as it starts getting warm instead of heading out in to the furnace that is building. I can't say I'm that motivated to do all my cycling workouts in the early morning hours, but I need to consider it seriously. There's only a few more weeks left of hard training - might as well take advantage of the cooler and quieter early morning hours.

Sunrise from the Bear Creek Park Mountain bike trails

Lights on in Stratton!

Jul 19, 2017

Return to Salida

The last attempt at Salida didn't turn out well. This trip? Much better - despite several last minute changes in plans and ride locations We made plans to meet Todd and Amber Saturday night then find a place to camp. That meant Nick and I had time to do our own ride Saturday morning. Of course, we picked Starvation Creek... The climb up Poncha Creek Road doesn't seem too bad when I don't have 90 miles under my tires! We made good time up the climb, almost creating the summit before the rain came. The one ride Nick decided to not wear his pack... we got drenched on the road across to the Starvation drop in. Luckily the rain stopped just as we reached the drop in - but we were still wet and cold. I had to change gloves before we started descending! I was super happy I'd worn my thin wool Swiftwick socks - my feet would have been frozen otherwise. Nick didn't have spare gloves and his hands were already getting numb from the cold and wet. So it was a sedate pace down Starvation. Funny - I say sedate pace, but it was still faster then my first few runs down that trail! Once we reached Poncha Creek Road, we both decided that one lap was enough. Time to head back to the van.

Sunset as we drove down Old Monarch Pass
After a fun detour to Vino Salida and dinner at Boathouse, it was time to find the camp site for the night. Since the Sunday ride plan included Canyon Creek, we wanted to be on the west side of Monarch Pass. Dodging clouds and thunderstorms, we found a great spot about 2 miles up Old Monarch Pass Road. Too bad we'd all forgotten dry firewood - getting a fire started to smoke out the mosquitoes was an interesting undertaking. And once we did get it going, there was plenty of smoke! Them mosquitoes were gone - at least until the next morning when we pulled up at the parking area at the base of canyon creek! I was eaten alive!


The hills are alive! Amber taking in the view from the top of Granite Mountain
Canyon Creek... a new trail for Amber! That made it an even better pedal. I'd forgotten how ugly the climb up Tomichi Pass Road was - we haven't hit up Canyon Creek from that direction in a while. And it was busy as well, with lots of Jeeps, ATVS and motos - as well as a few other riders. Finally, we reached the turn off onto the single track. Time to work on the HAB skills! I've been working on my bike carry technique and I think I have it down. Once at the summit, time to get ready for the downhill. Dry clothes and body armor and off we went! I remembered my first time going down Canyon Creek when we dropped in - the dizzying sense of the world falling away. So high above tree line and there's nothing to focus on besides the trail. Now, I've ridden it many times - including in the dark. And it's almost easier in the dark! Amber handled it well - and they weren't that far behind us as we entered the trees. And that was with several stops to take in the view! I'll be honest - I didn't ride Canyon Creek until 2013 - and I'd been riding my bike for nearly five years at that time. Amber? She's only been on the mountain bike for two years. The progress she's made in that time has been incredible to watch. I'm lucky to be calling her a teammate this August - not a competitor!

Still some snow left on the alpine sections
It wasn't all fun and games coming down Canyon Creek though. A miss timed rock led to a nasty pedal strike and some trail side first aid just after Horse Camp. Between Nick's water filter and me scrubbing, we got Amber's elbow cleaned out. My little first aid kit had just enough to bandage it up to finish the ride. Took a bit to get the drive and flow back - but we were railing by the last climb our mojo was back! It's always good to be able to finish a ride strong note - even after a mishap like that.
Looking out over the valley and Brown's Canyon NM
Sunday was questionable. We weren't sure what we'd feel like riding, especially Amber. Her elbow was sore and her hand was already bruising. We decided to sleep on it and went to bed watching the thunderstorms rolling across the divide. Walls of rain and lightening hiding the high mountains from view, but thankfully staying away from where we were camped.
Sunset behind Shavano
Sunday morning we decided on Foose's at a minimum. If we were feeling good, we could do a little more. But Foose's alone is a solid ride. We took advantage of having to cars to shuttle the pass - the ride up would wait. We took our time getting organized at the summit, giving the Crest Shuttlers time to clear out a little. Or so we thought... The Crest was a crowded place and we were catching everyone. Lots of thru-hikers for both the CTD and the CT, as well as the shuttlers. At Foose's, a brief pause to gather ourselves and get ready to ride. The drop in at Foose's always looks intimidating - a straight shot plummeting down into the trees. The original plan was for the boys to ride their own pace down, and be getting the car by the time Amber and I made it down. Well, the best laid plans are always flexible. Those thunderstorms we'd watched? Foose's was soaked. It's normally wet in spots, but those places were bottom bracket deep mud pits. No railing the descent under those conditions! I've never seen the trail that muddy... It turned into a fun family ride as we dodged mud puddles though the middle half of the trail. Then it got fun again as the trail dried out and we weaved and bobbed around aspens and pines. Another lap was out of the question under those conditions. Time to head into town and call it a day.

Jul 8, 2017

Confidence Comes with Taking Chances

I'll admit - I'm hesitant to go on big rides and monster loops alone. I look at the photos and the Strava rides of other women, wondering how they manage the courage to head up into the mountains solo. For my long rides, I tend to do loops - up down and round, staying close to home and off the "back country" trails.  I've never gone further then Blue Columbine alone while on my bike. I worry about something happening, getting injured or so many other things that can go wrong. It's not that things can't go wrong on my up, down repeat loops - it's just that I'm closer to home and Nick can come and get me if things do happen. But that doesn't mean I don't look at the map - dreaming of the big loops and taking chances alone in the back country.

Thursday was the day to change that. I had my map, I had the Spot, I had my water treatment method (a steripen - which works great when it works) and a backpack with warm clothes and food. Didn't think I'd need the warm clothes - after all, it was already near 80 when I left the house a little before 9:00. But this is Colorado - you neve know about thunder storms! I also knew I was going to be out there for a while, so borrowed my long run trick of a thin long sleeve wool shirt. It might feel warmer to start, but as you start sweating, the wool actually keeps you cooler then sleeves. And then I don't need to worry about sunscreen! Or feeling like I have bugs crawling on me.

Gold Camp Road, off in the distance, winding around the mountains
My original plan was to ride/hike up St Mary's Falls, then past the falls to where the trail merges with 381. Just to see where the other drop into St Mary's comes out - we usually take the singletrack as soon as possible. That was the plan - but as we all know, I'm easily distracted by maps of all kinds. The push up St Mary's was good - I got to practices carrying my bike and pushing my bike. I'm faster carrying the bike then pushing, but it's easier to carry in an alpine area! Those trees tend to get in the way down low! There were a few hikers out and about, and most of them were pretty amazed that I was going up the trail, not running them over from behind. I wasn't in a hurry - the plan was just time on wheels and time on feet combined. Stopped for some photos in a few places - rode what I was able to ride (which wasn't much past the base of the waterfall).  I got to the junction of the singletrack trail and the road up to 381. Whew - I would be able to ride again on the road! Ummm. Yeah, not so much! It was a cross between the push up and over Hancock Pass and Poncha Creek Road. At least know I know where to go for some quality HAB if I so choose..."

There is a trail there, promise!
Finally, I got to 381. Time for a snack and a check of the map. I checked with the spot so Nick would have an idea of where I was and sat down to look a the map. And here is where I got adventurous. I could easily take 381 back to our normal drop in to St Mary's and have good, hard ride. But I didn't really feel like tackling the switchbacks going down and St Mary's was really loose. Or I could check out part of the course for the Pikes Peak Ultra 50 mile race - one I'd had my eye on until Nick talked me out of it. That would involve heading up 672. I opted for up, knowing full well after studying the topo that there was a fine chance I'd be doing more hiking then riding again. And I was right - between the steep trail and the loose baby heads, I don't think I rode any of 672 from the road up to the saddle. I briefly pondered a Mt Rosa summit as well, but opted against it. Clouds were moving in and it was getting late. So down I went, into the unknown descent off Mt Rosa to Frosty's park. That was actually really fun. I'd been worried about it being loose and baby headed like the east side, but it wasn't! There were a few things that I should have ridden, but got a little chicken about. I didn't feel like taking chances out there in the middle of no where.


Pikes Peak!
Selfie with Pikes Peak!
And how do you know if you are getting close to Frosty's Park? Just listen for the gun shots. Sure enough, as I crossed the creek and started the last little climb on 673, I started hearing gunfire. How typical.... It also was starting to rain - I was hoping to get to Frosty's before putting on my rain coat so people could at least see me and I didn't have to worry about them shooting at me. No luck - one hard downpour had me donning that coat in a hurry! The rain had stopped as I dropped into Frosty's so I almost took my coat off. Then I looked up at the clouds. Yeah, they didn't look to friendly! I quickly put on my elbow pads and my raincoat back on. Time to do something I haven't done before. Pipeline - alone. And in the rain... It started raining harder as I dropped through the gait and was near full downpour level as I made the turn off 701. This was going to be fun! Just keep your wits about you and ride your bike. The rain was turning into hail, white blobs splatting against the rocks. Visors on helmets might be a little annoying, but they do help keep sunglasses cleaner when it's raining! To my delight, I was able to ride the entire descent of Pipeline until the first pipe sighting clean. Even with the deep scree and slippery rocks!

Fuzzy comlumbine
The rain was gone and the sun out by the time I hit 7 Bridges. With all the new trail work, I wasn't sure what I'd find down there - I was hoping for one last run down Crankcase. But I fear I may have been too late - and I didn't really explore too much either. The trail dropped me right onto the new construction, completely bypassing crankcase. I know it's new and they just finished it - it needs to pack in and settle a little. But I fear it's going to become a scree pit much like Columbine and will not be able to handle the amount of use it's going to get. There is a reason why most trails in the area follow creeks - that's where there's actually dirt and where the trail will survive. Taking trail building ideas based off of having real dirt to dig in usually doesn't work when the entire hillside is unstable decomposing granite... But we shall see. A gem of statewide renown is gone and that's where I leave it.



Jul 1, 2017

Hindsight

They say hindsight is 20/20 - that when you look back at decisions you struggled with, the answer is perfectly clear what you should have done. That's true - to a point. It's really easy to say "oh, I should have done this instead of that." But that doesn't take into account the changes to how a different path then would have affected the present. Back in April, I wrote about identity and how I'd be willing to give up running distance if it meant I could still ride my bike. I was willing to change my identity as a runner permently if needed as long as I could completely reform myself into a rider. But it didn't take long to realize that even that wouldn't be enough if I wanted to let my eye recover without drugs. One ride off the drugs and I was losing my vision again. So back on the atropine drops - and I've stayed on the drops since then. One drop a day, new sunglasses and I've been able to basically resume all my normal activities.

It's easy to look back at the three races I pulled out of in March and April because the eye docs were hoping no running was the answer and say that it was a mistake. I should have run anyway given that I'm needed medication to manage my eye. Running the races shouldn't have changed anything. The eye doctors and I were all being overly cautious. Here's the thing - we didn't know that at time. There's so many factors at play with eyes and especially my eyes that being overly cautious isn't a bad idea. We also don't realize how important vision is until it's gone, and that's the scary part. I could have gone down to Salida for the Run Through Time half marathon - a race I've been wanting to do for years. I was trained and ready for the race and looking forward to a fun weekend with friends. There's a huge chance that nothing would have happened. But so many things might have gone wrong. I might triggered more bleeding and have elevated the pressure in my eye enough to cause permanent damage. Since the lense chafing against the iris was causing the bleeding in the first place (we think) there's a high likelyhood that might have happened. Or because I really couldn't see well out of my left eye, I could have tripped over something and severerly injured myself - taking me out of the rest of the events I have planned for year. Hindsight isn't 20/20 when there's so many different paths that could have happened.

And then the Rattler Trail Race in Palmer Park - again, one of my favorite places to run and a great event. By the time that race came along, it was pretty clear I needed to be on the drops. It wasn't clear if running would really affect things yet since I hadn't run much more then 2-3 miles at time over the weeks before the race. Not the way to prepare for a 25k race at all! Pulling out of that race had very little to do with medical concerns anymore - it was all about being intelligent. There's a huge difference between 25k and 5k and trying to fake a 25k after three weeks on either no running or minimal running just screams stupid. I thought about dropping to the 10k, but it was easier to drop completely from the race and not have the pressure of trying to run fast when I hadn't been running looming over me. I just wanted to get running comfortably again before doing any races. As for the final race I pulled out of? Well, I might have bailed on that one regardless - and anyone who showed up in the blizzard conditions the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race had is a braver runner then me!

It's not all about the negatives though. The forced hold on my running provided me with several new opportunities. One - it made me rebuild my running from nothing basically. Just like with any injury, I came back slowly from the three weeks off. Shorter runs and more frequent runs each week. And because those runs were shorter, when I was ready and feeling like I could run hard again it provided me with the chance to rebuild my speed. While I know I may never get back down to the times I was running 10 years ago, it will be close. And the process will be just as much work - just different types of work - as getting ready for the 50 miler last year. I can honestly say that two years ago, I wouldn't be thinking about trying for a sub 13:00 time at the two mile Neilson Challenge. And I wouldn't have signed up for the Women's Distance Festival 5k. At least for this year, those 5ks and 10ks I used to scoff at because they were so short are sounding really appealing. Short is fast and fast is hard. I'm learning to embrace that a little more this year for sure.

And two - This year is all about the bike. I knew it would be when I was setting up my schedule, but was still allowing myself to be distracted by the running races. Part of that was the Meowler - when I was still planning on race that fun duathlon, I needed to have strong running legs as well as cycling legs. But that race got canceled - and the running events I'd scheduled as long runs and hard workouts were no longer needed. I could focus just on the bike and not be pulled in so many different directions. So far, that seems to be working. Sure, I had to cram my training into a short time for the Growler, but I had one of the strongest races I've had at that event. Maybe not the fastest, but strong when I needed to be. I also know that come August and September, I'll be happy I spent as much time on my bike as I did. Without the distractions of long runs and such...

It's the choices that you make and the ones that you don't that determine you are. What you are and what you'll be...