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 22, 2018

An imperfect build

Growler is one of my favorite races - hard and technical. I always mark it on the calendar and have the best intentions with the training leading into to the race. Yet over the last few years, things seem to always derail the training. I find myself halfway through May, wondering yet again if I will be ready for the technical trails and intensity of the race. Last year it was my eye, forcing me off the bike for two weeks and then into the basement for all of April. This year? Never ending health issues again - starting with a nasty virus at the beginning of the year that cascaded into a light bout of pneumonia. I would get sick, start feeling better, start ramping up the training again and then wham. Sick again. Finally in the end of March, I was healthy and really able to start riding and running hard. All was good. I'd be able to bounce back and have plenty of time to get ready for Growler.

Or so we thought. Sometimes, the health of one person overwhelms all other concerns. Especially racing... End of April, both Nick and I are getting strong and fit. Then Nick had a morning of unending diarrhea, followed by intractable stomach pain. He was feeling better that night, so we really didn't think much of it. Just a stomach virus, most likely. The following day, I left early for work to do an orientation at St Frances. About an hour and a half into my day, I get a text from Nick that he was going to the ED since the stomach pain was so bad and he wasn't able to breath well. I knew something is wrong, very wrong and left to head back to Penrose. When I got there, he was just waiting for a CT scan. That was the longest wait of the entire day. Once the CT scan results were in, things started moving quickly. The ED doc ordered an NG tube inserted and said the surgeon would be review the results to decide further course of action. Well, the surgeon had already decided what he was going to do prior walking into the room. There was an OR waiting for Nick and it was urgent. That's what happens when there's a kink, a twist and a loss of blood supply to the small bowel....

To make a long story short, Nick was in the hospital with the for 8 days. He had the NG tube for 6 of those 8 days, along with all other kinds of things that come from being in the hospital. And while I've discussed with athletes the decisions that need to be made around a family member's medical issues, I never imagined just how stressful it really was. And the fact that I work in the hospital and see the end results of all the medical complications that could happen, made it even more stressful. I didn't handle things as well as I'd hoped and went home every day drained, exhausted and worried. Getting out and going for a long ride or even a workout was the furthest thing from my mind - what if something happened while I was in the woods, out of cellphone service? It's no wonder I showed up to the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race completely unfocused and distracted.

Even after he was discharged in the beginning of May, I was struggling to find the motivation to get out. He was at work, able to do most things, but still. What if something happened? Add in the ankle from my failed attempt at the CMTR and some of the big, technical days I wanted before the Growler were completely nixed. I needed to stay close to home and stay on the easier trails or even the roads. There were several times I debated dropping down from the Full Growler on Sunday to the Half Growler on Saturday. After all, Nick wasn't racing. I wouldn't need to be out there to help him and he could support me for the half. But that felt like giving in to everything going on. I might not have had the best build into the race, but I was riding and I knew I could ride hard for the entire Full Growler. Everyone comes into a race with a story and nobody has the perfect training prior to a race. It's how you manage the unexpected events of life and the attitude that you bring to the line that matters.

May 14, 2018

Women's Distance Festival

I was apprehensive before the start of the Women's Distance Festival this year. Two weeks of stress, two weeks of craziness and a still very tender ankle do not lend confidence to a race. While I'd survived the Neilson challenge the weekend before with a decent time, something about trying to run another mile at that same pace seemed beyond challenging. But that didn't mean I wouldn't try! I'm not sure I know how to really moderate the effort when it comes to the shorter races. It's always all out from the gun, even when that's not the smartest way to race.

As usual the shorter distances, I made sure I got a good warm up before going to socialize with the rest of my Fieldhouse Brewers Cup teammates. We were a small group, but made sure that the neon green was in as many photos as possible. I was feeling slightly overwhelmed with the number of people at the race, so it was nice to have a small group to be with.

The start terrified me this year. Sprinting across the uneven grass to get to the trails sounded like the worst thing ever for my ankle. Not wanting to get caught up in traffic and risk stumbling and reinjuring my ankle, I started hard. Much harder then I should have, given my goal pacing. Off the grass and I was able to settle into a steady effort, but it felt hard. Harder then it should have for that early in the race. I shook it off and focused on running smooth and keeping my wayward left elbow close. Running in second, I was right round my usual Neilson companions, so I knew the pace was good. I also knew even before hitting the first mile that I wouldn't be able to hold it. But how long would I be able to maintain? That was the new question.

Like almost every 5k race held in North Monument Valley, the Women's Distance Festival is held on a course I've run close to 100 times. Every week during HS cross country, sometimes 3xs in a week, for four years. Two years of college cross country. Training on the course and other races. It's a blessing and a curse to be that familiar with a course. No surprises ever - sprint across the race, race up the middle trail and climb the steep little hill to the inner trail closest to the houses. It's a gradual up hill as we run on the east side of Boddington Field to reach mile 1. Then plunge down the hill, across to the creekside trail and down to the turning tree. Loop around the tree and head north again on what used to be single track. On the east side of the start/finish area and then climb up the "stupid hill" to mile 2. Retrace steps around Boddington to the north edge of the park and then race down the creekside trail towards the finish in the grass. Simple. Nothing complicated. I could run it in my sleep. And because I was so familiar with the course, when I was struggling as we dropped down the hill after mile 1, I knew it would be a hard last two miles.

I was passed by one woman before the turning tree, dropping into third overall. I tried keeping pace, but couldn't get the turnover I needed out of my legs. She gradually started pulling away, extending the gap with each stride. To my surprise, I really didn't care that much. I was in survival mode, no longer feeling comfortable or strong running. As we charged up the Stupid Hill, my Fieldhouse teammate Elizabeth caught me. She looked smooth and very quickly powered away from me as we dodged the oncoming runners around Boddington Field. One mile left and I was attempting to do math - how slow could I be and still break 21 minutes? Hard math for a the middle of a race! In the end, I gave up on the math and just tried willing my legs to turn over quicker.

There would be no sprint finish this year. I could see the clock ticking up as I entered the grass finishing stretch, but sprinting was not high on my list of priorities. My ankle was aching and I just wanted to survive through the finish. I ran carefully on the grass finish, watching my footing more then the clock. It was just enough to break 21, as I finished in 20:58. A little slower then last year (20:42 in 2017) but I'll take it. It was one of those days where I was happy to just be able to run.