Monday, June 29, 2009
I always bring my favorite pre-race running book with me so I can brush up on the mental part of racing. These long ultras are generally a race against the clock for me but Hardrock is going to be a race with the mountains. Since this book is about racing and competition I need to change some of the words to fit my situation but it still works. Since my mental oneness seems to be missing I am using these words to come around. The paragraph is called. “Letting Go” and it says this: “Racing is a process, the outcome of which simply measures how successful you have been moment by moment throughout the event as well as your training and preparation. Success in the now is a factor of the joy you experience in the execution of the plan, the quality demonstrated in your technique and skill level. When you acknowledge that winning is beyond your control, you can begin to fully experience the emotional rush of competition: well-trained athletes seeking greatness together. Seeing the race as a journey, you feel the freedom to run in the flow, a state of relaxed intensity.” All I have to do is replace a few words about winning to finishing and it works. There is a whole chapter on this stuff. Generally I read the parts about dealing with pain and visualizing your day but I had to go back a few chapters this time. The book is called “Running Within”.
Yesterday I made some huge progress with the course. We ran from Chapman Gulch to the finish. We had to go up and over Grant Swamp Pass. We started at 6am and arrived at the snow fields at about 7ish. We got really lucky and the course was marked. Apparently they moved the marking schedule around because the rivers were really high and they wanted to avoid crossing some of the big ones. When we got to the first snow field Steve put one foot on it and found it to be a sheet of ice! He couldn’t use his foot the break the snow down. We walked down the hill to the river and crossed it instead. We then had to hike up back up to the markings and continue on. We were wondering what the next snow field would bring? The sun was not over the mountain yet. I could see our destination and just tucked it back in my mind and would deal with it when it came. This pass was a series of scree and snow that we had to weave through as we made our way to the top. When we came to the next snow field again we found ice. I suggested we use a rock to dig steps so that’s what we did. Steve did the work with a rock and his heel and we made our way across using this method time and time again. I suspect this will be the case during the race depending on time of day a runner arrives at Grant Swamp or the snow could be gone by then. Now for more growth! We were now at the base of the last steep pitch to the summit and it was all snow. The sun was hitting the mountain and warming things up but it was going to be a nail biter for me. We stood at the base of the pitch for about 10 minutes waiting for more sun and hopefully softer snow. I looked around and found the perfect rocks to use as my ice ax to help me up the snow field. I was pretty much shaking all over but was determined to get up and over it. We began the climb and found the snow was softer but did have to use our feet to pound secure steps. I used my rocks to give me security and it worked. When we reached the summit I needed a moment to pull myself together. Sitting on the 3 foot wide ridge looking back at where we came from was both rewarding and nerve racking. It was cold so our break was short and we began the descent. We found some more ice on the back side. These snow fields were extremely short and only one was icy forcing me to sit on butt, smack my heel in the snow and work my way off. I wasn’t a fan of this either but once we got around the corner it was bliss. Making our way down the ice lake trail was awesome and the views were so wonderful it’s hard to describe. The rest of the day was great. The next pass which is Putnam-Cataract Ridge was super sweet. It’s a lovely high meadow as far as the eye can see surrounded by mountains. We ran into a couple of other runners one who has been training on this course for 6 weeks. He asked where we came from and said that Grant Swamp is the worst of the passes. At least on Virginias they will provide a rope and cut in steps. I felt a ton of relief and reward knowing this information. Knowing I was able to get over it gave me more confidence I can do the others. We also ran into the folks marking the last section which was neat to see. It makes it more and more real which in turn will force me to start putting my plans down on paper making my way through the course in my head. Hopefully more calm and excited than anxious and fearful.
Now it’s taper time! I feel really good physically and the altitude has seriously been on such a back burner it hasn’t been bad. I think come race day the lack of air will be just fine and just be part of the experience. So far I think I have gotten a really good taste of what’s to come on race day. I got the amazing weather day on Handies. That was an eye opener and will surely help me plan appropriately. I got the icy snow pitch on Grant Swamp and figured a way to get up and over it so Darin and will be able to get it done. Bill, Alex, Darin and Micheal arrive on Thursday and I am so looking forward to that.
All in all I think I have grown! Funny but seriously I didn’t think I was such a baby, homesick and needy. :) I do know that I have been running on adrenaline for a few days now and suspect I will have loads of it come race day. Now I just need to put that drug to good use, not fight it and hopefully be able to have that epic experience Hardrock in known for.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Arriving in Silverton on the 24th was exciting and I pretty much had my runs already planned out. Some would require a shuttle. I booked Brady to drive Steve and I over to our destinations and my plan was to get as much exposure to course as I could in this final peak push before the taper. Little did I know I would have a whole new set of elements to deal with?
On the 25th Steve and I took a trip up to Columbine Lake. It’s a sweet trail very close to Silverton and offers some wonderful views and an incredible basin. It was to be an easy day and our first trip above 11,000 feet so we mostly hiked. When we reached the basin I was in awe of the landscape. I felt like a tiny pebble in the sea of the San Juan Mountains and I was. As we continued through the basin to our first snow crossing I got extremely anxious. I am not necessarily afraid of snow and have traveled it before but the drop offs and my unsure footing turned my stomach into knots. I continued on through a series of small snow fields and rock. Not really a big deal but when we came to the pass before crossing over to Columbine Lake I was done. I was a complete wreck and announced I was through for the day. I was not going on to Columbine Lake. The snow fields were simply out of my comfort zone and looked like one small slip and you were a goner. I did decide to climb a grass peak instead and enjoyed to 360 degree view of probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Despite how wonderful the view was I was completely engulfed by fear. For the first time ever I had thoughts of not starting a race I have put so much effort and time in. I wanted to break down and cry but chose to go deep in my own thoughts. As we made our way down the snow fields I just got worse and worse. I wanted to be done, home and driving back to Portland.
That night I went to my room at 5:30 and was simply fretting all my future run plans. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fear and anxiety. I wasn’t sure what to do with it all but just lay there, process and take day by day. That takes us to today. We went from Sherman to Grouse Gulch. The weather was less than kind. We had very little snow travel but I was still a mess, quiet and unreachable. The wind, snow and sleet made the trip super challenging. We were prepared for weather but there is only so much you can do when water is covering your entire body. I suited up with my yak traks (thanks Susan) for the snow pitch to Handies summit. They were not necessary but I wanted to try them and hoped it my calm my nerves. They worked great. Of course the beauty was there but not for my eyes today. Besides the clouds and sleet covering everything I was still just consumed with my own thoughts of failure and fear. I could feel it throughout my whole body. On the positive side I was able to deal with the snow and high country much better but maybe that’s because I was so focused on moving forward and staying thawed.
I am not sure what or why I am such a wreck. It might be because I miss Bill and Alex. This is a long time for me to be separated from them and I really could use Bill’s strength and reassurance right now. I know this is what Hardrock is all about; the big mountains, the tough terrain and the unknown. Hopefully I can start to embrace all of that soon because right now I can’t seem to find that excitement. I am lucky to have my phone so I can call him and friends. Without there words of encouragement and confidence I might just lay in my bed until race day…..kidding. Generally I am pretty strong and sturdy but this event has really got me shaken. I am hoping that each day on the course and in this environment with help me get my head in the right spot. Right now I am counting down the days for Bill, Alex, Darin and Micheal to arrive. I am also hoping for a turn in the weather. One thing for is for sure. With my head completely consumed with this junk I have forgotten I can’t breathe! Tomorrow I am attempting hill repeats up Engineer Pass. The weather still looks iffy but I will have my car at Grouse Gulch for aid.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
I begged Scott to give me at least 1 800 meter each track session to get my legs spinning. He agreed but didn't feel it was necessary. On Tuesday my track session consisted of 1X800, 3X1000 and 2X1200. On paper that didn't look so bad and since I am not a track person I really don't have a good gauge of what that kind of workload will feel like. After my inner athlete made up we hit the track for by far the best track session I can remember having. All my times were fast and solid. I was shocked as much as I was elated to have this experience. Given how I felt the prior week I was not expecting to see such great results. At times I felt like was just running aggressively. Compared to my normal account of my track session which is more like needed torture this was strikingly different. My times were:
800 = 3:11
1000 = 3:59
1000 = 4:06
1000 = 4:02
1200 = 4:49
1200 = 4:52
When I got home to log my data I had spent over 20 minutes above lactic threshold. That's a lot! If I was to race a 10K I would spend only about 4 minutes in that range and rest hovering around lactic threshold. Why do I care? Because data does not lie! Data always brings my emotions back in check? Fear and doubt are strong and powerful emotions that for me can always be shelved when I have data. Kind of like two doors in my mind. One opens to doubt, fear and anxious feeling. The other to data and benchmarks which can quickly put a pad lock on the other door. Don't get me wrong....I can use a crow bar to get it open when I want, have my pity parties, lower my expecations and become filled with negative thoughts. As Hardrock closes in and my healthy fear of the course, the altitude and the very long days (plural!!!) and night creep in I need the data to quiet the riot and stay focused on what's really going on with my training.
My inner athlete feels back in the game but I need to continue to nurture the fragile relationship. Tomorrow is serious BS! The workout is 2X50 min. running followed by 1X50 power hiking. The workout will be around 24 miles with over 7,500 feet of climb. Sunday is 6.5-7 hours and about 33 miles. We are running to 3 Corner Rock via the PCT. This is sweet run.
On the fashion front Day Glo is back in style! Be prepared to see the bright colors on a trail near you soon. :)
Monday, June 8, 2009
My track workout was awful, slow and all I wanted to do was lay down and cuddle the white lines on the hot black top. It felt like I was dragging a tire and working really hard going no where....very slow. I cut off my last 1200 meters, sulked to my car and went home to take a nap with my inner athlete. The nap didn't help! Friday I did my recovery run in the afternoon and it must have been about 94 degrees. Instead of feeling re-charged and ready for the weekends workouts I felt yucky. Is this post beginning to sound like someone who is describing a lot of over training symptoms??????? I know I am riding the edge big time right now. When lots of sleep, good eating and an easy week doesn't bring my inner athlete back in action I know I have pushed her over the edge and she is pissed!
Saturday was a mini Black Saturday and with very grey clouds and a mood to match it I sheepishly dressed myself for the workout. I have an added element to BS for then next 3 weeks. This last weekend was the tester. Besides the 2X45,55, or 60 minute hills I get to add another one but power hiking instead of running. Okay, that sounds like no big deal but it jumps the workout another 1.5 hours and adds another killer descent. This is added to be sure my legs get enough single track downhilling so their lasting power at Hardrock is increased. I have never done this before until last Saturday. Fortunately it was a recovery week and the workout was only 2X20 minute running and one 20 minute session of power hiking. I think all of us were somewhat tired and wearing ho hum attitudes but no one announced it except for me.....big buzz killer...except the buzz was really low so I dont' feel bad. I've been told by pretty much everyone who knows me I have no poker face. Forcing a smile and an upbeat mood when I don't truely feel it is much more of workout than any of the running I do! The hill repeats were over before I knew it because after 45 minute sessions 20 seems over before the next song on my Ipod starts. I actually felt strong on the climbs which lifted my mood and teased my inner athlete (look what your missing.....)but when it came to busting down the hills it was another story. I felt like an 8 month old wobbling for the first time but since I am 42 there were no helping hands to steady my limp legs. I had very little static contraction and my head and eyes were not in touch with my legs. The synapses must have been on the couch with my inner athlete. I still did an acceptable time but nothing like I know I can do and BETTER DO!
Sunday was a 2 hour run in Forest Park...no gorge, just running. I did have 2X10 minutes at threshold and picked just the right spot to force that heart rate up. I got things moving so it was an okay run in the end.
So here I am today wondering and hoping my inner athlete is over her lazy spell and is ready to get back in the game. We have had several discussions, some not so sweet and loving but I think we're on the same page. I have to manipulate her well because I am basically and empty shell without her. :) We talked about the workouts ahead and how this is it....our last chance to push the fitness level. We went over Hardrock together and we both know it will be us against the mountains so we need to be working together like never before. With a week of rest I am pretty sure I have her convinced to dial it up a notch for this next 3 weeks of peak training. I am now pretty sure I have multiple personalities and most of them are stubborn. We're heading to the track tomorrow for a whopper!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
When we arrived at Indian Garden we decided to hang our packs on a tree near the stables (for mules) and just carry handhelds. We would be without our packs for about 2.5 hours at the most. Since Indian Gardens is a camp ground and they provide poles for hikers packs we felt pretty safe in doing this. It sure helped to lighten the load for this part of the run. With two handhelds, my Ipod and a lot of inner determination I chased Micheal and Steve (who took an early start) up the South Rim of the Canyon. With the many switchbacks I could keep them in my sights even among the many hikers because they were the only ones running. Since we are at a bit of altitude here my breathing was heavy but I was strong. I wanted to run the entire 4.8 miles no matter how slow it was...that was my goal. The trail was pretty darn technical and had millions of step ups. I had forgotten about the stair like system. It seemed worse this year than any other and the holes were filled with much more mule pee (later we found out all the mules trains were using Bright Angel while repairs were be done on Kiabob). I worked my butt off literally! Those step ups were brutal...it was just like running stairs. It was getting warm too. I made it to the top in 1:18:33. I was able to run about 80-90% of the trail. Sometimes the step ups got wacky and I couldn't get my leg to lift and turn fast enough and was forced to walk. This was an absolute blast and a good challenge. I loved it! Micheal kicked serious butt and Steve challenged me to the very end. I was on cloud nine and really ramped up. We ate and re-filled at the South Rim then began the descent. Again Micheal and I were on a mission and were flying down the technical pee filled stairs. On our way back to Indian Gardens we ran into everyone and it was like a total party on the Bright Angel Trail. Everyone was looking super strong and having an awesome day. Continuing on our complete threshold high we made amazing time back to Indian Gardens just to find out packs GONE! We freaked, we looked around, we panicked momentarily and then began planning. How are we going to get back home with no food! Fortunately Micheal was smart enough to stash $10 in his pants pocket so we began forming a plan. We continued to look around and finally found a official park like person. Micheal asked him if the mule trains would take our packs. He replied most definitely not. We knew a hiker would not take them. They were heavy and most hikers have their own heavy packs and the last thing they want is more weight. The maintenance guy told us to go check the ranger who was located about a quarter mile back up hill. We marched over to the ranger just to find him with our packs. I was so happy until he told me, "Wipe the smile off your face...we have a squirrel problem and these packs have 10 pounds of food in each of them". I was very apologetic but began to tell him we hung them for that reason. He was pissed and gave us our packs. I still wanted to talk about it while Micheal grabs the packs and walks off then tells me to come along. I was so pissed! I was totally on board with what he had to say about the squirrels but jeopardizing someones safety by taking the pack without leaving a note or ticket??? Really is that safe? Certainly not in all the literature they throw at you about Canyon safety. There were packs hanging all over Indian Gardens so there is definitely a precedence set and if the squirrel problem is so bad then I suggest they pick up all the food and garbage left by bad people on the ground at Indian Gardens. Anyway, I stewed on this for about 10 minutes and it was kind of buzz killer but I got over it and was happy to have my heavy pack back on my shoulders. Big lesson learned there!
On our way back to Phantom Ranch it was getting HOT!!! I could feel my body getting warmer and warmer. When we came to the beach just before we crossed back over the Colorado we got stuck behind a mule train. There is no passing a mule train so we just walked behind them for about 10 minutes when the leader pulled over so we could get around them. Once around the mules we boogied so they weren't right on our tail. At Phantom we fueled up again and got ourselves all stoked up for the grind along to canyon floor. Just as we were entering Phantom Steve spots a rattlesnake. He loved the pink reptile while just the knowledge there was one in the area creeped me out. I never saw the snake but I was pretty jumpy for the next hour....I hate snakes! It was right down hot now and I had a rough go for at bit. I was trying to force myself to move as fast as possible and it was hard. I was soooooo hot! I finally gave in to the roar of Bright Angel Creek and jumped off the trail and dove into the river. Micheal wasn't far behind me. I went in front first, whole body and rolled around. It felt so good and cooled me down enough to bring new life to my legs. I was moving much better now and we plugged along to Cottonwood.
That ended my first cycle of peak training. I only have one more cycle left before tapering for Hardrock. Scott has given me more of a workload for the next one and I think I am ready. My recovery is so rapid right now. I have never experienced this kind of recovery before so I am both excited and scared to see how this final push goes.