Monday, January 31, 2011

"Are you ready to get your MTB on"?

That is the text I got from Kris at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. There's only one way out and that's down! I should have known I was in for the time of my life or the end of my life when we arrived at the top of the hill. After a good 30+ min. climb up a steady road Chester, Kris and I arrived at the trail head. This would be my first REAL trail ride. It's been over 2 years since Trisha, Darin and I ventured out onto the Wilson River for mountain biking. Chester hung his bike and took a look at the map to see what new trails they've built since his last trip here. I just stood there nervously excited. When Chester turned to Kris and said, "Does her helmet look good", I should have known something was up. However, I was still living in my world of mountain biking. He asks if he can mess with my helmet. I comply because I just pulled it out the box and put it on. Kris told me to stop calling it a hat about 2 weeks ago. I was still slipping up occasionally. Not anymore! They messed with the adjustments a few times, twisted it on my head, tightened the back then said, "Now we're ready". Off Chester goes down the trail, followed by Kris then me. Just writing about this experience is making my stomach get butterflies. The trail was not kind from the get go. It started steep and then the rocks came. Along with slippery wet rocks there were roots that gave way to drop off's. Some more than a foot deep. A drop off in of itself wouldn't be so bad but we were already on a steep grade. It felt like you were going to go ass over bars. Along with all that was the narrow winding aspect. It is a typical Oregon mountain trail. Lots of big trees, ferns lining the sides, mud and the drop off. Fall to one side you tumble down a hill filled with old logs, rock and trees. Fall to the other side and hope you'll bounce gently on a rock or stump. Kris was riding in front of me and dismounted a couple of times. I would come on her as she was trying to get back on, running down the trail with her bike. It was hilarious! She was banned from making any noises like whoaaaaaa or ahhhhhhh. Once she made a noise I knew there was something hairy in the path. I would immediately dismount. If Kris is making noise it's for a good reason. My subconscious picked right up on that and I would react by stopping. Once you're off the bike on this steep technical trail re-mounting is no easy task. I have to say this was one of the scariest things I have done. Outside of our Mt. Adams circumference when we had to climb up onto the ice in order cross a raging river this may be the most terrified I have been in a long time. I am not kidding. My heart would continue racing even when we stopped. My adrenaline was rushing throughout my body and my eyes were completely bugged out. Obstacles were everywhere and abundant. I came upon them so fast I had almost no time to react. Before I knew it I was riding over things I would have not even attempted on my bike. There was just no time to dismount. My bike was awesome. The full suspension system rocked! The lightweight, small frame came in handy on some of tighter parts of the trail. I came to appreciate my bike even more. I really got to feel it action on Saturday. It almost rides itself! I love her J

After about 30 minutes of total terror the trail mellowed. It was less steep and had less obstacles. This was the fun part. We rode the loop all the way back to car then did another

half loop on the lower section. As the day went on I began feeling much more comfortable and in control. I only fell twice and neither incident was bad. This was so good for me. It was pretty much a shove into the nuts and bolts of trail riding. It's one of those experiences in which your perspective is forever changed. I love that. A technical trail has now been completely re-defined for me. What's possible on my MTB is forever redefined. It can't get much better than that. My hands were aching when we finished. It's the result of the constant death grip. I am uncertain whether I want take Bill out there. He is fearless and loves speed. I worry he might launch himself off the side and get hurt. I love him so much I may need to save him from himself, ha, ha. He is itching to get out there.

Sunday was my first run in the Gorge for the season. It's been months since I've been out there. I got my butt further kicked by the relentless trail. It made me appreciation the late summer strength Gorge running brings. The hills we ran today were nothing like what I'll run later and I struggled on the baby stuff. It was full weekend of renewal. It's really starting to look a lot like training season. Races are popping on the radar and folks are talking training. My need for more is brewing. It's that feeling you get when you know you're ready to become better. I got filled up this weekend.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How slow can we go?

I walked on the wild side at Vancouver Lake 1/2 last Sunday. I did all the things most people would tell you not to do. I bought new shoes the day before. I couldn't resist the beauty not to mention the awesome features the new Asics Sky Speed had to offer. I pulled those babies out the box and laced them up. I went all out on a flat 1/2 marathon when I haven't run anything over 6 miles on road since at least mid-summer. The absence of any speed work was just icing on the cake or more like pain in the ass. . Ultra running does have its perks. You can get away with a few stupid stunts. The weather was perfect, the company was superb and the punishment was earned. There's no way to get around running a 1/2 all out without suffering. It's the perfect distance to create pain and test grit. I was saying it's one of my favorite distances but I seem to say that all time. Maybe I just love running or Bill is right and I love pain and suffering. Fortunately I can easily combine these two desires.

I wasn't even nervous lining up. I knew it was going to be a "wait and see how bad it is" effort. After PRing on this course 2 years ago at a 7:09 pace I would be going home a winner if I broke 8 min. miles. Winner, winner chicken dinner I did it. 7:51 pace for 13.1 miles. I actually couldn't go back far enough to find one this slow and I have run a 1/2 every year for at least 9. It would have been a great 8-10 mile race for me. Somewhere around there my heart rate started dropping and there was not a thing I could do about it. If you have been a data runner long enough you know that speed and HR pretty much go hand in hand when you are highly efficient. After years of running you can't help but be highly efficient. I am willing to bet money that anyone who has been a consistent runner for 10 years will find that the speed/hr marriage exists. As it began to drop I did the usual stuff. Bring in the arms, swing faster, smaller faster steps but the problem was my legs wouldn't do it. It was sort of surreal. I am looking down at them in bewilderment. Trying to motivate them to spin. They weren't sore, I wasn't seizing up, I wasn't that winded but my legs were just stuck in that slow speed. It was actually pretty amusing. It was an the epitome of an ultra runner without any speed work. It was someone who can run really far but not very fast. My 8 fast twitch muscles are dormant. I don't mean that 7:51 isn't fast but it's not for me at that distance. It just goes to show that I have no real built in speed. What I can do is endure the fast enough torture for a long time. Once my heart rate

dropped below threshold and I couldn't jolt it back up it's just a hard Z3 run. I love it! I walked away unscathed which isn't surprising. Another benefit of being an ultra runner is if you can't push yourself hard enough you're not going to be sore. I got really inspired by the nuts and bolts of training. That training stuff really does work. Sometimes you begin to wonder if it really makes a difference. It does and it was nice to get a real measurable reminder that all that hard work means something. Speed work is an ultra runners friend!

I was in no way disappointed by my performance. I knew it was going to be slow. I know what I am doing and where I am at with my training. I am also so focused on what's in front of me and know that everything along the way is part of the process. The best part of the day was being with really fun positive people. I love to laugh and smile with friends. They all did great and few PR's were bagged. GOOD STUFF! What a great race. Russ always does such a good job and over the years nothing has changed. It's still a great event with a nice down home feel.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Base building is not boring

My 2011 race schedule is finally complete. It's a pretty packed list especially in the spring. With the addition of mountain bike races I think April, May and June are really full. I am super excited but also a bit stressed. It's going to be hard to juggle all the rest of my life so I don't completely dominate the Spring. Since I am already a bit out of sorts with it I most certainly will have it dialed by the time it comes around. I guess I better get my car cleaned out because I am going to be spending a lot time getting to where I need to be fast. The whole family is talking about Leadwoman so that's a good thing. I love how Alex is giving me tips on mountain biking. Believe me I am listening because he's a teenager and fear is not really part of their vocabulary. I am trying to channel some of that "go for broke" attitude and turn it into power. When I say power I am talking about power generation on the bike. Seems I am lacking in that area. The good thing is I can pedal up a hill for easily over an hour with very little fatigue. Bad news I might be the last one to the top.

Matt has me on an Annual Training Plan leading up to Leadwoman events. Everything in between will be a B-C effort and some of the Leadwoman events are even B efforts. Right now I am in the beginning weeks of base building. Seems like years since I've been back at the base stage. I love this phase of training because the volume is high. The intensity is not frequent and many times short bursts. The hours of cardio so far have ranged from 10-17 a week. I

am still lifting at least 2 times a week. On the big weeks I am worked by the time Sunday rolls around. The bike is much more forgiving than running so I can get away with more. Matt's coaching is extremely thorough. He covers it all. I have to do some yoga, some power moves and then of course running and biking

. Currently it seems to be an even split between running and biking. Some of the workouts have been really hard. He had me doing a full body workout which included 320 push-ups and more jumps either broad jumps or lunges (jumping and static) than I ever want to do. This workout took me over 50 minutes with no rest. My butt was so sore. The pushup's were a rest for me however I was a bit sore in the front delts. There are changes happening. My body composition is changing a bit. My legs are certainly changing. My shoulders are changing so it's been fun and hard. The yoga is rough for me. I am just not that calm but I feel better after I do it. I can assure you if it wasn't on the schedule I would be hard pressed to fit it in. Since it's there I can't leave my completion button blank! I also got to do my first time trial on the bike in which I insisted on wearing a safety vest. Kris took me out to her old stomping grounds for TTT's (tempo time trials) and showed me the ropes. It was hard but I surprised myself by cranking my heart rate and speed up there. I am getting much more used to a fast pace. I am definitely getting much less sheepish when I hit speeds above 17 MPH on my MTB. With the addition of cycling I've had to work through some body adaptations as well. My IT band got pissed off and I needed to modify my bike fit so my reach was more appropriate. My mid back is not accustomed to be bent over but it's learning. It's hard for me to relax my upper body on the bike. I am so used to being strong in the core and very upright.

Sunday will be my first race. A bunch of us are running the Vancouver 1/2 marathon. This is going to seriously hurt both physically and mentally. I have run a January 1/2 several years in a row as I prepped for a winter marathon. This year I am going in the slowest I have been in while. There will be no PR on Sunday but it will be a good test of grit. I have already relinquished my need for a decent time. I will be running it hard and hope I can break 1:50. A far cry from the 1:33 I ran there before. Maybe I will surprise myself but either way it will be a fun time with friends.

February 20th will be my first MTB race. I am doing the solo 24 hour ride at Old Pueblo Epic Events.

No need to start out slow and pick a 3 hour race! I am super excited for this. Kris, Chester, Micheal and I are all riding. Susan is coming along to help out. Bill and Alex won't be able to come L. My plan is to race 100M and see how long that takes me. It will be a good gauge on how far off I am the Leadville. After that everything is gravy. I am excited to see how this all works. Being around MTB racers, feeling my pains on the bike and am curious about the fueling. This will certainly be a crash course in MTB racing.

Winter is almost over J! I know it's still January but around here the rains are getting warmer and there is the occasional shorts wearing event. The coats are bit much but gloves are still necessary. I love this transition. Seems we have had one wet and cold winter around here so I am looking forward to 55 degree rain. Oh, and the sun would be nice too but I am not going to hold my breath for that one.