Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A sweet shift. Part 1

Not since I was coached by Scott Jurek have I seen the kind of progress I am experiencing now. October I hired Sean Coster (on the recommendation of my friend Kristin) who owns Complete Running. He didn't actually just LET me pay for services.  There was an initial meeting where we discussed why I wanted to hire him.  I knew Sean from back in the day when Stacey and were Hagg Lake 50K RD's. No introductions were necessary but I sensed he wanted to make sure we were a match with regards to goals and philosophies. I was craving the running ability I knew I was capable of.  Something I gladly gave up to become a Leadman. My focus from diligent run training to master the mountain bike enough to achieve my goal took precedence. I wouldn't change that for the anything! Becoming a Leadman was on my list of "Holy Crap Can I Do That" list since I watched the mountain bike race with Beast while prepping for The Grand Slam.

Though my main goal was to regain my confidence and running ability I had another goal.  I needed to shake the attitude or clean out the mental junk drawer. The drawer had accumulated a lot of trash. Stuff I had been telling myself and negative ideas I created. Some of the biggies: I am getting old, I was never fast anyway, everything is going to hurt and a few others I can't remember.  Basically a drawer full of crap! It was time to make an adjustment. Not only did I need a good training plan I needed a good mental coach. I know full well that in order for me to change the way I think I need to do things. I can't just buy into the "I'm Great" idea without action. There's a quote posted on a billboard I drive by daily that says, "A goal without a plan is just a wish". I am not able to sit down, write a bunch of positive things down, read it and believe it.  I need to experience it through results and find a journey that forever cements a new outlook. I can however, clean out the drawer. I can dump the crap in the garbage and decide to be nicer to myself.

During our meeting I wanted to be clear I wasn't looking to be a better ultra runner.  I was looking to be a better runner. After an initial time trial at the Nike Campus it became clear to Sean what I needed to work on.  My mind was open.  I left all preconceived ideas of who I was as a runner and what I've accomplished behind. I was a clean slate ready to gobble up all the advice and direction he could dish out.  That is the best place to be when hiring a coach or mentor.  Otherwise it's wasted money and time. After watching me run, attempt drills, sprint and move it was clear I had potential but there was work to be done. My body was off, my stride was funky, my arms didn't move and my high end cardio was absent. There were drills and bounding I couldn't even do, tests I simply failed and though frustrating I was more determined. I found loads of humor in just how stuck I had become. I was really excited to make changes......on so many levels.

The plan:  I am sucker for detail.  The more detail the better. The schedule was incredibly well thought out.  Though nothing I've done before I was excited to give something new a try. The general phase training I was used to wasn't there, the pacing stuff wasn't there and no general periodizaiton training I could identify. In addition to the running there is strength training and drills. The goal is to improve my form, get me off my feet using drills (not shown in the schedule), fire up my fast twitch neuromuscular system and stamina. At this point my endurance was not part of the picture.
 A typical week would like this.

Conversational run w/ 4 x 20m of A and B skips at end;  good day for Bikram (after run)
2 mi w/u + 4 x 1 mile in 7.15 w/ 200m jog for recovery between each + 2 mi c/d
Recovery to Conversational run;  focus of form
Day off

w/ 6 x 60s runs uphill at tempo effort w/ jog down for recovery
Long run
Conversational w/ last 30 min a moderate to steady
w/ 4 x 20m of A and B skips + 6 x 200m strides


Recovery run
w/ 4 x 150m top speed accelerations
Fast and smooth running
8 -12 x 400m @ 1.52/400m (~7.30 pace)
Moderate run

Conversational run
w/ 4 x 150m top speed acclerations
Tempo running
2 mi w/u + 4 x 8 min at tempo effort w/ 2 min jog + 1 mi c/d
Cross train/ride

Long run
After 25 minutes moderate to steady


Though the description would say recovery, tempo, etc and he had paces based my time trial those were secondary to the FEEL.  This was a big road block I had to over come.  I had to learn how things FELT rather than solely relying on my Garmin. I spent years using The Daniels Method for my key workouts where pace is a key, I did years of Heart Rate Training where HR was key so this FEEL thing was not easy for me. He supplied me a detailed guide defining the FEEL of each of these. I studied it trying to visualize and think about how my body would FEEL during the effort. In October when I started with Sean I used the paces as my key guide but worked very hard to adopt the ability to FEEL it, to be in my body mentally.  I noticed right off, at that time, I didn't have much association with anything past easy and hard. Nothing in between had any kind FEEL association in my brain. I knew it was first because I have never looked at my training from this angle and second because my fitness would need to evolve. When I say evolve I mean my gears, different speeds or whatever you want to call it needed to be developed. In order for the speeds to have a FEEL I needed to be able to do them with more emotion than just plain hard!

Now into this for 20 weeks where I have not missed one workout I can report the changes are quite dramatic. Not only did my 1/2 marathon time come down from 8:20ish pace when I started to a 7:41 pace in January but my low end has made some huge improvements.  When I started I would run my 9 mile conversational run at 9:45ish at 142 beats avg.  Today I'm running my 9 mile (same route) conversational at 9:01 and 138 beats avg.  Pretty freakin awesome!! My track times for 400M (8-12 intervals) were at 1:49 and now at 1:38.  The proof is in the numbers. There are many other interesting adjustments or side effects this training has helped create.  I'll go into that next time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter! Short and Sweet..

Generally winters are long for me.  The gray sky's take their toll on my mood. This winter has been less gray, less wet and I have felt reborn.  It was a long late summer for me.  I raced poorly and spent the good part of late July through December very sick.  Off and on illnesses that were explained away as the flu.  I was wondering how many times can one person get the flu! After lots of tests, a couple of trips to the hospital, a lot of blood draws and much resistance on my part I finally got an answer.  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from some random tick bite I never knew I had.  It was one of the most frightening and frustrating periods of time. Not knowing what is wrong and professionals validating there's a seriously problem but not having an answer is not good for a control freak. Also, I have devoted my much of my free time to living and creating a healthy lifestyle. To be told that might not be happening gave me anxiety. Thanks to my persistent, relentless, curious doctor I finally got an answer and treatment. The CDC still wants to believe I had something else but each time they take more blood, send it back to Colorado, test it differently it kept coming back with the same bug.  So, I am just going to say RMSF is in Oregon folks! It's a terrible hard to detect bug so wear your 100% Deet and check yourself for bites.

All the while I still worked on running.  I fought hard to do workouts. I made some minimal progress from October (when I hired a coach) to December. I ran an all out 10K in Early October to get a baseline.  My goal was to get my running speed back. I was able to squeak out an 8 min pace for a flat 10K.  I fought hard through good days and bad days not knowing I was carrying this lovely bug around. On Thanksgiving I set out run as hard as I could at the local 10K Turkey Trot to see how much I progressed just to be slapped in the face. Just 3 days out the hospital I should have known better but I guess I was just hopeful.

In early December I ran the Holiday Half Marathon which was slated as another time trial for me. I was still not completely well but was better. I had high hopes and though I was severely hampered with breathing issues I was able to do 8:15 pace. Not at all what I had hoped for but at this point in my life I was just happy to be running.  Honestly I had began to decide I might have some weird auto immune disease and I needed to come to grips with the how my new life was going to be. Alex came to me one night with tears and flat out asked me if I had Cancer or something horrible and was I going to die. Thank God that all ended by mid December! I was diagnosed and was done with the simple Antibiotics. I was a whole new person by mid December! I didn't realize how sick and crappy I really felt until I felt better. Months and months of measuring my weeks by announcing to Bill I had a good day was over! Each day would start off with a hope I'd feel better and on occasion, usually after a day of being so sick I slept most of it away after an hour run, I would be thrown a bone. It was over and I was back to my old self I hardly knew.  If it wasn't for Chris and Carrie (BRF's) to drag me along and motivating me through their runs I might have thrown in the towel.  This is why we need running partners :)

With a clean bill of health and whole new outlook I was able to think about races and fun things I wanted to do.  My first goal was running speed. With my Coach committed to forgetting I'm an ultra runner and train me solely for speed I was on my way.  Now the workouts were paying dividends!  My track times were coming down and progress was being made.  There is nothing more motivating than making progress.  Measurable, quantifiable results are what we all need.  I ran the 20.13K in forest grove at an 8 min pace then ran the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon in a 7:41 pace.  I was so excited!  It's not anywhere near my PR just 4 years ago but it was serious progress as of late.  
Last weekend I ventured up to Orcas Island 50K.  Not at all in shape for this very hard 50K I second guessed myself all the way up the final 10 miles of the race.  My coach didn't really have much to say about whether or not I should do this.  He felt I had the endurance in my body somewhere and more than enough experience to understand it.  He left it up to me.  My longest run since September was 17 miles of which only 9 was on trail.  Everything I've been doing has been on the road. I have been in the weight room working on solid honest to god Deadlifting with Chris and Jeron at Savage Strength.  This has been awesome for my running form, glute strength and hip mobility.  All the things I have been (and most runners) struggling with for a while. It's really key to keeping me injury free. During Orcas I was surprised at how all that I have been doing played well into this event. I started out in the back where I belonged and took it easy for the first 15.  Since I thought the wheels were going to fall off at about 20 miles I wanted to be smart and realistic.  I ended up running negative splits and actually felt amazing at mile 20 and decided I would throw caution to the wind. I ran the first 14.6 in 3:46 and finished in 7:16, can't complain! I had never been to Orcas Island before and since this was a Rainshadow event I couldn't pass up the chance to see it.  Beautiful!  I was in a state of pure bliss all day.We got a bluebird day taboot! My quads were pretty sore on Sunday.  Can't remember the last time a 50K did this to me but it was a great injection of wilderness. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waldo 105K

Forest fires caused a last minute course change for Waldo 100K.  The race is already tough enough with 10K of climb all on single track at just enough elevation to make a flatlander tug.  Just before we left our house I get an email, "Waldo is on".  A new course was approved by the forest service but would increase the mileage to over 66.  I have run Waldo 3 other times back in the early days when the course was long.  I was sort of looking forward to the shorter version.  It didn't really matter though.  I wasn't properly trained for either. 

In a last minute ditch to remind my body how run I turned my High Cascades 100 MTB/ PCT 50M week into a 100 miles of running in 6 days and 4 hours of mountain biking.  15 days, 130 miles of MTBing and 100 miles of running.  Not at all smart and a bit reckless.  Cramming!  I came away tired but not hurt or  sore.  Waldo 100K is not the kind of course you show up HOPING you can run it.  You actually have to train and spend time training your legs. 

 It's never good to start an ultra with a bad attitude.  It will most certainly get worse as the miles tick on or until it gets beat it out of you.  I think that sums up my day.  I started the race wondering how long this baby was going to take me and just how much it was going to beat me into the ground.  I finished with more appreciation of what my body will do for me. I came away with a deeper understanding that I, at times, need to be beaten down and rebuild myself mentally. There's no better way to do that then run a grueling ultra where you are stripped of all your walls and have nowhere to hide. I also learned that I refuse to be unhappy.  If I am unhappy then I am going to spend as much time as necessary to change it. If that means I need to dig and dig until I bleed then I am going to do just that. I am going to find out how, what, and why my mood is bleak.  I need to be authentically happy.  This isn't really a race report of how I endured a day or how tough I may be for gutting it out.  It's really more of a story about why I continued and the mental battles I and I'm sure many endurance athletes go through when things are going south. I am not tougher than any other runner I was just willing, on that day, to strip myself down enough physically to get a deeper glimpse of who I am.
For about 25 miles this was my theme song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROtBbOcdFxo
The temperatures in Oregon have been blistering (for us).  I was prepared for a day of baking sun but instead we woke to cloud cover and perfect temperatures.  The immediate climb out of the ski area is straight up.  General hiking ensured and lots of fine dust kicked up. After about 10 miles I knew my legs were empty.  They lacked any vigor. I wasn't surprised and shouldn't be shocked but that didn't seem to ease my frustration.  Great! I get to spend 56 miles dissecting myself worth...fabulous!  The course continued on with its first relentless climb while bits of rain began to drop.  I would have never guessed we would get rain? It was warm and the sprinkle felt good. It turned the trail into a perfect tacky mix. Once I climbed Mt. Fuji and descended back into the aid station I see the sweeps coming up the trail. Clem was covered with markings.  That was a brutally crushing sight.  I was near the back of the regular start  and the sweeps were not more than 2 miles back.  I began to take stock and check in.  I was already slightly sore at mile 15! My demeanor was lack luster.  Things were just not clicking. I felt dehydrated and probably was.  I began to put down as much water as I could coming into mile 20 where I would see Bill and Chris. I drank extra before leaving the aid station.  I left with the intent to find some peace with day.  My body was tired and my mind wasn't  able to rally another gear.  Why?  What was my biggest issue? Was it fatigue, lack of motivation to see it through, my ego or all of the above?  I tried to get positive and cut myself some slack.  Trying to give myself credit for what I have accomplished this year. The interesting part about this method is by the time I reached Charlton Lake, mile 30, I had decided I had done enough this year and traveling another 36 miles on this tired body was not necessary.  I came in and called it a day.  Bill just looked at me, speechless.  I told him I had nothing!  I was spent, my legs were wood and I was dehydrated.  Chris just stood there with a puzzled look on her face.  I noticed and I felt crushed.  I hadn't found a bit of peace so I guess I'm not done.

I put on my sunglasses, took my 2 water bottles and told Bill I would try to pull myself together, get re-hydrated and would see him again in 5.5 miles.  I left with tears running down my face.  I wasn't really crying but water was coming out of my eyes. They were silent tears. When you've done over 100 ultras you know what's in store.  There's nothing you can do to re-boot over cooked legs.  The only thing I could do was DECIDE to finish.  So I released my body and focused on my attitude. I didn't want to have to go here.  It's not an easy place to be sometimes.  So it began.  The questions of who you are, why you do this, should you do this, what are made of and most importantly who do you want to be.  Good Lord, I answered those questions 100 times and got different answers depending on the moment. Who's going to win the battle? The crazy journey of a beaten down endurance athlete.  Therapy on the go. Once you leave the aid station you can't just end your session and walk out. You have to make it to the next aid station.  All the while beating yourself up, building yourself up and pressing on.

The miles ticked away slowly and just before the aid station I see Bill walking down the trail.  I knew he would do that. I saw the worried look on his face when I left Charlton.  I also knew he was mostly worried I was going to quit, regret it and he has to live with me. When you're married for almost 20 years you don't even need words you just need expressions.  I saw his sweet mind grinding away as he walked me out of Charlton.  He sees me and  says, "Someone came all the way out here to see you so be sure you give him a hug".  I go to hug him and he laughs, "Not me, there's someone at the aid station".  I'm thinking... did he have Alex helicoptered in to ensure I don't bail? It might be a cost effective solution in his mind.  I arrive to see Don, (our new Bend neighbor) volunteering at the Road 4209. Hilarious!  I come up and he says, "Rooster, make the neighborhood proud".  I bow my head in my own mind, grab my stuff and again leave with hidden tears.  Still on a quest to live without regret.  Will I regret not completing this? Trying to talk myself into being okay with sadness and a bad day.  Every darn time I would get myself convinced that bad days happen and it's okay to quit I would relent.  This was my first insight that this is the game I must play with myself whether I want to or not. I am simply not okay with a bad day.  There must be a bright side and I must find it.

Things begin to look up.  I think it was a combination of few things.  I had gotten myself re-hydrated and the people around me gave me so much support how could I ignore it. I was almost done with my personal therapy. I just needed a few more miles.  My next stop was Twins 2, mile 42.  I knew the section from Road 4209 to Twins 2 was long and generally hard for me. Today it wasn't so bad!  Better than other times I've run the race.  Hey, there's a bright side. I marched along feeling more in control of my mind.  Maybe because I am closing in, getting it done and overall feeling like I can't turn back. Almost if there is no other choice.  Maybe I just ran out of reasons to be mad at myself.  After all,  the body I brought to this race was exactly the body I should have brought.  I made the racing schedule. Or.... maybe I had simply bled myself dry.  There was nothing left of me to beat up. Better yet I had determined that I need more than a bad day to quit.  It was time to rebuild.  You know when this time comes.  It's not only a mental but a physical shift.  Since there's such a correlation it's a double win. You can feel the resurrection with every mile. 

I arrived at Twins 2 and Tia's generous smile and warm welcome made me feel good.  I left there with tears but this time they were different.  Instead of being somber that were thankful tears filled with some strength.  I made my way down the twins trail to crew at the road.  I get to pick up my friend and pacer Chris here.  I was really looking forward to it.  At mile 35 Bill told me she was ready to run with me but declined at that time.  I wasn't ready to give up on my punishing ways then.  I still needed to work through this anger, disappointment and frankly just indulge this plain old pity party.  I needed more miles to get the monkey off my back.  By mile 44 I was done!  I had come full circle.
We left down the road and I was really happy to have someone.  Chris had some great observations.   I got to share my journey with her and she shared her observations.  It was fun and filling. Not often are we broken down enough to let all the guards, fears and judgments be seen. In these kinds of scary raw moments when others can see you at your worst are times of depth. Even better... when YOU see yourself at your worst! I am sort of sucker for these kinds of opportunities. It's where real foundation is built.  The kind that lasts. I am guarded, planned and thick skinned.  At mile 30 when it was really clear I had no body to work with I knew in order to finish I would have to dig deeper than usual mentally to finish.  That was not something I wanted to do because I know how I go about it.  It's a mental blood bath of exposing all my tucked away weakness, bringing up all my flaws and making me ponder my worthiness.  It's like a bad reality show where you're the star.  In the end it can become a priceless journey I can draw from.  But, you have to endure the process and have to have the guts to even take it on.

The climb up to Maiden Peak was hard but less hard now.  Thunder boomers and lightening greeted us at the top of the peak.  By this time my legs were jello and I was rebuilt from the inside out. It became fun.  It had become a valuable finish.  Are you ever happy you chose to finish the day after?  Not really.  It's easy to sit here today and roll my eyes at post.  But, when you're deep in, it's rough.  The daily guards come back, the general, "what's the big deal it's just a run" enter your head.  When it's in your face at that moment it's a big deal.  I want to recognize it and not brush it off today. I spent 15:29 minutes pushing myself so hard physically but even harder mentally.  I owe it to myself to make sure it meant something.  I also asked others to help me and I owe it to them.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Silver Rush 50M

Both the 50M run and the 50M MTB were held this last weekend. The bike on Sat. and the run on Sun. We had big Oregon crew participating. Micheal and Drake did the Silver King which is a distinction given to those who do both the MTB and the Run. Bill did the MTB, Darin and I did the run. Todd chose the MTB as his second Leadman event. It was an action packed weekend and so much fun. The gruelling course does not dissappoint. 7,500 feet of ascent. All above 10,000 feet and we reach 12,000 three times. The footing for the most part was pretty good. Some rocky sections but I would say overall not a super technical course. That didn't prevent me from slamming my foot into a rock and stubbing my big toe so hard the nail lifted. That hurt!

Darin, Alex and I crewed the MTB ride. That was so fun to watch! Todd was so speedy I only got one picture of him and we never saw him again. The whole scene was really eye opening and inspiring. Action packed! They had 750 riders and of those just a handful of woman. The final female count was less than 30! Come on ladies we need to get in the game. This is very tough MTB course and anyone who lines up has my admiration. All our guys did amazing finishing well under the cutoff and not an open wound in sight or a bandaid needed! Bill had so much fun out there and once again he amazes me. I think this might be the 3rd time he has rode his bike and not only did he finish with lots of time to spare he had a total blast. He can't stop talking about it. Even more impressive is Drake and Micheal's Silver King accomplishment. 2 full days on that course and they posted impressive times.

As for my run, well, I am thrilled. I finished 14th out of 74 woman and 4th masters. Best of all first Leadwoman. I had 2 goals for this race. First, get my quads worked and second go for negative splits. I got a lot of strange looks because I chose the run instead of the MTB for my Leadwoman event. You get a choice with of which Silver Rush event. My strategy has been to train hard on the bike and use this 50M run as a another training race for my legs. Though I am not worried about Leadville 100M run I will never ever take a 100M run for granted. Plus, I have never run a 100M race 6 days after a 100M MTB race. I suspect I will not get the big buckle on the run this time. My legs were darn tired going in to this race. The fatigue I feel from hard long rides is much different from running. I have a strong sense of my well being with regards to ultra training. The sore muscles, tight quads, some swelling from muscle damage and overall fatigue are all too familiar. The bike skips many of these. I get tight but in different spots. I am not sore and generally not too fatigued. But, what I am learning is there is a deeper fatigue that is a hidden and unfamilar. When I put my body to the test it becomes forefront and cumbersome. After finishing the LMTB training camp where I rode 125 miles I felt remarkably fine. I ran the two days then Todd and I did a 40 mile ride on Wednesday. I was completely beat on that ride. The hidden fatigue was no longer in the shadows! I rested as much as I could before Sunday. Trying to get as much repair as possible before Silver Rush 50M.

After the action packed day crewing I was ready to get out there. Almost craving the crazy ultra vide I knew would be present in this kind of tough course. I was ready to see what this body could do. With my all too conservative start filled with lots of good conversation at mile 8 I decided it was time to focus. Give this race some effort and make my body respond. Immediately I was bummed at how much the altitude seem to bother me. It was frustrating to have so much trouble breathing. I had to let it go because I was starting to get pissed. That certainly does not help the respiration! I can't tell if I was breathing so hard because I working hard or if it was the altitude. It really doesn't matter because I had to work with what I had. For the first 25 miles Micheal, Drake, Darin and I were all leap frogging and running fairly close together. That was fun. The views on the back side of Bald Mountain are incredible and pictures will not do it justice. At the turn I tried to kick it up a notch. Trying to reach goal number 2, negative splits. Goal number 1 was well in the bank. My quads were already thrashed. Honestly I can't remember them hurting this bad this early in an event. It's been a long time. I welcomed it. This is money. I will reap the benefits of this in the 100M run. I am certain of it! It gave me opportunity to deal with pain. To understand it and deal with it for a good long time. I knew on the way home I had about 9 miles of down hill. Not all of it but most the final 9 are down. With my quads already quivering I was curious to see how I could hold onto this run.

Coming into the final aid station I actually felt pretty good but was riding a fine line. A line where my body and mind walked the tight rope. My brain would process the terrain but my body was just one synapse behind. My legs were absolutely fried. They even looked the part, mushy and flat. The muscle damage had already set in and water was filling the gaps. With about 5 miles to go I stumble and my left leg just popped out of my hip socket. I walked and shook it hoping it would go back in the right spot. I got some mild relief but this certainly didn't feel good. Oh well, just another day in an ultra....right. The remainder of the run seemed to go on forever. The heat seemed over the top too. I gimped in under 10 hours. Overall thrilled but this might be some of the worst final 5 miles I have run in a very long time. Another good experience and reminder. This stuff is not easy but I guess that's why I keep coming back.

The biggest lesson I got this weekend was how much recovery I need between the 100M MTB ride and the 100M run. I have 6 days between those events. 6 days to repair my body for what I know will not be a walk in the park :)

This way or that?

Mt Hood 50M Finish!
Since my San Diego 100M run followed by Test of Endurance50M MTB I've been busy participating.  Instead of racing I'm participating.  I knew stacking my summer with so many events  would not allow me to focus and train with any consistency.  Instead just like the GrandSlam of Ultra Running and Leadwoman the focus would be on recovery.  I am thrilled with how my body and mind are holding up.  I'm having a total blast pushing my limits in both running and MTBing.  Everything seems to be going much better than I could have imagined.  The next big challenge would be the High Cascades 100M MTB race followed by Mt. Hood 50M run.

Picketts Charge
The weekend after TOE 50M I rode Pickett's Charge MTB race. A 25 mile single track event in Central Oregon.  This was my first exposure to some of the trails in High Cascades100M.  I was really beat going into the race.  Since I also signed up for Monday night Short Track Racing and Tuesday night Trail Series runs I was simply spent.  Too much!  However, I rallied and was glad I did.  It was a great event and the trail system was incredible! I was challenged not only physically but mentally too.  The twisty lava filled single track was different and took some focus.  As a novice MTBer I was nervous most of the race.  Although, I got better and better as the day progressed being faster on my second loop! Now I had a minor glimpse of what was coming in 4 very short weeks!
Short Track Racing
I had no training plan but rather a "do what I can in between races" approach.  I didn't rest much after Picketts since Short track was Monday night and the Trail Series Race followed on Tuesday.  Both these venues push my anaerobic threshold to its limit.  I am nearly at max for 30 minutes on both these days.  It's great training for a slugger.  For the MTB I get massive skill building plus it's a serious "race" environment which is good for me.  On Tuesday I get to "race" on the trails for a short, fast and intense 45-60 minutes.  Again, something I never do so the benefits are numerous.  Not to mention both are so much fun I can't stay away!
Just one of the views!

High Cascades 100 start
With High Cascades my focus I tried to ride the course as much as I could.  Bill and I rode parts of the course 2 other times.  All together I got see about 60 miles of the course.  The final route was not posted and was not yet final.  The snow levels around Mt. Bachelor were still in question  almost up to race day.    The 60 miles we did ride was enough for me to wonder how the hell I was going to get this done under the cutoff.  I thought Leadville was challenging but I was in for a new kind of challenge. Leadville has so many riders it makes riding your own race almost impossible unless you're in the front. Oh, and you can't breathe there.  The course is not that challenging.  High Cascades 100M has 12,000 feet of climbing and more than 80 miles of single track.  It's not a straight single track either!  I was looking forward to the experience and the adrenaline filled day.  It felt like the difference between Javelina 100M and Wasatch 100M.  High Cascades is a course of survival which is right up my alley.  Could I make the 14 hour cutoff, emerge with all my body parts and not too much Lava rash? 
I was working hard at mile 80

I finished in 12:42 and had the time of my life! I gained skills and more respect for myself and MTBer.  I am a better rider than I give myself credit for finishing 3rd in my division.  I rode stuff I wouldn't have considered attempting 3 short months ago.  I've gained a tremendous amount of power on the bike.  The raw strength it takes to muscle up and over things.  I have been working on that type of "force" and it has paid.  Unlike Leadville 100 MTB the people were gracious and encouraging.  I didn't feel  that at Leadville until I got past mile 70 and I was with folks more my speed.  High Cascades 100M MTB race is a gem and as soon as riders become aware of this race it will fill fast.  The views and terrain are breathtaking. I need a do again! 

Portland Trail Series Races
I had a great race with no complaints and no mechanicals but my hamstrings were fried.  My goal for the next 5 days was to nurse them back to health so I could run the MT Hood 50M run.  After Monday night short track I rested, went to Bikram and did one small run just to remind myself how to run.  For Mt Hood 50M my expectations were so low. I really wanted it to be a good training run for Waldo.  Since SD100M run I've only done one 24 mile Gorge run which was my highest mile run week at 65.  All the rest were in the 20's or mid 30's.  Not nearly enough.  I was wondering how much character building I would be doing out there? How slow and how much pain I would have to endure.  To my surprise I had a great day.  I was so strong physically. I didn't have much speed and striding out was not easy with no hamstrings.  They were just short and not really part of the action.  They weren't painful though, very curious.  My quads felt great which I still can't believe.  I took it really easy chatting with the Smith's (Pam and Mac) for the first 10 miles. It was great to hear about Pam's WS100M run and how well she recovered.  I got passed and was seriously near the back of the pack for the first 20 miles.  Then I began to catch folks.  I finished in 10:14 which is better than I expected.  The biggest icing on the cake?? I am not too sore! I have some interesting tight spots.  I think it might be confused muscle tissue.  Tissue that's not sure why it's not going in circles and why it's hitting the ground all the time?  Anyway, on to the next adventure Waldo 100K.  This is the final week of Short Track Racing and Portland Trail Series Racing so I guess I will have to do my own speed work.  I also bought a boat!  Yes, I am going to paddle.  I have no idea how to paddle and am not a huge water fan but I like nice shoulders so what the heck?  Plus, Bend has tons of places to paddle.  I can wheel my boat across the street from our house, drop it in and paddle upstream for miles, turn and come back.  It's not deep so I won't drown either.

So far this summer has been incredibly fun and fulfilling! It's not over yet and I can't I still have some new interesting races on the books.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Test Of Endurance 50M

For someone who loves to over think things I sure seem to be NOT thinking lately. I recovered well from SD100M.  That's seems to be standard for me as of late.  My ankle is officially healed and I might stop taping it! Clearly I am not pushing myself to my limits in many of my races. I don't know why I can't line up to things with more confidence but I guess that will be something I can work on.

I signed up for the TOE 50M MTB race about 2 months ago.  I just assumed I was doing it until I looked at the date.  I paused but only briefly before I signed the paperwork committing myself to this beast just 6 days after SD100M. This race has 8,500 feet of climbing.  It's no picnic for the best of MTBers.  As a total beginner with the only real thing going for me is my staying power it tested me but good.

The weather was better than perfect, 80-85 degrees on Saturday.  We don't see that much around here.  I wasn't at all worried about the heat. I have proven I can sustain in those temperatures thanks again to Bikram  and a nod to SD100M.  Though I had little to no post 100M swelling and my energy returned quick I knew the deep quad fatigue would show up. The question was how soon and would I need to dismount?  Either way I was excited to spend the day in the mountains with Kristin who was doing her second ever MTB race.  

The field was good sized but not huge which was nice.  The course begins to climb right off the bat so the riders can get nice and spread out.  At MTB races you don't just line up.  They try and call the faster riders up front and seed the crowd.  It wasn't a formal seeding like Leadville but everyone knows where they should be and respects it. They need to keep the riders from crashing into each other in a desperate attempt to pass.  I got in the back where I belong and made my way up the first climb.  I felt pretty good but immediately started sweating buckets. Unlike running the cooling effect of climbing on a bike is not worth discussing.  You just drip sweat.  After 8 miles of climbing we his the first single track.  I glance back and see about 4 men behind me.  I let them go first knowing I need to get my bike under me and they will be on my wheel before I know it if I go first. Of course I felt like a bumbling fool on the first single track descent.  Here at TOE 50M the descents are pretty steep, sometimes hairy, a bit muddy and rocks and roots are like ice.  I wobbled, steadied and tried my best to relax.  Ya, right, relax....that sort of oxymoron for a control freak.  One thing the MTB is teaching me is trust.  I need to trust the bike and more importantly trust myself to use the bike.

At TOE we do 2 loops.  We don't go all the way back to the start but get 2 chances at the same stuff.  I was looking forward to that.  Knowing I would be better the second time around.  I would have more confidence and could take more risks.  The climbing is relentless.  It seems we never go down hill.  Though we obviously do.  A long 3-4 mile climb is descended on single track in less than 1.5 miles.  So it's fast and over before your heart rate fully recovers from the climb.  In addition, you don't just sit back and relax.  You are out the saddle using your legs to steady the tail and using all your body to maneuver the bike.  I felt pretty good for about 20 miles.  That's about the time the deep leg fatigue let me know I wasn't recovered.  I didn't expect to have even 20 miles of bliss so emotionally I was in tact.  The field was thinning.  I found my groove along with about 5 men and 1 woman.  Woman are not in abundance in the MTB races.  Ultras have far more woman.  Though the numbers are different there is a huge similarity in camaraderie.  MTBer's take care of each other.  It is not uncommon to see a sidelined MTB and rider with 1 or 2 people helping them get it fixed and back in action. If someone falls riders stop and make sure their okay.  They help each other and provide a lot of encouragement.

By the time I came to the 25 mile aid station I was pleased to have the possibility of a PR.  My skills have improved so much I can't even measure! I was slower on some the climbs but made it up in finesse. I at least TRIED to ride everything and was fairly successful compared to last year. I was off my bike about 3 times.  At the aid station the volunteers are swarming around helping riders.  They asked me if I needed any repairs and the only thing that was an issue were my cleats.  They were caked in mud and I was having a tough time clipping in and out.  They fixed that right up but then the mechanic sees my front tire is loose. Whoa...that would not have been good.  He fixes it and sets me on my way.

Half the race is behind me and I get to try out all those trails for the second time. I was excited about that.  I was not excited about the climbing.  I was pretty spent and on the steep cracking sections I struggled but vowed to stay on the pedals and not dismount! The thing about the bike is you can not let up!  There's no coasting or bringing it down a notch.  You have to have enough power to turn the crank so the bike with move!  Seems simple enough but at times it was really hard.  My heart rate would just scream.  It's all power and runners are not known for their power generation.   Me and my 5 companions traded positions time and time again. They would dust me on the descents and I would roll up behind them on the climbs.  That gave me a bit of a boost.  They complained or should I say we all moaned about the relentless butt busting climbs. However, I just ran 100M (which I kept to myself) so I felt pretty pleased to be able to pass them.  This jockeying went on the whole final 25 miles.  One of the riders was a crazy freak on the descents but he would dismount and walk up at times.  He was sick of seeing me.  On yet another passing he says, "Man you  are relentless".  He has no idea but pegged me well.  I told him I would see him on the final trail descent.

By the time my Garmin registered 45 miles I was on the hunt for the finish.  I had nothing!  My body was fried and if we had to climb another hill for more than 2 minutes I think I would have died.  The final stretch home was 3 good miles of gravel road mostly downhill.  We set in as a group and tried to draft.  Of course I was being left behind.  I got out of my saddle and cracked hard catching up and finishing just before my buddies.  It was a good day on the bike.  I got a 9 min PR but I would say that is all due to finesse.

Kristin destroyed her second ever MTB race.  It was thrilling to hear about her day.  She lead the woman's race for about 30 miles.  Amazing!  We drove home and recounted the day. Swapping dramatic MTB stories. Kristin has a good sized goose egg on her hip from a crash but she takes risks and is a great rider.  I have a pedal bruise on my leg and took 2 falls but nothing to talk about.  I wasn't going fast enough to launch myself.  All in all I'm glad I didn't think to hard and miss out.  I have recovered really quick from this and rode my best ever short track race on Monday.

The Trail Series Running Race tonight! Starting to pick up some running again.  After Prickett's Charge MTB race this weekend I have 3 weeks of solid training to get ready for High Cascades 100M MTB then follow that up with PCT 50M run.  I am interested to see how that back to back goes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

San Diego 100M

My heart and soul is completely filled up! Back in the mountains where I belong. Grinding out long climbs and making my way down rocky terrain is where I feel the most excitement, challenge and just plain alive. I am super excited to have executed on Saturday. Mostly I am grateful my body is putting up with all the demands I've placed on it lately. With my ankle taped up good I started San Diego 100M cautiously and humbled.

A quite demeanor fell over me as we lined up. I was really nervous. Wondering how this was going to feel. Trying desperately to stop ruminating in doubt and stop engaging the negativity in my head. It's been since 2009 that I have taken on a 100M in the mountains with elements. Things like heat, technical trails, dust and long climbs. My training hasn't been centered and my recent activities left me with a less than perfect foundation but I am here now.  It was time to let all that go. It was time to re-quaint myself with the runner I brought.  One with a lot experience but one who as of late has been carrying a shadow of doubt.

Making our way out of Al Bahr was nice and easy. The trail is nestled among meadows weaving in and out of trees. We climbed gradually and I could feel the tug on my lungs. I knew the day was going to be hot and was banking on my consistent attendance at Bikram to save my Pacific Northwest self from a complete heat thrashing. Exposure! This course is exposed. There is no where to hide. I was sun screened up but knew that would just save me from being burned. It wouldn't do anything to save my system from a total shut down. It wasn't long before the trail turned rugged.  More rugged than anything I've been on lately. A few years ago that would have been right up my alley. It will again but for now I was bumbling fool on the loose rocky stuff. I was re-learning on the fly. My legs, ankles, hips and stabilizers were doing their best to dig in the memory bank. Struggling and at the same time finding pleasure in all of it. As people passed one after another making it look effortless I tried to let go of my intimidation and relax. That helped but I had to repeat the mantra over and over throughout the day.  Moments of frustration and disappointment came and went many times. Along with moments of triumph in tackling a section. I was finding so much pleasure in the challenge of controlling my thoughts and expectations. It was powerful. To have the opportunity to steer my negativity in a direction that would serve me instead of deplete me was great. It was a war. A war I was going to win. I already knew this race was going to be physically tough so I was not going to allow it to become a mental hell hole. Todd and Micheal and their very optimistic expectations helped. Plus, Todd was surely going to snap a photo and give some sort witty remark if I show up with some bad attitude. I couldn't have that!

As the day progressed so did the heat. I was slow, steady and very meticulous with my liquids and fuel. There's a long stretch between 14 and 44 without crew access.  I wanted to show up at 44 with all systems in tact. I didn't want to disappoint my crew! The heat was taking it's toll on many by mile 36.  Penny Pines was a bustling aid station since we visited twice. On my second trip the tents were filled with spent runners taking time out in the shade. The aid station was out of water. They had ice and were desperately trying to melt it but runners were out drinking the melt. More water was on its way so I filled my bladder with ice and waited some hoping it would arrive soon.  With an 8 mile climb in the heat of the day I knew I needed all 40oz of liquid.  There was some hope that water stashed 3 miles up was still there and not gone.  However, I wasn't banking on it. I couldn't wait any longer. I was antsy to get going so I left with ice.I was sure it would melt fast but it didn't. My pack must be insulated!  I was sucking on a dry hose. Thankfully a truck with water was coming up to replenish runners. I filled up and drank that down before I knew it. Once again I was dry with only ice that wouldn't melt! Good thing I was well hydrated and my system was functioning well. I made the long, hot and technical climb without much problem but was dry for about 20 minutes. By the time I reached 44 I was really thirsty but in good spirits looking forward to some cooler evening temperatures. I was a bit behind schedule, maybe 10 minutes. I felt pretty good about that.

I was excited to get to 51 where I would pick up a pacer. My body was feeling the run. My legs were a bit sore but not as bad as I would have thought. My biggest goal coming in was to avoid a death march from mile 75. I didn't want to have a hobblefest for 25 miles while drowning in my own doubt. I wanted to be conservative until I knew I could handle the final stretch. I honestly needed to have a good experience here.  There were various signs along the course. Things like, "it's not a race against the mountains it's a race against yourself" and others along that line.This is so true. I have built a body that can withstand a lot of pain and discomfort but if I let my mind go weak my body follows. I am not interested in digging out of that.

The ridge line was windy and chilly. It felt good! Running well along this section heading to 51 I was leap frogging with 2 girls. We must have changed positions 10 times. I was catching up to other runners. This was a good feeling since I spent most of the previous miles being passed. Lots of positive affirmations floated my way here. I was still feeling good. My fuel was still going down well, solids, gels, drink mix, electrolytes. I was having zero stomach issues. My feet were good with the exception of one small scrape spot on the top of my 4th toe. My legs were good, slightly sore but not bad. My ankle was still taped and handling the demands. My spirits were high and my confidence was building. Where else can you spend 12+ hours convincing yourself you can endure, crazy mental game.

 Micheal paced me from 51 to 80. When I picked him up we took off and did some stellar running gaining time for about 12 miles.  I passed more people for good. I was solid! We came in and Todd calmly says, "Do you want to know what place your in". I thought about it for a second.....do I want to know...how will that effect my buzz...what if it's bad, how will I deal?? I had no idea where I was in the pack of girls.  I could have been 20th or 4th I had no idea. With a hesitant voice I say, "Sure". He tells me I am 4th and 3rd was sitting until she saw me come in. I find my relaxed response interesting. I wasn't THAT bent on catching her but now that the seed was planted...well, I put my head down.  Micheal and I left and I was gaining steadily. I could see another girl. I passed her and about 5 men on the climb. Creating a decent gap but she wasn't giving in. We climbed and climbed and then came the downhill.  A long rocky technical and sometimes steep descent. I was dork on this. I couldn't set my foot in a steady place to save my life. I was passed back here. I wasn't bothered.  I deserved to be passed. It was as if I had never run downhill before. I was more frustrated that I couldn't get a groove. We kept at it, laughing some, cussing more and came in right behind her. I left before she did and we exchanged positions again several times until I felt I wanted to take it. When I felt I could keep it I created a nice gap. Now on the hunt for 2nd place.

At 80 miles I picked up Todd. He was in for a treat! Pacing Amy at WS100M is a bit different but he seemed to be okay with slow pace. I was cold now. I had gloves and jacket making out way back along the ridge line. The trail was good for the most part. Some rocky sections and mostly rolling. We knew 2nd place place left 1 minute in front of me. I knew I would catch her. I still had some left and felt if I was closing the gap this well that by 20 miles I would seal the deal. However, I was in no way going to push myself beyond my limit. I still needed to fuel well and take care of things. I had a hard time finding a groove on this section but after about 5 miles I started feeling a moment of glory coming. I got moving and came in to 87 about 1 minute behind 2nd place who exited the minute she saw me. I pulled in and sat for a couple of minutes eating. I was hungry and my stomach was growling. I needed more solids.  I ate a few things and once I got it all down Todd and I left. I had good energy and was so happy I was going to close in on another 100M race. I was also thrilled to be in a good position! We ran well and after about 1 mile caught the 2nd place gal who was still moving well. She was encouraging as we exchanged, "good job". The trail began to climb and I felt strong here. Suddenly, and I am not exaggerating, I had to go to the bathroom. Then again, then again.  I have never dealt with this in the race before. After several trips to the bushes I knew I needed Pepto at the next aid station or I was going to have issues. With only 9 miles to go I questioned whether I could get it done without trying to take care of this bathroom issue? My intestines decided they were taking over. We came in and Micheal was ready to go. He left the medical stuff in the car and the aid station had tums so Todd hands me Tums and says go. Nope that won't do! I was a bit testy. My stomach wasn't upset I needed Pepto and I announce I have diarrhea not an upset stomach...nice! Everyone in the aid station is looking at me. A nice lady who was crewing for someone else offers me Imodium and I was grateful. I downed the tiny pill and off we went but only 1 minute ahead of the cute girl who is now chasing me. BTW: I prefer chasing not being chased ;). I felt good, put my headphones on and Micheal and I kept at it. One more big long climb. I put my head down and the sun began to come up. I was still so strong. The tiny Imodium pill did the trick and I had no more stops.

At this point I knew I had a good gap and was fairly relentless. My legs were getting very sore and I tried really hard to overlook the pain and just plug on.  Finishing 2nd girl in 24:36 was awesome.  I was more thrilled on how I executed the day. Knowing my body and understanding my limits. Every section I completed was a win for me. Finding my way back to the mountains and remembering how much I love this kind of challenge. We had a good time and spirits were high all day! I was really pleased with how my body held up and haven't been giving it enough credit. My ankle is sore but not too bad.  Overall I feel good. Not too beat up but I know there's some deep fatigue. I am riding TOE 50M MTB race this Saturday.  8K of climb on a bike.  I'll let you know how much I have recovered after that.