Monday, December 12, 2011

I am a victim!

I have decided I am a victim of my own passion. I am get so excited about doing things and there are so many things I want to.  How to choose? I am finding my motivation level right now is very high. We have had some of the best Fall weather complete with sun! I am pretty sure this helps my motivation level. I want to ride my single speed MTB, I want to run fast, I want to run long, I want to get in the weight room more and I want to organize. Way to many things to be effective. You know the saying, "Jack of all trades master of none" meh! I would much rather do well at something, get better or achieve a goal then spread myself thin and not really gain any ground anywhere. Seems my issue is just that. Getting focused. Without the monitor of a coach or someone to answer to I can easily become relatively lazy. Or, worse I overdo and end up frustrated, sick or too tired. I can be just like a puppy when it comes to physical activity. Bill and Alex once whistled at me like they do Ultra.  NOT OKAY, sad thing is I responded pretty much like she does.

After Javelina I had a pretty solid 2 weeks of doing very little but resting and having fun. It's been a pretty interesting time in the Sundermeier house the last few months. There are lots of blooming changes. Our lives are ever changing as with all maturing families. Our only son is starting to drive and looking at colleges. Bill spent 2 solid months at Harvard getting his Executive MBA and the construction of our Bend home began. I love changes and this family is not ever idle long but I am finding that our biggest, most important piece of our everyday life is coming to a close. That is our daily routine of parenting. Though I know it never ends I can see, feel and sense Alex's maturity into a young man. As I type those words tears stream down my face. I know it's inevitable and wonderful that our children grow up and start to plan their lives but I am telling you it's a double edged sword. I know it seems early but as you know I am a relentless planner. I see my life in advance. I wouldn't at all characterize myself as a over protective looming mom but am having to fight the desire to cling right now. Alex is sort of my emotional mirror. The thought of not having his energy around every single day makes me feel a bit lost and I know that day is coming. I feel it now as he is more independent. I think all moms must have this empty hole when their kids grow up. Though I strive to be different I think I might lose this battle. I am pretty sure I am going to have some hard days in the next couple of years. I am hoping that by the time he leaves for college I will have worked through it all. The other wonderful side of the coin is Bill and I are seeing, feeling and planning what WE will do next. The second half of our lives is beginning. Bill and I talk constantly about our future. It's wonderful to dream with confidence. To feel so incredibly secure with someone you love. I wish for everyone to feel this. It's funny how our lives have unfolded. I thought I would share a funny conversation we had. I love routine, plans, time line and expectations as does Bill.  For me though, that outside force is coming to a close.  My boss, my daily planner is releasing me. That would be Alex. When I left my corporate job 9 years ago he became my to do list.  He drove my days, most of nights and my weekends were planned around him.  That was my routine, my purpose, my measurement. My love for personal results were filled with running but mostly I felt accomplished because I could do this time consuming hobby and still be a good mom, there, present and very much alive. I could bring this glow back into the family unit. This was and is very fulfilling to me. Now with changes coming and much faster than I can describe I am beginning to crave more structure. I didn't realize it was leaving me or even that I had it until Bill and I had this conversation:  Me, "Honey, I am really wanting us to sit down and go over our 5 year plan again, I want to dive down into detail, I want to know what our day might look like and discuss what it feels like".  Blank stare from Bill, then, "I already have so much daily structure I am not sure it can get any more structured". At that moment I realized or understood what was happening.  I was losing my daily structure slowing and am not sure what to do with myself!

What better to do than plan your year, to get focused and try not to ruminate in change I am not really ready for. So, that's what I started doing and it was hard. I don't have any big outlandish, do you really think you can do that kind of goals for 2012. Just when I might need one the most!  Something to occupy my busy mind. Something to obsess over, to fill the small hole that is beginning to develop. My only boy is maturing and not needing me so much. As I began to get the calendar out and fill in events it was overwhelming. My love for mountain biking and desire to experience more racing along with my ultimate desire for trail running could fill the calender every weekend. There are so many choices!  For now, Leadwoman is off the radar. Our house in Bend will almost be done in July so the focus needs to be closer to home. Bill is in the lottery for the Leadville 100MTB and if by chance he gets in he will definitely be doing it. Otherwise, we most likely won't be heading to CO this year. Though I am sad because I LOVE Colorado I also love Oregon and Utah too.

So, what have I been doing besides feeling sorry for myself? I am now 3 weeks into training for Ulmstead 100M. Since I am riding the Old Pueblo 24Hr MTB in Feb. I have been back on my bike, love that thing! After 6 years of being coached by some of the best in ultra running I have written my own schedule.  Best of all I am following it!  Yes, it's only been 3 weeks but I should be mature enough at this point to stick to my plan, right? I need to follow it, find that rhythm of a daily routine. I have committed to 10 weeks, 2 times per week of Bikram yoga. I did it before years ago while training for WS100M purely for the heat training aspect.  Now, with a much tighter body I am doing it for other reasons. My mid back and shoulders make my hips and hamstrings look flexible, wow tight. I am a total abomination to yoga! No joke. I am glad they haven't kicked me out for purely the horrible aesthetics. I am so smooshed up from running, MTBing and weight training that anything that involves lengthening is foreign to my body. With 6 classes in my body I am just now starting to crave it. My body is responding really well and if I can find a place in my spirit for this kind of training I think it will be a huge benefit to my running.

I have added a day of functional leg workouts.  I need to get back to doing lower body weights. I like the strength and stability it gives me. Plus, I just need to do it! For...pure vanity. That has been really fun and interesting. Plus, it's a good thing I can laugh at myself. I may have found my Kryptonite.

My schedule for Umstead is going to be pretty intense compared to how I have trained the last couple of years. I think I am choosing to do this because it's going to keep me focused on forward momentum and mentally busy. I can't miss a beat with this one and right now I think that's the best place for me to be.  I need the intensity of a hard routine. I am craving that kind of push right now.  I really want to have a solid run at Ulmstead 100M. I might even try and RACE it. It's been awhile since I have pushed myself hard at a 100M race.  Where I have set a time goal and trained to achieve it.  I think 20 HRs at Ulmstead would be a pretty big challenge for me so that's what I am chasing.  To do this I am going to need to run more than and average of 35-40 miles a week which is what I have done in the past 2 years. That simply is not going to cut it for a quick time. My body adapts nicely to whatever I throw it's way but I not even going to try to fool myself this time. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Javelina 100M

A strong contingent of Oregon and Washington folks brought it at Javelina.  They brought their best and they also brought the rain.  How can it be that the last two events I have done in AZ have had serious rain?  It's not supposed to rain in AZ.  Not that the weather was horrible for a PNW runner but when it rains in AZ it's more like a bucket of water is being dumped on your head.  Not the misty constant drizzle. Actually the day started out perfect with a nice cloud cover and temperatures were around 60.  When the sun did peak through it felt really hot.

I had a really strange race.  I am not going to be able to express it very well here but am going to try to paint the picture.  I can't complain about running 21:17 and coming in 4th woman, I am happy with that. My pre-race prep was horrible.  I did everything wrong except for get drunk and be hungover. Thursday was a tedious decision making day for our home we are building in Bend (yay!) I went into the process with no food, not much water and when I was done I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I then rushed home to get everything ready for the house sitter and the race. I might have eaten 1200 calories that day and drank about 40 oz of water, not good.  Friday was another quick paced day with travel and such. In an attempt to eat really clean and healthy I ate nothing to speak of. I also drank very little water. I might have gotten in 1300 calories that day and about 50 oz of water.  Already behind in sleep we got up a 3:30 a.m. Saturday. I tried to eat and drink knowing I was behind the curve but it's a little late!

The race started and I feverishly fueled. I felt dehydrated at about 10 miles and worked at keeping up on fluids and food. I did a really good job. Lap 1 and 2 went pretty well.  Lap 3 just sucked. I was feeling tired, yawning, unmotivated and had a mild headache. For no particular reason. That lap was filled with self doubt and much loathing. Yuk, I hate that which made it all worse. I can't tolerate much personal loathing from myself. It just makes me feel angry and pathetic. Knowing full well that all we do is voluntary I don't like to complain or whine. I think intense negative thoughts are a sign of weakness.  For me it's icky emotional indulgence. Not that I walk around like Susie Sunshine all the time I do expect more from myself. This battled ensued between thoughts of worthlessness and acceptance. I gave it the all girl effort too!  I tried to cry, nope couldn't do it...I was too pissed off.  I tried to convince myself that quitting would be best because we wouldn't miss our flight, stupid reasoning.  I even tried to see if I could discover a possible injury!  Then I would most certainly need to stop.  My brain was ruminating in the negative. I came in to lap 3 and told Micheal I was just off, tired and not in it.  He was really good.  He just listened and said your doing fine just keep going and fuel.  Before I knew it I was back out there on lap 4.

The 3 hours of ruminating, being negative and pathetic did me a good way.  I was done with myself! Mumford and Sons song, Thistle and Weeds came on my IPOD.
The chorus:
But plant your hope with good seeds
Don't cover yourself with thistle and weeds

These lines resonated, for whatever reason, and helped me get a grip. The wonderful thing about Javelina 100M is the course and it's washing machine loop format. You get the opportunity to see everyone and be part of their day. I was surrounded by some really amazing people doing some really amazing things. That alone is beautiful and rewarding.  I love positive energy, passion puppets and people who dream big. Here I was with all of that. So with that realization I was able to draw inspiration and joy from them.  A few things that caught my attention.  Esther Holman's run and relentless pursuit of her 100M finish.  Andy Kumeda's strong amazing day. The Beast, nothing more needs to be said there.  Anna, smiling and always positive demeanor.  Liza's run was of course amazing but what I saw most impressive was her lovely effortless smile as she passed by...a true athlete! The volunteers were so cheerful and had compliments galore. Every time I came around to headquarters I felt like a winner! Focusing on all the other people and things was so much better than paying any attention to my own run or myself!

I continued trying to get caught up on fuel but we all know you can never truly catch up.  I did a good job.  It's always an interesting study. One of the draws of the 100M event is the opportunity to see yourself, your demons, your strengths, your grit and whatever else you have or most importantly DON'T have. You simply can't escape it every time. This year's race was much different than last years for me. This year I had no fight, no desire to push.  I was tired!  Not physically but mentally.  I couldn't muster up a good fight if I was forced.  I was content with the day as it was unfolding. Though I wondered how I would feel about this attitude later it seemed I had no choice. My mind, body and soul were too tired to roust my drive.

When Micheal picked me up for lap 5 I welcomed the company.  The rain came in while I was about half way through lap 6 and I was immediately cold.  I was bundled up pretty good for someone who runs in the rain a lot. The trail became a mess quickly. Big puddles and lots of sinking sand or slippery mud.  We almost bit it a couple of times. This just solidified that I was not up to par.  The fatigue built and now I was in "get it done" mode. I walked a lot!  Most of my final lap was a full on hike/walk.  What's the difference?  A hike has purpose and a walk is what you do with your dog and a cup of coffee.  My stomach was crampy and not doing so well.  I was starving but another gel was just not gonna do it.  Neither was another banana, salted potato, cup of soup, blah. When I finished it was pouring and all I could think about was getting the wet clothes off before I turned into a Popsicle, then food.  I went over an scarfed down 2 pieces of pizza and was still hungry.  We hustled off so we could get a shower, a tiny nap and catch our 11 a.m. flight home.

I have been so tired these last two days.  More tired than I can remember being after one of these.  My body on the other hand seems to be barely phased.  I didn't even need compression socks on Sunday and have very little soreness and no swelling.  I think I am exhausted though. Time for some rest to re-energize!  It's been a hell of a year!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lucky number 7!

I glanced at the Javelina 100M bid number so I could write it on my drop bags and was so excited I almost peed my pants!  I got number 7!  That is Bill and I's lucky number.  We were engaged on the 7th, got married on the 7th at 7 p.m. and have 7 small diamonds in our wedding ring.  We love the number 7!  I had to talk sense in to Bill when Alex was born because he wanted to name him Seven!  Anyway, we didn't request numbers so I just thought it was really cool!  I never get a low number because either the races are seeded or by last name.  So, I am kinda excited to wear this 7, can you tell? Since my training has been all over the map I am looking for all and any bits of excitement to counter the "What were you thinking talk track".

I booked my flight out of Arizona for Sunday at 11 a.m.  How's that for pressure?  I am either being cocky or efficient. Worst case, I will have to take another flight.  This may be the fastest trip ever.  Leave Friday, run 100M on Saturday and be back home to Oregon by dinner.

My plan for the race is...well I have no plan. I hope I don't get too hot, I hope my body holds up and I hope the hurt locker is padded.  There is a lot of HOPE in that sentence.  With such low mileage I have no idea what to expect so a good conservative approach will be best I think.  Last year I ran a hell of race there.  For me to run that fast at 100 miles was crazy and I felt great the whole race.  I should have given my laps 4 and 5 more effort.  Last year I had way more running and pounding on my legs though. I don't even think I looked at the hurt locker door for long. Maybe it was the Advil I took?

My lap splits last year were: Total time 20:07

Pretty even with the laps 5 and 6 being in the dark.  I hope I can get under 22 hours. I really like the format of this event and am excited to share the trail with friends.  The weather looks tolerable for this Oregonian. :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

I think I have over tapered.

Javelina 100M is in two weeks so I guess my taper starts. If low mileage is the new way to train I think I have that covered.  I am going to line up to Javelina with my longest week being 62 miles and no back to backs to speak of.  However, I have done quite a bit of speed work. With the every other Wednesday night trail series and a couple of longer races I can take stock in that I have pushed myself.  For the trail series I went for the kill (to kill myself)!  I ran as absolutely hard as I could from start to finish.  A couple of times I almost puked! I ran some very fast trail miles. Not very impressive to most people but I was patting myself on the back every other week.  As some of us stood at the finish coughing up lung particles wondering if we were catching a cold we were reminded of our lack of speed work. Todd tried his hardest to make each race pretty brutal with his hilly terrain choices.  The dark nights just made it more interesting and I am still asking myself how the hell those people run that fast in the dark. I think they have Jedi like reflexes. I got to meet some cool people too. That was a seriously fun time and I can't wait for the next set of races.

I also signed up for the first every Forest Park Trail Marathon.  In another attempt to force myself to run fast but now on a long run.  I ended up being first girl across the finish line in this very small event. I didn't even know I had won until about 40 seconds after I finished. While heading to the finish line the crowd seemed very energetic and I thought, "wow, these guys are really into cheering folks on".  I knew the 1/2 marathon had just finished and was very uplifted by the crowds attention. Just past the finish line Bill comes up and says, "You have no idea you just won do you"?  SO COOL! My prize was a gift certificate to Fit Right NW.  New trail shoes in my future!

For my final long training run I did Autumn Leaves 50K last Saturday. The terrain is flat, five 10K loops so no time for dilly dallying around. It was just what I needed to get my butt out there. Time with friends and like minded folks spurred me to get out and push myself. It was a perfect day too! No rain, early morning fog and sun made it pretty easy to keep going.  I ran hard but what I really wanted to do was gain speed with every 10K. Just to test myself. I was able to accomplish this but on laps 2-3 it was very close. I did however manage to squeak in 2 minutes faster on lap 5 than lap 4. My feet were a bit sore. I haven't had sore feet in years but I also haven't run on pavement for that many miles is years. I had to dig out some road shoes that have about 15 miles of running on them and hope they held up. They did. I was not at all sore on Sunday which totally blew me away.  Must be my new diet....kidding!

Even thought my miles really don't warrant good training for a 100M race I have been out on my Single Speed MTB a few times. After riding up and down my road a bit I got the courage to take it out in public.  I absolutely LOVE it!  It's incredibly different than riding a geared bike. I can't really explain it. You have to just ride it and within 2 miles you'll get it. It's hard but so much fun. I really love riding uphill on it. I actually ride my routes faster on my SS than my geared bike. This is just a function of how you have power a SS versus a geared bike. One thing is certain, I am more tired and have lingering fatigue from the sessions. I am going to line up to TOE 50M MTB this year on a single speed!  I have now put it out there. With 7,800 of climbing it will tell me if I should even THINK about trying Leadville 100M on a single speed....before I die.

Speaking of Leadville!  Registration opens tomorrow!  I don't know what I want to do.  I want to do the Silver Queen event.  Ride the 50M MTB on Sat. then run the 50M run on Sun.  What I don't know is, do I want to do Leadwoman again.  If I lived closer it would be a no brainer I would be in for sure.  I takes a commitment of time from everyone so I can't decided.  I have the 2nd fastest Leadwoman time and I am certain I can shave another hour now that I know more. We'll see.  I know Bill is putting in for the 100M MTB lottery!  I hope he gets in because I know he will have an epic day.  You just can't help it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What post race blues?

Leadman events didn't leave me tired.  Instead they energized me. I hate the post race blues.  That feeling I often get once a big goal has been accomplished and I am left with a ho hum mood. Seems so counter productive but it's there nonetheless.  Recovery from the summers adventure went really well.  I am pretty sure the addition of mountain biking has paid serious dividends. My body is much stronger and my power generation is better. I can climb better, I can accelerate better and I most certainly recover faster. The drawback, I am slower.

My lack of natural speed has been laid out countless times in this blog.  Any and all speed I have is earned the old fashioned way, hard work. I have to dial it in my training schedule week after week, monitor it, push myself and keep track. This year I had very little speed work, if any, in my schedule. I think there is only so much you can cram into a week. My body did it's fair share of adapting to mountain biking and adding speed sessions might have thrown me over the edge. The adaptions I am referring to include my back, my glutes, my shoulders and my hamstrings. All of the above were quite developed to run, do speed work, go long, climb and run technical trails, etc without injury. In fact, I have not been laid up with an injury since before The Grand Teton's 100M in 08 (I am currently knocking on wood and banging my body on it for good measure). This year, at times, I felt as if I was riding a fine line. My mid back has been so tight at times I swear my waist would shrink a whole inch. My medial glutes were always fired. Trying to get my legs to swing was challenging and just when I got it worked out, bam! another hard MTB ride. My shoulders and mostly my traps did not like the forward lean. Learning to drop them and relax is still hard. As for the hamstrings, well, let's just say I didn't have any. I have some now!  I must have spent hours upon hours on a foam roller. The pull portion of the pedal stroke forces those babies to work.

At times throughout the year I felt so slow and sluggish. Mostly after a measurable event when my time and effort were not what I remembered. I had this constant battle of desires. Not wanting to lose my speed but needing to make serious gains in another area raged a war in my head. I have pretty much mastered my emotional/logical action center. I am driven by both emotion and logic. I blame this on my up bringing.  Raised by 2 woman who couldn't have been more opposite in how they marched through their lives. My mom, the original bra burner of the 70's, free of almost all logical thinking, extremely loving and always emotional. She defined the free to be attitude, the who cares what others think, be your own woman kind of stuff. My grandmother, who couldn't have been more realistic, the penmanship scholar, the accountant, the stoic woman. She would always presented herself appropriately, never talk about issues and march on with the up most respect for herself and matter what.  I am pretty certain, after years of debate, that I carry both these fine woman's ideas.  The issue......conflict.....the gift....conflict.

So choosing the more logical/practical notion that something has to give. So get on with it.  I guess I would have a good Fall project, speed work. When I got home I had nothing on the books with regards to workouts. I immediately found myself becoming a race registration slore (bad word I know). My friends were sick of me emailing them trying to coheres them into to joining me. I even signed Bill up for a 1/2 while he was out of town. Anything I could do that was short and would force me to run fast, due to pride, I was all in. I got into Todd's Portland Trail Series, I ran the Wildwood 10K and signed up for the Forest Park Marathon. To enhance my drive to run faster I threw my name in for Javelina 100M in November and thanks to Susan's fast fingers got into Umstead 100M in March. Both these 100's are flat courses so I will need to find my legs. In between the 100's I am going to ride the Old Pueblo 24Hr Solo again. I got a single speed MTB and am anxious to ride it in a race. I'm not sure if I will ride OP on my single speed or go geared. The guy riding single speed at Leadville made it look so easy! It's not!

After the first couple of Portland Trail Series events I found I wasn't as slow as I thought. It also reminded me that I am a mental basket case. I can decide I am slow and be slow. Then I can be put into an environment where I should run fast and I can. Of course, this is all relative. I am pretty excited to incorporate speed sessions back in my training.

Speaking of training. This will be the first time I have not had a coach in 7 years! I think I am going to do my own schedule. The issue, I am not so good at holding myself accountable. I am sure I can blame that on my childhood too, ha, ha, ha. I am going to give it a go and see if I can create some alter ego to hold me accountable.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I am a Leadwoman! The Run

After 6 days of rest it was time to finish the Leadman race series.  I spent the week focusing on recovery and planning the 100M footrace which left little time to think about the prior weekends adventure.  That is exactly what I wanted.  I planned to spend the whole run reliving the bike race experience piece by piece.  Since much of the course is shared I wondered how I would feel covering it by foot. I also was curious how this Leadville 100M run would go compared to my run there in 2007 as part of my Grand Slam. I wanted to get the big buckles in all the races Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100 and Wasatch 100.  Of all the events Leadville was by far the one I was most worried about.  The sub 25 time was going to be a stretch for me.  Leadville is a runners course and I was more of a mountain hiker/runner. That year I spent the whole day chasing the clock.  It's no lie, I was running in complete stress the entire day.  My time was 24:14 and it was a tough go all day.  I wondered if the additional years of experience would help me now. 
I was nervous.  The unknown factor of how my body would hold up made me cautious.  My pace chart was conservative, my mindset was set to take it easy and my crew was ready and armed with all sorts of tricks to deal with leg pain.  After the 50M run where I experience very early quad fatigue due to the LMTB 100 training camp weekend I felt uneasy and a bit timid.  That race taught me a lot and I planned on using all I learned.  I had hoped that the following weekends of hard work helped my body adapt to what it needed to do on this day. These last days of recovery had been good and I felt amazing.  I even wrote Matt to tell him about my final short training run because I felt so good.I hoped I didn't jinx myself by expressing that.
The Race:  It was a bit of restless night due to intense rain and the occasional lighting bolt that seemed to rock the whole building. It was a creepy déjà vu from 2007 when inches of heavy rain came down the whole day before I had to run Leadville.  A rainy cold day in the mountains is awful.  It's so hard to stay warm.  I got up twice and each time added another layer of clothing to my already bulging pile. In the morning one of the first things I did was go outside to see how wet and cold it was.  I was delighted to find no rain coming down and the air quite warm.  That just meant there were clouds but it wasn't freezing yet.  I just assumed it would be a typical mountain day where weather would roll in during the afternoon.  As of this point, lining up to the start I felt calm.  A completely opposite experience from just 6 days ago at the LMTB 100M start.  I had finally arrived in my element.  A comfort level I relished.  750 people lined up to have their day in the mountains and it was time to get this party started. 

I think I was near the front of the pack as we headed to the boulevard.  I had no agenda at the start.  I wanted to find a nice comfortable groove and be easy.  With the 4 am start a sea of lights made their way to the dirt.  My prior run at Leadville seemed much more dusty.  Today the ground was wet from the storms so the dust around the lake was barely noticeable.  The air was damp which made it a bit cold as you began to sweat.  I was cruising around the lake at a comfortable speed.  I just settled into a train and the pace was fitting.  No one came passing and we didn't pass.  I could hear everyone's labored breathing.  The altitude is such a huge element here.  For me, I didn't notice it.  Nor should I since I had been there 8 weeks.  I wasn't at all concerned about the elevation but I was concerned about my body and I paid close attention to any and all cues.  By mile 13 where I saw Bill, Micheal and Alex for the first time I was ahead of schedule and very calm.  I grabbed my pack and made my way to Haggerman Pass.  This would be the first shared section with the bike race and the sun was now up.  I had an immediate rush of emotions.  Just 1 week ago I was here on my bike and now I was on foot.  My senses were on complete overload and my skin got chills.  Detailed memories filled my thoughts as I trotted up the road.  Making the turn on to Sugarloaf for the 3 mile climb I found myself so lost in thought I was running.  I checked in, should I be walking, how am I feeling physically and tried to bring myself back to the present.  I felt really good and at ease.  This was an interesting way to experience this and not all like my 07 race.  Here I was probably the most fit I have ever been, very experienced at running 100's, knew the course like the back of my hand and have run it before in 24:14.  I should be set up to race this, to give it my best shot and post my best time.  But, I wasn't here for that.  Instead I got to witness and take in all around me. Folks working to get their best day.  Trying to make the climb fast and hard to chase the clock.  I felt their desire.  I have been there and love that kind of personal challenge. Today I was much more in touch with what was happening around me than.   I also felt inspired and a sense of camaraderie as each of us chased today's goal.  Arriving at the summit it was time to run down Powerline.  It was fun.  I was wearing a huge smile as I made my way down thinking about how I had maneuvered this last weekend.  I used some of the descending skills I learned on my bike.  I think it made me a better downhill runner.  Picking a better line and looking much farther ahead instead of rock dodging.  I took it pretty darn easy down Powerline.  I had no intention of thrashing my quads this early. Plus, I knew I hadn't prepared them in training for the kind of long term pounding I knew they would need to endure.  Normally I would have them good and strong for all the descending and would not have held back at all.  Today I even walked a few steps of the downhill while I fueled.  My goal was to make it to mile 50 with a good intact body then let it rip and go for broke from there.
After the descent we get to run about 5 miles of road to Pipeline, or Halfpipe, or Halfmoon.....whichever you want to call mile 23.  It's kind of funky getting the legs to spin on the pavement.  I didn't really have a lot of spring in my running stride but tried to keep it under a 10 min pace.  The footrace leaves Pipeline and takes a different road than the bike race.  My reminiscing time was over for awhile as from now until I arrive back here the run course is different.  I left still comfortable and steady.  I found myself passing people in this section.  It's about the time when folks start to slow down a bit.  I really liked this section.  It was different than the course I ran in 2007.   The terrain is nice and easy on the body and gives you a chance to run a bit before the grueling Hope Pass ascent.  During this section we crossed a couple of streams and I took the opportunity to cool off my quads for good measure. 

I arrived at Twin Lakes on a 26 hour pace feeling good.  My legs now had 40 miles on them and were holding up fine.  I was greeted by Alex who was my sole crew at Twin Lakes.  Bill and Micheal were doing a drop off at Winfield in an attempt to beat the serious crew backup that happens there.  He was so amazing and so grown up.  He was right there waiting for me, checked in to see how I was doing, rattled off some questions and gave me my pack.  He walked out with me telling me how great I was doing and reminded me of what's coming.  At that moment I could have cared less about that because I was just so taken by how much he was immersed in making me comfortable and encouraged.  He's so grown up and such an amazing boy.  I have always said, "If I can raise Alex to be as wonderful as Bill I will be the happiest mom alive".  I think we have done that.  I left there emotional.

Making my way to the base of Hope Pass was a wet trudge.  It's swampy and the area before the river crossing has pools of water you need to cross.  There seemed to be way more than I remember.  My feet were soaked and filled with grit.  The grind up Hope Pass is so beautiful you have to remind yourself to work hard.  It's long and relentless but it seemed much easier than I remembered.  I made okay time to the saddle but not great.  They day had turned out amazing.  There was no rain and barely a cloud in the sky at that moment.  This made the views on top perfect.  This is a really special aid station.  All the supplies are carried up by Llamas who are now grazing in the open fields in the mountain's shadow. Leaving the Hopeless aid station there is still a 15 minute climb before the drop off.  The descent off Hope Pass on the back side is horrible!  I didn't like in 2007 and I wasn't a fan today.  It's too steep for me to run.  The rocky boulder sections need to be picked through and it goes on forever!  It's only 3+ miles but it took me a long time.  I was getting a little down and frustrated.  I am not sure why.  I think it might have been just a low moment.  Physically I felt fine.  My body was beginning to feel it but I was almost at mile 50 so it should.  The worst part of the Leadville course is the road to Winfield.  It's 3 miles long and we share the route with all the crew.  There is intense dust and sometimes you are literally weaving between cars to reach the aid station. 

I arrived at Winfield (mile 50) after 12:51:36 of running time.  I picked up Bill to pace me back to Twin Lakes.  It was time to let it rip and go for broke.  No more holding back and no more being conservative.  It seemed like sub 25 was out of reach but I had it in the back of my mind.  I would need to run negative splits and since this course isn't any easier going back that might be crazy but maybe?  We took off running really well down the Winfield road weaving in and out of traffic.  As we made the turn onto the trail back up Hope Pass I told Bill to look up at the bald spot.  I said, "Were going there".  His response, "Crap"!  I told him to settle in and let's focus.  It was hard to stay in a power groove because the narrow trail has 2 way traffic. I wasn't at all frustrated but instead simply heavy hearted.  These folks coming down were chasing the cut off clock and many were working so hard.  It was easy for me to pull over and give them the right of way. As we continued a glimpse of the mountain would appear and we could see tiny dots above.  Bill was cracking me up!  Every time he would get a view of where we were going he would blurt out some phrase of doom and the occasional bad word.  It had me laughing so hard I told him to stop!  I couldn't powerhike up this thing if I can't breathe!  We did well but not great with time.  At the top I got a bee in my butt and just took off down Hope Pass. The trail was great running and the grade was perfect for just blazing downhill.  I was in the "let it rip" mode so there was no more saving my quads.  I ran so hard and fast down this I dropped Bill and passed at least 12 people.  I felt really good coming in to mile 60.
Back at Twin Lakes I changed my shoes.  This was only the second time in all 25 100's I have changed shoes.  The water and grit on the second wade fest was just not comfortable.  I took the time to make the change and we were off.  I was ready to sew this thing up.  Sub 25 was still a bit of a stretch but I wasn't giving up yet.  Micheal and I ran well with a goal of getting to the next aid station before needing a light.  It was tight and I pulled out my flashlight just before we arrived.  I was suddenly hungry!  This aid station was water only but the folks manning it has some almonds and kindly shared some with me.  I was fairly self propelled here.  I didn't need much coaxing to move and I was still watching my Garmin.  The darkness came and this is my favorite time in a 100.  There is something about being out there in the deep woods at night, just a light and trail.  The next aid station seemed to never come.  We laughed at how time seems to just go and you feel as if you are standing still.  All the while giving it all you've got.
I felt low on salt.  Like I needed some broth.  I was craving real food and my stomach was growling.  At the next aid station I got a strong cup of broth that had so much salt my tongue got that weird feeling like it was swelling.  I cracked up.  Can I do anything in moderation?  We left making our way to mile 73 where we would see Bill.  While running this section I announced to Micheal that sub 25 was just not going to happen.  There just wasn't enough time.  I was okay with this.  I thought I could still get sub 26. Micheal informed me that my goal was Leadwoman  and not the big buckle.  Even though I knew this I was a bit deflated.  The relentless groove was gone as I pondered what seemed like reality.  Bill was ready and waiting at mile 73 where I took only a small handheld to do the 5 miles of pavement to Fish Hatchery. 
The weather gods had shined on me once again at Leadville.  Now in the wee hours of the night I have only had a bit of rain and that was coming up the back side of Hope Pass with Bill.  Other than that I have been in a tank top and shorts all day.  They sky was filled with stars so no rain in sight.  The air was comfortably cold and I was now in a short sleeve shirt.  At Fish Hatchery I retrieved my pack with everything I would need to get up and over Sugarloaf Mountain.  Here I was again at the base of this false summit festival.  I gave Micheal my rundown.  Let's get up this thing with intention, run hard down then heads down on the rocky horrible Colorado Trail.  I was ready to be done, felt good all around and had accepted the fact that my big buckle was history.  My new attitude helped get me up Sugarloaf pretty fast.  Seems this heads down, get it done attitude served me well on all the events. Coming down the backside was just not fun.  I had a hard time finding my groove on the rocky terrain.  I was frustrated because I wanted to run down fast.  I am not sure why I couldn't. In what seemed like forever we finally made the turn onto Haggerman road and it was awesome to have legs left.  We booked it down the gravel road and made the turn onto the Colorado trail section.  I don't like this boulder filled 1.8 miles.  It's was heads down move with serious purpose.  I simply wanted off this trail before I had even arrived.  We busted tail on this and Micheal commented on how fast we ran it. 

My Garmin had died a long time ago and I didn't even know what time it was.  Arriving at Mayqueen with only 13.5 miles to go I asked Bill what time it was.  He gathered my stuff and as I was leaving he found his watch as yelled, " A little after 1:15".  My brain quickly did the math.  I yelled at Micheal, "Crap, I have a shot at this".  He looked at me a bit skeptical and reminded me how the rolling technical terrain around the lake is harder at mile 87.  Still I had 3:45 minutes to cover 13.5 miles.  This seems so doable but it takes me 3 hours to do this section from the start and the first 4 miles is downhill which means it's uphill now.  I knew it would be hard but I wasn't giving up without a serious fight. I could do this and with a new found goal and a body I worked like dog.  I pushed myself hard running almost everything albeit slow at times.  I am not sure Micheal thought this was possible but he was encouraging.  I kept asking, "What time is it"?  He would respond and I would push harder.  Still fueling like crazy I had my eye on that big buckle.  I drew energy knowing it was reachable.  We finally emerged from the lake trail and with only 5 miles to go I knew this is where I could lose it.  The mild uphill grade from here the finish is just mean.  It's gravel road but climbs steadily into the finish.  At this point my brain couldn't do math well and I was just certain I would blow it. 
Making that turn onto the pavement and seeing the finish line 8 blocks away was intense. I still kept asking, "What time is it"?  I was suddenly overwhelmed with what had transpired and Micheal pushed me hard all way across the red carpet.  I finished in 24:41.  19 minutes to spare and a negative split! I was so emotionally destroyed.  I bawled like a baby in a strangers arms as she handed me flowers.  A gift for finishing.  I just could not stop crying. At this moment my whole 2011 dream had come true. All my fears, all my goals, all my hard work and my relentless pursuit couldn't have ended any better.  I got the big buckle for the run just 6 days after the 100M MTB race. I was thrilled! The camera crews immediately wanted an interview.  I guess what's better filming than having a grown woman bawl her eyes out in happiness? They asked me all the right questions like, "Tell us about your support systems?, How does it feel to be a Leadwoman?, What was your biggest challenge?.  All this just exacerbated my emotional state so I proceeded to bawl the whole interview. I sure hope they edit that out.   
This was an experience of a lifetime!  No doubt about that. I am so glad I took this challenge on. I met some amazing people, got to engulf a whole new sport and achieved something I have been thinking about since 2007 when I saw that burrow race in the streets of Leadville Co.  Leadville is truly a magical place.  The question for me is, will I do this again in 2012?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am a Leadwoman! Part 1

This is a very late entry but my computer got sick and just got out of the hospital! She has a whole new hard drive. :)

I finished the Leadwoman events on Aug 21st. It may have been my biggest athletic accomplishment ever. Even morphing the Grand Slam of Ultra Running. Being able to pull off that mountain bike race under 12 hours given where I started was a huge success. I am really excited to have my name forever etched on that board. For some reason lots of people seem to think the MTB race isn't that hard or not as hard as the run. I am not in agreement. Now of course if you are purely a cyclist and don't run it would be easier but if your trying to do both I say the MTB is harder. Being on a complete adrenaline high, with a splash of fear and no time to coast makes for an intense 12 hours in the mountain's. I felt like I was on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride all day! The final 3 events of Leadwoman culminate in 7 days. The 100M MTB race on Sat. then the 10K on Sun. After 5 days of rest you get to run the 100M footrace. Here's my account of that action packed week.

Leadville 100M MTB Race: With 1900 riders (201 woman) the start was my biggest worry. When I checked in on Thursday I noticed my number was in the 300's. The big news this year was seeding the start. With so many riders lining the streets of Leadville the start has been an issue. Fast riders mixed with slow riders and no organization made that first 10 miles tough and somewhat dangerous as riders jockeyed for position.

This year they seeded the field. Pro's up front and if you finished the race before you were seeded in that time block. New riders were in the back, period. For me being in back made me super concerned about making the first 4 hour cutoff. I stressed about that first 40 miles for months. I rode it so much I knew exactly what I needed to do. I needed to ride like I was dying then deal with my aftermath for the remainder of the race where I knew my years of endurance experience would pay. When I got a low number then saw Todd Janssen's low number I was pumped. They seeded all the Leadman competitors up front. This was such a bonus! However, that meant a fast and furious start for me. I would need to hang with the big boys and girls and not crash.

The gun went off and I swear we were shot out like a rocket! Down the boulevard we went and I
was in a tunnel of riders. Their intense speed and force was pure drafting for me. I took the advice of veterans, "Pay attention to your 10 foot radius and nothing else". I tried to stay close to Todd who knew the ropes and most likely would take sympathy on me if I crashed bad. That lasted for about 3 miles then he was gone fast! As we rode the pavement making our way to the dirt I saw speeds of near 40 MPH! On a mountain bike that's hauling. I barely pedaled as my small stature created a draft tunnel like I have never experienced. When we hit the dirt the dust was unbelievable. I could see only about 10 feet in front of me. My mouth was immediately gritty and I knew my lungs were being filled with dirt. The drafting came to a screeching halt but the impact of mass amounts of people was intense. Now only 6 miles into this race the fast riders seeded in the back were making moves. I held my ground, elbows out with a firm and intense pedal stroke. I was trying disparately to get to the St. Kevins climb without sliding out or getting bumped out. This was hard. I was getting jostled a bit. Reaching the base of the climb watching all the riders funnel onto a 2 line narrow road was something out of a wildebeest migration movie. My strategy was stay to the right all the way up. I felt this was the best line. My biggest plan was to be strong! Not only physically strong but mentally strong. Not allow anyone to take my line and to not be forced off. If you are forced off your bike here your not getting back on for a long time. The funnel quickly turned to chaos. Some riders didn't gear down fast enough and couldn't ride causing a chain reaction of dismounts. Words flew as fast riders frustrations flared. I got behind a big guy and stayed within 6 inches of his tire. Barely looking up or around at other drama. Just catching it in my peripherals. Signals would make their way down the line, "slowing". Each person would repeat warning riders behind them. I got yelled at when I slammed my brakes. He says, "&%$%$ don't do that". My response, "If you are going to yell at someone you need to start at the front of the line". My braking was a save. A close call. At this point, on this climb, on this narrow 2 line track everything is a chain reaction. I was ready to be yelled at. I was mentally prepared so therefore all the drama rolled off me. It was way to early and congested for anyone to get all uppity. My work level was fairly intense on this climb because I needed to stay in it with this group which was fast. I made it all the way up Kevin's on my bike! Thanks to this seeding. My friends in the back who are very good riders were forced off due to the immense congestion and the chain reaction of one dismount. It's too steep to remount in most places.

Once at the top it was a fast and furious descent. For me, it was again a "stand your ground" type of ride. More riders from the rear were catching up and they were trying to get in position. I found myself forced to go much faster than I would have imagined. This was an incredible experience. One my friends once told me if you want to be a good MTBer you need to ride with faster people. They are right!

I made it to the first aid station in 55 minutes! Incredibly fast for me. During training, while riding for time and working really hard I got there in 1:10. I was pretty happy when I saw that. Now heading to Sugarloaf mountain and down powerline the riders were just starting to spread out. The paved decent of Kevin's was fast! Again I found myself in a drafting tunnel. That's such a weird feeling for me. I knew I needed to institute the same strategy getting up Sugarloaf. The final 3 miles to the summit is rocky and steep. I got behind a good rider. A very large man (a Navy Seal) and followed his lead. This is how I kept my line. I didn't allow enough room for anyone to cut in and believe me they wanted to. If you want to pass on this rocky steep section you need to have enough power to muscle over very rocky loose terrain. Then you need to get back in the line. I had guys trying to come around but I wasn't going to give up my position because that would mean a possible topple of dismount for me. If they wanted around me they needed to go around my steed (the Navy Seal) too. In order to do that they would have to muscle their bike over terrain for a much longer period of time and not many had the extra cardio capacity at this pace. My steed was a good leader too. He maneuvered around obstacles well. He wasn't super fast but steady and strong and deliberate. It was so perfect and he had no idea I tailing him. We got up the climb before I knew it. Now to infamous Powerline descent. LMTBer's talk about this descent a lot. It's steep, rocky, and slick but the biggest obstacle is the deep ruts. There is one good line down Powerline. Any other good line is shut down within a few yards with a deep rut. Some can be saved by correcting quickly but it's a risk. You can crash and it will be bad or worse you can taco a wheel then your done. The standard saying is, "You won't win your race by riding Powerline fast but you can loose your race or possibly your life". Last year a man almost died on Powerline. I got the pleasure of meeting him, riding with him and becoming friends with him. He was back after a year of serious rehabilitation. With all that said, riders seemed to have a respect for this descent and kept watch on other riders. With the exception of your occasional ass. As I made my way down I again chose the left line and planned to stay in no matter what! I had riders pass and they were incredibly patient. They would ask to pass, then wait for good time and I would slow giving them the line in front of me. About half way down in a nice train of riders we encounter our first ass. He comes flying down almost taking out a rider. The guys in front of me yells, "Hey, careful someone almost died on this last year, slow down". He rebuts, "FU, I don't need to ride to your sucky level"! Ok then! Karma.... bad. On the powerline descent there are 2 hills. Your flying down and you come to dip then have a steep but short climb.You need to be ready. Many weren't. They didn't know a hill was coming and weren't geared down enough to make it forcing them off their bikes. I knew it was coming and began preparing when I looked up and saw a sea of dismounted riders. I knew I would be off my bike too because I would reach the pack before they would be out of the way. No skin of my back.
I just geared down to start climbing slowly hoping I might be able to stay on. The guy behind me sighs and yells, "Pedal, your never going to get up this in granny gear, they let too many yahoo's in this race". I say, "That means you!, where do
you think we are going to go?, look up". He's pissed and I run up the hill with my bike, remount and ride. He tries to get around me as a monitor on the course is standing in the middle yelling, "stay left"! I was on the left because I knew I needed to be. He ignores the monitor, takes the right lane that quickly ends up in a 3 foot rut. He tries to save it, yelling all sorts of stuff as his rear wheel slides into the ditch. See ya!

Now 23 miles into the ride and I feel really good. I was looking forward to this moment. The start, St. Kevin's, Sugarloaf Mtn and Powerline descent are all history. I am still in one piece, my bike still works, I only got yelled at 3 times and I am way ahead of schedule. 17 miles to the first cutoff and at this point I already know I got this. Bill wrote, "Lead on my left calf and Woman on my right calf". I got a lot of atta girls because of that. I also think it gave me a bit of relief from getting trampled. There seems to be this idea among the MTBers that running 100 miles is nearly impossible. They really respect the fact that anyone can possibly do that. I on the other hand feel the same about them. The 100M run was going to be my day of celebration! Today it was intense focus. I heard this said many time, "Leadville 100MTB isn't technical". Next time I hear that they might get slapped! It's not as technical as single track rocky terrain but I feel the speed at which you need to ride this course to make the cuts changes everything. In addition, the number of riders makes the race course crazy. It makes this race technical. There's no time to rest and you need to be one your game the whole time pushing. In the 100M run I get to walk, I get to daydream and I don't have to worry about crashing to my death or anything like that. Of course this is all from my point of view :).

The speed zone isn't exactly what I would call a speed zone. The mild grade takes it's toll. I pushed and pushed here. I felt amazing and on occasion got a bit too comfortable. Like when I pulled my water bottle out started drinking right before a sharp, rocky descent. It came quick, as does everything at 15 MPH and I wasn't ready. I needed both hands to keep my bike steady over the rocks and mild ruts. My rear shocks were locked out and I couldn't get the bottle back in my shirt. I almost lost it but corrected. My bottle dangling in my teeth. I came to the bottom, gave myself the wake up slap and gathered my composure. You need to be 2 steps ahead of what's coming. There is no "on the fly" for me. I am not that experienced. All changes and modifications need to be pre-planned. Things like fueling, gear changes, shock adjustments and any big moves like passing or changing lanes all need to be planned.

I blew through the 40 mile cutoff mark in 3:10 and onto my crew over the hill before the big climb to Columbine mine (the high point at 12,500). My bike needed help. The dust had accumulated big time on my chain and it was grinding bad. I couldn't stand to hear it. It made me feel like the chain was going to snap at any minute. One heavy gear change or poor pedal crank and I swore it was going to snap. At my crew point they cleaned my chain and re-lubed running through all my gearing. This took a few minutes but was well worth it. I knew I would need my bike in full working order up and down Columbine. I on the other hand felt amazing. My body felt completely fresh and mentally I was over the top excited. The stress of not making the 4 hour cutoff was long gone and I had room to spare. While they lubed my bike I took a wet rag and wiped off my face. I was blown away by how much dirt I had on me. My body was also covered. It was time to go. I decided to settle in for the long ascent up Columbine. The leaders were already coming down and at speeds that I can't even comprehend. This 5 mile climb starts steady, get steeper and rockier as you go. It was imperative that riders honored the right and left side traffic. Just like a car.
If you swerved over into the other lane you were going to get hurt. The people descending were riding more towards the middle of the road in order to make the turns without skidding out. That meant the uphill traffic needed to keep a tight line going up. I didn't expect this. I just assumed we would be way more spread out but with 1900 riders this was spread out. There was some passing ability here but once you got up 3 miles it was too tight. When we arrived above treeline I could see miles of single track riders. It was quite a sight. Once I saw that I knew I would be forced off much earlier than I expected. I got a bit stressed about time. It gets very steep and everyone was walking their bike up. I got behind a tandem. Again, signals were given, "slowing", "dismount". This was super helpful. Walking your bike is a grind. It's really slow and just plain hard. The shoes have such a drop heel and pushing a bike is awkward. Anytime you can ride it's better. Gettting started on a hill is a skill and I am actually pretty good at it. However, there were a couple of times on Columbine when I had problems. A rider behind me gave me a shove to help me get going. I helped another. It was a very nice change from our Kevin's ascent. Folks were getting tired and many having issues with the altitude. There were lots of collapsed riders with painful looks of defeat on their faces and mostly just spent. It was interesting to see this. It was like you could see inside their minds and feel their disappointment. It was as if they knew it was over already. I wondered why? I now know. It was over for them. There simply is not enough time to have a moment like that in this race. The clock is ticking and you still have 50 miles to ride. You have to keep moving! Finally at the summit of Columbine. What a beautiful sight. The view is amazing and the weather was awesome! No rain, no clouds and the breeze was mild.

The decent down Columbine made the Poweline descent feel like a tea party. I was shocked at how scary and out of sorts this descent was for me. At the top riders are still coming up and it's narrow! There are sections I dismounted and walked down at training camp but I couldn't do that today. Riders were on my butt so fast I felt like road kill about to be eaten. They seemed slightly out of control and I had no option but to ride down. With such tight quarters at times I felt like my handbar was going to clip a rider coming up. Some riders who were walking up would occasionally pull out to pass just to be yelled at quickly to get out of the way. Riders who wanted around me weren't patient but I held my ground on the steep 1.5 miles. When I got down to the split I pulled off to take a moment. I was really shook up and needed a chance to get some water and gain composure. The worst of it was over but I knew the remaining descent was going to be fast and slick. I also knew I needed to ride just outside my comfort zone so I didn't cause any bad accidents. I was riding down this at about 25MPH which for me seems fast but everyone I passed going up rode by me like I was standing still. My arms ached and my hands were on the verge of cramping from griping and braking. My brakes were screaming and I knew they were hot. Seeing my crew at the base of Columbine was the best! I was shaking all over though. Standing on your bike for that long is work too but mostly I was emotionally spent. More chain lubing and I am off.

The final chapter of this race. 40 miles to the finish and 2 climbs left. I leave in high spirits but began fueling like crazy. Coming downhill makes fueling hard for me. I need both hands on the steering and don't feel comfortable enough to take one off to get fuel. Riding through the Twin Lakes aid station is like being a rockstar. The whole area is filled with spectators and they are on fire, cheering and yelling your number. Since there are not many woman I felt like I got the royal, you are amazing, oh my gosh look at her treatment. When you depart Twin Lakes you are filled up! You feel like you can do anything! With that jolt of energy I rode back through the speed zone on cloud nine. My energy level was high. I made my way up the hill and back onto the dirt followed by 3 woman all wearing the same kits with the same bike. They had a leader too. A guy who was pacing them. They must have been a racing team. They gunned for me and I played along. For a brief moment I felt like a real MTBer. I was now being chased! I let them go and tucked in. I rode with them looking back at me over and over. This was sort of intense and fun. I was in no way intending to get caught up in this but I couldn't help myself. I felt really good and had plenty to give so overtook the group and when we hit the single track climb where I knew I could drop them. Relatively speaking I found myself to be a better technical rider than the ones around me. I think it's because I have never been on a road bike and many of the LMTBers are road cyclist. The stuff I have learned on is very rocky, narrow and muddy.
When we hit the single track I had fun. I rode up this hard with the pack on my tail. Their lead guy pulled in front but I pushed him. When we reached the top he looked back to find his girls a quarter mile behind. He pulled over, said, "nice riding" and waited for them. That was quite a boost for me. At that very moment I felt like I belonged in this race.

Coming back into Pipeline (mile 73) I was anxious to see Brian and Alex. My pack would be waiting. Filled with everything I might need for the Sugarloaf climb. This was going to be an icky climb. I knew there would be lots of hike a bike time, it was super steep and hot. My mental plan was to kick back, keep my head down and grind it out. I would ride what I could. I envisioned entering a work load that would leave me breathless as I hiked my bike up. I rode into pipeline and no crew. I look around, no crew. I continue onto the road where other crews were staged thinking maybe they are there, no crew. I stop and gather myself. I know I have 2.5 hours before I see Bill or the next feed zone. I know I have to get up and over Sugarloaf. I have two empty 10 oz bottles and no gels! That's not gonna do. I stop and ask if anyone has water they can spare. Immediately 2 other crews sweep me up, fill my bottles, lube my chain, bring over a ton of gels and feed me. They were so sweet and incredibly generous. They wanted to sponge off my face and rub my shoulders. I left knowing I still could not make it on 20 oz of water. I also knew there would be tons of spectators at the base of Sugarloaf. I drank one whole bottle and a bit of the other while riding the 5 miles to the base. Just before I plunged into the Sugarloaf base I stopped again and spectators took care of me. They filled up my bottles and off I went. The climb was exactly what I expected. It felt steep, hot and endless. I plugged away with everyone else. Now chasing the clock. My mind wondered to the impossible. I reigned it in. I had plenty of time but at that moment I felt worried. Spectators lined the mountain and offered words of encouragement and the occasional beverage. Riders were splayed out on the sides, sweating and breathing hard. The altitude had taken hold of many. Their dust filled lungs were burning and the sun was pretty intense. When I started to walk my bike the sweat just poured. The natural breeze was gone and I was left with buckets of water running down my face, back and legs. Sugarloaf is brutal. It has 7 false summits. I knew this so I let it go, many couldn't. It was frustrating and slow. Finally reaching the top after 1:15 of slogging my bike up I found some shade. Weaving in and out of the shade while riding the final bit of climb was glorious. Then came the descent. That rocky loose 3 miles we climbed up is now the downhill. I must have said, "I love you" to my bike 30 times as it rattled and rolled over things. I was pleading for it to hold up. Less than 20 miles to go and all I wanted was no mechanical issues or flats. I was nice to my bike on this descent. Trying to take the big rocks and drops slow and steady. I was also getting mushy. My limbs were fatiguing and I at times I felt sort of unstable and less able to adapt quickly to terrain.

Finally onto Haggerman Pass. A well maintained gravel road. It felt like pavement compared to the others. I was hauling feeling so inspired and free. It was almost over and I overwhelmed with happiness as I made the turn onto the paved road for the final big climb. Just as I turned onto the road I see Bill. He wasn't supposed to be here. Stress filled his face. I look at him puzzled. He screams, "Are you okay"? I slow and come to a stop. Apparently the website was no help, I missed Alex and Brian at Pipeline and for he knew I was lying in a ditch taking my last breaths. He was completely freaked out. All the while I was on a such a high I forgot I hadn't seen any of my crew since mile 60. He gave me a small bottle of water and I left for the final Feed Zone at Carter Summit (mile 87). The climb to Carter Summit is on pavement. It's hot and long. Not too steep but enough to make you want to cry at this point. At the base I came upon the Lifetime Fitness crew who were just there to cheer on riders. I saw some familiar faces and got lots of "atta girls" plus a shove up the hill which gave me a bit of help. Somewhere I found my fourth gear and rode up to Carter Summit averaging 7.1 MPH! I passed at least 22 people. My tattooed calves gave me so much support, "Go Leadwoman". With every word of encouragement my pedal stroke grew stronger. Arriving at the final Feed Zone knowing I have more than enough time to make this was most likely one of the most memorable moments of this series. The vision of Bill and Johanas and their words, "see you at the finish" could be replayed over and over and I wouldn't grow tired of it. With just a bit of climbing left, a huge downhill and the final push on the boulevard the LMTB 100 was coming to close. During training it would take me about 1:30-1:40 to do these final miles. I had 2+ hours left. I did this in 55 minutes! That famous Leadville saying from Ken, "Your better than you think you are and can do more than you think you can" couldn't be more true!

I had tons of energy. Pure adrenaline must have been pursing through my body. I used every bit of it. As riders were forced to dismount on the final grunt climbs I could power out of the saddle and grind it out. Coming to the final descent of the race I kept telling myself to not get cocky and crash. Keep it in control and pay attention. Just as I finished my internal lecture a guy comes flying down, yells, "coming on your left". He forces me off course and I brake coming to a screeching halt about 2 feet from a tree! The guy behind him asks if I am okay, rides off and yells at the guy for being reckless. I wasn't too pissed but felt it would be appropriate for me to try to dust him up the boulevard. He was way gone on the descent and out of my sights. Coming off the final descent and making my way to the boulevard and only 5 miles to go. I take the turn onto the boulevard and settle in for the final 4 miles of gravel road. This mild uphill grade is horrible in the 100M run and not much fun in the bike either. Riders were spent. Spinning with very little left to give. I was able to ride out of saddle. Mashing like a crazy person. I had plenty in the tank and couldn't wait to ride that red carpet. I caught Mr. Tree Pusher and passed him like he was standing still. It felt good. I don't know why but it just did. If I was 10 I would have stuck my tongue out at him but I am 44 and have a bit of maturity. However at that moment I wasn't demonstrating much. :)

Crossing the finish line in 11:13, fully in tact, bike still working, no crashes and no flats was incredible. What's better is I had a thrilling day! From the minute the gun went off all the way to finish was just an indescribable experience. I really had to, "man up" emotionally. Physically I felt confident but I am no stranger to mental/physical connection. This is a boys sport. The numbers prove that. There is really no room for sissy's and I can be a real, "girl" complete with pink bows in my hair! I had plenty of pink flowing but I held my own here. Not only that but I felt confident and didn't once feel like I didn't deserve to be there.

Event #3 was now in the books. Tomorrow would be the 10K then 5 days to prepare for the 100M footrace. Right after the finishing I was already thinking about recovery. Two 10lbs bags of ice were waiting for me. I ate, took an ice bath, then ate some more. The next morning were awards and it was longest awards ceremony ever! With so many riders and individually calling them up it seemed to last forever. It got incredibly hot inside the gym. A nice warm up for the 10K! I planned on running easy at the 10K. I had no reason to push myself and just wanted to recover from the MTB race. I ended up running a few Leadman competitors and we chatted the whole time. It actually felt pretty good to run. It took about 3 miles before my legs figured out there is not saddle to sit on. :) I ran the 10K in 58 minutes. I actually felt this was a fast time for the course! I was the first Leadwoman to cross the line :). Back home for another ice bath and begin planning the 100M footrace.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's a wrap!

It's all done. No more training! It's been a long journey of discovery and I am pretty excited to see how it unfolds. From not knowing how to clip my feet into a bike in October to now jumping it over obstacles has been an experience. A wild ride to say the least. It's hard for me to even express how much things have changed. How much I have learned about mountain biking and about myself. Trying to balance ultra running the endurance mountain biking has been interesting. Feeling lack luster on most of my footraces and watching my speed (the little I have) suffer. There have been changes everywhere. From my fitness, to my body and most of all my confidence. I joke about being sore somewhere for almost 11 months as my body adapts to the aggressive nature of MTBing to the cathartic motion of trail running. This might have been the biggest test of perseverance I can remember. Staying present and not giving up on the bike when I know I can go back to ultra running, something comfortable. You absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks!

At times this has been incredible frustrating but at other times incredibly rewarding. Letting go of all my paradigms about my athleticism and opening myself to failure (over and over). Not trying to prove I belong because I can run 100 miles but banking on that to get me through has made me better. It's given me even more appreciation for the strength ultra running has given me. The mental strength so stay in it not matter what. This has been very humbling and I love those kinds of experiences because they remind me there's always more. The other night after watching the 2009 MTB race Alex said, "Mom I and really nervous for you". I immediately thought he was worried about me getting hurt so I assured him I would be careful. He said,"No, I am worried you're not going to make it and we will all be a mess, we will all be bawling our eyes out".

With only a bit over a week before I line up with 1800 other MTBers to complete the toughest 100M MTB's around I am full of emotions. I will be fighting cutoffs all day and it's been along time since that has happened. Worrying that all the hard work, investment of time and money could be done in 4 short hours is a real possibility. I have sat for many hours with this. From the time the gun goes off I will be fighting for my line on the trail and working near threshold on the climbs. Then I must descend with speed and determination. I will need to ride down the infamous powerline (sugarloaf as we, runners, know it) at least 12 miles per hour. Then I need to rush through the speed zone, skipping the pipeline aid stop and reach mile 40 in 4 hours. I seriously can't afford one bad crash or any mechanicals. Once I reach that hurdle I have 3 more cutoffs to fight. With already 5,000 on my wheels I have another 8,000 to go in 60 miles. That includes at least 2 forced dis-mounts. The first at the top of Columbine (the high point) and the trudge back up the face of Powerline. I am banking on my experience dealing with pain and enduring to get me through the back half.

There is no getting around the facts. I will be on edge for 12 solid hours. Trusting my bike to ride over and down things at speeds I am not comfortable with but need to embrace. I have decided to plunge in this with a positive but aggressive attitude. I can't start this race with a "I might not make it" attitude. I can not be hesitant and I can not be weak mentally. Instead I have decided to give it everything I've got until they pull me off. To take each section as it's own small XC race. I have given this endeavor everything I could. I have left nothing on the table so I have no regrets. I am actually excited to experience it. There is a reason only 6 plaques on the board of over 100 are woman. Becoming a Leadwoman is hard. Riding this course in 12 hours is damb hard and makes the DNF sheets for a 100M footrace look short. Whatever this outcome I love MTBing...Watch this!

The next day I get to run or should I say get through the 10K. After that I have 5 days to pull myself together and run the 100M footrace. I am actually looking forward to that day. I know it won't be my best Leadville performance but it will be a great day to get lost in all that has happened. I want to spend the day reliving and daydreaming about all that has gone into this goal. I have gotten a year of amazement and I want to give it the emotional time it deserves. To cement it in my memory. I want to dream and think about what's next. I am also looking forward to that familiar feeling of running 100M in the mountains. If I can get that all done my name will be added to the board of Leadmand and Leadwoman and that will be so awesome!

It's been another year of pure joy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Leadwoman Event #1 and LMTB Training Camp!

Leadwoman events started out perfect with the Leadville Marathon. It's the first event of the series and it went off without a hitch. I'd given this race absolutely no attention. I didn't even

look at the information until Thursday. One glance at the profile and time cutoff I felt nervous. Please! How can a marathon put me in that frame of mind, nervous and self doubting. Seems fairly ridiculous now but I suppose my demeanor was as result of feeling anxious because it's all starting. The hard work is basically done and now I need to execute. I am finding this to be a weakness. I love the prep. The dreamy part of planning an outcome. Preparing your body for the event is always my favorite part. Watching and feeling the changes all the hard work brings. The transition from preparation to execution is something that does not come easy. It feels like a lost space. A space I am not sure how to manage with confidence. Once it all gets going I seem to find my mojo. That is a good feeling. I wonder if my pre-event start mood is a conservative, you never know what's going to happen default. Never be too confident. I am not sure this is a good quality.

We arrived in Leadville mid day on Friday the day before the marathon. On the drive I tried endlessly to convince Bill to drop down to the half. I was really worried about how the altitude would treat him. Coming right from Europe and an extremely stressful work trip had me concerned for him. He pretty much ignored me. When we got to Leadville and he saw the finishers medal his eyes lit up and there's was no negotiation. He was doing the marathon. It's a cool trinket.

The day was beautiful, the terrain rugged and the scenery amazing. I took it really easy and any time I felt my lungs stress or a mild dizziness I pulled back. Once I made it to the turn which was the high point at 13,300 feet I felt great. I picked up the pace a bit. I finished in 6:02 which thrilled me. I was 3rd 40+ year old and 3rd Leadwoman. Not bad given the effort. This finish left me gitty and more excited for the other events. The altitude was there but not debilitating. My body was fine and I had no aftermath. Not even sore quads! Bill was impressive. When I saw him heading up to Mosquito Pass he looked really good and was feeling awesome. I am always impressed with my amazing husband. He can do pretty much anything and does it with the up most strength. This crosses all parts of his life. He felt really good too and with his non-existent training I was blown away. One event down!

LMTB Training Camp: Bill forwarded me an email he received from the Leadville Series Website. It was about a training camp for the Leadville 100M MTB Race. He asked why I wasn't doing this? I didn't even know about it. While we were hanging out after the Marathon we drove

both the 50M and 100M MTB courses. I got increasingly freaked out. The climbs were grueling and even my Rover didn't like inching up the rocky hillsides climbing St. Kevins and the top of Columbine! That night had some sort of nightmare about the MTB ride. Bill woke me up. I was sweating and ranting about altitude. That pretty much cemented my need to go to the training camp. Bill insisted. I am not sure if he was trying to get rid of me J. After a couple of days in Leadville we all headed to Beavercreek where Bill had a huge work event. The camp was to take place Friday and Saturday. Co-workers of Bill's whose family was also in Beavercreek offered to take Alex zip lining and MTBing while I was at the camp. With him taken care of I called the camp director and asked if I could get a last minute spot. I headed back to Leadville for what would be the most incredible MTBing experience ever.

The camp was full of LMTB 100 veterans willing to share their wealth of information. All the guides had over 7 finishes with a few going for number 15! These folks know how to finish this race. We were broken into groups based on our predicted finish time. The cutoff is 12 hours. I chose the 11-11:30 group. I actually think I will be very close to 12 but wanted to give myself some room and be pushed.

Day 1: We rode 60 miles, the first and final 30 of the race. This takes us up and over St. Kevins and up and over Sugarloaf and down into the Pipeline aid station. We then retraced our steps. That meant we needed to ascend the legendary Sugarloaf climb. This did not disappoint and neither did its descent. I followed our guide down Sugarloaf and asked him to give me all the advice he felt I needed. This was awesome and removed almost all my anxiety. I heard this quote many times on day 1. "You will not finish your race because your descended Sugarloaf fast but you could very well lose your race on that descent". After I did it I could completely see the point. This is a rugged, rutted, steep, slick descent with almost only 1 line down. If you taco a tire or take a bad fall if could be over. The climb back up Sugarloaf was hard and it will be even harder after 80 miles on your legs. Some of it is ridable but there is a good section of hike-a-bike. Hiking your bike up a steep rocky climb is really hard! It hurts my calves and pushing the bike leaves very little use of the upper body to help propel you up.

I crushed this day leaving my group and catching the faster groups. Mostly because the Mosquito's were so bad I didn't stop for long. Finishing day 1 was incredible. The level of athletes I was surrounded by were inspiring in all their stories and advice. Once finished I headed straight to the store for a 20 lb bag of ice to prepare myself for the next day. Bring on the ice bath. After a wonderful dinner provided by the camp and the amazing speakers I was pumped to see how my body would respond to day 2.

Day 2: We left with another police escort from the headquarters making our way back to Pipeline where we would pick up the course again. Today we do the final portion from Pipeline to Columbine and back. Columbine is the biggest longest climb on the course taking you to the highpoint at 12,200. This climb is about 5 miles and 4,000 feet. Not many breaks and the top is very rocky and steep. This will be a hike-a-bike section for me. I was anxious to see how much of it I could do before dismounting. We started fast (this seems to be a theme) and I am seeing speeds on my bike I have never rode. Upwards of 35 MPH on my MTB is not a comfortable pace for me but I don't have choice or I will get crushed. I hung in the middle of the pack and forced myself to focus with relaxation letting the bike carry me, not fight it. This is mental ache for me. A constant brain/body conflict! I was feeling good physically and actually excited to see how I preformed compared to the group. I rocked! First girl to summit columbine and was strong. Emotions bubbled up big time as I saw the summit and was still on my bike with some reserves. The leaders came rushing by and I got a ton of atta girls which meant a ton coming from those athletes. Tears began to fall and my grin was no doubt wide. I got to the top and exchanged some high fives with a couple of guys. We began the descent! The top portion was so steep and rocky I thought about dismounting. I held on to it and trusted my bike who never lets me down. My hands ached really bad and we just started coming down this 5 mile beast. I hung tough trying to reposition my hands to relieve the ache but still have control and a good grip on the brakes. This bike has become a very trusted partner and seems to always take care of me. That sentiment was shared by many MTBers when talking about their bike. It's such a huge factor. You must love your bike! I made the decent without incident. In fact, I completed the entire camp without incident. At the base I shook our my numb hands and aching arms. Heading back to pipeline is no cake walk. It's a mild up with sometimes steep but short climbs. 65 miles and another 6,500 feet of climb was done! I loaded my bike and headed back to the family with a whole new confidence I can make the cutoff. Not that it's going to be easy but it's possible! This opportunity was incredible and I am so thankful Bill pushed me to do it. It literally was life changing. Another adventure and a hugely incredible experience!

Now we are all back in Leadville I feel really good. Darin, Micheal, Drake and his dad arrive this week to do the Silver Rush events. Micheal and Drake are doing both the 50M MTB and the 50M Run. Bill is riding the 50M MTB and Darin and I will run. It’s going to be an action packed weekend and event #2 towards becoming a Leadwoman.