Tuesday, June 19, 2012
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
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.
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.
Monday, June 4, 2012
My running volume has been low the last 3-4 weeks. Much lower than I would have liked. SD100M will happen but grabbing the sub 24 hour buckle and continuing my long streak of big buckle collecting might come to an end. If I can't get it...well, I deserve it. I stacked my year so tight with running and MTB races I can't expect to lay down great consistent training. I am not at all disappointed though. I have spent a bulk of my running years sticking to strict well thought out plans and loved it. This year I have sort of let go of that because I am having so much damn fun! I love chasing the clock and seeing how well I can do so I will come back to that. For now, I am enjoying mixing things up and trying some new events.
Even though I have sort of been laid up I haven't been idle. I've been doing what I can with regards to runs and killing myself on the MTB. Trying to do good threshold work on the bike building more power since I lack there. With the exception of one decent Gorge run I have been forced onto roads or Lief since the ankle injury. I knew I couldn't risk another good twist and would gain very little pushing more limits. I have done some good solid efforts at the track. Trying to do my best as I coughed up crap and felt the massive tug in my system. Any of my other longer runs in this last bit were done on Lief, progression style. Trying to make the most of it. One of the runs was so horrible it really zapped my confidence. I just had to let things slide. I am going to try to and draw on the great Gorge training I did before Mac Forest. That will need to be my foundation for SD100M
On the MTB front I have done some awesome rides. Lots of relentless hill climbing chasing my rabbit friend Kristin. She is a great training partner! That girl can ride a MTB. She took 2nd overall in Cat 2 at Sister's Stampede in her first MTB race, first in her age group. Bill, Alex, Ryan and I ventured to Sisters for the Stampede too. Yes, Bill is back on the bike and this was his first ride. He decided to take the short course not knowing how his shoulder would hold up. It's still very sore and lacks a lot of strength and mobility. We all tore it up and had a blast! I got a 32 min. PR over last year and I was thrilled. Moving up in the pack. They have a 45+ div for men but not for woman. If they had I would have done very well!