Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Leadville 100 Mtn Bike and 10K Run

Caitlyn and Pat took me to the start of the 100 mile mtn bike race early Sat morning.  It was a balmy 35 degrees.  I lined up in the "purple" corral which turned out to be a decent place to start.  I passed quite a few people on the 4 mile paved descent and I was able to climb St. Kevin's and Sugarloaf without stopping.

The weather was perfect with clear blue skies which was a welcome relief from all the rain this past week.  I rode a steady effort up Sugarloaf and then proceeded to pass a ton of riders going down Powerline.  Of course the slower people take the good line so that left a less desirable line for me to take but Buzz did great and I never suffered a flat or a mechanical all day.  He was an absolute champ.

I continued a steady effort and by 3:35 I was cruising into Twin Lakes where my entire family greeted me.  Seeing everyone was the best part of the day.  I took off my vest and arm warmers, got new bottles, downed a small bottle of Gatorade, got a little more food and I was off to start the long slog up Columbine.

Best crew in the world!
This is the part I was dreading.  I am a fast descender.  I can drop like a rock.  Unfortunately, I climb like one too!  I had also started to get leg cramps back at mile 30 and I was really worried they would get so bad that I wouldn't be able to finish.  Due to the cramps I had to dial back my effort and "soft pedal" a bit on all the climbs.  I had done this climb during training so I knew what to expect and I just put my head down and proceeded to grind it out for the next couple of hours.  After an eternity, I finally reached the Columbine aid station in 6:10.  This is 10 minutes slower than when I did the race back in 2002 and I finished in 11:50 that year.  I knew my sub-12 hour finish was in jeopardy.

The thought crossed my mind that if I didn't finish in under 12 hours I wouldn't be an official finisher and therefore wouldn't have to show up next Saturday for the 100 mile run.  I also would be able to go home early and attend the first day of school with my girls.  Those weren't unappealing thoughts.  But I quickly pushed them away and got back to business.  If I didn't finish under 12 hours it wasn't going to be from lack of trying.  I owed it to my family, my coach, my friends, and myself to give it my all.  Anything else would be dishonorable.

I started my comeback with one of the fastest descents of Columbine by a female at this year's race according to Strava.  By the time I saw my family again at Twin Lakes I was in a much better frame of mind.  Once again they had me in and out of there in no time. 

Back in 2002 it was the next 40 miles that really destroyed me.  I lost a lot of time.  This year I knew was going to be different.  I have a lot more endurance training under my belt, I now have a habit of starting slow and finishing strong in races.  The paved climb out of Twin Lakes now seemed short instead of lasting forever, I climbed the singletrack section well and cruised into Pipeline where I got my bottles refilled and downed a cup of coke.

There was a strong head wind between Pipeline and Fish Hatchery (surprise, surprise) but I was able to settle in with a couple of pacelines to help cut the wind and made great time to the bottom of Powerline.  That's where I saw my family one last time before the finish and it's always a huge morale boost before the last big climb of the day.  Apparently my girls were finding their own entertainment.

Yep, that's the start of the first part of the climb up Powerline
More severe cramping had me walking my bike up the steepest section (which I'd be walking anyway).  The cramps continued to come and go and I was happy to ride most of the upper section.  After a fast descent to Hagerman and on to Mayqueen I started the long paved climb to Carter Summit.  That's where the cramping returned in earnest and I found myself stopped and almost in tears.  I couldn't believe my finish was in jeopardy because of leg cramps.  I downed some more S-caps and started to soft pedal up the hill.  Finally the cramps subsided and I was able to get into a solid rhythm to the top.
Getting back on the dirt after Carter Summit was great.  I was like a horse smelling the barn.  When my legs weren't cramping they were actually still pretty strong.  I found myself climbing some of the short steep climbs that had others walking.  The descent down Kevins was fast and I just willed my bike to hold it together.  A few raindrops started to fall as I made my way to the bottom of the Boulevard.  I was able to keep a good effort up it, thankful I was on a bike and not on foot like I will be next week.  As I crested the last hill and saw my time would be under 11:40, I let out a sigh of relief, zipped up my jersey, and really enjoyed the scene of coming up 6th St.

My girls ran out to me as I approached the finish line and ran across with me.  My parents were there which meant the world to me.  Merilee hung a medal around my neck and told me I could stop now.  I was tired but not destroyed.  In the coming hours I was happy about how I was feeling.  I knew I'd be able to run the 10K the next day.

Leadville 10K

The 10K takes place the day after the 100 mile mtn bike and is the 4th event in the Leadwoman series.  I woke up feeling really good, not sore at all which surprised me.  After getting our awards for the 100 miler, we gathered at 6th and Harrison for the noon start.  I felt relaxed and knew I would take it out easy, no time limit on this one.

Fellow Leadwoman Kiki and I started out together and made our way 3 miles down the Boulevard.  After a couple miles I was tired of running and wanted to stop.  I really wasn't looking forward to coming back up this road.

We reached the turn-around in 29 minutes and Kiki decided to wait for a friend so I continued on by myself.  I was surprised when I found myself running much of the uphill and feeling better with each passing mile.  I kept my effort level low and I actually enjoyed the climb.

Just over an hour after starting I approached the finish line.  Once again, my girls were there to run across it with me.  Another event done.  One big one left, the 100 mile run on Saturday.  I'll spend this week doing a couple of short runs but mostly resting.  I'm actually feeling pretty relaxed about the run.  I know I'm going into it undertrained due to a recent injury but there's nothing I can do about that now.  The gun will go off and I'll run the best I can until I get 100 miles under my feet and cross that last finish line.

The girls asked if they could volunteer to help put out the mugs for the finishers

Approaching the finish line

Girls heading to the finish with me

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Silver Rush 50 Mtb

They say the Silver Rush 50 is just like the Leadville 100 with all the easy parts taken out.  I'd have to agree.  Another difference is the start.  I arrived shortly before 8:00 for the 9am start and casually walked my bike up near the front and laid it down.  I visited with friends and my coach then the family and I walked up Dutch Henri Hill to scope out a good line and warm up the legs a bit.

I was excited and a bit nervous before the start.  I had only pre-riden half the course so there was a big unknown about the backside of Ball Mtn.  Other sections I had either ridden in training or run on during the marathon.  I wasn't going for a fast time, I just wanted to finish before the cut-off and keep my bike in one piece.

The start is pretty amazing to watch as a spectator.  As a competitor, I only saw the few feet of earth right in front of me as I had my head down pushing my bike up to the top of the first hill.  I only had to wait a short time in the bottleneck area before I was riding.

I kept a strong, steady effort without my heart-rate going too high and none too soon I was at the top of Iowa Gulch enjoying a fast descent to Printer Boy.  I passed a ton of riders here and I wasn't even pedaling much.  1:54 to PB made me happy and the bottle hand-off with Lucho was text-book perfect.

Waiting for mom
 Getting to Stumptown was more of an effort than I wanted.  There was a lot of climbing and pushing the bike and unfortunately, my stomach was off from my electrolyte drink.  Heed just wasn't doing it for me.  I came into Stumptown dragging and it was nice to get support from Lucho.  I drank a lot of water trying to dilute the Heed in my stomach which helped.

I backed off my effort a bit on the return and settled into a steady "push the bike" effort up to Ball Mtn.  It seemed to take forever.  The descent down the other side was fun but I was definitely lacking in energy.  Then the cramping started.  I was dreading this moment.  I kept taking S-caps and the kept the cramping at bay.  On one descent I found myself behind past race director Ken Chlouber who was riding a quad.  He kept looking back as I kept gaining.  He finally pulled over and I went flying past him.  The climb back up to PB wasn't bad and I stopped a few minutes to re-group with my family and Lucho.  I was feeling better and wanted to finish strong.

Coming back into Printer Boy
 The climb up the road back to Iowa Gulch wasn't the nightmare I thought it was going to be.  The cramps stayed away and I found myself passing quite a few people.  Only 1 person passed me back on the entire last 13 miles of the course.  I rode the last 10 miles of downhill fairly aggressively and willed the bike to stay in one piece.  The last couple of short uphills almost destroyed me as that was when the inside of both quads decided to seize up dramatically.  I couldn't stop because I was afraid I'd fall over so I just kept pedaling and it was agony.  I'd get to a downhill and stand on the pedals and the cramps would go away.  I was really looking forward to the finish line.

The course took us along the top of Dutch Henri Hill and a final downhill to the finish.  There was Pat, my girls, Lucho, and my Leadman friends to greet me.  Lots of hugs and smiles as we congratulated ourselves for making it one step closer to Leadman.  Ken Chlouber was there and we laughed when I told him it was me who passed him riding his quad.

Ken and I share a laugh

Kiki and I happy to be one step closer to Leadwoman

With Andy and Lucho and my girls

My daughter Sara, future Leadwoman
 Dinner at the Golden Burro then back to camp.  Time to head home for a few weeks for some final touches on training before once again heading back to Leadville for the final 3 events: 100 mile bike, 10K run, 100 mile run.  Maybe after the 100 bike I'll start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  But right now I feel like I'm still right in the thick of things.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Next up: Silver Rush 50 Mtb

The week after the Leadville trail marathon turned out to be one of my biggest weeks of training.  And funnest.  For the first time in 7 months I had the freedom to think only of myself.  No husband, no kids, no job.  Don't get me wrong, I love and missed my family very much but I knew I had this time to myself and I was going to enjoy it. 

The only other run I did besides the Firecracker 5K was a double crossing of Hope Pass.  The rest of the time was on the bike.  Lots of time spent on the Silver Rush and Leadville courses with my Leadman buddies.  The Leadville family is small but the Leadman/woman family within that is even smaller and therefore, even tighter.  We really clicked and made it a point to spend some wonderful time together and watch out for each other. 

By the end of the week I had put in almost 20 hours of training and over 20,000 feet of climbing.  A solid week considering part of it was recovering from the marathon.  Time to pick up the family.  Pat and the girls were riding Amtrak from Sacramento and I would pick them up in Grand Junction before we headed to Crested Butte to visit friends.  On my way to GJ I stopped in Glenwood Springs to do a couple hikes I've been wanting to do for a long time.  The first hike was up to Hanging Lake, just off I-70 in the Glenwood Canyon.  It's only a mile hike but it's all uphill.  I took it easy and was amazed at the types of people on the trail.  Everything from folks in their 60's motoring along to families with very young kids who wanted nothing to do with hiking uphill.

Sprouting Rock
 The lake is beautiful, especially Sprouting Rock.  I had a snack, took some pictures, and finally all the people started to annoy me so I quickly made my way back down the trail.  Next stop: lunch.  My coach had recommended Charcoal Burger and I'm so glad I went, it was delicious and you have to try the onion rings.

Just west of GS is Canyon Creek Estates where the trailhead to the Storm King memorial trail is.  In 1994 14 firefighters were killed when a fire blew up below them.  I've hiked this trail once before but I really felt the urge to hike it again.  I spent 2 1/2 hours hiking up and down those canyons, visiting the markers that show where each firefighter fell and I didn't see another soul.  Time well spent.

I drove to GJ where I scoped out the where-abouts of the train station for the next morning then made my way to a hotel room in Fruita.  My first real room and bed after 2 weeks of camping.  Right next door was Rib City Grill where I inhaled a plate of the best ribs I've tasted and washed it down with a slice of pecan pie.

The next morning my family became complete once again when Pat and my girls climbed down off the train and we embraced.  As fun as it was having some solo time, I love my family and it was great to be together again.  The next couple days were spent in Crested Butte playing and relaxing.  The girls loved the Adventure Park at Mt. Crested Butte as well as just skipping rocks in the nearby river.

Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Leadville to take on the next race in the Leadwoman series, a 50 mile mtn bike race.  That report will be next.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Leadville Firecracker 5K

Four days after running a pretty tough trail marathon, I was in the mood for something short and fast.  On July 4th, Leadville would be hosting the Firecracker 5K, a run through the downtown area.  Sounded good to me but not so much to my coach.  He cautioned me to take it easy and I promised him I would.

I lined up at 9am and when the lone firecracker was lit and went off, I quickly forgot about my promise to Lucho to take it easy.  The downhill start didn't help as I cruised quickly through the first mile feeling really good.  But then the course circled back uphill towards Safeway and the return down Harrison St.  A slight uphill at 10,200 feet felt like I was climbing a mountain.  My pace dropped off but my effort stayed pretty high.  I was sucking in as much air as I could and commanding myself to not walk, no matter how much I wanted to.

Finally we got back onto some level roads and I started picking up the pace.  I could see a group of 3-4 women ahead of me that I wanted to catch but knew I couldn't.  Another woman came up beside me and with the finish line in sight, there was no way I was going to let her pass me.  I sprinted down Harrison St. toward 6th.  The cool thing was that people were lining the street for the parade that was going to take place right after the race but it felt like they were all there just to cheer us on.

I crossed the finish line and collapsed on the grass in front of City Hall where I spent the next 10 minutes gasping for breath and trying to convince myself I wasn't going to die.  I've never run a 5K at such a high effort with such a slow time.  I guess altitude will do that.

I hung out with some Leadman friends as we waited for results.  I was pretty surprised when I found out I finished 5th female and 1st in my age group!  The award ceremony was done promptly and quickly and I received a cool Leadville mug to go with my cool Leadville Marathon Finishers mug.  And I'm not even a coffee drinker!  Hot chocolate will taste just fine in them this winter.

I emailed my coach with the results and he was pretty happy.  I was just happy that he didn't seem upset that I didn't keep my promise to run the race easy.  I guess I just don't have it in me to take it easy in a 5K race.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Leadville Trail Marathon

I went into the Leadville marathon with a fair amount of apprehension.  Up until the middle of May my training had been going along so well but then with my hip pain, training had fallen off a bit, especially the running.  Everyday my hip hurt, whether I was walking or running.  My Leadwoman attempt was in serious doubt.

The night before the race I met up with my coach and a few other Leadman competitors.  It was really nice to finally meet the people behind the blogs.

Race morning we all lined up at a very civilized 8am.  A single cloud above us dropped a few raindrops and as I slowly made my way up the first 4 mile climb, more clouds moved in making for a shady, cool run/hike.  I hit the first aid station in 1 hour (4 miles) and was happy with that.  Even better, my hip wasn't hurting!  I've had this happen before where I deal with an injury and then on race day it's fine.  Whatever, I'll take it.

First climb looking back at Leadville

The next section loops around Ball Mtn and I ran more than walked this section.  A lot of people talk about how tough this section is on the way back so I made sure to pay attention to all the ups and downs.

As I descended toward aid station B I could see a steep road heading up this huge mountain ahead.  I asked another runner if that was the road we'd be running to Mosquito Pass.  She said yes.  Part of me was happy to be able to see exactly where we were going.  The other part of me cringed being able to see exactly where we were going.

The road leading up to Mosquito Pass if you look close

Running through the mining district

Lucho and Sean and Tiana Rockwell were at the aid station and it was wonderful to see them.  They had me in and out in no time and soon I found myself power hiking the 3 mile climb.  Towards the middle it really gets steep and my power hike turned into a survival hike.  The other issue was I was starting to have serious cramps in the arches of both feet and both calves.  I had to really watch my step because every mis-step caused my calves to seize up.  I took some serious S-caps and they helped but the cramps were never far away. 

Starting back down Mosquito Pass
 After an eternity I reached Mosquito Pass.  I remembered what Lucho said and took a few minutes to look around and enjoy the view.  Pretty incredible.  Soon I was on the long, painful, rocky descent, being very careful with my footing and trying not to destroy my quads.  My second time through the aid station, Lucho massaged my calf while I grabbed more S-caps, Sean refilled my camelback, and Tiana grabbed me a couple cups of coke.  It was the best Nascar pitstop ever.

The fact that I was now only 9 miles from the finish and with the coke kicking in, I really started pushing the next few miles.  I knew this feeling from past races, I start slow and then kick it in to the finish.  The return around Ball Mtn wasn't as bad as I was expecting and soon I was on the last 4 mile descent.  The leg and foot cramps were still coming and going and when I really tried to stretch out my stride on the last paved descent they returned in full force.  Another runner stopped and enouraged me to finish with him.  He told me to shorten my stride and that helped.  Before too long I was running faster and picking off a few runners before the finish line.

I went from serious doubt before the race if I could even finish, to hoping to finish in 8 hours to actually having a pretty good day and finishing in 6:42.  I couldn't be happier.  Now on to the Silver Rush 50 mtb.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nervous energy

Tomorrow I leave for Leadville to begin my Leadwoman adventure on Saturday with the trail marathon.  I'm almost all packed and I can't wait to hit the road.  I got my mountain bike back from the shop and it's like a new bike.  New chain, new bottom bracket, new brakes, and new tires.  Unfortunately, it's pouring rain.  So what.  I knew it meant I'd have to wash the bike before loading it up but who cares.  I needed to know how those new tires would handle and what better way to do it than with a fun trail ride in the pouring rain.

I headed up the trail and then down a stretch of newly built trail to Scott's Flat Lake.  It's so well built that it was in great shape despite the rain.  I splashed through puddles, got muddy, and just thoroughly enjoyed myself.  As I was leaving the house my husband told me to have fun and burn off some nervous energy.  Boy, was he right.  It was just what I needed.

Wet, muddy, and happy
I have no idea how Saturday is going to work out.  I ran 3 miles on Thursday with some hip pain.  1 mile on Saturday before the pain stopped me.  But I've had miraculous race day runs before.  Never mind, I DO know how Saturday will turn out.  I will successfully complete the first event of Leadman.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

May, A Setback

I'm starting to sound like a broken record and I hate it.  Things go really well with my training and then something happens to cause a set-back and training gets derailed.  I should have known things were about to change when I kept thinking about how great everything was going.  I kept saying to myself, "just stay healthy".  I found a great rhythm in April and May was just a continuation of that.  Went up to Redding, CA for my daughters swim meet and was able to get out for an early morning run to explore a city I had never been to, except to drive through on my way to somewhere else. 

I discovered a beautiful river path along the Sacramento River and the Aquatic Center was really nice.  I even discovered a new running partner.

Wanna run?

Sundial Bridge

Celebrating with ribbons

Caitlyn, Sara, and Mia after swim meet

May was the month to really push the vertical.  Mid-month I got a workout from Lucho for a long run and to really push the downhill as well as the uphill.  I remember that run like it was yesterday.  I woke up super motivated and ready to run.  I set out on a route that would have me climbing in and out of the Yuba River canyon numerous times.  I felt stronger than I ever had.  I remember thinking that if I feel like this during Leadwoman, there's no chance I will fail.  But there was something else, a little nagging discomfort in my left hip.  I've had this feeling before but it has always gone away without much incident.

To make a long story short, the hip pain has not gone away, even becoming worse at times.  In an effort to solve the problem, I spent some time with VeLoyce from Monsters of Massage.  He specializes in getting extreme athletes back on their feet.  He worked on my hips, piriformis, hamstrings, back, shoulders, you name it.  Everything started feeling better except the hip.  The deep tissue (and often painful) massage was making it worse. 

As May became June I found myself resting the hip a lot more than running and even biking.  It sucks when every step (running and just walking) is painful and you see your dreams slipping away.  What makes it worse is reading the blogs of other athletes like Footfeathers, Running in Circles, Pb Runner, GZ, Wyatt, Kiki, who are training for one or even all of the Leadville events.  Every one of them seems to be really hitting their stride, training hard, healthy, doing double crossings of Hope......I feel like a kid on the playground who watches everyone else play while I sit on the bench wishing I could join in.  Every week I get my training plan from Lucho and I can only do a fraction of what he prescribes.  Luckily I'm in a bit of a taper phase before the marathon but the fact that I can't run without pain is not comforting.  I got in a 3 mile run this morning at Donner Lake, the first 1.5 miles were pain-free and I started feeling hopeful.  But then the pain returned and it's been a constant all day.

I'm leaving for Leadville next Tuesday and I can only hope the magic air of the high Rocky Mountains will have a healing effect on me.  I have every intention of completing Leadwoman but it's been hard to keep the motivation up.  I got pretty down last week and my friend who just ran the Bryce Canyon 100 miler gave me a "tough love" speech.  It brought me out of my funk and I started focusing on the positive.  It's just so annoying to deal with these injuries before a big event.

My numbers for May are decent but could have been better if I hadn't had to back off toward the end of the month.

Run: 161 miles, 22,500 feet, 31 hours
Bike: 252 miles, 30,800 feet, 24 hours
Bike trainer: over 6 hours

On the bright side, May brought my daughter's 9th birthday.  Can't believe she's been in my life for 9 years.  I'm so incredibly proud of the wonderful young lady she's becoming.

Each year Caitlyn draws a picture of what she wants her cake to look like.  I then take the picture to the bakery at Save Mart (they make the best cakes) and they try to replicate it.  They out-did themselves this year.

Lars checking out the cake

The star of the day

After reviewing my training log, I was really able to keep up some decent workouts up until about June 7.  That's when the hip really started to cause my runs to be shortened and even canceled.  That date also coincides with the last day of school.  The significance of that is now my built-in babysitter is gone for the summer (school).  When Pat is on shift at the firehouse, I'm on kid-duty.  So between my 48-72 hours a week on shift and Pat's 48 hour shift when I have the kids, that doesn't leave many days in a week to actually get out on the bike or run for some serious work.

I'm looking forward to being in Leadville so I can regroup and really focus.  I need to be on those familiar trails and soak in the excitement of what is to come.  I've put a lot of time and sacrifice into this adventure and my family has also sacrificed so I need to be successful.  At least give it everything I have.