Writing, Running, Being.

The finish line is a shifty Thing and what is life, but reckoning?
Ani DiFranco

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rehashing the Rabbit

Run Rabbit Run was an awesome race! The scenery was epic and the volunteers were super energetic and the race was run perfectly. Steamboat is gorgeous and everyone should run this race. I had some issues going into the race. Mostly fear, but also injuries. The entire day was mentally exhausting. I had a really hard time getting into it. My left knee started tightening early on and I honestly didn't think I would make it past the first aid station. This attitude would be my downfall. I shifted my focus to running aid station to aid station, thinking I would drop out at each one. But when you come into an aid station, the volunteers don't assume you're there to drop out. They are there with cowbells and smiles that tell you to keep going. So you just do.

The first climb was 6.4 miles and 3,400+ feet of elevation gain. It started at the bottom of the ski resort and went all the way up on a winding dirt road. It was really hard! Most people power-hiked up, but I ran as much of it as I could because I walk so slow. It took about 1:50 to get to the top. The first aid station was there. Then the singletrack stared. We rolled south east along the Mountain View trail and had some spectacular views that included miles of yellow Aspens and Evergreens. There was a lot of downhill on this section and my knee was not taking it well. I tried as best I could to loosen up and relax, but my knee remained at a barely tolerable pain threshold.

The next aid station was Long Lake and it was 13.2 miles in. Having completed a quarter of the race put my mind at ease a little, and I focused on getting to mile 22 where I would see my family. If my knee was completely blown-up by then (and I was sure it would be) I would stop. I had a drop bag at Long Lake so I refilled my Perpetuem and a few gels. The next aid station, Base Camp was only 4 miles away so that perked me up a little. This section was fairly flat and ran through some pretty meadows and mountain lakes. The scenery was too good. How could anyone feel bad in a place like that?

I don't really remember the next aid station much. My knee was doing better because I hadn't
been doing much downhill, so I think I just rolled through this one. It was mile 19 or so. Leaving this station, we began the Continental Divide Trail. The next section included a few creek crossings and provided more lovely scenery, with more lakes. It was really sunny by now and we weren't running through trees anymore so I was getting pretty hot. I saw a guy on a bike off in the distance and hoped it was Brian. It was! He took some pictures and cheered me on, then rode off to meet me at the Rabbit Ears turnaround. He told me Erin and Jonas were waiting for me at the Dumont aid station less than 1 mile away. I picked up the pace to get there.

It was so great to see my family at Dumont. It was the biggest aid station so there were lots of spectators hanging out. There were drop bags here as well and I sat down to refill. When I stood up, I got dizzy and realized how hot I was. I took some Endurolytes for the heat and some Tylenol for the knee. The next section was a steep, and I mean steep 2.5ish mile climb up to the Rabbit Ears rocks. I alternated jogging and hiking for the first mile of this road, then resorted to a slow crawl as it got steeper and steeper. For those of you in CO Springs, I'm talking Incline-steep, but without the steps! I noticed Brian's bike in the bushes and laughed because I realized it was too steep to ride any further. I wondered how he had even gotten that far on his bike and how the hell he hiked to the top in bike shoes!

Finally I started hearing cheers and more cowbell and saw Brian sitting on a rock laughing and cheering. We took a few pictures next to the Rabbit Ears rocks, then slid down together, marveling at the steepness of this road. The hard part was supposedly over. Brian got back on his bike and rode back to the aid station and I started running again. The steep descent aggravated the knee again. And some other parts, but I don't remember details. I made it back to the aid station and was completely wiped out and unmotivated to keep going. I said goodbye to the family and a drunk dude in a bunny suit walked with me out of the aid station. We walked and talked for a couple minutes, then I told him I was ok to start running again.

I don't remember much of the next section. I was trying to catch up to a guy who was walking way ahead of me. It was really hard to keep running at this point. I was losing focus and had no motivation left. The next aid station was mile 32. When I came in for water, one of the volunteers gave me a hug. That did me in emotionally, and I completely lost it. Started crying and shaking and couldn't stop. A man told me I was running really hot and forced me to sit. He put some ice in the back of my shirt and said not to get up until I take 1 gel and finish the cup of water he had given me. The ladies surrounded me and gave me hugs and told me it was going to be ok. One woman asked what I was thinking about and I said "I still have such a long way to go." She told me I couldn't think about it that way and I should break it down. The next station was 5 miles away, take it a half mile at a time. Once I cooled down and stopped sobbing I hopped up, thanked them and took off. I looked at my watch and realized I had been there for ten minutes!! Oops! Oh well, it's better than breaking down between aid stations I guess.

The next section went ok. I walked up the steeper hills and ran everything else. Long Lake was up next and I didn't spend much time there. Grabbed some stuff from my drop bag and then left. Only 13 miles to go! Then next section was really hard. It was six miles and I had to climb back up to the top of the ski resort. At first, I focused on getting to mile 40, a half mile at a time. Then the battery on my Garmin died and I was left with no concept of time or distance and no one around to keep pace with. Ughhh. If this was the only part of the race I remembered, I would never do another one. I must have slowed down considerably here. I couldn't even remember to run. I was barely mozying along. And I felt like I was stopping every quarter mile to pee. Not kidding! Maybe I overhydrated? But then I ran out of all fluids and was without them for a long time. I was ok physically because I was in the shade and the air was cooling anyway.

After what felt like an hour, I came up on another runner and asked if he knew how far to the aid station. He thought it was 3 miles away. I started running again and passed him. I kept thinking aid was right around the corner. He had to be off on that estimation, but who knows? It did feel like an eternity when I finally got there and I was barely moving that whole time. I was getting pissed when each turn provided no aid station and I knew I was at the top of the mountain and it should be there. The mental battle that took place here is something I never want to experience again. Since I didn't have Garmin to tell me where the hell I was, I relied on the pink flags that marked the course. I focused on run/walking flag to flag and tried to be happy that I was on the course and not lost. If I stayed on the course, I would eventually reach the aid station...and the finish line.

<-- This is what The Rabbit became between miles 40 and 45.

Eventually I got there. I have never been so happy to see another human being. This was the top of the resort and it was 6.4 steep miles down to the finish. I walked/slid the first part. Then I took Tylenol again and let gravity carry me down. There wasn't much I actually had to do here. Just try to relax and absorb all the pain, especially in my knee. I had to tell myself that I could tolerate that pain for about an hour. It would all be over after that. Making peace with that hour was really hard though. After about 30 minutes, (I think...still no concept of time) I saw my shining beacon of light in the distance. Not the finish line, but something almost as good....my sister, Erin! She was dressed to run, and wearing a watch! Hooray! I had company and the time. I picked up the pace and enjoyed the scenery again. We even passed a couple more people on the way down. My ears were radars scanning for cowbell. Finally it came and that was my cue to sprint. I saw Brian and Jonas and Fred, the race director. All waving and cheering and blowing horns. I kicked it in and got a huge hug from Fred. I told him I would see him next year for sure. Then hugs from my people, beer, and pizza. I have never been so happy to finish a race. Official time was 12:59:52. And I was not DFL. Next year I want to be around 11:30. I think I can do that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Run Rabbit Run this Saturday. Some pre-race thoughts.

"Can we go to the hotel, Mom?"
"Are we going to the hotel today?"
"Is it time to go to the hotel?"
"I want to go the the hotel NOW!"
"Please can we please go to the hotel?"


Apparently I'm not the only one excited about this trip. Jonas and I are excited for different reasons, obviously. He is obsessed with hotels! The pool, the waffles, the TV, the freedom to jump from bed to bed without getting in trouble because Mom just wants you exhausted at the end of the day....what's not to love about a hotel? Brian, Jonas, Zeke, Erin (my sister) and I are leaving for Steamboat Springs on Friday morning. I'm running Run Rabbit Run, a 50 mile trail race on Saturday. I'm getting really excited about this race. I have never been to Steamboat and the course sounds beautiful. Brian is bringing his mountain bike so he will get to enjoy all of the awesome singletrack as well.

Body-wise, I'm not 100%. Pretty sure I have PF in both feet (tape helps) and my hips are having their usual issues. It's so annoying. They get tight after about 2 hrs of standing around at work. Not sure they're going to like 12 hrs of running in the mountains, but somehow it will work out. It always does.

Things I am looking forward to:
Experiencing new singletrack
Seeing the mountain lakes
Finishing another 50
The beer at the finish line

The first climb (3,450 feet in 6.4 miles...Ouch!)
That I will start to hurt too early and have to shuffle the whole thing
That I will not make the time cut off due to this problem

I guess I am as ready as can be. I am more happy than nervous (for once!) and I just can't wait to get out there!

In other news, Jonas and I went to the Happy Apple Pumpkin Festival last weekend. We picked apples and went on tractor rides. It was really fun. Turns out Jonas doesn't like apple pie. He'd rather just eat the apples....fine with me!

Also, Jonas started riding a 2-wheeler. He rode all the way around Memorial Lake (1 mile) on Sunday. I am one proud mama! And another first... his first soccer game last Saturday. Watching 3-4 year olds play soccer is equal parts frustrating and hilarious. Four of the children on our team refused to play in the first game, so we had to borrow kids from the opposing team. For the second game (yeah, it was a double-header. Who does that to 3 year olds? More importantly, who does that to parents of 3 year olds?) it took a large amount of bribery to get him out on the field, and then there was nothing I could do to get him to participate or even pay attention to the game. He waddled around, picked some grass, picked some buggers, stole a practice ball and brought it onto the field to play with and spent the rest of the time whining and clinging to my legs. Oh well. I expected as much. He's 3. I'm ok with calling this season "exposure" (expensive exposure) and if he doesn't want to play in the games that will be fine. I'm not too worried about this behavior lasting long because once he's in high school there will be girls around. Surely that kind of incentive will trump my waffles.

I will be sure to update with a race report next week. Send me positive vibes on Saturday. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Xterra Lory

I did the Xterra Lory off-road triathlon last Sunday. I was sort of dreading it. I agreed to do it only because my friend Natalie wanted someone familiar to suffer with during her first triathlon. I was not thrilled about doing a triathlon I had not (even a little) trained for. BUT... I knew I would be glad I did it once it was over so I sucked it up and got in the water.

Natalie and I before the race.

I haven't been in the pool in months and I haven't consistently swum in years so I didn't expect much more than just finishing the swim. Once I got going it felt really good and I decided to race this race rather than just finish it. I finished the swim (1/2 mi) in 13:48, 10th-ish out of the water.

I was super nervous for the mountain bike ride because when Natalie, Brian and I rode the course a few weeks ago I had a really off day. Certain technical spots that I knew I could ride were really getting in my head and I took the descent like a wuss! I never got over that ride until the bike part of race day. Turns out triathletes (the ones on my end of the pack) don't ride the technical spots anyway. That was actually really frustrating and exhausting. The first 1.8 mi was a pretty steep climb. I pushed hard up since I planned to get passed like crazy on the switchbacky downhill. Occasionally I would get behind someone I wanted to pass, but lacked the guts to do so until someone came up behind me and wanted to pass. Then I would just follow those people around the guy I wanted to pass. This method proved pretty destructive as I lost a lot of time and places to my hesitation. Gotta work on that.

The downhill section was about 1.5 mi and whatever was chewing away at my brain when I practiced the course was gone. I rode it well and only got passed a few times. I was so relieved when it was over though. That's when all my nerves and bad vibes about this race finally melted away. The rest of the course was pretty flat and fast. That doesn't mean I didn't get passed a lot though! Haha! My excuse is that I don't have a mountain bike of my own right now and have only gone on 4 rides this summer. Again, it's been years since I have ridden regularly. I just feel like I need to include that little disclaimer. I finished the 10.5 mi bike in 1:14, no idea what my rank among women was.

Next up was the run. It was hot! I didn't hydrate properly on the bike. I blame my poor coordination and lack of bike handling skills. They left me high and dry for the run. We ran up the same climb that we rode up. It felt much steeper this time though. I shuffled up, but did not walk. I slowly picked off other competitors and got passed by one. On the downhill I passed several more people. My goal was to pass everyone I could see on the downhill and I did! Then it flattened out and I held my place. I had no idea if the course was 4 or 5 miles (it was 5), so I was freaking out a little. I drank about 16 oz of water on that short course. It was hot! I felt a little wobbly like I was going to pass out so I took a gel. Before I knew it I was off the singletrack and it was downhill on the road to the finish. I caught another woman about 100 yards from the finish and 2 men. Run time was 47:20. Then there was a 40 foot slip and slide with a blow up pool at the end. I dove onto the slide but it wasn't very silppery. I bounced. Decided that was enough humiliation for one day and climbed around the muddy pool at the end of the slide. Done!

Final time was 2:19:03. 4th in my age group and 25th female. I'm actually pretty happy with that and would love to train for it and do it again next year to try to beat my time. But past that, I think I'll just stick to my 2-3 running events per year. I will always like the simplicity of running best. Fewer things to remember to pack!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but no one needs to see me in my tri-tard uniform! Not. Flattering.