Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

... From Jackson Hole, WY. To all our friends and family we wish nothing but happiness.

Ski Day #4 - Grand Targhee

Like I said before, this day was going to be a day for me to focus on my ski skills an so it was.

We arrived in Grand Targhee at 9am, got our lift tickets and we were on the chair lift before 9:30. The man-friend and I parted ways at the top of the mountain since I had zero desire to spend the day chasing him and instead I wanted to slowly warm up to become the skier I once was.

My first run was supposed to be an easy green, but instead, due to visibility issues, I ended up dropping in a very powdery blue run. I did ok, although was not what I was aiming for. I later managed to stay on a few green groomers while I got my confidence on skis back. I slowly worked my way up to blues, which wasn't too hard since the snow was perfect. I was finally feeling like a skier again... Something that hadn't happened in a couple of years.

Chuck and I had agreed on meeting at the bar at noon, but he texted at 11:15 saying he was already there. I met him at 11:40 and he had a Bloody Mary already waiting for me. We shared some wings and had a couple other drinks while watching football before heading back out. I had forgotten how much of a luxury skiing is! Amazing.

We skied together the rest of the afternoon and I'm proud to report that I held my ground. I was able to keep up with him pretty well.

Our last and 14th run of the day was my favorite one (which I had discovered earlier in the day). We then went back to the bar and had a few more drinks while watching the Broncos beat the Browns.

Unfortunately I couldn't ski today and had to stay behind since I woke up sick. Chuck did a couple of runs in Teton Pas. I'm a little bummed because that has been my favorite backcountry experience yet. This was back in February when we skied Teton and I was unable to ski Togwotee pass the day after. Unbelievable that this time around I got Togwotee taken care of but not Teton. Ugh. One day I'll get both in the same weekend!

Hoping to feel better tomorrow and ski some more. In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all from Jackson Hole.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ski Day #3 - Togwotee Pass, WY

What a day. I woke up sick at almost 1am. My stomach decided it did not want to accept the burger I had eaten earlier that night in Lander, WY as we were driving from Boulder to Jackson. My man decided to drive down from the top of Togwotee Pass (where we were sleeping in the car) back to Dubois for us to get a hotel and yours truly could do her thing in the bathroom. It was not pretty. I will not elaborate.

Woke up today at almost 8 feeling a little better even though I didn't sleep much. I had a super light breakfast and we got out stuff and drove back up to Togwotee Pas.

Beacons are on, skins are on skis... Off we go. We attempted to go to this little mountain and do a few laps. First, the approach... Not too hard. We skinned up the mountain (not quite to the summit) and dug a pit... Tested snow. It all looked pretty good.

Testing, Testing... 1, 2, 3... 
We went down that slope and had some really good turns. It was a short run. We went back up. This time, to the summit.

Once on the ridge, I realized it wasn't quite the summit but that was the spot to ski from. We still decided to skin on the ridge an attempt a summit. We shortly discovered that it was a little too technical. We decided to stick to today's plan: ski. We skied all the way down (almost to the car!!). It was AMAZING powder.

We couldn't summit, but we stopped HERE to grab a snack and then ski. 
I realized that my ski skills have gone down the drain!! That's what happens when you don't ski for four years. Ugh. But I guess now that I'm doing it again, I'll get better in no time.

We decided to go back up to the ridge. That sounded like a lot of work for me, but I pulled through. I definitely slowed down on the way up but managed to get up there in just over 45 minutes from the bottom. Skins off, back down again.

This time around, I had some pretty sweet turns although when it's steep I tend to freak out a bit. Not sure why! I used to be so darn good at skiing. Oh well.

By now, it was almost 3pm. We had been on our feet for 6 hours either skinning or skiing. Those damn lift chairs do sound quite luxurious to me now. But all the work is definitely worth the views and the untouched powder.

After a great ski day, off to Jackson! 
For ski day #4 this season, we will be headed to Grand Targhee in the morning. This place has well over 60" of base (far from what any resort in Colorado can report) and amazing terrain with all their 75 runs open.

I plan on skiing hard all day. I will be skiing alone and have Chuck do whatever he wants. I have to start from scratch and start getting used to my skis again. By the end of the day, I'm sure I'll be skiing some powdery (yep, more snow expected tonight) black runs.

Happy skiing!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012


Many many times I've been asked why I do what I do.  It's hard to explain, yet simple: "Cause I like it". Why I like it?  That I don't know.  I couldn't explain it, but this is who I am.

"No one told me who I was. No one told me I should do this. No one told me it would be easy. Someone said I am my dreams, that if I don't dream I am no longer alive. My steps follow my instinct and take me into the unknown.  I no longer see the obstacles behind me, but look forward to the ones ahead.  It's not about being the fastest, the strongest or the biggest... It's about being myself.  I am not just a runner, mountaineer or skier... or even athlete.  I am a person.  I don't know if I'll find it, but I'm going in search of happiness.  What am I looking for? To be alive." Summits of My Life

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hello? Search and Rescue?

Ok, definitely not AS bad as it seems, but we did call Search and Rescue.  It's a good story, I swear.

Of course the man-friend and I planned an epic.  Maybe too much of an epic for winter.  But heck.  We're having a crappy start to the snow season, so I BET that there's BARELY any snow.  Yeah, right.

We set off at 5:30am and had some delicious hearty breakfast in McDonald's on the way up.  We got to the trailhead at around 8:00am and started hiking.  We were aiming towards Mt. Harvard and Columbia.  We knew it was going to be a long day (somewhere around 16 miles) but as we got started, SURPRISE! Nothing but snow.  The walk was slower than I had hoped for and once we got close to tree line, the trail was barely there.  We had to break trail in some sections and above tree line, we were definitely post-holing.

It was a gorgeous bluebird day... Everyone that knows me, knows that I LOVE snowy mountains during sunny days... the mountains look so pretty.  And the higher we got, the prettier it got.

Happy place
Did I mention that the higher we got, the windier it got?  Ok, you sorta gotta pay the price for those amazing views.  With the wind comes the cold... and exhaustion.  I smiled for the pictures (yes, I'm a poser), but I was quite pissed at the wind and at the post holing going up.  Oh, have I mentioned that I usually bring my Garmin to sorta figure out where I'm at distance-wise and elevation-wise?  Well, I didn't bring it this time, so I had NO idea how much farther I was supposed to go.  And HEY, this was only to get to the first peak.

Yes... I stare at my watch until it finds the satellites... As if staring would speed the process.  
I kept pushing, even though I wanted to stop.  I figured I was roughly 5 miles in, so I may as well get that over with.  Wind increasing, anger increasing... UGH!  Are we there yet???

YES! We made it.  And we're smiling at... SOMETHING?  Cause the 50mph gusts were definitely not funny. 
"Alright, let's go back. I can't keep going", I said.  The man knows how to make me push to the limits... explore what's going on outside my comfort zone and most times, I'm thankful. This time, I was not, but more to come on that... 3 hours from that point.  It was just past 1:00pm when we summitted Mt. Harvard, around 5hrs after we had started.  At that point we were supposed to drop roughly 800 ft as we walked on the ridge for 2.75 miles and then gain the summit of Mt. Columbia.

The wind was insane, but it seemed to calm as we lost elevation, it was still sorta nasty... but the ridge started getting a little too sketchy.  It was taking us forever to walk on it (well, I should say, it was taking me forever) and we finally made a decision to drop a little lower so we could continue on safe terrain.  By the time we got to the bottom there were some things happening:

1. We had dropped all the way down to 12,500 ft.  If we wanted to summit we had to go back up 1,600 ft.
2. Number 1 wouldn't usually be a problem, but it was already 4:00pm
3. Number 2 wouldn't usually be a problem, but in mid-November, the sun sets at 4:45pm.
4. Number 3 wouldn't be a problem (cause we always carry headlamps), but 50 mph winds at the summit and snowy  ridge walks would make for a VERY sketch decent in the dark.
5. All of the above wouldn't usually be a problem, but we were standing at 12,500 ft on the OTHER side of the ridge, in the wrong valley.  To get to our car, we had to go back up and down to the right valley.

Did any of that make ANY sense??  Let me see if I can explain with a map:

This is what we attempted
Long story short:  We started our hike where the purple line starts.  We went ALL THE WAY to the top to Mt. Harvard following the left side of the loop (can you see the lil blue tag pointing at the summit of Harvard?). Then, we looped around on the ridge (to the right of Mt. Harvard) trying to summit Columbia. Since the ridge was sketch we dropped to the right of the purple line (which obviously means we lost a lot of elevation). By 4:00pm, this is where we were standing (RED X):

Aren't we in a pickle?
So... at that point, we had two options: suck it up and go up to Columbia, or head out to the right (red arrows).  We had a map and had figured out which trail (and trailhead) were that way, but with all the snow, and the little amount of time we had left with natural light, we had to hurry to try and find the trail (dotted line which you can barely see).

View of the valley we were leaving behind (with Columbia - the pointy one on the right)
It took roughly an hour to find the actual trail and probably a good 20 more minutes to get below tree line and find a more marked trail from a campsite that had clearly been used in the past couple of days.  Damn deer and/or elk had walked ALL OVER, so it was hard at times to follow the right footsteps.  Especially once it got dark.

Sunset in the backcountry
Let me mention that once we made the decision to bail and headed out in the opposite direction, we had to change gears and go into survival mode.  We had no doubt (once on trail) that we'd get back to the trailhead... but in reality, we had no idea how far of a walk it'd be to get from the trailhead to the highway.  We talked it over and realized we probably had a LONG night ahead of us and lots of walking.  We were not cold (we weren't even wearing all our gear) and we weren't hungry or thirsty (we still had food and water left).  We tried to walk together and only use one headlamp, since we didn't want to use up batteries for both.  We tried to be smart about things and constantly checked in on each other.  Apart from that, we tried to chat about different things and enjoy the adventure.  Side note: this is why I love my man.

We eventually made it to the trailhead... it could not be darker.  We were hoping we'd find someone camping but not a soul.  we kept walking down the road.  I must say, I was happy to be on the road.  I really didn't care how much farther we had to go, but being on the road was a blessing.  We weren't sure how the rest of our night was going to turn out, but the one thing we knew was that we were ok and in good spirits.  In the middle of one of our many chats I asked: "Well, what would one do if in trouble?  I mean, we are ok... but let's say we make it out fine, but one of us is severely dehydrated or hurt?  Do you call the cops?". I can't lie, that made us think... well, yes. I guess one would call the cops.  We took a break and Chuck took out his phone and turns out we had service.  We googled Chaffee County Sheriff's Office and called. We made sure they understood we were ok and were just walking but we were wondering if someone could give us a ride to our car.  We still had NO idea how far we were, honestly.  They offered to call Search and Rescue.  Wait what?  We don't need to be rescued.  Well, we needed a ride... and apparently, they're the ones that could give us one.

We got a call back from Jim, from SAR.  he mentioned he lived 10 minutes away and could come get us.  We kept walking down the dirt road and met up with him 15 minutes later.  It took roughly 10 minutes to drive down the dirt road to the highway and another 15 minutes to town back up the right dirt road and to our car.  We eventually mapped it and we came out 25  miles away from our car.  That would've been a long walk.  We got back in our car, drove to town and had some dinner.  While we usually get sleepy on the drive back home, especially after long days.  It seemed like this time around we still had so much to talk about.  We were super chatty the whole way back to Boulder and the thought of that makes me smile.  We got home a little after midnight, showered and went to bed.  We both fell asleep quite fast.

Can I say one last thing?  This is why I love my man... I love waking up to a new adventure every day.

Until next time...

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."  Helen Keller

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road to Alaska

My man and I have had a few (well, more than a few) conversations about going to Alaska late in the Spring.  While I'm a little scared, I think it will be an EPIC trip.  At first I was shooting high and told him I'll train to climb Denali, but in all honesty, I don't think I'll be ready.  I'd have to take some classes about Glacier travel, Avalanche safety, etc. and I don't think I have the money or time to cram all those with my marathon and triathlon training. And Denali is a scary mountain.

As time went by, looks like Chuck made up his mind and found a place that he knows I'll be comfortable in... although I still need the glacier travel training and of course avy awareness.  I'm sure he'll help me train, but I don't feel the need to get those classes as badly as if I were doing Denali, but still.. I gotta know my stuff to be safe.  He decided to go up to Little Switzerland area, still in Denali National Park, but way lower elevation. Did you click on that link?  The pictures are SICK.

To prepare to go to Alaska, I need to make sure I ski a lot, I workout a lot, I'm in the best shape and I sleep in cold and unforgiving conditions.  I don't think Colorado has those crazy unforgiving conditions, but it may get pretty bad out there, especially at higher elevations.  This is why we decided to head up to the mountains last weekend, with a big storm in the forecast and REALLY cold temps.

Our goal was to climb Father Dyer via the NE ridge.  It looks something like this:

The plan was to park the car where the blue and the black like meet, hike up the black line towards the lakes, camp Saturday night where the red line starts and go up the green (which is the ridge) on Sunday morning.  On the way down, we'd traverse to Crystal Peak (purple line) and come down the Crystal Peak route back to camp. Pack up our campsite and come back home.

As the week went by, we were following the weather and it looked NASTY.  Really cold.  We still stuck to our plan.  Left Saturday around 8am and drove up... only to find this:

This may be a LONG weekend... 
We got to the trailhead, got ready and started hiking up.  The storm cleared out and we got some amazing views.

Father Dyer is that pointy peak way back there in the middle 
Once we got to the lake, we set camp... it was cold.  It was hard to set up camp with gloves on, but if you took them off, your hands would freeze super fast.  It was not breezy, but the storm was coming back, slowly.  Little did we know, that was the last bit of sun we'd see for 24 hours or more...

Our tent was up, and the clouds were coming back.  Father Dyer to the right with a great view of our ridge.  
The snow returned as we were hiking out to get some dinner and attend the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) Benefit Bash.

Snowy and cold
We had a great night the rest of the night.. drinking and not thinking about Sunday's (or Saturday night's) hike.  Josh and Joe joined us there and at around 10:30 at night we headed back to the trailhead with the rest of our group.  We started hiking at 11pm and in the dark, with snow, and a small bottle of whiskey, we made the 2 mile hike to camp and got there at 1am (talk about slow hiking!).

I crawled into bed right away.  It was DAMN COLD.  But Chuck helped the guys set up their tent.  I was sort of falling asleep, so to me it felt like it took them 15 minutes, but apparently it was more like an hour.  Can't imagine setting camp somewhere like this:

Headlamp in the snow... Close to camp. 
They eventually all went to bed and I fell asleep quite fast (especially cause I was a little buzzed).  Waking up in the morning was HARD. I slept REALLY well in my new zero degree bag, I was nice and toasty, but the second I poked my head out, it felt SO cold. We had cell service, so we checked the temps in Breck and it was -3 degrees!  Burrr.  Considering we were roughly 3000ft above Breck, we decided it was EASILY -15.  Ok, that's legitimately cold.

Despite it being hard to crawl out of the sleeping bag, we all did.  Had breakfast, some hot tea and started walking up towards the ridge.  While it was not too windy (or at all), it's hard to do anything when it's that cold.  It wears you out.  But we were all good sports and went for it.  Some complaining more than others, hehe.  My only motivation was: "If I don't tough it out, Chuck won't take me to Alaska." And I REALLY wanna go to Alaska.

Chuck, Joe and I a few minutes into our hike
I wanna say, it was not the best conditions to hike anyway... not weather-wise, but also the terrain was odd.  You know, when there's ice and snow, but not enough to cover the rocks... but enough that you don't see them?  I thought someone was gonna break an ankle.  We didn't, but we were cautious.  We made our way to the saddle, which was the base of the ridge.  Took us around an hour.  At that point we decided it wasn't safe to continue.  The weather wasn't great, it didn't seem to be getting better, it actually seemed to be getting a little worse and even breezy, and given the fact that not only did we need to summit, but go over and come down the other way, it would've been dumb to continue since a whiteout was possible and a REALLY bad idea when on a ridge. We took a victory picture regardless.

We made it!!!!  ... to the saddle! 
The hike down was obviously faster, but breaking camp wasn't that much faster than setting it up.  Everything was frozen and hard to pack down.  Again, it was so cold that it was hard to do anything.  Once we finally got everything dialed in and packed in our packs, we left... fast. Took us roughly 50 minutes to get down to the car and another 15 to be sitting in a warm restaurant with heat blasting.

Surprisingly, I can't wait to get back out there this winter.  Just a little more snow and I will be skiing down that thing.  The good thing is... my sleeping bag is awesome and apart from being REALLY cold when crawling out of bed.  I was mostly warm.  So, what's next?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The end is near...

The end of year that is.  And it's so easy to be lazy.  And the lazier I am, the easier it is to get lost and be unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  On my way to work today, I was thinking that it's been a long year for me.  Lots of training and lots of good races.  Also, lots of mountains and lots of trail running miles (if you have questions, scroll down and you'll see).  And well, given the fact that I've been busy with all sorts of stuff on my calendar, I'm finally tired.  "Well," I thought, "the year is almost over..." As if my body knew that January 1st is the day to press the RESET button and all of a sudden I'll feel all better.  No, my body does not know it's a whole new year.  It's all in my head.

For the past 10 months, I've been busy training and with work.  Training got crazy at one point and work got busy and overwhelming, but two weeks ago, everything slowed down.  I completed the San Francisco Marathon mid-October and I got the runner's high having completed my 10th and fastest marathon yet, and also, got back to a couple busy weeks at work.  Come November, everything changed.  I had completed my best season ever and work had calmed down (looks at my 2012 results page on the left).  Now what?  Life is no longer exciting.  I've been apathetic about life and not really caring about anything.

In my head, I desperately want to work out, but I'm having a hard time getting anything done.  I wake up late to go to work. I go to work, come home and go to bed early. It's lame. I'm lame.  Is there a switch in my head that can be turned off so I can rest physically and mentally for one day?  And maybe tomorrow can be January 1st?  That'd be nice.  My body needs a January 1st.

It's not the first time I've hit a low point... but again, look at my 2012 results page, but this time REALLY look at it.  It's the results of a rockstar.  Ok, maybe I didn't WIN anything, but seriously?  How can I get in my head that my accomplishments are AWESOME?  Why is it that those don't look like enough to me...? Why is it that I feel sad about it being over?  Why is it that I can't get my lazy ass out the door for a quick run, a quick ride, a quick swim.  A hike?  That's too much work.

Today I realized, that as much as I wanted to fight it, I reached the "end of season blues". And my poor man-friend is the one that has to deal with my crazy mood swings and my insecurities.  Trying to remember how I dealt with it last year... but truth is, I didn't.  I sat and did nothing, and gained 20lbs and got going again on January 1st and learned that starting from scratch SUCKS.  Does anyone out there has some piece of advice?

My thoughts (and initial goals) are: to workout at least 20 minutes every day. If I'm feeling better, then go out longer workouts following the coach's plan. But if my schedule looks overwhelming, do what he'd like me to do, but shorter.  Until I get back in the game.

And for now, I'm off to bed.  Tomorrow's Friday and that's a great thing (I'll make my body believe that it's Monday and we gotta start a new routine!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warning! Women running!!!

For reasons I find hard to explain, I found myself running the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. Also hard to explain why it hadn't quite sunk in and I was planning an awesome girls weekend out in the Bay Area.

We explored the Sausalito area on Saturday and Muir Woods (damn! those are some big trees).  Anyway, I was of course late to packet pick up and I had to get in line... a line that looped twice around Union Square.  45 minutes or so after that, I made it to the tent, where I got my packet and got to walk around the expo.  I must say, quite a lame expo.  Ok, not SUPER lame, but all Nike stuff and nothing too useful.  I needed GUs and compression socks, none of which I was able to find there.

Big a$$ tree!
I decided to go across the street to Niketown to see if I would find my socks.  WHOA!  It's like they were giving out gear for free.  Hundreds of people, DJ playing loudly, I wanted nothing but to get out of there.  I did find a pair of socks.  Red ones... not great, but good enough (in case you were wondering).

The "Expotique""
Race morning I woke up early as usual, showered and got ready.  I had created a "strategy" to run my personal best.  I didn't have a bracelet with my pace, but I certainly had mile by mile how strong/slow I should go to be able to accomplish my goal.  I grabbed a green Sharpie and wrote it one mile at a time on my arm (wish I had taken a picture, cause it looked cool).

Walked from our hotel to the Start Line in Union Square and OH MY GOD.  I have NEVER seen more women altogether in my whole life.  I heard there were roughly 28,000.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  That's a whole lot of estrogen.  The mood was weird.  I swear... That was way too many girls talking about nails, hair, make-up and how they got a blister right before so and so's wedding.  Seriously?  You ARE a runner, just deal with it.

The race started and it was damn crowded.  I was able to run on the sidewalk as the masses of chicks stayed on the road.  It was weird to me that all these girls had signed up to be in that specific start wave while they started off walking.  Sorry but there's no way you'll finish a 10min/mile half marathon or full by starting your race walking. It's that simple.  Anyway, I kept moving forward and was able to stick to my Sharpie-tattooed game plan.  It was also quite a scenic course starting downton and heading east towards the water and going along the coast and through Fisherman's Wharf. We also went up to Golden Gate bridge and back down towards Golden Gate State Park.  It was all really pretty yet foggy and drizzly.  This is actually my favorite running weather since it keeps me cool and I am able to maintain a steady pace.  Somewhere in GG State Park, the half marathon people take a right and off the go to the finish. IT WAS AWESOME. I swear 80% of the people were gone and all of a sudden it became a really enjoyable race.  I had been stuck behind chicks walking the hills in crazy bottle necks that I did not appreciate and I must confess I threw a couple punches... well, not really, but let's just say it was hard to keep my elbows close to my body. 

Around mile 15 or 16 we ran close to the finish area and it seemed cool to be able to call it a day, but I was feeling strong and obviously didn't want to end up doing what I did in Denver.  I kept going.  The next few miles felt amazing.  I was going at a very comfortable pace and was super happy cause it looked like it was uphill so I was stoked!  Once we got off the coast we had to go around a lake which seemed endless.  It had ups and downs, but I was right on track with my goal time.  I just didn't feel like giving up.  Once back on the coast and on the last stretch to the finish, I could feel how my legs were shutting down.  That's always a crappy feeling... but after all I've been through this year, I now realize how much stronger my mind is and I'm still able to tell my legs to keep going.  I must confess... right after mile marker 25 I walked for exactly 60 seconds, and then kept going.  It was a nice little break.  Before I had time to think about it, I was at mile marker 26, but surprisingly couldn't see the finish.  Then 26.2 and I had reached my goal of 4:20:00, hitting 26.2 in 4:16:42, but... where was the damn finish line?!??  I kept running, OH! There it is.  Crossed the finish (that was 26.65 miles from the start) in 4:20:37, so I'll call it good.  No, scratch that, I'll call it PERFECT.  

Happy Finisher!
Of course, the treat of the day, firefighters greeting you at the finish with a Tiffany necklace in silver platters.  Could a girl ask for more?  Nope, this girl was happy.  

This girl LOVES Tiffany swag!  :) 
And of course.. nothing like cruising SF after a morning jog... 

Lombard St. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chasing Bears

Why not?  Three months ago I decided I'd give ultra-running a second shot.  Maybe and only maybe if I trained hard enough I would accomplish something to be proud of.  Something to brag about.  After all, over the past two years, I've learned that training hard really does pay off.  The not-so-awesome part of that is that I became overly competitive.  Which, in the end, isn't that bad, is it?

Well, first things first.  After recovering from Ironman (or what I considered recovery) I started running like crazy.  More than usual, that's for sure.  I also asked Mr. EK to make me faster... and well, he kicks my a$$, but boy, am I getting faster.  I signed up for the Bear Chase 50K.  Seemed easy enough that I would be able to do well.  What's easy about a 50K?  Not much, except that ultra marathons tend to be in hard trails, with LOTS of hills and they're mainly self-supported.

The Bear Chase, on the other hand, had an aid station at roughly every 3-4 miles, the trails were not technical, it was close to home, and the total elevation gain wasn't as bad as some others.  That said, the only challenge was to actually run 31 miles.

Race day came by, and I wasn't 100% sure I was ready.  I guess I was busy doing other stuff and the fact that I was running 31 miles didn't sink in until 2 days before.  I was busy the day before the race with family in town, friends wanting to have lunch and ended up going to bed early-ish.

Sunday morning, I got up at 4:15am, showered, got ready and left the house at 4:45.  Arrived at the parking area at 5:30, caught the shuttle to the start area and picked up my race packet.  Although race organizers said we should get there early, I was all set at 5:50... even though the race didn't start til 6:50am.  There were other events going on.  The 50 mile, the half marathon and the 10k.  The 50 mile people were starting at 6:30.  I was surprised to see how many there were... Made me feel at ease that I wouldn't be feeling lonely towards the end of the race.  Most 50-miler people would probably still be out there when I finished.

I met up with Ryan, Kevin and Courtney and we lined up at the start line at roughly 6:45.  Courtney was running with Kevin, and his goal was to run an average 12 min/mile.  Ryan wanted to go a tad faster and said he'd stick to  my pace, which was 11:30.  The 50K race was a 3 loop run.  The first would be the 10K loop, then you'd have to complete two 12.4 mile loops.

When the gun went off, I started jogging and was stuck in the middle of the pack as we hit the single track.  I was content with the pace which was around 10 min/mile.  Ryan was ahead of me and Kevin behind.  Ryan seemed to be at sight for a while and eventually Kevin and Courtney passed me, but I decided to focus on my own thing and stick to my pace, which up until now, was still faster than I wanted it to be.

Settling into a comfortable pace 
I completed the first loop (a 6.2 mile loop) right on pace.  I was pretty content and I continued on to the second.  Kevin and Courtney were around the Start/Finish area and I lost them again when I stopped at the porta-potty (TMI? I don't care... It's MY blog!).  The first part of the "long" loop was the same as the 10K one and I felt pretty comfortable, except that this time, I wasn't stuck in the middle of the pack on the single track and while trying to stick to a pace, I realized that those first couple miles were actually uphill... Took notes for the next loop.  That's always good to know.  At around mile 5, (of the loop, but total, roughly mile 11), you hit the big climb.  The biggest of all climbs.  I didn't even try... I just walked.  Both coach Eric and the COO of my company (an ultra runner) suggested I walk the big climbs, ESPECIALLY the first time around.  They both suggested, that if I had some energy left on the second loop, to just go for it.  So I walked, and I'm glad, cause it was hard.

As soon as I hit the top, I was able to start jogging and it was a super fun downhill run. After that, it gets flat, then it rolls for a bit... but then, you have to cross one creek (with no bridge), then another, and then a third.  Fun times.

River crossings
After this, you start climbing again.  It's not steep, but with soaking wet socks and shoes, any little hill seems REALLY hard.  You get to the next aid station a half a mile after the river crossings.  I ate some GU and moved on.  This last stretch back to the finish, seemed REALLY hard.  Well, lots of BIG rolling hills and what looked flat was actually uphill.  I didn't realize this until after the race when I pulled the elevation profile one last time and indeed... lots of climbing at the end.  The last aid station is roughly 2 miles from the Start/Finish area. After this, you hit one more big climb, a mellow climb and the last 3/4 of a mile are all downhill.

I got to the Start/Finish... and had to do it all over again.  One more loop.  I knew the way out was uphill, and I felt ok.  Then I started going back... nice and steady downhill, but I noticed I was getting close to hitting a wall.  I caught up to Kevin and Courtney and said hi... Kevin was not feeling so great (knee problems), we reached the aid station that was right next to a lake where I desperately wanted to jump in the water... I kept going.  I was not feeling great... mentally, but kept talking myself into putting one foot in front of the other.

Focused at around mile 23
I got to the big hill. I walked, and it was good.  It was helpful to re-group and make me run strong again on the way down.  I got to the flats where there were lots of people cheering us on, I smiled and said: "5 miles to go!!" I thought to myself: "I've done 5 mile runs SO MANY TIMES, I can do this."  I kept going.  I hit the river crossings and the cold water felt amazing on my ankles.  I wanted to stay there for longer.  Before I got out of the third, I stopped, counted to 10 and kept going.  4 miles to go.  I got this.  Smiles and more smiles.

After the next aid station, came that part that looked flat but wasn't and the big rolling hills.  I walked the ups, jogged the "flats" and downs.  Other runners were cheering me on since I had a nice lil pace going on.  Kept me strong.  3 miles to go... then 2. Got to the last aid station... some water, and off I go.  Not without getting some compliments for running Denver the weekend before (I was wearing the Denver Marathon t-shirt from the race the previous weekend, some people thought I was bad-a$$). Also kept me strong.  I kept going... and then THE WALL.  It was finally here in the form of a BIG climb.  The last one, but mentally, I couldn't deal with it.  I walked it.  Got to the top and kept walking.  First climb all day that was followed by a downhill walk.  Up until then, I had been able to start jogging the second I'd hit the top.  But not this time.

"What's wrong? You have less than 2 miles to go! You can do this!!!"  Half way down the hill I started jogging, but picked up the pace when I saw the big sign that said: "One mile to go". Then, before I knew it, I was running downhill... I could hear the finish... wait... I can SEE  the finish!

Crossing the Finish Line: Sense of relief
I had completed a very respectable 50K in JUST under 6 hours, which is EXACTLY what I wanted. 5h59m11s.  PERFECTION.

Turns out, that somewhere along the course, I had also passed Ryan.  I have no idea where... but I was the first of our group to finish.  I felt good.  I got my medal and left... but I didn't go home.  I went straight to Denver, to the Mile High Stadium, to see my dear Broncos defeat the Raiders.  It was an amazing game.  Needless to say, I got home quite tired, quite hungry and quite sore.  It was good times.

There's always time for some football!!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

THE Denver Marathon

I always said this would be the marathon I would run EVERY year since I moved here.  Or so I thought.  Still, first thing I did on January 1st, 2012, was sit down at a coffee shop in Telluride and sign up for all the races I'd be participating in.  One of them, was the Denver Marathon.  SO EXCITING.

When I completed Ironman, I only had one thing to look forward to: Denver Marathon.  And I continued to run and stay in shape.  Out of the blue, I decided to sign up for the Bear Chase 50K and train for it, which involved a little bit more hardcore trail running.  And I had the time of my life.

I hit a little emotional wall last week when my mom and brother were flying to Denver for my brother's first marathon: the Denver Marathon.  And I couldn't believe I wasn't running with him. I still, went to the packet pick up and expo with him and picked up my stuff.  I got my number and got extremely excited.  I HAVE TO RUN.

Chuckles and I ran and won!!!
Saturday came by and I was lined up at the start line with my brother.  "We will run together at least 10 miles", he said.  And I got PUMPED.  The gun goes off and we slowly move forward towards the start (we were on the 12th wave).  And 17 minutes after the gun went off, we started running.  This is going to be fun.

I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and being conservative with my pace.  I have felt pretty strong this summer but well, it's a marathon.  My brother was running a little faster than I would've wanted to, but he kept slowing down.  In reality, he was running faster than he had planned or as he would later find out... even faster than he would've wanted to.

I was still quite comfortable with my run, which was significantly faster than I ever run a marathon, but still 30 seconds per mile slower than my half marathon pace.  I was content, until mile marker 10.  Reality check: "What am I doing?  I'm running an ultra next weekend!" I slowed down, significantly and told my brother to just go.  I didn't tell him I wasn't running the whole marathon, but just let him go.  Told him to hydrate and eat and off he went.

I did a SLOW jog to the finish, basically, a walk, which messed up my half marathon time. And I crossed the finish in 2h10m.  My slowest half marathon in 2 years.  Granted, was NOT running a half marathon and was NOT trying to be competitive or break any sort of PRs.  And well, I had been pacing my first 10 miles as if I was running a full marathon.  My brain fully registered this ultra marathon attempt as I saw that sign that said "Course Split Ahead: Marathon to the left, Half Marathon to the right". Yep, this is the right decision.  I cannot run a marathon.  This is just silly.

I was content with my decision and just hung out at the finish line later.  I walked over to mile marker 25 as it was getting close to my brothers' goal time and when I saw him, I jogged with him to the finish.  He was tired and was running an 11:30 min/mile.  He obviously picked up the pace as we saw the 26 mile maker and I got to cross the finish line again.  THAT was fun.

Running with my brother the last mile to the finish. 

Crossing the finish line (and I was celebrating as if I had run a FULL MARATHON). 
Now, I'm running the 50K on Sunday, and I'm nervous.  Not sure what my goals are yet, just under 6hrs FOR SURE.. or should I say: "Under 6 hours PLEASE."  Either way, I think it'll be fun.  The weather looks pretty awesome and I know I have trained plenty.  Will report back on Sunday (after the Broncos/Raiders game, of course).

Happy running.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bringing the slap bracelet back!

We all had a slap bracelet once in our lives... most likely, in our childhood.  Well, the weekend of Sept 7 and 8, me and 11 of my closest friends got to play with one for a little over 27 hours.  How is a slap bracelet SO entertaining that we actually played with it for over a day?  Well, let me explain...

First things first.  What is a slap bracelet (In case you are a loser and never had one)?  A slap bracelet is a bracelet consisting of layered, flexible stainless steel spring bands within a fabric or plastic cover.  The bracelet can be straightened out, creating tension within the springy metal bands:

The straightened bracelet is then slapped against the wearer's forearm, causing the bands to spring back into a curve that wraps around the wrist, securing the bracelet to the wearer:

Now that that's clear, you ask yourself AGAIN: "How can someone (adults) play with one of these for 27 hours?  Well, easy answer: a Relay Race.  Not only are we dumb enough to sign up for a race that covers 188 miles in distance,14,000ft of elevation gain, a poor diet and no sleep, but also we want to slap each other with a bracelet, since the bracelet is our baton.  HOW FUN.

Focusing more on the running part and sorta forgetting about the countless hours I spent organizing my team, here's basically what I remember:

Thursday: Gather 12 people outside our house, drive 2 hours up to the mountains.  Stuff ourselves with delicious carbs and beer and go to bed.  Now, the fun (really?) part.  We woke up early in the morning and 10 of us tried to use the one bathroom available (most of us showering, since that was not going to be an option for the following 48 hours).  We finally got all 12 out the door, we packed the cars and off we go:

Yes, our van HAS to be decorated. 
The start line was quiet, as there was only about 10 teams starting at the same time as us.  Most teams had started earlier... and since we are a bunch of super fast runners, we were stuck starting late and with the challenge of catching up with all the slow pokes.  We had to take this lame safety class (10 min long) and then off we go.

Yep, looks like this team is ready to run!  :)
Long story short, there's 12 runners, 36 legs and we each run 3.  So roughly 8 hours in between each run and somewhere around 4-5 hours of sleep total... So when I say off we go, I mean, one runner starts and from there the slapping begins.  One after the other we pass on the bracelet.

 Ok now... this is me (we all know me):

Hello, my name is Gaby
How was MY race?  Surprisingly good.  I started off with a 9 mile run which also had lots of elevation gain.  The first 1.5 miles were straight up, gaining roughly 600ft.  At elevation, that definitely slowed me down, but once I reached the top, I was able to fly down on the bike path... for a while.  It then started going up again for the last 3 miles and while not steep, it was a flat-looking climb which ended up being a grinding 300ft.  Ran this first leg in 1hr and 27 minutes.

My second leg, the night one, was a pretty familiar one.  In two of the past 3 relays I had done, I had started my long leg at the Wolcott Post Office and ran into Eagle.  This is roughly 12 miles, but this time, Ragnar did a great job dividing the leg and I ran from the Wolcott Post Office and 5 miles west towards Eagle.  I had a very good run averaging 8:35 min/mile which made me very happy.  After this, I was ready to nap.

"Napping" can be very challenging in races like this.  First of all, we needed to keep driving and dropping off our remaining runners (3 more after me) and then, drive to the next major exchange point, where we'd meet our other half of the team once they were done with their night runs.  Then, once we got there, I was too tired to deal with the cold and was dying to go inside the building, lay my sleeping bag and sleep there.  But it was a tad crowded...

I slept well regardless
 The morning call is THE WORST! When the people in the other van call you at 4:00am and say: "our runner will be there in 40 minutes".  Ugh, are you kidding me?  Why are you all running SO FAST??!?!?!  Anyway, we got up and started getting ready to move.  We were not happy people.

Yes, we had reflective vests and ran in the dark with them.  SEXY! 
Regardless we kept moving, and as the sun came out, the smiles came back.  We were almost done.  My third and last leg was my fastest.  First, it was my shortest in distance at 4.5 miles, but also mostly downhill.  I was SO READY TO BE DONE.  Ran an average of 7:55 min/mile and while you may think I should've gone faster cause it was all downhill, well, pounding on pavement on steep hills is not fun.  I did my best.  But once I was done I was happy... and tired.

After all our 6 runners finished their legs, it was the last 6 to continue on and bring our team to the finish in Snowmass.  We, on the other hand, stopped in Basalt to have some delicious breakfast.  We were done running, we had been fed and were bound to just wait.  We went to the Exchange Point 36 in lower Snowmass to cheer on our last runner and he started his leg.  He looked determined and we, with no doubt in our minds headed up to the base of Snowmass Ski Resort to meet with him and cross the finish line together.

Our last runner, had no easy task in hand... his leg was long (9 miles..ish) and close to 2000 ft of elevation gain.  He said he'd run it in 90 minutes, and we believed him... and he did.  He absolutely crushed it.  But while he was running ferociously, we were just getting the party started.

Robb, our last runner, came sprinting down the mountain and we could barely keep up with him, but we somehow, kind of, sort of, crossed the finish line all together. And popped open champagne, and got our medals, and celebrated... FUN!  Ok, this part was ACTUALLY fun.  And I am usually the happiest when the above madness is over (and by that, I mean the running).

Team captain here opening a bottle of Champagne... Yeepeee!!!
The team celebrated and had some beer at the finish line area... shortly after that, we left and went to our hotel in Aspen, where we hung out at the pool with pizza and some more beer.  We then all met for a nice dinner (thanks for buying guys!!) and went out to the bars and clubs... and then some more pizza... this last part is sort of a blur.  Sunday after the partying is never a fun day.

Oh!  Forgot to mention, Team Happy Endings finished 8th place in our category out of 107.  Not too shabby.  Well done team... until next year!

Team Happy Endings at its finest.