Monday, July 22, 2013

Vail Trail Half Marathon

I think I've reached a completely different level of insanity.  I signed up to do the Vail Trail Half this past weekend since my brother was visiting and we figured it'd be fun.  And well, it was only $28.  Always easier to sign up for cheaper races.

We enjoyed a pretty laid back Saturday while cheering some people on at the Beaver Creek X-Terra.  Aside from Lindsay's fiance Patrick making his grand debut on X-Terra triathlons, my all time favorite Julie Dibens, was returning from a two-year break from competing due to an injury.

We decided to go straight to the Finish Line that staged the second transition as well.  I was under the impression Patrick was racing the short distance, but to my surprise, he was doing the long distance along with his younger sister Kelly.

As usual, Shonny and Josiah were the X-Terra champs.  They crush every single mountain race around so it was no surprise seeing them finish first. Congrats Josiah and Shonny!

Julie was not far behind finishing 6th female.  Quite the accomplishment after a few knee surgeries.  She is a three-time X-Terra World Champion after all.

Also, both Kelly and Patrick placed 1st and 3rd in their categories.  Not too shabby for Patrick's first off road triathlon and Kelly's first triathlon EVER.

 As for me, I toed the start line of the half marathon scared to death that I may die. There I was. Lined up next to my brother and my fiance, hoping for the best.

The race director sent us off and it started straight up since the beginning. No room for warming up. The bottom of my calves were feeling tired, but I just pushed through. I tried to be very conservative so I wouldn't get hurt or burn up all my energy early on. My first walk was 3/4 of a mile in for a small steep section and I continued to jog.  I kept a run/walk strategy as much as I could.

Around mile 4.4 you hit the first flat. I want to say it's an uphill flat... A nice traverse along the central part of Vail Mountain. It then circles back to the 4.4 mile marker, but this time, you're at 6.5ish. I did enjoy a nice 1/2 mile downhill before having to head back up. It looked something like this:

View of "runners" going up from mid-vail. 
Against all odds, you eventually do get to the top of the mountain if you continue to put a foot in front of the other. We topped off at the top of Chair #4 (if you know Vail, you know what I'm talking about), which is around mile 8.8 after 3800ft of elevation gain. And while you'd think it's easy from that point on, you're mistaken. Running at 11,200ft is no easy feature feat. (ah, it even rhymes- I think I should re-name this post).

The remaining 4.3 miles are slightly downhill at first, but involve some rollers and a lot of traversing (losing a grand total of 500ft between the aid station at 8.8 and the finish line). But this I'm gonna say. The climb up to 11,200ft is TOTALLY worth it once they make you head over to the other side of the mountain:

Who doesn't want to run here?!?!
The single track was amazing in more ways than one.

True true trail running (and I caught and passed those two). 
Once you arrive to the top of the Gondola, they make you go towards the top of chair 26, go around it and down to the finish (key word- down). Yes, you ACTUALLY finish running down.

I finished 35/40 in my Age Group with a time of 3:11. Not great, but I ran 50 miles the weekend before. Not even sure how much faster I could do it on fresh legs. It's A LOT of climbing.  But I made a small calculation like this:

- Chuck's last road half marathon time was 1h39m (Platte River Half 2013)
- Chuck's vail trail half was 2h23m
- Which means it was 44% slower

- My same half marathon time was 1h57m (Platte River Half 2013)
- If my performance decreased 44% due to trail difficulty and elevation gain, my time should be 2h49m

Since I ran a 50-miler the weekend before and decided not to push it overly hard, I finished at 3:11, which means a decrease in performance between my Platte River Half (PR) and this of 63%, but guess what? I took pictures and I had fun.

For shits and giggles, my brother's Vail Half Marathon was 40% slower than his last road half marathon, so messing with that 40-45% rule was fairly accurate.

In the end, I finished 253 out of 297 finishers, which means EVEN after running 50 miles, I still beat 44 people who MOST LIKELY did not run 50 miles the weekend before. It's still much better standing than the Vail Pass Half.

The rest of the day we did nothing but rest. As I will do today as I deal with a nasty case of allergies, ugh. I should live in the mountains.

Happy finishers!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mt. Hood 50 - Race Recap

"If it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, then run!"
Relentless Forward Progress, A Guide to Running UltraMarathons  

I woke up at 3:45am on July 13, 2013. Ready to roll.  I was nervous, yes. But calm.  I had everything figured out so I showered, I went to the kitchen, ate my breakfast that consisted of two flour tortillas with a full avocado. I shall call them: Avocado wraps. In addition, I ate a lemon-poppyseed muffin. It's hard to eat so much when it's so early in the morning and when you're nervous.  We left the condo at 5:00am sharp and drove the 12ish miles to the race start. We barely made it to hear the last few words from the race director (RD) to the people who decided to start running at 5:30am and we saw them start.  We picked up our bib numbers and went back to the car, it was freezing.  

My lucky number
At 6:10am we headed back to the start line and it was still 35 degrees, but I had already decided I would run with shorts and a light long sleeve tshirt. I had the opportunity to leave drop bags at miles 14, 28 (start/finish area) and 39, but I decided to just leave some stuff at the 28 mile station. My reasoning was: I don't want to lose anything and I don't want to have to worry about my stuff after I finish, so having it all at the same spot where I'd finish just seemed perfect. In my drop bag I had an extra pair of compression socks and shoes (in case they had gotten wet or I just felt the need to change shoes) and a change in shirt. If my calculations were right, I'd be getting to mile 28 around 11:30am or 12:00 which was the time it would start warming up, so changing to a short sleeve t-shirt sounded like the right thing to do.  

At 6:25am, I hugged my man, he wished me good luck and I lined up at the start line with Courtney. We listened to instructions from the RD (like what color the course markers were, where to find porta-potties, and some other general rules), and he sent us on our way. As always, once the clock starts ticking and my legs start moving, it's like the world stops turning and I find my happy place. The butterflies in my stomach went away along with the urge to pee.  There I was, taking the first few steps of my 50-mile journey. 

I wasn't scared AT ALL. 
The first mile and a half or so were pretty mellow, as expected. But there was one short climb that I had to walk around mile 2 which I hadn't considered. I guess it's always hard to come up with your full strategy from the elevation profile alone, but everyone walked it. It was steep and short. Arrived at the top and kept jogging.  I continued to look down at my garmin and my pace was slightly faster than what I had anticipated, so I desperately wanted to slow down, but it's hard to slow down on fresh legs. I tried to go as slow as possible.  The scenery was breathtaking, the trails were soft and people were just quietly running away and no one seemed to be in a hurry. Even when I heard someone jogging behind me, I'd ask: "Do you want to pass?", they'd say: "No, it's ok. We have a long day ahead. I'm in no rush."  After a few minutes, some people would pass me when the trail allowed, without disturbing me.  That was nice and I did the same to others.  Before I could realize it, I was arriving at the first aid station at mile 6. Grabbed some chips, gummy bears and GU brew and continued on. Kept it short. 

Running on soft trails. Picture by Long Run Picture Company
The next section was mostly uphill, and while I had anticipated to basically walk the whole way to the aid, the climb wasn't steep at all. So I was able to jog most of it while walking the steeper sections. Arrived at the aid station at mile 9 fairly fast and definitely ahead of schedule.  Ate some more, had some more electrolytes, used the porta-potty and off I go. From mile 9 to 14 (turn around point) it was mostly rolling with a big downhill to the turn around. Kept up with my jog on flatter sections and downhills and walked the steeper hills. I didn't stay long at this aid station either and ate my usual. On the way back though, I was able to jog to the top of the hill (slowly) and jog the downhills. The aid station at mile 19 sneaked up on me fast. And so did the one at mile 22.  I knew I had been pacing myself smartly and was feeling strong.  While the last 6 miles back to the start/finish area felt like the longest of this "first" section, I still felt strong. Before I knew it, I was back to where it all started.  

Running up out of aid station at mile 14. Picture by Long Run Picture Company
I had aimed to run these first 28 miles at an average pace of 11:47min/mile, but I ended up running slightly faster.  I ran the first 14 miles in 2:34:16 an at average pace of 10:51min/mile and on the way back I ran 2:41:50 which is an average pace of 11:23min/mile. I quickly changed my shirt, handed my hydration pack to the volunteer, used the porta-potty, got my pack and headed back out. My good friend Theresa was supposed to meet me out there but had told me the night before she may not make it, because her little baby didn't sleep much the day before.  I was ok with that and at the 28-mile marker I was in great spirits and again it was a stop-and-go kinda situation where I didn't really feel like I would've stayed back to chat much, so it's probably good that she didn't have to sit there for hours. 

Did I mention that Mt. Hood would make an appearance from time to time? 
Off I go, and the long uphill wasn't overly steep, so I decided to approach it like I did my Vail Pass half marathon: a walk/jog based on time or distance. And I felt like I was making progress.  This is the section where I actually started passing people, even people that had started at 5:30am. I felt like a rockstar. Again, in no-time, I arrived at the first aid station which was 5.5 miles from the start at mile 33.5. At this point, the only thing that really hurt was the bottom of my feet. I wanted to take a seat just to get off my feet for 2 minutes, but I didn't.  I ate some food and continued on.  Another push to the top of the hill and then a nice downhill. This was the only technical part of the course, it was a steeper downhill so I couldn't quite bomb down it. Regardless, I was still moving at a decent speed, before it was time to go back up. These last 1.5ish miles to the turn around were uphill and they felt endless, but I was still in good spirits as I was officially running/hiking the longest I'd ever done in my life.  Along the way someone  told me there were popsicles at the turn around, HOLY COW. That sounded GLORIOUS. I could not stop moving. I reached the aid station again feeling good. I thought: "Who feels good after running 40 miles?". I knew I'd pay for it sooner or later.  

There were several creek/river crossings so we had to go on AMAZING bridges. Picture by Long Run Picture Company
I sat down. My feet were hurting (but that was it). I enjoyed my grape popsicle and was able to get up when I was done.  I dipped some salty ruffles in peanut butter and continued on. Downhill: YES! I ran. The long 1.5 mile up to the aid station on the way out, was a FAST run down and was bummed to get to the river knowing I had to climb for 2.5 miles. Remember when I said it was a steep technical downhill? Now I had to go up it. GREAT. Well, HELLO WALL. My wall came in the form of a, well, wall. An ACTUAL wall I had to go up and over. The good news is that once I got to the top of the wall and over, it was all downhill to the finish. So these were my thoughts: power-hike as hard as I can and not acknowledge that it is a wall or, walk it, recover, re-group, think about strategy, review and analyze what I've eaten and what I've had to drink and THEN run down.  The second option seemed better to me. I walked. Kept putting one foot in front of the other and sooner that later, I got to the top. It's all downhill now. TO THE FINISH, for 6 long miles. 

Let me smile and take a picture as I see the LAST aid station
The last aid station was special. It was the last aid station after all.  I again sat down since my feet were KILLING me. Ate some food, thanked the volunteers and moved on. I was able to run the whole way down.  It was a slow jog at roughly 12min/miles, but hey, I had been at it for 10 hours, so that's pretty good anyway.  I continued to pass some people. The last 6 miles were fast (in my mind anyway) and sooner than expected, I reached the road. You run a few steps on the road, cross over and there it is. The finish line. I cried. As always. 

Here's a couple finisher shots by Long Run Picture Company, the got me good (don't mind my face, I was holding back tears and pain). 

Yeah, gotta stop the watch!
My finish time was 11:14:25, and while I had aimed to finish in 11hrs, I'm not disappointed to finish 14 minutes slower since that translates to an average of 17 seconds per mile slower than what I had aimed for. Which for a first 50-miler, I don't think is bad. 

My BFF who got me into this crazy thing called long distance running and the crazy who finished 2nd place overall female.  Courtney KILLED the race and finished in 7h59m
In the end, I finished 62nd overall and 4th in my age group. There were 127 finishers and 160 people started the race (33 did not finish).  An additional 5 did not start. 

Live Tracker on Facebook!
All my crew was there to see me finish and I was stoked to see them. I had basically gone 11 hours and 14 minutes without support and it was only me telling myself I could do it. While I would've loved to see some of my people along the way, I now feel very accomplished since I embraced the situation as best as I could and did as I planned. Should I have pushed it harder earlier? Maybe, but then again, if I had, maybe I would've hit a bigger wall, one that didn't come in the form of a 2.5-mile climb and it would've been harder to go over. Maybe some other muscles would've hurt. Maybe I would've burned out. Who knows?! So all in all, I think my race was perfect although it was BY FAR the hardest thing I've ever done, but I'll get to that later... Will I do it again?  Maybe, but for now, I have Bear Chase 50K to worry about (where I have a real goal) and potentially the San Francisco Endurance Challenge 50K (which would be a 30-miler on my 30th birthday), but this last one is not confirmed yet.  

Happy running. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's race day.

It's 3:45am. I can't sleep any more... 

But it's days like today that I live for. When life is simple... It's me- mind, body and soul, and the trail. It's putting one foot in front of the other and smiling. And nothing else matters

50 miles of bliss... Here we go! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mt. Hood 50 week - Day 5

It's almost 9:00pm- bedtime. My alarm is set to 4:00am. My hydration vest is full of water, packed and ready to go. My clothes are laid out in the bathroom. All I have to do is show up to the start line and do what I do best: run.

Today was a low-key day but full of stuff to do so I could stay distracted from the race. 

Woke up in Portland early in the morning and waited for Kevin and Courtney to meet us at our hotel to go to breakfast. After breakfast we cruises around town for a while and then hung out at Deschutes Brewery for a while. We then drove to Government Camp and also walked around town and went to Mt. Hood Brewery for more beer and dinner. The last activity of the day was to head up to Mt. Hood resort and see the mountain up close. It's majestic. 

We came back to the condo in Government Camp and I packed my nutrition and hydration and prepped my clothes. I'm ready to go. 

Am I nervous, you ask? Of course! But I think I'm ready... But mostly, I'm exhausted, so I'm ready to go to bed, rest and give it my all in the morning (and afternoon and evening). 

Last but not least, the weather is perfect here. Couldn't ask for better conditions. 

Have a good night... I'll see you in the morning. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mt. Hood 50 Week - Day 4

Today's the day I leave for Portland.  I'm so excited. 

Late flight tonight
I barely slept last night which is usually the case the day before I travel. I don't know what is it about traveling that has me up until late: cleaning, doing laundry, packing, etc.  This time was different though since I knew this ALWAYS happens and I wanted to get ahead of the game. And also, my flight is not until 10 so I will be able to finish up some stuff before leaving.  So WHY did I still sleep very little?  Well, I was happily folding clothes when I received an email that included the last piece of paper I needed to send my application to Immigration Services for permanent residency. The rest of the paperwork was basically ready, but holy cow... reading it over and over, making sure it's all signed, making cover letters and cover pages and making sure I have the right documents and the right amount of copies.  And finally, make copies of it all for my records (around 100 pages).  

Today I dropped it off at Fedex and it's gone... out of my hands. I've never had an actual anxiety attack, but today I did. I know, pathetic, but it makes me nervous that it's no longer up to me. It did help to take my mind off of the race for a day though. While my stupid anxiety attack lasted a couple of hours, I eventually felt slightly relieved. It's like I have nothing major to worry about for a while. Ok, wedding planning is stressful, but it's different kind of stress. If the DJ doesn't play one song, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Getting kicked out of the County while the love of my life is here, is SORT OF a big deal.  Helps put things in perspective, huh?  Now I can focus in other things that I've been putting off for months. I've already tackled a couple of things, feels better. 

Since I haven't thought about it at all today, I don't have much to say today, except that the weather is still on track to be SUPER nice on Saturday. 

Looks like we'll get a little bit of cloud cover now... hopefully towards the later part of the race. 
Now, off to drop off Levi with Leah, get some last items and off to have a drink at the airport to celebrate that the app is on it's way to Chicago! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mt. Hood 50 week - Day 3

It's getting closer and closer and I continue to obsess about it.  Today though, I feel like I accomplished a lot.  I read a few other blogs that had race reports from previous years and included some pictures.  I am content with the trails and while slightly freaked out about the elevation gain, I'm also slightly confident.  So here's what I found out: 

It's two out-and-backs. The first one is 14 miles out and the second is 11. While out-and-back courses are slightly tedious, I also like it in long days because mentally, it's easy to break them down. For example, it's easier to talk myself to run a few 14-milers and 11-milers than it is to talk myself into running 50 miles.  You take it one at a time. My Ironman course was two out-and-backs of 6.5 miles each and it was pretty doable (especially the second year).  My 50K course was loops, one short 10k loop and then two 13 mile loops, and it was pretty nice too. The fact that you go through the start/finish half-way is definitely nice since there's a fair share of support and in this specific race, it will be past the half-way point.  

That said, this is my strategy per section, first the 28-miler, then the 22-miler. 

First half: 

As you can see in the elevation profile below, there are 5 aid stations along the course before coming back to the start/finish area and the third one being the turn around point. 

First half - Click to enlarge
The aid stations are in the following mile markers: 6, 9.2, 14.2, 19.2 and 22.4.  I feel I can comfortably jog all the way to the first aid station and even a little past it. Seems like the first big climb comes around mile 6.5 or 7 and should be a mile or mile and a half long. I should walk this. I should be able to jog the next section through the aid station and then walk the other two smaller (but what looks like steeper) hills, but try to keep jogging on the downhills all the way to the 3rd aid station and turn around point. From there, it should be a nice walk to the top of the hill before hitting the downhill.  Apart from a hill somewhere around mile 16ish where there's another little hill, I should be able to jog all the way back to the start/finish area.  I should make a point of having the water in my pack last all the way through mile 28 and make my stops short at the aid stations. Grab some solid food along the way, drink from their cups to "save" my water and keep it as efficient as possible. 

One of my BFFs and lifetime running partner, Theresa, will be meeting up with me at the start/finish area before I head out on the 22 mile section. I'm hoping to still be feeling great and ready to keep rolling, but will be looking forward to a serious pep-talk before I head out to the unknown. I expect to be getting there within 5:30hrs which is an average pace of 11:47min/mile, which is fairly conservative compared to how I've been running lately. 

Up until mile marker 31, it's stuff I know, but I've never ran more than that. While I've never actually RAN all 31 miles, I was able to keep a VERY steady pace for my last 50K despite the 2000ft of gain. Walking the steeper climbs and jogging the flats and downhills. During my last 31-miler I was able to maintain an avg pace of 11:33 min/mile on a more technical course with 6 river crossings and no protection (yes, it was hot and there were barely any trees). I am hoping for something slightly slower, yet more efficient given the conditions. 

Second half: 

As you can see in the elevation profile below, the hills are much more intense and only 3 aid stations along the way with the second being the turn around point.  

Second half - Click to enlarge
I intend to run a couple miles from the start/finish aid station before power-hiking to the first aid station. I will continue to power-hike to the top of that hill and attempt to run the downhill. I'm not a great technical downhill runner and I expect these trails to be much  more mellow (and soft) than the Colorado trails.  If the elevation profile is accurate, it's a 1000ft drop over 3-ish miles, before having to power-hike 500ft. I should be able to jog the flat/downhill before climbing 1000ft over those 3 miles.  Once I reach the top around mile 42, it's literally downhill to the finish with a few "bumps" along the road.  Since this second section is harder, I expect to hit the the same 5:30ish hours, which is an average pace of 15min/mile. 

Not sure if this is "sand-bagging" it too much or if it's too "cocky" of me to think I can just stick to a plan, but I don't know any better. I've never done a 50-miler and not sure what mile 30 through 50 will feel like.  I do expect to hit the wall more than once and the pre-set walk sections should be good for talking myself through the wall and re-grouping.  I do truly believe I'm ready and it's good to have a strategy.  If something goes wrong I will at least know what's coming and will know what kind of "Plan B" I should be coming up with. 

To keep up with this week's trend, here's the weather info.  Still looking good and actually slightly cooler, but still with the sun shining.  A high of 70 definitely guarantees a good performance. 
Saturday is looking good! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mt. Hood 50 Week - Day 2

I overslept today. It was sorta nice. I opened my eyes at 7:50 and was supposed to be at work at 8:00am, so that was an issue. But what can you do?  I texted someone at my office, let them know I was late and showed up to work at 8:25, not TOO bad.  I tried to get as much work done as possible since I'll be out on Friday, but mostly, to take my mind off running and the race.  I was successful at getting lots of work done, not so successful at keeping my mind off of running. 

I started going through all the gear I want to bring.  It seems somewhat easier than packing for an Ironman, but still wouldn't want to forget stuff.  So just like the ten essentials for hiking, I created a list called: "Gaby's Ten Essentials for Trail Running"

After an epic trail run
1. Shoes. It seems dumb, but it's important to have it on the list.  Multiple times I've been so worried about the other gear that I find myself walking out the door without my running shoes. Then I find myself running  back inside: "I forgot my shoes!!". Remember to bring the shoes you've been training with. 

2. Socks. It's surprising how these little things can make or break your race. I have tried expensive Pearl Izumi socks, reasonably priced "dry-fit" Nike socks, but the ones I LOVE are the cheap Target "dri-fit" socks.  For races like these, I tend to bring an extra pair or two to have out on the course (in drop bags) in case mines get wet.  

3. Running clothes. What are you wearing? That question always brings up a HUGE question mark in my face, but overtime, I've learned what to bring: a little bit of everything.  I usually bring running shorts (I love the Nike Tempos) unless it's winter, otherwise, shorts will be good enough. Even if it's chilly at first. I usually bring two shirts: a long sleeve and a short sleeve, just so I can decide last minute based on race time weather conditions. I also bring a light running sweatshirt in case it's supposed to be cold at first, but warm later. For longer days, this extra piece of gear is recommended regardless of conditions in the morning... especially in the mountains, the weather changes fast. That said, a light rain jacket is always nice to have as well. Depending on the location and time of year, you may also want to carry a pair of light gloves and a beanie. 

4. Sunscreen. Always wear sunscreen. Especially at high altitude and when you're going to be out for long periods of time. Wear sunglasses as well (or bring them with you in case it gets sunny), your eyes burn as well and the more protected you are, the more comfortable you'll be. On long runs I carry a small travel-sized sunscreen bottle, although when racing, you may find sunscreen at several aid stations. 

5. Fuel. This is a personal choice... meaning, I can't tell you what to carry. Fuel hourly on long runs and try and eat what you ate during your training runs.  Liquids and gels have the advantage that they're made to be digested quickly so you get the benefits of it fast.  Over the years I've figured out how much I need to stay energized and how often. During longer runs, it's nice to carry several types of fuel so you don't get bored and can eat whatever you're craving.  I will guarantee you won't want to eat the same thing during the 1st hour and during the 8th hour.  

6. Hydration. I personally carry my hydration vest.  I love it. There's all sorts of different brands out there, I have the Nathan one, which has a 2-liter (68 ounces) bladder.  It also has a small zippered pocket in the back where I usually have some extra food, sunscreen, tissues and some first aid items.  I also put my ID and some extra cash (or credit card) there.  It's pretty decently sized.  In the front I have a small zippered pocket for my GUs and some salt pills and another pocket (no zipper- so it's easy access) where I put one GU (the one I'm gonna eat next), my map (usually just the elevation profile), and my chapstick.  If I'm running for fun, this is where I'd put my camera as well.  Anyway, this bladder lasts me quite a while considering I drink around 20 ounces per hour, So in theory, I only need to re-fill once.  Unless it's too hot... Or my run is going to go well over 8hrs (like my 50-miler). 

7. Watch (Garmin). While I wish I could run endlessly without knowing how far and fast I'm going, I just cant' make it.  I need to know where I'm at, how long I've been out there and my elevation gain so far.  It can work for the best sometimes since not only do I use it to pace myself to run my fastest marathon (or whatever distance I'm doing), but I need it to know when I'm going too fast.  Especially early on, it's nice to know a certain pace is way too fast for the first 5 miles of a 50-miler. 

8. First Aid Kit. Ok, I don't usually carry my full first aid kit but as of late, I've made sure I have a few essentials. First and foremost, I carry water purification tablets. What if I run out of water, it's hot and I'm far from an aid station or car?  I should be able to get water from creeks or lakes without dying. I have a couple bandaids, ibuprofen, gauze. These items should keep me going in case I get blisters or fall. 

9. Map. If I go for a training run in the wilderness, I bring my map. For trail races I bring the map and the elevation profile. I've found I perform better if I know how to save my energy for hills so knowing where those hills are seems pretty helpful and just in case I fall behind, I have to have a map I understand.  I usually study my trails before I head out (even if it's a race and it's all supposed to be well marked). 

10. Cell Phone. Even if I'm racing, it's good to have some form of communication. A trail race (especially the long ones) is not like a road marathon where, if you get hurt, there's lots of people and paramedics to help. In the trails you're on your own until you find someone. Carrying a cell phone can get you help sooner rather than later or make your hike when hurt shorter.  

Now, while I'll focus on these items to pack tomorrow, right now, I'm still focused on the weather, which is holding up just fine... except that it's getting hotter.  Please stay in the los 70s!! 


Monday, July 8, 2013

Mt. Hood 50 Week - Day 1

It's here. It creeped up on me BIG TIME, but I think I'm ready.  Or as ready as one can get as one approaches the start line of their first 50-mile race. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and they've been busy with a ton of little errands but I've somehow managed to keep running. 

Last weekend I hit the trails with Sam over at Indian Peaks Wilderness.  We had thought of doing a loop that included Devil's Thumb Pass but we were both attempting it on pretty tired legs and the weather was slowly creeping up on us, so we decided to turn around a half a mile (or so) away from the top of the pass.  It's days like today that I'm reminded I'm only human though... I felt tired from training so hard for months, for running long and mostly from life.  And it's runs like that, that get me totally freaked out about a 50-mile race.  I wanted to die in this 14-mile trail run and yet, I'm supposed to run 50 miles in two weeks. BLEH. Sam did say something that is very true: you need a crappy run two weeks before your big day to realize that YOU NEED TO TAPER and that TAPER IS GOOD.  And while "slowing down" my training freaks me out too, it was good to feel that my legs needed to slow down if I wanted them to be fresh for the race.  

Indian Peaks Wilderness never disappoints
The scenery was gorgeous though, so I won't dwell on the difficulty of this run, but I was remembered that if you want to run trails in Colorado you have to either go up or down and Indian Peaks is steep and very rocky.  I had a pretty fun day with Sam followed by a big barbecue meal in Ned.  

So tired... taking a break. 
I had another busy week after this run, lots of errands which included wedding planning and sorting out paperwork for my green card application, and of course, work.  Still again, my one run over the weekend was again with Sam (and now with my brother) at the Missouri Lake trail.  It was quite epic. 

Sam and I at the top of Missouri Pass
The views, as usual, did not disappoint. And it was awesome to be able to get out with my brother. So we started off at the trailhead and ran/hiked (mostly hiked) the 3.5 miles to the first lake, where we decided to take a break and jump in the freezing cold water. It was definitely a first for me, I don't wanna promise I'd do it again, but it was definitely fun. 

I could barely breathe! 
We then put on our running clothes back on and went on to the top of Missouri Pass. The views from the top of the pass were absolutely amazing... and I'm constantly reminded of why I now trail run vs road run. Once we took a million and one photos we ran back down to the car and drove straight to Mango's in Red Cliff.  I know, not your typical chain restaurant in a big City.  Red Cliff is this pretty awesome small town between Minturn and Leadville on US24. It's a pretty cute mountain town and after driving through it we found our amazing lunch spot.  One of the best bloody mary's I've had was there.  I housed two with some appetizers and a quesadilla that had no chicken (thank goodness to actual mexican quesadillas), but had mushrooms and jalapenos and avocado... yum. 

On my drive back home from Vail, I got NAILED with hail.  It was actually funny, how it started raining, then in a heartbeat it changed to downpour and all of a sudden I felt something hitting my head hard: HAIL.  It hurt.  I managed to pull over at Vail Pass rest area, let the storm pass and keep on driving.  It all happened in 10mins... the sun, the rain, hail, rainbows and getting back in my car to drive home.  It was like Colorado is pregnant and is going through pretty insane mood swings. 

Good idea
10mins later - bad idea
I laughed HARD for a bit... who cares?  It's just a bit of water and it was fun. I was pretty chilly most the way home, mostly cause I was soaked.

With this kind of weekend, who has time to actually THINK about my race coming up in 5 days?  Hmm... I guess I did think about it.  I read 4 or 5 race reports from random blogs of people that ran it in previous years and chatted with my ultra-runner boss for a bit.  He gave me good pointers and I learned a bit more about the trail.  

Most importantly (and the one thing that gives away how much I'm freaking out) is when I start monitoring the weather.  As of now, this is how it looks like: 

Perfect running Conditions!
Happy running! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gaby goes to Seattle

I flew out to Seattle on Friday a week ago to meet up with one of my best friends of all times Todor.  TD (how I call him) and I met in 2007 in Boulder when I was at my senior year in college and he was there as an exchange student.  The day we met, we instantly connected... I mean, this guy was awesome to party with or to just hang out and chat.  We had LONG sessions of just talking about life while drinking wine.  We would always meet up on fridays to drink wine.  We called it our red red wine nights and we used to listen to Bob Marley.  Those were the good days. 

After a semester in Boulder, he went back to Monterrey and graduated.  He eventually got a  job at Microsoft and moved out to Seattle.  I'd promised a long time ago, I'd come visit.  In April, I happened to be chit-chatting with him (through facebook I think) and he said he was running the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon. Why not?  Registration was $95 and a plane ticket was $190 so I went for it.  This is the thing... when we lived in Boulder together, he wasn't a runner and all of a sudden he became a runner when he moved to Seattle so now, we had that in common, on top of everything else.  I HAD to go run a marathon with my good old buddy TD.  

Landed in Seattle after an outstanding approach into the Pacific NW.  WOW.  I got a chance to see Mt. Hood and Rainier... gosh, it was breathtaking.  TD picked me up at the airport and we went over to Bellevue (where he lives).  We wanted tacos and Mexican beer (go figure).  He took me to this one place that was actually REALLY good. And we feasted. We went back to his place and went to bed early-ish. We did have gigantic spanglish sessions of catching up.  

Views of Rainier flying into Seattle
On Saturday, the alarm went off. I got out of bed and TD was full on awake and ready to go. I got ready and we headed out. I had already decided that I was going to run at TD's pace which was 30 seconds slower than mine each mile, that seemed to be the perfect approach for a long training run.  We started and the first 3 miles we were running at a very comfortable pace to me but a little faster for him.  He said we should slow down, we did.  At mile 4, I, of course, needed to go to the bathroom, I finally saw a porta-potty at an ideal location after an out-and-back so told TD I'd pick up the pace, hit the porta-potty and catch up. The line was longer when I got there, stood in line and then saw TD run by.  By the time I got out, I knew TD was 5mins ahead of me at roughly mile marker 6.  Damn, that's quite a bit if we both continue to run.  I decided to make a "speed-work" out of that marathon and decided to pick up the pace to 8:30min/miles. This meant that I could catch him in 2.75 miles.  I felt great and eventually caught up to him at mile 8.5, I was feeling good, but was happy to have to slow down there... not so sure how much longer I would've been able to keep up that speed (although let me tell you, sea level is amazing).  

Ready to go!!
The run at that point was absolutely gorgeous as we ran along the Lake Washington shore with amazing views of Mt. Rainier.  Eventually we got to Mercer Bridge (around mile 16) and off we go to Mercer Island.  TD felt like he was hitting the wall and around mile 17 we did our first walk. After this, the rest of the marathon was a run/walk for TD (consequentially for me too).  I bet there's a bunch of things TD learned from this experience and I'm hoping it won't be his last.  And while you'd think I didn't learn anything new cause I've run so many, I actually did learn quite a bit... I may have learned some stuff I wouldn't have learned on my own.  

1. Mental training for my ultra- Sometimes we try and listen to our bodies (ok, most times), but we forget about the bigger picture.  What happens when you feel like you can continue to run, but you KNOW it's not best at that time? You KNOW you should walk that section while your body tells you to just go for it.  You need to learn to look at the bigger picture.  In an ultra, I probably should not bomb up a hill at mile 5 when I know I have 45 miles left of unknown terrain.  Maybe I should bomb up a hill at mile 45 if my body still feels great.  Anyway, despite TD telling me a few times that I should just go if I wanted, I knew it was best to take it easy and walk to the finish if it meant a fast recovery and not too much stress to my body.  Thanks TD for helping me in a successful training run. 

2. Push through pain- Not like I didn't know how to, but it's interesting to see how different things hurt in different scenarios.  Hand in hand with #1, my pace was different to what I'm used to, and I ran my longest pavement run in a while... I've been running lots of trails to mimic the conditions of my ultra in Oregon. Right around mile 7, the balls of my feet started to hurt. I knew it was a pacing thing.  I'm not used to run slower than my actual pace and having my foot actually touching the pavement for so long. I knew I could fix this issue by running at my preferred pace and finishing faster, but then again, I knew finishing faster had other consequences. So I kept it slow and dealt with the pain. 

3. Weather matters- Boulder temps have been HIGH. Highs in the upper 90s towards the end of the day, 70s at night... you know: HOT.  Seattle's weather was AMAZING. Race day was nice and warm: 75 degrees, no clouds and no humidity. I was in heaven. But I did ask TD what he thought brought him down at mile 17 and he said weather. He's used to training in cooler temperatures with overcast skies... so those 75 degrees that felt amazing to me, felt like hell to him. It was a good reminder that when it comes to endurance racing, it is important to train (at least a few times) in whatever conditions you may end up racing in.  

Gorgeous Seattle, not a cloud in the sky! 
We finished the race in 5:15 and had a huge meal (that included bloody mary's and mac and cheese) after the race.  We then napped to be able to go out at night, except that we woke up at 11 at night... only to order pizza and go back to bed. Bliss.  My favorite things in the whole world: running, pizza, sleeping, friends. Life is good.  

Happy Finishers