Monday, April 28, 2014

The ultimate mud run

It was a Fruita kinda weekend again. Linds, Court, Kev and I ran the Fruita Trail Running Festival last year and had an amazing time. We had to do it again this year and we made it happen... and it was even better than last year. This year, both Linds and I had our husbands come along and run as well, that alone made it better... but ALSO, we were ALL there both days.

Courtney had signed up for the double marathon and half marathon, Kevin had marathon and half on his schedule and I did too. The rest of the crew was signed up for the half marathon. Regardless, the people running on Sunday only, were there to see us all finish on Saturday. It was quite special.

Woke up early on Saturday for a 6:30am race start. All our gear was ready and all three of us were concerned with the weather. Forecast called for overcast skies and a light rain. My main concern was the clothing... will I wear long sleeve t-shirt? long sleeve over short sleeve? short sleeve? I decided on long sleeve over short... except that... I switched to just short sleeve 5 minutes before the start. It was already raining at the start (and had been drizzling for an hour or so). The first mile on the dirt road was fine, but the second we hit the single track, the mud was noticeable. Little did I know, this would be the driest mile of my whole run.

The first 3 miles are uphill and technical and while I was looking forward to the 3 miles of downhill, I couldn't gain much on those. We all had to cautiously run due to mud. Reached the 6 mile aid feeling strong. Off I go to more muddy single track.... There were some "runable" sections that were a 10th of a mile at the most... It'd take 45 seconds to get into a rhythm and get a smile on my face... when you'd reach a muddy spot.  Miles 8 to 10 were dry-ish. This is what I call "the rim trail". It's more rocky, so I wouldn't find much mud, but the rock was slick. I focused and was able to "make up" some time by running sub-9min miles... but then the fun ended... it was STILL raining. I was soaked and covered in mud and it was time to hit 10 miles of single track.

Running at mile 24 before the downhill.
This 10 mile stretch of single track was BEYOND muddy. It was IMPOSSIBLE to run and I was just waiting for my big fall. It never came. I managed to pass a significant amount of people with my determination to run... The uphills were tough and people kept sliding backwards. After the aid station at mile 20, there's a 2-mile steep uphill stretch that made me carry an extra 20 pounds of weight in the form of mud on my shoe.  Miles 22-24 are rolly at the top of a mountain and the first time I got to wear my sunglasses... the rain FINALLY stopped and the sun wanted to make an appearance.

My hubby and dog were waiting there and I believe I was slightly rude to them... but I was trying (HARD) to re-group to push hard on the last few miles. I also saw Courtney coming back for her 2nd loop (which is backwards). I finally hit the downhill which is technical and was still slightly slippery, but not as bad. The last mile and a half was again dry (that frontage road from the beginning) and I was able to maintain a steady pace. My time was 20 minutes slower than last year which was slightly disappointing at first but then I realized EVERYONE'S times were an average of 30 minutes slower due to the crazy mud. Let me say this: there is nothing, NOTHING fun about mud runs.

Crossing the finish line

Marathon finisher
Chilling post-run. 
Court and Kev finished strong as well with times fairly slower than last year as well... but we were all in pretty good spirits. This was a much more challenging race mentally, than physically so once the race was over, it's like we all woke up from a long long nap. We went back to the hotel and showered and went to the awards ceremony... Court had won the 52-mile race. We went to bed early and got prepped to do it all over again on Sunday.

We woke up Sunday a half an hour later since the race started at 7am. We met up with the rest of the crew at the race start area. This time, we were ALL running the half marathon. Linds, Patty and Chuck had "fresh" legs. Kev, Court and I were gonna "take it easy". Chuck took off fast. Kev and Court are super machines and took off along with Patty... and Linds and I were going at an easy "training" pace. Linds was feeling strong and it was hard for me to keep up with her, but glad I had someone to chase down. I'm sure I would've slowed down if I had been alone. Linds was tackling the uphills so much better than I had ever seen her and I'm glad she made me dig deep. Digging deep is something I need to put in practice a lot before Transrockies, it'll be a skill that'll come in handy that week...

Pretty views.
At the half way point, we met up with Patty who was having some tummy issues... ugh, we've all been there!! I felt bad for him, but he pushed through it like a champ and stuck in the back of the pack with us at a nice, steady pace.  The last 6 miles of the half are the exact same first 6 miles of the full marathon, but backwards... so, 3 miles up and 3 miles down to the finish. I'd never run this section of the course backwards and I realized how much "easier" it was... in my eyes anyway. The uphill seems less steep coming from this side and we were able to slowly jog a pretty significant part of it. Once we reached the top I decided to jump in front of Linds and just "book it" down the mountain.

The trails had been dry the whole day this time around and I needed a big downhill to close off the weekend. I went as hard as I could. I passed 9 people in a 2 mile stretch of technical downhill and slowed down to wait for Linds on the frontage road back to the finish. She caught up to me fast and while she had the legs to push hard on the last quarter mile, I simply didn't... although I did finish it at an 8:50 min/mile... Linds must've been FLYING. She finished 15 seconds in front of me and Patty came shortly after.

Happy 2013 Fruita crew!
Seemed like everyone had a pretty good run despite some of us having a long hard run on our legs from the previous day. All in all, between the 6 of us, we completed 183 miles of racing in only 2 days. I ran 39 of those. I was sore on Monday, but felt fine on Tuesday. I skipped the Dash and Dine 5K since I figured my legs would be trashed and I could use an extra day of rest.

I deserved a beer after two days of running. And note how clean my socks look! 
This week there's no Dash and Dine, but I will be running with coach Eric to get faster. On Saturday, I'll be running the Greenland 50k which should be a pretty fast course. I'm hoping for a PR, but I gotta remember it's a long training run. If the PR feels doable, I will go for it, if it's a "dig deep" kinda push, I may just have to let it go.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dash and Dine #2

Weather was significantly better for race number two. I could still feel a slight breeze, but in general it was all good. No excuses, the pressure was on.

If you read my blog last week, you know I was slightly pissed off with my time (despite my 3rd place in my Age Group). I needed it to be faster this week. I could tell right away there were more people and I was itching to get started. My biggest issue with these runs is that I'm very inconsistent (almost as inconsistent as the first and last mile of a marathon). So, usually, my first mile is insanely fast... usually a pace I can't maintain even if there was money waiting for me at the end of the second mile. My second mile is always the slowest; as slow as the sloppy mile 24 of a marathon. The third mile is faster, but not as fast as mile 1.

So, all in all my goal was to run 25 seconds faster than on week 1, and hopefully a little more to break 26 minutes. So yes. I ran 42 seconds faster the previous week, I broke 26 minutes by 9 seconds and I still placed 3rd in my age group. This result, as of last week, had me on 5th place overall female for the series. I have 3 races to go but I didn't do it yesterday (mostly due to exhausted legs because of the marathon and half marathon I ran this past weekend), but hopefully, the next 3 (and last 3) will be where I peak (or where people don't show up and I win). After yesterday's race, I'm sitting at 6th place overall women for the series. Ugh, I never thought I'd be competitive for these lil 5k's.

3rd place Age Group two weeks in a row. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Big slap in the face kinda run...

Last Saturday I went for a run up Bear Peak. I meant to run Green and Bear, but I had legitimately forgotten how hard it was to run up Bear. I talked my man into coming along with me, which I'm glad he did... I always think when I do these hard long runs I will give up and turn around sooner than later. I usually don't, but I feel like I will if I don't have someone pushing me to keep going.

Anyway, the run started at Shanahan Ridge. From here, it's basically 3 miles of straight up Fern Canyon. Steep climbs, rocky steps and some ice up high. I wanted to reach the summit of Bear Peak in under an hour, but that seemed like an impossible task at this time. I was off by 15 minutes. It's ok, though... Now I have a goal to work towards.

Summit of Bear Peak
I was pretty tired when I reached the summit and THANKFULLY the clouds looked somewhat treacherous and Chuck had second thoughts about summitting Green Peak. Good, cause I wasn't sure I had it in me to keep going up. We still did the loop, as opposed to just turning back, so we left Bear on the back side and ran another 2-3 miles along the Bear/Green ridge (not sure this is the right name, but that's how I identify it). You eventually get to a point on that ridge where the trail divides in two. If you go left, you go up to Green Peak. If you go right, you go down Bear Canyon which eventually connects with Mesa Trail. Going left towards Green is another 1.5 to 2 mile section up to the summit... which we decided not to do (Chuck was worried about weather and I couldn't get my legs to go up again). We had originally planned to do out-and-back there... We just went down Bear which ended up being slightly more technical that usual. I had not been back there since the flood and the water seemed to have destroyed some big sections of the trail.

Big boulders on destroyed trails... hard to run on!
We finally reached Mesa Trail and we needed to head back towards Shanahan Ridge and back to the car. That section of Mesa is fairly rolling. But the last section to the car was all downhill. All in all, we completed 10.2 miles as opposed to the 13-14 miles we had planned because we cut out Green. But I learned three valuable lessons:

1. Do not underestimate the power of the Boulder Open Space Trails. They're steep and technical.
2. I need to work on my hills. Uphill running is still my weakest point.
3. I need to run more trails. Once it gets technical, I slow down... significantly. I need to remember to look a little farther ahead than just where mt feet are.

After we finished the run, we stopped by KT's BBQ for some delish carbo/protein-loading.

Have you ever had one of those runs that make you realize your training isn't going as good as you thought it was?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I'll keep this one short. But it's April 15th and all of us long distance runners have one thing on our minds: The Boston Marathon. Thankfully, long distance runners are trained to endure and push through. The events at last year's finish line were devastating to everyone in our (running) community but here we are a year later, showing the world why we are a different breed. Instead of fear, hundreds of thousands of people continued to train to make it out to Boston on April 21st to run the 118th Boston Marathon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dashin' through the wind!

It is that time of year. The time when Colorado goes slightly bipolar and can't quite decide if it wants to be sunny or snowy. It's usually VERY sunny, or VERY snowy, nothing really in between. But if it decides to be partly sunny (or partly cloudy) it has to be (HAS to be) windy. Yep, wind is a thing of the spring around here.

The Dash and Dine series was a snowy one last year. It was like the weather knew it was Tuesday and decided to dump ridiculous amounts of snow. Literally all the snow we didn't have last winter fell on the 6 Tuesdays that Dash and Dine was scheduled to happen. That made it easy for me to win. If you know me at all, you know I hate running in the crazy heat (a feature of the Stroke and Stride series... but more on that later). So, when I realized my runs were supposed to be done in 30 degree weather, I was one of the few to show up on race day (and that speedy lil 12 year old that I never got to beat). I placed Top 5 in my age group in every race and finished 5th Overall in the series... Let me tell you, THAT WAS AMAZING for a slow-poke like me. Especially in Boulder... where every single person seems to be able to run a sub 6:00min/mile 5k.... in a bad day.

Well, 2014 rolls around... and since last tuesday wasn't sunny or snowy, it was... yep, you guessed it, WINDY. VERY. My warm-up jog felt horrible. On the way out, it's uphill and on the way back, you had a head-wind. I was barely able to hold a 9:11 min/mile and I was trying to look good to intimidate the skinny girls in sports bras (no, it wasn't that hot, but the girls were...). Come race start, I was freaking out I was not going to be able to run below 9:00 min/mile. But I figured it out.

The way out was uphill, the first dam had an intense side-wind, the second dam felt ok until the turn around, where I had a headwind. Then back to the first dam with an intense side-wind and back to the start with 1/2 mile of headwind. Not my best. Not my worst either, but yes... my second worst in the past year. Dash and Dine #5 last year was my worst so far. This time around, my crappy 26 minute 5k was good enough for a 3rd place in my Age Group by 25 seconds. I better be able to run 25 seconds faster tomorrow. If not for a 2nd place, just for my peace of mind... anything over 26 minutes is simply unacceptable... And I'd like to say that the course may have been shorter the time I PR'ed last year, but my Garmin says otherwise.

Weather forecast for tomorrow calls for 64 degrees, party cloudy (but I'm a partly sunny kinda gal), and 9mph wind from the SW (which means, a slight head-"breeze" on the way back...).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thunder-snow showers and llamas

Sunday was a fine day. We woke up to sunny skies and perfect spring temperatures. My hubby and I had planned on going for a run with Linds and Patrick. Linds is training for her first marathon and this was going to be her longest training run yet (and longest ever).

I felt the need to make it special for her. After all, I had a great training partner (T-Money) back when I started running long distances and she made my runs way better. It was my time to pay it forward. We set out to the Coalton trail head to drop off a car with "aid station" supplies. That trail head would be somewhere between mile 7 or 8 of our 16 mile run. 

Met Linds and Patty at Marshal Mesa trail head when all of a sudden white stuff was falling from the sky. It was some sort of sleet. Great. I was wearing shorts and a light long sleeve. Shortly after we started running, that turned into snow and after 2.5 miles, when we started heading east, we had a pretty legit headwind. 4.5 miles in, we heard thunder. But there was still white stuff falling from the sky. This is Colorado!

Did I mention we saw llamas being walked by their owners... on a leash... like dogs? 
We reached our aid station at exactly 7.5 miles. My man wasn't ready to run more than that because his feet are still trashed from his super race last weekend, but he hung out with us a few minutes at our mobile aid station, which was his car. We re-fueled and continued on. The second part of this course starts with a significant 1.5 mile climb followed by a mile descent on a non-technical dirt path. The downhills always fly by and shortly thereafter, we were climbing again in a single track. 

By the time we hit mile 10, Linds and Patrick were pretty tired but I was inspired by their determination to keep pushing. At mile 14 they had the option to finish off the loop with a straight shot to the trail head which probably would've added up to a 15ish mile run. But they decided to finish what they had started and took the long way back. We stopped the clock at the 16 mile mark which left us walking another 1/4 of a mile back to the car (it was a nice cool down).

16 miles... CHECK! 
All in all it was a great run and a great day with friends. We finished it off at the Southern Sun with some bloody mary's, beers and a large coke for Linds.

What's the weirdest thing you've seen on a trail run? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Racing in the snow

I'm a little behind in updating my virtual audience... but a lot has happened. I've kept up my "outdoorsy" thing to do every day, but decided not to post it EVERY DAY because, well, it was annoying. Even if it's a little walk. I'm out there. I promise. 

There are bigger things than just a little stroll at sunset like the GRAND Traverse. Anything with the word "grand" in it is quite epic. Or it's supposed to be. So let me tell you our grand story: 

On the eve of Thursday March 27th, the husband and I drove all the way down to Crested Butte. Cute little ski town. My husband (not me) was doing a race called the Grand Traverse scheduled to start in good 'ole Crested Butte on Friday night (at midnight... so Saturday?!) and finish sometime between 10am and 4pm, 40 miles later, in Aspen Ski Resort. Get it? Grand Traverse. 

Crested Butte
Due to snow conditions of EPIC (Grand?!) proportions the race directors decided to not go over Star Pass into Aspen and do it an out-and-back course. They call it the Grand Reverse. They've done the "reverse" 3 times in the past 17 years. Athletes complained about the "reverse" being too easy and so race directors got out of their way to make it a little more challenging. Yeah, if you talk to anyone who did the race this year, you'll probably hear how insanely hard it was. 

My man, unfortunately, was a victim of a poorly designed course and got "cut-off" at mile 35 and was asked to take a skin track to a random trail head. It was a 4 mile trek out of the backcountry. He completed 39 miles in 15h45m and was, unfortunately, 9 miles away from the finish (even though he was only 5 miles away at one point). He was the tiredest and coldest I've ever seen him. Me? I was sunburned as hell. Literally. Hell. 

All the crap he carried in his pack for this race
At the mandatory athlete meeting, the race director to very proudly announce that EVERY athlete WILL BE DONE by 11:30 in the morning. My man's GPS tracking device was not working and I just assumed he wouldn't be last, he'd be in the middle of the pack finishing between 9:00 and 10:00. Woke up bright and early after not sleeping much and headed out to the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort at 8:30. I was waiting for him under the sun for 3h45m when he called and said he was going to come out at a trail head slightly outside of town. I drove there and stood another 3 hours waiting for him. No protection aside from some sunscreen I wore at 8:00am. Let me tell you this: a little sunscreen does NOTHING to you when you are standing for 7 hours in the snow with no clouds above you. 

Trail head where I got to pick up my dying man. 
The poor planning and decision-making made the race directors look... not so good. While they'd said their last athlete would come in at 11:30, MANY athletes were out there struggling well after that time. Their last athlete came in past 6:30pm. Yes, almost 17 hours into the race. This is why they implemented a random cut-off without really announcing it to the athletes. Those athletes that didn't make the cut-off were not very happy. 

I let my man recover with a hot shower and a couple hour nap and I woke him up. He had not had a REAL meal since dinner the night before. We went to a steakhouse and enjoyed a massive meal. 

Today, he's got some toenails that I'm not sure are still attached to his feet, but he likes to carry them around. He has some blisters that require daily poking. But he's a trooper and has gone on a couple runs with me regardless. Aside from my summer tan in the mountains, I got to do some hill intervals on ski slopes and run on the very packed skin track. This I assure you, it was no vacation for me either. 

Looking forward to visiting Crested Butte in the summer for some amazing trail running. The views are absolutely amazing. 

Skiers heading uphill at the start of the race. 
What's the craziest race you've done and what's the most frustrated you've been at a race due to poor communication and direction?