Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer Adventures, Part 3

I have to get caught up on these, because the adventures keep coming! This weekend I attended my first Leadville 100 Trail Run. In a word, amazing. I will get to that in a bit.

The next adventure of my summer was the Lake to Lake Triathlon in Loveland, Colorado on June 26. I signed up for the race rather late because I was hesitant to do a road triathlon as it was not really central to my training goals for the year. As it turned out, the race was a special qualifier for the triathlon age group national championships, which were held in my home town of Burlington, Vermont. When I checked last year's results, I realized that, if I had a great day, I might actually be able to make it. So I decided to give it a try. I also would get to train for and participate in the race with my friend Celeste who was doing her first triathlon. Bonus.

Several issues with the logic of setting qualifying for nationals as a goal. It was my first triathlon in Colorado. This meant that not only was the race at altitude, but the course had much more hill-climbing on the bike. Colorado also breeds world-class cyclists like dandelions. They are everywhere. Since the bike is by far my strength, my competitive advantage was all but eliminated out here. Also... it was my second Olympic distance tri ever... it was a very ambitious goal.

I had a blast training with Celeste. It was great to see her confidence and excitement grow as the race approached. But the race snuck up on me. Last year, my first Oly was the DC Triathlon held on June 20. A few weeks before this year's race, I realized that I was in MUCH better shape in June last year. The windy, rainy spring here combined with some serious burn out and I was not running or biking as much as I should in order to be competitive.

The race was a disaster. My age group started with the elites and I spent the whole race trying not to be demoralized by how much I was passed. The swim, a wetsuit legal swim, took me exactly as long as the swim without a wetsuit last year. I was focused on trying to swim fast and I did not swim well.

The bike was ok, but I did occasionally space out and start the enjoy the beauty of the course before reminding myself that I needed to race! A highlight was the group of FCTRs at the bottom of a massive descent. They had gotten up at the crack of dawn to establish themselves (and a boombox) along the course. Their energy really gave me a boost and got my head back in the race as I blew by them at about 25 mph.
At least I had fun on the bike!

The run is where the wheels came off. According to my Garmin, I blazed out of the transition area at a brisk (for me) 8:15 pace. I felt great, but I knew I was going to have to back off. Mile 2 went by at about 8:45 and then I started to collapse. I felt sore, nauseous and on the verge of hyperventilation. I slowed and slowed and slowed and I didn't feel any better. Mile 3 was well below marathon pace and I continued to decline. I rallied briefly near the finish as I passed the FCTR Booster Club. I didn't have much fight left, but I did reel in one person on the final stretch... It was my slowest 10k in any race ever (including marathons!). I had no hope of qualifying.
Smiling... actually laughing at how slow I was going!

Cat, Scott, Sarah, and Chris greeted me at the finish. Their great energy and respect kept me from falling into a funk. We returned to the course to watch Celeste grit out the end of the race. She was amazing. During the run, she destroyed the lead I had built in the swim and bike, and finished faster than me. It was amazing to see her determination and competitive spirit. What an athlete!

Post race massage... so necessary
I am disappointed in my performance in that race, but it has left me with some goals for next year. Nationals will be in Burlington again next year. I am going to make it this time. I know that I gave the race everything I had. I was exhausted at the end. Next year, I am going to have more to give it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Adventures, Part 2: Big Horn Trail Races

The view from Dry Fork
The Bighorn Mountains rise up out of the prairie in norther Wyoming. They are a narrow band stretching parallel to I-90 and crashing through the border into southern Montana. They are quiet and isolated because they sit between two of our most famous natural areas, Mount Rushmore (ok, "natural area") and Yellowstone. They also, despite encompassing one of the nation's oldest national forests, are not as famous as their sister range, the Rocky Mountains.

The course was rerouted because there was still snow up there.
Each year, in June, which is normally spring in the Bighorns, for the last 20 years, a trail run is held. The original purpose of the run was to engage people in protection of the area when plans for a dam were being developed. Apparently it worked and the races continue and clearly enjoy a huge amount of support by local folks. The first Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail run was held in 1992. The distances, in keeping with Wyoming's laid back culture, were roughly 50 miles (actually 52), 50k (actually 32.5 miles) and 30k (actually 17.5 miles). In 2002, they introduced the 100 mile distance.

Celeste and Cat on the 18 mile "home stretch." Amazing duo!
Early in the year, before I had ever run more than 26.2 miles, buzz about this race popped up on the Fort Collins Trail Runners listserv. I had no intention of signing up, but after Red Hot, I knew I wanted to do more 50ks. One Tuesday night, Chris H. and I made a pact to sign up. Unfortunately, the race was full when I went to register. The 50 miler was still open, but that seemed like too much.

Ean leaving on the 30k... she set a PR. Go Ean!
As excitement built about the race, I decided that it would not be horrible to just go and check it out. I convinced Chris to join me, so the dogs and gear were loaded into the truck and off we went. We arrived in Sheridan, WY in the evening. It seemed like everyone in town was excited for the race.

Alex brightened up when he saw his fan club at the aid station.
We wedged Chris' truck and camper in the campsites held by the Mays, the Walters, Mary and Scott (Celeste was already on course with Cat). We arrived after the 100 mile start, but did attempt groggily to wish the 50 milers good luck as they passed the camper (I am pretty sure none of them heard, but we tried!). Later that morning, we headed to the Dry Fork aid station in time to see the 50k and 30k starts and cheer through a lot of the Fort Collins Crew. We had more than 15 runners across all races and it was a joy to see the boost they got as they dragged themselves, tired, sweaty and a little beat up, into an aid station where they were greeted by friends.

After ensuring that each runner had passed through Dry Fork (we did miss a couple of the super fast guys), we joined the rest of the Fort Collins Love Bubble at the finish line to cheer in every last one of our friends. At the awards breakfast in the morning, about 1/3 of FCTRs walked away with awards. What an amazing showing.
Brian finishes his 1st 50-miler with daughter Sandis

As we drank beer and cheered at the finish line, a plot was hatched... Celeste, Ean and I will run the 50 mile next year. Ean put it in her blog, so it is on! And I am excited. Next year it will be me running my longest race ever, through beautiful wildflowers, over amazing terrain, and being greeted at the finish line by a bunch of sweaty, tipsy people, who also happen to be some amazing friends!
FCTRLB (Fort Collins Trail Runner Love Bubble)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Adventures, Part 1

In my last post, I mentioned that I was back on the training wagon... it sorta didn't last too long. Well, that is not true, I have been running, biking and swimming up a storm, but I have not been on any prescribed training program. I am okay with that, but my race results are sure to show the effects. I have spent most of June and July exploring mountains at a slower pace and really developing a love affair with Colorado. The next few posts will contain the highlights and get us caught up.

June Hiking -
Gotta learn my peaks, but I think this is Long's

Looking down at Estes Park from Estes Cone

I took a few trips with a new friend who showed me parts of Colorado he loved. We did a lot of hiking and camping. I felt like I was back to my roots. We visited Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked Lumpy Ridge and Estes Cone. We bumped around the bottom of some of the 14ers around Buena Vista and camped high above Salida on BLM land far away from everyone and everything.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The biggest adventure was a hike down the Tomichi Route into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Now it is called a route because you actually "hike" down a rock slide and there is no trail. When we stopped at the visitor center to get the required permit, the rangers all gathered around with raised eyebrows when my companion indicated that he had taken the route before. Apparently, once is enough for most folks.

Sliding down the Tomichi Route
Sunset over the Canyon
Although the hike was only 1 mile each way, the loose, talus-strewn route  with an elevation change of 1930 feet made this route pretty challenging. We had to go one at a time to avoid killing each other with rocks kicked loose. We rested at the bottom along the swollen Gunnison River, devouring several bagels each and falling asleep in the cool shade at the bottom of the canyon. We crested the rim of the canyon again 6 hours later. Yes, it took us 6 hours to "hike" 2 miles. But, the park suggests that descent along that route take 1.5 hours and ascent take 4.5 hours (which they handily point out is 3 times the descent time)... so given our extended pit stop, we made pretty good time.

Wildflowers in CB

We wrapped up the trip camping in the same spot as I had on my very first trip to Colorado 15 years ago. It was just outside Crested Butte, so before heading back to reality, we tempted ourselves with a quick peek at the trails leading out of CB... a future trip will be needed!

Next up... Big Horn Trail Races