Monday, November 28, 2011

Coming down the Mountain…

It’s funny the things I’ve never done before, but already knew I’d love the second I tasted it. Like when I bought kayaks before I ever kayaked. I knew I’d love it, so why not. Same with the Grand Ridge Half Marathon race. I’d never done a trail race before, but knew if I talked myself into signing up I’d love it.

Again, like triathlon, I followed after Alley did her first and got the low down. I’ve run at Discovery, Carkeek, Redmond Water Shed, and a few others, but never in race mode.

Alley and I had scouted the course a few weeks before with a close friend and got a real idea of what an ass kicking this was going to be. I quickly noted the 3-4 places I’d have to walk – in the first 2 miles – no joke! I came away from the scout run knowing I’d have to walk plenty and that was just the way it was going to have to be in order to survive. No illusions of powering up the hills, because there was 2200’ of powering that would have to happen in 13.1. Pace yourself Grasshopper!

The morning of it was freezing, temps. in the low 30’s and snow was expected. Crap… I love the snow, but come on now it’s going to be snow bound for the next 8 months, couldn’t it just wait one more day!

Trail running seems more laidback than regular running and I didn’t have the nerves that I usually have before a tri and road race. It was a lot like the first time I did Fat Salmon and all the swimmers were just so easy going and relaxed. OK, I can do this…

Game plan: It was my first so I was pretty open to crashing and burning, but I figured if I had a game plan I might be able to pull this off and have a great time.

Start slow. Walk when it makes sense, don’t force the up hills and conserve your energy until 10 mile.


1-2 miles went as planned, I knew from the scouting run that the hardest grade was inside the first 2 miles, about 18% for about 150 yards twice. My thought was if you race the 1st 2 miles you’d never see the finish. So the race really wouldn’t start until the top of mile 2.

This is where that whole thing about not ever doing something but just knowing comes into play. The aid station was at mile 4ish after the big climb up to 2 you still had some steady climbing but it was rolling and ONLY and 8-9% grade. Small down hills but nothing like what I knew was up ahead. I ran through the aid station without stopping, because I wanted to pass the 2 guys in front of me because the first massive down hill was about 30 yards up the trail.

Hold on to your sh#t cause this is going to be a bumpy ride!

Now for whatever reason I’m lucky to have a fast turnover, I’m light on my feet when I run on uneven terrain, and I trust in my ability to descend. On the first down I passed by about 12 people in about 5 minutes. I was in full flight, zigzagging back and forth, over the mud puddles, over logs, it was beautiful. I must have yelled out a dozen times in excitement. It was a freaking blast! I watched everyone else going down hill and it seemed tense and timid. I wanted noting to do with that, gravity was my bitch finally, I wasn’t slowing down for nothing!

The turn around was at the bottom of what I think was a 1.5 mile drop, which means, yeah, 1.5 miles back up. I walked, as was the plan, most of this and knew I just had to make it back to the aid station. In all I’d only been past once, after mile 2, then again just before getting back to the aid station. But that was OK.

My plan was to be conservative until the turn off back to finish, which was about mile 10. Then it would be game on with about 700 feet of elevation to drop in a about 2.5 miles before the finish.

Unfortunately, that’s when I felt the heat start rolling behind my eyes and the aching start up through the backs of my arms. Are you kidding me, is this a fever I’m feeling? Crap!

I was running with 5 other people starting the downhill and quickly lost two in the first few turns of Mr. Toads Wild Ride. The legs were feeling great and as long as I could keep my balance I was in good shape. It’s pretty amazing carrying that amount of speed through such tight turns over puddles and rocks. My garmin had us at 7:15 pace. I thought that was totally nuts considering there wasn’t a straight section more than 20-25 yards long without having to change direction.


There was a really big fallen tree, about 40 ft long, really hard to miss, that I remembered from the scouting run that meant the end was near. Up a tragic little hill, then straight down, hard hard left, into a unavoidable puddle. Then .6 miles of flat, flat, damn flat road to the finish.

I couldn’t of hit the last puddle any worse, pole vaulted with a firm planting of my right leg that put a pretty good jolt through the system. At this point I was only about 2 seconds behind the guy in front of me. I had visions of hitting the last stretch and picking up a 7 minute pace and pulling away from the guy I’d been switching turns with for the last 2 miles. BUT NOOO, that’s actually when the damn fever I’d forgotten about decided to flip me the bird as I grinded to a 10:22 pace and started sweating from every point on my body.

Running on empty...
I kept thinking, ‘you’re doing fine, don’t give in, don’t quit’. Then I almost started laughing while I keep thing at the same time ‘ARE you kidding!?!? A F**king fever now!’ I thought it was all happening in slow motion, but no that was just my pace. The legs just would not move. The two people behind me raced by about 50 yards from the finish and I couldn’t generate anything, full on white wash of emptiness. Sadness…

The up shot was it was an amazing amazing race. It was my first trail run and I had a freaking blast. The down hills rocked and felt like they were part of some insane carnival ride. A guy that I was running with asked how long I’d been trail running because I had great technique. I laughed and said it was my first and he had that ‘shit, wait,what’ look on his face and said ‘I had major crashes on my first four, nice job”

It was a nice job, I grabbed 23rd out of 167 at 2:13:03 I was guessing 2:10 based on last years finishing times and was extremely happy w/ the outcome. I can always tell that “another” is born when I hear them say ‘next time I need to add this or that to my training’ and yes I have plenty to add to my training before this one next year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where did the time go?

Last month Alley and I went to volunteer and support up at Ironman Canada. Hard to believe that it’s been a year since we’d been up there under totally different reasons.  It’s exciting, nervous; the knowing in less than a night’s sleep you’ll be willingly putting your body through some serious moments, possibly damage, even if the day goes as planned. And wanting to screaming “What the f@#k did I get myself into?” However, we were just up supporting and volunteering this year. Phew!

Driving into town we took the route that the marathon runs. My feelings were mixed, I was happy that Alley got to see the course, but also felt anxious as all the feelings of last year’s ass beating suddenly started to make my leg throb.  Driving through the turn-around wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I really didn’t think it would be an issue at all, but was totally wrong. Driving through it, it just felt like this is where the worst could and did happen.

 Total meltdown 13 miles away from everything and everyone, and only being able to do 16 minute miles at best to get back. That’s 16 plus 16 for 32, 32 times 2 is 64. Add 2 minutes per mile for Porta Johns and aid stations. That’s 64 plus 8 = 72 minutes for 4 miles. What comes to 4 into 13.1, 3x for 216 minutes and 1 mile at 16 minutes for a grand total of = 232 minutes, plus the few extra minutes ( in case something goes wrong)*(wronger?). So 240 minutes / 60 = 4
From the turnaround  I had 4 hours best case scenario.

This crazy math is what I couldn’t shake as I walked last year. Over and over and over and over and over………. and over....

Anyways back to this year…phew

It was great to be up in the atmosphere of the event. Alley and I went to the Peach, of course, and walked around a bit with a giant slushy in the 90+ degree weather. I knew seeing the water that any questions I’d had about not doing this again in 2012 was out the window.

 I had Alley’s support in ’10, but this time around I think we both understand the magnitude of this decision. This means months of training 1st, everything else an unwilling 2nd. That always seems like some funny bumper sticker saying, however, the truth of the matter is far from funny. Time away on the bike, swim or run means time away from everything else. Everything, everyone.  That’s a hard thing to sign up for again. And it’s not like after all the training it’s a given that …. well, nevermind that

Talking w/ Alley she fully understood and even said it before I did. ‘You can’t leave a race knowing you have unfinished business on it…you know you’ll have to go back and own it’ So with that I told her 2012, regardless of the outcome would be the last 140.6 for a long while. And really, last year I got passed by a 79 year old, plenty of time to do another one down the road.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Going Up.....

I fell in love with my bike again. I know it’s crazy to think that, but hey there are worse things. This last weekend I got to ride in an event called “Ride the Hurricane” only an 18 mile ride. However, you climb 5100’ up to the top of Hurricane Ridge in Port Angeles!

Now, I’ve always been a climber and always loved going up. Yes when the Tours on I get up at 4:30 in the morning to watch the mountain stages and yell, I mean yell at the TV when Lance, Contador, or Andy (well maybe not Andy), maybe Al Val would charge off and attack on a climb.
Photo 2009 Ena/AP

My hill repeat course is a one mile 200ft hill that is over in the Blue Ridge hood that has a few 14-16% thrown in to keep me honest. I’ll be on the 1st lap and think, as I laugh to myself: think this sucks, wait until the 3rd & 4th laps. I have this way of compartmentalizing when I’m training. The legs are working down there, focus on what’s important: breathing, nutrition, pace.

Riding up to Hurricane Ridge was something I wanted to do now for the last 4 years and just never had the time to figure out how.

Now I’ve done a few mountain passes like Loop Loop, Richter Pass, Waconda Pass and did 4-6 miles of climbing before, but 18! I was excited and just a bit scared. However, that all changed when we rolled into town and saw the road leading up to the snow packed top. I instantly thought, “This is going to be so cool!”  

                              Starting off that morning, it was Kevin, a friend from TN Multisport, Tony, Alleys brother, and myself. I wanted to stay as paced as possible and not feel too rushed for fear of going out too fast. With a climb you have to remember it never gets easier, it just doesn’t suck as bad in some areas as others.

The mist was heavy at the beginning, but you could tell it was going to burn off pretty quickly as the sun rose. I kept thinking how maybe a compact wasn’t the best idea for the climb. Maybe I should have used my other bike George (Trek) that has a triple on it and is easier to climb, but heavier by 8 pounds. Instead I thought Luke (Specialized) would love the ride and not get me in trouble on the way down. I always look as my bikes as partners on these wild adventures, whether it be training rides, races or riding over crazy ass mountain passes.

Making it to the halfway point was like saying that the halfway point of a marathon is 13.1, not really. Those that have run one will fully understand that. Mile 9 was just where we broke out of the tree line, for the rest of the ride it would be full sun. The views did take off a bit of the sting in the legs, but not much. There was a rabbit that ran out at that point and hopped in front of me for a few yards. Mocking me how easily it pranced up hill…

I wore headphone, cuz I’m a dork like that and didn’t want to hear myself gasp for air, much less hear those around me gasp or even worse, not gasp. However, on a piece of the ride that I remember clearly I recall “The Head and the Heart” playing in just the most amazing setting I could ever imagine hearing them. *Wide sweeping right hand turn with a full view to the south, AMAZING! Blue sky and snowcapped mountains, and over the railing it was STRAIGHT down! With me tucked in behind my sunglasses in my own little world on my bike.  

2 hours is a long time to have your rump nailed to the seat so I was standing up to pedal to take the pressure off my butt. On a usual climb it’s not that long so you don’t realize the force you’re putting on the seat. Standing also helps keep the blood flowing to the feet and hands for a few minutes. Yes, still working on bike fit. I feel pretty comfortable standing and can concentrate on turnover and body position. I feel like I can generate more power to the bike and accelerate with a quicker rhythm. Which, I figure if I can use my body weight to produce some of the power that should leave some room for recovery.

Reaching mile 15 the legs were feeling like I’d held back enough and wanted to put in a bit more effort. It’s funny about holding back, you have it in mind that: I’ll use that energy later, I’ll fall into the real work later. Stay with the game plan and you’ll be fine. Critical moments I think, this is when your mind stops bullshitting you and you have the, YES/NO – GO/STAY, cards to play. Training has been solid, the day feels right with the body = GO!  Anything else = pace, recover, survive = NO/STAY

Go days are rare and magical, however, some days that are a struggle can be great days of learning, refocusing, and being honest w/ yourself.

Anyways, rounding the next turn people from the aide station were yelling “About 2.4!” “2.4 to the top!” This was GREAT NEWS! I sped up and raised my pace. This was just below lactic acid, I could feel acid slowly build in the stomach and legs and would back off just before anything serious. I’d rise and kick for 5-6 revolutions, then gear back down and spin for 15-20 seconds and repeat. This sped me past lots of people, which it was fun and gratifying to put a hard stack of work in and steadily move past others. At the same time, it was by default. I was switching back and forth because one way was easy, then would turn difficult.

In the end is was a great feeling making it to the summit and seeing the finish. I think it’s always good to keep it simple with events that you’re not sure about. It was 18 miles of climbing, but I wasn’t going to be doing anything different on the bike than I would if I was biking to work. No need stressing yourself out needlessly. The pedals on the bike turn one way and the handle bars go back and forth. Simple. All the rest is connected by training.

The Way Back Down…..

By far, and I’ve had a lot of fun on the bike, but by far the funniest time I’ve ever had on the bike. The way down I told Tony I wasn’t going to push it, because I wanted to enjoy the view, blah, blah, blah…

About 2 minutes in that was out the window. In my head *catch the pace car* 15 riders left the top behind a pace car and the car was fast. I was spotting riders and bridging the gap, then passing, then looking for the next carrot. All while trying to get up to the little red pace car… about 35-40 mph coming down the mountain, oh, so much fun!

I ave. 88 rpm going up.

I ave. 100 rpm coming down.

I was cranking all the way down, it was like being on a roller coaster for 34 minutes. It was so exciting the views were a blur, but I remember the focus being so intense and my legs. I was worried about climbing earlier and getting too much lactic acid build up in the legs, On the way down I both stomach and legs were reeling from LA build up, but I didn’t care. Jen’s “Shut up Legs” kept turning over in my head.

I got to the bottom about a minute or two after Tony and just couldn’t get the grin off my face. It was so much fun.

Also, while we were biking Alley had to get 10 miles of run training in and decided to run up to the 5 mile mark on the course. Crazy woman! That was almost 1900’ of elevation gain! Nice work!
Just saying

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still learning...

It’s been a few weeks since the last entry. A quick recap of the RNR.

The morning was great for running, upper 50’s, no rain or wind. I felt ready. That morning we took the shuttle for the first time and the pressure of years past was non-existent, even when the bus was stopped for several minutes to wait for a train to pass.

My goal was as close to 1:30, my PR was 1:35 and some change so I figured anything under that was fine. The weeks leading up my legs had felt GREAT, pushing the hills and being comfortable at pace. The only drawback was I’d gone swimming about 3 weeks before and for whatever reason that really bothered the foot that was fractured over the winter. ???? Whatever?!?!?

The thing I learned from this race was, if it works in practice/training then FOR F**K SAKE DO IT FOR THE FREAK’N RACE DAY!

I always run a 1.5-2 mile warm up then hit what’s on the days schedule for run training. The morning of the race, about 15 minutes before I ran out from the start line and only did a short jog of about .25 mile. LOSER!

I hit miles 1,2,3 all on time and was on pace at just 6:58 per mile. However, from the start my legs were not happy, not enjoying any of this. Tight and heavy, not willing at all, and my left foot started to cramp. Hey something new, why not!

I was still holding my time through mile 6 along the lake and at mile 8, just before the tunnel I had this clear thought like a bolt of lightning.

“If you don’t walk for 10 seconds RIGHT NOW, you’ll walk the last 4 miles in about 2 minutes”

So for the first time in 6 years I walked during a race – ( well sided from the 4.5 hours at IMC ) D’ho

My legs were killing me! I stopped and shook them out and walked for about 10 seconds, got back in a jog and worked back up to pace. I hit the 11 mile marker and was happy to see that even if I ran 10 minute mile pace I’d still have room to PR. I was looking forward to the big downhill actually training on big downs so I’d be able to take full advantage of, but the legs never let me get below 7:00 pace. Bummer!

I have these talks with myself when I’m racing. They aren’t always pleasant, but they are never sugar coated. I always feel any conversation you have with yourself takes your mind off the suffering for even a little bit.

I had to have one of those “yank your head out” moment’s when at just after the 12 mile marker I started telling myself “ OK, todays just not your day, go ahead a slow up and save your legs. Next time you’ll blah,blah,blah…” Less than a mile to go and I’m having this talk now? I yelled at myself to straighten up my form and put my head out of my azz, and quit feeling sorry for myself because my legs hurt. I was keeping 7:20 pace and still on pace to PR. The last bit I got back to 7 minute pace and finished it off crossing at 1:32:40ish 33ish. I can’t remember. But I PR’d : ) by almost 2 minutes…

What I learned

Warm up the same way before a race as you would before training.

This last weekend I ran a little 10K put on at Magnuson Park and did just that. Put in 2 miles of 9 minutes pace 10 minutes before the race and the legs felt GREAT!  See, sometimes all that yelling at yourself in your head pays off….

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't Call It a Comeback....

Couldn't help it! Things have been going pretty well in the lead up to RNR Half. Legs are feeling pretty solid and the fractures now seem a thing of the past. I don't really think about them much when I run and the phantom pains have gone for the most part.
During my long run at the Disco this past weekend I was feeling like I had arrived at the next step in life. I put away all the self hate and loathing that I bottled up over the last 8-9 months and felt really free for the first time in such a long time.

Looking back over that time...

I heard or read a quote: Only bring the past if you can build on it.

I thought a lot about what that means to me during my run and came to this:

I survived, not always with my head up or clearest of mind, but I got through it. With the overwhelming support of friends and family. Slumping farther and farther into depression, sport and all the things that use to keep the light on and fires burning were just getting too hard to see on my own.

If anything it was the constant support of everyone, and the selfless friend's helping friends without hesitating that amazed me. Over and over again...

So after months of being somewhere else, and feeling like someone else, I feel that a new chapter has started and is fully underway. Running, after the injury, has a different feel to it mentally. I don't feel like I have the limiters that I had even last year as far as what I think I'm able to achieve. Last year was about endurance and reserve. This year is about speed, rest and fun. AND those other old familiar words...camping, hiking, vacation....

Only bring the past if you can build on it. In other words, Remember what you need to, but don't let it dictate your path.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Running again...

Back running again after about 14 weeks out of action do to the fractures in my left foot. It’s been hard finding momentum the last 3-4 weeks and the off and on again pain from my foot doesn’t help much. Up to now I’ve gotten 3 runs a week in, ranging from 3-5 miles and averaging 8:50 minute per mile. Not where I was, but I’ll take it.

It’s funny about how relative things are. You go from situation to situation and then only after do you realize how high or low you were before. The other day at track I was running at 9:00 and thinking ‘I hate this, I hate having to start over”. Then about two miles later I was at 9:15 minute miles thinking how I would of loved to be able to run 9:15 back at Canada last year where 15:20 was the max my IT band could handle from mile 8 on.

This year after thinking about it and having to nurse the foot I’ve decided to take the tri season off and just focus on one race, Seattle RNR Half Marathon, and spend more time hiking and camping. This seems like a good time and I had thought about it before signing up for IM last year. Some may think that I got burnt out from all the training last year, but that wouldn’t be true at all. I loved the training and the team that I joined I just want to get back to a few simple things this year and that starts with no schedules or training plans for a few months. Just packing the car and seeing where the road takes us from time to time.

When I think about it I’ve been training for something just around the corner for over 9 years now, adding up to almost 60 races. I love racing and felt stronger last year than any before, so being burnt out isn’t a worry at all. And I’ll still be swimming, biking, and running with the team, I’m just laying low a bit on the competing side.

However, I am signed up for the one half and I do have a goal in mind for that one. I’d like to get as close to 1:30 on the half as possible. 1:34 is my PR, set at  the Kirkland Half a few years ago, very unforgiving nasty course, urgh! So I think I can pull a close to 1:30 time off. Training doesn’t truly start until March 27th for that. Right now it’s just getting miles on the foot and slowing back into it without any injuries. So far, so good.

Yesterday I hit the first hills running with the team over at Mercer Island and OH MY GAWD! Dying!!! Heavy, flat, wheezing. And that was just the first hill. I was telling Alley that at one point all I heard was I high pitch sound and my heartbeat. That can’t be good? But it’s a start, with an ave. of 8:48 I can honestly say it can only get better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I long for...

I long for the days of sweat running over hills
Cutting through the water, smooth, reach, pull
“This gets you there, you love this!”

I long for power coming from weak, tired legs
Hips forcing and taking the lead, the rest following
Focus on form, open fields, breathe, relax, glide

I long for cringing at the days schedule, anxious 
Hills at tempo, flats at race, downs steady and safe
Head down, fuel in, this is just training

I long for seeing the lake as a stepping stone
Water trickles off still as the pedaling begins
Each mornings sunrise builds the machine

I long for limits and friends pushed
Stay on my shoulder, - Stay on their wheel
Out too fast, too far pass gone

I long for the shade beneath the trees
Crushing winds, deep in training
Legs aching for the hunt, begging to fly

I long to build towards that hurt
That place that lives in and behind the reasons
On the faces crossing the line, across our limits

This is what I long for...