Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: Rest, recover, recharge...

Hell of a year. So many races this year, so much sharing with friends. From early trail races: Bridle trails, Orcas island, Fragrance Lake, Lord Hill, and Squak. To Ironman Whistler, Kirkland, Grand Ridge, and Seattle Half. What a fun and well rounded year this has been. Again, it's really the friends you surround yourself with that gets you through ALL the miles and hours, both during training and racing.

Thinking of the highlights and memory flashes from this past year a few that jump out.

  1. Rolling through the downhill at Orcas Island 25K: "Holy Sh*t this is amazing, this is amazing. So lucky, so lucky"on repeat through my mind.
  2. Flying down from Fragrance Lake through the switchbacks. Falling then catching the 3 people that went by. SO. MUCH. FUN.
  3. Climbing 4.5 miles up at the Gorge in the rain and hail then bolting back down to the bottom to see Alley finish her Gorge Waterfalls 50K.
  4. Trying to catch Joey during training on the Whistler bike course and yelling to myself, and the local bears, "That's Joey MotherFu*ck'n Compton up there!" I was out of my mind on the bike in the heat. Good times, good times.
  5. Flashes from IMC that seem to of gone by in about 2 minutes. Mostly seeing Alley on mile 8 of the run and having her pull me back from a full blown meltdown. 
  6. Spending the day running at Deception Pass with Alley and the Bears. Beautiful day running trails in the sun.
  7. Going full gas during the Kirkland Tri up Juanita 2x and pulling a 20 minute run. I love and missed the hunt of a short race.
  8. Running Kendall Kat Walk with Alley, one of the best days out running this year!
  9. Catching and yelling out loud to Ryan during Grand Ridge half, "WOO, NOW the fun begins!" As we passed group after group on the downhill.
  10. Hellish 100 miler with Joey that every right turn was a brutal climb. 

This year ended with an unexpected rest that was much needed. I was feeling a bit tired and some aches never seemed to go away, so after the Seattle half I called it a day on 2014 and pulled out of a few races. I should of called it after Grand Ridge, but managed to talk myself into Seattle. Which magically the message was loud and clear during Seattle. Sometimes the body just knows better. I told a friend that I just wanted to run and not train or be tied to any race date.

I needed to take time off of my left foot, but couldn't with Orcas Island coming up. And if I did take time off to recover I wouldn't be ready for Orcas. Which you just can't screw with a course like Orcas. It's beautiful and amazing, but it'll kick your ass. So I dropped both Orcas and Bridle trails from my schedule. Which after looking at the would-be schedule for 2015 I think the 6 weeks of rest will be a great way to recharge.

The running when I feel like it will be a huge recharge for the mind as well. When you want to go along, and not have to go, regardless. It's a huge relief.

I was hitting some burnout from a season that started just about a year ago. 

Last week I jumped along with the Seven Hills Running Shop up Tiger Mt from Uphill Running's store. I knew it would be as hard as I wanted to make it, said "Don't wait for me" about a dozen times, but it was great. I enjoyed the climb, said I wasn't there to push myself to myself. Also, told myself 'you have no endurance for this, so just enjoy it.' I was last up, but only by a few minutes. I can live with runs like that for a few. I can be honest with myself and know where my level lives.

So with some time off and the 2015 schedule becoming clearer and clearer by the day, I'm excited to rest up then dig in for another round.

This next year's on the trails mostly, half's up to maybe one 50K, but mostly looking for some adventures to jump off to with Alley and the bears.

Fewer bibs, more exploring ; )

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Got it half right at least?

Sunday was the Seattle half marathon and it was a reminder, sadly always right around the middle of
the race, that I realized, or was reminded again, you can't ask for more than you put in. Sure there's some percentage of race day magic, but really there should be no surprise to ones self when you cross the finish line.

I had plenty of reason going into Sunday to be cautious (and maybe not run): rolled my ankle 2 weeks ago, bottom of left foot hurt w/ any run over 4 miles, sick 10 of the last 14 days, oh and I kind of pulled the plug on running 2 weeks ago after Grand Ridge trail half.

On the bright side I kept telling (lying to) myself, "GR was your long run with 2 weeks of tapper, you didn't really have GR in you (I did) and you did great, GR was really really tough (it was) so this will be easy (Hmmm)."

Once the early excitement of being in a race on a crazy cold beautiful morning has worn off...

There's that point in the race when the group you're running with, in the 2nd half of a race, stays on pace and slowly moves away. The point where it shows without hiding anything what you've put in. That's the point I usually tell myself that those are the people that have trained, the ones ready for these last miles.

It does two things during these moments:

One it's humbling, the feel of, 'I should be running up there', quickly followed by, 'I should stay trained to run up there', etc. Nothing worse than knowing you could be in with a group if you'd just done the work.That you get to enjoy the day having fun beating on yourself, rather than just suffering through the beating.

Two, how do I get back there and do I start by taking a bit of a rest?

Looking back at the last few weeks it has been all the little things getting missed that sort of take its toll. Stopped doing core workouts, stopped strength training, stopped stretching, stopped doing recovery runs. On and on and on. Getting sick didn't help, but I didn't feel that it was the biggest part.

I often tell people trying to get back into it that at least they've been there before and know what level of work it takes to get back. I enjoy the work, enjoy the pay off, enjoy staying up with the groups that I feel I should be running with, or get to run with. I've never taken running for granted, too many injuries over the last few years to ever assume anything.

That fire gets lit on days like that also, to jump back in the fray, but also some lines get redrawn. I think the best way to get back there is through plenty of rest up front and letting a few bothering injuries take care of themselves. After that getting back to what's fun and keeping it simple. Really simple.

Looking to 2015 I've cut back on the races that I'll be doing. I wanted to do roughly 11 races, all trail. Not a huge amount, but thinking it over the last few days and wanting to get the most out of the races I do enter I'm thinking I'll cut it down to just 5. Plus one long adventure that I want to work on for next summer. 

The priority in 2015 is leaving more time for just getting out and running in the mountain with the Girlie and the bears. Some long trips just knocking through the woods and enjoying what the Cascades and Olympics have to offer. 

No bibs, just a run vest, a pair of mutts and a woman crazier than I am. Cuz really, that's what I love!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Even a bad day can be a great day.

Lead up to race day was amazing! Whistler is one hell of a place to throw a race party. We got up to town on Thursday and of course zip-lined about 2 hours after arrival. Thought, better do it sooner, than later. I’m a touch scared of heights, so why the hell not. Let the adventures begin!
OH Crap, no turning back now!

Zip lining was crazy fun by the way. Only had a death grip on one gate that was hanging about 150ft from the forest floor. A bit hard to let go : )

I was calm and never really nervous the days leading up. Maybe it was because it was my 3rd one or maybe because I still didn’t think I was actually going to be doing another IM.

Hmmm, either way.

My left shoulder got damaged a few weeks before, so I knew the swim was going to be a big question mark. And for some reason I was ok with that. The bike was the bike and I was worried about the flat out and back in the middle of the course, but I figured it would work out. And the run, I was ready for the run, wanted the run, couldn’t wait for the run.

I couldn’t get over the feeling of happiness when I got around friends. Alley and I  rode up with Nick, Matt and Tif and had a great time. Felt way more like vacation than heading to a race. When I saw Josh, Joey, Ryan, Aimee, or anyone from the team I’d feel like it was Christmas morning and everyone had new toys to play with.

Race Morning...

Woke up about 2 minutes before the alarm went off, this is going to be a long day. Up, dressed, eat, out the door. Alley and Tif dropped Matt and I at the buses and the nerves were still at bay. 
There’s nothing like the morning light on a swim start. Snow peak mountains all around, amazing.

Race Start –

Swim was brutal, no need to sugar coat or over dramatize it. Should of given boxing gloves to everyone before. Shoulder started hurting with about a mile to go. Got out of the water and felt like I’d put in as little effort as possible, but my shoulder ached  more than I had anticipated. Felt like I spent an hour in T1, but it was only about 7 minutes.

Whistler was an amazing arena for an IM. The town/city absorbed the race and even had areas that didn’t even know the race was going on. There is everything to do that you could imagine.

The course, especially the bike is phenomenal, a true test for a well-rounded bike rider.  I had my moments on the bike, and man were they sweet. I love climbing and this course had plenty. The pain in my shoulder never went away and ached everytime I went into areo postion. 

I cracked after the last climb to Green Lake at about 105 miles in.

The heat finally had its way with me and my head  was swimming for the last 6 miles. I couldn’t lose any heat and finally the stomach and the head went south right when I first saw the lake heading back into town. I was out of water and my sports drink was hot, hot, hot. 

My Bear Crew

I remember looking at my tires over and over again, thinking that I had flatted both and that's why I was moving so slow. I had one rider about 50 yards in front of me and none behind and kept thinking – I’m the last one on course, how long have I been out here. How did this happen? This kept repeating over and over in my head.

T2 was a bit of a blur. I had lost a contact so needed to drop in another one and that was the last thing I remember until mile 4ish. 

(After the race Alley showed me pics of stopping and posing with her right after T2 and I still don’t remember any of that.)

Dazed and confused
 I was hot and couldn’t get rid of the heat. I kept telling myself don’t talk to anyone you don’t make any sense. You’ll get pulled from the race. 1st aid station was 8 cups over the head, ice down the shorts and one water in the body. Still couldn’t talk and could only walk. At mile 3 (one hour in) I gave up was crying and was starting to looking for someone to give my bib to, I thought if I could just get my bib off and hand it to someone I could get out of the heat. My head was on fire, but my shoulders and legs were freezing. I knew that was far from good, and just over the line from just having a bad day.

Alley really appeared out of nowhere and I could see the concern on her face. I wasn’t aware of much, but seeing her face I think scared me the most. I quickly remembered Teresa saying when you see your support crew out there you DO NOT show them your distress! They have 1 maybe 2 seconds to see you after standing for hours to see you.

I wanted to drop, but in an instant you remember all the nights in the basement, early swim starts, time and sacrifices both you and your loved one has made over the last year. Hearing myself reassure Alley that I was going to be ok, I quickly believed I wasn’t lying. The head and the stomach were gone, but the legs could go.

New game plan….Walk as much of the 1st lap as possible, then run and depend on your legs for the 2nd lap. 

I told Alley after I couldn't comprehend that the laps were 13 miles each. Just that the 2nd lap would be shorter, because I'd be running more. Hopefully.

Photo by Bri Leahy
2nd lap started and everything started to turn. 

Lack of nutrition was catching up, but the legs and stomach actually felt like running. 

3x's I had other runners tell me to stay on them. Just move your legs and follow my numbers. Stay on my hip and ignore everything else. Amazing how everyone looks out for each other.

My nutrition for the run:
30+ cups of water
8 cups of coke = to about one coke can
1 Ruffle potato chip
1 Gu – which took a mile to suck down

Going into this Ironman I felt like it was my last one and I soaked it all in. The training is long hard hours away from family and friends. It’s never about the day, it’s about the 8 months leading up to the day. 

The day, there is nothing like the day of. 

Support crews, yours and others. Athletes, teammates, pushing you on to have your best day while they fight their our battles. It’s a long long day and too many things happen to remember. I felt like I was fortunate to turn the day around after pretty much a full blown meltdown. 

At one point on the 2nd lap I sat down on a water cooler and had this conversation with myself after getting started again: Just four more miles. Four more miles and we’re done. We’re not an endurance athlete we just have to quit thinking we are. After these four we’ll never do this again….but I can run, no one else is running, I can run. I love this.

Would never have finished this one without my Girl.

I don’t know if I need to go back to Whistler for the Ironman again, but I also know I don’t have to say now or ever that I won’t ever again.  On Wednesday after the race Alley asked if it was too soon to start thinking about how I might have done if I’d had “my” day out there. I laughed and we talked about how just 15 minutes too long on the bike cooked the rest of the day. And “How next time” slipped into the conversation several times without either of us questioning it : ) 
Just because you knock a man down dosen't mean you got him beat - Ray L.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Getting your ass handed to you and other wonderful sights.

Orcas Island 25k, 4480ish ft of elevation in under 16 miles.

OK, sign me up.

A few months ago we signed up and I figured, sure, I won’t be in great shape, but it’ll be fun and we’ve never been to Orcas Island. So what the hell.

Training was ok but I was really feeling a left foot injury that I needed to take care sooner rather than later so my trail miles were down to maybe just 30% of my weekly mileage.  And my weekly mileage was way down to around 18 miles a week.  Also, there hasn’t been any serious hill trailing work in the last 3 months, ugh. Really only had a quick 14 mile loop  at Grand Ridge last weekend with Alley.

Before I get into the rest. What an amazing weekend. I still can’t get the 2nd downhill out of my mind. Good friends, sunny, otters, eagles, and a well-organized race.

Looking at the course profile the first real climb started at roughly 5.6 miles in.
Which meant no racing the early miles and keeping the running easy  and light. That held for the most part, but some of that part was so damn fun, you couldn’t help but go a little overboard. Everything felt great heading into the first aid station. I rushed by only grabbing a GU just in case. I was running with a Camelback on and had fluids, Bloks and Gu onboard. I really dislike stopping at aid stations. Always feel like they stop any momentum. 


Right after the AS the Power Line climb started. From the profile I was thinking it would be like Cleator Rd. on the Chuckanut course. Just find a rhythm, settle in and climb steadily. It was more like Chin Scaper 3x. Straight up, relentless, and unforgiving. I was moving as slow as I could without going backwards. Finally at the top it felt really good to run again.

The downhill – part one

Held steady with a group of 7 that I caught up with and fell in behind. I felt the pace was a little too easy, but also knew the next climb was in about 2.5 miles down the trail. I picked my places to past a few people still running easy, about 8:45 pace. We rounded an amazing outcropping of stone and saw that the trail fell away then zigzagged back to the right. NOW

Photo by  Glenn Tachiyama Photography, LLC
I gave one “on your left” and bolted to the front, my buddy Michael yelled out “Go get it” within about 10 second I was running alone and flying. Pace at 6:45, that I slowed to 7 because there was still a climb to come.

I love this part. I can climb all day if I know there’s a chance to fly from the top.  It’s like snowboarding. Everything goes quiet, the focus amplifies, and speed and momentum are used with what feels like unlimited effort. Through my head I say, avoid by jumping over, some of the most rock and root filled sections I never step foot down. I jump, launch, my quiet steady voice in my head screams, “Over”, calmly.

I hit the climb and was up the switchbacks 3 minutes before the group behind me hit the base of the climb.

You know that sinking feeling when you know the day is starting to turn. About 2/3’s the way up the switchbacks I felt ice cold, the last drink and Gu I took still sitting at the top of my throat. I knew I didn’t have the endurance for the whole climb so I was trying to go as slow as I could, but I was done when I got to the top. I ran across the summit  to the aid station and grabbed a drink and just kept walking.
My hip had frozen up from too much climbing and I couldn’t really run. Everything felt hard, and my feet were killing me. I hit the downhill and kept saying, “I’m taking these too pedestrian” pace was at 10. Ugh. But it was something.

The same thing happened at Chuckanut 30K last year, after some great running my hip froze up and keeping even 10 min. pace on the downs was painful. So I had a little pity party, then looked around and soaked it up. Then my right inner thigh pulled, which I was expecting. When you’re breaking with every step going down you flex your inner thighs more than you should and whammo. Ouchiness happens.

PB  Glenn Tachiyama Photography, LLC
SO that’s when I decided to just sit down. I made myself sit for 2 full minutes, calm down, breathe deeply, let a few people pass, then started a walk, then got back to an easy jog, then rounded a corner and the switch flipped and I was running back at pace on the downs again. ???

I kept hearing as I ran by people, “isn’t that the guy that was sitting back there?” Not sure what the deal is with that, but as long as it comes back??? I guess it’s just something I  just have to work with.  The course was amazing after that again. Hitting the lake for the last time, I wasn’t sure how close the finish was as I knew my Garmin was off by at least a half mile.

I was sort of chasing this woman out of a little zigzag field that ended at the base of this nasty little hill. She looked over her shoulder then back at the road with a look of “we doin this?” meaning are we going to race this in or not. My legs were dead, I cramped 3x had to sit down once to work that cramp out. I yelled out to her. “There’s no one behind us, not going to risk cramping again this late. Not gonna try and pass you.” She let out a loud “thank GAWD!” and we picked up an easy quick pace to finish it out. About 200 yards from the finish.

Otters playing in the lake
What a day, I sat down after crossing the line watching this dog play. She’d get excited then lose her balance and fall. Had something wrong with her, but as happy as could be. I felt much the same. I was dehydrated, freezing cold, and couldn’t really move, but I was happy.  I could wait to see Alley come across the line and hear how her day went. She’s a freaking rock star on the trails, and she eats up the downhill’s also. Fun fun!
Eagle fly by hiking on the beach

So yeah, I got my ass handed to me, but that was expected, that was OK. Always something to learn, always moving on, always pushing. Plus the next day we hiked with the pups and saw a romp of otters playing in the lake about 2 miles into one of the trails we ran on the day before.
How can you beat that?