Monday, July 31, 2006

against the odds

No, not the sappy Phil Collins song.

That's just how I feel about our performance after we won our most recent adv race despite making several mistakes that I thought WOULD have cost us the race.
Thankfully, we didn't have to travel too far for this one. The next race in the Blue Hills adventure Race series took us to Smithville Lake which us Trail Nerds have trained on before and I've raced this park last year. It was projected to be about 93 degrees with a heat index of around 110. In reality, the temp got up to 102 ACTUAL temperature later that day, but it didn't hurt anyone too badly. We had a puker, and someone stopped sweating halfway through her race, but other than that, most everyone hydrated pretty well and I didn't even notice the heat. The rude locals were harder to deal with than the heat, but that's just another part of the challenge in an adventure race.
After the pre-race meeting, everyone started off running down a short road toward an open grassy area strewn with ziplock bags with race numbers on them. These contained maps and the directions we were to follow for the race. After getting these we returned to the Transition Area and got on our bikes. We were warned/advised to take our running shoes with us on the bike leg. Of course I listened to this part due to some past mistakes. Certainly I wouldn't make it again...
We got about a minute and a half into the trails when I realized that in our transition rush, I in fact DID NOT strap my running shoes to my camelback! Not wanting to risk it this time, we turned around and headed back to the transition area to retrieve my running shoes and then continued on the first mountain biking section. We lost what seemed like about 3 or 4 minutes on this mental error, but it was probably only maybe 2 mins. Still, it wasn't good for our mental state so early in the race.
We hammered pretty hard on these trails passing what was a mostly courteous field, but once we got to the front few teams we had a little harder time passing them and their egoes. We did about 4-5 miles in the trails on the bike punching checkpoints along the way when the map brought us to a second Transition Area (TA2).
From here, we were instructed to drop the bikes and proceed on foot through the next four checkpoints. This portion was approximately 4 miles. The heat didn't really bother me, but for some reason, I was having a hard time catching my breath on this part and consequently, was running much slower than I wanted. Still, we didn't get caught by any other teams and we also caught the final (lead) team back at the Transition Area as we got back on the bikes. They took off a little before us, but we eventually caught them in the trails and left them behind. From here, we rode another 3 or 4 miles back to the start/Transition Area 1 for our next set of instructions. We received a special test telling us to run the half-mile down the road out of the park to a "General Store". Here we were to use 4 quarters that was in our ziplock bag to purchase an item (less than a dollar) and bring that item, the receipt, and any change back to the race officials. Shane picked up some sunflower seeds and we were out and on our way. This was a quick mile run and we were in the store for just at a minute.

Once back in the Transition Area, we had to get a kayak 2 paddles and 2 PFDs and head down to the kayak put in point on the lake. There were 3 check points to hit during this leg and although we saw several teams enter the water after us, we were well enough ahead that was never any threat of getting caught. After having raced together in several of these, Shane and I work well together in the inflatable boats and as long as it stays inflated, we normally gain ground of the rest of the field while paddling.
After exiting the water, we had to portage the boat, paddles and PFDs back to the TA and get our next special test.
This test was a word/number game with a set of 10 instructions for doing simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to get certain letters from their corresponding numbers. If you followed the directions carefully, it was very easy and we blew through it quickly spelling our words (appropriately enough) "the winner".
After this we were handed another set of instructions stating that the FINAL mountain bike leg would take us east in the park along some paved trail approximately 3 miles to the last checkpoint. Thankfully, Shane had a functional computer on his bike and he clocked the mileage. During this ride, my legs began to tire. When we hit the three mile mark, Shane let me know so we both started to keep an eye out for the checkpoint. After passing it and turning around, we saw it lying on the ground. I thought this to be odd since they're normally hanging securely from a tree in plain sight. We approached it and Shane grabbed the punch to punch our control card. I mentioned that we should probably hang it back up in the tree since I assumed it had fallen by accident when we both smelled this horrible stench of feces! After asking my teammate if he was feeling alright, we noticed that someone had intentionally ripped the checkpoint down and then did their own business on it! HOW RUDE! We were able to avoid the mess and still got the CP hung back up in the tree so that other teams didn't pass it like we did.
I don't mind helping out other teams, but I'm glad that others benefitting from our misfortune didn't cost us any placement in the race.
After this last punch on the control card, we rode the final three miles back to the Finish line with huge smiles on our faces. This race was a great win for us as we had to overcome several obstacles and some mental errors. This really helps build confidence.
Tonight, I think I'll do a recovery run of about 6-7 easy miles with the KC Track club. Then it's back to training as usual.

Monday, July 24, 2006

shaking off the vacation cob webs...

I'm a little behind with this, but here's a summary. The week after we got back from our Colorado trip was hectic preparing for going to Orlando and catching up on work, getting a sick cat back to health, and a few other things. Then we headed down South to our previous home in Orlando, FL where WE are now the tourists! :-D The trip went ok but we spent way too much money. :-( I got in 2 runs and 2 light workouts while there so maybe that prevented me from gaining a full 20 pounds. My sister ran with me once and during that, I realized how much I'd missed the heat and the humidity. Of course you all think it sounds crazy, but I really do like the humidity! It's comforting and I LOVE to sweat. The heat is comforting and feels good to me. No insanity comments necessary: I think that's already been established, but I'm just different.
Anyway, tonight, I'm going to run with the road running group and then hit the trails tomorrow night for a full session of biking and then running with the group. Looking forward to that. I've missed it for a while!
A little off topic, but still something I find interesting... a few weeks ago, I was riding with some local mtn bikers and afterwards we were all discussing some of the things that make us different with regard to how we feel about the equipment we use. One of the guys said that he orders stuff often, but keeps it on the shelves. He's neurotic about using it and doesn't want to wear it out so he keeps brand new stuff around often without even using it. One of the other guys said that he can't race on something unless it's been ridden on hard for at least several months. He doesn't wash his bike and rarely lubes it. He does MINIMAL maintanence on it and is afraid to race on new parts for fear of the unknown. I, on the other hand, am still different from the former two. Often I obsess that my components are worn out, broken, mal-adjusted (freudian slip?) or otherwise just not right. Consequently, I am constantly tweaking/adjusting my bike and am psyching myself out during a race that I'm not as fast as my mind wants me to be because my bike isn't operating at peak performance! This is probably a lot more common than we all realize, but I thought it was interesting how two guys/riders/fellow racers that I admire and respect also have somewhat irrational (neurotically motivational?) fears just as I do. One other difference is that they win often and I'm usually finishing in the top 5 so MY fears are probably justified! ;-)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Forgot to add...

During our trip to CO, I forgot to mention what a great time we all had going white water rafting on the Arkansas River. Our guide was great and since it was the first time for Allison and myself, it was quite an adventure for us.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Leadville Marathon

Most of my friends who understand what I do for fun think I'm crazy. My family, who doesn't understand what I do for fun, just thinks that I like to run 5k or 10k races. They have a hard time grasping the adventure part of the races that I do. I don't find a whole lot of adventure in your average 5k or 10k road run. That's why I take most of my running and biking off road and in the trails whenever possible.
Since moving to Kansas, I have enjoyed being part of a trail running group that has inspired me and motivated me to run distances that I've never considered before. Earlier this year I took part in two 50k (31+ miles) trail runs and enjoyed them immensely. Running on the roads, I had never done more than a ½ marathon (13.1 miles) at one time before. In trail running we reguarly do fun runs over 12 miles and it's easier on the body than doing 7 or 8 miles on the road. Even though I had already done the 50k runs, I had never just done a marathon. So I decided to go ahead and do one and get that under my belt.
Considering my love for adventure and trail running, a road marathon just didn't seem like a fun option. So when looking for a trail marathon, the options are a bit fewer since most organized trail runs are set up for ultra (50k and higher) distances. Being the tech weenie that I am, I immediately began using the internet to help me search for a trail marathon. When I discovered the one in Leadville, CO, I thought that sounded like a good idea because I've heard of Leadville before with regard to the Leadville Trail 100. I thought to myself, “how hard could it be? I've already done longer runs”. I guess I have a knack for underestimating things or over estimating myself.
Allison and I arrived in Leadville a day and half before the race started to try and get acclimated to the altitude. Please bear in mind that living in Kansas City (800 feet above sea level) doesn't afford me the opportunity to do much altitude training. My adventure race teammate, Shane also decided to this marathon. He and I decided to do a short warm up run on Friday while exploring part of the course. We quickly realized the race was going to hurt more than we thought, but hey, I love challenging adventures right? So instead of fearing the potential pain, I embraced it and was looking forward to it.

Leadville is at 10,000 feet elevation and this marathon course would take us up to the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,200 feet elevation, with lots more big ups and downs in between. This was a very well organized and supported race and about 360 people participated in it or the Heavy Half Marathon. We began promptly at 8 am on the road leading up into the mountains. The first and last ¾ of a mile contains the only asphalt that you encounter during this run. The rest is all dirt and rock with much of it being gravel roads and some of it being single track. Getting into a regular rhythm is almost impossible during this race due to the constantly changing incline. The first 3.2 miles is all up hill with only a short respite of downhill after the first aide station. After the short downhill, we resumed climbing which lead us above the timberline, through some snow patches, and around Ball Mountain. Coming down from Ball Mountain there was quite a bit of
downhill, (approximately 4.3 miles) and even though this gave your hamstrings and calves some rest, the downhill exhaust your quads. After another aide station, we began the long and torturous climb up Mosiqito Pass. At the base of Mosiqito Pass, a fellow runner told me his Garmin was reading 11,100 feet elevation. This meant that over the next 3.1 miles, we would be gaining about 2,100 feet of elevation, it felt like 5,000. Although the scenery was breathtaking, the switchbacks up the side of the mountain seemed endless and the footing on the trail was not entirely stable. The higher we got, the temperture kept dropping causing me to put on gloves and a hat. I had also brought a light weight Go-Lite top just in case the weather got really bad. Near the summit of Mosiqito Pass to say that breathing was labored would be an understatement. I couldn't get enough air to keep my brain happy much less my screaming and exhausted muscles. The peak of Mosiqito Pass was the halfway/turnaround point of the marathon, so I knew what I had to look forward to for the rest of the run. More climbing for a downhill finish. A few times during the run I actually got very lightheaded but I never got dizzy so I was able to push through it. After downing three gels already, I decided my body needed somethimg more substantial to get me through this run, so at the aide station at the base of Mosiqito Pass, I shoved down a half of a banana and continued on. It was right after this (between mile 16 & 17) that I started really hurting. The balls of my feet were getting tenderized from all the sharp rocks on the downhills and turning my legs over step after step was getting harder and harder due to the lack of oxygen to use whatever energy I may have had in my body. Between miles 18 and 22, I just wanted to sit down or lie down and wait for some other runners to come along and encourage me. I never did though because I knew that stopping would probably end up being more than just temporary. During the run, I was able to slow down enough several times to take some pictures of the beautiful scenery. After reaching the last aid station, I knew that I just had a 3.4 mile downhill run remaining to the finish. Even though I love the fun downhill stuff, every step of this last part was painful. Although I am going to loose the toenail on my second toe of my right foot (again), I didn't get any blisters. The last ¾ of a mile on the pavement to the finish hurt worse than the trails (stupid asphalt) but no matter how bad I wanted to, I couldn't walk it, I had to finish strong. So to the cheers of my favorite cheerleader (my wife), I strided across the finish line full of pride. Mentally, this was very challenging and physically it was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I'm glad I did it and would recommend it to anyone.
While out there, Shane and I got the chance to do some biking. That was a lot of fun. Dinner at Wynkoop's brewery was excellent as was their beer. We also took the families to see a Colorado Rockies Game on July 4th. It had an hour and a half rain delay but after the rain, the Rockies finished beating the SF Giants and then we got to see one of the best fireworks shows I've ever been to! All in all, it was a very fun trip.