Silence can be deafening

“Those who cannot sit in silence have dragons they are wrestling with.” -My Dad

When I was growing up my Dad and I spent a massive amount of time in the woods.  As a kid it was torture.  With bread bags on my feet between two-three pairs of socks we would hike, ski, and log firewood.  I didn’t understand then how it was that he was so happy out there.  Thile smile on his face as we pushed through pristine backcountry snow on cross country skis was almost perverse in my mind.  Was he enjoying torturing me?  As I grew older and wrestled my own dragons I began to realize the wisdom in his words.

IMG_7205I was in a Vetoga class recently that had a dedicated nidra meditation.  For those unfamiliar with it; basically, it’s a super deep guided meditation.  I went to this place in the mountains in my meditation not because I was purposefully going there, but because this was a place and time in those mountains where there was some healing that I had to do.  It happens like that when you meditate whether it be in yoga, running, or hiking.  You go to where the healing must happen.  Sometimes it sneaks up on you and sometimes it rolls through like a military jet flying low to the ground.

Last weekend before ECSUT #TeamCaboose, Batman and I went out to the Uintas.  We hiked up to Trial Lake.  The first real snow of the season had hit the ground.  If you’ve never been in a National Forest it’s quiet.  If you’ve never experienced snow it muffles all of the sounds.  Combine being in a National Forest and snow the silence is absolutely deafening.  It is the most quiet that you may ever experience in your entire lifetime.  If you aren’t comfortable in the silence it can be unsettling.

Now, however, I welcome the silence.  It’s like a warm pair of jammies straight from the dryer.  I call that progress.

 

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North Face 50k: Just Jump

When I was out to sea on the USCGC Mellon we were lucky enough to have a couple of swim calls.  That is when the ship stops and they let everyone jump overboard to have a good romp.  (It’s also a great way to get everyone smelling better when your water gets contaminated and you’re waiting for the tanks to refill, but that’s another story.) By the last swim call all of the girls in my berthing had jumped off the O-1 deck.  It’s higher than jumping off of the main deck and depending on when you catch the swell of the ocean it can be a LONG way down.

I was terrified of jumping, but all the other girls had done it, I knew it was safe and there was nothing holding me back but fear.  As I stood with my back against the O-1 bulkhead hatch staring at the open abyss to the ocean, my knees were shaking, my insides had an entire rugby team of dragons (not butterflies), and I was seriously considering just chickening out and facing the wrath of being the only girl who didn’t jump and the only Navy person who didn’t jump.  Instead, took a deep breath, and ran off the edge before I could talk myself out of it.  The Senior Chief who was standing shark duty said, “I knew it was you jumping.  You screamed, you ran out of air, you took another breath, and kept right on screaming until you hit the water.”  Well, duh, I mean holy crap balls that was scary.

I’m currently sitting on an airplane making my way west to Park City, Utah to (theoretically) run the North Face 50k.  I say theoretically because, well, Summit County has already gotten snow this year and they are predicting 4-7 inches more of the white powdery stuff tonight.  Yet, as I sit on this airplane watching the ground go by while waiting for biostatistics code to get spat out of SAS all I can think about is how I am feeling the exact same feeling as I did that particular day, scared.

Why? Why am I so terrified of this race?  Well, let’s start with the physical stuff.  I came home from my summer in Utah a little beaten up and it’s taken a couple of months of physical therapy to get me strong.  I’ve made leaps and bounds and the witchy one says that I will be fine, but there’s that shadow that lingers there.

Then let’s talk about the weather.  The last time I attempted to run in the cold and snow I got hypothermia.  So, yes, I’m terrified that that will happen again and this time I don’t have ShooterGirl close by to come and rescue me.

Finally, let’s talk about the mental aspect.  I crawled all over this particular mountain this summer, on purpose.  I spent multiple days a week learning her quirks.  All that said, I haven’t been at altitude for 6 weeks.  My boss didn’t help any when he said, “Oh man, you’re going to fry your lungs.”

So, yeah, I’m terrified.  I’m hopeful that there will BE a race to run.  I need to run this race.  I need to treat this like that jump off of the USCGC Mellon only without all the screaming.  I’m just afraid if I chicken out and don’t run I may never sign up for another 50k again.

Red Castle Lake: Eat you moron!

Do you know what happens when you pack food for your long training run but you don’t actually eat said food?  This….

https://giphy.com/embed/26FPy3QZQqGtDcrja

Friday afternoon I drove up to East Marsh Lake and snagged a campsite. I realized after I was settled that the actual trailhead was 2.6 miles to the south of where AllTrails said it was.  So my choices were to: move my campsite, drive to the trailhead, or suck up the extra 5 miles.  What kind of runner would I be if I didn’t suck up the extra 5 miles?  Plus. with the snow I was going to run in to I figured that by adding on the extra 5 I’d still be able to get the 20 in that I wanted to.

Saturday morning rolled around and the temperatures were in the teens.  Yes, you read that correctly teens.  In July.  I knew it was going to warm up as soon as the sun came up so baby trail dog and I snuggled up under every warm thing we had for another hour.   We got up and had some breakfast.  She managed to score a couple of sausages too.  Hey, she was going to run all the miles too.

I got my pack ready and I put all sorts of food in there.  I had Tailwind in my bag (with extra powder for my refill), M&Ms and dried bananas, and Picky Bars.  I tend to flavor my Tailwind light because mentally I need to actually chew something when I’m out there fora while.  So, I had 100 oz of water that should have had approximately eight scoops, instead I put four.  I packed the variety because I never know what I’m going to actually want.

As we started down the Forest Service Road I was in good spirits.  There was no time requirement I just wanted to get the 20 in.  We hit the trailhead and the trail was glorious.  No repeat of last weekend‘s rockfest!  Charlotte and I started clicking off the miles.  I’d stop for her to get a drink out of the creek at every opportunity.  Around mile 11 I realized something was wrong.  I was rapidly running out of gas, and that is definitely not a good thing when you are in the middle of no where.  That’s when I realized, hey moron you haven’t had anything to eat. I think the only reason why I didn’t crash and burn earlier is the little bit of Tailwind I had.

I reached into my pack and started shoving food down my face.  When I got to the creek right before Lower Red Castle Lake I stopped to use my filter to fill my water (which was almost gone) and add 4 scoops of Tailwind. I looked at the swollen creek and had to make a decision: push forward or turn around.  If I pushed forward I had to get my brain to function well enough to cross the creek without injuring myself and plan on a 26 mile day.  If I turned around I wouldn’t see the lake, but I’d get a 24 mile day in.  I opted for the turn around.

Going back was a struggle.  I was getting a hot spot in my foot from some sand I had picked up at some point.  I was ready for some shade.  Most of all, though, I just wanted to stop. My watch died after 6 hours.  I knew I still had another 5 miles to go.  When I reached the trailhead I was cursing my poor decision making skills.  As I trudged up the road to the campground all I kept thinking about is the food I was going to eat.  Irony, I didn’t think about food all morning and now all I could think about was food.

When we finally hit the campground (24.22 miles), I tied Charlotte to the picnic table, got her food out of the trunk and just as I started to get food out of the cooler I saw two notes on my windshield.  “This campsite has been previously rented 7/1-7/4 you must leave.”  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  I burst into tears right there on the spot.  The whole reason why I decided to camp was to avoid being on my feet all day and then get in the car.  So, I threw everything in the car with no rhyme or reason and started making my way back to Park City.

Lessons learned: 2

-Drive to the trailhead.

-EAT!!!

Miles completed: 24.22

Total run time: 8 hours

Blisters: 1

Sunburns: 1

All in all, despite the challenges I’m very proud of my day.  Longest run in almost a year.  I’m still in one piece, my lungs felt ok(ish), and I live to run another day.

Park City: Whoa

Dear Colorado, You have competition for my heart now. Love, me

It’s no secret that I love Colorado.  That being said, I just spent aimg_0918 week in Park City, Utah and now I have to say Colorado you’ve got competition.  The air is clean. The people are just as nice, if not nicer.  The mountains are just as magnificent.  While they may not be as high as the Rockies or the San Juans, the Wasatch are drop dead gorgeous. I was truly blown away by how well the trails were marked.  There even appears to be a nice balance of use between the hikers and bikers. Oh yeah, and Utah has Aspens too! All of this with the added bonus of not having legalized pot.

We managed to log well into the double digits hiking during the week we were in Park City. That doesn’t even count the time at #ECSUT.  The more miles covered the more I fell in love with it.  While hiking Donut Falls, a well loved easy trail (and apparently on the weekends crowded, according to AllTrails) we happened to come across a group of 1st and 2nd graders.  Their teachers were using the trail to talk to them about erosion, the power of water, what a watershed is (and why it’s important), among other topics.  This is how kids learn!  This is how kids learn about the environment, why it’s important, why it needs protecting.  With the added bonus of them getting exercise by not being cooped up in a classroom.

Every single person, regardless of age, was super friendly.  From the young to old, hikers, bikers, dog people, non-dog people, everyone was exceptional respectful and friendly.   There was little to no trash on the trails what what little there was you could tell was dropped by accident vice left on purpose.

I think the funniest group that we ran into the trail was this group of three middle-aged men out on mountain bikes.  I was busting the chops of my hiking companions regarding their lack of having seen the Dark Crystal as we came around a switchback.  The guys were hanging out there taking a break.  They heard my comment regarding Dark Crystal and immediately jumped into the conversation.  We bantered back and forth for a little bit about the movie where they used the term skeksis in place of sexy (poor Jim Hensen is probably rolling over in his grave).  They then asked us where we lived.  When we said the DC region they almost all fell over.  “Really?? I thought you were local yokals.”   I guess it’s not normal to find non-locals that far up the mountain.

All I can say is Colorado, you’ve definitely got competition for my heart.

#ECSUT: Mother Nature is a bitch

Nearly a year I’ve trained for the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50k.  Injuries couldn’t stop me.  My asthma couldn’t stop me.  I was GOING to run this race.  Right up until Mother Nature decided to into full bitch mode.  Every time we checked the weather on Friday it changed.  When we attended the pre-race discussion Friday night there was a discussion of the weather.  The race was going to happen.  Period.  All we knew was the there was going to be something falling out of the sky on Saturday morning we weren’t just sure WHAT.

Saturday morning dawned and it was raining with temperatures hovering around freezing.img_0774 If this were any other day I would have done anything else other than run outside.  This was the perfect cocktail for my lungs to be miserable.  Luckily I had packed all of my gear so I could cover my mouth and try to warm the air.  I suited up for battle and we all piled into the car to the start line.  As soon as we got dropped off we found out that there was an hour delay of the start.  Apparently there were blizzard conditions up the mountain.  Oh boy….so we waited.  Then came the second new bomb.

We were NOT running the 50k course. We would be running two loops of the half marathon course.  I was crushed.  Not only because the distance was not actually going to be an ultra, but it was loops.  I hate loops.  Loops crush me mentally.  The pull of the start line is always exceptionally strong for me.  My inner sloth just wants to stop.  “But it’s right there why can’t we stop?” I had to come up with a new game plan on the fly as my previous plan based on elevation profile and training just got toss out of the window.

Now, I completely understand safety first.  We heard of snow drifts up to the thighs of the scout runners.  We also heard news of aid crews being stranded at the top. Throwing runners out on a course where they could die would be bad for business.   However, I had a serious beef with Mother Nature.  Seriously, I mean WHY??? Last weekend it was sunny and 70.  Next week, sunny and 70. GAH!!!!

When we finally left at 8 it was STILL pouring and cold.  I kept my face covered in an attempt to warm the air.  The first 6 miles of the half marathon course were straight up hill.  Nothing like a good air and soul sucking climb right off the bat.  Even better we were sharing the course with the 50 milers so around 3 miles in the elite runners came blasting past us.

img_0800Grind, grind, grind up the hill.  The trail was definitely wet, sloppy, and slippery, but still  gorgeous.  The leaves on the trees were amazing colors.  Every once in a while we’d get an amazing view. I’d use the “on your left” from on of the fast 50 milers or 50k folks passing me as an excuse to look around.  I spent most of the race looking at the ground trying not to slip and fall on my face.

My first lap I did really well following the nutrition plan that Sainted Mary and I had laid out.  I used the aid stations to fill my water bladder.  As I finished my first lap and headed back around for another 6 miles of grind I zoned out.  Like REALLY zoned out.  I had to.  The pull of the finish line and being done was strong.  I had to block it out.

As Windchime blew past me all of a sudden there were flashing warning signs on my 8925342-standardproverbial dashboard.  We had been keeping pace with each other why was she blowing past me? I dug under the 3 layers of clothes that I had on to get to Coconut.  Holy f*%& stick I hadn’t eaten in over 2 hours.  It was at that moment I realized the wheels had not only come off the bus it was skidding down the road on its undercarriage on fire.  Sigh.  I knew that trying to recover from a deficit was going to be exceptionally hard.  Crap.  My feet were still moving forward this was good.  I reached in for a snack of banana chips and Justin’s honey peanut butter (on of my favorite go to snacks) and made the goal of hitting the next aid station.

At the aid station I sucked back some broth to help warm me up and scanned the table for something that I could eat.  In my calorie deficit those pb&j sandwiches looked amazing.  I was with it enough to know that was a bad idea.  Unless of course I wanted to be on the side of the trail puking my guts out.  I grabbed a handful of frozen skittles and kept marching setting up my new goal; next aid station.

This continued on until I hit the final aid station.  When I rolled in my fingers were so swollen I couldn’t slide my hydration bladder open. The volunteers were so sweet and did it for me.  I sucked back more broth, some potato chips and grabbed another handful of frozen skittles.  This was the last of it and it was all down hill.  I picked up from my march to a “run”, ok it was more of a quick shuffle, but it was faster than my march.  My lungs were on fire.  I was barely breathing.  The cold air and being out in it was starting to take its toll on me.  I just had to finish.  I WOULD finish.

The last .2 miles of the course is all switchbacks, but I could see the finish.  There was even a trail that went straight down the hill.  My inner monologue slapped my inner sloths face.  NO! Do the course as marked.  NO cheating.  My inner sloth was not pleased.

img_0804I honestly don’t remember the finish. My lungs were on fire so bad I was barely breathing. All I remember was crossing, being in tears and repeating to my friends, “my lungs hurt”.  That’s it.  That’s what I remember. Next thing I know I’m at the condo, stripped, and in the shower.   As you can see from the picture (that I don’t remember taking) I’m not exactly what you would call in good shape. The lack of oxygen I’m sure had nothing to do with that (sarcasm).

Results came out and the total distance run was 26.5 miles.  Technically an ultra.  I’ll take it. Granted it wasn’t the 50k I trained for, but perhaps the Universe threw me a bone.  Wet sub-40F temperatures at elevation.  Perhaps the Universe knew that if we had done the 50k course and pushed the extra 6 miles something bad would have happened.  Who knows.  All I know is that Mother Nature threw just about everything but the kitchen sink at me and I survived.  Take that Mother Nature.  Suck it.  (Ha, an asthma joke!)

 

Absolutely not

I am a good asthmatic.  Most of the time anyway.  I take my meds.  My bed is allergen covered.  I have only 1 room of carpet in my  house (and that’s only because it would echo SO bad if I didn’t.)  I do what I can.  I also try really hard not to let my limitations stop me.  Summer in the mid-Atlantic is awful for me.  Training for #ECSUT has been nearly impossible.

Friday I went and saw Doc and we got to talking about weekend plans.  I happened to casually mention I was going to do two 10k races this weekend.  The response I got was immediate and visceral.

“Absolutely not.  If you want to be healthy for Utah, absolutely positively not.  The air quality is going to be shit and the humidity is going to be worse.  If you want to push your luck and wind up sick less than two weeks before the race you’ve been training over a year for you go right ahead.”

Wow.  OK.  Doc normally gives me a very very long leash.  Apparently my piss poor judgement this spring is coming back to bite me in the butt.  This morning at 6AM when I checked the weather (you know just in case a miracle happened) the humidity was 86%.  Ugh…..Then I checked the American Lung Associations Air Quality app.

 

Yeah it was ugly.  There are times when I am really thankful I’m stubborn.  Then there are times I am thankful that I do listen to ration and reason.  This is one of the latter.

So, instead of running 20k this weekend you can find me at Biker Barre.  Hey, a girl  still has to burn off all of the already allocated calories AND get cardio training in for Utah.  Can it be fall and winter already?  Please?

 

DC Spartan Sprint: Well that wasn’t fun

Almost a year to the day I did my first Spartan race with Shadow.  Before WHAM! there had been a discussion about which races we were going to do together in 2016 to get our trifecta.  I had already registered for them (to save some money) so I (wo)manned up and did them anyway.  Whether it be to spite him or in spite of him.  The DC Spartan Sprint was to be my last race to get my trifecta.  I had already done the Super in Texas (and subsequently made myself SUPER sick) and the Beast in Ohio.

Whomever in Spartan Corp who decided that doing a Sprint in southern Maryland in the end of August was a good idea needs to be f-ing fired.  At 90+ degrees with 90+% humidity it isn’t a sufferfest it is downright dangerous.  I was incredibly lucky that I managed to get an 830 start time because I registered so early.  If I hadn’t, I definitely wouldn’t have run it especially after what happened in Austin and with #ESCUT coming up so quickly.  I knew I was going to have a hard time breathing to start with just because the air quality was shit.  I was NOT about to get sick right before the 50K.

I was supposed to be running with a couple of friends, but due to life circumstances I wound up running it alone (again).  I wasn’t thrilled with my situation, but it is what it is.  I lined up at 830 and off we went.  The minute we stepped foot into the woods I knew that this was going to be a miserable slog.  Humid does not even begin to touch how damp and awful it was in the woods.

The only good thing I can say about the course is that 85% of it is set into the woods meaning one thing; shade.  The downside is that because we were in the woods and they were cutting their own trails there were lots of 3″ landmines everywhere.  These are the little saplings or other weeds that they cut to “make” the trail but they didn’t cut all the way to the ground.  This meant for some really tricky going.

What was really interesting about this course was the warning signs that were everywhere saying that if you didn’t have the strength to do the obstacle or don’t feel comfortable don’t do it.  I’m fairly confident that it had something to do with the woman who sued after being paralyzed.  Anyway…..

As I was picking my way through the course I started to feel worse and worse.  Like I want to throw up and was super dizzy kind of worse.  I was wearing my hydration pack with 57c26ac9a0898a921101a971-oTailwind in it with 70oz of water and I was STILL feeling like crap.  You can even see it in the pictures.  As MSB put it, “You’ve got crazy eyes.”  I’ve seen that look before; the “lights are on but no one is home” at my first half marathon.

After I finished because there was 0 food for me to eat (because everything had gluten in it) I wound up getting this Italian ice type thing.  It’s not my normal food, but I needed to get something in me.  I was hot and running on fumes.  As I later told Sainted Mary I have never EVER felt that bad after a race, well, EVER.  As I sat in the car the air conditioner on high waiting for the sugar to hit my brain it finally hit me; I finished.

For the next few days I increased my asthma meds trying to get my lungs to heal and be happy again.  Thank God I didn’t stick my face in the grass or push myself too hard pace wise.

Honestly,  I can say I have no plans to do another OCR again.  If I’m going to suffer in the woods I want it to be running in the mountains not carrying a bucket of rocks in the middle of Ohio (or Maryland, or Texas, you get my point).  Spartans don’t give me that same feeling the way that running does.  Maybe it’s the fact that I did all of my suffering as a child stacking wood and other manual labor.  Who knows.  All I know is that I finished.  I have my trifecta.  All of my medals then promptly got boxed up and send to the kids that I run for. They can have them and play with them.  I’m ready to move onto my next challenge and next chapter.  Bring on #ECSUT!

Acupuncture vs the angry NY cabbie

***Long and wordy, sorry***

Eight weeks ago my entire back seized up. I have been living in various levels of pain since then.  I’ve seen Doc.  I’ve seen the magical Rowena who does myofascial release therapy.  I’ve even had a cortisone shot.  Every day was a new adventure in pain. I had to get creative to put my underpants on.   CrossFit?  Oh that was an adventure!  The last WOD I went to was box jumps and on a scale of 1-10 the pain was somewhere near a 9.  This is coming from the girl who had 37 stitches in her eye 4 with no numbing agent because it wore off before they were done.  The only time I haven’t been in pain?  When I am running. Sigh.

I saw Doc yesterday and as he was checking out my spine I asked him what I could do about pain.  He said that maybe an acupuncturist might help.  Basically, the ligaments in my spine down near my tailbone are all stretched out and they need to heal.  Doc said, “Until they heal and your nerves stop reacting and being angry and inflamed you are going to be in pain.”  Super just super.

Conveniently, a friend of mine has just sent me a text with a contact.  “Go see him.” That was all she said.  The he in question is an acupuncturist.  Specifically he is a guy who specializes in sports medicine! I’ve heard from multiple people regarding the magic of acupuncture.  At this point I was willing to try just about anything.  When I called him up and explained that I was a trail runner he said, “Ah! You are one of those long haul girls.”  Not yet, but trying, if I can get the pain under control…..

So, last night at 1800 I found myself explaining the last 8 weeks: what has been done, where I am pain wise, etc.  He explained to me how acupuncture works and how some of the pins may hurt more than others when we find a hot spot.  As I lay face down on the table and he started figuring out where he was going to put his pins in the words, “Girl you are extremely inflamed and have some very very angry spots.”  Suddenly the vision of an angry New York cabbie dropping the f-bomb every other word popped into my head.  I chuckled a bit.  Yeah, angry that would be a good word for it.  More like livid.

As promised some of the needles he put into me I didn’t feel.  Then there were some spots that I could definitely feel.  He wanted me to mention those to him.  “Uh-huh, that’s because you are a hot mess, girl.  We need to get this fixed ASAP.  Especially with your race coming up in September.”

I flipped over and he started working on my abs.  “Jesus, you are a train wreck.  No wonder why your hips are moving all around.  Your abs are a hot mess.”  Sigh.  Well that would explain why when I am doing certain movements and people say engage my abs I don’t feel what they are talking about.  What he doesn’t realizes is that I’ve been working with Rowena on the very same issue and that they were WORSE before.

“Do you feel that?”

“Yes….”

“It’s not supposed to feel like that. Don’t you know that?”

“Look, I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last year.  I only knew what my collarbones looked like starting in July of last year, there are LOTS of things I have no idea how they are supposed to look or feel like because I’ve never seen them before.”

He laughed so hard I think he snorted.  Hey, it’s the truth.

For the next month on the off-limits list; yoga, swimming, CrossFit, pilates, elliptical machines with the arms.  The only thing I AM allowed to do?  Hiking, walking, and short distance running.  Sigh.  At least I didn’t loose that.  Then I think I really would really go nuts.

When I called Trident and told them what is going on they said, “You know, I’m proud of you for getting to the bottom of it. It is so easy to push through the pain masking it with Motrin or other pain relievers.  Short term hiatus for long term gains.”  Sigh.  I know, I know…but, but, but, but……She chuckled, “I know, for you NOT doing things is harder than doing things.”  Oh if she only new that my inner sloth was sticking his tongue out and saying, “See I told you that working out was hazardous to your health.”

0000-Lit-Big-Girl-PantiesSigh.  Sometimes you have to put your big girl panties on and deal with it.  At least as of this morning I can put them on like a normal human!  Progress!  The things we do to be able to run 50k, do CrossFit or yoga or anything else.

 

Elk Double: Not bad for a chick with asthma from sea level

IMG_0116The Elk Double is Vacation Races Rocky Mountain Challenge race.  It consists of a 5k on Friday night followed by a half marathon on Saturday.  For a total of 16.3 miles.  Now, I routinely run these distances.  However, one tiny tiny detail, I don’t run at 7600′.  The entire game plan? Survival.  Not speed.  Not time.  Survival.  Quite the change for this competitive (against myself) girl.  I like pushing myself against myself.  However, this time, I had to just sit back and enjoy the experience.  Besides, this is all just training for #ECSUT.

Friday night was strangely humid.  Overall if I had to use two word to describe the 5k: complete cluster.  Lack of communication followed by miscommunication made even starting the race a disaster.   The 5k follows the path around Estes Lake which is paved with concrete.  My poor knees were not happy at all.  Ultimately, finished in around 40 minutes.  Not great, not horrible.  Two highlights? First, there was a wedding that was taking their pictures up against the shore line…yeah I photo bombed them.  Second, an ENTIRE TABLE of piles and piles of Picky Bars.  OH MY!

Saturday morning came super early (0330). I had already packed my hydration the night before with Tailwind and stuck it in the fridge. I also packed a couple of Picky Bars and Stingers just in case.  (My motto; Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.)  I made my standard pre-race shake (Vega, fruit, squash, and chia) to keep my stomach happy. Even though I wasn’t hungry at 0330 I knew I had to eat.

FullSizeRender 2The start of the half was much more organized than the 5k.  Vacation Races started right at 0600 as they said they would.  While 0600 is super early I’m incredibly grateful for it.  The temperatures were cooler and the sun wasn’t quite high enough in the sky to be baking on my skin.  The course itself  was a beautiful, albeit challenging one.  The elevation profile doesn’t lie that’s for sure.  It was extremely easy to discern the locals from those that had traveled in from sea level.  The locals were galloping down the course with ease.  The rest of us were just happy to be breathing!

The course itself was hard to access by spectators.  Occasionally IMG_0140we would hit a pocket or two of random supporters.  They were most welcomed.  While out on the trails I enjoy my peace and quite,  on road races I truly do enjoy the encouragement.  I think it helps.  Hands down the best sign I’ve seen in a long time was this one.  I am thankful for the folks who did manage to find their way onto various spots of the course.  Thanks for your support!

The aid stations were well stocked with water, electrolytes and Honey Stingers.  Around mile 7 there was an aid station stocked IMG_0143with bananas and oranges too!  Oh and the “Village People”.    When I asked them if they were the Village People they laughed and started doing the YMCA.  I love people with a sense of humor.  Thanks guys!  I took the opportunity to fill up my hydration pack again.  Mile 7 and I’d almost polished off 70 oz of water.  Yikes.

The next couple of miles had the best views of the entire course. After a nearly 3 mile climb those views were worth it.  Talk about take your breath away gorgeous.  That right there is hands down reason enough to run this race.   Did I happen to mention that this was also the downhill portion of the course?  Even better.

The aid station at ~11 was probably the best aid station of the whole race.  It was staffed by a bunch of teenage girls who had turned up the tunes from their car and were dancing while cheering us on.  At mile 11 it was most welcomed!  Thanks girls! You guys rocked.  Finish time 2:58.  Not too shabby for a girl with asthma from sea level.

While I still hate the pavement, this race was a great one.  It was really awesome to get some training time in at a similar altitude to what I will be running at in Utah.  Thank you to the town of Estes for supporting this race.

New level of crazy

So I’ve hit a new level of crazy.  Or is it badass?  Not quite sure, either, to be honest with you.  I had to come to Colorado for business so of course I managed to sneak in some pleasure while I’ve been here.  Today, though, I’ve hit a new level.  See, I managed to find a race to do this weekend while I’m out here.  (Shocking, I know.)  I’ll be doing Vacation Races Elk Double (a 5k followed by a half).  In the meantime, though, my soul needed/wanted/craved some mountain time.  Plus, let’s face it the chick who lives at sea level needs to get some altitude training in for #ECSUT.

At 0530 I headed out to get to the Long’s Peak trailhead parking area to head up to Chasm Lake.  The good news is that there is lots of parking on the shoulder of the road once you get to the trailhead.  See, Long’s Peak is one of Colorado’s classic 14ers.  While my body was screaming out to do Long’s Peak (you technically can do it in a day) I also knew that doing Long’s Peak the day before a half and the day of a 5k was DEFINITELY not a good idea.

The hike up to Chasm Lake is a drop dead gorgeous one.  It’s 4 miles of straight up followed by 4 miles of straight down.   Worth every single step.

IMG_0087The trail starts around 9200 feet or so in elevation.  For those tracking that’s ~9180 feet more than what I live at. The trail doesn’t lure you in with a nice gentle grade, either, oh no you start marching straight up hill right out the gate.  The tree line is only about a mile or so up the trail, so be prepared with LOTS of sunscreen.  I laughed a bit in my head when I saw what the trail looked like.

Even at my 0530 start I was running into folks coming DOWN the trail.  A group of girls who started at midnight to summit Mount Meeker.  A group of guys who summited Long’s Peak.   Around mile 2 I heard the distinct sound of a trail runner.  I shimmied over on the trail and a 65(ish) year old ultra runner passed me.  Can I be him when I grow up?  In typical Mountain Pony fashion I just kept turning my legs over.  I passed a group of gentlemen heading up the trail.

“It got hot quick!”

“Well, that’s what happens when you are running up the trail.  You training for an ultra?”

Can I just say how much that the first question they had wasn’t why are you doing this or why don’t you just slow down.  Nope, it was that question.  It made me smile wide.

“YEP!”

“Which one?”

“North Face Utah.”

“Oh Wasatch Mountains, you’re going to love it!”

IMG_0099The trail continued to climb way past the 10k, and even briefly flipping into the 11k range.  I don’t think I’ve had a bigger smile on my face than doing that trail.  The constant up, up, up.  I was incredibly thankful I remembered my trekking poles.  It helped not only with the up, but also to help absorb some of the impact on the way back down.

The lake comes after a small rock scramble (beware those with a fear of heights).  It sits in the saddle, but is absolutely gorgeous.  I was lucky enough to only share the spot with a couple from Wyoming.  On the way back down I saw the long line of folks headed to the lake.  Totally worth the 4 hours!

Now, off to take a nap before my 5k!  Hey even Mountain Ponies need their rest!