Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Boise Half Ironman, A different kind of RR...

I sat around for days upon my return from Boise, composing thoughts to share about my first experience at the half Ironman distance.  Heck, this was the first triathlon, aside from some sprint I did last summer, in 24 years.  I wrote, re-wrote and, hard to believe even over-wrote a very well-written and exciting post (Ha!). But the second I finished building the post of the century, my Boise 'teammate, Katie, presented me the below video, which pretty much sums up my verbose narrative, minus the relentless minute details.  You may as well watch the entire 15:26 video than sit and read my incessant babble, which trust me, was longer than 15 minute.  It's cheesy, but I'm a sucker for cheese in some instances, and this would be one of them - it touches my heart.

Awesome, right?  I actually got choked up when I first saw it (hard to believe) the other night when we had a little post-race BBQ at Audrey's house.  I think it's really fun and as Tara, my old swimming and training partner, moves on with new life adventures out of Colorado next week *sigh*, I'll look back on this amazing day and cherish the incredible memories.
I look like hell.  It was 'one of those hair days'
It's no secret that I didn't physically train for this race; I have another adventure to train for which is far more emotionally personal to me which required this aging and hill-challenged body's training time, but I knew I could use this race as a very solid endurance training day, so I went into it with no real expectations other than the experience - and somehow enjoy - the day (how someone enjoys 56 miles of hell on a bike is beyond me...).  The relentless bike hills, the gale-force winds swirling in every direction, the intense heat as temperatures rose to 92 degrees - all those factors wore me thin.

But I'd do it time and time again if I could share it with these very special people.

When I opened up blogspot for the first time around 5 years ago, it was at my daughter's urging because she knew I loved to write, loved to run, and wanted me to combine the two so she could, as she claimed, have something to better understand my running "disease" long after I was gone.  (I guess my endless verbal running chatter really does go in one ear and out the other)  I thought about this for a couple months before I eventually decided that yes, my running was important enough to me and the journey was something I wanted to share.  It took a long time for technology-challenged soled me to figure this blog thing out, but eventually I wrote and back then - I wrote a lot.

Many changes have taken place on this blog over the past 5+ years I have been writing.  It's pretty obvious I don't write as much as I used to, I don't feel the need or crave the outlet like I used to, but it is still the pen and paper-esque journal I set it out to be (and what it will always be); I truly hope one day, when I'm "long gone", that I've painted a vast landscape for my children describing a lifestyle that has meant a lot to me for the past 35+ years.

Somewhere along the course of the massive years writing, the journal morphed: blogging became a creative outlet, a source of motivation, and something that connected me with so many.  I shared a Boston Marathon hotel room with people I only exchanged typed words with; I raced races with bloggers in California, Utah, Massachusetts, Illinois, and my home state of Colorado (to name a few); I found my coach; I lost a running friend who always, always, ALWAYS believed in me; I learned copulas amounts of running information, advice, and opportunities - and I connected with so many of who I'd now call my best friends.  

All this, because of the encouragement my daughter set upon me over 5 years ago.

The incredible people doing Boise with me I met via this blog (except for Audrey, who was Katie's friend...but Katie and I met through the blog).  Before Tara had her baby 9 months ago, her and I meet a couple times a week to swim (and bitch about how cold the water is).  I met her though the blog.  This little blog of  mine!  Wow, Boise wouldn't have happened without it.

Katie wrote a synopsis of her thoughts about Boise when she sent the video.  I was going to post the entirety she shared with me but this post is getting super long as it is (I know, I can't shut-up when I actually DO take the time to write :)) so he's a short blurb ....

On June 7th, I nervously sat in a lecture hall at the Boise convention center.  I have to say it was the first time I was required to attended an informational meeting before a race....which just made me more nervous.  The breakfast I had choked down was starting to creep back up and my heart was racing. I sized up the people around me and realized I actually had no business being here.  Look at me....look at them!  I was about to flee....then I looked to my left and there was Jill cracking jokes about how she was going to get a drafting penalty.  My breathing eased, my stomach settled, my confidence reappeared.  It was going to be okay.  I wasn't alone, my team was here....

I train almost exclusively alone.  It sometimes sucks, especially when I'm high on a ridge in the middle of the Rockie Mountains on trails, lost, and have no idea where they're leading to nor if I'll find my way back to my car before my water runs out (Last week was a classic example).  It gets old. It gets lonely.  There are days that are very tough for someone like me (and I'm alone, a LOT!).

So when I get the rare opportunity to to share the road with some really fine people, I treasure the company.  I often wonder how I got so lucky to have friends like this.  I could laugh and half-kiddingly say that once they find out what I'm really like (after sharing a car ride for 13 hours!), all bets are off.  But the thing is, they already know and still there for me anyway - cracks, divots and all.

We need each other, you know, my trail shoes and my friends....sharing our experiences and making memories for each other.  We live our lives, love our people, and do our work.  But we can get into a fairly absolute pattern with these items, forgetting that we were designed for adventure too.  We need the experiences that stretch us higher.  We need validation.  When we ignore these needs, it's easy for our passions to get clogged and erupt, or morph in ways that are harmful.  We are not designed to thrive under restlessness or complacency; our lives need life, they need adventures.

Thanks, ladies - I had a blast (except for the 13-hour drive home).

1 minute off where I had hoped I would finish.  But thanks to a lovely 33 minute first mile run when I forgot my bib and forced to go back to retrieve it, which added an extra 2 miles to the run, I'll take it.  The day was exactly what I set out for it to be - a great endurance training day!  I just got lucky to share it with some amazing people.

As for Leadville's still going, though admittedly I'm sick of it all and starting to feel the effects of my body starting to break down.  It's not that I'm over-trained - it's that I'm burned-out.  Tired of it.  Tired of so much time away from my kids as I spend days away each week at altitude training. I'm just ready to be DONE!  I recently had a great race up Mt. Evans last weekend and some Leadville training runs in Leadville.  Gawd, get me out of damn car; I spent more time driving to a vertical training run than I actually RUN!  2.5 weeks left....

Let's Run, my friend!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leadville SR50 Weeks 8 and 7: A First of Many

"Storms makes oaks take root" 

Only the strong (well-rooted) survive. Others get blown away by the wind or washed away by the rain.

Well, I was on a roll with the weekly progress to Leadville report - for a week.  Eh, life.  With my long, vertical runs getting longer and, well, more vertical, things in life are taking a backseat to my training (laundry, kids, food, that little necessity called a job, which I have rearranged my entire Silver Rush training around...).

Week 8:
Miles: 70.07
Vertical: 8609'

Coming off week 9 with the slumpiest of slumps I've ever been in, I attacked week 8 with a renewed spark and extra spring in my step; I dug deep to complete my aggressive plan - and I survived.  And my legs didn't fall off.  In fact, I felt remarkably strong the entire week, yet admittedly by week's end, I was pushing the envelope in energy department.  Fatigue is something I need to deal with in Leadville, obviously, so I racked up this week as one of the best mental conditioning weeks I've had while training for Leadville cycle with the most mileage and vertical I've done to date. (I've hit 67 miles a couple times years ago, but never anything with the leading number being a 7).

A few of highlights for the week first included a record setting long run of almost 5 hours at White Ranch Park.  It was a gorgeous day filled with lots of power-walking climbs and powerful downhill running, and topped just a bit over 4600' for the day.  5 hours of solitude may sound like ecstasy to some, but it can be a bit mind-numbing for me.  When I had about an hour left into my run and feeling pretty beat, I happened to run past a large group of elderly there out and about exploring - and I got my own cheering section!  They asked me if I was training for anything in particular and when I told them the Leadville Silver Rush 50,  they applauded me like I just finished the race, and told me to keep running strong.  I won't lie, their salute to my mission gave me a huge boost, and I finished that run feeling like I can do anything.

White Mountain Ranch Park ranch

The remaining brunt of my vertical mileage that week came when I went to Mt. Falcon and ran 2 mile hill repeats, 3 of them, which tallied a bit over 1100' each.  I still can't run the entire path up Mt. Falcon's steep 10% incline (in comparison, Silver Rush's climbs are 7-8%), but I am getting faster, evident in comparison to numbers two weeks ago.  More importantly, I felt much stronger.

The week ended on a huge high when I paced my Boise Half IM-bound friend Katie to a heavenly 2 minute PR for her at the Colfax Half Marathon.  She said she wanted to run a 2:15.  I said she could run a 2:07, and I made that our goal.  Katie and I chatted a couple miles, then I moved a bit in front of her and had her clip in directly behind me.  I'd periodically turn back to make sure she was still there, give her a thumb's up, and always given a nod of agreement in return.  She felt great, so I ran with that feeling (ha!) and slowly picked up the pace as we progressed.  We ran in at 2:04. I was honored to be such a small part in Katie's very big day.  If anyone needs to hire me for any pacing duties, you know where to reach me.  Just nothing in the sub-7:30 range for more than a mile.
No, it's not sacrilegious to wear Boise race paraphernalia before race day - it's LUCKY!
Week 7:
Miles: 49
Vertical: 6000'

Somewhere in the middle of the week, I set off for my last long ride before Boise (in 3 days - yikes!).  Seeing a "Road Closed" sign on the bike path meant nothing; it was either turn back and endure 80 miles of riding or it meant we hike up and over the dirt and rock-filled embankment to the railroad tracks and down the other side.  I wasn't about to make this an 80 mile torturous hill ride, so hiking with bikes on our backs was the only solution.

Hauling bikes up...
Let's use Katie as our model...
on top of...

and back down (in slippery road bike shoes to add to the fun); the entire process took Katie more than a half hour.  The look on countless guys working on that "road closed" section was priceless; I'll never forget their expressions as Katie finally got down and hauled her bike over the orange plastic "do not enter" netting, getting her bike shoe tangled in the process.  I still laugh when the image pops in my head :).

Not long after this harrowing adventure, I came around a hair-pin turn, hit sand, went down - hard - and soon was down for the count.

You can't tell from the pic (Katie's been fired as official Boise race photographer), but I was pretty dinged up on my entire left side (most notable: my hip.  Nothing like a little swelling in areas you really don't need to accentuate further).  I'm feverishly picking at the monster sized scabs on my forearm and shoulder; should have those totally removed by Boise in a few days.

The crash pretty much dictated the stage for running the remaining of the week, aka: not much; my thigh had a constant, piercing pain whenever I tried to run.  I finally was able to compress the stupid thing with an ace bandage and get in a few miles here and there, but I kept the running mellow; I had a big race in a few days and didn't want to further damage the battle wounded thigh muscle.  Not to mention my knee wasn't exactly happy when I tried to bend it.

Sage Burner 50k:  Week 7 ended with the Sage Burner 50k race on Memorial Day (my plan follows a Monday - Sunday calendar week).  I could write an entire blog post, or five, on the actual race itself and all the thoughts and emotions I felt and survived during those almost 7 hours (6:57 to be precise, and I'll be honest, it looks better than 7 hours!) but I don't have the time, nor the desire to really relive that beast right now (but I will at a later date).  I'll just sum up the race as seriously one of the hardest races I've ever, ever done.  My mental marshmallow state, lead-like legs, and stomach protesting everything and anything in its path, were all fueled by the sole fact that miles 20-end (31.38), I was severely dehydrated.   The course wasn't easy, and in fact one of the hardest technical single-track trail races I've done to date (and longest, too).  It was hot.  It was 2000' higher than where I live and mostly train.  It gained almost 5750' in elevation (another personal record in one run).  All these factors contributed to the 10 mile death march fate, for sure, but it was the fact I wasn't taking in any liquids nor fuel for pretty much the last 3 hours that eventually cooked my race.  I may eventually write a post about this race, because as a training run race, it taught a few lessons I need to fix before Silver Rush if I hope to make it out of the town of Leadville alive.  But I finished, when I really didn't want to.  And I think that says a lot.  It was a gorgeous course, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this race itself; I just made some seriously stupid mistakes. 

Place: 29/37 (yes, a whopping 37 of us finished, 41 started)

Ryan ran the 25k race with a few of his teammates from cross country, and knocked off almost 30 minutes from his race time last year with a 2:33 (almost 3000' of elevation climbing).  I was in serious a state of 'let's get the hell of out here' hurry when I crossed, so I forgot to snap a picture of us together at the end of my race, so on the way home we stopped (one of 28x stops home to refuel my pressure-cooked body) to look at Colorado's infamous collegiate peaks, and finally took the time to smile about my day.  It was pretty cool to know Ryan was out there running somewhere on the same course, at least for the first 2:33.

Mt. Princeton, 14,196', in the background
Week 6:
I'm now in the middle of week 6, with about 5.5 more weeks remaining to Leadville.  This should terrify me, but I'm starting to get my game face on for Leadville and not over-think it too much; just do the work.  I started some high altitude training earlier this week and though I didn't climb as much as I have in the past couple weeks, I felt good at 10,000' (and that was the mission) and completed a 15 mile run .... in mostly one piece. 

It sucks to live in Colorado!
With the weeks dwindling down to a trickle, I plan to alienate the few existing friends I have left here in Denver, including my kids, for the remaining minuscule time I have left to Silver Rush so I can get up high in altitude as often as I can.  It's okay, they're all getting used to it, but I won't lie if I say this being away from home so much isn't a bit draining.  Adaption to the altitude is vital though, so I'll keep at it.

I'm heading out of town as soon as I close this blog and get it posted.....I have a little adventurous half IM I'm super ill-prepared for in Boise to get checked off my race list.  Seems like it was forever ago when I registered last August for it; a time when Leadville wasn't even on my radar, so Boise's taken a back-seat in training.  I'm excited, yet nervous; it's not like I'm any good on my bike, but I've down-graded the race from would 'love to do well' to 'it's just a great endurance training day' - I haven't put the time in on this race to warrant anything decent, and I'm absolutely at peace with that - my focus has been Leadville.  Still, I'll have a blast as I road trip with a few very special people in my life....I'm looking forward to it and think it will be a great endurance training day for Leadville (how many times is it legal for someone say Leadville in one blog post?)

I know there are some who question if I am ready for a race so lofty as the Silver Rush.  Admittedly, I had my own doubts after I finished Sage Burner rather scathed, torn, and shredded.  I know I'm not ideally fit for Leadville, but I think I'm adequately fit enough.  But really, this is what this game is all about for me, this little Leadville 50 miler:  To test myself, on so many levels...

As someone dear wrote me recently....

SR will be hard - really hard - but not once ever, not even for a second will it ever be impossible.   EVER.  It's why you chose it - for a challenge, to find and see if you can find your breaking point.  Isn't that why we do this?  This race will not be that for you - I venture to say you've found your breaking point, and it has nothing to do with running - SR will not be that for you...I can feel it.  You will get out there and you will put your head down so you can see where you are running and you will run that race, and you will eat and drink wisely and you will not try and win the damn thing - and you will not go to the dark places that have you asking 'why or can you'  you will just do it - and you will finish and you will know you can do it.

These words are revisited in my mailbox daily; they mean a lot to me (along with the rest of the email).  I know I will stand at the starting line of Silver Rush, and God willing I stay healthy (and fix this stomach disaster), I WILL finish what I started.  I only need to prove to myself I can do it, those who doubt ... well, let them doubt.  If I don't finish, it won't be because I didn't spend 6 months of my life trying.

Adaptation to circumstances is the key to survival. It’s not the most brilliantly beautiful, deeply intelligent, or ferociously strong among us who survives. It’s the most adaptable to change.  I am changing, I am adapting....

I will finish this Leadville thing.  

But first, Boise's calling....