Sunday, July 24, 2011

overcoming insecurities ~ true endurance

view of the Salt Lake valley from Big Mountain
it's been seven weeks since i started training with my coach.  i've gotta say, i feel a lot stronger with my consistent training this year compared with last year.  last week i emailed my coach about my apprehension that i was turning in weeks in the 40-mile range, whereas last year i was getting some 50- and 60-mile weeks.  he set my mind at ease, pointing out that i have been much more consistent with my training this year.  i've felt a lot stronger this year when i do get out on those long runs, and i've done a 20-miler nearly weekly for the last several weeks.

wildflowers flanking the first big climb
last week, my fast-finish 20-miler in Millcreek and Big Cottonwood canyon had me feeling pretty achy for most of this week.  my myofascial therapist marveled at my ability to tolerate the pain of treatment, as my hip and lower back muscles had reverted back to their stubborn ways.  but i am determined to continue healing and getting stronger, so i grit my teeth through the session.  two steps forward... one step back... and i will make it to my goal.

delayed onset muscle soreness (doms) was the theme of the week for my quads, and for my left Achilles and calf.  so when it came down to Friday night before the PieNBeer trail marathon, i found myself wondering what i had once again gotten myself into, and that maybe i should just run a 20-miler on my own somewhere, away from the competitiveness of a bunch of other runners.

view of the Wasatch Crest from near Swallow Rocks
but then i switched my mindset.  this didn't have to be a race if i didn't want it to be.  this could be a warm-up training session on the way to the big dance in September.  take all the elements of the PieNBeer event:  waking up at 4:30, dealing with the energy of my own nerves and insecurity, paired with the energy of thirty-some odd other folks, wondering if my minor aches and pains would manifest as major injuries in the upcoming miles, wondering if my stomach would tolerate the food and the heat of the day, wondering if my quads would blow up on the 5-mile descent from Lookout Peak...  aspects of all of those things are bound to happen in a real race.  this would be a test to see that i could deal with all of those things in a single session.

so when the event organizer said "go" and everyone took off like a rocket, my stomach did another lurch.  the words of my coach echoed in my head, "start out easy and end this one strong... " and i vowed not to run 7-minute miles on the dirt road for the first 4 miles, but instead would settle into a nice 8:30-9 min-mile pace and see where the day would take me.

as it turns out, the day took me past a dozen other runners.  those people who had started out fast found themselves not able to hang on once the big climbs started at mile 8 1/2.  and i found myself chugging up the hill, not even feeling out of breath, easily overtaking a group of three.  my legs continued to feel strong after 15 miles, along the off-camber, brushy, overgrown traverse of Lookout Peak, and i found myself easily jogging along and asking three more if they would mind stepping aside to let me through.

Swallow Rocks section
the descent from Lookout Peak proved to be likewise as fruitful, as my quads, which earlier in the week felt quite fried and maxed out, held strong and allowed me to charge downhill past another handful of runners and i got through what was later named the "ankle-twister section" without so much as a missed step.

re-tanking with a bottle of Ultragen at the aid station at mile 20 (i carried a ziplock of powder with me), i remained optimistic about the next downhill section which proved to be hot on the East Canyon Road.  before i knew it, i had passed three more people.  (heat is typically a nemesis of mine ~ just ask my friends about how quickly my attitude can change when i hit the heat-box section of any given outing.)

looking back at Big Mountain from below Lookout Peak
my misgivings about my capacity to endure were rewarded by my ability to overcome my insecurities from the night before.  when it was all said and done, i ran 24.6 miles, with 3600 ft of elevation gain and 4300 ft of loss:  without so much as a thought of nausea, shrugging off little aches and pains and telling myself they would not manifest into true injuries, through heat and adverse trail conditions, and translating inner negative thoughts of my own into real, positive mental and physical outcomes.

and to top it off, i got to eat pie and drink beer at the finish tent with my friends.  we congratulated each other on a successful day and i thought to myself how fortunate i am to be a part of such a wonderful group of people.  silly me for thinking i should run alone.  never underestimate the power of such an event with like-minded people.

link to the run is found here:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

training for the big dance on September 9th is going well.  i've been consistently logging over 40 miles per week, hitting my interval and hill workouts (except i skipped hills while in Germany, and took an extra rest day, but then made up the elevation later on a 19-mile long run).  i've been kind of stressed about my mileage, however, because i feel like last year i was logging some longer weeks... 50 and 60 mile weeks, and the 99 miles in 9 days as well.

so today i laced up the shoes and headed up Millcreek for a 20 mile out-and-back to prove to myself that i could log 20 miles in the Wasatch and not be completely wasted afterwards...

i headed up Bowman Fork after coming to terms with the fact that i really could not face the Crest trail on a weekend, as there was the likelihood that a fair amount of mountain bikers would be up there (later reports indicated otherwise, but hey...)

i met up with Roch Horton about 2/3 of the way up to Baker Pass, as he was coming down the trail and i was headed up.  and i've gotta say, it was such a delight to see him.  my legs were feeling a bit heavy and i was feeling as if i could have benefited from a second cup of coffee this morning.  meeting up with him definitely lightened my spirits.

i got to Baker Pass and there were already a few folks up there despite my early start, and i headed off the back and across the Desolation Trail.  met up with Emily and Megan as they were headed down-canyon, and explained the route to the Overlook trail to them, and we realized that we had mutual friend-in-common Liz Sherman and that Emily and i had actually run once together last year (although i was in a really sour mood, and she kicked my ass, and i was really not very nice to her, i'm afraid... ) but made up for it today, i hope.

i cruised along and though the entire time that maybe i should be running a bit faster, passed several hikers, but decided to keep things mellow and not push, because it's just training after all, and i still had a long ways to go, and it would heat up quite a lot before the day was done.  (in fact, the "hot" section of the Deso Trail on the return proved just that, despite a nice breeze and a few clouds throughout the day, that hot section just really seems to cook.)

got over to Dog Lake, and decided to stack my mileage by running halfway down Little Water and then back up Big Water.  it was a busy day on the "Water" trails, with lots of people and dogs, and i was happy to get back on the Deso Trail.

the traverse across Deso was relatively uneventful except for the heat, and i felt as though i pushed up to Baker Pass at a pretty good clip.  my coach's words rang in my head, "don't forget about the fast finish!" and after hitting the lap key on my watch, i made the most of a technical trail and even when i really wasn't moving fast because of the rocks, roots, and off-camber-ness of the route, i at least "thought" fast.  indeed, i made it down the 4.34 mi section in under an hour, which was my goal.  i even logged 7 min-mi on the last half-mile down the road to the car.  at one point, a kid about 7 or 8 yrs old, despite his father's words to "get out of the way!" crossed directly in front of me as i was hauling down a fast section and jumping a creek.  i pulled out some of my agility-soccer moves from my youth and only ended up clipping the brim of the kid's cap. 

before getting into the car, i plopped in the creek for a few minutes, to cool down my legs.  after a couple of hours of rest, i'm walking again :) but my left lateral ankle is tweaking just a little bit, and i'm afraid my peroneal tendon is a bit upset with me right now.  i iced it down for a good half-hour, so hopefully he will not stay upset and will be all fun and games again when it comes to my 60 minute run that is on the schedule for tomorrow.

stats for today:  20.5 mi, 5 hr 56 min, 8268 feet vertical.
estimated calories burned:  1853.  calories consumed ~ 900.

going to eat some Thai food with a friend... very hungry.  all in all, a very good day!  and i proved to myself that 20 miles in the Wasatch (at this point in my training) will not kill me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

the Story of the Steinbock

Kochler Alm (hut)
I set out to knock a hike off my bucket list:  the Benediktenwand (the Benedictine Wall) in Bavaria, southern Germany.  my goal was to go all day.  I was not sure how far it was, or how long it would last. 

happy cows by the Staffel Alm
I asked a friend of mine (my favorite Dutch Uncle, Jan ~ pronounced Yaan) how far it was from my starting town, Kochel, to Lenggries, the town at the other end of the Benediktenwand ~ he said, “about 5 hours”.  Hmm… I wasn’t sure how far 5 hours would be, and he wasn’t sure either.  I figured it had to be about 10 miles away, over the mountains.  So, if I was going to get about 20 miles on the day, I would have to do an out and back.  I had a back-up plan that if I got tired, I would take the bus back home to Kochel.

after consulting the map (Jan gave me an updated map, as mine had routes on it that I think no longer exist… ) it looked as though I could hike up to the Kocheler Alm (hut), over to the Staffel Alm, and then take the high route to the cross at the peak, and take the low route back to the Tützinger Hütte (large hut) to say hello to a family friend, and then make my way back the way I had come.
Staffel Alm

after about an hour of fast hiking up the forest road, I was at the first hut, the Kocheler Alm.  I kid you not, as I passed by the Kocheler Alm, a man yodeled off in the distance.  this was starting out to be a beautiful day.  the weather was cool and partly cloudy, and I started having thoughts of possibly bagging a couple of peaks (Rabenkopf ~ the Ravens’ Head and the Jochberg ~ the Yoke Mountain).

I quickly made my way across to the Staffel Alm, where I saw one other hiker who had just come off the Rabenkopf and we said a quick hello.  I jogged down past the friendly dairy cows of the Staffel Alm area and was at the World War memorial cross in no time.  I would now be heading into an area that I was more unfamiliar with.  Making my way down a path through a thick woods, I passed about 10 other hikers going the opposite direction ~ they all appeared to be retirees, and I was inspired by them.

gate at electric fence along the way
I hit the intersection for either the Tützinger Hütte or the Peak Cross (Gipfel Kreutz) and decided to bag the peak before socializing with friends.  I was not sure how long it would take me to cross over the ridge of the Benediktenwand, and there were some dark clouds rolling in, which made my decision even a bit easier ~ I would get the high route done first.

About two-thirds of the way up the last climb to the cross, I saw two horns poking up on the trail out in front of me.  Odd, I thought to myself.  Seems like a strange place for a deer.  I got my camera out, but then failed to see what animal the horns belonged to.  I walked another 10 minutes on the trail and came to a secondary junction, decided to take the left-hand fork, because the route looked a bit more direct up the ridge.  I came around a corner and to my surprise I was face to face with a Steinbock (Ibex).  Seriously, I just about crapped my pants.  He was about 20 feet away.  I quickly got my camera out and snapped some photos, not believing my eyes or my luck.  I thought about going past him on the trail as he lazily scratched his rear leg with the tip of his long horn, but then thought better of it after seeing the size of his genitalia.

Remembering the secondary junction just moments before, I retreated back down the hill, and proceeded along the alternate way to the cross.  I was hoping the Bock had not meandered down the trail to join me at the next junction, and luckily he had not.
steinbock with Benedictine Peak cross in the background
I busted up the last bit of trail to the cross and snapped some photos, wrote my name in the book, and thought of my parents:  especially my father, whom I had always hoped to have hiked this trail with.  I also thought of my mom and our German friend Liesi, as they had come along this route together many years ago.  I peaked over the edge of the escarpment and my stomach lurched and my legs tingled ~ it was easily a 1,000 foot drop down to the valley floor where the Tützinger Hütte lay.

Benedictine Wall Peak cross
As I hiked down the east ridge, which was quite rocky and steep I heard some very slow, heavy footfalls ~ thunk… thunk… thunk…  Oh, my God, I thought to myself.  another Steinbock.  I scrambled on the rocks as the sounds got closer, and then he poked his head around the corner!  I took a sharp breath in and I’m sure the look on my face was quite a sight to see for the other hiker who was coming the opposite direction!  “I thought you were a Steinbock!”  I said.  He laughed at me and wished me well upon my way, “No, I’m not a Steinbock…  I think I must have really scared you!”  “Yes, you did,” I said and explained to him that I had seen the Bock only moments before. 

As I made my way down the remainder of the ridge, I laughed at myself several times.  I’m sure that man will have a story to tell:  of the silly girl on the ridge who thought he was a Steinbock!

A brief hailstorm moved through the area on my last stretch to the Hütte, and I was glad to pass a couple of hikers (one of whom commented on my boldness on the trail… ) and ducked into the hut.  I went up to the counter inside the hut and said hello to the Wirt (Hut Host) and asked him if he knew who I was.  He said, “Yes, you’re the young lady who hugged my father at the folkdance festival a couple of nights ago!”  “Yes,” I replied and explained who I was and that his father and my father had been friends growing up.  I had a good chat with him and his wife and then explained I needed to be on my way because I still had some distance to cover.
Tutzinger Hütte far below

The next two hours were relatively uneventful except for the drenching rain that ensued and I decided not to bag any peaks on the way back home.  Uneventful, up until the time I got back to the Kocheler Alm and met up with a mountain biker who passed me on the way down.  He went a little ways and then turned around ~ I thought he might have forgotten something at the alm.  But no, he told me to keep running, that I had a very nice tempo going and just wanted to chat for a bit and see where I had gone today.  We wished each other well on the descent back down to Kochel in the rainstorm and I reflected on what a magical day I’d been so lucky to have ~ 19 miles, just short of 7 hours, and so many beautiful sights and great people along the way.

metal-cable hand rail

thirsty?  why yes, thank you.  nice clean spring water