Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Community and a Toolbox

I'm headed off to bed, but I wanted to get a quick post off, because a couple of things (good things) have been in the back of my mind and I've wanted to push them to the fore front, because they are important.

As we head into "race season" it occurs to me, yet again, what an amazing trail-running community we have here in Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front.  I'm a new member of a running club that is based in Ogden but has a few Salt Lakers ~ it's a small club, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of this group.  It's so important to me to find running friends that have similar values to mine:  running for the love of it, enjoying trails and lovely mountains, and often partaking in a little bit of debauchery.  We are truly "Happy Utah Mountain Runners", even when the trail is strewn with bugs (midges:  thousands if not millions of them... ) we smile and laugh and build memories on the experience.

Another example:  I'm on the race committee for the Speedgoat 50k, a trail event up at Snowbird, Utah.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude as I think of not only the race committee (and race director, in particular) but also the 80+ volunteers who will come together to support over 400 racers this year.  The event has grown over the last seven years from a small-time local event to a big-time internationally known one.  And the local trail-running community comes together to make it happen.  I pretty much get chills just thinking about this amazing assembly of people.

And yet, with all of these people, thousands of them, I still really revel in my solitary trail runs.  Well, not quite solitary, but many times in the company of my two dogs, Franklin and Artemis.  Two aging Golden Retrievers who still, somehow seem to manage to put together 20-30 miles per week on the trails and in the neighborhood with me.  I know people recognize us.  I smile and nod and sometimes wave as I pass other runners.  We are a cute pack, the three of us, and I treasure every mile with my dogs.

And as I talk about how wonderful things are:  how supportive our trail-running community is, I think of a few certain people who are not able to log the miles that they want to right now.  After reading a friend's post in The Injured Athlete's Toolbox, it's so easy to think of ourselves and our plans and our healthy, happy trail-running groups and forget to check in with others who might not be doing so well.  Some who might be nursing little injuries that might go away in a week or two; and others who will be on a lengthier path to recovery.

After reading the blogpost, the content hit me really deep.  I wish I had had a resource like this when I was injured, recovering from knee surgery in 2007.  I do know what it's like to be injured.  I know what it's like to have everyone talking about their favorite run (or ski, or bike) and feel so frustrated that you can't do the things that seem so easy when you are healthy.

I know I'm not supposed to compare, but I think of my own injuries, especially the more significant ones and how easy it is to feel alone and a little bit (or a lot) down, depending on the situation or how much support you have or what blessed distractions you might have to keep your mind off of your injury for a little bit.  As an injured athlete, you might feel like you will never be able to log the miles again that you want to or that you once did.  It's important to have perspective and not get too mired down in the negativity of an injury, but who doesn't do this?  Being injured is tough.  And to this, I say:  love an injured friend today.  Take the Injured Athlete's advice and don't talk about your race plans or how well you did at that last event.  Talk to the injured friend and offer them friendship that has nothing to do with running (or their activity of choice).

We are blessed to be healthy and together on this Earth (well, and it is Earth Day after all).  As I think of how fortunate I am to be me and living this life of mine, I like to think of my friends and what it might be like to be living that life of theirs.  I'm so fortunate to have the friends that I do.  They help to keep me grounded and maintain perspective.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zion 50k Race Report~ in the company of friends

This race report is dedicated to my friends:  new and old.  I had a really rough day at work on Thursday and considered not going to my race in Virgin, Utah this weekend.  Friday morning was punctuated by frustration, sadness, and a few tears.  Stress that did not deserve a place in my life.  Thankfully, I drove to the race with a very optimistic friend, who took my mind off the maladies in life and helped me to reframe my outlook.  Throughout the race on Saturday, I told myself to just, "think positively" and to "smile, even if you don't feel like it".  Here is my report on how that went.

So, I already mentioned that I drove down to Virgin, Utah with my friend Britta.  She told me that she was trying to be more positive about people, not talk negatively about them, and be more positive, in general.  I can be a pretty negative person.  Most of my good friends know that.  I usually blame it on my half-German descent.  Spend any length of time in the town where my father grew up and you start to pick up on the fact that people talk sh*t about each other and don't bat an eye at the fact that they do so.  It's a problem.  You start focusing on all the bad sh*t in the world and how horrible things  might be if "A" leads to "B" and it's all just a load of hypothetical crap.  It's really not worth wasting your energy on 99% of it.

So after a communication break-down at work, which I like to blame on the fact that no one in my clinic ever wants to be criticized or they will defensively fly off the handle, I was in a pretty frustrated, bad mood.  I went to do a Girls on the Run site visit as an ambassador on Thursday afternoon and experienced the positive energy of over a dozen eight- to ten-year-olds which helped to put me back on track from the negativity that I had experienced earlier in the day.

Then Britta and I drove to Zion on Friday.  Then meeting up with some friends on Friday night for dinner, which turned into a bit of a fiasco because the credit card machine at the restaurant we went to wasn't working and we really just wanted to go to bed because we had to be awake at 4:30 to get to the race start... Yeah.  Isn't there some saying about "the best laid plans... blah, blah, blah... "?

I was determined to have a good race despite the fact that I hadn't run much elevation this winter and had only just barely been able to put together three solid weeks of training at 40 miles per week.  I would go to the start line with a smile on my face.  A forced smile.

I got to the hotel and took a shower and watched a couple of episodes of Modern Family.  I read my book for about an hour and started getting sleepy, so I decided to turn out the light.  I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly.  How do I know this?  Because I woke up in a panic at midnight when the hotel alarm clock went off.  Rookie move.  Forgot to check that.  I tried not to let it affect my sleep, and told myself if I had fallen asleep easily once, I would do it again.  Reality is:  I tossed and turned for 30-40 minutes and woke up two other times during the night.  The alarm went off at 4:40am and I forced a smile onto my face.  A supported 30-mile run in the desert with friends!  Positive attitude!  I was even able to force down a cup of coffee, banana, and a Larabar for breakfast at 5am (and didn't puke it up again).  My luck was continuing...

Many friends were in the start-finish pavilion at the Virgin town park.  Nearly everyone was smiling in anxious anticipation of the day.  A few 100-mile people were finishing as we were starting.  It was a great atmosphere.

I looked over at my friend Ryan (who is always smiling) and was like, "Oh, I left my headlamp in the car.  We probably won't really need them, huh?"  And he said, "Here, just take mine.  I run in the dark all the time, so I'll be fine."  And then we proceeded to start the race in the dark at 6am, run through the foothills above Virgin, Utah, and get off-course many times even with the use of the headlamp.

I ran with my friend Darcie for about a mile and felt good about that because she is way faster than I am.  Then Britta came up from behind me... What?  She is way faster than I am.  In fact, this happened not once, but twice (she had gotten off-course).  Then we came to the river crossing.  I watched as about 20-30 people tip-toed around the edge of the water, looking for a dry place to cross. Thanks, folks, but my feet will be dry again in about 20 minutes, and I just passed all of you.  I splashed right through the river.  Bam!  Oh, it was sweet.

I ran the entire 7-miles of the first climb.  I kept hearing Lindsay's (Ryan's wife) voice in my head from one of her recent blogposts:  "Run all of the uphills, even if you don't think you can.  Own the uphills!"  And I did.  Before I knew it, I was at the first aid station at 7.5 miles.  I sped through without taking anything and called out my number to the volunteers.  Sweet.  I just passed about 5 people who had stopped.

Then I saw my friend Renee, who was pacing Steven (didn't know him) and I gave them both a hug.  Steven was doing the 100-mile race and the two of them had been up all night.  They deserved hugs.  In fact, I said, "Good job", "Great job", or gave a pat on the shoulder to every single 100-mile runner that I passed.  It felt good to see them grimace a little smile after my acknowledgement of their efforts.  These runners were at approximately the 80-mile mark of the race and were all in the home stretch.  So sweet.

I saw my friend Matt (doing the 100-mile) and realized that I had gotten off-course.  I laughed, and ran backwards on the course to make up the mileage that I had lost (about a half a mile) and then caught up to him again.  He told me to "get going" and not slow down because of him.  In fact, I passed again the three women who had also taken a wrong turn and had not made the attempt to make up the mileage that they had lost.  Later, ladies!  I continuously looked at the pace-setting on my watch and it hovered right around 12 min-mi, exactly my target.

I caught Becky from Pocatello, a friend of my friend Kelly, and we ran together for about a mile.  She also skis at Pebble Creek, where my brother is the director of ski patrol.  She was really nice, but was running faster than I was on the downhill, so I told her to go on ahead.

We got down the road to the cut-off and had a small, 300 ft climb to grind up.  Becky and one other woman were ahead of me, just out of reach.  "How nice would it be to catch them?"  I thought to myself.  Through the next aid station very quickly just to fill a water bottle and they were still just ahead.  Dang.  Just out of reach.  Then the big climb came:  1,500ft in 1.5 miles.  I was calling Becky "red shirt" because before I knew her name, that's how I was identifying her.  I stubbed my toe and looked down a 300-foot precipice.  Pay attention!  Grind uphill.  Rope section.  Pull uphill.  Head down.  Breathe.  10 more minutes uphill.  Then, On Top of Smith Mesa!  And Becky was at the top.

I could hear Roch's voice in my head, "You'll be glad you have those Altra Olympus shoes on the way down off of Smith Mesa," and he was right, as always.  It was 3 miles of steep downhill on a paved road.  I switched gears and sped downhill.  Out in front of Becky and running 8 min-miles.  5 more miles and I would be finished.  "Your legs are going to hurt tomorrow!" a little voice inside said to me.  But I didn't care.  Tomorrow is not today, and today I have the fortitude to bust this last section out.  It had been a great day up until that point and I was determined to keep it that way.

I ran out of water on the downhill and shrugged it off.  I got a side stitch and did some deep belly-breathing to get it to go away.  Then, before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the hill and two women were standing by an SUV and yelled, "OH Yeah!  Girl Power!  Way to go, girl!"  And you know what?  They had water jugs set up there!  Sweet mother of baby Jesus, cool, refreshing water.  I asked, "How far, 2 miles?" as I was filling my bottle.  One of them said, "Maybe one and a half [miles]."  Hell yeah, let's get this b*tch done!  Still averaging 12 min-miles!

I cruised the last bit down the double-track dirt road and to the main highway.   There were cars coming from both directions.  I held out my hand to them and waved and smiled, forcing them to stop and let me cross.  I could finish well under 6 hr 30 min if I hustled down the last quarter mile... to the finish!  6 hours, 20 minutes!  I did it!!!  And I felt great the entire way.

I felt great, because I was determined to feel great.  I wasn't going to let a bit (or a lot) of negativity affect my race day.  I let the infectious optimism of my friends influence me instead.  I love my friends.  I wore my Happy Utah Mountain Runners shirt and am certain that I lived up to the name of this amazing group of people.  I sat with friends at the finish line and laughed and smiled.  I drank a beer which was quite possibly, the best beer I have ever tasted (it was a PBR, my favorite, and it was free:  even better).

I drove back to Salt Lake with Britta (she won the race, and my friend Darcie got 3rd!) and made it to the kennel before 6pm to pick up the dogs.  Had I arrived 5 minutes later, I would have perhaps had to pay a late-pick up fee.  My luck had continued on the drive home (no speeding tickets, either).

What a wonderful weekend.  What a great way to start the racing season.  Let the Summer of Running, 2014 edition begin!

Postscript:  it is now Monday evening and my legs have been killing me for two days, post-race.  I earned it.  I also have been an empty pit of hunger, eating almost an entire, large Este New York-style pizza in 2 1/2 days.  I have taken afternoon naps both Sunday and Monday and it feels great.  It all feels great.  I am pleased beyond belief.