Monday, May 31, 2010

Pocatello 50--Mother Nature had Her Way

it started out innocently enough.  a friendly 50 mile race, admittedly one of the toughest in the country, among friends in Idaho.  the weather was slated to be a little foul, as rain showers were forecast and it had been raining for the previous few days so the trails were a bit muddy.  but most of us had shown up optimistic.

the morning of the race, o'dark thirty, we showed up and checked in.  some people were doing 2 and 3 man relays, each with about 16 mile legs.  i was signed up for the full 50 mile run.  i am, admittedly, a "back of the middle of the pack runner", or a "front of the back of the pack runner", and i was doing this run as a training run for Wasatch 100 in September.  my nausea issues were minimal this race, in stark contrast to other races, as i obtained prescription medication prior to coming, not because i was any less nervous.

and the weather started out pretty perfect for an all day running affair.  i estimated 14-15 hours of being on the course.  it was 40 degrees and drizzling at 6am when we all started.  the trails were wet, but the mud was not unbearable.  the first climb and descent were enjoyable, and my friend Brendan and i cruised into the aid station at mile 8.3 ahead of our estimated time. 

then we started the ascent up the muddy trail from Gibson Jack, and it started to get a little greasy.  then we started the off-trail section through the sagebrush, straight up, through the rocks and crags, and all hell broke loose.  we joked at first, "this is getting all too real".  the hail and freezing rain was coming at us sideways.  i thought my left ear was going to freeze off.  i had a running skirt on, and was wishing i had tights.  Brendan did not have a jacket, just a thermal long-sleeve top.  we almost took a wrong turn at the top of the climb, and later found out that about 20 runners had taken that wrong turn.  the course markers had been blown away in the 40 mph wind gusts.  i got knocked off my feet several times by the wind.  we were shivering.  my hands were so frozen i could hardly manage to take the few pictures that i did.  but i wanted evidence of our epic.

after cresting the climb and searching several minutes for the true route, we started down a slicker-than-snot logging road.  it was pretty much all we could do to stay upright.  a jaunty sing-along run in the light rain had turned into an epic adventure.  i had serious doubts about continuing after reaching the City Creek aid station at mile 17, a little over 4 hours into the run. 

my crew, my friend Suzy, met me with dry clothes.  i saw Karl and Cheryl under the tent and they read my expression on my face, "holy sh*t.  what was that?" is what i think i said.  i got my game face on and rallied.  changed my clothes, changed my socks, put on a rain jacket, grabbed a banana, and got the heck outta there before i could change my mind.  getting out of that aid station was an even bigger mental hurdle than getting over the donner-pass like climb earlier.

going up the City Creek trail, it was greasy.  there were times when i had to bush-whack up through the brush on the side of the trail because the mud was so slick, you would have slipped and laid it out flat on your stomach.

after almost 3 miles, a runner came up behind me.  i had not seen anyone since leaving the aid station.  "they're calling the race".  i responded, "i kinda want to keep going."  what was i saying?  did i really want to keep going in this?  "you're welcome to keep going if you want, " he said.  but then reality really started to hit me.  if the race directors were calling the race to a stop, there was a very good reason for it.  i didn't want to be the lone runner out there whom they were all wondering if i was going to make it or worse, get lost.  i couldn't even guarantee that there would be anyone at the aid stations if i kept going.  i saw Jared, on of the race directors coming down a dirt road in his truck, giving several runners a ride back to City Creek aid station.  "can i run back down this section and maybe catch a ride with you to the start/finish area to meet my friends?"  "No problem," he replied.

i ran back down to City Creek, laying down a very nice slide at one point that was worthy of a "safe" call into third base, and spinning around and surfing the trail backwards at another point.  i caught a ride with a girl named Lucinda back to Mink Creek start/finish area.  then the cold wait began.  Brendan had cruised past me at City Creek and was still on the course, as no one had caught him to tell him the race was called to a stop. also out on the course were Cheryl and Brett.  i hung out with Sean Meissner, Jay Aldous, and Matt Hart among others (who had finished the 50k) in the tent for a while.  I hung out with Jill, Roger, and Karl in the car for a while.  after 2 hours of waiting, all of our runners were accounted for.  search and rescue was called to locate missing runners, and HAM radio operators coordinated efforts between SAR and the race directors.  by the end of the day, everyone was accounted for.

i overcame several hurdles in this race, the mental ones being bigger hurdles than the physical.  i'm physically a lot stronger than i give myself credit for.  i've been doing some reading about how much physical reserve (20-30%) you still have, even though your mind is telling your body to quit.  although i only got 23 miles done, it was in 5h 45min which was a faster pace than i had originally estimated for this course (i did 4 miles per hour, and i was thinking i'd average 3 to 3.5 mph).  i had enough strength to go out for a 9 mile run on the Shoreline back in Salt Lake the next day when i got home.

the most impressive thing i was reminded of at Pocatello 50 this year was the comaraderie of the trail running community.   guys who were in it to win slowed down to help others who were becoming hypothermic.  Brendan stopped on the wintery ridge to make sure i was making it up the climb.  people fell down and people asked if they were okay.  volunteers stayed out in the weather to provide warm food and hospitality to those in need.  race directors doubled back on the course to make sure people on the crags were safe and not falling off the mountain.  SAR and HAM radio pulled together a last-minute search effort to locate lost and unaccounted for runners.  it was an epic day in so many ways.  i'll go back next year.  i will, however, hope for better weather.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life Surfing

i'm going to borrow a line from my friend Jen K, and tell you the story of my recent "life surfing". the last few weeks have been a huge roller coaster for me. and all i can really say is that maybe you can't really enjoy the high points in life without going through the low points. something happens that you think is the end of the world at first, but then you realize that, as Jen says, "your future just got freed up."

after an amazing trip to Zion with Jen and Chris, trail running and mountain biking everyday, i came back to a less than desirable work environment. i have realized over the last couple of weeks that i have not been reaching my full potential at my current work location, and although i could describe situations where i felt disrespected, i don't want to play the "victim" in this, but rather grow from a less that optimal situation and just move on. i'm pretty sure i'm not going back, as i've taken vacation leave for the past 2 weeks, but i haven't made my final decision either.

so last week i went to Ketchum/Sun Valley, to get some more training miles in and spend some time with Jen. she was house-sitting at a great little condo and taking care of a young-at-heart golden retriever named Kobi. so it was me, Jen, Kobi, Hilo (Jen's chocolate lab), and my two goldies Frank and Artemis. talk about a lot of dog hair. yikes. poor Jen had to clean the place shortly after we left because the condo owners were coming home. i think she knitted me a sweater from all of the dog hair fallout.

so i did double workouts of trail running in the mornings and mtn biking in the afternoons and had a generally excellent time. coffee drinking, beer drinking, taking in the scene, and of course the Powerhouse in Hailey was top billing for the weekend. it's a great little bike-fit studio with a bar and pub in the front. Belgian import beers on tap--too many to count. met some really great people sitting at the bar and the owner is an awesome guy, tending bar himself. and the trails in Ketchum/Hailey/Sun Valley area are definitely top notch. and the upper trails are still covered in snow--we were really just hitting the town trails.

i felt a little out of sorts the entire time, because of all the work stuff on my mind: where will i go? what will i do? who will accept me? am i a failure? all the usual self-talk. i felt a little bit like i was blocking the great energy that was around me, because i was working through so many issues in my head. but at the end of the trip, as i was picking up a load of beverages at the store to bring home (call it boot-legging if you will), i serendipitously ran into an old friend in the parking lot. he gave me a hug and asked how i'd been. we only had a couple of minutes to chat, but it really made my day (my week, my month?) just to see him and say hi out of the blue.

now i have returned home, and i'm still not certain what i am going to do. but today, a surprise came in the mail. my aunt sent me an old cassette tape of my high school senior piano recital. wow. i was really good. sure, i made some mistakes along the way, but everyone supported me and cheered for me. every time i made a mistake on the tape, my heart skips a beat to this day! i think to myself, "Come on! Keep going! You can DO IT!" and i did keep going. and i do keep going.

i don't know that i will be buying a keyboard or a piano anytime soon, but i am definitely considering it. for now, i'm going to surf the life that has opened up before me. i'll hit the highs and the lows, and i'll just keep going. i'll enjoy the view along the way. it's life surfing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Zion Train

well, the Zion Traverse did not pan out as originally planned. my running partner Jen wasn't feeling very well, and i have to admit, i was not feelin' it either. we made it 14 gorgeous miles from the Kolob Canyon turn off at Lee Pass to the Hopp Valley Trailhead. getting the layers just right was a challenge, as it was nukin' windy at the start at 6am and then warm in the sun when we hit the Timber Creek and La Verkin Creek canyons. when we got into Hopp Valley it was a brisk, cold wind again. i felt like all i did for 14 miles was take layers on and off and make adjustments to my shoes, pack, etc. a bit frustrating, but i didn't let it detract from the spectacular scenery that is Zion or the excellent running company in Jen.

after 14 miles, we met up with Eve who was crewing us and her partner Charlie. getting into the Eurovan was a bit like getting into the Brighton Lodge at mile 75 of Wasatch--hard to leave. especially with snuggly little Mesa-dog luring us in... so we bailed on the rest of the run (i had thoughts of running the next 20+ miles solo, but decided against it as my legs just really felt like lead, and i was dying for a good cup of coffee. note to self: drink coffee before running, even if it is 5am. Herbal matte just doesn't cut it when you are a coffee fiend like i am. some might say this should be a lesson to me to cut back so that i can go without, and to that i say... Never!)

anyhoo, back to the story. so we three drove around to Springdale. i got coffee (Aaahhhh...) and Eve got an over-priced sandwich, and Jen got a nap. Eve and i then proceeded to take the shuttle bus in to Zion Canyon, and hiked up Angels' Landing to meet up with Charlie. we were about a half-mile or so from the West Rim Trail when we spotted him coming down the trail. so, in addition to my 14 miles for the morning, i got about 9 for the afternoon. 23 miles total for the day--not bad! and to make matters even better, i ran into the majority of the Leopardi clan up on the trail (they are an awesome Italian Catholic family that i have been friends with forever, and were in town for Grandma Kay's 80th birthday celebration. Happy Birthday, Kay!)

we squeezed onto the shuttle bus again to rejoin the crew back in Springdale (the tourists were not too fond of the way we smelled after a long day running on the trail, and the bus was totally packed full. i had to giggle). Jen was waiting for us at the Eurovan, along with her boyfriend Chris who had spent the day mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa.

a delicious dinner at the Bit-n-Spur, and then we took off for showers at the Travelodge in Hurricane, Utah. breakfast the next morning was at the fine establishment of JB's family restaurant chain. mmm... can you say mini-sausages and donut holes on the all you can eat buffet?!? delish.

Chris, Jen, and i then went mtn biking on the JEM trail outside of Hurricane (spectacular!) and i showed off my tuck and roll skills off the side of the trail. we got some snacks back at the car, and then rode our bikes on the Zion Canyon Road into the Park to check out the Narrows. all in all, a 12 mile mtn bike plus a 12 mile road ride plus a 2 mile walk to the Narrows. the epic miles were adding up!

camped at Mosquito Flats that night after an amazing dinner at the Spotted Dog in Springdale. we were totally underdressed for this fine establishment, but the proprietor treated us as if we were his top clientele. they even have their own "Spotted Dog Ale" which is brewed in Salt Lake City by Squatters. we closed the place down at about 10:30.

next day we had breakfast at the Red Coyote Cafe in Virgin (a must! visit if you are in the area, with free wifi and amazingly delishious croissant breakfast sandwiches and lattes) and then hit the Guacamole trail for 7+ miles of slickrock, technical mountain biking. Jen and i for sure improved our skills with this ride. so much fun!

such a great weekend. check out the photos as proof!