Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Riding Roundup (wait... what?)

dogs sitting on the new bench at Round Valley ~
"Dedicated to all the joyful dogs who leap,
 swim, run, and play together in Round Valley." 
Since my hips and lower back have been tight from the summer of running, I've decided to start (or re-start... ) mountain biking a bit.  I have a really sweet bike that I got about 5 years ago, so I really have no excuses.  The only thing that is really tough about mountain biking for me, is that it's not really very good for the dogs.  Dogs are better adapted to hiking and running (my fluffy dogs, anyway...  Vernon the speckled dog is another story!  That dog could run for days).

For that reason, I ride a bit slower when I'm with the fluffy dogs, but I will probably end up leaving them at home a bit and just heading out with Vernon here and there or going by myself. It breaks my heart to think of leaving the dogs alone at home and not letting them be part of the fun, but they could use a rest now and then, I suppose.

So I'm committing to riding at least a couple of times a week to give my legs a bit of a break but to still stay in shape.  At least until winter starts, and I can start skate skiing and ski touring!  I have to say, I know some pretty sweet biking trails with very few people on them, so it's really nice riding with the dogs.  Part of it is the time of year (the lack of crowds) ~ it's kind of the in-between season, so there's lots of people who are probably just done with riding for the year.  People start looking to winter at this time of year.  But if you ask me, this is the perfect time to ride.  50-60 degrees, not too hot and not too cold, beautiful Fall colors, solitary trails.  Just me and the dogs.
in the home stretch

Here's a few shots from our ride today ~  I took the fluffy dogs with the speckled dog for a good 7-mile loop, then put the fluffies in the car and took speckled-dog out for another two mile loop.  Sadly, partway into the bonus loop, my rear brake started doing a weird locking-up vibration kind of thing.  My bike is going to spend the night in the shop and I should get her back tomorrow, so I can ride this weekend as well.

The guy at the bike shop started going through all the things that I probably "should" do to maintenance my bike, since not a lot has ever been done over the 5 years that I had her.  Thing is, I started running lots and riding lots less after I got my bike.  I've probably only ridden her about two-dozen times over the last 5 years...  but things like rubber and hydraulic fluid wear out with time, so I probably will be looking at throwing down a bit of cash come the Spring.  A good investment, all in all, but makes me see how much more expensive riding is compared to running.

any day is a good day to hit the swimming hole
So far so good with the riding.  My butt doesn't hurt too bad and my legs are super strong from all of the endurance I built up running over the summer.  I'll probably look into riding some enduro-events next summer along with my handful of trail-running ultras.  It's never too soon to start looking at events!  But for the time being I'm just going to enjoy rolling along with the dogs...

tired fluffy dogs ~ after the ride

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Here's to the little things ~

morning hike w dogs on Roxie's Trail
Artie in the pink maples
Wow, I put in some great miles this weekend for my birthday.  What an awesome weekend it has been!  It started out kind of cold and rainy on Friday and I have to admit, I was super-psyched to see the rain and have the cooler weather.  This type of weather always reminds me of my birthdays growing up as a kid in Michigan ~ it always seemed to rain on my birthday, but it made staying inside with the fire crackling in the fireplace and the smell of birthday cake baking in the oven that much more special.  I used to look out the kitchen window at the beautiful red maple leaves and watch the birds and squirrels in the bird feeders.  One year I had friends over and after playing games inside, we all carved our own personal pumpkins on the front porch.  Good times!
me and my buddy, Frank

Artie & Frank posing at Roxie's rest spot
This year for my birthday, I first slept in and enjoyed coffee on the couch with my favorite two pups.  I heard the UPS truck outside make a stop about mid-morning, just as I was trying to motivate to change my clothes and take the dogs out for a hike.  I wasn't expecting a package... yet there was one left on my front step!  I called, "Thank you" after the UPS man as he jogged back to his truck, and took the surprise package inside to see what it was all about.  Inside was my favorite thing ever ~ COOKIES!  It took me a while to find the message to figure out who they were from, but as it turns out they were from my sister-in-law and brother in Idaho.  Happy day!
beautiful Fall colors

I took the dogs for one of our favorite hikes up at Red Butte.  It's a 4-mile loop that I like to call "Roxie's Loop" as it is named after my old yellow lab who did the loop countless times with me over the years.  I swear, Roxie was deaf and half-blind towards the end, but she never missed a turn on that loop through the maples and over the ridges.  Franklin, Artemis, and I took a few minutes to sit at Roxie's and my favorite sitting-spot and enjoy the views before cruising down to the creek for a splash and a drink (the dogs, not me).

Vernon on the afternoon mountain bike ride
I went home for a quick bite to eat, and then was met by G who loaded up the bikes into the truck and we went for a mountain bike ride up near Park City.  It was kind of cold and dreary, but the ride up the hill warmed us up quickly and when we got near the top, the colors and views were absolutely spectacular.  The ride down was a bit technical, but I'm proud to say that I made it around 90% of the switchbacks without putting my feet down to touch the ground and felt pretty good about my skills despite only riding a couple of times per year.
Leaves of Gold ~ mtn biking in PC

After getting cleaned up at home, my friend Mark picked me up a short while later and we went to dinner with a small group of friends at my favorite sushi restaurant.  Yum!  I am a bottomless pit when it comes to eating sushi.  I got flowers and chocolates, and Mark even let me drive his rental car ~ one of the sweet, cute new little Fiats.  We all told stories and laughed lots and I felt so fortunate to have such a great group of friends who were all from different backgrounds, yet hit it off so smashingly!  Yeah, baby!

Now it's the day after my birthday and the fun never stops.  My friend Ann and I went up to the Living Room (a group of rocks that are arranged in "chair" and "couch" formations) and Mt Wire (a peak above Salt Lake with some big radio reflector panels on it) with the dogs of course, and the weather and views were gorgeous!  (Ann is my friend who a few weeks ago spent the night pacing me through the longest, coldest section of the Bear 100.)

stormy skies over Snyderville
I got home and it kind of hit me that a couple of years ago, I went up Mt Wire on my birthday and missed a call from my dad, who was in the hospital in Germany.  It was pretty significant that he had called, because he never really remembered my birthday through the years and always had to be reminded (by myself, my mom, or my brother) that it was my birthday.  I called him back that day and was able to have a short conversation with him.  He died about a week and a half later, and my brother, sister-in-law and I all went over to Germany to deal with the funeral and stuff.  I reflect on it now and think how important those seemingly little things are in life.  How important a phone call can be, or just hearing someone's voice for a few minutes.

Vernon, trail-bud
Lots of great little things this weekend added up to a super-fantastic series of events.  I can honestly say that it has been one of my best birthdays ever.  Here's to happy trails, great friends, and loyal dogs.  Here's to 41 years!  Cheers!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What a Bear

Last Friday and Saturday, I ran the Bear 100.  When I signed up for it a month ago, I was coming off of my great TransRockies race results and was feeling very strong.  As the days got closer to the Bear 100, however, I began to feel tighter and tighter, achier, and generally tired.  I have had a long summer of running, and was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

I knew that I had one thing going for me ~ a great crew and strong pacers.  I tried to put the pain (back and hamstrings) out of my mind and focus on the facts that I had trained well all summer, thus having a really strong base of mileage, and that I had really strong, positive people supporting me.  I also have a great massage therapist, whom I visited 4 times in the two weeks leading up to the race.

Ready for the start!
I drove up to Logan, where the race starts, the night before the race with my friend Sue who was my partner at TransRockies and would be driving my Subaru throughout the race.  She got me up in the morning, and got me to the race start.  We took Jill and Roger to the race start as well (they were staying in the same hotel).  She is truly a calming influence on me, and was nothing but positive the night before and the morning of the race.  I could feel that she had complete confidence in me that I would finish my race.

I said hello to a few people at the start and then went off on my own to walk around and try to loosen up my legs a bit.  It's always nice to see my running friends at these types of events, but it can make me a bit more nervous too.  Before I knew it, I was re-lacing my shoes a bit tighter and getting ready to start running for the next day and a half.

Sue in "hurry up and wait" mode.
A couple of miles up the first climb, I could feel hot spots starting on my heels.  Not a good sign.  The first climb is about 3,400 feet in 5 miles, and after a short descent of a couple hundred feet over a mile or two, it climbs again for another 3 miles and 1,200 feet.  I stopped a couple of times to assess my heels and pop the small blisters that had started.  I turned my socks inside out to prevent further rubbing, and cursed myself for not having any tape with me.  My heels never blister, and so I didn't even think to take any tape with me.  I tried to put the thought of my feet and what the future would hold for them out of my mind.  12 miles in, and my feet were already a problem.

Then as I was trying to put my feet out of my mind, my lower back flared up.  My SI joints had been a problem in the week leading up to the race, and today was turning out to be no different.  Thankfully, I had brought an SI belt (a velcro belt-device that you wear low on your hips to put some compression on the SI joints and prevent the inflammation created by instability) and my back felt better.

My car had a really good time.
Despite my physical concerns, I was flying.  I had predicted doing the first 45 miles in 4 mile per hour pace, and as I looked at my Garmin GPS watch, I was right-on.  I came into the 20 mile aid (Leatham Hollow) and was greeted by Sue and Eve Davies, and ate really well ~ tons of food.  I would see them again at about mile 30.  Despite what the website splits say, I was only at Leatham for about 20 minutes (the website said an hour and twenty, but someone entered it into the computer wrong).  This was a little longer than I wanted to take at this point, but I took the time to take my shoes and socks off, clean my feet, tape my heels, and changed out to my older, larger, more supple shoes.

Cute Jamie and Ann at mile 45 aid station.
I ran up the road for a while with a nice young woman named Naomi, and she and I would have meetings again throughout the race.  She was from Kimberly, BC, and I commented to her how much I liked Canadians, especially after meeting so many friendly northerly neighbors at the TransRockies event that I had just done a month ago.  I remember seeing some scenes from the ski area at Kimberly in a Powderwhores movie a couple of years ago, and I still have it on my list of things to do to ski there someday soon.

I met Sue again at mile 30, Cawley Canyon, and ate well again.  I saw some of my running friends, who were there to crew, aid, and cheer on friends ~ Candy Lavicky and Colleen Ford.  As I exited the aid station, Eve Davies waved to me from her parked vehicle.  It was really great to see so many smiling faces out there.

Beaver Mountain color.
I cruised in and out of Right Hand Fork aid station at mile 36.9 and honestly don't remember a lot about it, other than it was an out and back aid station and it was a little congested on the trail with two way traffic for about a half a mile.  I ate well again here, and as I recall, I was out quickly.  From what I remember, the next section had a long descent on dirt road and Davy Crocket and I played leapfrog for a little while on this section.

I made it into Temple Fork at mile 45, and was happy to see my pacer, Ann, who would join me for the night section.  I had told Ann that it would be okay if she met me at mile 51, but honestly, I was ready for some company on the trail.  Her boyfriend Jamie was there as well, as was Jasper Mueller, to whom I believe I am Eskimo-married to now, as he bathed my feet with water, wiped them down with a towel, and applied tape to my heels.  Apparently because of this ceremony, he informed me that we are betrothed (!)

Me and Andrea negotiating the rocks near mile 85.
Indeed, my heels, despite their rawness, were holding up well.  The sun was starting to go down, and Ann and I had the second-longest climb in front of us now (3,000 feet over 8 miles), with the temperatures starting to dip.  I was glad I grabbed a couple of extra layers and changed into my knee-length tights and a jacket as Jill had advised me to do.

The climb seemed to go on forever.  We saw Naomi from Canada again in this section, and exchanged some words of encouragement.  We did have a really nice descent down to Franklin Trailhead at mile 61 after reaching White Pine ridge, which I think may have been in the dark by this point, because I really don't remember it at all.  I remember the fall colors throughout the day, and from this point on, I would remember winding aimlessly through thick pine forests in the dark.  At times, it seemed as if we were just running around in circles.  I was so glad that I had Ann with me to reassure me, because I could have sworn a couple of times that we would end up right back at the same aid station we had just come from.

Bear Lake is in sight!
After seeing Sue at mile 61 (and Marit, a friend of mine who was at TransRockies, and  who was there crewing another friend of hers, Jen, and would take up pacing duties with Jen through the night), I really began to have some issues.  I had had a great 45-50 mile race so far, coming in ahead of all of my predicted times, and ending up at this point about 45 minutes ahead of schedule.  I told Ann, "It might end here ~ I think I'm going to slow down from this point forward."  And wow, was that an understatement.  I struggled with my stomach for the next 20 hours.  Every time I took in food, my stomach would ache terribly.  But if I didn't take in food, my stomach hurt anyway, and because of the lack of calories, I started to fall asleep.  The night section took me about 2 hours longer than I had anticipated.  That's a 15 mile section, that I had hoped to do in about 5 hours, and it took me a little over 7 hours to complete.

Continuously, I found my eyes crossing and my vision blurring and I was stumbling over rocks, falling asleep as I was walking.  A couple of times I just laid down without warning and slept for 5 minutes.  I can't tell you how grateful I was for those few minutes of sleep.  They were glorious.  I tried eating caffeinated jelly-beans to wake myself up, and ended up vomiting them up because the combination of caffeine and sugar was just too hard on my stomach.  I actually woke up and ran pretty quickly, singing a Katy Perry song, for about 20 minutes.  I reveled in those few minutes and took advantage of my short-lived energy.

Above Bear Lake with 5 miles to go.
Just before reaching the Logan River aid station at mile 70, we saw a Toyota truck coming up the rough double track dirt road.  What the f*** was the only thing Ann and I could utter.  Who would drive their truck up to go camping at 2am on this type of road?  And then we realized ~ it was Naomi, the girl from Canada.  She had been having some knee pain and had to drop out of the race.  My heart went out to her, and I almost wanted to cry for her.  She was such a strong woman, and I knew that if it hadn't been for her knee, she would have kept going and had a great finish.  I thought back to my Wasatch 100 in 2010 when the same thing happened to me.  All systems go, except for the knee that took me out (it was an IT band injury).  Such a major disappointment for me that year and for her this year.  I was sad that I would not see her at the finish line.  (Side note~ I did come back and redeem myself with a finish at Wasatch 100 in 2011.)

Me and Gerald in the final quarter mile.
Logan River aid station was butt-a** cold.  Thankfully, they had real food ~ chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches which sat really well on my painful stomach.  I ate a cup of fruit here too, and kept everything down really well, despite the weird guy that kept getting up from the fire pit to hurl and announce it to everyone with exuberance.  What a jerk.  I wanted to punch him in the gut and tell him to shut up, but I didn't have the energy to do so.

We left Logan River and I thought to myself, "Just 6 more miles and you get to sit down in the ski lodge (at Beaver Mountain).  Just 6 more miles and it will be light again.  When it is light again, your stomach will feel better and you will move into the final stage to get this thing done."  What a long way 6 miles can be when you are traveling at 2 miles per hour, in the middle of the cold night and have been going for over 20 hours already.  What a long way indeed.  It was so cold, there was frost on the ground.  There were a couple of stream crossings with precarious rocks and logs, some of which I was able to cross on all fours as to not fall in and some that I just walked through the ice cold water because I knew that if I tried to stay on those rocks that I would fall.  2 miles per hour.  Slower than my slowest estimate.  It was a long, cold night, but it would soon be over.
Giving my friends at the finish line a smile.

Ann and I reached the Beaver Mountain road and followed the arrows to the ski lodge.  On the way to the lodge, my friends Andrea and Mark cheered for me in the parking lot.  I mustered a slight smile.  My friend Cathy (Marit's partner from TransRockies) put her arm around me and told me how proud she was of me.  I may or may not have thanked her.  I wanted to cry because I was so grateful for having such wonderful friends.  I wanted to lie down.  I wanted to sleep.

Mark got my sleeping bag and set it up in the corner of the lodge for me.  "Fifteen minutes, that's all I want.  Please... "  and Ann advocated, "I would totally approve for her to have just a few minutes of sleep."  And they did, they let me sleep.  And it was glorious.

Across the grass to the finish line.
When I was woken up 13 minutes later (they gipped me out of two minutes of sleep!), I was able to eat some bananas and something else, I don't remember what.  My stomach was way past trying to eat gels or chews.  I asked for a cup of coffee and Sue made me the most disgusting cup of instant coffee I've ever had in my life (but she tried!).  Mark ended up splitting it and watering it down and we shared the second cup with another racer.  I was able to poop in the ski lodge bathroom (success!) after drinking about 3 sips of coffee.  As I changed my socks and re-taped my feet, my friend Brian crouched next to me and smiled in my face.  He helped solidify the belief I already had in myself that I would finish.  I had had a rough night as far as my stomach and fatigue was concerned, but my legs felt good and I had no good excuse to quit ~ I was out the door.  15 minutes of sleep time and 30 minutes of aid station time.  I was proud to be out in under an hour.

I felt like I was freezing as Andrea and I walked away from the shelter and warmth of the ski lodge.  I shivered, walking away from running friends who were crewing others and must have appeared as though I was looking right through them in my daze of fatigue.  I was so cold, so cold... I had on my down jacket and my down vest I was so cold.  I knew I was over-dressed but didn't have the calories in me to keep myself warm.  I just had to keep moving.  The sun was up at this point (it was just after 7am) and it would begin to be warm.  My friend Ken Jensen was at the next aid station, Gibson Jack, and I was looking forward to seeing him.

Sue congratulating me at the finish.
We climbed up the old dirt road to Gibson Jack at mile 81, and there was Ken, smiling away.  He had camped there all night with a group of volunteers, aiding runners all night long.  I had a bite of scrambled eggs that were completely disgusting (sorry, Ken!) and after sitting with Marit and Jen for a few minutes, we got up to continue on.  I was amazed that after 5 minutes of hobbling along on the dirt road out of Gibson Jack that Jen was able to overtake me and start running.  Running!  My legs wouldn't do it.  They refused.  I started doing the math with Andrea, and basically I had 11 hours to do the last 24 miles.  That's a little more than 2 miles per hour.  I would finish.  There was no doubt in my mind!

Andrea and I averaged about 3 miles per hour until the end.  We were in and out of mile 85 aid station, Beaver Creek campground and Mark took some photos of me negotiating the rocky section just before the aid station.  He high-fived me as I said, "607, in and out!"  and the aid station volunteer gave me a courteous smile and nod.  Andrea got me another banana and a 7-up, which both settled on my poor stomach really well, and about every 20 minutes I would take 3 bites of banana and about 3 sips of 7-up.  We walked up the hill with a couple from Canada (I think) and I was actually able to think of something else besides how tired I was and how much my stomach hurt.

Me and Sue ~ so happy to be done.
Andrea was great in telling stories the entire way.  We got to the last aid station, Ranger Dip, at mile 92 after just cresting a beautiful divide with scenic views.  I looked around and asked, "Where is the lake  (Bear Lake)?  Shouldn't we be able to see it by now?"  and Andrea replied, "I think we have one more hill, honey."  One more hill.  Brian had told me about that hill.  And I must say, he downplayed its significance.  It is about one mile long, and approximately 800 feet in elevation.  Aptly named at the top of the climb is the ridge called, "the Gates of Paradise" because after that hill, it's really all downhill until the end.

Six miles downhill.  Very steep downhill.  So steep that you almost can't look up to realize that Bear Lake lies just a few miles below you.  Turquoise blue and inviting.  Waiting for you.  So steep at times that you think your legs will just give out on you and you will topple, head over heels, rolling and tumbling and not be able to stop...  but my legs held, and I made it to the bottom of that hill that seemed as though it would never end.

Enjoying some finish line refreshment!
When Andrea and I got to the bottom of the hill, there was one more small hill up and over to a water-tank reservoir, and then it really was all downhill until the bottom.  We ran through a dream-scape of pink maple leaves, crossing the creek on a wooden bridge.  I was so tired and delirious at this point, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was.

We hit the paved road.  How far?  A mile or so...  that's all... it's almost over.  My friend Gerald was walking up the road to meet me.  I didn't recognize him.  I was so focused on the finish, and where was it anyway?  Was it soon?  Was it just around the corner?  Andrea and Gerald walked as fast as I ran.  I actually ran the last mile down the road.  I hit Main Street in Fish Haven and looked for the park where the finish line was.  It was there.  I was crossing the grass.  I was under the finish banner.  I was done.

34 hours 9 minutes.  100 miles.

It was a beautiful day of Fall colors and vistas.  It was a gorgeous day with friends.  It was a long, cold, painful night.  It was a redeeming morning.  One thing is certain, I love my friends.  I think I may have turned into a little popsicle laying on the side of the trail in the middle of the night if it hadn't been for Ann.  My friends fed me, taped my feet, changed my nasty, gross, dirty socks, and kept me from melting down.  They reinforced the confidence that I had in myself to get the job done.  100 miles in the mountains between Logan and Bear Lake and I am not sure I will ever do it again.  Time will tell.  I said the same thing after Wasatch 100 last year.