Friday, August 22, 2014

The Niggles and a Siren Song

It's getting to be that time of year when the Niggles hit.  You know them:  those little aches and pains that show up a couple of weeks before a big event; after a long summer of running.  You try to talk yourself out of them, and sometimes you can.  Sometimes, though, they linger.  Sometimes, even, they get worse.

After El Vaquero Loco 50k on August 9th, I rested for 3 days.  Three days of virtually no running, just a few slow, 1-2 mile dog walks.  A long summer of running and a good, strong event called for a few days of rest.  Then, I hit the trails hard.  I did a 10-miler, followed by an 8-miler, followed by a tough 16-miler, followed by an even tougher 19-mile run.  Consecutive days with no rest on tight legs.  No foam roller, no massage-work, nothing.

The Niggle hit at about mile 13 of the 16-mile day.  I iced it down and took some Ibuprofen that night.  I stayed motivated for the 19-mile day the next morning (early) when my alarm went off at 5:30.  I made it most of the way through the 19-mile run, but started having problems about 15-miles in.  I had to walk most of the last 4 miles.  It was frustrating, especially because I know the rest of me is really strong.  I'm powering up the hills and chatting along the way, something I rarely do.  But I hit the downhill and the Niggle gets stronger and stronger until it forced me to walk.

So I pulled out my Ace and booked an appointment with my massage therapist.  I swear, he has magical powers.  I had iced and used balms, and done some massage work myself at home, also nearly brought myself to tears on the foam roller.  Then my therapist got his hands on me.  WOWEEE as my grandparents used to say.  No pain, no gain?  You betcha.

I did a short interval run the next morning.  The Niggle was still there, but he was a waif of his former self.  I did a 5-mile hike-run today with the dogs.  Niggle?  Be gone.  I barely felt it.  I'm hoping for some good miles on Sunday (in two days) after another tester-run of 5-6 miles tomorrow afternoon.

And what about the Siren Song, you might ask?  Do you remember the tale from the Voyage of Ulysses (Odysseus)?  The Siren sisters with their sweet song, lure Ulysses to their island and he has to shake himself away; force himself away from them to continue on with his journey.  I think it was one of the most difficult things he must have had to overcome.  Worse than Medussa.  Worse than the Cyclops.  Worse than escaping the clutches of Scylla and Charybdis.  What could this force be, you ask?  My IKEA bed.  Oh, it is so snuggly soft and comfy.  I sink into it every night and force myself away from it every morning.  I have never slept so well.  And with all this running, I require more and more sleep: 8 hours seems to be not enough these days, and 9 hours seems better.  10 hours is heaven.  (I know, I know... you people who have kids are able to function on 5-6 hours per night.  I really don't understand how you do it.  I would totally be a grumpy zombie.)

One more thing (speaking of grumpy zombies):  I won't be giving up caffeine before the race, either.  I'm down to 2-3 cups per day (if you count a cup as 10-12 ounces).  And that's where my caffeine intake is going to stay.  Motivating to get out of bed in the morning is hard enough without the promise of half-caff to greet you.  *Snore*

Two weeks to go until the big dance ~  100 miles in the Wasatch Range.

And remember:  if you are feeling the Niggles or hearing the Siren Song, it always helps to gain some motivation by going out for a run with two sweet dogs or a really good friend.  Pull some energy from them, and feel them pull you along the trail.  It's ok ~ they don't mind.  Because you will then gain energy and give it right on back to them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

El Vaquero Loco 50k #BRE

It was my third time going up to Afton, Wyoming to the El Vaquero 50k event.  And I didn't regret it, not one bit.

Many of the Happy Utah Mountain Runners (HUMRs) showed up to the event this year.  We had a base camp set up on Thursday before the race (thanks to Lane Farka) at the Cottonwood campground... many other potential campers I'm sure were thinking, "Sheesh... how much space do these people need?"  Well, with easily 30 people in our group... a fair amount.

I got up to Cottonwood camp, the start/finish for the race, about 1pm on Friday.  I hung out with Lane and ate some lunch, set up my tent, then ventured over to the neighbor who turned out to be Joe from Pocatello, whom I helped with some blister issues at the 100k back in June at the 40 mile aid station, and Jodi from Salt Lake.  It was a great, relaxing afternoon.

I typically get pretty worked up before events:  anxiety, low appetite, I get really quiet because on the inside my thoughts are racing and my heart is pounding.  It was great to be around such a nice, positive, energetic group of people prior to the race.  And I ate well at the pot-luck dinner that we had at camp.

It rained all night.  I had a few drips through my tent, but ended up sleeping fairly well.  Got down to the start line at 5:55 am to check in (start time 6am) and Ty Draney, the race director, said, "I didn't want to have to cuss you! [for showing up late... ]" Sorry Ty!  I said some morning hellos and looked down at my wrist to start my GPS watch and dang!  I had left it in the tent.  Seems I would be running this race "by feel".

As it turned out, I didn't feel great for the first 12 or so miles of the course.  You see, I'm not a morning person.  I think it must have taken me nearly the full 4 hours to get to the half-way (turn around) point to actually wake up.  I did run with my friend Ann for a lot of the first part of the course, until she ditched me a couple miles out from the aid station at the turn around.  Lane was captain at that aid station at mile 15 and told me, in a nutshell, that I looked like hell.  Thanks, buddy. Ann was there, too, and gave me some words of encouragement.  I knew in my heart that I would have a good second half of the race, but it didn't hurt to hear confirmation from her, as well.  (She ended up dropping out because of a nagging injury sustained in a race two weeks prior.)

Lane fed me and got me to drink some fluids.  I took about 10 minutes to sit at the picnic table at the aid station and then decided it was time to start moseying up the road.  I continued to eat a little bit as I moseyed next to the rushing Swift Creek river.

About a mile up the road, I got back on the single track trail and hit my stride.  Seems all I needed was a bit of calories and a kick in the butt.  I must have passed 20 people on the 8 mile climb out of Swift Creek.  Dee, from Syracuse, Utah, heard me striding towards her to overtake her, and was amazed by my speed.  Seems I really am a second-half runner at this race (I feel like I've alway raced well in the second half of this event:  in the previous two times as well).

I got to the horse packers' aid station and grabbed a few chips and some "magic elixir" (Mtn Dew, mixed with water and nuun electrolyte tablet) and passed Corey, one of the HUMRs.  I made it up to Corral Creek lakes and passed Jim, another HUMR.  I got to the high school cross country kids at the next aid station and took some more magic elixir.  Somewhere in that stretch, I passed Forrest, who said, "I thought you were already ahead of me!"  Nope... just pacing myself...  I passed Kember and her husband, and she took some photos of me (thanks Kember!).  I got to the top of the climb above Corral Creek and knew that I only had three and a half miles to go:  all downhill.

I spied 3 blue shirts ahead of me:  three of the HUMR boys:  BJ, Aric, and Ryan.  What?!?  I had actually caught them?  I was having a good second half.  I blew past them and despite my diabolical laugh, I tried to be supportive and give them some words of encouragement, "Only 3 miles to go!  Pound out the downhill, let's go!"

I must have run that last 3 miles in about 30 minutes.  I was smelling the barn (and the cheeseburgers) and it smelled good.  I got to the last creek crossing and let out a sigh of relief!  Through the campground, tossed my pack on the ground, sprinted the last quarter mile to the end:  cheers from the crowd.... Aaaahhhh!!!!  Finished.  Hugs all around.  Smiles.  A great race.

As I hung out with my friend Ann at the finish line, we told stories, laughed and cheered other finishers across the line.  We ate cheeseburgers.  We drank beers and huckleberry sodas.

Time ticked on and on:  9 hours, 10 hours, 11 hours... and Ann's husband still was out on the course.  It was his first 50k.  Where was he?  Was he ok?  We decided to move up the road, start packing up camp, and wait for him to emerge from the woods.  Thank goodness when he finally came, he had a smile on his face.  "That was a hard race!"  Yes, yes it was.  And beautiful, too.  We went for margaritas and Mexican food in town after the race.  If you haven't been to Agave in Afton, Wyoming, I highly recommend it.  The margarita pictured is the medium size.  Yes, there is one even larger than that on the menu.  They do not do things small in Wyoming.

Thanks, Afton.  In the words of the HUMRs:  Best Race Ever #BRE.

Photos by:  myself, Ann Hilton, Kember Pollington, and Kolby Tyler