30 May 2013

Postholing, PRs, Parties and Prez

“If it's in you to climb, you must -- there are those who must lift their eyes to the hills -- they can't breathe properly in the valleys.” 
- L.M. Montgomery

I'm finally back into the swing of things now that I'm recovered from Quad Rock. Summer is here and motivation to get outside is at an all-time high. I've been enjoying some runs both here and afield as Sheila and I tick off the final two weeks to Bighorn.  

We headed up to Denver last week to run the trails at Mt Falcon. I particularly love the Parmalee, Old Ute and Devil's Elbow trails there and it's nice to get out of the rut of running the same ol' same ol' around here. Spotted Scott Jaime, cruisin' down the Castle Trail as we were going up. Good day and great summer weather that we immensely enjoyed.

Sheila used the "burst" feature on my camera to capture the best trail running snap of me on the fun, techy section of the Castle Trail. 
My new publicity photo
I also hit the Barr Trail a couple of times in the past week. Last Friday, I went up 9 miles (past treeline) to my special lounging rock before I headed back due to schedule constraints. It was in the 80's in the Springs and even at 12,000 feet, no sleeves were needed. 

I went back again yesterday with the summit in mind. There was a chance of thunderstorms, so I got out early for one last big hike up before my taper begins. I've been doing low HR training, keeping it in zone 2 or low-mid zone 3 on the climbs and it seems to be paying off.
PR to Barr Camp
Once I got above 12k feet, the snow was pretty much covering the trail. It was slow going those last two miles. I've only summited Pikes via the Crags Trail, so this part of Barr trail was all new to me. I kept seeing off-course footprints in the snow indicating that people-in-the-know were taking shortcuts. At the bottom of the basin, the majority of the prints headed straight up to the summit. I prefer a good climb, so I followed suit. 
Barr Trail
The Basin "shortcut"
In short, I got spanked. Big time. I was sucking wind, postholing up to my knees, and about half-way up got nauseous from the altitude. When I couldn't make it to a rock to rest on, I just stood there with my forehead on the top of my poles to wait it out. The fear of a sudden storm or drop in temps was at the forefront of my mind, since I was moving at a snail's pace. I'm still not at home in the mountains -- particularly above treeline where I feel so vulnerable. Hence, why I insist on going up there and learning how to manage the scarier aspects of mountain running. 

It was one of those times when I knew that no matter how awful I felt, I had to keep going. Suck it up, Buttercup and get it done. Slowly, I slogged my way up and to the right, in the direction of the Summit House. I think that was my first 52 minute mile. 

Once I got to the final scramble, I put my poles away and had a blast going up the rocks. Now that's the kind of hiking I love...both hands on deck.
The funnest part of the whole course
I was rewarded with a nice view of the city
Recovery meal
I was so late in getting to the summit, I hitched a ride back to my car in Manitou. Next time, I'll be seasoning my quads by running down. 
First peak-bagging of 2013
I also had another micro-celeb encounter. You know him as Dakota, I call him Prez because a) I'm too lazy to utter 3 syllables, b) I don't like his more common nickname and 3) he is aka el Presidente, so it's totally legit. He passed me on the trail just after I started and I totally recognized him from his backside. Now, before you raise your eyebrows, I've apparently seen enough running videos to recognize his gait from behind. (Does that make me a superfan?) My suspicion was confirmed with a glance at the parking lot and spotting his signature red pickup. 

I figured I'd see him coming down from the summit a few hours later and sure enough, he came bounding down just below A-Frame. I said hi and he stopped to chat for a few minutes. It was a lovely little break in what became a long day of solo hiking. Wishing him strong legs and a happy heart as he pursues his mountain running adventures this year.

The writer and his impulsive commentor
Besides running and preparing to move into our new home, we celebrated my son's 6th birthday with friends. My bright and curious lego-loving boy is at such a great age of discovery right now. Being a mom is awesome!  
Favorite gift? The suitcase for his imaginary travels
Happy Trails,


17 May 2013

Recovery FAIL

“Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” - John Wayne

I realized in the past 48 hours that I have sabotaged any chances of a speedy recovery from last week's inaugural 50 miler. When I think about the wisdom I've gleaned from the experts on the importance of recovery, the following would have constituted my recovery plan, had I formulated one:

1. Ingest protein and carbs within 30 min of finishing 
2. Ingest more protein and carbs within 2 hours of finishing
3. Get a good night's sleep (8+ hours)
4. Drink water 
5. Once the soreness and fatigue ends, go out for an easy run of less than an hour. Plan next workout based on body's feedback and recovery of previous run. Rest a few more days if needed.

Since I didn't have a recovery plan, this is what I did instead:  

1. Drank a half a beer within 30 min of finishing
2. Ate a Double Whopper and drank a large sweet tea 3 hours after the beer
3. Got almost 7 hours of sleep, in two stages
4. Drank a diet Dr. Pepper
5. After four days off and feeling good, went out for an easy run. Felt great until I hit mile 9 (!) and suddenly, I had the all-over soreness that I had at mile 40, last Saturday. What the...???  Since I was running a loop and had a home inspection to attend, was forced to run -- not walk -- the final 4 miles back to my car.

I let the house-buying craziness take too much of my attention away from Quad Rock and now I'm paying the price. Clearly, I'm underestimating the damage being done to my body during these ultras. Also, now that I'm accustomed to doing 20 mile training runs, I'm not respecting the half-marathon distance as being too much. Gah!


My mistakes started before I even crossed the finish line. I forgot to pack a recovery drink in my bag to drink right after finishing, since I can't eat anything solid for a couple of hours anyway. Then, I needed to make sure I followed it up with a protein and carb meal within the remaining 2 hour window.

The importance of eating carbs and protein within 30 min of completing a hard run and again about 90 min later is to replenish glycogen stores and begin the process of rebuilding muscle tissue. Since I can't eat anything right after a race, I rely on a preformulated drink to get me started. I then follow it up with real food to stay within the two hour window. Totally dropped the ball last Saturday.


Another mistake was not planning to sleep soon after in order to get a full 8 hours in. My original plan was to drive two hours home, but it became clear that I was too fatigued to stay focused on the road. I ended up grabbing a hotel room on the north side of Denver around 10:30 pm and didn't have the luxury of sleeping in. Now I know that after a 40-50 miler, that I need to plan to stay over another night or have someone else drive.

I was aware of the importance of sleep, but didn't realize just how critical it is to recovery. I simply thought that not running or stressing my legs constituted "rest" and allowed for sufficient muscle repair. Not so. When you sleep, particularly when you are in deep sleep, your pituitary gland releases a shot of growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. Thus the importance of getting at 8+ hours and napping whenever possible is necessary. I usually get around 7 hours a night, which is not bad but not enough when a speedy recovery is critical.


The last big mistake I made was attempting to run too many miles, too soon. I was fooled into thinking that if I felt great, I must be recovered. I should have planned to do no more than 45-60 minutes so that I felt good when I finished. Instead, I locked myself into a looped course and didn't realize I was over-running until I was past the half-way point. As a result, my legs had that post-race, all-over achiness for the rest of Wednesday and most of Thursday. No Friday long run this week. With more rest, I hope to resume training next Friday. With Bighorn coming up in 4 weeks, there won't be much hard training before the taper begins; best to rest up and make sure everything is working optimally by then.


Those of you who are experienced 50 milers who read my blog, I welcome your thoughts as I continue to learn how to train, run and recover from this distance. Steve, MeghanJen and Jeremy, I know you have something to say. Anyone else?

On a happier note, I had a fabulous Mother's Day out at the park with the kidlets and sushi dinner with the hubs. Life is good.
Happy Trails,


14 May 2013

Quad Rock 50 (My first 50 miler!)

“It's the climbing that makes the man. Getting to the top is an extra reward.”
-Robert Lipsyte
Distance: ~52 miles 
Elevation: ~11,000 ft
Time: 13:24

I don't know where to begin to write about the incredible day of trail running I had in The Fort. This was the toughest run I've had that didn't involve bonking or puking (a la R2R2R). Somehow, I managed my effort, fueling and hydration well enough to beat each of the cutoffs by about a half-hour. As I mentioned previously, fear of a DNF is a powerful motivator for me. 

I had reason to be concerned about the cutoffs. Only 111 out of 172 finished the 50 miler (65%). I ran like a scared rabbit to be included in that number. 
Six times, I did
The 25 mile loop begins at Lory State Park and continues through Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. Those of us doing the 50 miler ran the same course in reverse. This year, due to the recent fire damage at Lory, there were trail re-routes that added some additional mileage. At the turnaround point, GPS devices were reading between 25.5 - 26 miles. Out east they have Horty miles, but here we have Clarky miles... Booyah!
With Sheila at the start line
Photo: Erin Bibeau
While I was stressing about the cutoffs, I made a conscious effort to look up and enjoy the incredible views. There was so much beauty on the trail and beyond that it kept me in a happy place as I managed the climbs. The only thing that distracted me was the chatty 25-milers having long conversations. It's impossible for me to focus on the task at hand and tune that out. Around mile 18, I had a dude behind me who was whining about how hard everything was and I wanted to tell him to buck up and shut up. With 5,500 ft of climb on each loop (he was doing only one), we all have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. But I digress...
Photo: Erin Bibeau
As I got closer to the turnaround point, I began to see some familiar nano-celebs as they were working their way around loop #2. I cheered loud for CR holder and local boy, Ryan Burch as he came flying by followed by JT, Katie Robinson, Aaron Marks and my R2R2R buddy, Steve Pero. They were smiling and looking good which put a little pep in my step as I soldiered on.

When I came to the turnaround at around 6 hrs, 10 min, I felt great and ready to take on the second half. Coming in 35 minutes ahead of the cutoff, I needed to apply more effort to keep from slowing down too much. To add to the fun, we had a little bit of everything weather-wise -- mostly sun, lots of mud and periodic thunder with little rain and a little hail. Good times.
Tammy also ran her first 50 miler & did awesome!
I'm happy to report that my knee wasn't giving me problems and my toenails didn't take a bruising this time, thanks to my WildcatsMy quads must be getting seasoned too as I was able to run all the descents.  
High fives as I finished
I rolled into the finish 35 min ahead of the cutoff, a very happy lady. Enjoyed a local brew and quick chat with Burch, Katie and Nick before Sheila came in, having recovered from stomach issues during her second loop. As we were walking away, I suddenly felt nauseous from throwing a beer into a GI system that needed to reset after 13 hours of exertion. I started getting the hot flashes that preclude spewing so I laid down on my back in the grass. After a few minutes, I was able to recover. Disaster averted.

I was so wiped after the race, it took until the next morning to begin to really feel the satisfaction of what I accomplished on Saturday. I didn't mean to pick a super tough 50 miler as my first, so I'm grateful to have finished and to feel good about how it went. I told Nick that while it was a great race, I'm never doing it again. He just laughed. I suspect he knows that I will be back, since hard climbs and gnarly trails make for a more gratifying finish.

My reward for finishing was prancing around in my new shirt:
I pinched these additional on course snaps from Steve Pero:
Lots of this...
...followed by lots of this.

We were warned
JT's all smiles
Horsetooth Reservoir
Nick and Pete put on a fantastic event which is well organized. They provide a lot of pre-race info via the website and kept us informed as to any course changes as the race date approached. Aid stations and volunteers were awesome and their work in keeping us rolling along all day was appreciated.

Shout out to Sheila's husband John, who crewed for both of us at all the accessible aid stations. He was a huge help and I was very grateful for his assistance.

With four ultras done, I now start my summer of pacing Sheila through the Rocky Mountain Slam. Stay tuned, Bighorn is next!

Happy Trails,


09 May 2013

Daunted and Distracted

“I wanted to throw myself into an experience that was too big for me 
and learn in a way that cost me something.” 
- Jamie Zeppa

Quad Rock 50 course profile
Life has finally slowed down enough for me to begin immersing myself in the Quad Rock 50, which has become in some ways my "A" race of the year. It was added to the calendar to prepare me for pacing Sheila at the Rocky Mountain Slam races. More specifically, it was added for Hardrock training, as pacing 30 miles there will feel like 50. 

Sheila and I previewed a piece of the Quad Rock course last month and I realized that I had picked a pretty tough 50 for my first one. I may have gotten in over my head. I'm always concerned about cutoffs, but this time the likelihood of missing one is much higher. That would be a real bummer, after all the preparation to run this distance. I don't knowingly set goals that are difficult to meet, so this year of ultrarunning is stretching me to take risks and deal with failure. 

I was encouraged reading an interview with Olympic Marathoner Ryan Hall, as I contemplate the challenge of meeting my goal and the possibility of failure:

"God has always provided enough strength for me to do what He wants me to do on the race course. It doesn't mean that I always win...The truth is that those who are not created to be the best in the world at something can experience the same level of satisfaction in daily living as the best guy or girl in the world if they are doing what they were created to do and they are not comparing themselves to others.

My plan is to run smart and to the best of my ability, leaving the outcome to whatever God has planned for me. My natural response to failure is shame, but I know my worth is not determined by my accomplishments. The ultimate verdict as to my value was returned 2,000 years ago on a cross. I alluded to this in the blog written after my first ultra. To quote Carter Crenshaw, worth is not ultimately determined by the performance of a product, but by what someone is willing to pay for it. Word. 
Perfect post-race shirt, don't ya think?
Numerous ultrarunners have advised that it should feel slow in the first half, which is how I plan to pace myself. Fear of a DNF is a powerful motivator for me, so the challenge will be to hold myself back in the beginning. I'll be bringing along plain-tasting food and gels to fuel myself. Lastly, I will remind myself to have fun. I want to enjoy the day, no matter how many miles I end up running.

On top of my inaugural 50 miler, J-man and I began the process of buying a home two weeks ago. It wasn't planned until next year, but circumstances presented themselves in which it had to be done now, during my toughest two months of training. Thankfully, we found a home right away and plan to close in June, the week after Bighorn.   

To add to the busyness, the end of my son's Kindergarten year includes an art show, music program, field trip and IEP meeting as we prepare for his 6th birthday in two weeks. Additionally, my daughter is potty training, which demands a lot of my attention when she's home with me. Have mercy. 

Having more on my plate actually has helped me to a) run faster as I train between appointments and b) rest during this taper week as I was slammed with to-dos and strict deadlines. I had a PR on one of my trails last week as it became a tempo run, racing to meet our Realtor. So I'm using the added stress to my advantage when I can.

Last week, Sheila and I had a great run on the Ponderous Posterior trails which ranged from desert-y to scree-ful to snowy to slushy. My feet were soaked for at least half of our 5 hour run.  Hardrock training, baby!
Taking care of business
You may not have heard of this talented singer-songwriter-producer, but he's been one of my fav's for over 20 years. His stripped-down remake of his most well-known song just slays me. Enjoy!

Happy Trails,