Monday, June 29, 2009

Colorado trip part 2

continued from previous post.....
(I meant to get this post done over the weekend but between At&T and their cruddy DSL service and following along with Western States online, I got nothing done!!)

Saturday I got up early and headed out for an exploratory Salida run. From my bedroom window I could see this big hill with a winding dirt road spiraling up it ... oddly enough it was called "Spiral Dr." Go figure! I headed toward it and found a nice runnable dirt road with a steady but not leg breaking climb, at the very tiptop of the hill there is a weather station and little hut, I spent some time at the top taking pictures and video and visually scouting out the BLM lands to the east of Salida.

I saw some interesting trails so headed down the hill... as I was heading down I passed a ton of people on bikes and foot on their way up... I guess I was the early bird! I headed off onto the trails and ran around for about 12 miles, but I hadn't brought enough water with me for any further explorations. It was just wonderful to be under the bright sun and Colorado blue sky. The skies in Colorado are such a particular shade of blue, when I first moved to KC I would wake up crying with homesickness after dreaming of that shade of blue. The trails were nicely groomed, rolling hills, with great views. I knew which mountain I was staying near so I didn't have to worry about getting lost, when I was ready to head back I just jumped on a trail that headed in the direction of that mountain! Can't do that on the prairie! After lunch Mac, Angela and I drove up to Cottonwood Pass and hiked up there for awhile... it was quite chilly but good for some altitude adjustment. Cottonwood Pass is amazingly gorgeous... it's right on the Continental Divide and the snow capped mountains all around & elevation of 12,126 make it quite breathtaking... literally and figuratively!

Sunday I spent in Salida again exploring trails and getting lost... at one point I was running up a canyon and in the middle of a section of smooth sandy trail, I came a bone... nothing else around it.. just a fairly good sized bone. Animal? Human? Who knows, but I decided to pick up my pace a bit and hope that some mountain lion wasn't going to jump on my back. I spent about 4 hours on the trails but headed back when the heavy clouds started to gather and the lightning got pretty close. We spent the evening getting our camping gear together and early the next morning we headed for Leadville. We all squished in the 4-wheel drive truck, it was a bit uncomfortable on the drive up, but worth it when we got to Winfield and got a camping spot up the 4 wheel drive road. We got camp set up and then went for a gorgeous hike. We drove into Leadville to pick up a few things that afternoon, and I started feeling a little odd. It was the first time all trip that the altitude actually seemed to affect me. My head hurt, stomach was a bit queasy and I felt a touch dizzy. I drank a bunch of water and ate lunch, which seemed to help quite a bit. I kept a journal of how the altitude was affecting me from day to day so hopefully I can figure out the optimal time frame to head to Colorado in August, and other than the first day this was the first "significant" problem. That night I slept pretty good, even though it was pretty cold.. I'm guessing somewhere in the 30's. I ended up with some really crazy, vivid dreams of mountains falling on me.
Got up early the next morning, and had butterflies... it was Hope Pass day. I didn't know what to expect, since everyone talks about Hope with a combination of respect/horror and dread. I knew that I wasn't going to get the "real" experience 'cuz I wasn't going to run 50 miles first, but I wanted to go home knowing that I could get my ass over the pass. I filled up the biggest waterpackI had (100 oz) and took plenty of warm clothes..I didn't know how long it would take me, if there was anywhere to get water or how the weather was going to behave, so I had to be prepared. I figured carrying the extra weight on my back was good training. I had some Lara Bars, Raw Revolution bars and some homemade gu in the pack, but I forgot to grab the bean and rice burritos I made up. Doh! I told my friends that if I wasn't back in 10 hours.. to call out the Calvary. Of course, HOW they were going to do that, I had no idea since none of us had cell reception and neither of them knew how to drive a stick shift!! I wasn't really worried but it was something to think about.
I had my map and directions from the race packet and set off running down the dirt road to Sheep Gulch where I hopped on the trail. It immediately goes up... and up.. and up. NO switchbacks! I literally stopped and laughed a few times (in between gasps of breath) because I was on my toes the whole time, it was too steep for my heels to hit the ground. Needless to say I was NOT running! I kept as fast of a pace as I could manage, but had to stop and take pictures and gasp for air occasionally. (I uploaded a ton of pictures to my Flickr account.. the link is on the sidebar). I hit the top of Hope in about 1:49.. one of the slowest 5 miles I've "run"! When I got to the top it was super windy and cold but I took the time to enjoy the views, knowing that I probably wasn't going to be looking around much in August! As I started to descend the other side towards Twin Lakes.. a big black dog appeared out of nowhere at the top of the pass and started barking at me. Scared the shit out of me since I had seen absolutely no one! The dog continued to bark his head off and start to come down the trail toward me.. and all I could think was.. "great.. this makes for a really crappy ending to my life.. mauled to death by a dog on a mountain. Nothing exciting like a bear or mountain lion or even a rabid marmot, but a common dog." Luckily for me, the dog was either called by his humans or decided I was too scrawny to eat and took off back down the other side of Hope. I never did see any other humans, but I can't imagine he was up there by himself!

The descent into Twin Lakes was gorgeous.. running next to a mountain stream NEVER sucks. I had plans to follow my directions and just keep following the course for as long as I could, but a deep, rushing water crossing caused me to turn around. A mountain biker was trying to figure out how to get across, but I took it as a sign that I should just turn around and head back over Hope. The mountain biker started following me and when I looked back somehow 2 more cyclists had joined him.. they were pushing their bikes and finally I stopped and told them that they were on the trail to go over Hope Pass which caused them to quickly turn around and head back down. Going this direction over Hope was much easier.. there was actually sections I could run. The descent on the Winfield side however is a quad killer! My biggest concern for the whole darn race is how to keep my quad from totally fizzle frying by the end. We just don't have long downhills in KC to practice on and I'm pretty darn sure my gym is not going to allow me to prop the end of a treadmill up on 2x4's to simulate downhills! I made good time down off Hope but then the 2 1/2 miles up the dirt road to Winfield was kinda not fun. It's really dusty and felt a lot steeper then it looks. As I was approaching Winfield, I heard cheering.. and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. Mac & Angela had set up an aid station for me and had food and water ready and had been hanging out, reading books and waiting for me to show up. It was awesome! It was a great finish to a great day.
I finished just in time since some rainstorms moved in and we decided at that point instead of dealing with trying to get a fire started with wet wood and getting rained on all night, we'd go into Leadville and get a hotel for the night. We ended up at the Super 8 where I have rooms booked for the race and found they have a teeny tiny sauna and the rooms are not very well soundproofed. We ended up on the first floor and had a family of very large, insomniac clog dancers staying in the room above us. Mental note: call hotel and see if I can request a 3rd floor room for the race.
The next day I headed out to run the Powerlines section of the course..yipes! Yet another big ass hill to go up. I went up and up until I couldn't go up any longer due to a big ol' snow field and then I turned around and ran down. I stopped to talk to a couple of mtn. bikers that were out training for the MTB100 miler and we traded admiring compliments. I was a very lazy cyclist and didn't like to ride uphill very much so they have my admiration for all that uphill on a bike and I had their admiration for running 100 miles. It was a very uneventful run.. I went up and then I went down and the buzzing of the powerlines was in my ears the whole time. I decided that I need to incorporate a lot more hiking in my training and also a lot more time on the stair climber.. the hills were steep enough that it was more like going up stairs then being on the treadmill with the incline cranked. Downhills are still a problem but I will continue to do lots of squats and lunges and hope that having really strong quads will help.
Thursday I had to head back to Colorado Springs, and did a short run with my Dad on the Air Force Academy. I meant to do a long run but my calves were so trashed that at one point Dad found me "stretching" against a tree but I was actually crying 'cuz my legs hurt so bad! He scolded me and made me turn around and only do 6 miles for the day. I'm not sure how they got so trashed but I had to take a few days off running when I got back to KC. Yoga helped a lot, but they felt sore for many days. It was really a great trip: I had a really good time, I got to run sections of the course that I wanted to, I did some altitude work and I didn't have to deal with the heat and humidity for a week and I got to hang out in my favorite state.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colorado Trip part 1

(I'm making this multiple parts since the word concise doesn't seem to exist in my little corner of blog land.)

I flew into DIA on Wednesday morning and upon landing I kissed the ground and then peed (in the bathroom.. duh!) . I don't mind flying, it's not my favorite thing to do.. especially not since 9/11 but I don't usually get nervous or uptight about things.. but this flight was determined to rattle me. It started out by being delayed.. no biggie, I called the parents and told them to hold off leaving Colorado Springs for a bit (kinda odd that it takes the same amount of time for me to fly across Kansas as them to drive to DIA from the next "town".) We took off about 30 minutes late and horror of horrors I was seated next to a very small child and her parents. I have a multitude of reasons for not wanting or having kids but uncontrolled screaming ranks pretty high up there.. which is actually amusing since I was a total screamer as a child.. my parents wanted to get me in the Guinness Book for shrillest scream. Anyway, the little one was pretty good and was fascinated by my TrailRunner magazine so I pointed out things and she would grab at it and make happy noises... trail runner in the making I think. Well, all this went downhill quickly when we hit some bad turbulence, that went on and on and on. The Captain told us to sit our asses down NOW and remain down and belted in. I'd never heard a pilot say sit down NOW before, but I cranked the iPod and relaxed, or tried to.. the little one next to me started shrieking like there was no tomorrow and the plane started bouncing up and down like a kangaroo. For the first time on a flight I was pretty sure I was going to die.. or at least I WANTED to die. The child next to me managed to drown out even the most noisy of punk rock on my headphones. I really couldn't blame her.. I felt like screaming a bit myself! Finally we landed, and my luggage was acquired and parents found with very little problem.

It was my dad's birthday so we went to the Tattered Cover bookstore and I quickly accumulated a huge stack of books I wanted, but then a semblance of sanity asserted itself and I put them back. (sniff) My luggage didn't need to be overweight due to 90 new books. We had lunch at a great little place in Castle Rock, that catered to my every vegan whim... it was awesome, I don't know if I've ever been someplace else that was so eager to make me something not on the menu. We made it to the Springs where I tried to digest my amazing grilled veggie lunch in short order since I was due to meet Steve and Kathleen for a run through Garden of the Gods. I had a great time running with them, and thankfully they were very patient since 6 hours is not enough altitude acclimatization time for me to be able to run fast, or even up hills! I was sucking some serious wind and at first when my fingers went numb and my eyesight got a bit dark, I thought I was going to have to bag the run, but Kathleen took pity on me and my darth vader like gasps and slowed the pace down. Steve bounded ahead and we would come around corners to find him snapping shots of us.. now I see how they get so many amazing pictures on their blog! I had a really great time getting to know them and I hope to run with them again.. maybe next time after a day or 2 of adjustment! After the run they were talking with my Dad and it turns out that they knew who he is and use his trails website a lot and Kathleen knows Dad's long time running partner... crazy small running world!

The next morning I got up early and went up Pikes Peak. Dad came along but wasn't planning on going as far as I was so he brought Sammy, their adorable golden retriever as company. I was really surprised at just how much I was able to push the pace going up, I figured after my performance of the night before I'd be dying again, but I guess a good nights sleep and lots of water helped. It was a cool, gray day and by the time I made Barr Camp at 10,200 ft it was starting to snow a bit. I decided to turn around there instead of pushing on to A-frame.... I had a jacket with me, but you never know in the high country how bad a storm will get. I was able to make really good time on my way down with minimal quad soreness. Pikes Peak is my favoritest mountain.. I guess it's because I grew up in it's shadow but it never fails to make me happy, when I die I want my ashes scattered on one of the slopes.

That evening I made a vegan stir fry for my parents.. lots of organic veggies, tofu and soba noodles. Dad eyed it with askance but ate it anyway and even had seconds, mom is very open to moving towards a more veggie based lifestyle so she was cool. After dinner I curled up on the couch with a hilarious mystery picked from one of the million books scattered all over the house. My friends Mac and Angela were driving in from KC and would spend the night and then the next morning we would be on our way to Salida and the house they own. They made it in around midnight and immediately crashed. We spent the next morning relaxing on the back porch, gazing at Pikes Peak and enjoying the perfect Colorado weather, until we roused ourselves enough to head to Whole Foods and the best outdoor shop in Colorado Springs - the Mountain Chalet. Locally owned, has tons of great stuff and always very friendly and helpful.

I picked up a pair of Vibram Sprint Five Fingers (in PINK, no less!!), I've been eyeballing these for awhile but wanted to try them on before buying. I tried 3 sizes and finally settled on the smallest size, I still think the next size up would have been perfect but that size made my big toe hurt.. like someone was poking hot needles in it.. not fun. I think the seam where the sole and the stretchy upper meet was rubbing just wrong. I wore them out of the store and only took them off all week to put on running shoes... definitely not ready to run in them though. Finally we finished all our shopping, loaded up the cars and headed out to Salida, which is about a 2 hour drive from the Springs. Dad was very nice and lent me his emergency 4-wheel drive pickup to drive all over Colorado.
I love that truck, it's an early 90's Toyota with high clearance and a growly engine, and it makes me homesick. It's the stereotypical mountain town vehicle; 4 Wheel drive, banged up and worth a heck of a lot less then all the gear inside it. It's not quite the same now that I'm not racing bikes, but back in the day my bikes were always worth more then my cars. Anywho, we made it to Salida uneventfully, and pulling up at Mac and Angelas house, I realized they were going to have to drag me kicking and screaming back to KC. It's a gorgeous house that sits on a bluff above town with an INCREDIBLE view of the 3 mountain ranges that surround Salida (Sawatch, Mosquito and Sangre De Christos).. and the hot tub has the perfect view of all 3!! They showed me around Salida, picked up some beer and we headed back to the house for dinner. Not only was I staying in paradise, but I was staying with 2 gourmet cooks... no way was I leaving! Dinner was awesome and as we were sitting in the hot tub watching the stars come out, a friendly local fox came sniffing up to the edge of the hot tub.. for a few minutes we honestly thought he was going to jump in! It was the perfect capper to the evening.

(part 2 to come)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm back!

I had every intention of posting periodic reports during my trip, but the allure of being totally cut off from the computer, cell phone and outside world won out. I got lots of running done and scared the crap out of myself..... Leadville humbled me and I'm heading back to the training "drawing" board and changing some stuff up. I'm still trying to unpack, do laundry and reacquaint myself with my husband so a bunch of longer, picture filled reports are on the way!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Colorado bound

I'm about to leave for my beautiful Colorado mountains! 10 days of nothing to do but run, run, run and eat, eat, eat! I'm flying into Denver, spending a few days with my parents and then I'm off to Leadville/Salida to run as much of the Leadville course as I can squeeze in. I'm hoping for a quick, easy adjustment to the altitude! Tonight I get to run with 2 of my favorite Colorado bloggers, Steve and Kathleen.. check out their blog, it's chock full of gorgeous Colorado scenery and good writing. And then on Thursday I'm going to run Pikes Peak with my dad.... at least as high as we can get, from what I understand A-frame might be the best we can hope for right now due to the heavy snowpack. I'll take any amount of uphill and downhill at high altitude as I can get! Then on Friday I'm off to L-ville! I got a new Flip video camera the other day, so expect some video in addition to still shots!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I've had a few people comment on my blog and also email me in awe of being able to go out and run a 30 mile training run at any time.. but it's taken me a long while to get to that point and most importantly, you have to WANT to run that far... everyone in this world has the ability to run 5, 10, 30, 50, 100 miles if they so desire and work towards it. Not everyone has the time or the desire and there is not a damn thing wrong with that. We all have amazing strength inside, but sometimes we get lazy and don't let it come out and play.
Right now, I'm watching 4 of my formerly non running friends find their wings. Abby, Angela, Mac and Rhonda kicked some serious ass last Saturday at a local 5K. Abby is 3 weeks from a double mastectomy, Angela and Mac are barely 6 weeks from a total sedentary lifestyle, and Rhonda broke her foot back in January and has been recovering from that. I LOVE getting emails or texts telling me how for the first time one of them got the runners high, or made it all the way around the park without stopping or added another mile. They are training for a triathlon in August, but there are already plans for more races in the future. Another good friend Beck, has been quietly, steadily running for a year, battling through some killer allergies and running on a treadmill when she just can't take it outside anymore. She has expressed an interest in doing a trail half marathon in the spring! It makes me so very happy to see some of the joy I feel reflected in their faces and voices. They are letting their inner strength come out and play... how are you letting yours out?