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Thursday, March 31, 2011

You can lead a girl to good advice, but you can't make her drink

...or something like that.

If you have kids, you know what I'm talking about.  You try to explain things to them because you've been there, done that, and often know when something just isn't going to work.  Or you try to tell them a way to make something easier or better.

And they look at you with that expression that says, "Why are you wasting my time with your babble when I already know everything?"

Yeah, that's me.

Not that I think I know everything.  Far from it.  I think every day I get a little dumber...except with running, where I started out at pretty much the rock bottom of ignorance.  And yet for some reason, despite reading a year's worth of Runner's World, several running books, and countless running blogs, I find it necessary to learn things the hard way.  Here are a few things that have finally sunk in:

1.  You should warm up before a race.

Old Kate: Why are these people running extra miles before a race? I already have to run 3 miles/6 miles/13 miles...why would I do any extra running???

Light bulb: Running with N, the first mile was awful.  The second mile was much, much better.  Thought to myself, I wish I could just start at the second mile! It's so much easier after I've already run a......... Oooooohhhhhhhh.  So that first mile's like...a warm up...and if I warmed up before a race, my first mile would feel like the second mile....Oh.

2. Running with other people is fun.

Old Kate: I'm too slow, I can't keep up, my schedule doesn't fit with running with other people.

Light bulb: Actually running with other people has made me push harder, run further, go new places, and meet some pretty cool people...who wait for me when the trail turns. :)

3. Yes, I do have time to run.

Old Kate: We're too busy, there's no time to run, I can't get up early in the morning.

Light bulb: OK, I'm still not living in a world where I'm happy to get up before 5 a.m., but it turns out that I can, indeed, get up at 4:15, run 8 miles before getting myself and my kids ready for the day, and function.  In fact, I'm usually more awake when I've run that morning.

4.  Ice is your friend 

Old Kate:  Ice may help, but heat feels better.  How about I just soak in a hot bath full of Epsom salts and call it good (and limp for the next few days)?

Light bulb: Barely able to walk after finishing my first 18-mile run, I decided maybe I'd give ice a try.  Oh, my gosh! I felt like a new woman.  Granted, my hoo hoo was frozen, but it thawed out eventually.  I took an ice bath after my 21-mile death slog, too, and was able to do a 9+ hour adventure race the next day--pain free!

5.  Use energy to gain energy

Old Kate: I'm sooo tired; I'd like to work out, but I'm going to sleep in/take a nap/go to bed early  instead.  

Light bulb: Getting up at 4:30 a.m. to run and being wide awake for the rest of the day.  Dragging my butt to the gym even though I have no desire to go and coming home happy and refreshed. 

6. Running is cheaper than Prozac...and brings a cool new wardrobe. 

Old Kate:  I went through an extended low period where dangerous PDPMS (that would be pre-, during- and post-) negatively affected every part of my life.  I didn't much like myself and hated my poor husband for half of the month for absolutely no reason.  It took a ridiculous amount of effort to fake being a functional, rational person.  I often thought that I should go to the doctor and get on some kind of medication. And then I would think to myself (and this is ME, not anyone else.  I wouldn't presume to speak for anyone who's going through depression) that what I needed was to clean my house, start eating right, get organized, and get some regular exercise. 

Light bulb:  Ummm...two out of four isn't bad, right? :)  My house is messy, and I'm still an organizational disaster, but regular exercise has made all of the difference.  Not just the "exercise", but the fun it has led to.  I love the fun of a race or a group run/ride, I love the community (internet and real-life) of active people that I've met, and I love the experience of repeatedly testing myself with new challenges.  I can definitely tell in my mood when it's been a few days since I've run or ridden my bike; I start to notice myself feeling crabby and irritable and then realize...I need to go for a run!  Running and working out make me feel better...and feel better about myself.  Granted, my husband sees less of me, but the me he sees is much more pleasant to be around!

So what about you? What have you had to learn the hard way? What else should I have learned by now? Do share...I may not listen, but you can always say "I told you so" later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Marathon training weeks 10 and 11

Week 10:

Scheduled: Rest/XT
Actual: 27 mile bike/10 mile hike at The Deuce adventure non-race.  Pleasantly surprised that my legs would still operate after my 21 mile run the day before.

Scheduled: 2 mile easy run
Actual: (crickets) *Note: I tried putting the word "crickets" in these <>, but unfortunately the computer doesn't recognize HTML for the sound. :( On the other hand, it closed my tags for me.

Scheduled: 7mile tempo run
Actual: (crickets)

Scheduled: 20 mile long run
Actual: 7ish mile mountain bike ride. Guess we'll file that under cross-training.

(not me)
Scheduled: Rest/XT
Actual: 13.1 trail miles at Quivering Quads. Decide to call this week a recovery week and skip the remaining 7 miles I owe my training plan from Saturday.

Photo credit: Chuck Vohsen

Week 11:

Scheduled: 2 mile easy run
Actual: Haha haha haha.  Yeah, right.

Scheduled: Rest/XT
Actual: 4 mile attempt at Wednesday's speedwork. Must've twisted my ankle more than I thought at QQ because it was really bothering me during this treadmill run.  Decided at this point in training it was smarter to call it a day than to push through and possibly injure myself/make it worse.  I did manage a 7:54 mile, though, before barely getting in the second mile in 8:57.  Definitely can't sustain a fast pace for more than a mile...yet.

Scheduled: 8 miles speedwork
Actual: (crickets)

Scheduled: Rest/XT
Actual: 8 miles on stationary bike

Scheduled: 20 mile long run
Actual: looking at colleges with oldest son.  No WAY am I old enough for this! 
My Fitness Coach 
And 15 measly minutes of the Wii "My Fitness Coach" workout game with J, who wanted to "get some exercise".  How humbling!!  It definitely showed me that, while my running has improved, my flexibility and core have degraded big time.  We were supposed to do pushups using a stability ball...it was all I could do to get my legs on the ball and stay steady, let alone do many pushups.  My abs are still complaining today.

Scheduled: Rest/XT
Actual: 20.2 miles

Sunday's run was great (well, as great as running 20 miles is going to get for me), though at first I wasn't sure how it would go.  It had snowed on Saturday, and I was not looking forward to running it snow on Sunday.

It really was a beautiful snow...but come on!
 I didn't let the cold or snow stop me much this winter, but once we had our first 70 degree day, winter was OVER in my mind.  Winter, unfortunately, is having a little trouble accepting the breakup.      
Mother Nature laughs at our Spring Fever

When I left for church, it still looked like this out:

Unquestionably beautiful
...but it was all gone when I left church.  Don't feel too relieved for me, though...snow is once again in the forecast for tomorrow.  Anyway, I was happy to see it gone for the run. 

If you remember, my last 20 mile run ended with 3 miles of tears. This one ended with a smile (but boy, oh boy, was I glad to be finished!). I met up with a woman I met through the tri club and ran in town. As I left the house, I told my husband and son I'd see them in about 4 hours. D said, "You better hope you like this lady! That could be awkward for 4 hours otherwise."

It's funny how nerve-wracking it can be to run with someone new. It's a rare day, indeed, when I run out of things to talk about, but I do worry about compatible paces. Most of the people I run with are way faster, but Judy and I were pretty much right on target. We ran two loops; first we did a 12-mile loop and then finishing up with 8.  All of the run was on our local bike trails.  These are nicely paved and, for the most part, very smooth.  Up until my last long run, all of my long runs have been on dirt trails.  My hope was that it would make training easier on my knees.  My shorter runs have been on roads or on the treadmill.  Now I'm transitioning to the road so I'm prepared for the harder surface come marathon day.

Typical of our trails
All in all, it was a good run.  I felt pretty strong for the first 15 miles, OK for the next two, and really ready to be finished for the last three.  By then my knee was bothering me some, but it wasn't unbearable.  My ankle, which I'd been worried about, stayed quiet (possibly under the influence of ibuprofen, but I'll take it!), and I could've finished 26.2 miles...if I'd had to.  I'm sure there would've been more walking involved.  Unlike my last two long runs, though, this was a confidence builder.  I finished much stronger than before.  Finally! I'm sure having company was a big help.

My marathon plan starts tapering this week, but it's built around a 4/10 marathon, and mine won't be until 5/1.  I figure I'll just repeat variations of the past two weeks' plan (hopefully actually getting in all of the workouts this time) before starting to taper.  So, two more 20ish mile runs.  I'd like to get in one that's a bit longer, maybe 22 or 23.  My plan never goes above 20, but the way I've felt at the end of the last couple long runs I'd just feel better having one longer run in. 

I'm definitely ready to be finished training for this.  Up until the past few weeks it hasn't been too demanding, but these 4 hour training runs are a long time to be away from home, especially when running isn't the only thing going on.  As I said on facebook, it's starting to feel like the last month of a pregnancy, when you're just so ready to be DONE.  On the other hand, I'm excited for the experience. ...and yeah, a little nervous about birthing this baby.  At least the marathon won't take me 11 hours of labor!

Kate at baby shower
At least marathon training doesn't last 9 monts!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SuperKate, not Supermom

In my continuing efforts to undermine my Super identity, today I bring you stories of how I'm ruining my seven year old's life. 

Exhibit A: Pinewood Derby, Part 2

Those of you who've been with me for a while may remember the story of J's first Pinewood Derby.  Basically, though I rooted fiercely (and silently) against his car, he came in third and qualified for the District level of Pinewood Derby.  Because I'm a lousy mother committed athlete, I waited for the date of District to be announced and promptly went looking for an alternate activity. Unfortunately, I had checked the date and not the time, so I got home about ten minutes before Jeff and J had to leave. I was just meant to be there.

Now, to me it was pretty clear that my little boy's third place car was unlikely to take top honors against all those other first and second place cars, but try telling that to a seven year old. No amount of "Well, there are going to be a lot of other fast cars, too," or "The fun part is getting to see all the other cool cars," or "You're really lucky to get to go to districts, most of your other friend's are home today with their lucky, lucky parents," could dampen his conviction that he was going to win.

Of course, he didn't. In four heats, his car finished second, third, fourth, and third...a perfectly respectable (and predictable) finish...and a much better day than the little boy whose car repeatedly failed to go across the finish line (not sure how he managed to get to "this level of competition"). After finishing last in his third heat, I thought he was getting the picture. Disappointed, he bypassed his spot on the bleachers, walked to where we were sitting, and climbed into his 16 year old brother's lap. Soon, N had him smiling.

Big brother pep talks are the best
Happy again, he went back to his friends, but we weren't out of the woods yet.  After four heats each for 50+ increasingly restless little boys, they were finally ready to tabulate the results and announce the winners.  J sat with us while he waited.  I mentioned the birthday party we were heading to next, and he told me, "I still need to get my trophy."

Uh, oh.  The trophies were only for the top five finishers.  I tried to soften the coming blow: "Um, honey...I don't think you're going to get a trophy.  They're only for the top 5."

J: "So what you're saying is you don't believe in me."

UGH.  The boy is 7 years old and already a Jedi master of guilt.  Believe it or not, we actually got out of the event with no tears, although it was a close call (for me).

Exhibit B: Soccer

Sports are a big part of our life.  My husband is a rabid sports fan, my 16 year old plays volleyball year round, I try to stay active, and my 7 year old plays soccer.

I think this was his first season.

PLAYED soccer.  Past tense, because somehow his mother, who is the one who takes care of these things, totally missed the sign-up.  He plays through our Y, where I go fairly regularly.  We live next door to a school where many of the soccer teams practice.  The Y always sends home a flyer about soccer sign-ups.  And yet I never once saw any of these signs (and I'd tell you if I had...it would be so like me to just put it off til later.  But really.  Never.)  When we called the Y (the day before the first game) to see if he could get on a team, they said no.  But he didn't really say anything about soccer, which made me feel cautiously OK, until....

Exhibit C: Little Tigers football

It's not just the high school boys who get to have all the fun in our town; there's a football league for little kids, too.  It comes complete with pads, tackling, and fundraisers, and a huge time commitment, not to mention the $140 start-up cost.  He's 7.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not worth the investment at this point.  The older boys didn't get to play tackle football until they were in middle school, and I'm comfortable with keeping it that way for J.  

He disagrees.

"K. [a girl in his class] won't have any reason to like me if I don't do Little Tigers. You have to have a sport.  If I don't play soccer or Little Tigers, I won't have any sport!"

So, basically, I suck as a mother.  

I suggested that running could be his sport, but I was quickly shot down on that one.  He actually compared his distaste for running to my feelings about cleaning.  lol.  Luckily, I happened to mention later that, although I was disappointed that he wasn't playing soccer, at least we'd have more weekends free for camping.  He immediately brightened: "Camping can be my sport!"  

Muskegon KOA
Camping in Michigan

Thankfully, that's settled.  And now you all know my dirty secret:

Quivering Quads--after

That's not trail mud...it's feet of clay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What you need

On a recent run with some of the guys from the tri club, one of them asked me what my boys thought about their mom doing all this stuff. "They must think it's pretty cool, huh?"

As I told him, not so much. My impressions are that they're a) pretty bored of hearing about it, b) completely uninterested, and c) heartily unimpressed (my--to me--very exciting 7:55 mile was met with "You know what I ran in 6th grade? A 6 minute mile.")  Basically, my impression is that they don't think much about it unless they're being inconvenienced by it.

Later, though, I wondered if my take on their reaction was accurate.  After all, teenage boys aren't typically known for their effusiveness, and mine are certainly no exception.  Since D (my 18 year old) was home, I told him about the conversation and asked him what he thought.

"I don't know, I guess it's kind of cool that you're doing the different races and all.  I still think the bike thing's ridiculous..."

The bike thing?

"The way you think you need each different bike."

Ohhhh, the bike thing.

 My child has no understanding of why I might need more than one bike, especially when I have a perfectly good hybrid.

2010 Katy Trail bike ride
2010 Katy Trail ride

After all, he tells me, it's a hybrid...best of both worlds.

Not so much.  I love my bike, but while it's nice to ride around town or on trails like the Katy, it's hardly built for speed.  Nor is it built to take off road.

Exhibit A

No amount of station wagon--jeep--sports car comparisons can sway his disdain for my multi-bike quest.  I confess, he comes by this honestly.  I've been known to say things like, "Why do you need special dance shoes? Why can't you just wear your black dress shoes?" and "You want another t-shirt?"  (In my defense, I swear you could spend a month's pay on different t-shirts at that school.).  I am reaping what I've sown.

Joining D in his anti-multi position is my husband.  Jeff has a four-pronged opposition:

1) Cost
  • Not just cost of the bikes and gear, but also of medical care (see #4)
2) Garage space
  • Seriously, don't get me started on the space taken up by baseball cards, old magazines, tools that aren't used, and assorted stuff that we might need again someday
3) My fitness
  • "If you really wanted a good workout you'd get a cruddy bike and work that much harder."
4) My health and safety
  • Refer to exhibit A above
Happy dance
A year of saving, combined with my refusal to ask for anything but a mountain bike for Christmas, got me bike #2 from Jeff, most of my family, my mother-in-law, and me.  That still leaves the road bike and me scanning Craigslist and sticking a twenty into my bike fund whenever I can manage it.

On the other end of the spectrum is the most recent issue of Bicycling magazine and its 2011 Buyer's Guide.


Articles like the one above are part of the reason I'm not renewing my subscription to Bicycling.  All those pictures of expensive bikes just make me feel bad.  I need Bicycling Magazine for the Profoundly Middle Class.  If you publish such a magazine, send me a subscription card.  I'm your poster girl.

Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against spending a lot of money on a bike.  If I had it to spend, I certainly would.  But to suggest that you need a $1,500 road bike if you want to ride a century, to me that's kind of silly.  I've done two centuries on my station wagon bike, and while a) they were painfully slow; and b) every other person told me "You need a road bike", I did them rather than waiting at home waiting until I could afford a better suited bike.  I tell people I can be slow on a slow bike, or I can be slow on a fast bike. :)

That said, I've kind of mentally coasted on some nice things that other people have said about my riding.  It's fed this little fantasy that I could be a decent rider...if I had a bike that was right for it (and, OK, if I could lose about 90% of my fear).  I'd like to do a triathlon, if I had a road bike. (OK, well, I'd pretty much decided that I'd do that without a road bike, too.  I'd be last place on the swim and the run, too, so why not complete the trifecta of mediocrity?) I'd think about riding in the crit, if I had a road bike.  It's both the thorn in my side and my security blanket.

Enter a couple of friends who've offered to let me borrow road bikes for the events.  Way to strip away my excuses. So now it's decision time: pony up and see what I'm made of...or rest in "I could, if..."  That's really not much of a choice.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Quivering Quads Trail Half Marathon

You know that your life has officially been turned upside down when you count a grueling trail half marathon as a short, easy run.  Not that 13.1 miles is, or will ever be, a walk in the park for me.  In this case, short = 7 fewer miles than my training schedule called for this weekend.  Easy = I was going to try and not push too hard, I actually stopped  to take a couple pictures rather than just shooting on the run like usual and to use the bathroom.

The weather forecast for the past week was enough to make a person crazy.  It called for storms all weekend.  Then beautiful weather.  Then the storms were back for race day.  I was not looking forward to the thought of running 13 miles in the rain, but I tried to console myself with the thought that horrible weather would make the blog story that much better.  By Saturday's bike ride, though, I was feeling cautiously optimistic about our chances of staying dry...from the waist up, anyway.

It's fitting that the weather was almost awful, because it was pretty crappy at the race that led to me running Quivering Quads.  Back in December, after having my butt kicked by the Pere Marquette run, I ran into my friend Lindsay in the hall.  She and her friend were planning to run Quivering Quads "for fun", and somebody said, "Hey, you should run it, too!"  So being the sheep that I am, I dutifully registered.  I never actually got out to train with them, but I did do a lot of trail running in the space between the two races.

So, there I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday to shave my legs (don't judge me; I have vast mud experience and know that mud will cling to and accentuate any leg hair present, and I would prefer to have one less reason to hate my race pictures) and wondering why the heck I couldn't find a hobby that would allow me to sleep in.  I was careful to make it out of the house in plenty of time to meet my tri club teammates, having already been tarred with the tardy brush ("Looks like we've got us some new trail runners...we just need to get one of them a watch!") at a Saturday run.  Once again, my decision to join the club has been more than vindicated.  This is about the nicest, most supportive group of people I've ever met, and the fact that they're kickass athletes makes it even more fun.

And if the ride was nice, hanging out before the race was even better.  When I started running last year, I was lucky if I saw one person that I knew at a race.  This was a completely different experience. I saw a friend from school and her husband, three girls I'd ridden with the day before, a woman I'd ridden with on a Trailnet ride last year, all the tri club people I'd met, and of course Lindsay and her husband.  Because all but the first 1.8 miles was on singletrack, the race had a wave start.  Since my wave didn't leave until 39 minutes after the official race beginning, I had plenty of time to relax and hang out...and there was never a long line for the bathrooms, which is always a plus!

 It was a little cool in the morning, but I wore shorts and a short-sleeved tech top because it was supposed to warm up.  I'd considered wearing a tank top, which would probably have been more comfortable.  Jim from the club brought an extra tri club pinney so I'd have one to wear (see what I mean about nice people?), and the Team Godzilla green nicely complemented my purple top.

QQ start
Waiting with my wave.  You can see the next wave to leave ahead of us.
Everything was really well organized at the start.  The Fleet Feet people kept things moving smoothly, and before long it was time to take off.

The beginning...check out the nice soggy trail. :)
They started us off down a fire road.  It was almost a mile down and back, and it included some hills, so by the time we got to the singletrack we were pretty well spread out.  Right from the beginning people were trying to avoid the mud and the water.  My strategy was to plow straight through as long as I had decent footing.  There was no chance of staying clean or dry in this race (and really, where's the fun in that?), so I wasn't going to waste energy weaving back and forth to dry spots.

More of the quality photography that keeps you people coming back. :)
My "dirty girl" strategy served me well once I got to the singletrack.  This was a super nice group of people running, and often you didn't have to even ask someone to move or say "on your left"; if they heard you coming they generally just moved out of the way.  Even so, I passed a lot of people when they looped around a wet or muddy spot.  Overall, I think I passed more people than passed me, and once they were passed they stayed that way, with the exception of four girls and two guys (not that I was counting). 

One of the many creek crossings
One of the many creek crossings
It soon was evident to all but the most delusional people that they were going home wet.  This race featured a lot of creek crossings.  Most of them were like the one above, though some were narrow enough to jump over and one was almost mid-calf depth on me.  There was also a lot of mud.  In some places, it was ridiculously muddy.   I was having a blast.  My footing was solid in the mud, I wasn't having any problems crossing the creeks, I ran up every hill in the first 5 miles, and I hurdled nearly every log on the trail (and there were a lot).  Granted, I was probably wasting some energy with some of that, but I wasn't out to win the race and, as this was my first trail half marathon, I was already guaranteed a PR. 

Up until the second water stop, at mile 4.6, I was even thinking that I might be running too hard.  I felt that good, like I was flying, and I felt super strong.  And then, I made the mistake of checking my time.  58 minutes and change.  Less than a 12 minute mile.  That was a mental blow.  All of the sudden, I felt like I was struggling.  It was completely all in my head, but it probably took me another mile to start having fun again.

QQ trail
Hills.  Sigh.  They're not my friends. 
There were long periods where I ran without seeing anyone, and sometimes I wasn't entirely sure I was going the right way.  In fact, my only issue with the race is that I think it could've been marked better.  Once I only knew which way to go because another runner told me, and once I missed a turn and would've been way off track if a couple hiking hadn't shown me where I should've turned.  I only went about 30 feet off course, but it was still annoying.
QQ creek crossing
Coming out of the deepest creek crossing

For the picture above, I actually stopped to take a picture of my feet in the deep water, tried taking a picture of the bank, backed up to get a better angle, and still never managed to get a picture of the water or how deep it was.  Time well spent.  :P The race covered a nice mix of terrain.  It verged from muddy lower areas, lots of hills, some packed dirt trails, some that were covered in fine rock, and some with larger rocks and roots.  You definitely had to pay attention to where you were going.  I had some near ankle turns, but I felt really confident running on the trail and never fell.  (I think that's two races in a row, so I'm probably in for a doozy of a fall.)

QQ run
Photo credit: Fleet Feet
The course was a figure eight route, and I saw Jim coming back as I went out for the second loop.  I definitely struggled more on the hills on this side of the course.  I don't think it was necessarily that they were so challenging; I was just that much more worn down.  One mistake I made was not taking any GU along with me.  I knew the only food that would be out on the course was pretzels.  I did have a crumbled up fruit and cereal bar in my belt, so I ate part of that as I ran.

QQ creek crossing
Not sure what's up with the arms.  Also, I'd have been a lot dirtier if it wasn't for this creek crossing.                             Photo credit: Fleet Feet
Here's another of the creek crossings.  The "big" creek crossing.  I was expecting more.  Very nice of Fleet Feet, though, to have a photographer stationed there to get our pictures. 

A couple of guys came up behind me on one of the hills that I was running.  I offered to move, and the guy said he'd let me know when he was ready to pass.  Eventually I moved aside, and they made a remark about how I'd be passing them again in 5 minutes.  I knew that was highly unlikely...seems like once I get passed, I lose the impetus to keep up the pace.  As we hit the very next hill, though, they slowed enough that I had to go around them again.  Go figure.  I didn't see them for a whileafter I passed, but we ended up leapfrogging a few times and then running together for a while.  It was nice to have some company and conversation.  Thanks, Corey and AJ! 

Running with my new friends...I didn't end the race in the lead.
Walking up yet another hill, I saw Keith, who yelled at me to get running.  Now that's a teammate for you...he finished the race first in his AG and then headed back on the course to take pictures of the rest of us and provide "motivation".  Did I mention I love my new club? :)

He was also kind enough to get a rear view, which I'm only sharing because it's less painful than the close up of my face as I ran past.  Sigh.  I'm much cuter in my imagination than in reality.  Photo "credit": Keith Timmins
You'll notice that I ended up down to just the pinney with my t-shirt tucked into my strap.  It was too warm to run in sleeves!  After a while, I couldn't take it any more.  There were some pretty rocky spots on the trail, so I made myself wait until I had to walk up a hill--and until I was alone on the trail--and then I whipped off my shirts and switched over to just the sleeveless one.  Much better.  You'll also notice that my shorts enjoyed hanging around my ass much more than my legs, which begs the question:

Q: How much Body Glide do I need to keep my thighs from rubbing together?
A: More than what I used.  :(  Nasty chafing.  Boo.

 On the plus side of the medical equation, my poor blistered feet held up very well.  I Body Glide-ed all of my feet and put bandaids over the spots that blistered so badly on last week's long run.  I wore a (new) pair of SmartWool socks, and I had no problems at all.  Overall, my entire body felt pretty good, other than the ankle that really wanted to get twisted.  Even my knee held out well.

Corey took off with a little more than a mile to go, and now it was AJ dragging me rather than me being in the lead.  We came back through the water stop at the point of the figure eight, and I could really have used a drink.  Everbody was just sitting at the table.  I wanted a drink, but I wanted to be finished more.  AJ said something about not remembering passing something and thinking that we still needed to go up some big hill.  I replied, "Nope.  It's downhill the rest of the way.  With a tailwind."

Unfortunately, my wishful thinking didn't pan out.  What sadistic bastard put those hills in the last mile of the race??  It was such a nice challenge to encounter a couple of hills when I was just about finished, both literally and figuratively.  AJ took off; I lumbered up the hill until it flattened out, and then I settled into a jog.  The final stretch brought us back down the fireroad we'd left on, and I was able to pick it up and finish strong.  Strong enough that I probably should have still been running a little harder earlier instead of letting the hills mess with my head.
qq finish 4
Now, remember, that time doesn't reflect my wave start.  Subtract 39 minutes.
All in all, the race was a blast.  I love getting muddy, I love running on trails, I love crossing creeks...and there was plenty of all of the above.   One thing: I think the race is misnamed.  My calves and hamstrings were much unhappier than my quads.
Quivering Quads--after
After shot...awesome
Lindsay had a little more adventure on her race.  She and her friend came upon a man lying on the side of the trail.  They stopped to help him out, and Lindsay waited with him while Amy ran back to the nearest aid section to get help.  Thankfully, he ended up being OK, and they got to run in with a good story to tell, if not a PR.  The chance to be someone's angel doesn't come around every day, and I know they'd do it again in a heartbeat.

My teacher friend Erin, who was baptized into the craziness of trail running with this race, had a few thoughts on it, too, and shared them last night via Facebook.  (I'm using this with her permission.)


10. Road running shoes do NOT work on trails.
9.   Sometimes old people are faster than you think.
8.   Don't underestimate the 250 lb kid because he is deceptively athletic as well.
7.   "Trail running" isn't really running...it's actually scaling/climbing/trudging across muddy terrain. With rocks.
6.   Ryan (her brother) will still SMOKE YO' ASS despite #7.
5.   When choosing names for one's blisters, one must be more creative than "Blister #1, Blister #2..."
4.   "The mind is willing, but the body is not able," was surely coined while running a trail 1/2 marathon.
3.   When prevention of injury is your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY you might consider an alternative hobby.
2.  If Kate ever recommends a race, save yourself the blisters & tell her you need to wash your hair that day.
1.  Regardless of age, YOU TOO can get a participation medal after crawling trhough mud, hurdling fallen logs, crossing multiple streams, and creatively running around rocks.  You might die trying, but you'll still have a medal.
Finisher's medal (& obligatory "Got Bling" picture)
 And Ms. "I've never done a trail race"-racing-in-her-road-shoes beat me by 13 minutes and came in fourth in her age group.  If I was at all competitive, I'd hate her a little.

Sooo...the details:

Chip time: 2:46:20 (12:42/mi)
Age group: 12/24
Overall: 224/364 (but 450 people were registered, so I'm just going to assume that nearly 100 people didn't finish and I was right smack in the middle. :)
Calories: 2,545
Post-race meal: 54th Street Grill chicken avocado sandwich, onion rings, strawberry margarita
Post-race meal guilt: Absolutely none

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dirty Girls bike ride--Cliff Cave

Instead of sleeping in on Saturday like any other self-proclaimed lazybones, I headed over to The Alpine Shop to meet up for another Dirty Girls mountain bike ride.  Designed to both to showcase the different area parks with great mountain biking and to get women out on the trails and improve their skills, I'm fast falling in love with these rides. 

Unlike my first, snowy experience,  I had company on this one, a lot of company.  My sister-in-law, who has a mountain bike but hasn't had the opportunity to use it for anything other than our flat trails, came along with me, and there were maybe ten other women doing the ride as well.  In contrast to us beginners, they ride fairly regularly and are much more skilled.  Even so, it's a very welcoming and encouraging group.

We rode two different trails at Cliff Cave County Park.  First, we rode two loops of the Spring Valley Trails.  From the GORC website:
The Spring Valley Trail (2.25 miles) begins at the first parking lot near the entrance to the cave for which the park is named. It begins with a water crossing followed by a steep and rocky climb to the beginning of the 2 mile loop at the top of the hill. The loop is mostly packed dirt with few rocks or technical challenges and is great for beginner as well as intermediate riders. Short sections of modest elevation gain punctuate the loop. The trail varies from tight and twisty, to fast and flowing, and weaves in and out of the many sinkholes in the area. It is well marked but other unmarked trails exist and intersect in numerous places.

This was a good one for us to start out on.  Of course, almost immediately Kristy and I were way in the back.  We actually ended up basically splitting into two groups because we were so slow.  It kind of sucks--OK, it flat out sucks--to always be the slow one, but I keep reminding myself that I'm not going to get any faster sitting on the couch.  It's so much easier physically to go fast on a bike than running, but mentally it's hard for me because I still have a lot of fear.  Hopefully that'll improve as my skills do.

Like I said, though, this trail was a great place to start.  There were twists, turns, some narrow spots, and some hills, but it's nothing major or too tricky.  I started out slow, but I gradually got a little more confident.  I did notice that, in contrast to the last couple times I've been on my bike, I wasn't oversteering.  Baby steps.  I was also riding the brakes in a big way.  I get nervous on corners, on downhills, near trees, etc., and my first reaction is always to brake.  One of the things I tried to work on was breaking out of my unhealthy attachment to going slowly.  By the end of that section, I at least managed to stay off the brakes on the downhills if it was pretty easy going ahead of me. 

After two loops of the trail, we headed (I walked my bike) down a steep, rocky hill towards the park's namesake cave. 

By this point, I was wishing I had on fewer layers.  It started out cool but warmed up pretty quickly.
After our cave stop, we got back on the bikes and rode across a small creek.  Well, most of us rode across the creek.  Kristy made it part way, hit a rock wrong, and toppled over.  Sadly, I didn't get the picture.  She laughed off her baptism and climbed back on the bike.  We had to ride a short distance up the park road to the Bluff Trail. 

The Bluff Trail (0.75 mile loop) is accessed via a climb up the park entrance road. Turn onto the trail at the end of the guardrail on the right. Bluff Trail offers the best technical features for the experienced rider. Several challenging rock gardens present themselves and the climb to the top is rewarded with a beautiful view of the Mississippi River Valley. In the winter months keep an eye out for Bald Eagles. (gorctrails.com)

While the first trail was akin to a bunny slope, this was something different altogether.  I did a little walking on this section, but nothing like what I would have done if I hadn't been with the group.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't even have attempted the first climb if I hadn't been with the group.  This section was much more technical.  Lots of rocks.  Watching other riders tackle the climbs and the terrain showed me it was possible and then showed me how to do it...more or less. 

Waiting for the next rider to tackle the hill
This climb, for example...no way would I have tried it alone.

Rode 2/3 of the way up this! :)
Ride this? Really?
But because I was with more skilled people and could watch them ride up it, I tried.  I actually made it to about where the first tree is on the right.  There was a similar rocky climb that I had to try a couple of different times to get most of the way up.  Definitely still a long way to go, but at least I'm making some progress. 

We finished riding that loop and then headed back the way we'd come.  That mean crossing two more small creeks (a definite theme for me this weekend, as you'll hear once I get my race report from today's trail half marathon written), and then a hike a bike back up that hill.

Feel the burn
Once at the top, we rode back to the trailhead.  I had fun popping over some low logs on the trail, but I'm noticing more and more how much harder it is to keep my feet on the pedals when riding rougher terrain.  I know I need to suck it up and go clipless, but I'm not quite there yet (chicken thing again). All in all, we were out on the trails for about two hours.  We didn't get in a ton of miles, but we got some great experience and had a wonderful time.  I'm already looking forward to April's ride.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Deuce--My first adventure (non)race

The internet is a funny thing.  Once upon a time, I happened upon a twitter link from Selene Yeager, Bicycling magazine's Fit Chick.  I folowed that link to Run Bitch Run, who writes some very entertaining race reports as well as posts from her life in general.  Blogsurfing from there, I noticed that a lot of running bloggers used Daily Mile to log their fitness activity and decided to do so as well.

Daily Mile led to me meeting Patrick, whose team's progress I then followed in the Berryman 36-hour, which got me hooked on the idea of doing an adventure race.  I roped my brother into the 2011 Berryman 12-hour, and as part of my Adventure Racing 101 plan, volunteered at the Castlewood 8-hour to see what it's all about.  My experience at that race led me searching out blog posts about it, and thus I came across Team Virtus.

The Virtus guys' posts were hilarious and just made me more excited about the whole adventure racing thing.   AND...they were planning to hold an adventure non-race in the near future, just the type of thing for a wannabe to get her feet wet (literally, as it turned out).  The date: Sunday, March 13.  I looked at my marathon training schedule, and the non-race fell the day after my first 20 mile run.  Ugh.  Now, maybe the smart thing to do would've been to choose one or the other.  But here's the thing, it's way too easy to start missing runs just because it's not convenient.  I mean, it's rarely convenient to take 4 hours to go run.  At the same time, the marathon's not my "A" goal for the year; the Berryman is.  So...both it was!

The race was about 2 hours and 15 min from my house, so I had planned to stay with my aunt and uncle in Columbia, which is 1/2 hour away.  If you read about my 20 mile run in the last blog post, though, you know it didn't go too smoothly.   After drying my tears, limping back home, and soaking in a (miraculous!) ice bath, I still wasn't packed and was on track to hit Columbia around 11.  Instead, I stayed at home and just left the next morning, which worked out fine.

I'll admit that I was a little worried how I'd feel in the morning after my long run, but I was pleasantly surprised (thanks again, ice).  The only bad thing was the nasty blisters on both feet.  I bandaged them up, took some ibuprofen, and gave myself until race time to limp.

Heading west (or left, if you want to get technical about it)
It was a beautiful, clear morning, but it was a little chilly.  I kept watching the temperature on the dashboard, waiting for it to start going up like it was supposed to, but it didn't move much.  Thanks to some last-minute clothing advice, I felt pretty comfortable with the layers I'd brought, but I still would've been glad to have a warm day.

Note: all remaining pictures courtesy of Team Virtus.  Thanks!
Race check-in
I had no problems finding the house, which guaranteed me at least one navigational success for the day.  I got to meet the other racers and volunteers, and then we waited to get started.  Luke happened to mention to everyone that I'd run 21 miles the day before, which I appreciated.  That way, if I handed in a lousy performance, maybe they'd have an idea that I might have done better under different circumstances.

Bob shows off the schwag and gives out directions
Technically, I was racing solo, but in actuality, Luke was along with me as guide/teacher since I have no map and compass navigation experience and their race day would be much longer if they had to rescue me from the woods.

"This is a map." 
Orienteering lesson 1: Know where you're going (duh).  Try to memorize the turns you have ahead and mentally bookmark distinctive features (collecting features) as cues so you don't have to keep checking your map.  But check your map if you need to; it's better to stop a minute and check than to ride off in the wrong direction (not naming any names here).

Directions given, packs fastened, and race about to begin, we all lined up at the starting scuff and took off.

Bob looks like he's doing the running of the bulls.

Already in last place...for the time being. :)
A lot of the roads were gravel.  Very fresh gravel, thanks to the crazy amount of rain we've gotten lately.  Since I don't have a lot of gravel-riding experience, I was a little intimidated in the beginning.  The combination of nerves and sluggish legs made for a slow start.  I guess like most anything you just need to get warmed up, but dragging so much early on was disappointingLuckily, I was confident that I had the female division locked up (being the only girl competing), so the only pressure was from myself.

Derrick, of Orange Lederhosen, shows off the stickers he "found"

Orienteering Lesson #2: Often, checkpoints will be found near distinctive features....

Clearly, that's not me, but it's a cool picture of the big tower near CP #1.

Orienteering Lesson 2a: ...but not always.

At CP#2, it was time to shed a layer.  The day was warmer, I was working harder...and my shirt matched my socks.

Grabbing a bite to eat
Surprising lesson #1: It's hard to eat enough on an adventure race.

At least, it was hard for me.  Luke was good about asking if I needed to eat, stop, whatever, but accessing my food was another matter.  I had stuck it in the top of my pack so it would be easily accessible, but that's only "easily accessible" to me if my pack is off my back.  Also, I haven't been riding this bike for very long yet, and I'm still getting used to the different body position/balance, so I wouldn't have felt comfortable eating while riding (something I have no problem with on my other bike).  A smarter move would've been to put some food in one of the side belt pockets

My bike and CP#2
Luke was really good at guiding me in using the map, which does not come naturally to me at all.  Thank goodness he's patient! It took me a while to get the map oriented correctly, and then to figure out where we were on the map and where we wanted to go.  Once I did, though, we were off again, the riding felt much better by that point...and it only got sweeter.

RD Bob stops by to tell us that we're in the lead.
The good thing about being fast is...you're fast.  The bad thing is that, if you get off track, you're going fast in the wrong direction.  One of the other teams missed the turn after CP#2, and the two other teams followed.  Sadly, everyone quickly passed us by again, but I enjoyed my brief, shining moment in first place.

After CP#3, we moved onto the singletrack.  Well, after the (first) creek crossing.

Someday, maybe I'll ride across this kind of thing.
I'm sure Luke was wondering just how long of a day he was in for once we hit the singletrack.  I had this great plan to get out after Christmas and ride.  I rode the local trails once by myself, and I did one group ride.  Every other organized ride I was supposed to do was cancelled due to the weather.  Well, we didn't get too far before we were walking (Luke was walking bc I was walking...I'm sure he'd have been fine on the trails).  Incidentally, among the participants, only our bikes and Derrick's made it through without mechanical issues, and in my case that probably was related to the amount of time the bike was walked rather than ridden!

Actually riding the bike
When we got to a flatter area, I managed to get some riding in, and of course the longer I rode the more comfortable I felt. I ended up riding some areas that were more technical than I've done before and coming through it unscathed. :)  Soooo much fun!

Great day to be riding!
This was definitely my favorite bike section.  My riding improved some, I tried some new things, and I had a blast.

This was a really cool area to ride through.

There was a cool mix of terrain in the race.  Gravel, trail, field/pasture...something for everyone.

CP #5 was also our first transition area and the mystery event.  For this event, we had to push a sled around a loop at the campground. Being a girl, I only had to push the sled, while the boys had to push it with additional weight.

Mystery event #1
I started off strong.  I believe my words were "This is easy!"  And then I got to the slight incline on the loop.  Why did I start off running again??  Let's just say my pace slowed considerably.  Then, while Luke took his turn pushing the sled, I grabbed some snacks (supplied by Bob's mom--thanks!!) and started checking the map for our next move.

Completely non-posed map check picture.
Incidentally, if you look at the picture you can see that half of my hair is in a braid and half isn't.  Somehow I lost a braid early on. You can further see that I have an extra ponytail holder around my wrist.  Who says just the Boy Scouts are prepared?

On to the trekking section.  I felt like I should run at least part of the time (new experience doing so with a pack, by the way), but my legs weren't in full agreement with the plan.  We ran some of the trail towards CP #6, but mostly just downhills...and that didn't last for long.  We found CP#6 with no problem (after I learned about the symbol for major power lines on the map), but #7 was more of a challenge.  We could either take the trail around a hill and then climb the hill to get to the CP, or we could go over the hill and get the CP from above.  I opted for the latter.

Rather than actually navigating to it (or near to it), though, I just went over the hill, which left me doing some searching until I found it.  I was trying hard not to look at Luke, since I knew that he knew where the CP was.  I think the clue was something like "rock outcropping".  Naturally, I guessed the wrong way first, so he had to follow me over there.  Eventually, I found the right spot.

It was comforting to know that it was too cold for snakes. :)
I was lucky to have a good teacher out there.  Luke gave me pointers to help me figure out what my options were, but he left me to make the decisions.  And, like any good teacher, he both seized those teachable moments and resisted the urge to give the answer when his student was baffled.

I'll admit that this is posed, but it's an exact replica of what I was doing right before he brought out the camera.
Baffled by things such as, is this the trail? After our second creek crossing (and keep in mind, I don't clip in, so my shoes had been wet the entire time.  It wasn't uncomfortable, and I'm not complaining...it's just something that comes into play later.), the trail crossed the road and we had to find it on the other side.  This turned out to be harder than one would expect.

We walked a bit down the road before we found the trail.  Or thought we did.  A sidenote here: because I was the one "competing" (or non-competing), Luke left me in the lead.  So if I say "we" did something dumb, you can assume it means "I" did something dumb and he followed me and helped me learn from my mistakes. Anyway, I got not very far down the trail when it pretty much disappeared.  I stopped and asked, "Is this the trail?"  He just looked at me: "I don't know.  Is it?"

Surprising lesson #2: It's great to have a coach, but it's hard not to have a partner. 

This isn't a knock on Luke.  He was doing exactly what he was there to do: give me the tools to be able to navigate on my own.  But the fact that he was doing that and that he knew the course meant I didn't have anyone to help make the decision.  He'd help me see what the options were ("You could go further or you could go back", "Look at your map.  Where's the creek on the map?"), but the decision was on me.  I can be very decisive when I think I know the right answer, but not so much when I'm not sure.  We decided to go back out to the road and look for the trail.

Speed demons

...where we saw Corey and Phil cruising back...

Map check!
...and Travis looking as confused as I was.  He had gone up my trail (non-trail...should've been perfect for a non-race), too, which ran into the actual trail and had circled to where we were.  We all headed back up that trail, Travis setting a smoking pace, and ran into Derrick, who'd hiked along the creekbed, at the next checkpoint.

We all hiked on to the next checkpoint where I learned another caveat to Orienteering Lesson 2.

Orienteering Lesson 2b: (Often, checkpoints will be found near distinctive features...) but not necessarily obvious ones.

The clue for this checkpoint was something like "creek deadfall".  I had learned my lesson about looking near lame little features like the rock that distracted me back at CP#7.  And in the creek was a big ol' tangle of deadfall that I just knew had to house our CP. 

Deadfall near creek...not in.
Or not.  Rats.  And I thought I was so smart.  Oh, well.  Once we had that CP, we had to get back to the transition area for the next bike leg.  We were all taking the gravel road back to the trail, and once we got to the road, Travis took off running.  Overachiever. :) I kind of thought I ought to run, too, but that thought didn't last long.

As we reached the creek, somehow it came up that Derrick had found a way to cross the creek without getting his feet wet.  Now, keep in mind these facts:
  1. My feet were already wet.
  2. My wet feet weren't bothering me at all.
  3. I kind of got a kick out of wading through the creek.
Despite all these facts, following Derrick across the dry-cut (because it certainly wasn't a short-cut), seemed like a good idea.

That's why they call me SuperKate...oh, wait...nobody calls me that. :)
I guess I assumed that it would be no problem to pick up the trail on the other side of the creek, but we crossed a ways down from the trail...and come to think of it, the trail took a sharp right after crossing the creek, and we were coming from the left.  Anyway, before long we were in a mess.

Orienteering lesson 3: Don't follow somebody else just because.

LOT of thorns in there.  My kids mocked my socks, but it's pretty clear which part of my legs were bare during the race!

Very welcoming terrain
Derrick bushwhacked over the hill, and Luke and I headed somewhat in the direction of the trail.  Eventually we came across an old farm road, which made the hike a bit less (literally) painful, but before long we were back to bushwhacking.

If you look carefully, you can see that there are little tree trunks all over.  Lots of branches to climb through.
We had a vague idea of where we were on the map, so we had to come up with a plan to get us to a location where we'd know where we were...or at least be able to get to a known place from there.

That section was mentally difficult for me.  I didn't know where to go or really where we were unless Luke showed me on the map where we'd come from.  I was definitely at that point where I just wanted to shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know.  Tell me where to go."  Of course, if you're out there on your own, that's not an option.

Using the compass to keep us headed in the correct direction (west, or right-ish, if you want to get technical about it), we eventually got to the power lines we'd used to navigate to CP#6.  What a great feeling to finally know where we were again! 

Orientation lesson #4: Known locations are golden.

I remember thinking, if not saying, that I was looking forward to getting back on the bike again.  Looking at the map, all we had to do was follow the trail to the next few CPs.  Easy!

See this trail marker?  I probably didn't.
I've never ridden across fields before.  Not a lot of trees on which to post trail blazes.  There were some places where it looked like there was maybe a trail, or maybe not.  We rode all over trying to find the trail, and if you notice from the picture, it's not exactly flat.  I did have one near fall/flying dismount coming through a muddy patch at the bottom of a hill...but it helped me remember to avoid the mud the next time I was at the bottom of the hill...and there was a next time.

We thought maybe we were in the right place, but it didn't look right, so we rode further.  Once again, there were power lines that crossed the trail.  Hmmm...that worked out pretty well for us in the past...we'll just follow the power lines until we get to the trail.  Great plan, except for the fact that we got about 20 feet and saw the fence that crossed our path.  Pretty sure that the fence was blocking off "the Pit", we decided to follow the fence around until we could get to the other side of the Pit and catch the trail.  And thus I was introduced to "bikewhacking"...bushwacking, while you drag your bike.  I really encountered a wide spectrum of adventure racing components!

View of part of the pit
At this point, I was worn out.  I'm sure Luke could tell a big difference because we went from lots of conversation to near dead silence.  I was sore, and I didn't have a whole lot of energy to talk (I know that people who know me in real life will have a hard time believing that); I was just hanging on and trying to push through.  I was also starting to think about the time.  I knew we had about an hour's ride back at the end, and I had a 2+ hour drive home.  I really wanted to do the orienteering leg that was coming up, both for the experience and because the guys had gone to a lot of time and effort to set it up.  Eventually, though, I asked if he'd mind heading back after we got the last couple of bike CPs and did mystery event #2.

A funny thing happened on the way there.  We came to a spot where we had to make a decision which way to turn.  I just looked at Luke; for a second, I knew he was going to tell me to get out my map.  I was so done, which must've been obvious, because he just told me which way to go.  And then he assessed a 4-hour penalty on me since he helped me.  Which led to a discussion of what a penalty consists of in a non-race.  Is it a non-penalty since it's a non-race? Do I actually get a 4-hour credit?  Why didn't I think of this earlier?  If I DNF a non-race is it a non-DNF?  Can you non-non finish?  Does that mean you're already done?  Double negatives are fun.

Honestly, I can't believe I'm smiling here.  It just shows what a camera whore I am.
Getting to the site of the mystery event we encountered an unexpected challenge.  Riding down the trail, we came across a big tree across the trail.  OK, no big deal, we'll just go around it.  Except that, on the other side, was a mess of trees that had been cut down.  They smelled wonderful, but they covered a big section of our trail.  I took a picture, but somehow I didn't get the trees.  Oh, well.

Coming down the hill to the event.  Who's in the back?  Me.  Bc I'm still a wimp on hills.
Ah...mystery event #2.  What a joy it was.  Derrick made it look so easy.

Derrick, setting the bar high.
"All" you had to do was get into the raft and pull yourself along the rope to the CP in the middle of the pond.

I look like I'm about to take on water.
Getting into the boat was the hardest part.  Derrick apparently sat on his feet.  Well, I ran 21 miles the day before, and my knees were having none of that.  In addition, apparently unlike an inner tube, the boat has a front and a back.  Information that would've been helpful before I climbed into the boat.  Thanks, guys!  Luckily, despite the sinking (get it? sinking) feeling that my butt was going to be submerged before I got across, I stayed dry and reached the other side without incident.  And got a Snickers out of the deal, so it was well worth it!

Darin, who spent a looooong day sitting outside in the cold (and helped me get out of the boat).  Thanks!!
Darin told us some ugly weather was supposed to be heading in, which just reinforced the idea of calling it a day.  We also got the news that the two other teams had dropped out due to mechanical issues.  It was down to Derrick and me.

You'll note that I waited until after the boat ride to change into my warmer clothes...just in case.
Sooo...ten miles of mostly gravel roads back...let's do this.

Ummm...let's do this...after we get up the hill
It's getting late.  It's going to be getting dark.  So yeah....let's walk the bike.  I had nothing for those first couple of hills.  I was pretty much at my limit.  Again, I've very thankful to have had such a patient partner.  On the plus side, the gravel wasn't quite as scary as it had been earlier (either that, or the thought of an accident and an ambulance ride wasn't such an unpleasant possibility by then. :D).  On the minus side...ten miles.  That was a lot after the day. 

And then the wind kicked up.  Oh, joy.  Thankfully, at that point, Luke pulled around to break (the) wind.  Oh, what a difference drafting makes!!  Really, I can't thank him enough for that help because for quite a while then I could just hang onto his wheel and focus on pedaling. 

By the time we got back it was dark.
Darin drove by to check on us a time or two while we rode back.  Eventually we got onto the paved road near Bob's house.  For a moment, it looked like Derrick was going to pass the street and give me a chance to come in first, but his navigation was spot on.  Darn the luck.  I finished second overall, first place female.  (Also, last overall, last place female, depending on how you want to spin it.)

I love my bike, but I was soooo glad to be off of it.
But I finished, about 9 1/2 hours after I started.  I can't say enough nice things about the Team Virtus guys (and their families and friends who volunteered).  Not only did they go to all the work of setting up the race (and supplying some sweet schwag!), but they volunteered.  It's one thing to spend the day outside competing; it's another to spend the day outside worrying about details, babysitting a newbie, and waiting on people to finish.  And supplying food at the end!  Thanks so much to all of you!! 

I've already been thinking a lot about things I could've done better.  Of course, a lot of it is just experience.
  1. Pack my food in an easily accessible place.
  2. Not run 21 miles the day before.
  3. Don't follow other people (I'm guessing I'm going to learn this lesson a lot more)
  4. Ride more hills so they don't kick my butt.
  5. Get out and do more orienteering and bike riding.
At the end of the day, I took home a sweet beaver stick (Sounds like something dirty, but it's a hiking stick!!), a floor pump to replace the one I don't have, a pair of arm warmers, three baked potatoes (on the inside), some new friends, some great experience, and some fantastic memories!  Oh, and even more respect for what adventure racers do in their events.  And excitement about doing it again.

Best. bling. ever.