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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in review

Quick stats:

Total races: 21
  • Orienteering: 3
  • Running: 7 (2 virtual races)
  • Biking: 6
  • Duathlon: 1
  • Adventure races: 4
  • Volunteering: 6
  • Night bike rides: 5
  • Times crying during night bike rides: 2
  • Races my family watched: 1.5
New things for 2012: cyclocross, high ropes (rappelling and ascending)

Repeat races: Castlewood Cup 15K, Tour de Donut, Berryman 12hr, Skippo 30K, PMETR

New to me races: LBL Challenge 24hr AR, Tracks n Treads offroad duathlon, Dirty Kanza, Indian Camp Creek 12hr mtb race, Kicks in the Sticks trail race, Thunder Rolls 24hr AR, Prison Break, Perfect 10 rogaine, Wild Track Bikes Superprestige cyclocross, and Bubba cyclocross.


Berryman post-ride

January: 2012 got off to a great start.  I'd registered on New Year's Day for Double Chubb, my first 50K race, so I was doing a lot of running, including an icy outing that was my entry in Adam's Freeze Your Thorns Off virtual race.  I also had my first solo attempt in an orienteering meet; it...uhhh...didn't go so well (tears were involved), but I will likely not forget the lesson I learned that day.  The peak experience of January, though, had to be the beginning of a great new tradition: the MLK weekend Berryman ride.  What started as a chance to get outside and ride snowballed into an event when nearly 30 people showed up on a cold, snowy morning to ride, BBQ, drink, and discover the magic of grilled cookies.  I had a blast and met a bunch of cool (way faster than me) people.

Hitting the finish line at the Castlewood Cup

February: The good times on the bike contined with the SuperCentury, a virtual group metric century trainer ride.  It was actually pretty terrible, since it was basically my first time on my road bike since the previous summer, but sharing the pain via Facebook and twitter (where #supercentury was trending for a while in the St. Louis area) made it bearable.  February's highlight had to be finally beating my nemesis in the Castlewood Cup 15K. He'd started a minute ahead of me, so when I finally caught up and passed him two miles before the finish, it was glorious.  I thoroughly enjoyed gloating.

Ready to take on the LBL Challenge

March: This was a month of firsts.  I kept up my running in March but also spent some time on the bike with my first trip to Middlefork with my very patient friend Sarah (not quite sure how it happened, but this was my first time mountain biking since mid-January, and I was out of shape and ruuuuussssssty) and my first gravel grinder, a 50-mile ride with Team Virtus.  The biggest story of March, though, was definitely my first race as an official Team Virtus member...at the LBL Challenge, my first 24-hour adventure race.  A week later, I raced for the first time in Team Godzilla's Tracks'n'Treads offroad duathlon, where I got my first-ever 2nd place AG award.

On the course with Chuck
April: In the midst of all that March fun I made a big decision and dropped Double Chubb from my schedule. The way the training load infringed on all the other things I wanted to do was an issue, but the death knell rang when Team Virtus scheduled their non-race, Carnage at the Creek (the CAC) for the same day.  I'm not typically a quitter, but that was the right decision.  The CAC was a fantastic experience, well worth the $50 entry fee I ate in order to be there.  The race, as well as the before/after camping with many of the participants, was a highlight of my year.  As, of course, was getting to meet the men of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Dave of Tardy Rooster.

Getting ready to ride East on the Katy

May: Thanks to a last-minute opening in Dirty Kanza and my sheeplike inablity to resist the lure of my friends' adventures, I ended up registering for a 200-mile gravel race with barely a month to train.  Thanks to the generosity of Monster Bicycle Co, I had the use of a sweet titanium frame bike for the race, and pretty much every spare moment in May was spent getting acquainted and logging miles, 76 of them on the last day of my friend Patrick's Cycle100+ event.  I had a blast riding a chunk of the Katy Trail with some good friends, and getting to be there for Patrick's finale was pretty cool.  Cramming in miles was no small trick, though, in a month where I was wrapping up another school year, preparing to celebrate my second child's high school graduation, and officiating at my cousin's wedding.  Those were some seriously full weekends.
Somehwhere on the Dirty Kanza course

June: All about the bike.  I scored my first ever DNF at Dirty Kanza, riding 160 of the 200 mile race and far surpassing any realistic expectations I had for myself.  It was beautiful and terrible and epic and miserable, and I haven't stopped thinking about going back since we left Kansas.  Two weeks later, I rode in the Indian Camp Creek 12-hour mountain bike race, primarily as a training ride.  72 miles of singletrack later I was the third place finisher, but don't be too impressed because there were only three of us in my division.

Donut stop on the Tour de Donut
July: I rode again in the Tour de Donut, where I set a PR and successfully executed my race strategy (basically, find somebody to draft off of and stay there) for the majority of the race before being slowed by a hip/glute issue that has plagued me since and missing my goal of placing in my AG.  My family travelled to Hannibal, MO, for a mud volleyball tournament, and Jeff and J joined me at another orienteering meet.  The biggest story of July, though, was Bob's loss in the Speedo bet

Team picture at Thunder Rolls
August: I completed the summer edition of Adam's virtual race series, the Sweat Your Thorns Off 5K, but running a rainy 20K and chafing my Body Glide-less thighs into hamburger.  Ow.  A week later, semi-healed and sporting compression shorts under my running shorts, I drove to Jefferson City for Kicks in the Sticks, a fun trail race.  The evening start time was great for the after-party but not so awesome since it was really stinking hot.  The very coolest part of August, though, was the Thunder Rolls 24-hour adventure race with Bob and Luke.  I got to meet a ton of cool people, hike in a river, and experience my first rappel and ascent with ropes.  Having the opportunity to stay at the race HQ the night after the race was fantastic, too.  I loved getting to hang out with people longer, and it was very much like being at summer camp as a grownup.

Just finished with the mud pit at the Prison Break
September: I volunteered at some cyclocross races and inched closer to working up the nerve to actually race, broke out of prison in one of the fun-ner races I've had (thanks to the fantastic company), and returned to the Berryman Adventure Race 12-hour, where my brother and I finished before the time cut-off and avoided being disqualified again this year.

My first muddy CX experience (Photo credit: Mike Dawson)
October: This was the month where I finally entered a cyclocross race.  It was so hard...and so fun. I got a little hooked, despite never finishing better than second last in the three October CX races I did.  Also this month I headed to Lake of the Ozarks with Luke and Bob for the Perfect 10, a 10-hour orienteering race.  Getting to follow along on my own map was valuable experience, though I'm still a long was from being a competent navigator.  I also headed back to the Katy Trail, riding 100 miles over 2 days with a group of friends.  Good times.

CX at Sylvan Springs park (Photo credit: Dan Singer)
November: I entered one final cyclocross race, but my big race this month was the Skippo 30K, where I finally got to meet the fabulous Hannah.  I went into it with very little running in the previous month and ended with a personal worst time, but the first 20K was actually surprisingly good.  Pretty much the remainder of November was spent being sick, though, which left me even less trained for the next month....
Closing in on the finish at Pere Marquette and totally faking a smile (photo credit: Cheri Becker)

December:  I ended up volunteering rather than racing the Castlewood 8-Hour adventure race and had a blast hanging out in the woods talking to all the racers and getting to know my partner.  It's too bad that I love racing so much, because volunteering is so much fun and way cheapter! The next weekend was the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Race, where I managed to finish only 2 minutes off my PR despite feeling like I was going to die pretty much the whole time.  Turns out not training adversely affects performance.  Who knew.

Some details:

Bloggers met:

After reading their blog, it was cool to meet the Hoosier Daddies in person at the MLK ride...especially when Justin came bearing gifts!

Bobbi came to meet me while I was in Chicago for one of Nathan's volleyball tournaments.
Tori also ran at Tracks n' Treads and we got to visit before the race.

Some of the CAC crew, with Brian and Todd in the middle
Brian and Todd (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) and Dave and Tim(e) (Tardy Rooster) were just as cool in person as online, and it was even more fun to pick on them in person at the CAC and then Thunder Rolls, where I also got to meet Dave's better half, Leisha.

Pensive Pumpkin was in town (well, in the bistate area, anyway) for a wedding, so I met her and her husband for lunch, where after he ascertained that I probably wasn't going to chop her into little pieces he left us to our girl talk.

Christina combined her first gravel ride with her longest ride ever at that point...and rocked it!

Hannah ran the Skippo 20K and we got to hang out before the race. So fun to get to know her in person!

Biggest Leaps:

1) Registering for Dirty Kanza was probably the biggest leap I made in 2012.  It's a crazy long race for me anyway, but to sign up with virtually no time to train or chance of finishing was...well...crazy.  Especially because this isn't some race where you have aid stations every few miles.  You're out in the middle of the Flint Hills with no support but other racers (if you can keep up with them) or your crew (but only if you want to quit...and even then, only if you can get a cell phone signal).

2) Literally, my biggest leap was my first rappel during Thunder Rolls.  I'm really afraid of heights, so it's good that my first experience with rappelling was in a race...at night...with hornets flying around...and a free fall.  It was so cool.  I'm hoping to be able to go to adventure camp and getting some actual training before the next race, though.

About to rappel for the first time.

Worst moments:

1) Hanging halfway up the ascending wall during Thunder Rolls and feeling like I couldn't possibly drag my body up any further.  Bob swears that if I'd had a knife I'd have cut myself free.  I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have happened, but just in case I'm not carrying any knives next time I try.

2) Walking my bike at midnight in Kansas after falling and hurting my knee.  I kept hearing noises in the grass all around me and was *this close* to freaking out.  Instead, I just cried.

3) Riding the last lap at Indian Camp Creek.  It was dark, my headlamp was way too dim to help, and I'd fallen AGAIN on the elbow I'd banged earlier in the race.  I walked a ton of stuff, took forever to ride the 8-mile loop, and the organizers were actually sending people out looking for me.  Not one of my prouder memories, but I finished.  And cried. :)

Worst race: The January orienteering meet at Babler Park, where I was never in the right place.  Incredibly frustrating because I didn't know what I was doing wrong.  By the time I made it back to the start, I handed my passport to the organizers and barely made it to my car before I started (you guessed it) crying.  On the way home, though, I figured out the dumb mistake I'd made, and then it was all good.

Best moments:

1) Having a BLAST at LBL and feeling strong throughout the race.

2) Beating Wade at the Castlewood Cup.

3) Hanging out with friends before/after the CAC and Thunder Rolls.

4) Sliding down the big hill at the CAC

So fun

Weirdest moment:

"Winning" the CAC. (3-way tie, but still...)  I'd gotten entangled in several bets about who was going to beat whom, and it was just weird to be part of the group that came in first.  It was way less fun to talk shit when we'd won (and yes, the only reason I was part of the winners is because I'd teamed with Chuck, who's an awesome navigator). 

"I wanted to be in the movies, but not this movie" moment: The Tracker Jacker attack at Thunder Rolls.  Let's just say that I'm not a fan of yellow jackets.


My souvenier from Indian Camp Creek
 1) Knee - falling on sidewalk during a Valentine's Day run
2) Twisted knee - falling at Dirty Kanza
3) Elbow - falling at Indian Camp Creek 12 hr
4) Yellow jacket stings - Thunder Rolls
5) Hip/glute - ongoing.....

Best support crews:

Becca, Michelle, Casey, Austin, Emma, and Crystal at Dirty Kanza and Lori at Indian Camp Creek.  Seriously, I don't know how I'd have done either race without all their help.  I couldn't have asked for anyone better, and while you might kind of expect your own spouse to step up and help you out, you don't expect other peoples' spouses to do that for you...which makes it even sweeter when they do.  I feel lucky that my adventure racing friendships include all these guys. 

2012 "Longest"s:
  • Longest ride: 160 miles at Dirty Kanza
  • Longest run: 18.6 miles at the Skippo
  • Longest time racing: 28 hours at LBL
  • Longest time on foot: 10 hours at the Perfect 10.
Looking back at the year has been really fun.  Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things wrong or not great in my life.  I think that's probably true for everyone.  But I'm happy.  It's a good life and was a great year, and I'm really excited to see what 2013 has in store for me.

Happy New Year to you all! Thanks for being a part of my journey, and thank you for sharing your lives through your blogs. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stopping by...

Hi there, neglected blog. It's been a while. Lots going on, little time to write about it...


 We had family pictures taken over Thanksgiving. While I often dislike pictures of myself, I love theyse. Sadly, they're the first "official" family pictures we've had since Daniel and Nathan were 5 and 4.

 Christmas vacation or not, life has been busy. After my hellish run with Luke, Bob, and Christina, I promised to get to the dr and get my hip figured out. I didn't actually do that, but I did go running at Lost Valley with Patrick, Chuck, and Val. Not the best decision, since my hip was a little achy when I got up, but I figured I'd just run 5 or 6 and then wait while they finished up 12. Um...yeah, that didn't happen. I ran 9.5 wonderful miles and then limped through the last 3. Darn loop routes. :) But...Val and Patrick told me about a couple of stretches that seem to have really helped, and it was my first double-digit run since early Nov.

 I've spent a couple hours biking our local singletrack, once with Patrick and once with my sister-in-law. I think my last time mountain biking was back in September, so it was really fun to get out on the trails again. Our trails are pretty tame, but I'm finally feeling a little more confident on them. Yea! I made it back out to Marquette Park to play tour guide of the Pere Marquette race route. Even running a relaxed pace and stopping to clear downed branches from the trail our time was only 10 min off my race time, and I felt MUCH better than I did at the race. Yea again.


 We had all the boys with us for Christmas morning, which was wonderful. Usually we alternate where the older boys are for Christmas (us or their dad), but this year they worked it out so they could be everywhere. Santa was very good to us. My gifts had a definite fitness theme, and I'm particularly excited about my new headlamp. Hopefully it means far fewer tears on nighttime singletrack rides. :)


 Nathan moves into his dorm next week, which is sad and exciting. Hopefully he learned his lesson when he barely squeaked out of high school so college is a smoother process.

 A couple weeks ago I was featured on my friend Patrick's blog "Who Is..." series, where he's gotten his adventure-minded friends to write about themselves. You can check out Who Is...SuperKate as well as read about people living much bigger adventures. The beauty of adventure, though, is it doesn't always have to come packaged in an epic expedition. Sometimes it's just taking a different way across the hillside.


I'm hoping to eventually get together a year in review type of post, but for now I'm really just looking forward to what the next year has in store. January is starting things off with a bang with literally every single weekend full of blogworthy fun. I can't wait! :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Jingle Bell Hell

My new dedication to training coincided perfectly with XLMIC's Jingle Bell Hell virtual race, but I couldn't have missed this year's event, seeing as I had to defend my status as last year's "close runner-up".  Heck, this year I even ran the race, despite the fact that XL neglected to close the loophole that let me bike my Jingle Bell Hell last year (I just went back and re-read that report.  You should, too.  It's pretty funny).

2011 results!

The Rules:
  • Must be at least 5K in total length...no maximum.
  • Must be done on a challenging course (and if you hate treadmills, that means it could be on a treadmill) because the idea is "Hell" ... that is the important part.

I didn't really have any plans as to where I was going to run until I hopped on facebook Friday during my lunch.

I've run once at Binder Park and mountain biked there a couple of times.  It's a great place, plus I'd be running with at least one of my teammates.  Hmmm...that doesn't sound too hellish, does it?  Well, it's also 2.5 hours away, which explains my "probably not".  By Friday night, though, I'd talked myself into going.  After all, I'd driven that far for 7.5 and 5 mile races, why not a 13 mile trail run?

  • Must be done between Dec. 8-16, 2011... any time of day or night. This gives you two entire weekends to choose from.
On the morning of December 16, I rolled out of bed at 4:15 a.m. so I could get my stuff together and make it to Jefferson City.  Hell? Nope, I'd gotten a decent amount of sleep and the foggy roads were really pretty.

The temperature dropped about 13 degrees between my house and Binder, but it was still a comfortable 40 when I got there.  Luke and I had just gotten out of our cars when Bob pulled up.  Sweet! Running great trails with two of my favorite people.  Hell? No way, but it was guaranteed to be a good time.
  • You must laugh at least once... can be an evil laugh, a laugh of futility, any kind of laugh but laughter is a MUST.
It's impossible to spend any amount of time with Luke and Bob without laughing your ass off.  I can't actually think of anything I can repeat, though.  You'll just have to take my word for it.

Drink break
The first 6 miles were pretty awesome.  The trails were great, Luke was setting the perfect pace, the guys noticed I've lost weight, and I felt good.  This was particularly nice after struggling so much in my last race.  We stopped for a drink, hung out and talked for a while (like usual, we need to work on our transitions :D), and then set off on a new-to-me section of trail.  Continuing awesomeness...until about halfway through this loop when my hip started complaining.  Luke and Bob had gone ahead of me, so I took it slow and tried to just run through it.

We stopped again at the bridge to drink and talk (maybe we'd transition faster if we liked each other less ;-D), then Bob headed back to his car (after what I think was his longest run ever...which he rocked).  I briefly thought about going with him, but we'd only run 7 miles and I'd driven all that way for 13.  Instead of playing it smart, I followed Luke to the yellow section.

I did all of my half marathon training and all but one of my marathon training runs alone and was fine with that, but now I'm really spoiled by having friends to run with.  Even with the good company, conversation, and Luke's talk about Scott Jurek winning a 100 (100+?) mile race after destroying his ankle at mile 45, though, I couldn't maintain a decent pace.  I was inspired, but my hip was not impressed.  We walked a little bit, but that was just as bad, so again I tried to push through it.  Running flats and uphills hurt, but running downhills was terrible.  Hell? Well, definitely Jingle Bell Hell.

Christina had finished kid duties and caught up with us towards the middle of this loop.  Hearing her call to us, we paused so she could catch up.  Getting started again hurt enough to take my breath away.  Since Luke needed to finish his run so he could get to work on time and I was going to be moving sloooowly, I told Luke and Christina to go ahead and I'd just walk the shortcut. 
Like at Skippo, I told myself to just run 100 steps and then walk again, but on my first attempt I made it about 4 steps.  The second I made it 36, but it just hurt too much and I walked the rest of the way.  "Walked" is actually very generous; what's slower than walking? My 8th mile, which may have included the time I was still trying to run with Luke, took 27 minutes.  The last .69 mile took 29 minutes...a smoking 43 min/mi pace, and it was truly all I could do to keep moving.

Right up close to the lake.
With no company, I distracted myself by imagining riding the trail on my mountain bike.  As nervous as I'm sure I'd be riding this close to the lake, I was dying to try it out.  I'm sure I'll feel differently when I'm there on my bike again. :)  The trail kicked back out onto the road, and I started hobbling back to the bridge where the drinks were, dreading the thought of the long walk back to my car.  "Luckily" Christina had fallen on the trail and twisted her ankle.  Rather than gimp her way through the last few miles (smart lady!), she offered me a ride back to my car.  My hero!

After catching up for a while in the nice, warm car (40 degrees is waaay colder when you're sweaty and walking than when you're running), I headed for home...via Walgreens, ibuprofen, and one of those adhesive chemical heating pads.  Here's a tip for you: don't stick those suckers on when you're standing if you plan to wear them while you're sitting. 

Jingle Bell Hell: definitely accomplished.  And worse than the hip that's still hurting, DNF-ing a virtual race, and ripping the skin off my ass with overly aggressive adhesive, is the frustration of having such a great place to run and such fantastic company...and not being able to do the whole run. 

On the plus side, I think it's finally convinced me to go to the doctor and try and get this figured out. It's getting a little embarrassing to keep limping into school on Monday mornings. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rule #1

After Saturday's race, I basically spent the rest of the night sulking.  I know that it makes no sense for nearly identical times to be a hard-earned victory one year and a colossal defeat the next, but like I said in my pity party blog post, I was content with my time.  I was just upset about how crappy I felt throughout the race.

Well, I hear you suggest, it's possible that actual training would improve your race experience, and of course that's right.  But just a month ago I ran a 30k with a similar lack of training, and while it's true that the last 6 miles hurt enough to make me whimper, that was because of my knee and troublesome butt muscle.  The running part was great. I'd actually enjoyed a pretty wonderful first 20k on a course that, despite its location, is no walk in the park.

The contrast between these two most recent races threw me.  How could I run 18.6 miles without training but not 7.8? Why did Pere Marquette feel so terrible? I'm pretty used to gutting things out on minimal training, so what changed that I'd long to quit not two miles into one of my favorite races? Eventually I realized that I'd almost completely neglected rule #1.

Ah, Zombieland. One of my favorites, despite a general distaste for my husband's beloved horror movies. And so very topical this week. When I started really thinking about the difference between my non-training for the two races, the light bulb went off.

While thanks to the Skippo I did do more running in this last non-training cycle than the first one, it was almost a month before the race.  Initially, in comparing training for these two races I'd only thought about running.  Only 12 miles pre-Skippo would make you think that the 21 before Pere Marquette was sufficient, if not ideal.  There were two big differences though.  First, my pre-Skippo miles were much more evenly spread out across the month.  Even more importantly, October featured a lot more time on the bike.

I've never found my running to help my biking, but I think that biking definitely boosts my running.  Other than the weekend of Oct. 21/22, none of the bike mileage was high, but I spent each of those 45-minute CX races at the edge of my endurance.  Though I'm sure the more regular running helped, I think the big difference was the cardio.  My body was used to working hard before the Skippo; in the month leading up to Pere Marquette it was used to...sitting on the couch.

Much like the way I was able to stop crying about my disasterous solo orienteering outing once I figured out my mistake, I'm not upset about the Pere Marquette now that  I understand why it felt so bad in comparison to the Skippo. And I have a new appreciation for the benefits of time on my bike.  I still intend to be more conscientious about my training from now on, but when I blow off a run so I can go mountain biking I'm going to feel a lot less guilty.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My own worst enemy

Today I went to one of my favorite races at a place I love and had what feels right now, at least, like the worst race of my life.  This is saying something, even just in terms of my three Pere Marquette races, since my very first outing here featured ankle deep mud and a smoking 18:09 min/mile pace over 7.8 miles.  This year wasn't my worst race in terms of results, which were acceptable --certainly better than I deserve.  Instead it was my worst race experience, something which had nothing to do with the venue, the organizers, or the race itself and everything to do with my head.

This is a beautiful drive in the fall.
It didn't start out that way.  I've been excited about the race and happily drove to Grafton in this morning's chilly fog.

After "helping" set up the start/finish line and then hanging out and visiting with friends in the great hall of the Lodge (though I think I missed about half my friends who were there), I headed towards the start line.  Though I left in plenty of time to make my wave, I still managed to miss my start when a couple guys, having seen so many Skippo shirts, asked me about the race.  I talked with them briefly and then turned to see my wave run off.  Oops.

Here you can see me realizing "Oops! I forgot to turn on my Garmin, " as I leave one wave late.

I jumped into the next wave, to the vast amusement of Jacob and Gary, and spent the first .25 mile turning on my Garmin.  While I'd been irritated about still having such a high wave assignment (19 as opposed to last year's 25), the first mile proved that I actually belonged further back.  As soon as the course started to climb I was dragging.  Jacob and Gary were long gone, Lo ran by with some encouraging words, and then person after person passed me with authority.

It was so demoralizing.  I tried telling myself that the first mile is always tough, it would get better after the first mile.  Of course, mile one ended up on one of the long hills, and it did not get better.

It doesn't look so terrible in the picture, but it goes on forever.
Being someone who makes a habit of running (or riding) races untrained, I'm used to not feeling great, but this was different.  I had to walk once briefly because of my knee and had minute or so when my hip was speaking up, but otherwise my legs behaved.  My breathing was really ragged, though, and I never got into a rhythm.  I wasn't having fun.  The day was gray, but the temperature was perfect for running.  It had rained the night before, but the majority of the trail had drained well.  While I recognized those things, I couldn't appreciate them.   Two miles in, I wanted to quit, but without any excuses I ran on, enveloped in my cloud of negativity.

One good thing about this year was that I was able to appreciate the downhills. There's a lot of up and down in this race, but typically all I focus on are the uphills. This year, the downhills were my saving grace.

I carried my own water, so I skipped the first two water stops (saying hi to Cheri and Judy) and passed a few people there.  Normally I'm not fast but I tend to get stronger as I go on.  By about the halfway point today, though, I was realizing I'd screwed up with food.  I'd had my usual almonds and coffee for breakfast and had also eaten a Clif bar about 40 minutes before the race.  Turns out that wasn't enough, and by the 4-mile mark I was teetering on the edge of a bonk.

At least I wasn't the only one struggling on the hills.
After struggling up the big hill after mile 4, we had a combination of downhill and flats.  I tried to talk advantage of the downhills but had to do a little walking on one gentle uphill.  In the distance I kept hearing a Tarzan yell.  Running again, I turned to a girl I was passing and muttered, "Somebody's having way more fun than me right now."

Tarzan had most welcome news: "There's a water stop ahead...and they have M&M's." His animation and good mood were contagious, and I smiled for the first time of the race as another Tarzan yell sounded behind me.  Those M&M's were a life saver! I grabbed a big handful and walked while I shoved them into my mouth.  I don't know whether it was the sugar or just a mental lift, but my running was a lot better after that.  "Better" being a very relative term.

Mile 6 crosses the park road between the Lodge and the visitor's center, and the cheers from spectators there were really nice.  JB, who'd finished an an hour, was standing there and asked if I wanted company.  "Yes, please!" He jumped in, started running, and asked what he could do to help.  Since carrying me would probably be considered cheating, I chose distraction.  I tried a little to hold up my end of the conversation but was too busy trying to breathe.

This stretch of the race features a steep hill followed by steep steps, and to add insult to injury there's more hill at the top of the steps.  "OK," JB coached, "When you get to the top of this hill it's all downhill and you're going to run the rest of the way in."  That's not exactly how it happened, but I did run most of the rest of the way.  While I have a lot of room for improvement, one area my running has improved is in going downhill.  I'm not flying down with abandon, but I've gained a lot more confidence and that paid off today.  I passed several people on the last downhill stretch.

Photo credit: Cheri Becker, who said, "Look super!"  I didn't manage super, but I was able to at least fake a smile.
The last third mile or so of the course is flat, which was much harder for me than the downhill.  My friend Jim was waiting where the course flattened out and ran with me the rest of the way.  His encouragement was a huge help because I was struggling to keep going and wanted the race OVER.  I wasn't even happy when I crossed the finish line, just relieved.

Couldn't even fake a smile this time.
Photo credit: Brent Newman
For anyone who's thinking, Hey dumbass, of course you weren't going to have a great race...you've run 3 miles since the November 10 Skippo race... you're exactly right.  And the thing is, I didn't expect a great race or really even a good race.  I knew I'd have a hard time.  I assumed I'd be lucky to finish within 10-20 minutes of last year's time.  And that was ok.  As long as I beat my 2010 nadir I'd be content.

Goal met. So why am I so unhappy?
Looking at the results, I'm honestly shocked that I was so close to last year's time.  I'm content with the results, but not with how I felt.  Always in the past, I've been happy to compete and just see what happened.  Today, for the first time, the cost of racing untrained outweighed the joy of racing.  It sucks to go out and feel like crap and know that you only have yourself to blame.  I keep learning and re-learning this lesson, and I told my friends today that I'm done with not training.  It might be badass to occasionally jump into something untrained, but to do it repeatedly is a bad habbit, and when it makes you unhappy it's just stupid.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2012 Castlewood 8-Hour volunteer report

I spent my oldest child's 20th birthday volunteering at the Castlewood 8-Hour adventure race.  I didn't even have to feel guilty about being gone all day since he was out of town visiting friends. My team had actually planned to race, but we encountered uncooperative work schedules...and didn't get around to signing up in time for early registration fees...and somehow registration closed without us ever signing up.  It didn't break my heart; I'd been invited to race with another team as well, and even though it would have been a blast I'd turned them down thinking if Virtus couldn't field a team I'd just volunteer.  My heart may have broken a little if BonkHard owners Gary and Ellen hadn't been able to use me, but thankfully they had a job for me.

I raced last year and really enjoyed the unseasonably warm temps in the 50's after volunteering in the previous year's 30 degree weather.  The 2012 edition of the 8-hour had even better weather, though.  I think the temperature started in the mid 50's and ended near 70.  It was a crazy nice day to spend sitting in the woods. I'd planned to get there plenty early so I could visit with all of my friends who were racing, but being me was lucky to pull in about a half hour before the race start.  I still had time to say hi to most everyone I knew (priorities, you know), and while it was a little nice to feel so relaxed about my day, I was also a little sad not to be racing.

ROCK Racing before the start
In addition to visiting with "real-life" friends, I also got to finally in-person meet some AR Facebook friends, including my friend Bethany who suprised me with an awesome gift.

I defy you to ever find a cooler race bib holder.
I had thought maybe I'd be paired up with my friend Emma, but instead I was working with someone I'd never met.  I wasn't worried about it at all, though, pretty much every adventure racer I've met is pretty awesomeOnce the racers took off, I met my partner, Dave, and we got the lowdown on our assignment from Gary and Ellen.  We were going to ride our bikes to a checkpoint on the bike leg where we were to punch teams' passports and hand them a map to a "surprise/bonus" orienteering leg.  Basically, the teams expected that they were just riding to a regular checkpoint, punching their passport, and moving on; instead, when they got to us they had to drop their bikes and take off on a short trekking leg.

The Pfast and the Pfurious on the first trekking leg (taken from my car as we drove).

More teams coming our way
We followed Gary to our spot, passing teams on the trekking leg as we drove.  Being somewhat navigationally challenged, I appreciated that Gary was leading us.  We had a short drive, then a 1ish mile bike ride.  The trails were pretty flat, which was a good thing because I was wearing my backpack (no big deal) and carrying the tote bag that had our volunteer paraphernalia in it (more difficult).  It was a pretty straightforward route, so I didn't pay much attention other than following Gary.

Our spot before the "storm"
You can't tell from the picture of our checkpoint (#21/40), but the trails surounded it.  Because it was such a beautiful day out, there were tons of people out on their bikes and we spent a lot of time answering questions about the race...no hardship, because the next best thing to adventure racing is talking about adventure racing. :)

Because our checkpoint was pretty early in the race it gave us the opportunity to see everyone racing and for me, at least, gave the chance to experience a much different side of the sport than I normally do. We're a pretty mid-pack team at best most days (at least when the guys race with me!), so it was really interesting to watch the way the top teams transitioned and interacted.

It was also a little stressful, too. Obviously the fastest teams are the first ones to arrive, so I wasn't in any kind of a rhythm when they got there. People who are truly racing to win don't seem to appreciate you fumbling with the punch and finding the correct box to punch at anything less than the speed of light.

The first teams were in and out of our checkpoint like lightning, grabbing food and eating on the go, some not bothering to change out of their bike shoes for the short (~2 mi) trek. Some were mighty abrupt with each other, too. I guess a combination of pressure, highly competitive people, and having raced together long enough to not tiptoe around each other will do that, but the middle of the pack sure feels friendlier!

Another shot of our area.  Teams coming from behind where I was standing, the trail to the right led to the o-course, and the trail to the left led uphill and away when teams finished their bonus map.
Of course, not everybody was crabby with each other, and almost no teams were grumpy with me.  Dave, who'd ridden off to deliver a message from Gary to some other volunteers, got back soon after the first teams left on their trek and took over the clipboard where we logged teams in (and, later, out) while I handled the passport punching and map distribution. The very first teams were in and out of transition so quickly that I forgot that I was also supposed to be taking pictures, so I did my best to make up for it after Dave got back.

Mark of team Kuat (makers of the best bike racks ever) transitioning.

Sadly, I didn't manage to get a picture of myself in the super flattering vest.
Our area is getting busier
Lots of friendly faces out there...

Joe and Bill of Iowa Wolfpack, who I never managed to get in the same picture (sorry!)

The Hoosier Daddies nemeses, the Knuckleheads
Emily and the Pfast and the Pfurious

Chuck and Patrick from ROCK Racing
Mapping the Miles
Vanessa and Cory do a quick map check.
3/4 of Orange Lederhosen...still the best kits I've ever seen
Trevor and Jerod
ROCK Racing girls
 As more and more teams made it to our checkpoint, Dave and I worried a little about making sure to get all the teams logged in and out (the information would be used later for splits), but we made a good team.  There was no shortage of conversation during lulls between teams, and it was fun to get to talk with the racers who were arriving.  They met the news of the additional o-leg with a variety of reactions, ranging from amused non-suprise from those who kind of expected something like it...to "ok, let's go"...to something like a grade schooler who just got assigned extra homework.

"No, no!" I'd tell them, "It's a BONUS, it's like more race for your money! Yea!!"

One of those teams came back and told me, "We were cursing your name for talking us into doing that leg...but we didn't know your name."

"Shelly," I told them.  "My name is Shelly."

"Damn you, Shelly!" they called as they rode away.

With as much as bikes cost, we were babysitting a lot of money out there!
Unfortuanately, I also talked the only other 4-woman team besides my ROCK Racing friends into getting a couple of the checkpoints on the bonus section.  I guess last year they'd missed the time cut-off and either been disqualified or lost too many CPs to the penalty, and this year they were determined to finish (shades of Jim and I at our two Berryman experiences).  Though they'd decided ahead of time to skip this section, I convinced them to go for a couple points.  They ended up finishing with the same number of CPs as my friends but a faster time.  If I'd kept my big mouth shut (OK, that rarely happens), my friends would have won their division. :( Sorry, guys!

Though Dave and I were meticulous about writing down teams and times to the point where it was a little comical (I'd say the number, he'd write it down, I'd ask, "Did you get team number XXX" at least once), we had a couple potential mistakes.  I mentioned this to Gary during one of his calls and he reassured me, "It's OK, you'll know when everyone is gone because there won't be any bikes left...make sure you don't count yours!"

So simple.  So smart.  And I was so completely oblivious to the fact until he said it.  Because one team had skipped the o-course without telling us and we'd missed signing another out, we might have been pretty confused without Gary's knowledge bomb.  As it was, eventually all the bikes were gone and our job was done.  We packed up, loaded up, got on our bikes...and promptly got lost.

Not super lost, but we didn't get straight back to our cars by any means and ended up having to jump onto the road rather than wander around longer on the bike trail.  Actually, it was a great day to spend some time wandering on the bike trails, but we had stuff to get back to race HQ and I was realizing anew the benefits of padded bike shorts over super thin running capris.  Despite our navigational challenges on the bike, Dave led us straight back to Castlewood, where I spent the rest of the afternoon eating pizza, visiting with friends, and writing down the numbers of teams as they finished.

All in all, a pretty nice way to spend the day.

The "best" picture of me from the day. I think I'm trying to catch the number of a team that just finished.  Incidentally, thanks to my "cherry chocolate" hair coloring, my sweatshirt more or less matched the highlights in my hair.