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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Prelude to war...the birth of a bet

Last weekend a little war went down at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, our own Virtus Civil War...teammate vs. teammate, brother against brother (granted, we don't need to be on separate teams for that particular matchup). The North and the South had Fort Sumter, but Team Virtus - Clydesdale Edition (Bob and Casey) and The REAL Team Virtus (Kate and Luke) fired our opening salvos across the internetz.

Picture the scene.  Three days after our return from Thunder Rolls, Team Virtus (and friends) gathered around our computers for the Virtus League fantasy football draft.  I skillfully parlayed my 9th position in the draft into a 10th-best grade (though I'm currently sitting in fourth place *pats self on back*), and after the draft closed conversation continued on Facebook.  In a remarkably short time, we had our next race planned and just as quickly were discussing the terms of the newest bet.  Houston, we have a (gambling) problem.

BJJ = Brazilian jiu jitsu (I had to ask).  "Regained" = Bonkhard'sPerfect 10 Rogaine

*Let the record show that having teams was Bob's idea...and he picked Casey ahead of me.
By the tenth comment, we have ourselves a bet, and Casey quickly begins angling for a handicap because he knows he's going to lose.


Casey suggests each teammate do half of the orienteering.  Being navigationally impaired, I don't like that idea...

Luke has to be up around 4 a.m. for work, so he goes to bed before the rest of us and wakes up the next morning to see what he's missed...

We set about figuring out the terms of the bet...

Basically, I refuse to agree to anything that involves eating gross food or cutting my hair.  Thankfully, nothing approaching the speedo bet ever comes up, but I'm prepared to turn that down on the grounds of being a first grade teacher.

We briefly get distracted by fantasy football talk, and Casey "autocorrects" my name from "Kage" to "Large" one too many times.

We discuss injuries (my gimpy knee from the fall at Thunder Rolls, Casey's torn hamstring) and grammar...

...and eventually return to terms of the bet...

We've already established that I'm not eating anything gross, but the ideas keep coming...
...and wow Casey with our facebook-assisted ESP before hitting on a winning idea...

We work on refining the terms...

...but are distracted by typos...
Don't miss that Casey just referred to Gerry "King of Pain" Voelliger as Ferry.  I'm sure he'll blame autocorrect for that, too, but if I were Gerry I'd have a special ascending wall set up just for Casey.
Casey believes the odds favor Luke and me; we disagree but still profess confidence...

Bob finishes washing his hair and finally joins the conversation with an idea of his own...which we promptly shoot down as impractical...

More ideas... 
...and more....

Our WTFAR friends Todd and Brian, caught in the conversation like unwilling spectators at a trainwreck, can hold their silence no longer...

It's true...Luke did admit that...sort of...because he'd lost a bet
Casey complains that Luke avoids racing with him, forgetting that Bob actually picked the teams....

I suggest that I must be the brother Luke always wanted since we've raced together several times, but am firmly put in my place...
...and we all have to get ready for work.

In the end, the terms of the bet were as follows: the losing team must perform a skit -- written by the winning team -- to be filmed and posted on the blog and youtube for eternal public humiliation.

Having a bet definitely motivated me to get out training more often, and I had a blast with all of the smack talk leading up to the race.  Neither Luke nor I were quite as confident as we let on, though.  Bob had been running pretty regularly, and Casey is a bit of a machine when he's determined.  We thought we could beat them, but we knew that anything could happen. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

National Adventure Days (Lite)

When my friends at ROCK Racing and the 100+ Project came up with the idea for National Adventure Day(s) (NADs for short), I thought it was brilliant.  Because NADs fall on October 12 and 13 -- between two big race weekends for me -- this year, I knew that in the interests of marital harmony my adventure(s) would have to be low on the "epic" scale and higher on the "close-to-home/still-leaves-time-for-family" scale.

But that's OK, because adventure doesn't necessarily have to be epic to be worthwhile.  For more proof of this, check out Alistair Humphreys and his very cool microadventure concept. Thanks to a combination of teacher institute and the Columbus Day holiday, I actually had a decent amount of time to work with and ended up with a weekend full of fun plans.  Unfortunately, things aren't always rainbows and unicorns and undeservedly good finish times, and this was one of those weekends where, despite plans coming together nicely, things didn't work out quite as I'd envisioned.

Friday: 13.5 miles on the Lewis and Clark trails

I didn't started out Friday with plans, but on my drive to work it occurred to me that my weekend was very bike heavy and with the Skippo 30K coming up in a month it would behoove me to do some actual running.  A quick Facebook plea for company got me a few "I wish"-es (thanks, Johann!) and a friend who was willing to ride circles around me on his bike while I suffered (thanks, Dave) but no running partners.  I headed towards home to run a lonely 14 miles on local trails, but fate took pity on me in the form of Mickey's cancelled meeting and instead I got to run at Lewis (8.2 miles) & Clark (5.3 miles).

My Garmin dropped a mile over the course of the run. Bad form, Garmin.

The distance was my idea. The location was my idea.  I've run those trails lots of times and love them, and I'm certainly capable of running 13 miles.  Despite all of this, the run was way harder than it should have been. Maybe it was the 84 degree temps, I can't explain it.  I drank plenty of water, I choked down two GU's, and I made it through the run, but by the time I was driving home I felt like I was going to throw up.

All I wanted to do when I got home was to lie down and go to bed.  Since I could hardly do that when I'd been gone until dark and was leaving early the next morning for several hours, I did some picking up, made supper, picked at my plate, then slept on the couch next to my guys while they watched Halloween movies. Quality family time.

Saturday: 30 miles of gravel

Jeff and Jacob have a Saturday morning tradition of going to yard sales, and right now that tradition is followed by Cub Scout popcorn sales.  That left me free until Jacob's flag football game at 2.  Even after 9+ hours of sleep, I was still exhausted from the previous day's run, but I met Mickey and Jeff A. so they could break in their new cross bikes on gravel.  Surely I'd perk up once I was riding.  Typically I can't keep up on downhills (because I'm a chicken) or uphills (because I'm not as strong) but can maintain a decent pace on flat terrain.  Instead I struggled to maintain a 13-14 mph pace on the flat Katy Trail, and when the guys rode up Matson Hill I opted for a snack and a brief nap on the bench.

My resting place...but not my eternal resting place, because all to soon they were back
I basically felt like I was riding through sand all day long.  My legs were dead.  I don't remember ever feeling that bad on a bike...let alone on easy terrain.  It was a beautiful day, perfect riding weather, good company, and I was trying very hard to appreciate all these things while being frustrated and embarrassed by how weak I was.  My only mental saving grace was that both of these guys have at least ridden with me once before and know I'm not always so slow and wimpy.

We rode back through the doubletrack in Lost Valley and I made the guys stop to swing on the gate (it didn't take much arm twisting).  In my mind, road bikes may be for going fast, but gravel riding is for fun and adventure...and what could be more fun than swinging on an old rusty gate into a tree?

Sucking in AND cringing...look at me multitasking!

By the time we were back on the Hamburg trail (after walking the hill out of Lost Valley earlier than I ever have before), I was considering leaving early.  I felt bad skipping out so soon when we'd planned on riding 4 hours, but the guys could still ride.  Back at the cars, though, Jeff was feeling the effects of his recent intro to CrossFit and decided to head back home.  Somehow I got talked into continuing for another hour.

Hoping to eat my way out of whatever was wrong, I sat down with a slim jim and marathon bar.  We all stood around talking for a while and then Mickey warned me, "Your hour doesn't start until we're riding." Well, shoot...no use stalling any longer then.  We headed off to Busch Wildlife.

This was another of my brilliant ideas.  Busch Wildlife has lakes and some hills and a couple short stretches of singletrack and is infinitely more fun to ride than the flat Katy Trail.  Well, unless your legs are lead weights and breathing feels like way too much work.  We'd ride downhill and I'd almost forget how crappy I felt, but as soon as we hit an incline it was back to the death march. Ugly.

The longer I stand here and stall, the less I'll have to ride...
I was enjoying the ride as much as possible while simultaneously watching the clock on my Garmin like a hawk, and my peppiest moment of the day may have been the final stretch back to the car.  

I was so tired.  A short nap before Jacob's football game helped, but even sitting at the field left me out of breath.  Jeff kept feeling my head to see if I was sick, and in the end we opted to skip the planned family trip to Six Flags.  Well, I was going to skip it, and Jacob didn't want to go without me...something that both made me feel good and bad at the same time.  The guys put up Halloween decorations, and I slept.  We ate supper, then I slept, waking up the next morning for long enough to cancel my Sunday plans and go back to sleep.

Sunday: 40 miles of gravel and mountain bike trails  Sleep

Chuck, Robin, and some friends were riding a Triple Crown, riding to and at three different parks. I've been spending a lot more time on my mountain bike, so I was really looking forward to trying out my improved skills/comfort level on some other trails.  Instead, we picked up most of what we need for our family Halloween costumes and I slept a lot while the guys watched football.  I was bummed to miss out on my mountain biking plans but consoled by the fact that Jacob and I were riding trails the next day.

Monday: Broemmelsiek Trail parking lot

After last weekend's Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day, Jacob wanted to go back to Broemmelsiek and ride the trails some more, so we loaded up Monday morning and made the hour drive to St. Charles County (for the third time in four days).  I wasn't excited about burning more gas, but I was thrilled that my little boy wanted to ride trails.
Expectation vs. reality
When we got there, he wanted to warm up in the parking lot, so we rode around and played followed the leader (he, of course, was the leader).  After nearly a mile of parking lot circles, he was ready to hit the trails. He did great.  I love watching his confidence grow on trails!

We rode one lap (~ 1 mile), and then he wanted to go back to ride more in the parking lot. So that's what we did.  For basically the rest of our time.  We played follow the leader for a while, we raced two laps around the parking lot, and then I worked on bunny hopping and riding "switchbacks" with the parking lot stripes while he rode around.

Not exactly the day I had planned, but I took a couple of deep breaths and realized it doesn't always have to be my way.  We were outside, on a beautiful day, riding bikes together.  Complaining would be flat out ungrateful.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

Gee...I imagine you've been thinking...with all Kate's recent talk of half marathons and lousy training and dominating the basement of cyclocross standings, it's been ages since she talked about riding bikes with her kid.  Well, wait no longer.

Saturday, October 5, was designated by IMBA to be Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.  TAKMBD events were held all over the country, including locally here in St. Charles, MO.  It's never worked out for me to take Jacob (and he's never shown any interest), but this year he miraculously had no sports scheduled for the day and was interested in going.

It was fun to pull up at the park and see lots of bike friends there volunteering or with their kids: Sarah and Luke, Jim and Wendy, Dave/Jim and his daughter Amber, Chris and her son...and whoever else I'm not thinking of now. The kids all got nice swag bags with a water bottle, a raffle ticket, some cool IMBA stickers, and a kids' Clif bar, then there were mechanics to do a safety check on the bikes.  Once that was done, the kids had a series of stations (manned by volunteers) where they could practice various handling skills.

Jacob wasn't all that excited about the skills stations; he just wanted to do the trail ride.

Weaving in and out of "trees" - no problem!

The section below was "fun".  On his first try, he rode off the board and was near tears.  I pointed out quietly that no one else was clearing it on their first try either and he eventually took another go at it with a longer start before hitting the board.  He made it a little further before slipping off again.  Finally on the third attempt he cleared the board, visibly proud and relieved.
Riding skinnies
Next up was riding over logs, and I guess I didn't take a picture of that.  It took him two tries to clear all three logs, and he opted to skip a series of larger logs.

Even though his momma gets nervous every time she rides on a bridge, Jacob had no fear riding over the practice ones at the park.

No problem!
The last station was the teeter totters.  He wasn't nervous about these at all because we built and practiced teeter totters in our back yard this summer.
Teeter totter action
Once we finished with the stations, we had a while to wait for the next trail ride, so Jacob went back and rerode the teeter totters a bunch of times.  Talking to Steve, the volunteer at the teeter totters, I mentioned how nice it was to have people who knew what they were doing helping out the kids. "Well," he replied, "[Jacob] told me you'd already told him everything I had to say." =)  So if nothing else, the day was confirmation to my child that I'm not completely clueless.

Eventually, the sky started clouding over and sprinkling, so Jacob and I did our own ride so he didn't miss out on the one part he really wanted to do.  Even though Broemmelsiek's trails are considered beginner-friendly, I was a little worried as we rode onto the rocky terrain.  I shouldn't have been.  After a slightly shaky start, he did great, riding gravel creek crossings and some dips that made him nervous.  Better than that, he had a blast!

Cruising downhill
#mtb #takeakidmountainbikingday
Approaching a creek crossing
Took the turn a bit wide...the scenic route
We walked uphills where we had to (and established that my idea of a little hill and his are very different).  I kept him ahead of me for the majority of the time and talked him through what was coming next.  We stopped before the dip below because he was nervous about it (and it looks scarier in person than in the picture).  I offered to go through first and show him.  He still wasn't sure about it but gave it a try and sailed through like it was nothing.
Broemmelsiek #mtb #takeakidmountainbikingday
Conquering fears
"I want to come ride here again!" he told me as we rode.  We both would have loved to ride more laps, but Jeff was waiting at the car so we could head off to Six Flags, so we finished off our lap and headed to the parking lot.  Weather permitting, we've got another trail ride planned for Monday.

My little boy riding the trails at Broemmelsiek Park. #mtb #biking #takeakidmountainbikimgday

Huge thanks to all the organizers and volunteers! Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day was a great experience!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

MO' Cowbell Half Marathon

I ran my first half marathon back in 2010.  At the time, I'd been running for 8 months.  I trained faithfully, missing maybe one workout of the 14-week training plan, and was delighted when I met my pie-in-the-sky goal and finished in 1:58:37.

Not long after that, I joined our tri club and was consumed by the adventure side of things.  I did run one marathon, but the majority of my races since then have been off-road events.  Between the tougher terrain and so many new types of distraction from running, my average paces have rarely looked similar to the 9:03 pace at that first half.  Still, I've wondered if I could improve on that time, and when some friends decided to sign up for the MO' Cowbell, I decided to find out what I could do with solid training and three years' more experience.

Of course, the solid training didn't happen, but last Saturday's long run gave me hope that the half wouldn't be as disastrous as I'd feared.  Based on my ability to maintain a 11:46 pace over 12 miles of trails, I figured that 2:15 was a pretty likely finishing time, and given my recent lack of training I'd have been satisfied with that.  To be perfectly honest, I thought another sub-2 finish was an outside possibility but highly unlikely.

Packet pickup Friday was super smooth, and I finally scored the salted caramel GU I've been hearing so much about and picked up a foam roller.  The race shirt offered a woman's cut; it's cute and unlike most running shirts is actually long enough for me.  Unfortunately, it's white and see through.

I refused to post this on Facebook but I'm putting it on my blog.  I'm not sure what that says.  Anyway, I realize I won't be wearing it over an orange print dress, but still...
  Yeah, yeah, I got my bib for the MO Cowbell half, but the bigger news is I finally found @guenergylabs salted caramel!!MO Cowbell!

Jeff, Jacob, and I spent Saturday morning at Take a Kid Mountain Biking day (more on that later in the week) and then spent the afternoon at Six Flags.  Walking around an amusement park wasn't my first choice of what to do the day before a race, but I feel like I've barely seen my family lately. Besides, it's a little hypocritical to worry about walking around screwing up a race that I didn't bother to train well for anyway.  Luckily for me, the weather turned a little nasty, so we ended up getting home around 7:30 and I was in bed by 10.

Getting up at 4:30 sucks no matter when you go to bed, but since I had everything ready all I had to do was braid my hair and get dressed.  I still was slow getting out of the house, but the parking lot had lots of empty spaces when I got there at 6.  In a funny coincidence, I ended up parking right next to my sometimes-teammate Adam and his girlfriend Michelle.  After enjoying our warm cars for a little longer, we headed over towards the start (and the bathrooms).

At 54 degrees, it was chilly standing around but great running weather.  I was glad to be wearing a throw-away sweatshirt over my tank top.  Adam and I took the requisite Team Virtus "where's everybody else" picture and then settled on our spots in the corrals.

"We're running a half marathon...where's everybody else?"
Actually, my friend Mickey took the picture on his way through the corral.  He was pacing a friend of his to a sub-2 finish, and I'd considered lining up with them to see how things went.  In the end, I decided to start further back, figuring that not being able to keep up might mess with my head more than running on my own.  My plan was to run a comfortably fast pace and see how things went, and since fast for me is around 9 min miles, I lined up towards the back of that corral.

Looking at the start line.
I wasn't nervous, but I was wondering what the heck made me think this was a good idea.  I got to visit for a minute before the start with my friend Bill, who was running the 5K, and then I stood trying to find an effective windblock while I shivered without my sweatshirt.  These skinny runner guys don't provide much protection from the wind.

The race started right on time, and it took me a little over a minute to get to the start line.  In retrospect, I probably should have put myself further up in the corral because once we got going I definitely had to do some weaving to get past slower people.  Still, my first mile chimed in at a very comfortable 9 min/mi, and the next six miles were all under that.  Barely under that, but the strong first half was giving me hope that maybe sub-2 was attainable.  Every time I looked at my Garmin (all too often), I was doing the math, and by mile 7 I'd banked about a 30 second cushion.

Some things were starting to work against me by this point, though.  First, I always carry a water bottle.  Always.  Even if I'm running 2 miles, I carry a water bottle.  I like to be able to drink when I want to.  Today I only brought one water bottle, filled with Spark, and when it was empty I threw it away instead of looking for somewhere to refill it.  No big deal...there were plenty of water stops on the route.  And there were, but they weren't super evenly spaced, leaving me to go longer than I wanted without water and, often as not, spilling it all over myself as I tried to drink from the cup while running.

The bigger problem was fuel.  I'd misread the website and thought that there were two stations with GU.  Of course, I hadn't read it that carefully because I had my brand new, super delicious salted caramel GU and could eat it whenever I wanted.  Except that it was in my car.  Breakfast, at 5:15, had been coffee and a packet of almonds, and then I'd eaten half of a cranberry muffin when I got to the race.  By mile 6 I was starting to seriously worry about bonking and had to keep reminding myself I was running strong and doing well.  I tend to get really negative with myself, but today I did a good job of keeping my self-talk positive and encouraging.

I was relieved to finally hit the fuel stop at mile 8 (which is kind of late in my opinion), but that vanilla GU didn't magically keep the wheels from starting to wobble, if not actually fall off.  This mile marked my return to miles in the 9's, where I stayed for a while.  Mile 8 - 9:09 (mild panic...I just lopped a chunk off my cushion); mile 9 - 9:04; mile 10, where the one uphill section of the course started -- 9:30.

After my strong first half I'd known that this 2-mile uphill was going to make or break my sub-2 hopes.  Now I know this little 100 foot elevation gain is barely a hill, but it was kicking my butt.  I felt a little sick watching as my pace dropped on my Garmin, but my time at the 10 mile mark was right at 90 minutes, just like in that first half.  I still had hope.  

Mile 11 (ok, this is going to end and then it's downhill the whole way...) - 9:33.  Finally the hill ended and the sweet sweet downhill began.  Looking at my watch, I knew it was going to be close and I pushed as much as I could.  Mile 12 - 8:48.  The last mile flat out sucked.  It started with a downhill, but it was steep enough that it kind of hurt to run down it and I wasn't able to just let gravity take me and fly down.  I did get to see my friends Cheri and Bill at spots along that last mile, and it was nice to see familiar faces.  "So close!" I told Bill, meaning I was sooo close to finishing under two hours.  "You're almost there!  Just one more big turn!"

I tried to leave it all out there, knowing how much I'd hate it if I let up only to miss a sub-2 finish by a few seconds, but as I spotted the finish line I saw my watch change to 9:31 (it's not set to show total racing time, just miles, pace, and time).  It had taken me a minute to cross the start line and now I'd burned it.  I was disappointed, but not that disappointed.  I mean, I was hoping to finish around 2:15...how could I be upset at beating that by 15 minutes? 

Except...as I got close enough to see the race clock, I realized it read 2:00:xx.  I'd started a minute after the clock...which meant...sub-2 was still in reach! And, in the end, I caught it.  1:59:41.  Not a PR, but close.  I may be a worse cross racer and mountain biker than I'd like to be, but I'm a much better runner than I deserve to be.  I imagine that's due in large part to the cross training my bikes give me, not to mention the friends who let me tag along behind them on the trails.  So I guess I owe special thanks this time to Mickey, who's gotten me out on the trails while my regular running partners are nursing calf injuries or spectating at their kids' sporting events.

Congratulations also to my super speedy friend Megan, who was second female overall in the 5K, and to all my other friends who raced at the Cowbell today. Way to go, Adam, Michelle, Scott B., Rachel, Susan, Sara, Mickey, Bill, John, Steph, Scott K, and Melissa!  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Three things Thursday

1. Cyclocross: Tired of reading about cyclocross already?  Sorry...the season goes into December.  And even though I already wrote about last Sunday's race, then I saw some more pictures that were taken there and had to share.

How great is this picture? I love it! You can actually tell I'm in motion. Photo credit: Eli M.

This has to be the first or second trip up the run-up because I'm still smiling.

2. Haircut! My hair's been annoying me for a while now...it's just way too long.  Looking at the pictures from this weekend, even braided it was ridiculously long.  Time for a change, so I stopped on my way home from work.  Why are the lights at hair salons soooo unflattering? I had a mild panic looking at myself in the mirror there...


...but after I got home and brushed it out and realized I could still braid it, I was pretty happy with it.
3. New shoes!!  I'm too lazy to go grab my well-loved Asics trail shoes and take a picture of them, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say that they've been destroyed by adventure racing. They're fantastic trail shoes, but they're not durable enough to stand up to the off-trail conditions that AR requires. I have a pair of Nike trail shoes that I got for Christmas, but while I like them OK I don't love them. They've been moved to adventure racing trekking shoes and being replaced by some Brooks Cascadias.

Wasn't so sure about the black, but the other choice had way too much going on for my tastes.

I actually tried on a previous incarnation of these shoes and loved them but opted to stick with another pair of my tried and true Asics rather than spend an extra $40 on shoes I'd never worn before.  Hopefully I love these as much as I think I will, because they've got a 30K race to carry me through next month!