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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Trot!

When my sister-in-law started dating her husband several years ago, she joined in their Thanksgiving tradition of running a turkey trot. I was impressed that she could run 3 miles and a little confused why she would want to (peer pressure's a bitch). Even after I started running, I did some Thanksgiving trail runs with the tri club but never got around to running in an actual Turkey Trot until this year.

Another white t shirt

 My friend Lindsay was planning on running our local race with her sister-in-law Molly, and I jumped at the chance to do the race with them. It was only after registering that it occurred to me that this was my chance to meet my goal of a new 5k PR after falling short in April. Granted, I've done zero speedwork since...well...April, but I've been doing quite a bit of running and hopefully that would be enough. I was serious enough about trying to PR that I was actually disciplined enough to not take up an invitation to run at Pere Marquette with a friend the day before the race. Instead I hung out with Jacob and played some backyard soccer (and got my butt kicked, as usual).

It was a pretty good trade

 Race morning dawned just as cold as forecast, around 22 degrees with the weather.com app cheerfully noting "feels like 11 degrees". This cold send to fall is reminding me that I'm not as tough as I like to think I am. Brrr. But I bundled up, grabbed a hot coffee at QT, and huddled in my car until about 1/2 hour before race time.

Me, Molly, and Lindsay...I don't have that many girl friends I get to do things with, so I treasure the ones I do.

I said hi to my friends Wade (also known as my nemesis) and Lauren and then hung out with Lindsay and Molly until it was time to warm up. It's pretty rare for me to warm up -- in fact, I think this is probably the second time ever -- but it was good because my short jog definitely showed me I needed to lose my scarf and fleece jacket. Warm-up finished, I visited with Wade, Jody, Kevin, and Sherry until it was time to get into our corrals.

Jody, Wade, Kevin

 The race course was primarily on one of our flat, paved local bike trails. It's plenty wide for normal bike and pedestrian traffic but had potential for overcrowding with 450+ runners in the race. The first corral was for paces 5:00 - 8:20. I was hoping for a sub-25 min race but not sure how I'd hold my pace, so I lined up at the front of the second one.


It still feels weird to not seed myself at the back of any group of runners, but for once I'd picked a good spot. When it was our turn to go, I took off in the lead. Normally when I race I just run whatever pace feels comfortably hard, but this time I was trying to go fast. I fail at racing smart, because when I glanced down at my Garmin I saw a number in the high 6's. No wonder I couldn't breathe.

By the end of the first mile my pace was down to 7:34, and it gradually sank over the next mile. I was relieved to hit the turnaround but not thrilled to see Wade and Jody close behind. Redoubling my efforts I held them off for a little bit, but eventually Jody passed me and then I tried to cling to his heels. Mile two chimed in at 8:12, and there was nothing left but to hang on for the last mile.

One great thing about the out and back was getting to cheer for the leaders on their way back and getting to see other friends on my way back. It gave me a boost to cheer for people I knew (and also for people I didn't know) and to hear them cheer me on, but my speed dropped as the last mile dragged on. At this point I was confident I'd be able to beat my current PR (26:15) and was trying really hard to keep my pace up, knowing I'd be kicking myself if I missed a sub-25 by a few seconds. Remembering some advice I'd been given, I kept counting footsteps to 100, trying to focus on that instead of thinking about wanting to stop. I'd get to 100, glance at my Garmin, and start counting again.

 Finally we got to the turn back into the park. The slight uphill wasn't fun but I didn't slow down much. All we had left was about .25 miles around a field and it would be over. My third mile was down to 8:31 (no negative splits for this girl!), but Wade was still behind me and the race was almost over. Rounding the last turn I heard the footsteps and glanced over to see my nemesis on my shoulder. I tried briefly to hold him off (and might have called him something not so nice), but he had more left at the end then I did and passed me with authority.

As soon as he was by me I know my pace sagged. I do way better with someone to stay ahead of; for whatever reason I feel very little motivation to catch up when I'm passed. I need to work on that (lack of) competitiveness quirk, because while Wade finished under 25 minutes I didn't. My Garmin said 25:01.54. Two seconds off my goal! If that wasn't heartbreaking enough, my chip time said 25:00.6. So close, and yet so far. I stayed around for a little bit to cheer for other runners but left pretty quickly because of the cold and family plans. It wasn't until Kevin posted it on Facebook that I found out I'd taken third in my AG. Somewhere there's a turkey trophy waiting for me.

It's a little disappointing to know that I'd have had my goal time with a little more discipline or mental toughness, but a big PR and placing in my AG are nothing to sneeze at. Besides, my nemesis beat me, but he had to work for it. That's something new for short distance races. Maybe there's something to this training thing after all.

Time: 25:00.6
Overall: 58/466
AG: 3/54

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Things I've never gotten around to posting...

I've had a hard time posting regularly, so things keep slipping by without me posting them (horrors).  In loosely chronological order...

1. We had our family Halloween party, an event which looms over me like the sword of Damocles for the month of October.  We've moved away from me sewing all of the costumes (because I'd rather spend my time on my bike or running than sitting at a sewing machine), but deciding on a costume and getting the stuff together is still stressful.

In case you don't have smallish kids, we were Felix, Vannelope, and Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph
2. I went for a 50-mile gravel ride.  I had hopes that this would go better than my last one since I hadn't just run 13 miles the day before.  It was a little better, but I still felt like I was riding through quicksand.  Luckily, there was a gorgeous fall day to distract me.

Gravel ride. Glorious fall.
It does make me a little nervous riding over such thick leaf cover. 
More fall colors. #ridinggravel #fall

It's fall. :)
The colors were just gorgeous
Fall. #gravel #colors #bikes
It started out pretty chilly but ended up just beautiful.
It was a really fun ride, but I drove home pretty frustrated by how crappy I'd felt on the bike.  I'm never fast, but these last couple rides I've struggled in places I had no business struggling. I considered what the problem could be.  I'm probably in the best shape I've been in the last year or so, so fitness shouldn't be the difference; if anything, I should be stronger.  Could it be the difference in riding partners? With my regular crew, we tend to ride more of an adventure pace -- lots of stops to check out cool things and take pictures. With Mickey (who's become my regular crew too), I definitely spend more time working to catch up.  OK, that could be part of why I feel like I'm struggling. 

Then it occurred to me: the only other time I've felt this unaccountably bad on the bike was in the spring when Dave and I set out for an 80-miler.  What did these three bad rides have in common? The tires I was running.  Narrow, but knobby.  All my other long rides had been done on my Dirty Kanza tires.  I was afraid I was making excuses by blaming the tires, but I'm happy to report that switching tires made a huge difference in my ride satisfaction.

3. I broke my new shoes

See where the eyelet broke?
I probably only had around 40 miles on my new Cascadias, just enough to know that I love them and be super disappointed in them already breaking.  I checked out the Brooks website to see what their refund/exchange policy was, filled out a form explaining the issue, and within two hours (on a Sunday, no less) had a response that they were shipping me a new pair of shoes.  Great shoes and amazing customer service!    I'll definitely be buying Brooks again.

4. I ran at Pere Marquette Park.  This is one of my favorite parks and favorite places to run.  It's also the site of the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Race, where I felt so terrible last year that I was seriously considering giving up running.  That made it even sweeter that the first 8 miles of my run felt amazing.  I still had to walk the big hills, but I ran parts I've never been able to run before.  And I felt great, strong and happy.  And fast, but that's because tons of people were there hiking.

The sunshine and unicorns disappeared for the second loop, unfortunately, and knee pain forced me to hike the majority of the remaining 6 miles.  It'll still go down in my books as a great run, and it makes me feel good about my chances of a PR in next month's race there.

When we hike here with my kids, they always have to stop and play on the rocks.
Plenty of hills
NOT the stairway to Heaven. But not as bad as they usually are, either.
And then the stairs.

5.  Nathan enlisted in the Marines.  I have my concerns, of course, but I think that this has the potential to be a really good thing for him.  The boy needs some direction, and he'll be getting that in spades.  This also means that I have a trip to San Diego in my future, most likely in mid-June though that depends on when he actually ships.  As a military sister, I'm already well versed in the reality that the military doesn't really care about my schedule.  Anybody know someone in San Diego I can stay with? :-) 


6. I posted these random facts about me on Facebook:

1. I used to weigh 50 lbs more than I do now. 
2. I'm scared nearly every time I get on a mountain bike.
3. My longest race so far has been 28 hours, but I'd love to do a multi-day expedition race. 
4. Nobody ever believes this, but I'm actually pretty shy. The Internet has made my life easier bc often now I already kind of know people before I meet them in person.

5. I get roped into lots of stupid stuff bc I hate to miss out.

6. I never had a boyfriend in high school.

7. It took me 11 years to graduate from college.

8. Two of my three kids have graduated from high school.

9. I'm almost always the slowest one in any group I'm in, which just tells you what awesome friends I have to still invite me along.
 7. I registered for the Castlewood 8-Hour adventure race (Dec. 7).

8. And a local 5K turkey trot. (Nov. 28)

9. And the Frozen Feet trail half marathon (Jan 25).

10. I'm newly grateful for good health after some abnormal results to yearly testing, followed up by further testing and a biopsy.  In the end, everything was normal, but it was a scary couple of weeks full of what-ifs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Long Way to Go for Lunch

A month or so ago, my friend Mickey decided it would be a fun training day to bike the Katy Trail from St. Charles to Hermann for lunch. Knowing I'd ridden that stretch before, he asked how far it was and I guessed around 50 miles. It's actually 63, which was only the first sign (for this trip) that I don't really know anything.

He created a Facebook event for the ride and invited a bunch of people. There were a few yeses and several maybes, and as the ride got closer I started to worry a little about being able to keep up with a new group of people. I mean, typically I can't keep up with my teammates, either, but we've ridden enough together that I know how that's going to go. Mentioning to Mickey that I was nervous about keeping up, he joked that they could tow me.

 As it turned out, he wasn't the only one to have that idea.  My friend Dave was thinking along the same lines.

fb convo 2

 As the ride date got close enough to fall into the 10-day forecast range, I did my usual weather stalking and was pleased to see unseasonably warm temperatures. I was less excited about the increasing chances of first rain and then, as the week went on, storms. Yet another weather worry surfaced on Saturday, which was super windy.  How had I forgotten to worry about the wind?! I quickly checked my weather app and was dismayed to see the prediction.

"Storms could contain damaging winds." Awesome.
The only silver lining was that, after experiencing 60 miles of headwind/crosswind, we could expect a pretty sweet tailwind to usher us back.

In the end, I was more nervous about this ride than probably any recreational ride I've done. I was worried about keeping up, about storms, and about the distance, which at ~120 miles would be my long ride for the year and 70 miles longer than anything I've done since June. Still, my FOMO is strong, and I knew if I backed out I'd be thinking all day about where the group was, what they were doing, and how lame I felt for sitting at home.

In the end Sunday morning saw 4 of us committed to the ride and me headed to St. Charles with plans to roll out at 7 (which, I was informed, meant "don't show up at 7 and still need to get all your stuff together"). I met Dave V and Mickey there, and we did indeed roll out at 7. After asking if I was serious about the towing thing (Answer: "Sort of...maybe..." I was torn between really not wanting to be dragging far behind everyone and somewhat embarrassed at the idea of needing to be towed on a flat trail) Dave had researched and put together a towing system for his bike with the understanding that it might or might not be used.

As an aside, I recently did that "Random facts about me" meme that's been floating around Facebook lately.  My #9 fact was "I'm almost always the slowest on in any group I'm in, which just tells you what awesome friends I have to still invite me along." This ride was a textbook example of that.  Not only to invite me along, but also to take the time and effort to  put together something to possibly drag me along, too...  I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but I'm pretty much surrounded by really great friends.

Despite the towing system attached to Dave's bike, I was still under the illusion that I'd manage on my own.  We made good time on our way from St. Charles to the Weldon Spring trailhead where we were meeting Dave B (yeah, I know...a total of three other people on this ride and two of them have the same name.  That should make for interesting reading.).  We were all in good spirits, hoping for good weather but feeling prepared for whatever Mother Nature brought us, and as the wind gusted in our faces we mentioned a time or seventy, "Well, at least it isn't windy out."

Mickey in the lead. This is pretty much what we saw for the rest of the day.
I managed to keep up ok for the first 16 miles, but by the time we met up with Dave B. I was feeling the effects of the wind (and, I'm sure, the pace) as well as the fact that my bike seat had gradually sunk to its lowest position. As much as I'd like to pretend that I only took advantage of the tow because Dave V had gone to the trouble to make it, the fact is that it was a huge help and was probably the only thing that allowed me to stay part of the group without even more waiting on their part.

Being towed helps in a few ways. First, of course, is the fact that you're getting an assist from the tow-er.  Just as important in my case were the other facets.  I'm pretty chicken when it comes to drafting. Being up too close to the person ahead of me makes me nervous and I tend to hang back, which lessens the benefit of their draft.  The tow also makes me work harder to keep up than I probably would under my own power; not wanting to see that rope stretch and make the lead do more work is a powerful incentive to pedal harder.  Finally, being connected to another rider makes the places where I slow down way more than than my partner (crossing roads, crossing bridges, etc) very obvious.

It also requires a certain degree of trust.  There's plenty of room to pass between the Katy Trail gates, but it was a very different experience to come through them with the limited sight lines that come from being right behind someone else.  Road crossings were a leap of faith, too, and one of those places where I clearly slowed down much more than Dave did (and because of my wide swing to get a better look at the road swung around like a slaloming waterskiier a time or two).

Mickey, Dave B., Dave V. You can see Dave's bike with the tow attached at the bottom of the picture. What you might not be able to see but should be noted is that he did the whole ride on a mountain bike with big knobby tires while dragging my ass half of the way. That's pretty impressive.
We made a brief stop at the 30-mile mark so the guys could use the bathroom.  You can see in the picture how pretty the day was; we were congratulating ourselves a little that we hadn't let the forecast scare us off.  While we were there, Mickey adjusted my saddle, and I felt 100% better when we got rolling again!

There were a couple funny things at this stop. First was a sign on the bridge where we were stopped that instructed trail users to keep their pets on a leash, and it made me laugh because the dog leash in the picture totally looked like the bike tow.  Then Dave B. told me I was better to draft behind than another friend of his because I'm big.  I'm sure that, as he explained when I looked at him in dismay, he meant because I'm TALL, but I totally flashed back to a similar comment on one of my first organized rides.

Dave B opted to try being towed for a while here, so I kept up as best I could until it was my turn again. Almost as soon as we'd started up again I regretted not using the bathroom myself, so I was very glad for another stop in Marthasville (~ mile 38) until realizing that the trailhead bathrooms were closed for the winter.  It's not like I can't go on the side of the trail, but it's nice not to have to.  Looking at the nasty cloud over us, Dave B. took the time to put his electronics in baggies.

Despite bright sun, we hadn't been riding more than a few miles when it began to sprinkle.  The rain was so light that at first I thought Dave's camelbak valve was dripping and being blown back at me.  Mickey slowed and asked, "Do you think we want to put our rain jackets on before we get all wet?"

"No," I replied, "Mine really doesn't breathe, so I'll get all sweaty in it anyway.  It's warm out...the rain will feel good."

Everybody else was OK with this logic, so we continued on without adding a layer.  Within minutes, the sky darkened, the temperature dropped, and rain fell like a million icy, wet needles being blasted at us.  It wasn't just soaking us; it hurt.  Pretty quickly, we were all pulled over digging out our rain jackets, and once again we had learned the lesson not to listen to me.  Honestly, though, my biggest regret is that I didn't have a waterproof camera so that I could videotape the storm.  It was raining so hard...all you could do was laugh, wipe your glasses, and try to see where you were going through the deluge.

The storm only lasted 5-10 minutes before blowing over.  It luckily hadn't produced enough rain to soften the trail, so we cruised along like before.  I jumped back on tow, and we spent pretty much the rest of the ride riding around and over debris left by storms and wind.

During one such stretch, Mickey was in the lead with Dave and I behind him and then Dave B.  Looking past Dave's shoulder, I noticed a tree across the trail.  Expecting the guys to slow for it, I was a little surprised when they kept their pace.  OK...I thought...I guess they can see more than I can and we're going over/through it. Actually, neither of the guys noticed the tree until the last minute.  Both of them hit the brakes.  Caught off guard, I didn't stop fast enough, ran into Dave's bike, and uttering the girliest cry ever, hit the ground.

 If you're not bleeding, you're not trying hard enough...or so I hear.
Having dropped my chain in the crash I played the "I'm hurt, will you fix it?" card, then shook it off and got back on tow.  As crashes went, it was a good one.  Of course, I do have to live down the shame of having crashed on the Katy Trail, which is slightly less technical than riding down a sidewalk.

The tree was a bit of a wake-up call though.  Before the ride, I'd worried about lightning and storms and rain and riding against the wind.  I hadn't considered wind knocking over trees.  Dragging our bikes over downed trees wasn't a big deal, but having one land on our heads would have been another story.

We hit one more decent rainstorm on the way to Hermann, this one leaving the trail much wetter and coating our bikes (and legs) in a layer of gray grit.  The bigger story, though, was the wind.  I don't know what the speed was, but it was brutal.  It was easily as bad as the wind in this year's Dirty Kanza, if not worse.  At least in Kansas the uphills gave us some shelter from the headwind.  Out on the flat Katy, we were completely exposed.

Dave V, making it look easy
I spent a large portion of this windy/rainy stretch off tow.  Even with the help I was struggling to keep up against the wind and didn't want Dave to actually be dragging me along.  Riding in my granny gear and in the drops, I struggled to make headway.  Seeing my pace in the single digits was beyond demoralizing, but I just pushed on, watching as the mileage crept up on my Garmin. At a couple of points a crosswind hit me so hard it almost knocked me over and I just put down a foot for a moment.  One or two other times I just stopped for a moment and stretched my back.  The brief breaks made fighting the wind a little easier.

Dave B. getting ready to make the turn to the highway.
Photo credit: Mickey Boianoff. Actually, you can pretty much just assume that he took all the pictures. It was nice of him to take my blogging responsibilities so seriously
Seeing the McKittrick trailhead and knowing I'd finally reached the turn for Hermann was something like reaching the promised land.  Just a couple of paved miles separated us from lunch, and I was ready to have one of everything on the menu.  First, though, we had to get across the bridge.

Actually, there wasn't any drama involved in crossing the bridge except that it was very windy.
We zipped down the pavement (and by "we" I mean the guys because I "stopped on the bridge to take a picture" and then caught up with them in town where they were waiting at the intersection.  That restaurant sign was a glorious (my most overused adjective) sight.

Our crew at lunch!
Dave V., Mickey, Dave B., me...and the guys who pulled their truck right up in front of where we were taking a picture and then got conscripted into playing photographer.
Wings A Blazin (where, funny enough, is where I ate the last time I rode my bike to Hermann) has a covered patio around back, and the waitress told us we could put our bikes back there.  That's what we did, and we ended up having the entire patio area to ourselves. As bedraggled as we were, all covered in trail grime and me with blood dried on my elbow and knee, maybe that was their plan.  Separate the riff-raff!  As we were wheeling our bikes in, the waitress noticed Dave's towing system and asked if it was a leash for his dog.


 It was pretty great to get to sit down and eat.  I enjoyed every bite of my hamburger and ridiculously large order of onion rings, but the salad I'd ordered (because having fries and onion rings just seemed silly) didn't do a lot for me.  As hungry as I was, I think I was one of the last ones to finish eating because...um...I might have been talking a lot. Go figure.

I charged my phone and hung my long-sleeved shirt in the sun to dry while we ate.  I'd changed out of it way back at Weldon Spring, but it had gotten soaked during the deluge.  We filled our camelbaks in the very small bathroom sink and then, somewhat reluctantly on my part, got back on our bikes for the return trip.

After re-crossing the still-windy bridge and making a quick stop for Dave to get some chain lube (he's a stickler for bike maintenance, bless his heart), we were back on the trail and finally had the wind at our backs.  It was a pretty glorious (there's that word again) change, but unfortunately the tailwind was not pedaling my bike for me. When I caught up, Dave, who'd tied up the tow strap in anticipation of not needing to play engine for the next 60 miles, had it back out and ready for use.  I have to say, despite the fact that I was the slowest, weakest one of the group, none of the guys ever made me feel bad about needing help or making them wait for me to catch up.  Any eye rolling they might have done was out of my sight.

Within the first 10 miles of our return trip, Mickey got a flat.  Definitely the fastest rider in our group, he sent us on ahead and would catch up once he had his tire fixed (twice, as it turned out).  Knowing he could make up plenty of time on us, I grabbed onto the tow and we cruised down the Katy, talking training and Strava and whatever else you talk about when you're on a long ride with a captive audience.

Mickey caught up with us before mile 90.  I think maybe I'd gotten off the tow while we were riding along waiting for him, and maybe Dave B. got on around this point? It's all kind of a blur.  I caught up with the guys in Marthasville (~38 miles back to where we'd started now) and then we pushed on again.  We had to lift our bikes over/around downed trees in several spots, trees that were definitely not down on our morning trip.  The damage just reinforced how lucky we were with our timing to have missed the most dangerous parts of the storm.

I had fallen behind the guys, but then weirdly had my fastest 5 miles of the day as we pushed towards Augusta.  At one point, I looked down at my Garmin and it was reading in the 20's.  My back was hurting, so I'd get down in the drops to make it feel better and then remember, oh crap...sit up tall and catch the wind!

The closer we got towards home, the darker it got.  I had my headlamp in my pack but didn't want to mess with it until I had to.  I was hoping to catch up with the guys again before full dark, if only because then they wouldn't be putting further distance on me while I messed with my headlamp.  Looking at the very pretty sunset (and thinking that I'd seen the sunrise on my way there), I thought how surprisingly dark it was for around 5.  I know the days are getting shorter, but wow.

And then I realized it.  Yes, I was still wearing my sunglasses.  Taking them off bought me almost 30 minutes more daylight, and by the time I caught up with the guys where they were waiting after Klondike Park, it was definitely time for the headlamp.  Everybody had way better lights than I did, so with Mickey ahead of me and the Daves to my left it was almost like driving with headlights.  They easily could have dropped me at this point but instead stuck near me, which was really nice, especially because the trail was absolutely littered with debris.  Sticks and branches were all over, some of them good-sized, and the biggest fallen tree yet blocked the trail near Matson Park.

Not my light.  You can tell because you can actually see the ground.
 I really wanted to finish the whole ride, and I also really wanted to be off my bike.  I'd been quietly considering asking Dave B., who was parked 16 miles closer than I was, if I could have a ride back to my car. Not wanting to wimp out or put him out, though, I didn't say anything and decided I'd see how I felt at the trailhead.  When he offered me a ride, though, it didn't take much thinking on it to make my decision.

I'd like to say that I took the ride so that Mickey and Dave could get back sooner, knowing they could ride far faster without me holding them back, and that's true, but it's not the whole truth.  I was sore and tired and really didn't want to ride that last 16 miles.  That's not particularly mentally tough, which is annoying.  You'd think I'm humbled so often on the bike that what I can't do wouldn't surprise me, but I must have amnesia, because I keep getting re-humbled. :)

All in all, it was a great day.  In retrospect, probably not the smartest decision to go, but it's a fine line between epic and stupid, and you miss out on a lot of cool stuff if you worry too much about where the line is.  I'm happy with the shared memory of dragging on jackets in the pouring rain and war stories of 35 mph headwinds.  Shoot, I even came home with some battle scars. :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013 Skippo 30K trail race

My first Skippo 30K race report was entitled "It seemed like a good idea at the time", a sentiment I have echoed in the subsequent years.  Today was certainly no exception.

I give Casey so much crap about his many (MANY) typos that it pains me to read "so seeing" instead of "wondering".
What can I say...I'm a slow learner.  Or maybe it's that I have a short memory. Whatever the case, I was actually poised to go into this year's Skippo much more prepared than in previous years.  I've done several long runs and one long hike in the past month and a half, and if they weren't all going great, they were going...a big improvement from the typical black hole in my training schedule.
Close-toe shoes cover my yucky runner's feet, but they don't hide my scarred legs. #ARgirlproblems
The ones on the left. They aren't even that high!
I'm going to be a sad girl if I have to make a choice between running and heels.
Unfortunately right before Perfect 10 I wore a pair of heeled boots to school that just killed my knees, making the last 3 hours of P10 pretty miserable.  The next week, I countered with a lower heeled pair of shoes with a similar effect. Even alternating them during the day with flats to ease my legs back into wearing heels left me pretty limpy.  I managed 8 great miles at Pere Marquette park two weeks ago, followed by 6 miles at a slow hike.  That's the last running I'd done until today.  I was honestly scared to try running before the race and find out I couldn't.

Becca, Cara, me, Cherie...waiting to be seated
Because that apparently wasn't enough self-destruction for one race, I also went out to dinner with some of my teammates and friends last night after we did a presentation about our team for the 100+ Project's Brave Endeavors series.  My meal at the Mexican restaurant was pretty healthy and harmless.  My two (two!! What a lightweight!) margaritas were more of a problem.

What a fun group!
I blame Russ, who bought a round after I had my first margarita, and the stupid Virtus code, which forbids ever turning down a free drink.  They were delicious, though, and the evening was a blast, so I couldn't regret my decisions even when I woke up with a headache and unhappy stomach.  Or later in the race, when my stomach remembered it was upset with me.  Besides, I finally felt like a legitimate member of Team Hangover!

The Skippo is a fun race to go to because you see so many people you know.  I ran into Mickey, who I've been doing most of my running with, right away.  Jeremy, who I'd met at the SHITR, said hi.  Karen and Suzanne were around, as were some of my Team Godzilla teammates, and Scott showed up pretty much at the last minute, having gotten a late start after a late night (but not sporting a hangover); when we headed over to the start line, I ran into my friend Jim A, who I met at my first 30K and then see once a year at the same race.  Finally, my much faster friend JB stopped by to say hi on his way up to the front.  You know how I like to socialize, so this all pretty much made my day.  And the race hadn't even started.

Because they sent us off in pace group waves and I was as far back as possible, it took about 6 minutes to actually cross the start line.  Finally we were off!  The race course is a 10K loop.  Your distance determines how many loops you have to get to run.  The first two miles are fairly flat, then you climb 200+ stairs, run a short level stretch followed by another uphill.  Next is a lovely flat section followed by a fun downhill, a creek crossing, and then up Cardiac Hill, a short downhill and then up again, but then the last two miles or so is pretty much all downhill.  Joy!

Elevation profile
Lap 1: 1:06 (10:46 pace)
I wasn't sure what to expect, by my first loop was great! I was pushing but trying to maintain a pace that felt good.  Not easy, but not hard.  I walked the stairs, but I didn't fall behind the person in front of me like I do every year.  This was the first significant uphill effort, every one of which left me nauseous, but when the stairs ended I started running right away.  That was an improvement over my past, but then I really surprised myself by running the whole way up the next hill.  I've never done that before!  I had to walk up Cardiac Hill but again I started running as soon as the hill was over, and I ran the entire hill after that...another first!

As chicken as I am on downhills on the bike, I like them a lot more on foot, especially when they're not too steep.  The Castlewood downhills are just my type, and gravity makes me feel fast.  On the second downhill stretch I caught up with a guy in green about a mile from the end of the loop.  He had a jacket wrapped around his waist and running tights under his shorts.  I was warm in my tshirt and shorts, so I asked him if he was dying in all those clothes.  "A little bit," he answered.

We  chatted through the rest of the lap.  Somehow I ended up in front of him after passing through the water stop and then he pulled up next to me as we headed back onto the trail for lap 2.  Recognizing me, he asked, "Are you Kate? I read your blog." I love when that happens!

Lap 2: 2:18 total time (11:10 pace)
Because we were running about the same speed, Jason got the dubious pleasure of listening to me greet every single person on the trails.  Finally he asked, "How to you have the energy to be so positive to everybody?"  I told him that I get a boost from encouraging other people while I'm running, which is true, but I'm also truly just thrilled to be able to be doing these events.  I never imagined running 18 miles or doing a 24 hour adventure race or "racing" my bike, so (with a few notable exceptions) even when my results aren't a screaming success I'm happy being a part of the experience.

Eventually we split up and I was on my own again.  This time around I walked at least half of the hill after the stairs and also half of the other hill I'd been so proud to run on lap 1.  There really wasn't anything notable about this lap except that people kept falling all around me (I swear, I wasn't involved at all!).  I was lucky this year; I tripped once but no falls.

Coming towards the end of the second lap, I was nervously waiting to see what would happen. The big unknown for me is always how my hip and knee will do and exactly when during a race the pain will kick in.  Last year, after an unexpectedly good first 10 or so miles, my hip and knee made the last 8 miles of the race absolute misery.  This year I made it into my final lap still relatively pain free.

Lap 3: 3:37 total time (11:42 pace)
The flat two miles to the stairs seemed to take forever.  I wasn't even so much sore or tired as I was sick of running.  The volunteers at the water stop gave me a nice lift as their cheered like crazy people as we came through.  That was particularly nice because the only places volunteers were left were the water stops and the road crossings.  The rest of the course marshalls were gone, I guess having decided that by the third time around we ought to know where we were going.

I was actually happy to get to the stairs and "have" to walk.  My hip was getting tight, so I took the stairs two at a time to stretch it out, and that seemed to help.  I didn't start running quite as quickly at the top, and I definitely didn't make it far up the smaller hill before having to walk.  The worst part about the third lap (other than the monster blister taking over my toe) was that my calf muscles and my Achilles tendons were spasming.  It wasn't painful, but it felt really weird and had me worried about full-blown cramps.  I walked through the second water stop drinking my Gatorade, and a volunteer offered me another cup and walked with me until I'd finished the first. Maybe it was the extra electrolytes in the Gatorade and maybe it was coincidence, but I didn't have any more leg issues for the rest of the race.  Big thanks to that volunteer!

More hill walking ensued, but I didn't even mind it because I knew that these were the last major climbs before it was all (literally) downhill to the finish.  My nausea kicked it up a notch, but knowing there were only a couple miles left made it much easier to ignore.   I was basically alone on the trails; I'd caught sight of a guy in the distance behind me, but he wasn't gaining on me.  With a mile left, my hip started actively hurting and I was very grateful it had waited 17.5 miles to speak up. That's a new trouble-free distance since this problem has started.

In what seemed like no time I was coming off the trail and into the field for the last half mile.  Out of nowhere, a woman came running up behind me.  The park was full of runners and mountain bikers, so at first I assumed she wasn't part of the race, but I glanced over and saw a 30K number on her shirt.  "Nice job," I gasped as she pulled even, and then I sped up.  Both years I've done the 30K I've come in third last.  While my main goal was to beat last year's abysmal time (4:04) and my B goal was to beat my best time (3:43), I also really wanted to come in ahead of third last.

Photo credit: Mickey Boianoff
Keep in mind, I started 6 minutes after the clock, so this isn't my actual finish time.
I hauled ass across the field (I'm not sure I care to buy the pictures, but you can actually tell I'm running in them) and ended up beating her to the finish line by 6 seconds (and beating her chip time by almost 2 minutes, but who's counting?).  This was particularly sweet because it turns out that we were in the same age group.  That end of race sprint was strong enough that I'm thinking I maybe should have pushed harder all along.  All race long I kept my effort just at that "doesn't hurt" level; maybe I need to learn to hurt a little.

Still deciding if I'm going to throw up or not...
Big thanks to Mickey for sticking around to take finish line pictures!
Since I was third-last last year (did I mention that?), it was awfully easy to find my backpack in the bag drop; it was the only one left.  This time it had company! Mickey "just happened" to get this "completely candid" shot of me looking for my bag among alllll the bags that were left.  

"Where's my bag??" A photographic celebration that mine was not the only one left in the bag drop this year. #running #skippo30k #trails
Wherever could it be?
I put on a sweatshirt and was in the process of changing out of my soggy shoes (and admiring my enormous blister) when we saw Scott running across the field.  Not wanting to miss his finish I limped over mid-change, as you can see if you look at my feet.

Go Team Hangover!!
I love this guy. So glad he and my brother became best friends in high school.
 I ate some BBQ and talked with the guys for a little bit, and then we all limped to our cars, which must've been moved while we were running because it sure seemed to take a long time to get there.

Oh, and my goals?

I beat my best time in the 30K by 6 minutes, and I finished 84/100...moving up from 3rd last to 16th last. :) Best of all, though, even right now while my memory is fresh, I think that racing the 30K distance again next year is a pretty good idea.

Photo credit: Jeremy Nulik
The belt buckle is ok and all, but I do this race for the mug.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 Perfect 10 Rogaine

Last year was the inaugural Perfect 10 Rogaine, a 10 hour orienteering race.  Luke, Bob, and I had gone and had a great time, so I was already excited about this year's edition even before a little intra-team bet upped the excitement level.  A rogaine is a great learning/practice opportunity since everyone gets a map, and navigation is a huge weakness for me.  As much as I was anticipating the race, though, I was most of all looking forward to getting to hang out with my teammates.

Since most of our activities are centered around Jeff City, where most of the guys live, I'm used to making the drive on my own, but not this time.  Bob recently moved closer to the St. Louis area, and he'd picked up Casey from the airport, so the three of us made the very cozy trip together in Bob's truck.

Perfect 10
Luckily everyone wore deoderant
  We met up with Luke, switched all our gear over to the Virtus van, and headed south (? I think it was south) to Lake of the Ozarks.  We were camping again, so I was not thrilled to see clouds gathering in the sky despite the scant chance of rain in the forecast.  Last year it rained both nights, and the post-race rain had flooded my tent and made for a long, cold night. With temperatures even lower this year (30's overnight), the last thing I wanted was a soggy sleeping bag.

We had time to find a spot to camp (my first non-campground camping trip), get set up, and climb back into the van before the rain started.  I wanted BBQ, so we ended up at Fired Up BBQ.  The parking lot was packed, but the restaurant was largely empty.  Weird. The service wasn't great, but the food was really good and we weren't in any hurry to get back into the rain.  We watched the Cardinals game, talked, and otherwise kept occupied.

Perfect 10
It's all fun and games til someone loses an eye...
Actually, Casey hit me right below the eye, and it hurt.
 The rain never did stop, but that was probably a good thing because it forced us to go to bed sooner rather than hanging out around a campfire.  I for one needed the sleep, and thankfully my tent stayed dry and I stayed warm in my borrowed sleeping bag (considerably warmer than my own sleeping bag, thanks Luke!).

We got up around 6, which should have been plenty of time to make the short drive to the race start.  As it turned out, despite taking the time to put on a little makeup after changing, I still wasn't the last one ready.  If Luke hadn't looked at the time around 7:00 (15 minutes after maps had been handed out, oops!) we might still be there.  Heading towards the start, we hit another hiccup when it turned out we weren't as clear on where to go as we'd thought the night before.

Being a little lost on your way to an orienteering race is never a good sign, but eventually we got there and saw the tents pitched at race HQ.  Brilliant idea! Why didn't we think of that?  We got our preplotted maps and then set to route planning.  And by "we", I mean that while Bob and Casey busily discussed potential routes and strategies with each other, I left Luke to deal with our maps while I finished putting my food in my pack, braiding my hair, and pinning our numbers onto our packs and then agreed with the route he thought was best.
Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
"Sure Luke...whatever you think, Luke" 

Michael, who has read our team blog, came up and introduced himself, and I also got a chance to catch up with my friend Melissa, who rocked the course as a solo.

The map shows around 30 square miles.  It's a little hard to see, but all of those red circles and numbers show the location of checkpoints.  For a look at how teams who could potentially clear the course, check out Emily's blog post about the race.   The highlighted section above is what we anticipated covering.

Before we knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting.  A raffle ticket was drawn for the sweet Kuat bike rack, but sadly I didn't win it.  We barely had time for some pre-race pictures before it was time to start.  In fact, our friend Kelly was still holding the camera as the race began.  That's fitting, because I'm pretty sure he's the guy who once claimed that Team Virtus would probably do twice as well if we didn't spend so much time taking pictures.

There's something funny about this picture (besides the fact that Luke and I are sharing one pair of gloves). Can you guess what it is? 
Since we've both been running a decent amount lately, we planned to try to do as much running as possible during the race.  We're definitely nowhere near Alpine Shop's ability to tear up and down rocky slopes while bushwhacking through thorns, but we could at least jog along roads and trails.  Our first steps, though downhill, were a good reminder of how much harder it is to run while carrying a pack.  Last year, feeling the difference even just a large hydration pack makes helped me to realize how much easier running would be if I dropped some weight;  I came back to Perfect 10 around 15-20 pounds lighter, which had to help.

Our planned route.
If you look closely at the map above, you'll notice that each little circle (marking the location of the checkpoint) has a number next to it. The number both tells you which box on your passport to punch and signifies the points the CP is worth.  (Important information if you read your race info...not naming any names here but there are a couple I could mention :D).  Single digit CPs were worth 100 points, tens were worth 10 points, 20s were worth 20 points, and 30's were worth 30 points.  Strategy is key here in order to maximize your points.  Our route included three hundred pointers.

We ran east out of race HQ along the road and then realized we had no idea which way Bob and Casey had gone.  All day long we wondered where they were, how their day was going, and whether or not they'd beat us.  We basically followed a run 'til Kate got tired/walk/run 'til Kate got tired plan for the road and for smoother trails.  We hit our first few CPs with no problems and made sure to get a picture of the cemetery we came across for Chuck.
Super excited because I've located the cemetery on the map.
I was doing my best to follow along on the map, and I sort of could, but I'd have been in trouble if I was doing the navigating for myself. Well, I probably would have been in trouble, and I most definitely would have been far slower.  I teach struggling learners, and navigating using a topo map always gives me insight into what school must be like for them.  It takes me a lot of thinking to figure out something that would be immediately obvious to a competent navigator.  I've learned a lot following along on the map while my more skilled teammates do the navigating, but it's probably time for me to give it another solo go.

Our first hundred point CP was near the airport boundary.  We'd traveled in this area the previous year, and this had been one of the spots where we tested alternate routes. Bob had discovered that the land near the airport fence was pretty clear.  Armed with this knowledge, we planned to skirt the boundary. The area was level and clear enough that we were able to run a decent amount here.
Hard to tell, but I'm running here.
Since the next CP (number 19) wasn't far off of the airport boundary and the mapped trails, Luke handed off the maps so I could navigate to this one.  Like everything on a map for me, it much more confusing than it should have been.  Follow the airport boundary...which of these fences is the mapped boundary?  Follow the trail...exactly which trail are we on?  Sigh.  We got all turned around and lost some time there before I handed the maps back to Luke and let him sort us out.

Being able to shrug my shoulders and pass off the map makes me appreciate my teammates who do the nav that much more.  I was really focused on following along on the map for the first two thirds of the race, but later when my knee was really hurting and I was hating life a little, I totally checked out and just followed Luke.  No one racing with me has that luxury because I'd have us lost in a heartbeat.  That's one of the reasons that I really do want to get better with navigation.

Anyway, we eventually found our way to 19, running into Kelly Sumner on our way out, and then made our way to CP6, another 100 pointer.  I don't remember much about that one, so it must not have been too remarkable.  Our plan from 6 was to follow the airport boundary to our attack point for CP 29, but the eastern fenceline was nothing like the relatively clear area you see in the picture above.  As we made our way through thickening brush and grass covered rip-rap style rock towards the fenceline, we heard a familiar voice call, "Do NOT come this way!! You can't get through the thorns and brush."  B'rer Rabbit he's not, but neither are we, so we took his good advice.

Eventually Kelly emerged from the thicket he'd lost all kinds of time attempting to pass through, so we had a chance to catch up with him for a while on the trek towards CP 29.  Once we got passed the briars, the boundary cleared out nicely.

Kelly leads the way
Either Kelly moved a lot faster than we did (likely) or we attacked from different points, but we lost track of each other before heading into the trees.  We snagged 29 ("snagged" might imply that it was easier than it was...I don't really remember 29, but it seemed like we had more trouble with the 20-pointers than any other CPs) and headed towards CP18.

With the sun finally out, the chilly day was starting to feel really nice.  We were hiking along the road talking about the race so far and wondering about where Bob and Casey were, how they were doing, and what our chances were of beating them.  I don't think either of us felt super confident, and it was weird to have no idea at all where they were, what route they'd taken, anything.

A partial view of the quarry from last year's race
We were just speculating whether Gary had put a checkpoint in the quarry, one of the cooler spots from last year's race, when we turned off the road towards CP 18 and up to the edge of the quarry.  I guess maybe the clue "rock pile" should have given us a hint.  Of course, the quarry was full of rock piles.  We were having a hard time making our approach match what we were seeing on the map, so we did a little walking back and forth looking for the intersection shown.  "That looks like a likely spot," I told Luke.  He wasn't convinced and started in another direction.

"I feel like it's right," I continued. "I'm just going to go check it out real quick."  I walked over to the rock pile and didn't see anything.  I was about to go follow Luke when I considered how stupid I'd feel (and how much time we'd waste) if my perfunctory glance missed if the checkpoint was actually there, so I walked a little further, looked up, and sure enough saw the flag.  Now, it has to be mentioned that it was purely dumb luck that I found it; I certainly wasn't following the map and probably would have been sure the CP was at whatever checkpoint I first laid eyes on...in this case, though, we were lucky enough to have seen the right one first.  I called out our special secret code to Luke to let him know I had it and waited there savoring the feeling of -- for once -- being the one to find the CP.

We ran into Kelly on our way out of the quarry and attempted to let him know where the CP was, but when we ran into him at the next checkpoint (35) he told us our advice wasn't so helpful. Sorry!  We left that CP at the same time, but he took a slightly sharper angle towards the road or was moving faster than us (or both), and other than catching glimpses of him ahead of us on the road we didn't see him again until the finish line.  We had a long stretch (ok, not particularly long, looking at the map maybe just over 2 miles) of road hiking, which sounds like it should be gloriously fast but wasn't at all.  The race rules required that you walk on the mowed right-of-way next to the highway unless crossing, and trekking along the off-camber side pretty much sucked.

Up to this point, we'd had a pretty smooth day with the exception of my attempt at navigation, but we hit a speed bump or two along highway 42.  First, CP24 was playing hard to get.  Seemed like we hiked a creek forever.  We'd had a few other times when we'd questioned whether we were on the wrong track only to find our CP a little further than we'd expected, but this time, as Luke looked at the map and compass, it because evident (to him) that we weren't in the right place.  We ended up hiking over a spur and finding our CP in the next reentrant over, but we definitely lost some time here.

We hiked out to the road and then attacked CP22 which, despite its proximity to the road, was much harder to get to and steeper than we'd anticipated.  We were both having trouble keeping our footing and feeling a little grumpy.

OK, I don't look grumpy, but trust me, I was.
We took a short break once we got back to the road, grabbing some food, checking the maps, getting the little rocks and junk out of my shoes.  That taken care of, we snagged CP13 and then headed off in search of our final 100-pointer of the day.  The CP required a half-mile hike along a (((ridge))) and then was located off of a hilltop with the ambiguous clue of "slope".

We cut in too soon and did some wandering around in search of our CP, but that ended up being a good thing.  We passed a guy in the woods who was looking for the same checkpoint. Shortly afterwards, Luke spotted it.  "Should we tell him?" Luke asked.

"Yeah," he decided. "We should...hey buddy, it's over here!"

When the other guy got there, he asked if we were Team Virtus.  "I thought you looked familiar!" he told us. It turns out he's a blog reader who's corresponded with Luke about adventure racing.  We were really glad we'd called out to him.  Very cool meeting you out there, Michael.

CP2 was the far point of our trek, and now it was time to head back towards race HQ, picking up checkpoints along the way.  Last year our last CP was off of this same ridge, followed by a 5 mile road trek back to the finish line.  This year's route was much more pleasant, trekking through woods.  Our first CP of the way back, another 20-pointer, seemed to take forever to find as we again wondered have we gone too far? Did we miss it?  In the end, Luke led us straight to it and then we headed for the creek we'd follow to some trails.

At this point in the race, despite a healthy dose of ibuprofen, I was really sore.  In fact, the last 3 or so hours were very painful.  It was weird; the two sides of my body were having very different experiences.  While my right side felt fantastic, my left foot, knee, and hip hurt like crazy.  Getting to the trail was little respite, and it was around this point where I'd pretty much checked out on the map and was just following Luke, limping, wincing, and struggling mightily not to complain because what good would it do.

The trail seemed to take forever, but it was very cool to pass a man backpacking with his little boy.  We passed another family already set up at a backpack camping site on our way to CP26.  Finding 26, we set a fast hike back to the HQ to resupply and decide on our course for the last 1.5 hours.  We'd worked all day to minimize our stops, and we were pretty quick grabbing some extra food and water at the Virtus van before setting off for a 30-pointer a half mile or so away.  We toyed with the idea of going for one more possible CP but decided that we'd be cutting it close enough that getting 20 more points wasn't worth risking more than that with the 10 point per minute penalty for finishing after the cutoff...especially when I wasn't sure I could run.

Decision made, we hiked back uphill from the checkpoint.  Between the steepness of the hill, all the babyheads rolling under our feet, and my sore knee, I was over it.  I kind of wanted to scream...or cry.  "I'm going to use up every single non-complaint on this hill right now!" I told Luke. "This must be how Todd feels when he has hiking madness!"

It took a couple tries to get this without me laughing, but here's my attempt at depicting my feelings about hiking.
Luke was doing better than I was, but he sure wasn't enjoying rolling his ankle with every step.  No hiking madness for him, though; instead he did his best imitation of the thousand mile stare.

This picture makes me laugh every time I see it.
We had plenty of time to get back to the finish line before the cutoff, so we screwed around a little bit taking stupid pictures and then, spirits lifted, headed back the way we'd come....or did we?

"Wouldn't it be funny if we were here laughing and being stupid and then took off the wrong way?" Luke asked.  We both laughed at the thought and then he looked at his compass.  Sure enough, we were hiking in the exact wrong direction.  Crisis averted, we headed back to the finish line, breaking into a fake jog for the cameras.

Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
 We made it back to the finish line with around 45 minutes to spare, so we got to watch a lot of the teams come through.  It was nerve-wracking waiting for Bob and Casey and hoping they missed the cutoff finished well, but if you have to wait nervously to find out if you're going down in flames, I highly suggest doing it with BonkHard's awesome post-race food and good company.

Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
Casey, me, Luke, Kelly, Jason

Casey and Bob did indeed beat the cutoff, but we edged them in points, meaning that at some point they'll be performing a skit written by Luke and me and posted on youtube for their eternal humiliation your viewing pleasure.  I'd have to say that, while we soundly defeated them, Bob went home the big winner when his name was drawn for a sweet package for two to Tan-Tar-A resort.  

We cheered for finishers and winners, hung out long past dark, and just generally enjoyed ourselves until race HQ was taken down around us.  After saying our goodbyes to the few people still remaining, we headed back to our campsite...via a stop in town for the most expensive gas station coffee ever (and yet totally worth it to knock off the chill) and a beer run.  The night before may have seen us huddled in our tents/hammocks against the rain, but race night we had a great fire and a fantastic time hanging out together.

Of course, what happens at the Lake stays at the Lake, but my face was sore from laughing by the time I went to bed, and the funniest exchange had to be between Casey and Bob.  Ridiculous plans were being hatched for tormenting each other, and Casey asked, "What if I trained a bear to do it?"

"There's a couple problems with that," Bob replied, "First, if you find a bear, not cool if you bring it back here!"

Not cool at all. But a weekend hanging out with some awesome teammates? It doesn't get a whole lot cooler than that.