Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Xterra Nationals 2015


Swim course distance: 1,500-meters/1640 yards (0.93 miles) Combines two 750-meter laps (no run in-between)
Elevation at Port Ramp Marina for swim start:  4,900-feet
Water temperature: Probably around 67 degrees
Mountain bike course distance: 28-kilometers (17.7 miles)
Total climbing on bike: 3,400-feet
Elevation at highest point: 7,300-feet (where Sardine Peak Trail meets the ridgeline)
Elevation at T2/Snowbasin Resort Lodge: 6,400-feet
Trail Run course distance: 10-kilometers (6.2 miles)
Total climbing on run: 700-feet
Total climbing on course: 4,100-feet

It's that time of year again - Xterra Nationals!  I love this race, look forward to it all year.

I also look forward to pre-riding the course because it's that awesome.  We drove in on Tuesday but couldn't hit the trails until Friday because of . . . rain?  In Ogden in September?  Really?  And snow??!!  Yes it snowed on the high peaks, including Snowbasin, on Wednesday.  This is what it looked like in Ogden when the rain sort of cleared for half an hour or so.

Thankfully we had a groovy place to stay.  The host hotel no longer allowed dogs so I found some people renting out the bottom part of their house.  A very interesting home.  Zen Gardens I think they called it.

I kid you not.  This place cost about the same as the cheapo hotel near the highway interchange when you added in all their outrageous dog fees.  No dog fees at the Zen House.

Lola enjoying her fancy accommodations.  Strummer was not so zen because of flies that kept getting in.  He's terrified of flies.  And the smoke detector.  That went off every time we used the shower.  The house was old and had some quirks but still so much better than a generic hotel.  Because how many generic hotels have chandeliers in the living room?  Or a living room?

We were in the best part of town, right next to the mountains rather than the highway.  So many nice trails just a couple of blocks away that we couldn't go on due to rain.

Thankfully the rain let up on Thursday but the trails were too muddy to ride, race officials asked us to stay off and thankfully people did.  So we went to Antelope Island instead.  Where we saw lots of buffalo but not much antelope.

It's a great place to go when you can't pre-ride for Nationals.  Wish I had thought to bring the bikes with.

Finally on Friday the trails were dry and the sun was back so we could pre-ride but I didn't want to do too much the day before the race so I only rode the Sardine Peak loop, a little over 8 miles.  I went nice and easy, stopping for lots of pictures and moments of whimsy.  And a gigantic bull moose.  No pix of that guy.

Race day was about as perfect as it gets.  Dramatic views on the drive back from dropping my stuff up at the second transition area up at Snowbasin.  There are 2 transition areas about 20-25 minutes apart so it's a lot of driving on race morning.

Driving back from Snowbasin to Pineview Reservoir where the race starts

It was hat and mittens weather while waiting for race start until the sun finally hit the transition area.  Other than that conditions were perfect.  Water was 64 degrees and I'd guess it was low 60's for the run, maybe even high 50's?  With a little breeze at times.  It was perfect.

Swim went off without a hitch despite the much larger crowd than last year.  Except someone snagged me with a super long, super sharp nail and put a good gash in my finger.  Given the chaos I guess I'm happy that's the worst that happened.  I managed to negotiate the crowds without getting too hung up except at the very start.  Drafted a bit here and there.  Ended up about a minute faster than last year though you never know how accurately the course is set from year to year.  Garmin had it a little long at 1842 yards (should have been 1640).  It's possible I swam off course but 200 yards?  I felt like I swam close to the buoys and my Garmin map showed me on course as well. 

Bike course was crowded.  So crowded.  There were 323 people compared to last year's 266 in the championship race.  Not sure about the citizens' races but those seemed way more crowded as well and they were causing the most congestion and passing issues for me.  Everybody was polite this year, no issues with rudeness but I feel like I lost a lot of time/energy/momentum having to slow down to either pass or let someone pass.  But the course was beautiful as usual.

Photos taken during pre-ride, some by Jonny who rode the whole course

Sardine Peak photos from my pre-ride

Looking down on Pineview Reservoir where we start our swim

The run was my best and fastest at Nationals, 4 minutes faster than last year.  Not bad for a trail 10K. I ran the whole thing except 2 super steep hills.  Usually I end up walking a good deal of it, especially miles 4 and 5.  Though I ended up saving the most time on the downhill sections.  This summer I finally discovered the solution to the side cramps I get when I run downhill so I did the whole race without any cramps. 

The mile splits where I ran instead of power walked were actually slightly slower (15-30 seconds) but I was going off of my Garmin and I noticed that Xterra's mile markers didn't match my Garmin so that could easily account for the discrepancy from last year.  Will be interesting to wear the Garmin again next year and compare apples to apples.  I've been working so hard on my running, was happy to finally see some improvement.  It was cooler this year for the run so that could have played a part.  I never got that overheated fatigue feeling that I think is what causes me to walk.  More run practice over the winter, maybe I'll finally be a runner again.

Strummer waiting for me on the run course.  He about pulled Jonny's arm off when I ran past and didn't stop.

He got plenty of snugs at the finish line though.  You can watch on the video montage.  Because who doesn't love a good montage?

Overall I was pleased with my race and so happy to be able to go to Nationals.  I was talking to a guy in the transition area after the race and he was disappointed with his placement.  He felt he'd put in a good effort but didn't get the placement he was hoping for.  He was an older guy, maybe my age group or one away.  And all I could think was how happy I was that I could even go and that I have the health and strength to finish such a race.  Placements are nice but . . . really I'm happy enough to be strong enough to be out there competing and enjoying the day.  I know so many people who struggle with health issues, chronic pain and general lack of fitness and mobility, people who struggle to get through everyday life never mind go climbing up mountains.  People who would love to be able to afford to train for and attend such a race.  I felt so lucky, I feel so lucky.  And I hope I have the same opportunity to go next year.

Final Stats

Swim:  34:00 swimming time/1842 yards, 1:51/100 yards (35:07, 2:08/100 yd. last year if 1500m)
             258/323 overall (188/266 last year), 58/86 women (84/110 last year), 6/11 age group
             (3/7 last year) 

Run Up Ramp to T1:  1:44 mins. (1:16 last year)

T1:  3:10 (4/11 age group)

Bike:  2:47:38/17.65 miles/6.32 mph (2:42:00/6.71 mph last year)  294/323 overall (240/266 last
           year), 88/96 women (73/86 last year), 9/11 age group (5/7 last year)

T2:  1:53 (1:51 last year) (5/11 age group)

Run:  1:26:08 for 5.87 miles/ 13:40 min/mile per Xterra, 14:40 min/mile actual  (1:30:16/14:27
          min/mile last year)  290/342 overall (249/266 last year), 85/96 women (73 or 77/86 last year),
          9/11 age group (6/7 last year)

    Run Splits:

    Mile 1:  17:24
    Mile 2:  12:47
   (Miles 1 and 2:  32:26 last year, 30:11 this year)
    Mile 3:  15:57 (16:30 last year)
    Mile 4:  15:49 (15:16 last year)
    Mile 5:  14:32  (14:17 last year)
    Mile 5.87:  9:39 (12:01 last year)

Final Time:  4:54:33 (4:53:31 last year),  286/323 overall (243/266 last year),  84/96 women
                    (75/86 last year), 9/11 age group (6/7 last year)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

No Rest for the Wicked

And I must be wicked because my 'rest day' for the week is tomorrow which is also a day of 5 runs at a USDAA trial which does not sound very restful to me.  But this is the last big week of training before Xterra Nationals so the only way to squeeze in a trial day is to pretend it's a rest day.  I wasn't planning on going but signed up last second in order to have some more runs on international style courses so I can decide if I want to endure 6 days of driving to go to UKI Nationals.  It sounds crazy and unnecessary, I know where we are competition-wise, but I'm trying to work up some enthusiasm for 6 days of driving.  For maybe 8 minutes total in the ring.  Maybe.  That seems crazy stupid.  But I was watching some videos from last year's UKI Nat's. and it looks very fun.  And we'd for sure be in the finals.  But SIX DAYS of stupid making I hate driving.  48 hours.  Stupid.  Anyway, we'll see how tomorrow goes.  I have until sometime in October to make up my mind.

And on the driving front, I've had 2 trips in the past week up to Winter Park/Fraser after not going for about a million years.  Because of stupid driving.  It's about 1 3/4 hours but you have to go over twisty, wind-ey, steep Berthoud Pass which is very beautiful and I have some very cool video of driving through low cloud cover up there from last week but yeah, I'll get right on with processing that.  In the meantime, a nice view from the Flume Trail.

Seems like there should be a moose standing right there.  I always feel ripped off when there isn't one.  We did see a moose and her baby on this trail a zillion years ago but it was at a different place.

Fall colors are starting to kick into gear.  Northwest Passage Trail.

The Northwest Passage trail used to be heavy forest then the Pine Beetle came and wiped it out and for many years we didn't come back because it was depressing to see all the dead brown trees.  But as you can see from the photos, the forest is springing back and this time with some aspens.  So nice to see some life again on this trail and in some other areas that were effected.

I love the trails in Winter Park/Fraser, wish they were closer.  The Tipperary Creek Trail was the main attraction because it's very similar in grade and terrain to the course at Nationals.  So I endured the drive to do some sustained hill climbs.  I'm not the fastest racer but going up and down and back up Tipperary gets some remarks from folks struggling to get up it just the once. 

Jonny took these pix on Tipperary.  I was on a mission and didn't stop, even for some grouse photos.  I have some GoPro video but it's too bumpy and barf making to watch.

There was a group of guys that we kept running into and at one point one of them let me try his super light 23 pound Fat Bike.  SO fun.  But I can't have more bikes right now.  I accumulate bikes like some people accumulate Border Collies.  I have to get rid of some bikes before more can come live with me.  But wow, very fun.  But NO MORE BIKES.  I don't care how fun.  Same goes for Border Collies.

All my big workouts before Nat's. are done, now I just have to get through tomorrow's trial and it's taper time.  I'm very excited for this year's race, much more so than last year's, probably because the warm summer weather has persisted and it still feels like triathlon season whereas last year fall blew in 2 weeks before Nat's. and I was suddenly over triathlon season.  Today's open water swim felt like mid-summer.  Hopefully the good weather will persist until Nat's.  The forecast looks perfect, if only it'll come true.

And just because, a freaky rainbow settled into the mountains in Nederland before our ride last week.

And more fall colors starting up, also in Ned.

There will be more fall colors to come and of course reports from Utah.  Complete with buffaloes.    Can't wait!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

UKI Trial - Onward to Nationals?

This was by far the most fun trial of the year.  I love UKI but we have so little of it.  At least this year there were 2 full trials and a one day trial.  But all of them 2-2+ hours away and in summer during peak triathlon training season.  And one on 4th of July weekend which is not a weekend you want to be on the roads if you can help it.  I know, whine whine whine.  But I hate the driving, SO MUCH, especially driving from Boulder to and through Denver with the traffic and construction and stupid Broncos game traffic or whatever it was that brought the highway to a standstill on my way home.  Thankfully there is a bypass so I wasn't in the parking lot for too long.  Takes a little longer but at least it was moving.  But still, 2 hours 20 minutes stuck in the car on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. O.k., enough whining about the growing traffic situation of Too Many People on the Front Range.  On to UKI.

First round for us was Agility.  Here's the course map.

And the video.

Fun course but I was super rusty and Strummer was wound up and flying around the course.  Not a great combination but somehow we managed a Q.  He has no masters level standard agility Q's in USDAA after how many years and somehow he pulls off one in UKI?  He hasn't trialed since May and we've barely practiced in the past few weeks due to heat and schedule conflicts with my training partner.  And let's not even get into the soreness and fatigue in my legs from training and the big quad busting climb on my bike the day before.  Maybe that's the key to success?  Don't practice and work your way into physical exhaustion.  Sounds like a plan.

 Then on to Masters Series Agility or Super Fancy Agility as I call it.

It wasn't pretty but we got it done without an off course.  Elements of it were similar to regular Agility so we had a little practice from the previous run.

Then on to regular Jumpers.  The one thing I don't like about UKI is weave poles in the jumpers courses.  Strummy got his entry but popped out for some reason.  I think I slowed down a bit to praise him and he thought something was wrong but who knows.

Next was Masters Series Jumping.  I don't have video because I turned the camera off when I thought I was turning it on.  Because I'm a genius that way.  We had just a refusal, I forget where.  I know he got his weave entrance so it wasn't that.  Again some similar challenges to regular Jumpers.

 And finally Speedstakes which is my favorite class and the one I was sure we would Q in.  No weave poles, fast straight forward course, perfect for Strummy.  But I rushed my handling after Jump #6 and didn't give enough forward cue to Jump #7 causing him to back jump #6.  Oh well. 

Overall he got 4/4 weave pole entries which is pretty darn amazing for him though admittedly the entries played to his strengths.  Also got both teeters and A-frames and 1/2 dogwalks.  Can't complain about his obstacle performance especially since he hasn't been on obstacles since May except maybe the odd weave pole or teeter at my training partner's house.  My handling though, yeesh, I need to practice for me.

Overall he ended up getting a Q in the Masters Series and a bye to the Finals Round at Nationals.  And he won a small sum of money which was a surprise to me.  Didn't know you get money for Masters Series.  Now, do I want to drive for 3 days to go to Perry, GA for Nationals?  This was not even a blip on a blip of my radar.  I can't imagine all that driving.  6 total days of driving for 3 days of agility and realistically only a few minutes total of time in the ring?  Agility is a bad bang for your buck/time when it comes to competition.  But it might be a fun experience and I've never been to the south.  And it would almost certainly be my last opportunity at a Nationals competition with Strummer.  He's 10 1/2 and still going strong but who knows for how long.  And I have no youngster waiting in the wings so it would be years before I could ever go to another Nationals.  But Three Days Of Driving.  Then turn around and do it again 3 days later.  Hmmmm.

In all we got 5 runs in and were done by just past noon.  And I didn't even enter Gamblers which ran first, could have been 6 runs.  I wish agility was always like that, I'd be more inclined to drive the 2 hours each way.  But wow, only 4 dogs in the masters classes.  Total, all heights, and Strummy the only one in his class.  Personally I don't mind but it's probably not sustainable for clubs to have that kind of turnout.  And where was everybody?  I know it's a drive but if I can do it all the way from Boulder, sheesh, it's not so bad from Denver.  But I think people are entrenched in their pursuit of titles and there isn't enough of a critical mass of UKI trials yet to interest people.  I would much rather have interesting, challenging courses than worry about titles.  They're mostly a marketing gimmick anyway to get people hooked and keep them coming back.  Why not try something new rather than trotting around the pinwheels weekend after weekend for MACH 107?  Ah well, you can't tell people what they should enjoy doing.  Just wish we had more UKI and closer to home.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hosetooth Open Water Swim

A friend from masters convinced me to do this race.  Which took some doing because I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get up to Fort Collins in time for the 5:30-6:30 check-in.  For a swim race.  If not for her there's no way I would have signed up for this on my own.

The drive there in the dark was a bit harrowing because it's country roads with lots of twists and tight turns that you can't see in the dark.  And suicidal bunnies.  Lots and lots of suicidal bunnies.  I told my friend please to hit the bunny rather than swerve into a ditch if it comes to it.  Thankfully it didn't come to it.  I know, I sound mean, I love bunnies, nobody wants to hit a bunny, but I also love living and not ending up in a ditch.

It was a chilly morning, 45 degrees or so when we got there and the sun never made it up over the mountains before race start.  Thankfully I brought a hat.  And did jumping jacks and high knees running.  Lots of high knees running.

Before.  Waiting it out in the chill.

Thankfully the water was supposedly 72 degrees, maybe even a little warmer, so I was fine once I got going.  72 degrees and a chilly air temp. is no problemo in a wetsuit but kind of a problemo without a wetsuit for some people who ended up with hypothermia.

The sun came out while we were swimming and it turned into a beautiful morning for me in my nice toasty wetsuit.

Horsetooth Rez

I was warned that the race was disorganized and it sort of was but not completely.  Parking, check-in went off without a hitch but the course description?  Major confusion.  They kept explaining it over and over during the pre-race meeting but there were 2 people who took turns explaining different courses.  Then at the start line the starter woman explained a different course.  But since she was the last person to tell us, that's the course I followed even though it made no sense whatsoever.  And of course it was wrong and the kayakers came out and shooed all of us over to the correct course.  Then at the end lots and lots of people skipped the last buoy and cut the course.  By a LOT.  I think more people cut the course than did it correctly.  And the kayakers let them all go.  I was there for training not awards so I wasn't bent out of shape but sheesh, it's a race, it should be fair for everybody.

I pushed hard the whole way, did a good job of keeping focus for once.  My wave was small, only 52 people so I wasn't able to draft much or practice working in the crowd which was my main motivation.  But I did get to see where I am with my swimming and what my current race pace feels like.

I ended up winning my age group in the wetsuit division as did my friend.  I was second woman overall and she was fourth.  A very good day for the Boulder BAM ladies.

After.  Showing off our bling.

Of course I left my medal in my friend's car but she took a nice photo of both of them.

The race was 1.2 miles and I swam exactly 1.20 miles according to Garmin.  Time was 38:37 for a pace of 1:50/100 yards, about my typical race pace.  Kind of frustrated that I can't seem to get any faster but also kind of happy that I'm not losing speed with age so far.  My swim time for Nat's. last year was 2:08/100 yards but the course was crowded, especially at the start, and I didn't go too crazy because it's a long day.  Also hard to know how accurately the course was measured or how accurately I swam it, I didn't have my Garmin and there is much weaving because of the crowds.  Anyway, I can expect to swim something similar this year, gives me a good idea of pacing and coming up with a race plan/goals.

Had some hill repeats later in the day.  Those could maybe have gone better but in addition to being tired from the race we had some remaining haze from the zillions of wildfires out west.  It wasn't horrible but it wasn't great.  Thankfully only seemed to make it a bit harder to breath while running and didn't have any effects once I stopped.  Some people were bothered by smoke at the race and it only just occurs to me that it could have effected my pace though I can't say that I noticed the smoke at all and the pictures aren't crazy hazy though supposedly the smoke was at its worst in the morning.  Thankfully much better here today.  Hopefully they'll get those fires under control soon.  Not good for anybody.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fear and Loathing at the DMV

I gave myself the not very fabulous birthday present of forgetting that my driver's license was expiring and thus not renewing it online a month earlier like a normal person.  So yesterday I turned 51 and today I remembered about the license and discovered the very sad making reality of 30 days to renew your license online.  And I remembered this at about 9:45 a.m. so I couldn't even go early.

If you show up this late at the Boulder DMV during the week that the students come back you will have a nearly 2 hour wait.  Luckily I live 7 minutes away so I went home, did stuff and came back a bit early on the impossible chance that they would be running early and I would miss my number being called.  I know, I love making people spit up onto their computer screen.  Of course they weren't running early.

Lots of students there.  Most of them fairly patient and docile despite the hostile environment of the DMV and the energy of the unfortunate people who were not having good days at the DMV.  The students had their noses in their gizmos, I was the only one there reading a real honest to goodness in the flesh book.  From the library even.  Very Old Timey.

Until I was jolted from my book by a very modern problem.  One of the students found himself slipping into the 'Not Having a Good Day at the DMV' crowd.  And he responded with much screaming and swearing and aggression.  And even at the Boulder DMV it doesn't matter if you are rich or your mother never taught you Manners or you came from California, these days if you start scream swearing at the government workers they are going to threaten to call the police.  Or 911.  Or somebody who will make your day even worse.

But it doesn't stop there.  Because even if you're a rich, pompous Boulderite you still have to lower yourself to go to the DMV to take your teenager for his driving test.  And you just can't help pointing out the obvious.  'This young man has an anger management problem,'  blurts out Captain Obvious.  Which as anybody who is not a pompous Boulderite knows is the last thing what you want to say to some impulse control challenged crazy guy losing it at the DMV.  So of course his anger escalates and he turns on Captian Obvious.  Who is sitting across the aisle from me.  And while I'd like nothing better than to see this throw down from a distance, I'm all too close to the action.  Thankfully I have a clear shot to the exit doors but before I need to bolt it finally occurs to everybody that the best thing to do in this situation is to shut up and not start punching each other.  Or worse.  That 'No Firearms' sign I was laughing at earlier suddenly doesn't seem so funny.  Because of all the ways that your life can end I think losing it in the DMV to some crazy guy who needs to learn how to take a deep breath is one of the worst.

Thankfully I emerge unscathed with my temporary driver's license and a sworn oath to myself that I will never ever forget to renew my license well in advance online.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Do ALL the Things

Normally I'm not a fan of this.  Do ALL the things.  Too many races or agility trials or whatever.  Busy all the time, so not my thing.  I'd rather do a few things and savor them.  Take time to relax, enjoy, reflect.  Those 3 day USDAA trials with a million runs a day, doubled or tripled if you have multiple dogs, ummmm, not so much for me anymore.  The whole thing ends up becoming a blur, can't remember my runs, can't remember whatever lessons I learned from them.  Same thing for too many races.  Barely recover from one then it's time to start tapering for the next.  And yet somehow this year I ended up with 2 Xterra races in one weekend and something on the docket every weekend this month except for this one.  How did it happen?  How did I let my schedule slip away from me?  I had a swimming friend talk me into a race at Horsetooth Reservoir and there was the Xterra and pre-ride for the Xterra at the start of the month and then a UKI trial. 

How can I not go to a UKI trial?  Hardly ever any UKI trials around here.  Actually there was one over 4th of July weekend and another one in July but both were 2 hours + away and these days that's far for me to drive for a trial, especially in the summer when I'm already driving all the time to go biking and hiking.  The upcoming trial is also 2 hours away, same location as the July 4th trial but I dunno, I want to go so I'll suck it up and do the drive.  It'll be a nice break from triathlon training and poor Strum gets a bit neglected agility-wise in the summer.  I haven't been to a trial since May.  Very scant practice as well due to heat and difficulty coordinating practice with my training partner.  Again with the Busy.  I'm not a fan of all this Busy.  Actually the agility problem is more heat than Busy.  Those cool early morning hours get booked up quickly and for me the Rez swimming at 6:10 a.m. takes up 2 precious mornings.  Then one weekday Jonny and I go riding.  And of course my partner has her other things on the days I'm available.  Plus agility is so not fun in the hot.

Then there's the issue of Strummer's age.  He turned 10 last March and while he's still going strong, I'm not a fan of double digit dogs doing agility.  So we'll see, maybe UKI is his last trial or maybe we do the flood of trials in the fall/winter that are only 20 minutes away and then retire next summer.  We'll see how he goes.  And I'm really liking having 2 dogs so for now there is no youngster waiting in the wings which I suppose is agility blasphemy but whatever.  TWO dogs is my magic, bestest, happiest number of dogs.

TWO Happy Dogs on our 'new' wood floors.

Actually these floors were under the carpeting the whole time.  SO mad at myself that I didn't check sooner.  We've been living on carpeting unnecessarily for the past 17 years.  Though it was a huge hassle to get the carpeting ripped up and the floors re-finished but that's another story for another day.  In short, I don't recommend Denver Dustless unless you want to come home from your vacation that you took to avoid being home while the work was being done to find the 20 year old Carpet From Hell still on your floor when you return.

On the plus side of Do All The Things, the Snow Mountain Ranch Xterra was my last triathlon of the regular season leaving 6 solid weeks of training before Nationals.  Well, a week of recovery from last weekend's race then a week of taper before Nat's but still, a good solid block of training.  Very excited about that.  And I seem to be in a good place fitness-wise.  I guess the late start to my training due to Rainpocalypse of Spring was maybe a good thing because so far I'm not burnt out on training and looking forward to gearing up for Nat's.  Last year I was so over it all about 2 weeks before Nat's. but this year I feel excited about my upcoming training block and the race itself.  I guess I'll see how I feel 2 weeks out again but I'm feeling optimistic about it all.

Xterra Worlds is still a wild card.  Will I qualify at Nat's. and if so do I even want to go to Maui?  Still not feeling the super love of it.  Would maybe like the experience of going sometime but is this the year?  Because it's the 20th anniversary of the race, Xterra has been releasing footage of all the old races starting with the first race in 1995 on Vimeo.  I've been working my way through them to see if it'll work up some desire to go.  It's funny to see the changes in clothes/gear/equipment over the years, especially mountain bikes, but so far I'm not feeling the love.  Nonetheless I catch myself checking the Xterra Worlds website sometimes and I caught myself asking my coach questions about the race since she's done it many times and is very familiar with it.  Was even asking an open water swimming expert at a masters workout about how to swim into the surf.  If I don't want to go, why am I asking/checking?  I guess a little part of me somewhere is interested.  So for now the race is sort of on my radar on the back burner but not a huge priority or goal.  And if I don't qualify, well, that makes the decision easy.  For now it's all about Nationals and improving my time from last year, especially on the run.  I so want to get my running back.  Been working hard on that but not too hard because running is a great way to break myself if I'm not mindful of what I'm doing.

Hoping to get back to posting a little more.  Been thinking/reading a lot about Flow and have some ideas to write about.  Must get through All The Things though.  Sheesh summer is exhausting.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Xterra Snow Mountain Ranch

This was a small, laid back race, just how I likes 'em, with a beautiful scenic course and very little oxygen.  Elevation ranges between 8700' - 9700' according to Garmin.  In fact I have all the intel on the race according to Garmin and I think I can share it here via links to Strava.  So for those who are interested in the distance, elevation profiles, etc., here you go:  Swim, Bike, Run.  Strava creeps me out a little, kind of weird and creepy that people 'compete' against each other on it but it seems a handy way to share the race data for anybody considering it in the future or anybody who's just curious.

Love those small, laid back races.

I pre-rode the bike course the week before and it was mostly smooth single track with some dirt roads and a few technical bits on 'primitive' trail.  There were a couple of short technical downhill bits that I had to walk and a very steep loose downhill that I came upon unexpectedly with way too much speed in the pre-ride to get off and walk.  My back wheel kept skidding so I had to let off the brake and hope for the best.  Miraculously I made it!  Couldn't believe I got out in one piece.  Didn't press my luck during the race and got off to walk since I knew it was coming though coming at it with more controlled speed it felt like I could have ridden it.  Nonetheless I was taking no chances and decided to walk the short stretch.  Some guy in the race crashed in a gully and had to go to the hospital and I wonder if this was the place because if you were going to crash badly enough to require a hospital visit, that would be the place.  There was a woman on the pre-ride who did road triathlons but this was to be her first Xterra and she was an inexperienced mountain biker.  She crashed several times and had to walk most of the downhill on the technical sections.  I was wondering if she'd show up on race day.  She didn't.

Overall I had a great race despite some terrible heart rate variability and heart rate numbers the week leading up to the race.  I felt o.k. during that week so I wasn't too worried about it and my numbers on race morning improved a bit though weren't fabulous.  Nonetheless my legs felt strong on the climbs on the bike, I was able to run the whole run course (no walking up the steepy steep bits) and I felt worlds better than I had felt the week before during the pre-ride where I'd had to walk several uphills that I was able to ride during the race.  It's amazing what a week of rest can do.  And it's important not to take hard data too seriously.

All distances and times listed below are per my Garmin.

Swim:  861 yards

There was some kind of mix up with the plugs for the buoys so the race director was unable to inflate them.  To improvise he put the buoys in canoes and had a makeshift course.  It ended up a bit short (was supposed to be 1000 m/12// yards) which was probably fine with just about everybody because the water was a brisk 63 degrees or so.  And swimming at 9000' is challenging.  The swim was 2 laps with a quick exit onto the beach in between laps.  I took the first lap very slowly to avoid getting winded and panicky in the cold water and high elevation.  I got out of the water a bit winded, stopped for a few moments to catch my breath and did the second lap faster and felt fine.  The cold wasn't too bad and mercifully the elevation wasn't bothering me like it has been all summer.

Weather was ominous at the start but it turned into a beautiful, perfect day for racing.

Mountain Bike:  13.92 miles, 1788 ft. elevation gain

The bike went mostly without incident.  The course felt much easier than on the pre-ride.  Fresh legs and knowing what to expect on the course make all the difference.  Such a beautiful course, wildflowers, mountain views, lush green, flowy singletrack.

View from Coyote Tooth Trail (photo taken during pre-ride)

I was faster and stronger on the climbs than during the pre-ride but probably slower on some of  the more sketchy downhills.  I couldn't see any upside to taking risks on them so I went a comfortable pace, happy enough to emerge in one piece.  My goal for the bike was to push the uphills and that part went well.

Unfortunately I don't have any other photos of the course.  I thought about taking my GoPro with me on either the pre-ride or the race but couldn't be bothered in the end.  I'll probably regret that.

Run:  3.98 miles, 499' elevation gain

The run was the first 4 miles of the bike course which included a steep hill after the first mile.  I'd had to walk up in during the pre-ride but I was able to both ride and run it without walking.  Very happy about that.  My goal for the run was to run all the hills.  All of them.  No wimping out and power walking even if it seemed like it would be more efficient to power walk.  I wanted to get over the mental hurdle of feeling like I can't run up the hills when I'm tired at the end of a race.  This gets me every time at Nationals and is my biggest weakness at the moment.  I want to be able to run the hills at Nationals this year, no survival shuffling. 

As it happened I felt good off the bike despite pushing the hills and I had strength enough left in my legs to make it up all the hills.  All of them.  My pace wasn't bad either, much faster than at Mountain Champs but to be fair that was a much longer, harder bike and run.  But still, it felt good to run the whole thing and no shuffling.

I did a little extra credit, took a wrong turn just before the finish line and some spectators finally noticed and set me back on course.  I ended up 3/5 in my age group, very pleased with that.

There are worse finish line views.

View of lake below from the finish line area.  There are worse places to race.

Beautiful scenery, perfect weather, a great day physically on the course - who can ask for anything more?


Swim:   861 yards (per Garmin) 19:30 mins. (2:16/100 yards)

T1:  3:42

Mountain Bike:  13.9 miles, 1788 ft. elevation gain,  1:56:28, 5.79 mph (moving time 1:53:42, stopped to take off fleece top).

T2:  54 secs.

Trail Run:  4.0 miles, 500' elevation gain, 53:36 (13:28 min/mile)

Finish:  3:14:10, 3/5 age group, 13/18 women, 53/65 overall

Friday, July 31, 2015

Selfies at 11,000' and Collie Flowers

A beautiful hike from Brainard Lake to Lake Isabelle today.  A Friday.  Because if that's what it's like on a Friday I don't want to think about what the weekend is like.  But my growing discontent with the Front Range hordes is a post for another day.

Strummy and I got kind of an early start but not super early.  Hit the trail at around 9:15.  Don't try that on the weekend folks.  This hike was a spur of the moment decision so I didn't have gear packed, crate in the car, etc. and it took a little while to hit the road once I made the decision.  And it was a good decision.

The lake is awfully low (barely visible in this photo) considering all the moisture we've gotten.

Selfies at 10,910'.

I had Garmin with me so I finally know the elevation at the lake.  Ish.

Collie Flowers

Poor dog.  I sat his ass down to pose for pictures next to every patch of wildflowers I could find.  He was such a good sport.  Uncharacteristically so.  I guess he's figured out the quickest way to get hiking again is to pose quickly and get it over with.

So many wildflowers.

 One of these days I'll figure out how to photograph them to get the best effect.  But not today.  It was getting stormy and I don't like to be too high/exposed when a front is blowing in.  I made it to the car no problem.  I'm always amazed at the people starting their high country hikes at noon and going up into dark black clouds.  Lightning is so dangerous and prevalent at high altitude.  But there were asstons of them today and most summer days.

So beautiful but I didn't get an early enough start to go too high.

7 miles/3 hours of hiking and a 45 minute drive later and Strummer is throwing tennis balls at me while I try to do some reading for work.  He is relentless, just like Mountain Champs.