Wednesday, July 30, 2014

La Maratona Verticale Race Report

Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner
After a few not-my-greatest races I figured I should go back to what worked in my last good race, Quad Rock. Obviously it was the Five Guys burger I had for dinner the night before. After I got all my gear packed and took an hour nap I made a quick Five Guys stop before picking up James. I roughly sketched out some splits, but without really having anything to go off of for the course, not to mention the website claimed somewhere between 5900 - 13,000 ft of vertical gain, I figured I would just go out there and have fun. 

My alarm clock went off at the obnoxious time of 3:00 am, snoozed until 3:15 and was finally out the door by 3:45. I got to Copper around 5:15 and was greeted with a blast of cold air as I got out of my car. Cursing myself for not bringing, sleeves, gloves, or a warm jacket I nearly sprinted to check-in. The biggest advantage to the race being at a ski resort meant not only was there a place to wait inside for the start there was a plethora of real bathrooms! A luxury to us ultra runners. As I stood there watching the clock tick down I kept debating how long to wait to take off my long sleeve. And then a race official came in to say they were starting late because the paramedics weren't here yet. I spent the next hour or so eyeing up the roughly 30 runners waiting in the locker rooms for the race start. Thankfully Stevie Kremer said she was running the half, but looking at the other women left me with zero confidence. Everyone appeared to be sponsored, and most by Salomon. Well I thought, this race is just about having fun. Finally they called us out to the race briefing and to start. 
Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner

Then we were off. The first couple miles were a series of switchbacks right up the front of the mountain. It was mostly singletrack and super runnable. I ran the first 5 miles at a pretty consistent pace. Then you hit the top of Reso and from there we climbed to the top of Copper Mountain via Storm King. Stevie and the lead marathon men came charging by us at that point and I was amazed how fast they were all going. I have found memories of riding this t-bar so running up was quite the experience. I tagged the flag, took in the 360 view of Vail Pass and Sky Valley and started back down. It was a scramble up the last mile and even as a good downhill runner I was reduced to barely faster than a hike over the loose rocks. I had made the first climb and downhill pretty close to my goal times and aside from a tight hip flexor I was really feeling good. 
Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner

Back up to the top of Copper Mountain. I forced myself to run almost the whole way back to the top of Reso before scrambling back to the top. The guy in front of me on the scramble stopped twice to take everything in and each time he did so it was like a silent reminder to myself to look around, to enjoy the views and appreciate it all. I mean this is why we do these climbs right? Back down we went. 

I quickly began to realize the miles I had on my Garmin were not matching what I was expecting. As I crossed across Copper toward Union Peak I asked the mileage at an aid station. They said they were at 16 miles, bewildered I read 20 on my watch. I knew something seemed amiss. I had been thinking I was in 2nd, as had the guy I was running with, Jordan, but on the second climb up Copper Mountain a girl that had been nearly 2 miles behind me was suddenly ahead. For a moment I thought maybe she wasn't feeling good and was just coming down from her first climb when I was on my second. But now that I was showing 4 miles long for the course I assumed I had gotten off course. But the group guys I had been running with the whole morning had run every step I had and we had seen flags the whole way. 

Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner
After another awesome downhill we traversed across toward Union Peak. It was relatively flat and not technical so I was able to keep a pretty good pace here. Clouds were starting to move in and I was really just hoping to get up and down Union as quick as possible to avoid any storms.
I still don't know what happened, but we're guessing we may have done an extra loop out of an aid station. We hit most aid stations several times so it would have been easy to leave in the wrong direction. At aid station at the bottom of Union Peak I asked again and I was still 4 miles long. I started climbing up to Union saddle and was pleasantly surprised by how runnable this climb was. I had prepared myself for a doozy. I soon spotted the girl that had mysteriously gone from 2 miles behind to 2 miles ahead of me, but she was now less than half a mile ahead. I was determined to catch her. Jordan also saw her and said there was no way he was going to let her beat me. 
Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner

Now it was on and I charged down Union saddle on a mission to catch the girl. I was determined to hold onto the podium and finish this race racing. I got into the aid station at the same time as the girl. Jordan was right behind me and asked if anyone else mentioned having ran an extra 4 miles. They said yeah quite a few people have. The girl just stopped and turned saying that she was wondering how she had gotten ahead of us. I slammed a coke and took off with Jordan right on my heels pushing me to keep going faster. We quickly hit the last aid station where they said everyone had run an extra 4 miles, but that swore it was only 2.5 miles to the finish. I, in a very nice way, told them they had better not be lying. I swear all aid station volunteers lie about distance left and hills. Probably to keep you positive, but after spending the last 11 miles having no idea how much was left I wanted to know exactly what we had left. 

3rd Place
Photo by Vertical Runner
Jordan and I continued to charge downhill. From the last aid station we basically just had to make our way back down the switchbacks to the main village. I was beginning to remember each of the switchbacks from a few hours earlier and knew we were almost there. Some kids were rockin' the small railyard as we came flying down and I chuckled thinking about how many broken bones I had suffered at the hands of Copper rails. But the railyard meant we were at the village. I came around the corner from the last switchback and just took off for the finish line. I ended up with a total of 29.03 miles and 5:32:23. 

I found out a few minutes later that Stevie Kremer had decided to switch to the full so I ended up in 3rd. I certainly can't complain about losing to Stevie or Sarah, who is a former Salomon runner. Overall a great day and a great course. My goal was top 5 and sub-5:00. I figure without the extra 4 miles I would have been sub-5:00 so I can't really be disappointed by that, plus I got some extra training in. And 3rd place? In the money? That was more than I expected for a Skyrunner event. Sure there weren't very many runners, but still. I definitely have my confidence back and am now trying to figure out how to get Five Guys burgers to Steamboat for before Run Rabbit. 

Week July 21 - 27

Miles Running: 52.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 10.5

Monday, July 21, 2014


Playing in the lake
It felt good to finally get back to a full training week. It was a crazy week of therapies and work meetings, but after a few low mileage weeks my legs were screaming to get back to running. It was not easy to log the miles this week. A lot of 4:30 am wake up calls to get in 3 miles in the neighborhood. Then it was either meet Dan at Apex for another morning run or head to Apex for an afternoon run. I didn't have any super exciting runs, but each day on the trail I was happy I had managed to get out.

Even though these two-a-days weren't huge workouts I could still feel it in my legs by Friday. Friday morning James had a cardiology follow-up, everything is still looking stable so just keep following-up. But it meant no Friday long run. Even without a long run this week I still managed 55.5 miles which was no easy feat! And with a marathon with around 6k of vert next weekend a week off of a long run is probably just what the coach ordered. This weekend was filled with Bear Creek miles pushing James. Dan had just done a Hope double so I was stuck with nearly every stroller mile. I kept telling myself that the extra 30lbs I was pushing would pay off at Run Rabbit. Those hills will seem so much easier when it's just me right? We did stop and let James play in the lake on Saturday. He seemed to have an absolute blast! He kept stomping in the water and was laughing like crazy.

Bear Creek Lake Park
Dan and I were also back on house duty and this time we finally got around to staining the deck. I also figure it must count for something when after a 12 mile running pushing James I spend the next several hours working in the yard. Maybe that's just my way of rationalizing not having a long run. Regardless I can't be upset about this weeks training. I got in the miles and even managed some vert. I felt really good too so I think a few low mileage weeks was actually good for my training, again maybe just me rationalizing the low mileage. But really my legs felt good and I was running fast for me times at a pretty easy effort level.

James' walking has been getting better and better. He's even starting to reach out for your hand if you hold your hand out. Seeing him reach for my hand is one of those small moments that means the world to me. Maybe it's because he's not calling me mom yet, or maybe a hundred other reasons, but reaching out for my hand and walking along side me meant the world to me and melted my heart. 

Pool Party!
Week July 14 - 20

Miles Running: 55.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 10

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Am Not Super Mom

the mountains are calling and I must go -John Muir

Bear Creek Lake Park
I don't choose the easiest races or the easiest paths through life. I've always taken the road less traveled. So as Friday approached I found myself less and less excited about running an easy course for 12 hours through the night. Thursday night I was begrudgingly packing my gear when Dan asked if I was at all excited about racing. I emphatically said no. He told me you know you can't run 12 hours if your head's not in it. Of course at the time Dan was also packing his gear for a Hope double on Friday. 

And then he said the magic words...if you decide not to race you could come do a killer climb with me.

Why does that sound so appealing? 

For about 15 minutes I was completely distraught...on one hand I felt guilty skipping the race, but on the other an adventure sounded way more fun! Plus it made the weekend a lot easier. Somehow, in some alternate universe I had honestly thought I could run 12 hr overnight, drive myself up to Boulder to watch Ironkids, then drive back down to Denver for a wedding shower. Okay seriously? What was I thinking? There was no way I could Super Mom that list of to do items. In the end the guilt faded away to logic and Dan and I laid out our plans for tackling Ben Tyler on Friday. 

The only other time I've been up Ben Tyler I was by myself and made it just over 2 miles up the trail before I was nearly tackled by a bear. So I was excited to finally get out to do this climb. Friday morning after dropping off James at daycare we headed up to Grant. We ticked off the first few miles pretty quickly as we easily made our way to the top. Of course easily is a relative term for the 3500 foot climb over 6 miles it takes to make it to the top. It was gorgeous on top so we snapped a few photos before heading down the backside. Some clouds were starting to move in so we weren't sure we would make it all the way up the Colorado Trail to Kenosha, but figured we'd evaluate the weather at the bottom. 

Top of Ben Tyler
About a mile down the trail we ducked back into the woods and soon found the trail completely obliterated by what we assumed to be a microburst. There was this line of dead fall that had covered the trail and made it nearly impassable. Trees had been blown in every direction. We managed to find an area a bit to the south that we could get through, but it was still relatively slow going. Finally we somehow caught back up to the trail just as the weather was really starting to turn. There was nothing we could do now. No way out, no cell service, but at least we weren't on top. We guessed that by the time we got back up the storm that was passing through would be over. Or maybe that was more of a hope.

The run back up was brutal. Within a mile or so we had lost the trail, although this was probably a good thing since we weren't going to get up the trail anyways. We started seeing pink ribbons which we followed for quite a ways. Our guess is that this is marking the re-route for the trail. Suddenly we popped out on an old rock slide and the only way up was a steep ascent up the rocks. We knew we were near the top and as predicted a window in the storm had opened up so we pushed hard to the top. Eventually we dropped back down the front to find the trail covered in hail. We were certainly lucky to miss that part of the storm on the backside. Half a mile from the car the skies opened up again and it was a complete downpour, but we made it safely back to the car. All in all it was a great training run for Leadville and Run Rabbit, much better than Chase the Moon would have been and much more fun. 

Fun in the sand
James has been doing awesome lately. I swear every time I turn around he's learned a new sign or making another word approximation. His latest is "up". We got on the elevator after his speech appointment at Children's last week and I signed and said down, but James just kept yelling up. Everyone else was just cracking up. Sunday we took James to Bear Creek for anther family run and let him play on the beach for a bit. He wasn't too sure about the sand and water at first, but still had a blast. 

Week July 7 - 13

Miles Running: 50.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 11.5


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Fortnight

James stealing the finish line
Photo by Jerry Armstrong
So I'm not sure what happened to the last two weeks, but they have apparently come and gone...along with my training. Between life's hectic moments and my lack of motivation to run in the heat and thunderstorms my training has suffered a bit. I've been trying to get out for some early morning runs in the neighborhood to at least get out there, but 3 miles is a pretty short run for where I need to be at right now. At least I still have time to re-focus and get my training back on track. 

I did get to mark 22 miles of the North Fork course the day before Dan raced it. I love those trails and have missed my weekly long runs there. It was pretty brutally hot and even for such a short run I was forced to filter water halfway through. Naturally just after I stopped to filter water the clouds came out and cooled it off significantly. 

Dan ended up having a great race at NF. He finished about 35 minutes ahead of his goal time and felt great. A great sign for where his training is at this year compared to last year. Last year he never really recovered from Silver Rush in time for Leadville. I had a blast crewing the race, but not nearly as much fun as James had. He was the hit of the race. North Fork still ranks as one of the best ultras I've ever ran. The atmosphere is phenomenal on the course and at the finish, the course is beautiful mostly single track, and the finisher's awards are always something different and totally rock. When I finished I got a cool handmade bowl and Dan got an awesome fleece.

Dan rocking North Fork
Photo by Jerry Armstrong
Hot summer days
Finally the 4th of July came around and my running got back on track. I hope. Dan and I took off on Thursday to finally finish the fence we were building. Now if we can just hang that last gate it will be completely done. It feels good to have finished that project. Not to mention all the "time on feet" for recent yard work had to have counted for something right? Friday through Sunday were family runs at Bear Creek. It was brutally hot down there, but it's been so great for training now that we can take James out with us. It's pretty flat, but still way easier than juggling both Dan and and I getting in all our runs over the weekend. Plus it gave us time to pull out the little pool and water table for James. I think James was convinced this was the best weekend EVER! 3 days of running and swimming! We might have a little triathlete on our hands!

Rocking his shiner

James has been doing great with his communication and walking. He's pretty much walking full time now! Yay! I think that means I can count an extra 3 miles of chasing each day. He's just non-stop until he completely crashes. He's also adding more and more signs to his vocabulary. My favorite is he now signs "love you"! Yep definitely the highlight of this fortnight! He's spontaneously using more signs as well. Most nights he signs "bed" when he's ready to go to sleep, he's started climbing up his high chair when he's hungry and if we get home and the music isn't already playing he keeps signing it and whining until you can get the sound bar turned on. A totally amazing little guy!

Of course along with James' new found independence has come a few more mishaps and tantrums. He's sporting quite a lovely black eye right now. And the tantrums that ensue upon discovering the garbage can lid is locked are pretty amazing.  

Week June 23 - 29

Miles Running: 37.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 8

Week June 30 - July 6

Miles Running: 31.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 6.5
Water table fun
Family fun at Bear Creek!
Photo by Jerry Armstrong
Photo by Jerry Armstrong