Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why

Contrary to what one might think, I stopped at mile 108 because I felt like I'd completed what I came to Tahoe to complete.  My body felt good, really darn good for that many miles.  I can't explain it and it defies my usual idea of "completion," but I had the most amazing journey.  I remember two things very clearly. The first was the moment I turned a corner to see Lake Aloha in its glory--- the most beautiful sight I've EVER seen on trail, and I have seen some amazing things.  I saw a silver mountain of rock made up of sharp metallic blades and pure blue water to a crystal blue sky with round rocks clean as polished dinnerware bubbling up from the lake. I have never before stopped in such awe and in my surprise I uttered, "Ohhhh!" 

The second moment came when I was suffering greatly from stomach pain in the latter part of the first day, so much so that I was retching, unable to eat, and I heard the telltale rattle.  Stopped in my tracks, I gazed on a frozen rattle snake, it's head turned to me, it's tongue the only part that moved in and out to the sound of my breath.  At that moment I realized that I wasn't so bad off after all. 

I'm not sure what's next for me, but while running I realized that what I thought was important really wasn't important.  I had a bit of an existential crisis. I lost interest in setting a record even though I was still on course to break it.  My adventure and its "goal" had changed.  I no longer wished to receive praise or to uplift my ego through my running, instead I wanted to run for myself.  For my very own adventure.  My mind rebelled from finishing times, records, ridiculous FKTs.  My body still felt good at mile 108.  I could hardly believe it.  The answer to "can I do the 170 mile TRT?" was answered for me in a  resounding yes!  How could I feel so good and be done?  The answer for me was another question: Why not stop when I feel good?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacing Hardrock with the Trail Angels

Made it to the finish!
The Pre-HR Ramble
I admit it was a little painful to pace and not be running the race this year.  I can't complain though, I have only been trying to get into the race for 2 years.  I know of others who have tried for more than 5 years.  It is surprisingly difficult to get into through the lottery. You'd think that due to the toughness of the course, the steepness of the mountains, the altitude, and the monsoons that people would hold back from putting in to the lottery... but really what happens is that people figure they won't get in so they enter the lottery thinking that if they get in, well so be it!

Pacing during the Chapman to Grants Swamp Pass

Enough about frustrating lotteries!  I was lucky enough to get to crew and pace James for the race this year.  I crewed all day from the start at 6am until pacing at 8:30am the next morning!  Luckily I was able to sneak in a short 1 hour nap in Telluride and then at Chapman just before pacing. Each time I awoke afraid I'd missed him coming though.  An hour seemed like an entire night because of my anxiety, but I could feel a lingering fatigue.  I can only imagine what the runners felt like!

Because I am running the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail this Friday, I decided to only pace ~20 miles of Hardrock.  I believe in tapering and it just seemed like a bad idea to overdue it so close to such a big effort.

My First Gig Pacing at HR
I waited at Chapman Aid Station, mile 81, for a few hours before James came in.  Just as I was starting to worry about him, our good friend Billy came into the Aid Station and said that James was on his way, just another 10 minutes back.  James came into the aid station looking a bit weary and sore.  We took quite a bit of time there making sure that he had enough to eat and drink since he had become quite deficient in the past 10 miles (and probably even before that).

The wildflowers were fantastic because the monsoons began!
This is the climb up Grants Swamp Pass, can you see the runner in red?
I knew the biggest challenge pacing this section would be patience and gentle prodding: finding that sweet spot where I was encouraging my runner to do his best without crushing him any more than he already was.  It was important to try to get him to eat and drink plenty of water.  This ended up being a pretty big challenge because he was feeling sick and it took a while before his stomach was settled.

Mt temporary HR tattoo


Me leading the way
Trail Angels
Something truly amazing happened in those last 10 miles of Hardrock.  Some might call it the Hardrock spirit, and it was, but really it was also the best of human nature and collaboration shining through a dark, challenging time.  James was at a point where he was very sore. He couldn't really run anymore and at times a lack of energy was intense enough that he would have it sit and rest.  He told me just before we saw the trail angels that the last 10 miles might take us 10 hours.  I was a bit horrified.  As much as I wanted to pace, I really am a bit impatient to get 'er going!  I would've done anything to get James to the finish this year, if that's what it took.  But.... the thought of 10 more hours was overwhelming.  Plus I knew that he was feeling a little negative and that even at the pace we were going it wouldn't be that slow.

We had just been passed by two Hardrock pros- Betsy Nye (12 finishes) and Black Wood (17 finishes) and their pacers while we were sitting on a log resting when two friends who we'd just met from doing the 4 Pass Loop out of Crested Butte, David Wilcox (runner) and Danny (his pacer) caught up with us.  David said, C'mon let's do this together! 
The team!  James, Danny, and David

View from the climb up from KT
James responded with something like, Go on ahead I'm going way slower than you. 

I interrupted him to say, Yeah! We'll go along with you, great idea! 

James looked unsure, then I suppose he realized he had nothing to lose and said, Why not?  That was the start of a nice steady hike up the tough climb from KT to Putnam, with almost no sitting.  Truly an accomplishment!  We chatted and laughed and Dave and James groaned and hobbled through those miles.  But they did it together and together we made a strong team. 
David was having bad pain from multiple neuromas on his feet.  Here he applies vaseline.

So beautiful!

David and James working together
We distracted each other, encouraged each other, laughed at the insane rockiness that we'd never noticed on the Bear Creek section and let go of any attachment to finishing time.  Neither Dave nor James were going to get a PR, and they decided that they were better off enjoying those last few miles with the company of friends, than pushing for some elusive "goal". 

Finished!
I was deeply touched what happened on the trail.  Something so simple was so meaningful.  One runner gave up an hour (or more?) of his final race time to hang with a friend who needed company.  I sure hope that I can let go of my ego like I saw on that trail that day.  I hope for humanity's sake, that we all can so that we all might know and experience like I did, the gentle, loving, and compassionate side of humanity.  Thank you trail angels!
James runs to kiss the rock

Tommy, keeper of the Avon Hotel, is as excited as we are to see James finish.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Training Journal 6/24-6/30

Monday, June 24- Sunday June 30, 2013:  Fun times exploring high altitude Colorado.  First Leadville, then Buena Vista, then off to Silverton/Ouray.  Ran the coolest 30 mile loop EVER just outside of Crested Butte: 4 Pass Loop.  How many cool mountain towns does this state have?  I am also beginning to notice that residents are pretty proud of their state: lots of Colorado State flags and lots of people wearing hats and shirts with the state flag.  Not that I blame them.  Back to the 4 Pass Loop: pure running awesomeness with lots of climbing and good friends, plus some new ones. 
James and me at the top of Mt. Massive
Monday: 8.25 mi 3900 ft/5hr climb Mt Massive 10000-14,200 ft. Slow easy pace
Tuesday: Twin lakes run near Leadville, 13 miles/1,000ft gain. 3 hr---had to walk as James got shin pain. 21 mile bike ride, 500 ft/1.25hr
Wednesday: 6.5 miles, 1700 ft 2hr Buena Vista hills@8-9,500 ft, at 90-100 degress F
Thursday: Colorado trail 6.5 miles, 1000 ft. 1.5 hr
Friday: day off
Saturday: 9 miles, 3900 ft 3 hr Ouray trails at heat of the day
Sunday: 4 pass loop, 8,700 ft 30 miles 9 hr

Totals
Running Miles: 66.75
Run Elevation Gain: 14,300 ft
Time Running: 23.5 hr
Biking: 21 miles/500ft gain
Total Exercise Time: 24.75hr


Training Journal 6/17-6/23

Monday, June 17- Sunday, June 23, 2013: I tapered this week for the San Juan Solstice 50 miler.  I figured it would be tough enough to warrant a taper even though my real focus is getting ready to do the whole TRT.  As it turned out, I felt awful most of the race.  Especially the first 2 climbs.  We began on a dirt road that gradually led up to the first monster climb and on the road I got a horrible stomach ache.  I thought I'd drop at the first aid, then at the second aid, then---well, dammit if I didn't just keep going thanks to getting ready for Tahoe.  Sure, I wasn't running competitively like I wanted to, but I was getting in 50 miles nonetheless! This week marked my first week at real altitude for the month long Colorado/Tahoe trip.
Running in the Elkhorn Mts in Eastern, Oregon
 Monday: 13 mile run in Elkhorn Mountains from 5,500ft-9,100 altitude. 4,000ft/3.5hr
Tuesday: Nothing
Wednesday: 36.5 mile bike ride with 900 ft/2.5 hr from Glenwood Springs past Carbondale on the Glenwood Springs trail.
Thursday: 4 miles at 12,000+ feet.  750 ft/climb. 1 hr easy
Friday: day off
Saturday: SJS50, 50 miles in 13:30hr 12,300 ft. at elevations ranging from 8,500-13,500.
Sunday: 31.5 mile bike ride from Buena Vista to Leadville, CO. 3 hr/2000 ft

Totals
Running Miles: 67 miles
Run Elevation Gain: 17,050 ft
Running Time: 18 hr
Biking miles/gain: 68 miles/ 2900ft
Total Exercise Time: 23.5 hr