Every Excuse in the Book

And no good reason not to go.

At first, only the agreement to meet a friend and run together got me out of bed at 4 o’clock this morning. Even up to yesterday night’s text exchanges confirming things like distance, meeting place, and clothes debate, I kept thinking “Eh, maybe I can just bail…”

When you’re looking for an excuse not to do something, one is as good as the next. But excuses are just that…excuses, not reasons.

It’s predicted to rain. I hate getting wet. Especially wet and cold.

It’s already been raining. The trails are going to be muddy. There are going to be water crossings. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid water crossings on foot, fearing blisters and chafing. One crossing is absolutely unavoidable (unless I can bribe someone to give me a piggyback ride), and at least knee deep, so I’m going to get wet.

I was in a sad frame of mind after the bad news that a close friend had to put one of her horses down.

But the Black Canyon race is coming up in 5 weeks, I’ve made a commitment to pace, and I’m for sure not going to be the anchor that slows my runner down. (Pretty sure that’s the definition of “bad pacer”.) Plus my own plans of Crown King mean I need the long runs, mileage, hill climbing, and make sure I’ve got gear dialed in.

The above was all written at 5 o’clock this morning before I headed out the door. And I’m very, very glad I did, because I had a fabulous run today.

13.67 miles in 3-1/2 hours. Half and hour faster than what I figured (and hoped for). And the best part is that I don’t feel like it was an all-out, now-trashed-for-the-rest-of-the-day effort. I feel like I got a really good run in, it felt like a productive training run, and I definitely still have gas in the tank.

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scenery, the first mile or so in

The same friend I ran the Javelina Jangover with back in September came down for this run as well…I think she’s thoroughly hooked on trail running, and we had a blast today running together. Chatting on about all things endurance and horses makes the miles breeze by compared to slogging it out on the trails by yourself.

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I am scarily cheerful for only having one cup of coffee.

As promised, we got wet. Probably partway through, the clouds rolled in off the Bradshaws, and we had probably half an hour of getting slowly drenched. It was chilly, but not too bad…good motivation to just keep moving, and I couldn’t even be bothered to pull out my rain jacket.

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One of my main purposes today was some major gear testing, and I’m really happy with how everything worked.

I went back to the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta (the newest model) and I really like the new soft bottles. I had that thing loaded — there was only one aid station on today’s run, at 13.5ish miles, which was our end-point (whole run was 25 miles), so we had to be self-supported. I packed a water bladder, one of the soft bottles, a ton of snacks, a jacket, sunglasses, and basic first aid kit in there. I really should weigh it at some point. I need to start training with the weighted pack more often…I think that would help my shoulders from getting quite as sore.

My Hoka Challenger ATR 2 shoes were a success. No blisters, no rubs, and feet are still really comfortable. I don’t love them over small, ankle-rolling rocks, and I caught the toe box several times today, especially towards the end when I was shuffling…but I got them with the intended purpose being Crown King (not technical, but really hardpack roads, so cushioning is a must) so I would feel comfortable in saying they’re good to go for that, and I’ll probably eventually look for another pair to add to the arsenal for more technical type of trails. But in the meantime, I’m going to keep putting the miles on these, and just pay attention in the technical stuff.

I had a major internal debate going on over what to wear. Shorts or capris? One or two top layers? Jacket? I ultimately went with InkNBurn capris, singlet, and long sleeve tech shirt. I typically don’t wear long sleeves — I get too warm — but today, with the rain and cloud cover, it ended up being a good option. Tech tube to hold the hair back. Balega socks got a two thumbs up…must stock up on more of these, because my feet felt fabulous in them.

The river crossings weren’t horrible…although the Agua Fria has now been re-named the “Agua Freeza Your Ass” because that sucker was cold. I pulled my shoes and socks for both water crossings, mostly because I was reluctant to trash my still-shiny-and-pretty shoes so soon. I know it’ll eventually happen, but let me enjoy them while I can.

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River scouting. This picture cracks me up. I find my hand-on-hip look of disgust at the water absolutely hilarious. And of course the phone in hand because I was trying to get some “course reconnaissance” photos.

At the deepest point, it was mid-thigh deep…which meant I got wet. Oh, well. My pants now matched my upper body, which was wet from the rain.

(Pro tip: When you store your phone in one of your running pack pockets that is placed up high almost to your shoulder, that is a prime location for it to be pelted with rain. Mesh pockets do not stop rain. Fortunately LifeProof cases do.)

So, I got my training goal of “at least a double-digit training run” in for the weekend, got to course preview some of what I’ll be pacing through, got in some good socializing, and gear tested and approved.

The Road to Crown King 50k continues on…

2017. The Year of Who Knows?

Minimalist approach to the year. AKA “I’m going just float along the river and see what rocks I bump into along the way.” Very few plans at this point, and they’re run-related: Pacing at the Black Canyon 100k (February), and running the Crown King Scramble 50k (April).

Horse plans are on a “as they come up” basis. At this point, I don’t really have anything in the works, and I would actually like to focus this spring on running and my ramp-up to Crown King. This is a really big goal for me, having been chewed up and spat out by this race in 2015.

My approach is slow and steady ramp-up of mileage, with the #1 goal being AVOID INJURY. I am not planning on doing as many actual races this time — as much fun as I have at them, doing my own self-support long runs will save me some $$$ on entry fees.

I’ve also been focusing on a lot more cross-training, having signed up for Orange Theory Fitness back in the fall. Website has more details, but basically it’s a combo of cardio and strength training that works off of staying in certain heart zone zones to burn calories and build strength. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my running, and the strength training builds muscle and the support structure in a way that running on its own never does.

I’ve frequently held some kind of gym membership, off-and-on over the years, and have always benefited from hauling my carcass off for regular workouts. I get a lot of satisfaction out of working with weights, and the floppy, muscles-thoroughly-worked feeling afterwards. Plus, the strength training is all part of my Do Not Get Injured game plan this year — strengthen muscle to support joints, then the soft tissues don’t take all the beating.

More cross-training = fewer “junk” running miles.

To whit, I have planned:

Pacing Mel at the Black Canyon 100k in February. I’m excited to have an official pacing gig (I love this trail, but didn’t feel ready for the actual race itself…yet…), and I love when out-of-state friends come to visit and I get to share my desert with them. (Sonoran Desert…no place like it. I still love my desert.) Note to self: Remind Mel to bring a cactus comb for carrying in her pack.

Aravaipa’s Crown King training run in March. It’s a free training run that starts in Crown King, goes *down* to the Ft Misery aid station (22 miles in on race day), then back up to Crown King. It ends up being an 18-mile day, followed by a second “fun run” day, not to mention that is one obnoxious climb from Ft Misery up to CK…and the one I bailed on in 2015. So for my own mental purposes, I need to know I can do that climb and survive it, since I know I can manage the rest of the race.

April 1 is Crown King.

Contemplating slotting in a race somewhere in there, but at this point, I’m going for the “don’t overdo it” approach…and thanks to race-day registration, I can always make a last-minute decision to go to one if I feel like I need the extra “encouragement” of a race environment for my training, but for now, I will see how I do with self-supported long-runs in-between my planned events. (Plus, bonus of doing my own long runs is that I can bring the pups…can’t bring them to races.)

2016 Year-in-Review

Time for the annual yearly round-up…and I gotta say, I really can’t complain about 2016. Ended up cramming a lot of really fun activities in and having a really good time.

January
The biggest event this month was the Bumble Bee ride with Liberty. Even though we ended up pulled for a mystery lameness that had resolved itself by the next morning, I still had a great time and a great ride. Libby is so much fun…I hope I can do more with her in the coming year.

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February
AERC Convention in Reno, which involved lots of fun, friends, good food, side of booze, and capped off with a driving tour of Virginia City, which completely ignited the must do this ride fire. Convention is probably one of my favorite work-related things I do every year.

And shortly after Convention, I headed off to the Wickenburg ride. Unfortunately, as a first time ride, it suffered from some growing pains, and Liberty and I got shoved into the deep end of doing 75% of the ride by ourselves, which was a first. Ultimately we finished overtime, but I given what we were up against, I’m pretty circumspect about the whole thing. I look at it as we’re getting all of our crap ironed out and out of the way early on, so once we hit our stride, it’ll be smooth sailing. (So goes the theory at least.)

March
A fairly quiet month, although I did a fun compilation of all of my ride photos. March tends to kick off pony shedding season, which leaves Mimi looking a little bit patchwork-y for a month or so. (And enough hair to survive the Himalayas.)

April
A good time to take advantage of the nice weather and get some trail time in with the dogs. I also lost my mind and signed up for another shot at the Crown King 50k in 2017 (to be joined by one of my BFFs and partner-in-crazy-endurance-activities-crime, Kaity).

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May
Kaity and I met up at Groom Creek for a horse camping weekend. It had been ages since we were able to get together without something major like a ride dictating our schedule, so it was fun to be able to stay up late, cook over the campfire, and ride whenever we wanted to. Kaity also kindly picked up Liberty for me on her way through Kingman, so the Big Bay Bombshell and I got to experience our first for-fun camping weekend together. There were some interesting and educational moments and working with Libby outside of a ride environment was a learning experience. The pups also came along and had a blast…Sofie’s first trip with me.

Mimi celebrated her 23rd birthday at the end of the month.

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June
I never actually managed to write a post about it, but my dad and I did a road trip with my uncle and cousin up to Zion National Park. We overnighted outside of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the drive up, then spent a couple of nights in Zion. The scenery is absolutely stunning, although the weather got insanely hot during the day, so we spent the afternoons literally sitting in the Virgin River to try to stay cool.

July
Tevis month! This year, it was fun and a little more relaxing to not be crewing for any one particular person, so I got to take a lot of photos and just hang out. Riding included from the finish line to Lower Quarry and back, and Cal Loop. (In which I didn’t die and it’s not nearly as scary as I had expected.)

August
I celebrated my birthday month with a ride — the Tahoe Rim 50! Lucy loaned me Roo as a thank you for all of the times I’ve crewed Tevis, and he gave me the best birthday present ever…a ride completion!

Prior to my CA trip, Mimi and I headed up to higher elevations and cooler climates for a day ride on the Rim. Little pony is always so happy to get out and is good as gold even when it’s been months since she’d been out.

September
Back into the running habit with another run at the Javelina Jangover 7k. I ran with a buddy of mine on her first trail race and we had a blast.

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Artemis’s 3rd birthday!

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October
Mimi and I celebrate our 20th anniversary! (Seriously, talk about your long-term relationship…)

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I love my pony even more now than the day I got her.

Sofie has her 5th birthday, and her one year Gotcha Day! Love my sweet mama dog and so happy to have her as part of the family. She’s added a whole new element to the household and I couldn’t imagine two dogs who better complement and counter each other.

November
Artemis’s Gotcha Day…three years now of my wild and crazy sweet girl!

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Pups and I did a 5k Trail Turkey Trot for fun on Thanksgiving morning.

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December
Not sure what the last few weeks of the year have in store, but I love this time of year, am feeling particularly cheerful and Christmas-y  this year, and am curious to see what 2017 will bring.

Happy New (Ride Season) Year

So the AERC ride year actually runs Dec 1 – Nov 30, rather than following the calendar year…I have no idea why. But I actually renewed on time this year, and am all set for 2017.

At the end of last year, I made some goal and vague plans for my 2016 season. Let’s see how those worked out, shall we?

  • Learn to properly ride a sitting trot. Fail. Not helped by the fact I didn’t clock very much riding time in with the pony. However, given the fact I tried and discovered I can sit Liberty’s trot, I’m inclined to chalk this one up to “very difficult to attain on the pony.”
  • Get to at least one endurance ride. Success. Actually got to three rides: Bumble Bee, Wickenburg, Tahoe Rim. And a weekend horse camping trip.
  • Finish (and not overtime) at least one endurance ride. Success. Tahoe Rim. Thank you, Roo.
  • Further my hoof trimming education. Sort of. Didn’t spend as much time on this or go an in depth as I wanted.
  • Do a better job of tracking training rides/mileage. Sort of. Started out the year well, and then about halfway through, got lazy and stopped tracking stuff again. Try again next year.

What’s on the horizon for 2017? I really have no clue at this point. I’ve got my truck up and running again, so my mobility and freedom has once again greatly increased, thus opening up the possibility of doing some more catch riding. Aside from that, AERC Convention in February (Dallas, TX), some running plans, most likely Tevis crewing, and from there, I’ll just see how it goes.

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As always, hoping for more saddle time with these two, and whatever other four-hooves enablers of fun I can wrangle up along the way.

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, all! May the turkey be moist, the gravy non-lumpy, the pie plentiful, and the alcohol readily available. Said with affection, good humor, and tongue firmly in cheek. ;)

My pies are done and packed up, ready to head over to the family gathering later this afternoon.

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pumpkin and apple…both homemade from scratch, including crust. I have a soft spot for pie baking.

This morning, the pups and I headed out bright and early for the unofficial Aravaipa Thanksgiving Trail Turkey Trot. We did the 5(ish)k…which turned into 4.3 miles, with some extra bonus miles in there when I sorta missed a turn, headed down a parallel track, decided I didn’t actually know for sure if that parallel track ended up where we needed to be (it did), turned around, and backtracked to the trail split where I had gone the wrong way. Yay, bonus miles! 4.3 miles in 1 hour exactly.

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The girls loved getting out on trail again, and although they can be a bit exasperating to run with in trying to get a good rhythm, they are an awful lot of fun, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

This is the second time I’ve done a Thanksgiving morning run (skipped last year, but went with Artemis in 2014, which was the first year for the unofficial race mentioned above), so I guess that now makes it a tradition…can’t say it’s a bad one.

Nothing like catching the most perfect sunrise to start off the morning, and the time out on trail for reflection and thankfulness. Life may not be perfect, but then, it’s not meant to be. It’s fun, it’s messy, it’s a rollercoaster of goods and bads, ups and downs. And it generates an awful lot of stories.

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