Getting an Education

18199124_10107887035559411_2094307977221886243_n

What’s the next best thing to a Tevis entry form?

How about an entry form to the Tevis Educational Ride?!?

Last month, a friend surprised me with an offer to join her on the Tevis Ed Ride and ride one of her horses. Naturally, I had to think about that for all of about .05 seconds. I’ve been wanting to participate in the Ed Ride for years now, but just like Tevis itself, it takes money, time, and the appropriate horse. (While it’s 64 miles in two days versus 100 miles in 24 hours, it still involves the canyons, so a fit, strong, capable horse is required.)

I have been peel-me-off-the-ceiling excited about this since it all came together. I’m really excited about the chance to see the trail again, and really psyched about all of the seminars and clinics that are a part of the weekend. Every little bit of trail experience and Tevis-specific knowledge I can get crammed into my brain will only serve to help me on the actual ride, and in the past, those who have completed the Ed Ride have a very high completion rate on Tevis itself.

It’s also an opportunity to spend a long weekend in close company with a very experienced endurance rider — over 20 years, over 17,000 miles, and 5 Tevis completions out of 7 starts. With a 2-day drive to Auburn, there’s a lot of time for conversation, questions, and brain picking.

Most of my attention for the past three weekends was spent on two different expo trade shows (two three-day shows, two weekends apart), but those are done with now, so the next few weekends will involve getting in some good saddle time so I can remind my riding muscles that they really are functional and have a job to do.

It should be an interesting weekend — because the Sierras are still snow-covered (and just got more snow on Monday), the courses for both the Ed Ride and Tevis itself have been altered this year. They’ll still use a majority of the original trail, but there are definitely some changes involved…curious to see how the ride will play out, although management is working hard to ensure that the changes don’t lessen the degree of difficulty of the ride.

And I just realized that I leave for the Ed Ride 3 weeks from today. Wooo!!!

Elephant Mountain 22k

So that’s what it feels like to have a race go really well. :) Bear with me, this’ll probably be kind of sporadic and all over the place as I attempt to sort through various thoughts and takeaways.

I ran the Aravaipa Running Elephant Mountain 22k (which really GPS’d at 14 miles…the “Aravaipa miles” phenomenon, aka “free bonus miles”, was alive and well as usual) on Saturday, and for probably the first time ever, felt like I actually had it together and ran a properly planned and executed race.

I did the 35k here two years ago…I still haven’t done a write-up from that race because it was such a trainwreck and I felt so demoralized (probably should, just for the learning experience, eh?). I had been toying with the idea, off-and-on, about which distance to sign up for, and after some advice from friends, decided to stick with the 22k, which I *knew* I could comfortably do, and push myself to see what I could do within that distance, versus really stretching and scraping bottom for a repeat of the strugglefest that would be the 35k.

Elephant Mountain is held at the Cave Creek Regional Park, which is the north side of the Phoenix valley…about an hour+ drive for me, but I was able to carpool with a couple of local running buddies, which made for a much more entertaining drive there and back.

So Cave Creek is beautiful…but holy cow, it is rugged. It is rocks on top of embedded rocks, and with the rain we’ve gotten this winter, the rocks have been breeding. So what might look like a nice stretch of runnable trail at first glance actually turns into an ankle-twisting, toe-grabbing, rock-avoidance dance that tests one’s technical skills.

img_3763

So pretty. (This was taken in 2015, but the first 5.5 miles of the course is the same.) This is within the first 2 miles.

The hardest part of this race for me is the start — you’ve got about 1/4-mile or so on pavement, slowly heading uphill, and then you hit this climb, about 500′ in about a mile, lots of switchbacks and steady hiking, interspersed with flat sections you can run. Well, it takes me a good 2 miles in any race to really warm up, breathing-wise, so this is a bit of a rude awakening. But it’s also a good way for me to work on my power-hiking skills, and every climb was met with the mental approach of “good training for Crown King.”

From the top, it’s then a downhill cruise for the next couple of miles to the first aid station. I darted in, grabbed a couple dates and piece of bean roll-up, and darted back out, munching as I went. Technical trail = if you’re going to be walking anyway, it’s a good time to eat.

One of my main goals (aside from the perpetual “finish, preferably without looking like road kill”) was to really focus on nutrition. I am notorious for not eating enough, or frequently enough, when I’m running, and I’ve learned I cannot run in a calorie-deficit state for long. While I try to function that way on a day-to-day basis, and for my workout program (try to burn off more than what I put in), I cannot run that way without bonking, and bonking hard. My race strategy was to eat something every 30-45 minutes, and it worked really well…the only time the wheels started coming off was in the last 2 miles, where I should have nibbled on something a little earlier than I did.

img_7883

So many rocks. It was like a rock breeding ground. This was part of the out-and-back section to the second aid station…so you got to run through this (while avoiding runners who were already on their way back) and then turn around and go back again, this time being the runner heading back that others were dodging out of the way for.

There were a couple of lovely smooth sections between the first and second aid stations…a very small stretch of open dirt road, and some winding single-track. Yes, the smooth trail was exciting, but what I was so happy about was my ability to hit a smooth section and actually pick up the pace.

img_7872

Smooth section on the out-and-back. Two years ago, on the “back” part, I was shuffling through here, thoroughly demoralized and blubbering/crying…which is really hard to do when you can’t breathe. This year, I sailed through here, actually putting some distance between me and a couple people behind me.

The second aid station (about 5.5 miles in) served as the turnaround point for the 22k. I stopped there for a couple minutes and made short work of several salted potato pieces, a few pickle pieces, a bean wrap, and a cup of Coke.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the trail in to the aid station, while it looked completely flat, was actually uphill…a slow, gradual climb over a couple miles, but still…uphill. Which meant going back was a gradual downhill.

img_7885

Funky gate/crossing bridge. Part of the trail runs through leased grazing land, so there were a couple of gates and cattle guards along the way.

Back to the first aid station — more potatoes, pickles, some gummy worms, and a couple pieces of watermelon — and back out again. Shortly after the aid station, the course veered off the “straight back to the starting point” heading and took us for a “scenic route.”

img_7893

My “wildlife sighting” for the day — in the wash on the way to the first aid station, I glanced down and thought this root was a snake. Pretty sure my GPS shows a spike in speed at that point (and probably a sideways teleport).

I hiked this section of the course probably five or six years ago, but I had forgotten just how rugged and rough it was. Tons of slate and shale-type of rock embedded in the trail…razor-edge type of stuff that just lies in wait for an unsuspecting or lazy toe to grab.

I don’t have photos from this section because I was too busy paying attention to my feet. :) I underestimated this section a little bit — about 5 miles between the last aid station and the finish, and I thought it would go by a little faster. But between the technical nature of the rocks (I am slow in technical stuff…I really don’t want to roll an ankle or catch a toe and eat dirt), and a couple of good climbs (one was 300′ straight up in less than a quarter of a mile, stair-stepped into a huge slab of rock), it was definitely more slow-go.

It was at this point I fell back into my “but I’m almost done, I don’t need to eat” mentality, and started feeling it. When I realized I was still a couple miles out, I slammed a pack of gummy fruit chewies, and that helped…but should have done so a little earlier.

I made some good time on the last couple of miles, thanks to some beautiful, gradual downhills…and promptly lost all that time on any kind of uphill, when my hip flexors were like, “nope, we’re walking, thanks.”

img_7895

Finished! (Ignore that ridiculously fast lap pace. It’s set to calculate the pace every mile, so since the mileage just ticked over from 14 miles, it basically “reset” itself on that last 100th of a mile…so it probably clocked my arm swing over the finish line or something.)

I was really happy with my finish time. I had forgotten how rugged and technical the course was, so to come in with a good time (for me), in one piece, having taken it easy over the rough stuff, and absolutely no injuries whatsoever, I’m calling it a win in my book.

Oh, yeah, apparently there were a lot of people there: 113 in the 22k alone. ~390 total among the 4 distances (12k, 22k1 35k, 50k). It looks like I came in 74th overall, 36th female.

70149624-mg2a3575

photo by SweetM Images

Gear:

img_7863

InkNBurn Ryu Singlet and Dragon Flower shorts; Oiselle Lux arm sleeves, Balega Blister Resist socks, Hoka Challenger ATR 2 shoes, Ultimate Direction “Jenny Vesta” pack. (Not pictured: Brooks Juno sports bra, Orange Mud race belt.)

Gear worked flawlessly. Arm sleeves got pushed down after the first couple miles and served as decorative wristlets/snot rags (sorry) until I got tired of them in the last few miles, yanked them off, and tied them to my pack.

I love my InkNBurn gear. It just makes me happy to look at it. That singlet was one of the first pieces I got and it’s one of my go-to favorites. I was super-happy with how the shorts did — I’ve typically run in longer compression-type of shorts since thigh rub has happened in other loose shorts. I slathered on preventative BodyGlide in the morning, and never had any problems all day. (Would probably re-glide at the halfway point for an ultra, though.) The looser fit made me feel a little cooler, and I didn’t miss the “busted can of biscuits” feeling that comes from me + compression gear.

Hoka Challenger ATR 2 are an A+. Was so glad for the cushion over the rough rocks. Was concerned about stability with all of the ankle-rolling sections, but that was a non-issue. Had a couple toe-grabs on the razor-edge shale in the last few miles when I was getting tired, but all recoverable.

Ultimate Direction pack was excellent…it probably deserves its own review, but suffice to say I’m really glad I got it. (Had one of the original ones, sold it, tried something else that I wasn’t crazy about, they re-vamped the UD pack, I bought the newest version and love some of the upgrades.)

Other miscellany to note: Wore my sunglasses after the first few miles. Eyes didn’t get tired. Didn’t trip on rocks/have depth perception issues. Verdict = Just wear the sunglasses. Gold star for remembering to put sunscreen on at 5:00 in the morning when it’s pitch black and cold enough for a puffy winter jacket. Yay for not getting sunburned in what is still technically the middle of winter. (It was a high of like 72* on Saturday. That’s my payoff for surviving 115* in the summer.)

Food/Drink:

Breakfast: homemade breakfast loaf (think banana-carrot-date-nut bread w cream cheese “frosting”), cup of coffee, and a strawberry smoothie with whey protein on the drive up
From my pack: Honey Stinger Lemon waffle, Welch’s fruit chews, Uncrustable PB&J, Skratch Labs Matcha Green Tea + Lemon drink mix in one of the 16oz soft bottles, ~20 oz drank from my water pack (could have done better)
AS1: dates, bean roll-up
AS2: salted potatoes, pickles, bean roll-up, Coke
AS3: salted potatoes, pickles, gummy worms, watermelon
Finish: wood-fired pepperoni pizza

Succeed S!Cap electrolytes every 30-45 minutes.

(Yes, I run so I can eat. And eat so I can run. It’s a happy relationship.)

So, what’s next? As I write this, I have raw sinuses and a runny nose…either allergies (revenge for spending my entire weekend outside) or the start of the cold that’s been going around. <sigh> Will take it easy for the next few days…if I’m feeling good, I would like to get another long run in over the weekend, because the weekend after that…

I’m pacing Mel at Black Canyon 100k.

Not sure how March will shape up, but my plan is to just keep on building that long run foundation, do my cross-training, and plenty of recovery time in-between.

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.

img_7784

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.

img_7785

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.

img_7786

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.

15966298_1408428219167705_6414231451200903626_n-edit

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.

2016-Bumble Bee proofs-0006

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).

12920344_10106107346031491_715113816289791638_n

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.

IMG_6081

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.

img_6706

Artemis’s 3rd birthday!

IMG_6257

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

img_7260

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!

IMG_4597

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

15095520_10154401306562659_5097701131435578692_n

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.