Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grand Canyon Adventure

Me on the Rainbow Rim Trail.

Kevin enjoying the day.

I have a tattoo that looks a lot like this little guy.

Kevin and I, Marble Canyon in the background.

Some of the group.

Riding through one of the fields on the Arizona Trail.

Water Crossing on the Arizona Trail!

Kevin and I just returned from a wonderful mountain biking trip along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We biked the Arizona Trail in the Kaibob National Forest during the first two days. The weather was pretty cold with temperatures below freezing at night. The trail was strenuous enough to keep us warm while we biked, though. There were patches of snow to navigate around, blow downs to lift our bikes over, melt water to ride through, and plenty of uphills over rolling rocks that reminded us that 10,000 feet of altitude is a lot higher than the 200 feet we live at. This trail took us through Ponderosa Pines and over green fields. Our second day of riding was quite windy and we had dark skies and snow during our lunch break. I'm not ashamed to tell you that I bailed out and took the sag wagon back to camp after lunch. A few hardy souls returned on the trails, but I was definitely not alone in the van!

We started day three in the National Park, where mountain biking isn't allowed. We hiked and visited the Grand Canyon Lodge in the morning. We enjoyed beautiful warm sunshine and breath taking views. The weather was a welcome change from what we had experienced the first few days! The afternoon found us back in the national forest where we biked down a screaming fast 9 mile downhill dirt road to our campsite. That was a lot of fun!

The next few days were spent on the beautiful single track of the Rainbow Rim Trail. This was by far the best riding of the trip. The trail was true winding single track along the rim. There were wonderful views and fun riding throughout. It was exciting to ride close to the edge at times on this trail.

Besides the great riding and the awesome views, we enjoyed good company, great food, and relaxing evenings at camp. We were thrilled to see a California Condor riding the air currents at camp one afternoon. I also saw several deer on the trail and the elusive Kaibob Squirrel. I only ran once during the entire week, but I got plenty of exercise! This week I will get back to my training for Virgel Crest... I promise!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recovery Week

My week of recovery from the difficult Bear Mt 50K went well. Leg pain was completely gone within 24 hours, but a fatigued feeling still lingers in my quads. I've run almost every day since the race and even got out on the mountain bike over the weekend. The runs have felt good, but slow. The mountain bike outing was a different story! I had no power in my legs, so I was wobbly on the technical spots and on the climbs. It's amazing how much strength is needed to mountain bike well! Since I didn't have any leg strength, I just resigned myself to riding not-well. I still had fun and only took one new bruise home with me.

My next goal race will be the Virgil Crest 100 in late September. I'll try to get motivated enough to get some shorter races in between now and then. Next up is our Grand Canyon mountain bike trip. I'll be sure to post pictures when I get back!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bear Mountain

I had a blast running the North Face 50K at Bear Mountain State Park in New York last Saturday. I had done my research so I knew the course was going to be extremely difficult. Looking at previous years' results, I expected to run the race in about 7 hours. I had done a lot of technical hill climbs and descents in the weeks leading up to the race and I felt well prepared.

The weekend long event includes a fifty miler, a fifty kilometer, a marathon, a marathon relay, a half marathon, a ten kilometer, and a five kilometer. With over two thousand runners competing in seven different events, one might think things would be chaotic and complicated. This was not the case at all. The longer distances were run on Saturday and the start times were staggered 2 hours apart. My race started at 7AM and went off without a hitch. The various courses were well marked with color coded ribbons at frequent intervals. I had no problem staying on course. I only ran into three fifty mile runners running together in the middle of my race and several marathoners heading the opposite direction near the finish. Otherwise it felt as if the 50k was the only event taking place.

I knew the 50K had 4854 feet of elevation gain over incredibly rocky technical terrain. I started in the middle of the pack, wanting to go out slow. Shortly after we started running we had to climb a hill on loose rolling stones. I thought I was breathing too hard for so early in the race and slowed down. I found myself moving slowly toward the back of the pack. I thought to myself, "so this is how much my running has declined over the past few years. This might be my first DFL." I should have had more confidence. It didn't take many miles before runners settled down into more reasonable paces and I moved back up through the pack without having to change my pace or effort.

There was almost no conversation between the runners, we were all working too hard! We ran four miles uphill to the first aid station. Kevin was there and told me he'd see me at the other crew stations as well. This was a nice surprise because I thought Kevin was going to spend the day mountain biking. The next segment had some single track then a short stretch of pavement and then a good climb followed by a tricky, rocky, steep descent. I was feeling it in my legs already! But it was a good feeling because I knew my legs could take it. This was followed by fire roads and a nice stretch of rough trail over a ridge. There was a long section of very ungroomed, overgrown single track with a lot of blow downs to climb over. I actually passed quite a few runners in this section. I'm a good log hopper!

All the way back to the last crew point at about twenty miles I was feeling good and enjoying myself. I saw Kevin for the last time before the finish and he said, "you're on the home stretch and can break seven hours!" I ran hard for the next 5 miles then really pushed for the 2.5 mile stretch over Timp Pass. I passed several runners, including three women! Yay, I was finishing strong! Unfortunately, this was followed by a three mile stretch to the finish of easier gentler trail and almost everyone I had just passed zipped past me. That was OK, I was still moving along well.

The minute I crossed the finish line and stopped running, my quads suddenly started hurting...bad. I told Kevin I needed to keep moving so we walked around the park for a while. Then I got in line for food and decided i couldn't stomach it at that moment so we went to the beer tent instead. Back at the hotel we made arrangements to meet Kevin's sister, brother-in-law and niece for dinner. We had a very enjoyable evening and I only had to jump out of my chair with muscle cramps once.

It was a good race and I'd like to do it again next year. I think I'll try the fifty miler next time, (we're talking 12 hours or more)! I finished thirteenth female over all and third woman over forty in 6:51. I'll take it. results

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mountain Biking Weekend

I thought I might run a loop or two at the Mt Aggie Fat Ass this past weekend, but Kevin and I decided to help out with trail work at Bear Brook State Park instead. It was a nice opportunity to see Kevin's mountain biking friends and a good chance to spend time on some really beautiful single track trail. Our goal was to clean up trails that had been logged during the winter. A lot of mountain bikers showed up to help. Kathy, Bear Brook Trail Ambassador and good friend of Kevin's, was a great leader. She sent everyone off with specific instructions. The work went fast and the trails came out great.

After lunch in the parking lot, we all changed clothes and gathered for a group ride. Kathy gave a little speech that pretty much said "we've got two different levels of riders here, fast racers and slow folks, so we'll split into two groups." The "racers" in attendance weren't your average middle of the pack riders. They were the fast ones, the ones who ride super expensive bikes that they don't have to pay for. Unlike me, they don't fall off their bikes when they hit a stump. They don't slow to a complete stop when they run out of power on a steep uphill. They don't hit trees beside the trail with their handlebars. "Slow folks group"? Sign me up!

By the top of the first cruel climb the groups had sorted themselves out. Kathy squeezed by me on the steepest, rockiest and narrowest section of that hill. As she went by she calmly asked, "how's that bike working for you?" I mumbled something incoherent between gasps for air while Kathy motored up the hill. Kevin's friend, Peter led our slower group on a very nice two hour ride. We had a wide range of ability in our group, but we waited to regroup at all the intersections and it went very smoothly. These trails are so much fun to ride. I love them. Kathy and John (and what remained of their group, a few must have fallen off the back during their ride) returned to the parking lot shortly after Kevin and I got back. We enjoyed a beer and some good conversation with them before heading home.

I got out for my run early Sunday morning and then drove over to Pudding Pond with Kevin for some challenging biking in the Green Hills Preserve. The lower trails were a little wet, but really not bad. After doing what we call the "Pudding Pond Single track" we crossed the power lines to the more challenging trails. We rode the Side hill Trail from the Quarry end. I have never ridden it in that direction. The first part has some steep difficult climbing. Kevin pedalled past two hikers and they commented on how fit he was. I had just been getting ready to dismount and walk the bike up the rest of that section. The gravel was very loose and rocky and my tires were starting to spin. But I couldn't whimp out in front of the hikers when they had just commented on how well Kevin was doing. When I was exactly beside the hikers it became so steep and I had I lost so much speed that my front tire came up into the air and I had to step off the back of the bike. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything solid to step onto so I went down with the bike on top of me and we both slid back down the hill a short distance. Of course the hikers were concerned and alarmed. My first fall of the year, and it had to be at the feet of the only hikers we saw all day.

We really had a lot of fun both days. My running is going great and I think it is contributing to my mountain biking fitness. Also my skills are getting better. This all makes for more fun on the trails!

Next weekend is Bear Mountain. I have been told it will be a difficult, strenuous, technical 50K and I shouldn't expect to be much faster than 7 hours. Sounds perfect for me!