February 28, 2007

Time to rest

My recent and all too late ramp up for the VQ and my reluctance to stop running long has left my legs in despair. Last week before my kayak session I went for a run at El Moro in the rain. The beauty was striking and distracting. I was only planning on a 3-4 mile loop but it was too easy to get caught up with my IPod and the rain so I ended up running about 14 miles by the time I got back to my truck parked at Trader Joes. It may have been the running, the four hour bike ride from the night before with Joe or sitting in the cold kayak for two hours after my run but my IT Bands are shot. I have only had this problem once before and I though that I learned my lesson. My running didn’t do it to me directly this time but I was not watching my overall volume. I am always learning something new.

(I know... The coolest hat ever)

The good news was this left more time for me to paddle. I was out on our local lake again but it felt so different now. The paddle clinic had proved to change me and thankfully my paddling for good. I was no longer fighting the paddle and pumping my arms. It was restful. Paddling was fun and even relaxing. I needed that more than anything this week.


February 25, 2007

Good Times in Keyesville

This weekend was full of choices for me. I usually have the weekends planned out for months in advance and by the time a certain week is rounding out Monique and I are already packed and on the road. This weekend, however, we were home. All weekend. Strange to be home but it was so nice because we will be gone for the next two months on every weekend with races and places to go.

Now that we were home in Bakersfield we joined up with the SSFTA group to go ride the Keysville course that we will be racing on next month. It is funny how the timing works out so well sometimes. The choice was easy. The ride was sort and exciting enough to be a good round out for my last long ride before the Vision Quest. We also got to explore some new areas that are so close to home. It was beautiful up there and only about 40min from our house.

Tim was gracious enough to ride with us and give us the grand tour and a little history on the Keyesville Classic. The current cross country course is a eight and a half mile loop with about three major climbs and lots of little onese mixed in.

In addition to the cross country track that we were riding the Keyesville Classis is a weekend full of mountain bike racing. Saturday there is a downhill race in the morning followed by a short track race. There is also the option to sign up for all three races and be included in the overall points title.

I have a big few weeks ahead of me with work and my mind was just surging the entire ride with how to adjust my schedule and make my deadlines. Sometimes it is a nice thing to have on a ride or run but this time it was just thar. . . Time always adds a unique variable to any episode in life but sometimes it just passes by and our minds are fixed on anytime but the present.

Tonight I made a decision not to join a team on the Baja Travesia, a three day expedition race because of what ended up being timing. There is nothing I would like more than to race out on the trail for a few days but sometimes you just have to wait and sometimes it is just not the right time. It hurts knowing that I may have turned down an experience, challenge and unique opportunity to make new friends but I only hope that the understanding and patients will bring about more satisfaction when it is time go make the trip.

As we completed our first lap and were back at our cars many people started the work on the trail. Monique was resting in the sun and the thought of my "lap time" started to enter my mind. As some of the crew headed back out on the trail for maintenance, I was off to make another quick lap. I wanted to feel how the momentum would carry me through the valleys and over the drops. I needed to push on some climbs and earn my last ride before my rest to the Vision Quest. I was going to push the envelop just a little.

I pushed. I learned. It was a beautiful day and we will be back to the trails of Keyesville in short time. That choice is easy.

Paddle Time

Somewhere between the profound instruction and motivation from Paul and Karen and the joy of pushing to a rhythm that did not come from my legs I found myself becoming addicted to paddling last weekend. Sure I have spent the time out on the water before but that feeling having a lofty stroke where you are using all of the right muscles just has not left my mind. I had to get out again this week to put in another paddle before I forgot all of that good instruction. I had to keep the rhythm.

I have heard so many wonderful things about Team Sole and it was great to have that confirmed at the clinic. They were so knowledgeable and inspirational. Paul went over some drills with me so I can practice good form and hopefully I can commit them to memory (muscle memory) before long. I also found it helpful to repeat some of the phrases that help remind me of what my body should be doing. So, here they are

“Show your goods to the beach!”
you should hear your shirt moving against the skirt - Twist!
Elbows high on exit (think of swimming)
The BOX – keep it in the box
Reach with every entry (all of the extra 6 inches add up!)
Keep the athletic curve in your spine and rotate on the pole down the center
Check the time
Visualize! – I need to get some good pictures of people paddling

February 19, 2007

VQ build

The timing for my training this week was perfect. I felt fully recovered from the ultra and with two weeks until the Vision Quest I could really punish myself and recover enough to be a bit stronger for the race.

I started the week with my normal schedule of fitting in a swim and run where I could but I also tried to focus more on the bike and I did it with a little help from my friends. Marius had rounded me up a bike light from Cisco so I could make a Tuesday night ride up blackstar. That was awesome! My first night ride. Monique and I rode our trainers on Thursday night which I haven’t done since December and for the first time in weeks I was setup to ride more than two times a week! I now just needed to get at least one long ride in and see as much of the VQ course as possible.

On Sunday, Georgina had rounded up a crew to ride the majority of the VQ course but Monique and I had already signed up for the TeamSole adventure of the month so we were booked. It would have been nice to ride with them and I think that they had something like 8-9 riders with car shuttles, etc. Georgina is a great organizer! With Saturday open I thought that it was best to get a long ride in and then I could push with what I had left on Sunday in a Kayak and not have to worry about spraining my ankles. So that is how it worked out and it was perfect.

Monique, Marius, Corby and I decided to head up Blackstar about 9ish on Saturday. By now the curves of the trail were starting to look familiar and the ride to the soccer ball was shorter. The wind was bad on the climb and we decided when we got to the ball that Monique and Corby would head back down blackstar and Marius and I would continue on up and down motorway to meet them at Maple Springs. Marius and I started to talk about expected times for the race and I started to think about how much food and water to take too. This was a great time to experiment.

When we reached the Maple Springs parking lot we got to reload on some fuel and water and by then Monique was ready to go to her sisters house to take a nap. Marius was also done for the day because he was going on the big ride Sunday and he had some pictures to take. Not that he was tired. He could have towed us all for the rest of the day! Corby was anxious to get more points on Geoladders so we were off heading up Maple Springs road to four corners. Up to this point I had only used about 60oz of water but my trip up Maple Springs drained my newly filled bladder before I got to the top. The heat was started to get to me and my appetite was in full force. I ate all the food I had in my backpack but I was able to share a bar with Corby before it was all gone. ;-) It was great to catch up with Corby on the trail too. He has become such a stronger rider. Geoladders is a great motivator!

Although we had lots of stops it was the first time I had rode that much of the course at one time. Looking back I think the maple springs climb to the top of Santiago Peak will be the hardest part of the race. It looks to be the longest single climb. I think I have my water needs worked out and what food to carry on the ride but I will need to check on aid locations. I ended up burning about 3500 calories and ate the following on our ride.

Hand full of Mrs. Mays Sunflower Crunch(179)
Five (Accel) Gels(500)
One chocolate power bar(230)
Two Nature Valley bars(360)
One baggy full of pretzels(220)
Two E-caps

1489 Total Calories

I think if I can put away about 250 calories an hour and keep my electrolytes up I will be fine. I just need to do some more research on the aid stations and water for the course but I feel much better getting in a long ride before the race.

February 11, 2007

Time to get back on the trail

What a long week... I had a much harder time recovering from the long days and nights in San Francisco than I did from the ultra. I was truly surprised at how well I felt in the days following a 50K run in the hills. My only real problem was the blood that I couldn’t get out of my feet but it may have been all of the standing and walking around in dress shoes. I have been much sorer from some training runs and shorter events but maybe that was due to the lactic acid…? I also didn’t feel drained like I have after some longer events but the San Fran business was tough. Getting through a week of lectures and long nights out with bad food is hard on the mind and body! Trail running is fantastic stuff.

Saturday, I was back on the trail and I felt alive again. Marius and I got to ride some of the VQ course and I discovered the joy of the West Horse Thief trial on a bike. All that I kept thinking is “why don’t I ride more”! The hike-a-bike section will be a challenge during the race but not as much as the pounding road on the last few miles. I remember the aching feeling in my wrists from the 50mile Rwanda ride… After our ride we had some Indian food with Marius and the Westa’s and then had a slumber party with the Westa’s all night. I was great to catch up with them . . . Monique and I miss seeing them all of the time. Marius was also contemplating moving to SF for a new job and although I would be sad to see him go I know Monique and I would visit him lots! It’s a tough decision to make.

Monique and I took a run in our hills on Sunday and I got to push a little more on the hills. If I get back into a high heart rate too soon after a race I get this nauseating feeling in my head and my heart. Almost like my body still has the E-brake on. I have only had it a few times but the feeling is hard to forget. When I ran the hills with the puppies I started to push more and more and I actually felt great. No sickness, no heavy legs, no sore ankles. I felt like my life was back to normal after some time with friends, family and the dogs on the trails. I will take that over a week of free drinks and food anytime!

February 09, 2007

Twin Peaks 50K

Our ultramarathon was here and prepared or not we awoke early to get some food in us and make our way to the race start. That is always the hardest part of a race! The balance of getting to the starting line without injury and still being motivated enough to get up early and get out on the trail is an art.

To get to the starting line we had to take a shuttle from the Oakley parking lot over to the Trucker Wildlife Sanctuary but we had to make the 5:30am departure to have enough time to make our 7am start. I was devastated when I found the Starbucks on the way to Oakley did not open until 6am on Sundays! What am I going to do without Starbucks in my gut all day on the trail? We were also planning on getting some bagels at Starbucks so we missed out on our breakfast too. Looking back, I think that it just helped keep us motivated to keep shoveling in the food all day.

(The early starting line to a long day)

The 50 mile runners had already started up the Harding Truck trail at 6am in the dark and we were freezing in the cold morning air but the day would prove to be warm early enough so we still welcomed the chill and we tried to stay warm before our start.

Monique had decided not to do the race until the day before because she had not been on a long run since our course preview about a month ago. She had run strong at the Rio Bravo but that was a 10K and she had never made it to the top of main divide (9 miles up) for our training run so she was not confident even reaching the first aid station. When her competitive nature got the best of her the night before we decided to go as far as she could go and if need be she would wait at the fist aid station and I could run the out and back to one or two of the peaks if I could make it. I believe that this humble strategy was what helped us so much. We were so conservative in our pace and so prepared with water and food the entire day that we were do something we though was not possible with our little training. That is what makes it so fun and memorable. The right attitude with lots of food, water and the right pace is everything!

(We march our way up Harding Truck trail)

Before we knew it we were already at the first aid station (about 9 miles up) at the top of the Harding Truck trail and on to Main Divide. We had walked most of the uphill and took in more water and food than we normal. Monique had never made it this far so we celebrated our success so far and were amazed at how well we felt. The Main divide trail up to the peaks was a new path for both of us but with our water bottles filled and such a fresh feeling in our legs we continued on to explore what was next.

(reaching the first aid station feeling warmed up and ready to go)

With a few miles behind us now and our confidence mounting we started to run more of the course set before us. Things were also starting to heat up and the climb up to Modjeska peak has to be the most technical terrain for the race. We started to see more runners heading down from the peak and it was encouraging knowing we were almost at the half way point and not feeling the achy pains or any signs of bonking. Leaving Modjeska and on our way to Santiago peak we were able to run more and more of the course as the uphill and downhill sections were not as long.

(Our "run" begins as we close the distance on the half way point)

After about four hours we had reached our second aid station at the top of Santiago peak. We were now 16 miles into our fist ultra but we were past the half way point. The majority of the race was downhill now and we sincerely didn’t expect to make it this far so we really had something to celebrate about. Not only did we make it but we felt great!

(Skip welcomes us to aid station 2 and our turn around point)

The spread of food at this aid station was only enhanced by the warm welcome from Skip and Jen who gave us oxygenated water and encouraging words. As we chatted a bit with Skip, I was amazed at how good I still felt and Monique still looked so fresh. Last year when we ran our first half marathon together Monique really looked bad at about mile eight and only about 400ft elevation gain. I was so proud of her……… With more fuel in our bellies and our water bottles topped off we headed back down from the peak at a good pace.

(Monique still charging after hours on the trail)

Now that we were headed downhill and did not have to be so concerned about the miles ahead looming over us we could relax and enjoy the quick pace of the downhill. Before we knew it the first aid station was in our sight again. With only about a mile away, we drank more often and tried to get rid of all of our water before we reached the station. We could always pee if we needed to and our strategy had worked so well so far.

We reached the aid station again in exactly one hour. Although we had almost 22 miles behind us the aches and pains had not set in yet. The relief of only nine or so more downhill miles lightened our spirits and we began to pick up the pace again. By this time my polar watch recorded the temperatures in the nineties but I felt like nothing could stop us now. No pain in my quads, no pain in my ankles, Monique still smiling and singing our IPods were cranked up to the max. We were deep into a steady pace now that was gaining momentum and I actually felt better at this point than I did the entire run. We were in the zone now and running seamed effortless. The steady motion of my feet seamed to melt into the very character of the trail. I no longer had to think about breathing, the sound of my feet or my foot placement within the rocks. My eyes were following the trail selecting the path in front of me with precision and the rapid eye movement equivalent to being in trance with a video game. This is awesome!

As we approached the last few familiar turns the reality that we were finishing the course was overwhelming. I was so proud of Monique and I still don’t know how she was able to dig so deep and stay focused for so long. We remained positive and helped each other through our tough spots. We celebrated every mile we gained and that motivated us even more. We had been on the course for over seven hours and stuck through it and we already won and accomplished our goals. I would have it no other way…

February 06, 2007

Feeling and Feeding the Fifty

We had an amazing day out on the trail yesterday but I cannot quite put the experience into words yet. I flew out to San Francisco after the race for a week at the RSA Conference and I am still in a blissful glow from such a irreplaceable passage. Pulling my luggage around the streets of San Francisco may not be the best recovery from my first ultra but I am glad that I can do it injury free. I am tired but so stoked and so proud of Monique who with little training decided the night before to run as far as she could and ended up completing the full 50K course. I can’t think of a better way of running the race than to spend the day with Monique on the trials.

I thought that it would be interesting to take a look at some stats since this was our first ultra and we were well feed and hydrated.

Food Monique ate during the run:
-3 gels
-half a banana
-two hand fulls of gummy bears
-two pretzels
-a few chocolate covered expresso beans
-four advil and two ECAP(electrolyte replacements)

Food I ate during the run:
-5 GU gels (vanilla w/ CAFFEINE)
-half PB&J sandwich
-handful of Mrs Mays Sunflower crunch (complements of zombierunner)
-two handfuls of chocolate covered espresso beans
-half a banana
-hand full of M&M's
-four advil and one ECAP

Things we carried the entire 50K and didnt need to use:
-slice of pizza
-toliet paper(good thing!)
-two power bars
-our jackets & fleece shirt
-Swiss army knife

According to our Polar watches we both burned over 4200 calories each in the seven plus hours on the trail. While Monique ran with a higher heart rate average, my weight and age leveled us out to about the same burn rate. If we were eating out wheaties, we would have to consume over three boxes each to get our calories back. I guess running ultras can get expensive!

Monique’s HR Stats
Max zone 5hrs
High zone 2hrs

My HR Stats
Max zone 3min
High zone 4hrs
Med zone 3hrs

It was amazing to watch Monique push herself so much(and not complain) and her heart rate shows the details. While I averaged a heart rate of 134 bpm(beats per min) and a high of 165bpm, Monique was pushing an average of 176 and a high of 197bpm. Amazing! I married one tough girl (and she is so cute too)

February 03, 2007

Looking on the bright side

When I usually head into a race I have this “letting go” feeling. I don’t know how to explain it except that I realize when an event is a day or two away there is little you can do to help your situation at that point other than to rest and remain positive. I begin to reflect on my experiences leading up to the race and start to look at the bright side of how they have lead me to the perfect place mentally, spiritually and physically for this specific race even if things didn't go according to plan.

On Wednesday, I dropped off my truck to get it fixed from my latest accident that I was in and thought I could get a ride to work. I have had a stressful week of work and travel and I have eaten like crap for the last few days. I had not actually arranged for a ride because of my schedule and laziness so I thought that I would just surprise someone with the offer to pick me up. Besides, I thought, if I didn’t have a ride I could run to the office since I hadn’t got a run in yet. Needless to say, I found myself running several blocks with all my nerd gear to work. Today is Saturday and that run to work was my only exercise all week. The weight of my nerd gear didn’t help my ankle recovery and my diet sure was not the best way to head into my first ultra but then I started looking on the bright side.

I have a lot going for me. I am rested. I am so rested! I haven’t had a low week of exercise activity like this in a long time. I made it through a tough week at work and I can let go of that stress now with a long run. My ankle has had plenty of rest and I packed in so many calories this week I'm sure not to bonk. I am motivated! Today Monique and I got to hang out, take a nap and meet Dean Karnazes. That was inspiring in itself!

(Monique and I meet up with Karno the Ultramarathon Man)

Tonight we are going to the “carbo loading” dinner with the TwinPeaks group to have a good time and continue to reflect on a wonderful journey to our first ultra. Bring on the food and the good times!