Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tri training: 19 days to race day!

In case you missed it, my rest week is over. I'm training for the Marble Falls triathlon on July 19. My fitness is pretty high from trail running all spring (do we even bother calling it spring in Texas?) so I'm just looking to add some cycling and swimming. It's a 1000m swim,a 23 mile bike and a 4.4 mile run. Although I haven't been out there, and probably won't get the chance before the race, from reading the blogs of previous years' competitors it sounds like your typically hilly Hill Country affair. From scouring the results, it looks like a pretty fast field. I may have overreached a bit for my first longer-than-sprint effort, but hell, I do that all the time (hells hills, dirty du, ect.)
I rode my bike for the first time since pedal thru the pines on Sunday morning. I did a standard North Loop-steck-far west-shoal creek loop in about an hour. So 13.1 pace. Not bad for a first time out and no one to pull me along. To be anywhere but in the bottom 3rd of this race, I'm probably going to have to shoot for 15 mph pace on the bike. I've still got an impressive amount of pain in my shin from my trail running digger at Hells Hills, so I didn't really push the pace. I'm in the market for some new cycling shoes. I'm still using the same entry-level shimano cleats I bought to spin at the gym during danskin training in 2004. I'm hoping some wider shoes with a little more give will let my toes spread out and release the tension along the front of my shin. You gotta love how I will buy new shoes, but not see the dr and get an x-ray to know exactly what is going on in there.
Yesterday I went and ran at the Hill of Life. I'm pretty dedicated to keeping a good part of my runs on the trail, because let's face it, I'm in the best shape of my life after the trail series and if it ain't broke, don't fix it! The run was dumb. I went at 5pm and it was 103 degrees outside. I didn't see a single person on the trail between Hill of Life and Sculpture falls. Again, I had some soreness in my left shin and was "taking" it easy, so I hiked the hill both ways and did a 5 min / 1 min walk run on the flats. I really wanted to get some bliss from running around in the woods, but its hard to accomplish in the ridiculous heat. Despite a bottle of HEED and a full camelback, I was still feeling a bit dehydrated when I woke up this morning.
Today is supposed to be my first "training swim." A competitive 1000m is a lot different from my slacker 750 workout at Stacy pool once a week. If the weather cooperates with me today, I'm going to do 2x 500m at Deep Eddy and try to establish some baseline swim times to be worked on for the race. I thought I was going to have a Pure Austin Splash and Dash between now and then, but I'm not, so I'm going to have to find a way to get some open water swim practice in before then.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bluff Race Report

It was hot as hell last weekend. And the course was tough. In fact the course was made extra especially tough by race director (and my AWESOME coach). He had been out there building that thing since we started our trail series program in April. I guess some people had complained that his previous courses were not challenging enough, so he wanted to prove them wrong. Oh yeah.
The course was laid out in two out and back loops. The first was really quite easy, along the jeep road through the pasture and back. Easy to run too fast. A lot of people passed me on the way out there. Of course I passed em back on the way back through the creek bed (where our Bull Creek repeats paid off big time!!!) After burning up those 2 miles we headed over to the Bluff. It was nice to have some spectators as we passed through the start finish area, but mainly it was hot and dusty with lots of nasty technical terrain ahead. Even the pretty run on the top of the bluff overlooking the Pedernales was technical enough to require total concentration. I settled in with some ladies I recognized from Hill Country Trail runners and put in my work. The first drop down off the bluff in to the boulders was a fast hike with lots of climbing. At the first over/under obstacle I totally wacked the back of my head on a tree. The distance from this point to the first aid station was an eternity.
I get terrible data from my garmin (301 OLD SCHOOL) so for this race I left it at home. The last two races, where I knew the course a lot better, the distance reading was .5 miles off. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but its frustrating to show up at the finish line with enough gas for another half mile. On this stretch of the course I actually asked someone how far we were from the aid station. Since the pace was so erratic, and I couldn't actually run any of this, it was hard to calculate anything.
Having taken some HEED and running with my camelback, I didn't stop long at the aid station. Here I lost the HCTR ladies and tried to sort of go-for-it. I mean, there could only be 3.1 miles left, and at least .5 or .75 of that was jeep road. I was also inspired by some of the 30km leaders galloping past me. It was motivation to keep up with them to see how they navigated the terrain.
The second part of the course was more of the same. Tough technical terrain, lots of boulders and logs to climb over. Just when I thought to myself "That's gotta be the last ascent/descent I would round a corner and find another. I got a little nostalgic for the tough stuff and really wanted to get some space alone where I could get my groove on. With all the hiking and narrow trails, I had a lot more company and people running way to close behind me for my liking. I passed these really annoying people (classic road runner types who would later speed up on the jeep trail to pass me) and started to get some speed up. Back on the top of the bluff there was a lot more room to work, and I really enjoyed this part of the course. It was also in this area I caught a lot of the people who were passing me in the pasture at the start of the run. They were burnt out and walking back to the finish. Once I was on the jeep road, I was not slowing a bit. It was getting hot and I wanted it to be over. I was really starting to feel the heat and the burn in my quads from all the up and downs. I finshed really strong (despite the PISSED off look in my face and felt a great deal of pride for committing to, training for and finishing all three races (plus a 25km my longest distance yet!) in the Rogue Trail Series.
I had a great time after the race chatting with some of the others in my group and also cheering on our 30km teammates. I don't usually stick around for the post race festivities, but since were there and had paid for day access, we brought a cooler and floats and headed down to the river after burgers and beer and cheers for our teammates.
It was so wonderful to be floating in the river with a cold beer at the end of the race. My only possible complaint being that the river could have been a little colder. We drank a six pack and chilled out and headed back to town around noon. Another great race on the books.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

the bluff preview

It's freakin hot. Austin has skipped June and July and gone straight for August. The entire forecast has 100s on it. I'm still feeling fatigued from the Hell's Hills 25 km, but I dragged myself out to Reimers Ranch on Saturday to preview the tricky course in the third and FINAL (woot!) race of the rogue trail series: The Bluff.

I can definitely say I'm starting get burnt out on the trail. Probably because the group I train with is so hard core. My coach loves to dish out the tough terrain. I've had to pass on a few wednesday workouts because I'm concerned that running on the technical stuff on sore legs is a recipe for a real injury.

Saturday's run did not go well. The first part of the course goes past the parking lot through an open pasture. It's not well shaded, but it only 1.75 miles. When we ran it, it had not been weed wacked, so the spear grass was nasty and jabbing my socks and sneakers. I was dropped almost immediately, which doesn't bother me, except that some turkey locked the gate on the way back (it was an out and back) so I had to climb over the fence. My legs were stiff and tired and it was hot hot hot.

I got back to where we parked, and headed out for the rest of the run. It was quite pleasant running across the bluff with the breeze coming up of the Pedernales River. There were still a lot of rocks obscured by spear grass, so I was stuck in a fast hike tempo. When we dipped down off the bluff, I got lost. There seems to be a hiking path that runs along the bluff to access the climbing walls. It became more pronounced as I headed south, but I was long out of flagged territory. I was majorly irritated that I was climbing over boulders and not doing anything much that could be considered cardio or a trail run. I tried to back track but couldn't find a single flag. It didn't help that some of them were green, and very hard to see against the foliage. I never found my group, or the course. I went with my gut and hiked back past the rock climbers up the path back to the cars. From there I saw some flags and headed back out, hoping maybe I could run the course in reverse, see some more of the sweet terrain (I hadn't even gotten to the "tough stuff" apparently) but all I found was a dirt road with some flags. I got to an intersection and found my coach. All this time, I was thinking I wouldn't find the group because they had gone back out to the pasture for a second loop. I bailed on the run about 50 min in, certainly the others were done shortly after I gave up, lost and angry. That was not the case. They rolled in at about 90 min. That's 10 min slower than MY pace on race day and about 30 min slower than their usual race paces. The whole damn group got lost. Joe offered me the chance to go back out. It was getting hot. It was almost 11 by now, and I also had some sort of pollen burning the skin on my legs. I'm not well adapted to thistles and bugs and weird grasses and get a lot of skin allergies here in Texas. I opted to walk down the road to the river and rinse off before the ride back to town, rather than complete my course preview. Saturday I was really the worst runner I could be: crabby, tired, hot and aching. Talking with the group, I was bragging that I had not yet registered, and was no obligation to come back out there for the race, but Monday morning in front of my computer I sealed the deal. I hope on Sunday with appropriate dress (gaiters, capri pants ect) and some rest and icing I can complete the rogue trail series with a smile on my face.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hells Hills Race Report

After my pleasant long run at Buescher State park on Mother's Day weekend, I thought it would be cool to try a longer distance trail race. It had been my hope from the start of the Rogue Trail Series that I might be able to pull off a 30km by the end. I quickly learned that the best chance of this happening was at the first (and easiest) race The Maze. There's only so many hours in one's life to run and recover from gnarly technical trails and just like in road running (but probably even more so in trail) if you ramp up too fast you will just get injured. So by the time Hells Hills (aka the Rocky Hill Redux) came around I thought it would be a good opportunity to test my long distance legs on a course I had run before.

I set my time goal vaguely around 3 hrs and 35 min for this 25k trail run. Last November at the crossroads between the Freescale full and half marathons (I ended up at 3M in jan) I took a short detour in to the world of trail. I ran a few runs on the greenbelt and signed up for the Dirty Du trail run. A 12 miler at Rocky Hill ranch. I ran with two of my buddies who were having a "recovery" week after the San Antonio Rock and Roll half. They run MUCH faster on the road, so it's rare that we get to do an event together. It wasn't easy, but we sure had fun. Actually, we had so much fun they took the keg (New Belgium two below, not available in stores yet) "away" from us. There were scrapes and falls and twisted ankles and my infamous it-feels-like-I-am-being-stabbed-with-a-screwdriver pain, but we all finished in about three hours.

Fast forward to June 6, 2009. Hells Hills. I was feeling stronger and more confident after taming the ledges of the Loop, so I was looking forward to improving on my time on this familiar course. In my head it was alot of soft piney forest single- track path. In my head it was also November and 60 degrees outside.

What was NOT in my head was the nasty back half of the course. In the Dirty Du it was mile 8, for Hells Hills it was mile 11 but wherever it is everything from the last permanent aid station at Rocky Hill to the finish line sucks. It's got steep up and downs built for bikes and goats, not running, and a loooooong section of rolling hills. Before getting to all this fun there was also a mile or two I had not run before. Those miles were across a pasture in the back of the ranch. It was hot as hell. No cover. Just a big ass field and the blazing Texas sun.

I went out way too fast. I have a feeling that if I could get my mile splits out of my garmin and on to the computer for more thoughtful review, I have a 10k trail pr somewhere in there. I was listening to music, passing people, not fearing snakes, and generally having a grand old time. I have no idea who the fck I thought I was that I could run 15 miles at my 10k RACE pace. I was all about keeping my pace below 15min/mile (hey, its trail people!) Around mile 10 I started to realize this was not a good idea. While running the rollers on the jeep road I saw some guy just sitting in the middle of the path getting his zen on? Who knows. By now it was getting HOT and I was getting lapped by 50km-ers and maybe some 50 milers (who knows they started in the dark, two hours before I even arrived.)Despite my camelback water, a few cups of heed at aid stations and some gu packs I was starting to feel dehydrated (chills) and fatigued. As it had in my previous attempt the switch clicked, this was no longer fun, it just needed to be over. I needed to stop worrying about my pace and just do whatever it takes to get to the finish line ASAP. Another mile passed and then I was back in the woods. The mile after that actually took me by suprise as it clicked past on my garmin. Then running down a small hill of loose rocks I fell.

HARD. Lights out! OMG. I've gotten used to the occasional twisted ankle as a fact of life in trail running. Get up, get moving before it starts hurting and move on. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Somehow throughout all this training (since April 1) I have not had a righteous digger. I have not emerged from the trail with a bloody knee. The universal badge of honor among trail teammates I had not yet earned. Oh sure I trip over stuff ALL the time. In my house, my office, on the trail, you name it. But my ability to catch myself before hitting the deck is bizarre. I attribute it to good balance from years of ice hockey and yoga, who knows... But on this particular Saturday I got my badge of honor. I fell. Hard. On my right knee and shin. In fact, given my size (large) and speed (downhill) I really don't know how I did not snap my leg right in half. I bit the inside of my mouth and my entire left side was throbbing. My shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Oh jeeze. I thought about tears (hell no.) I thought about panic (a waste of precious energy) so somehow I manged to cling to a tree and get right side up again. First walk, then a trot. I was really worried I was so banged up that I would have to walk in the last 4 miles. It was too hot. No way. I need to get to the finish, get some ice and some beer. I kept telling myself "If I am running and walking I haven't broken anything," so that's what I did. I didn't set any new record or personal best and despite being certain I was dead last (I was not) I managed to get my butt to the end. Throughout those tough final miles in the blazing heat I was inspired by the 50km front runners. All who passed me offered smiles and words of encouragement. They were so fast, they were not suffering. It was inspiring. I made it to the finish, turned in my chip, hopped in my car and headed home for some R.I.C.E. Another awesome trail race was over! Not only had I earned my honor badge for my bloody knee, I had also run further than I ever had before, and at the end of the day, what could possibly be more satisfying than that? See y'all next weekend at the Bluff :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Loop Race Review

Another trail race bites the dust. I haven't blogged much about training lately. What is there to say, its kicking my ass! Hard! It's been a lot of cramming on technical terrain, which is hard on a girl's body. My knees are trashed. When we previewed the Loop course I knew I was in for a challenge. Lots and lots of rocky ledges. The training runs had been very challenging, hot and slow, so going in to the race I was careful not to set the standard too high, its not exactly an "A" race and also I'm looking ahead to Saturday and the Hells Hills rescheduled race at Rocky Hill Ranch. I'm running a 25k at the same place I did my very first trail run. I'm looking forward to running much much stronger and improving on my time and endurance.
Anyway. The race.
I got there around 7 am. I guess I just missed the 30km start and malingered around for a bit, wishing I had more coffee. In hindsight I am glad I didn't because hydration was key for this race.
I lined up in the back of the pack with the same people I had run with at the Maze. I was happy to see them there and was hoping for a pacer. That was silly considering I had run the course the weekend before. I kept telling myself, run your race, save it for the ledges. About a mile and a half in, I was the pied piper. I had a trail of about 8 run/walk ladies. I guess my strategy, to walk up the tough verticals and really pick up the pace in the flats was the ticket.
Walk up ledges, sprint flats, charge downhills and repeat. I was having a bit of trouble coordinating my drinking (which I usually save for the flats) with my sprinting, but I worked it all out. I drank some nasty (looked blue tasted GRAPE, blech) gatorade at the half way mark and pressed on. I was separating from the crazy pack I had accumulated and started running downhills and jumping off the ledges. I was really kind of having a good time, totally inspired by all the familiar 30k faces passin me by. One might think it would be demoralizing to be lapped but it actually gives you this awesome wave of superiority (they have another lap and I dont)that can get you through what I believe may have been the hardest 3 miles I have ever run. By the second half of the run, there's less tree coverage and more sunshine, and unlike the trial run, NO BREEZE. It got hot out there in a hurry. I was very thankful I drank extra water before the start. I kept thinking I was finished with the technical stuff. I'd say the last mile was a running monologue with myself about the hole in the trees where I'd cut the run short in practice. Once I got to that spot, I could really turn it on, and it's right up here, after this one last ledge, really, it's there, really, this time I swear, fer reals! Yeah, I deluded myself that the end was near. And it was. And my time was pretty close to my Maze time. Whoa! How did that happen? No idea. I ran through the trees and back around the parking lot to the finish really trying to hit the same exact time as the Maze. No dice. Nothing...left...in... the... tank, and just like that it was over. Ta-da. 85 minutes. Only 4 min slower than the last race, but both times close enough together for my liking. And a 4 min difference between race times both with a gun start, not bad at all. I'm pleased with my unexpected success at the Loop and looking forward to a fun endurance run on Saturday. The Loop course was far more challenging than the Maze so I'm proud of the improvement in the flats.