Monday, April 30, 2012

Running with the Pink Horses

Megan (right) celebrating a goal by her cousin Katie (left)
This has been an interesting block of training leading up to the Quad Rock 50.  I began coaching my daughter's U9 soccer team (The Pink Horses) in March, which coincided with the 7 week window I'd planned to ramp up my training.

As a first time coach, I wanted everything to flow smoothly.  Of course, I've been humbled by the process and understand now that my expectations of working with twelve 9-year-old girls must include some bumpy waters.  Coaching has been a rewarding, but somewhat stressful experience for me.  The amount of planning and coordination is immense.  Most of the time I feel completely inadequate for the task.  Combine that with the fatigue of training and other demands of life, and it's a recipe for burnout.  Thankfully, I'm surviving just fine and wouldn't change a thing.  We've had some highs and lows, which sounds a lot like running  The highs have been pretty darn special as each of the girls have such fun and unique personalities and leading them on this journey has been a privilege.

With Quad Rock now less than two weeks away, I'm ready to roll. I've accomplished everything I planned for my training with a nice mix of vertical, hiking, long runs, night runs, high mileage.  About 95% of my miles have been on trail.  Sleep has surely been sacrificed, but I hope to recover a bit in that department now that I'm tapering.

Quad Rock will be a beast of a race, but that's exactly what I feel ready for.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ultrarunning 101

This is awesome.  I have had similar conversations about Leadville with non-runners.  Gotta love..."I thought the fastest growing sport was NASCAR or Wii Fit..."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Longs Peak Hike/Run

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I was running too much and need to get my hiking legs ready for the races I have coming up.  Well, there's nothing like being forced to bang out a few 75 min/miles to wake up the hiking legs!

That's what was in store when I joined up with Joe Z for a hike up Longs Peak last Saturday.  The earliest I've ever hit the summit of a 14er was late June.  To hike one in March is unfathomable to me, unless this particular March happens to be the driest one in history!

I read earlier in the week that the Longs Keyhole route was virtually snow-free above treeline.  With all my ladies out of town for Spring Break, I grabbed the opportunity to tackle this beast of a mountain.

Joe & I started from the trailhead at 6:10am and made good progress on the snow packed trails in the trees.  It was almost all snow, but nothing that microspikes couldn't handle and even ran a few stretches.  Once we got above the trees, we continued to cruise at a steady pace until we hit the Boulder Field and the fun really began.

When you get to the top of a ridge, this scene comes into view.

As you plod through the Boulder Field, you keep your aim on the Keyhole.

Looking back on the Boulder Field.  There's actually a trail about halfway through all that rocky mess.
At this point, Joe & I took our first break at the Keyhole shelter.  As I was approaching it, I heard this thundering waterfall.  I don't ever remember reading about a waterfall, but it was unmistakable.  Unless the wind is so strong whipping through the Keyhole that the sound effect is just the same.

We put on every piece of clothing we brought as the temps were hovering around the freezing mark and the sun didn't seem to be helping much as it frequently hid behind the clouds.  Sure enough, we got blasted on the other side of the Keyhole...but not for long!  It was strange.  At some points, the wind was forceful and sustained.  At others, it simply disappeared and we had long stretches of stillness.  No complaints then!

On to the Ledges...

Despite what this pictures shows, the snow on the Ledges was very manageable.

The Ledges came and went quickly, and we were soon looking up at the Trough.  This was my first "WHOA!" moment of the day.  We were already at over 13,000 feet and staring at a climb that went straight up.

That is a long, long way UP.

The effort needed to get up the Trough was huge.  This is where those 75 minute miles came into play.  Climbing on all fours with loose footing and a touch of snow and ice mixed in.  I never felt once that we wouldn't make it, but I confessed in my mind that I had underestimated the challenge of Longs.

Welcome to Class III climbing!

The Narrows.  While the exposure is great, it was a welcome change from the Trough and a rest before the Homestretch.

The Homestretch is no slouch of a climb!  The silver lining?  No loose rock!

We arrived at the summit in just over three hours.  There was no one there.  More importantly, the wind wasn't there!  It was quiet and glorious.  We sat and ate and soaked in the spectacular views.  After a few pictures, I ran from east to west on the football field of boulders that is the summit of Longs.  Not sure why, but it's fun to know I did.

The dorkiest-looking person on the mountain!

Joe standing on the official marker.
There's not much to say about the descent other than it was long and tiring.  The Trough kicked my butt again.  I kicked loose a volleyball-sized rock that tumbled down.  I yelled "Rock!" to Joe and he in turn yelled down to two hikers coming up.  Crazy.  I can easily see why helmets would have been a very smart idea on that stretch.

After passing through the Boulder Field, we began to run.  It was still quite technical trail above tree line, but the running made it pass by as quick as we could make it.  Then came the snow-packed trails that were softening up with the rising temps.  If you ran down the exact center of the trail (about 6" wide, you would have no problem staying on top.  But of course, I had a few epic postholes as stepped just off to one side.  On two occasions, I thought my leg might just rip off as my momentum kept my body moving forward while my leg lodged into 2-3' of snow.

We got back to the trailhead around 12:20pm.  Not a bad way to spend six hours on a Saturday!  I've been trying to check this peak of my list for years and it felt so good to do just that when I got home.

After a day or two passed, the fatigue really hit me.  So many body parts were sore!  I took two full days off from running this week and can't wait to see how this hike will be absorbed.