Monday, July 28, 2008

Speedgoat 50k

Amazing photos are here.
Results and maps are here.

So after my dnf at Devils Backbone a couple weeks ago, my next race was Speedgoat 50k at Snowbird up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake. My friend, Cole, who I am pacing and crewing at Wasatch was out for a week before Speedgoat for some training. He lives in Ohio (que the tears) so there was some work to be done (or so I thought). He came out Sunday before last and by Thursday, he had logged 70 some miles and 20,000 feet of climbing and systematically kicked my ass. Here are some pictures of our fun:

We took Friday off as a rest day and travelled to Salt Lake after a late start out of Jackson complete with breakfast burritos and ice cream shakes. The ride was uneventful but hot seeing I have never owned a vehicle with air conditioning. We checked into the Lodge or the Inn I forget but it was nice, right at the start with a pool. My only goal for the day was the pool and that got done around 7 that nite. We ate dinner with our friend, Eric Johnson from Logan who was racing too and went to bed.

Not too early of a start 6:30 and we just had to check in and get our bags. Sweet goat shirts, mine's black and looks incredibly menancing. I can't wait to wear it on an overcast day. I think with the sun hitting that thing could kill me within minutes but cloudy, I'm busting it out.

The actual course or vertical weren't really decided on until the last minute and you know I like it like that. Keeps it interesting. I decided not to study the map even though my friend Todd had printed us out a nice big color coded map. I just daydreamed when they were going over it because one look at that thing and I knew it wouldn't help me much, more confusing. I heard words like "intestinal loops" so I knew I was relying on the flagging job of fellow runners who were volunteering.

We figure out drop bag, one for both of us. I put in extra gels, trying to roctane (and loving them), extra socks, shirt and my inhaler. In light of my recent hamburger feet, Cole kindly suggested I try another pair of socks and as a true gear whore (I mean horder), he had an extra pair. So I wore his Wright socks underneath my smartwool and low and behold, not that many blisters at all.

We headed to the start and were off in no time. I should explain where I was in the morning, let's just say I was dragging ass. Too many great days and nites of running followed by palty 5-6 hours of sleep were catching up to me. I had my black period pretty much right off the bat. I woke up in a mood funk (not funky) and in a lot of pain. I had worked on my achilles and calves (constant annoyance) in the car on the way to SLC and proceeded to fire those things badly. You know when you are saying things like "come on, baby, you can do this" in the first 15 minutes, it's not good. I tried to get Cole to go on as he was strong and felt good but wouldn't. We were way back and Cole said he got worried when he looked back and our only competition was the guy picking up the flags, oh god.

But as we all know, these periods do not last forever. Mine usually last exactly one hour, so at 7:30, the monkey slid off my back and I climbed. And oh how we climbed... 4000 feet in the first 8 miles but it's Karl Meltzer race so there were little downhills in the middle of the climbs and towards the end of the race, you didn't want to do the downhills because you knew what came after the downhills. Got to the first aid station at 4 miles, peed, watered and had a little downhill feeling better. We climbed up to 11,000 at the top of the tram and hit the aid station and drop bag there. Saw some folks I know, Becky and Jarrod and said hi. Filled up, grabbed some chips and a peanut butter/jelly sandwich and knew there was some downhill coming.

Downhill wouldn't really describe what was next (see above topo), more like a glissade but with rock and dirt. Dumbass (me) still had the sandwich and chips in my hand and thought I was foot-worthy enough to tackle this without hands. And you are not going to take food out of my hands, but I wised up and shoved everything into my mouth and attached my handheld to my pack and went for it. The first pitch wasn't too bad but the next one was something you wanted to give your full attention to. There was Black Diamond kids patroling the area and they were all wearing helmets. There was a section that was roped and me, having no pride at all, clunged to that rope like my mother would. We pretty much laughed throughout the day about the absurity of the course and how great it was to be doing it. We were then treated to a ridge run that reminded me of the Devils Backbone and totally runnable for at least 15 feet at a time before some climb brought you back to a walk.

After that was a plunge down into Mineral Basin, pretty much 4000 feet down in about 4 miles to that tall drink of water, Roch Horton's aid station. Now, I don't know Roch personally but we both agreed when we grow up, we want to be Roch. First, the name, it's got it all and says it all. And he's supernice, knows what you want and need and always has kind words. I got a popsicle, ice and water for my bandana and they had cold wet towels. This was a runners aid station and it had it all. Finally Cole pulls me out of my swoon and we head up.

Next up was a 2000 foot climb and it was here that we started to make some progress with steady, strong climbing. We passed about 11 guys on this climb, some just looking hot and tired from the big descent (that we had taken fairly easy) and some looking not so great. I commented to Cole that the reason we were making such great progress is that we were working as a team but he totally poo-poo'ed that idea, whatever. We get to the top of the climb thankfully and were still doing okay. We were good to remind each other to eat, drink and take S caps regularly.

We were climbing up something (the climbs gets muddled after a while and I might have things out of order) and we saw Eric up ahead. He was with my friend Todd from here so it was good to see familiar faces. We climbed together for a while and it was a beautiful section with flowers and beautiful views from up high. Sometimes, we would leave a full functioning and lovely singletrack to take a hard left or right on what can only be described as an old abandoned goat path, possibly some stamped down grass but that was about it. We passed some volunteers and the woman said I was running in the top 10 for woman which was surprising in light of my demise at the start but it was just what Cole needed to hear and he said he would keep me there. My goal was just not to dnf.

We then got into the tunnel which was dark and pretty cool. It felt great to be out of the unrelenting sun for a minute or two. From the tunnel, we went down a good ways on a service road and it was a little confusing. I thought we might be off course because there was some construction flagging and it was hard to differentiate between that and the race flagging. And I didn't want to go down if I was wrong and have to head back up. But we found our way and I ran into a woman I ran with at Devils Backbone two years ago. We passed her but I knew what an efficient runner she was and that she would be back.

We had another great climb through some shaded switchbacks on narrow singletrack and then came the (I swear everyone called it this) demoralizing ridge climb. It lasted forever, was unrelentless, hot, steeper than hell, actually it felt like hell would feel and it made me yell at Cole (sorry buddy). He was saying something nice and he stopped and there was no stopping on that hill (besides the "let's just make it to that bush" stops). So he stops to say something and I lose it, "don't stop keep going", there might have been more words than that. I was in survival mode and there aren't that many niceties there. I told him I would apologize later but I could only just make it up that damn ridge first. I have discovered that I am not a multi tasker and being nice and climbing that ridge were mutually exclusive.

So we climbed up to the top of Hidden Peak again and there were two people standing at the top. They were smiling so I knew they were not doing the race. I thought, great, we will hit the aid station, my drop bag and head down to the finish because I thought I had the mileage in my head that there was about 4+ miles.

Imagine my surprise (in my jaunty mood to boot) when the smiling volunteers pointed us not to the aid station but down some more and then back up before we get to the aid station. I asked the dreaded question, how much further? The guy said once we got back to the top (again), it was about 5 miles and he said this all while smiling. I think he had the toughest job of the day because people really broke down on that ridge. So I was about 3 grueling miles off. Demoralized and abused but asking for it, we pressed on. We were still on the homestretch (even if it did involve some wretched climbs), we ran the downhills and there was some great scenery and were able to put some snow in our hats, bandanas and bottles so that cheered me up.

I was definitely looking forward to the downhill because my quads felt really solid and the downhill didn't hurt my ankles. Finally, we get to the top, re-supply, have some coke and food and head off for the downhill to the finish. I swear we were flying downhill and I was barely keeping Cole in sight. It was heating up and you feel it as you descend especially a 1000 feet a mile. We passed a few people on the way down and in all, probably passed about 40 people all day and were only passed twice or three times. Helps to start in way back for that to happen.

So we run and run downhill and start to see signs of civilization. I see the big white tent and look across the canyon to see how low we are. I know we are close and it is heaven to come around the corner and see the finish line. We finish together and come in at 8:47. I was shooting for sub 10 so I am thrilled. I was the 8th woman and third in my age group (when you throw out the top 5 women overall). Those Utah girls are fast and tough and the top woman, Anita Ortiz, is from Colorado and was third overall. There were some amazing runs done by those top people, running the stuff I couldn't even imagine powerwalking.

So we hang out for a while, drink some recovery stuff and then head to the creek. I enjoy a good soak and clean off pretty well in the creek but we head to the pool for some real relaxing. We ask someone in the parking lot for the temperature from their car, 102, that's why it felt so hot. We head to the awards ceremony and I get a cool goat picture and pick up a pair of Native sunglasses. Todd was also third in his age group so I pick up his picture and we meet for dinner with him and my friend Marty. Beef is consumed in large quantities and throughly enjoyed.

Sleep comes quickly that night and the next morning is another early one. I take Cole to the airport and then head home. I pick up tubby dumbo at the kennel and spend a good portion of the day on the couch. My legs feel pretty good, tired but not injured. In the meantime, a little time on the bike and I think an open water lake swim might be in my future. I feel my appetite raging so I see some 5 meals days coming up too.

So if you like the idea of a hot poker to you know where, definitely sign up for Speedgoat. It's a masochist's course put on by a couple of sadists (and we all know who we are). But, I think the confidence and strength you get from finishing a race like this goes far to other races. So I think Cole is ready for Wasatch and I have El Vacquero Loco up next in Afton in three weeks (so excited because I thought it was just two weeks but three is great). Check out the website for more info, it's another great one with lots of climb and great views. Website is here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Devils Backbone

Jackson is a hard place to beat for good living. I can't think of one other place I would rather live than Jackson, except Bozeman. Bozeman offers a bit more city life without taking the small town feel away. Throw in a sweet new library and a college and it runs a close second to Jackson.

I look forward to heading to Bozeman each summer to see old friends and hit their trails. Tom and Liz Hayes-McGoff are the race directors for two great races up there, Old Gabes 50k, an asskicker with 12,000 feet of climbing that I missed due to BH and Devils Backbone, a 50 miler of such shear beauty (and asskicking) you almost...almost (but not quite) ask for more.
I had some company coming to join me in Bozeman this weekend. My friend Roman from Houston was flying in to visit and run the race. Yes, I have flatlander friends. Roman lived out here and we worked together for a short time many years ago. We were the Spartan Cheerleaders for Halloween and I say this without a doubt; Roman has the best herkie and split jump I have seen. The vert he gets almost baffles the mind and coupled with the fact that he's about 6'2", 220 linebacker type, it's amazing. That's why he's my friend. That and we can talk about anything which we did most of the weekend.

So he flies in, we have too many beers at the brew pub on the way home and I drive to Bozeman with a big fat OB-1 headache the next morning. The drive was beautiful, through Yellowstone and the Gallatin Canyon. We get there in time to check into a hotel (high style for ultrarunning) and take some funny pictures of a big bush before heading to Tom and Liz's house for pre-race dinner and meeting.
The course hadn't really been decided on before the dinner. There was a lot of snow up high and getting to the first peak, Hyalite was iffy. Iffy became impossible when it took Tom, multiple Hardrock finisher 10 hours to do 25 miles, which was past the cutoff time. So it was decided we would start from the other way, up Portal Creek to Windy Pass and do 12.5 out and back, 10 mile loop in the opposite direction and then 7.5 on the first out and back. Tom claims this was going to be easier than the original course - yeah, right. Ate tons of food, a little hair of the dog and won a container of Mild Melon Heed. I was hoping this flavor was going to be better than the current flavor I have which can only be described as belly button lint, rolled in fish guts set in the sun then sprinkled with orange cream powder. Let you know how it is.

So we have to get up pretty darn early to get to the start line by 6, like middle of the nite early as the start was about 1 1/2 hour away. Roman, still on Central time, had us up at 2:50 instead of 3:50 so we laid there not sleeping until the real alarm went off. We got there with about 15 minutes to spare. There was some confusion at the road forks and somehow I was making navigational decisions which is a really bad idea. My confidence highly overshadows my complete inability to tell direction but we all got there.

The Devils Backbone touts itself as unmarked, unaided, and unequaled. If you know me, you know these are my races. It leaves the whiners, sissies and people that regularly shower at home. It's not that I like getting lost or running out of food and water but I know it's probably going to happen to me on any course, so I might as well sign up for a race that promotes right there in the brochure. People who stress over the hand drawn maps or no maps at all, ask the millionth question and then look around worried trying to find that person they are going to attach themselves to, those people don't have fun at these kind of races. I avoid eye contact with those people. I like the people that listen, shrug their shoulders and go back to their lasagna.

I did run with an interesting person who rocked old school. This guy was a lawyer by trade but was building a house in Livingston. He showed up to prerace meeting in Wranglers and cowboy boots (beat up, not new). His hydration and nutrition for the race went something like this. A Pure Simple Organic Limeade bottle (gallon) filled with I think limeade (really wanted some) and a small baggie with what looked like a sandwich in it. He was doing the longest distance he'd ever done (25 miles) and finished really well.

I got to see my friend Herbert, who pulled my sorry ass from Crybaby Land at the Big Horn with his sage words and understanding. And my friend Fran, who did GT100 with me and never fails to amaze me with her laid back attitude or sunscreen application. For those of you who don't know, zinc oxide is not dead and I wish I had some on that day. And her dog, Bok Choy had a great time on the trail and ran about 125 miles.

I knew it would be a long day but was surprised by how much the elevation and constant exposure to the sun drained me and quickly. I started out with my normal speed, snails pace, and then slowed a little bit from there. Our first 2 miles climbed about 1300 feet, then there was a bit more climbing before getting out on the ridge. Once out there, you could see for miles to other runners out ahead on the trail so you had a good idea of where to head and really, even I can't get lost on a ridgeline. There was a lot of snow on the course and that took a toll on everyone especially as the day wore on and the snow softened.

I reached the turnaround (12.5 miles) in 3 1/2 hours and was able to hook up with my great friend, Kim Taft for a little while. Her good cheer and constant smile brightened me up and I am lovin the hair. She was doing the relay with her husband and they had a true exchange in the form of their 17 month old son, Theo. Devils Backbone allows the relay people to start whenever so technically this year relay partners could run together. In years past, you and your relay partner started at different ends and met somewhere in the middle.
On the way back from 12.5 out, I was feeling pretty good although a little tired. I ran into Roman who was cold (Texan) and said he was thinking of doing 35, then driving back to town for some more clothes. I told him he would probably warm up as the sun got higher and hoped that I wouldn't be left. I ran back mostly alone but had far away company in sandwich/limeade guy. I had to backclimb a small cliff band where I had lost the trail and gone too high, you get your money's worth at the Devils Backbone.

Hit the 25 mile mark and felt fairly close to shit - tired, snow blind and sunburned but couldn't think of anywhere else I would like to be. I hit the pickles hard, and the pringles harder with some to go. I cleaned the sticks, pine straw and other grass cousins out of my handheld from all the snow I had stuffed in there. Someone filled my bladder and with everything stuffed in it, I looked like I had a papoose back but it worked. However, I headed out without the two things that would indicated I was going to finish this thing, my handheld and my headlamp. Consciously (headlamp) or unconsciously (handheld), I left them both behind. I did manage to clean out the scree field that was my shoes, put on some more sunscreen and get some calories on board. I also asked a few guys around me when they were headed out so I could hook up some company for the 10 mile loop.

One guy took off pretty quickly which wasn't a gear available to me. I ran the flat fairly well all the while trying to digest Tom's verbal directions. I had him give it to me like you would talk to a 3 year old. Don't tell me what I shouldn't do because "don't go left at the tree" sounds like "go left at the tree" when you are out there. So I just had him to tell me what I should do and I took it from there. So the directions went something like this,

Go back a ways, take the trail that heads South (great, I don't know direction but I just nod my head), then look for a weather station and head for it. He said it was only a 700 foot climb but I am thinking that he must have been referring to "the other" weather station out there because this one seemed a lot higher than 700 feet of a climb. You have to touch the weather station (thankfully the weather was clear, no lightning in the area) and then run to the second rocky knoll (rocky knoll?) and at the second rocky knoll there will be some ribbon, turn around and go back to the weather station and touch it again, then run away. There's not much of a trail so head for the station and then when you come back, don't go to the turnaround but head back out on the ridge. You will probably lose the trail but just keep high. Crystal Clear, I love these races.

There was a lot of snow out there, just big mounds of snow to go up and over. My Achilles were hating life but still answering my call. I hooked up with a guy named Scott, pretty much I just started talking to him until he put his ipod away. Cool guy from Helena doing his first 50 miler, he was a biologist who geeked out on maps, so jealous. The good thing about that big hill was there was the most beautiful rocks and I loved that a lot of the girls picked some up. I didn't see any boys saying "look at this pretty rock" but the girls all stopped to show off our rocks. This is why I like running long distances, more breaks for chatting. Alas, another reason I am not gonna win these things, too busy walking and showing off pretty rocks.

There was a definite glissade down from the weather station. Scott had given me some pointers on good techniques when he first spotted the humongous snow field on the mountain and even went first so I could see if he was going to crash. We watched Herbert pull off some great tele-turns in running shoes. I worried the whole way to the rocky knoll and had my sharp stick ready to self arrest when I started down. All my nervousness was for naught because it was like being on a big slide with snow butt wash chaser, none of which I didn't enjoy. So we get off the weather station mountain and head back to the aid station because our day is done.

On the way back to finish the 10 mile loop (that took 3 1/2 hours) I had pretty much made up my mind that the thought of a good nite's sleep won over finishing in the dark. I was shocked at how easy it was to make that decision and how psyched I was to not have to hit the ridge again. My first DNF was Devils Backbone, never thought it would be but it was okay. I equate it with seeing your long lost love and then leaving immediately to run off for a flight to Tahiti that serves all you can eat bacon, both are pretty good options.

So we ran back to the turnaround just to make sure Tom wasn't there but he had already started to sweep the course and actually shepherded a great guy from Texas, Ali on his first 50 finish, way to go dude. That was a big smile out there all day and he was the big winner of the day. Ali definitely deserves the hoodie. So then we walked down the steep 1.3 to the finish. We debated whether we should run it in but decided seeing we were dropping that we shouldn't. I asked Scott if he would kick me real hard so I had an excuse for dropping but he wouldn't so we strolled in as the winners of the loser 35 mile category. We got tee-shirts instead of hoodies and sat around, compared blisters (I won) and talked to some relayers about their day. Then went and soaked in the creek for a while and Roman and I headed back to the hotel.

We had big plans of going out on the town but ended up eating chicken in our respective beds while watching reality tv, also a good option. Brunch is at Looie downstairs the next day and it was great food and good race stories. We checked the Hardrock results and saw how well everyone had done. Kyle's new record and an amazing job done by my new friend Bushwacker, beautifully paced by Olga.

We drove home after brunch and went through Yellowstone which still takes my breath away with it's beauty in spite of the large crowds of people. Enjoy the photos.

So I am kinda glad that I got my first dnf under my belt. I was wondering when it would happen. I think my mental strength tank was on empty from Bighorn but both were still worth it. I think next year I will do BH100 and then DB relay. Next up is Speedgoat for a little punishment, lots of climbing in not very many miles. Then El Vacquero Loco, that my friend Ty Draney puts on down in Afton, Wyoming. This week should be a good week of running with Cole coming for some elevation training. Lots of trails, lots of friends to run with and finally the Teton summer is here and all 12 days of it will be appreciated.

Recovery has been good, took three days off mostly just being busy but I believe in rest (really just lazy). Wednesday, I ran my favorite run to Phillips divide and reflected on the last time I had been there. I hadn't yet done a 100 and now I have done 2. There was only one other person on the trail I saw that nite, an old friend. He said that he turned around at the snow and told me where it was, seemingly impassable to him. Funny, when I got there, I just went right through it thinking how nice it is to do distances and not let things like snow stop you. I probably would have stopped before but now you just keep going. Things are very good in life and I am grateful for it. Summer is fleeting so get out there and don't take it for granted. Here's a picture of Phillips, enjoy.