If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Little update on August happenings

August began with suffering high temps (for Colorado), and even higher than usual humidity. It vastly reminded me of years in Texas, in a very bad way, of course. Alas, it wasn't nearly as horrible, we just got softer here. And - we still had mountains!
By first Wednesday, I checked off my monthly Incline. It was one of the worst, as I felt like death crawling up those stairs, the legs are weak, the breathing out of this world, stopping every 20 steps...I have no clue what happened, and had to shorten somewhat my trail run portion after topping off. Still the sunrise was spectacular, and shit happens to the best of us. It was all worth it.
Interestingly, by Friday I felt brand new. I wanted to do somewhere in a vicinity of 17-18 miles, and in a process check out the Missing Link trail (local name for Lake Moraine trail, connecting Barr trail and Pikes Peak area to Jones Park trail and Cheyenne Mountain area). I climbed up to (almost) Barr camp very strong, took the turn, and at the last minute decided to take a deviation to Mountain View trail instead, see the old Depot for the Cog rail train. I even saw the train, and it gave me a sound!

Then, instead of returning the same way, I took a little detour on some overgrown trail, popped back to Barr, and, again, decided to be adventurous - ventured onto French Creek loop via a steep downhill connector. Last (and only) time I was on this loop - it was with Larry, when we just moved, and in opposite direction. It feels extremely remote, often barely there, yet often well defined, takes you into the Pikes Peak forest and Manitou water reservoir territory, past a Heizer trail, with such different angles of view points on the surrounding mountains!
I absolutely underestimated the loop. First of all, I didn't remember the distance and hoped for 4 miles - which turned into 6. Secondly, right after Heizer and a field crossing, the trail gets lost. For real. Barely there, in high grass and on rocky slanted hillside, running deteriorated quickly. Plus, I was definitely not prepared in terms of carrying enough fuel and water. I bushwhacked some, following the faint path, dropped down to a creek crossing, and couldn't see anything behind it. Turned my head back and saw a, literally, bouldering scramble up that seemingly people have tried to take. Hmm, I thought, surely it can't be the trail, I don't remember this at all, but lets see. I climbed most of the way up, and, of course, it was a bullshit thing. Carefully descending, I spotted some "light" in a grass past the creek crossing, I didn't see from the eye level. So, I crossed the water, and went through the tall wet mopping marsh, which, turned out, was the trail. Next mile was all uphill, even worse visible than before the creek (because it was along the creek, and since not traveled much if at all, really grown in with all the moisture). It was hot and humid there, and I was climbing, empty of fuel and liquid. Until, finally, I got the exit at the Bob's/Experimental Forest junction. I plopped down for a minute, and texted Larry: "Will be late, bit more than I could chew". And I smiled. I knew where I was, and, despite last couple of miles difficulties, I was happy with the exploring the area. Now, I just had to get my ass down 5 miles back to the car, and not get a heat stroke. Which was a very real thing.
The lower portions of Barr trail were scorching, I felt dizzy and lightheaded, and after turning to Ruxton connector, put my head and feet and everything I could, into the creek. After cooling off for a minute or two, I jogged half a mile to the Iron creek, and filled up my bottle, drunk it, and repeated twice more. Only after that was I able to make the last mile to the car downtown Manitou. It was a great day, type 2 fun to remember, and I ended up with 22 miles for the morning!

I had same strong legs (and lungs) on Saturday, and went with Larry to the High drive staple run. It was good to be able to push a bit. Even Sunday and Monday were still awesome. In fact, Monday turned into an unplanned big day: 7 for the morning, 3 mid-day at work (client no-show), and 7 in Red Rocks pre-Aravaipa (also very fast and strong). But, Wednesday came, and I had same experience as the previous week: weak legs and erratic breathing. I went to local flat trails on Greenway, and after 4 miles, began stopping for breaks every half a mile, then every quarter, then seemingly so often, I stopped even thinking about it. If I had a phone, I would have called Larry to pick me up, dizzy and with black circles dancing in front of me. Somehow I convinced myself to still do the distance (9.5 miles), not even certain it was worth the struggle though. I was quite concerned, because on Saturday I had another race - the August audition of my "monthly race" goal for the year.

It was Run the Rockies trail half-marathon in Frisco, 2 hrs away. The only one that fit my calendar for this month, something new, and the shortest distance I was to race in a very, very long time (I couldn't even remember, close to 2 decades?). It was also quite runnable, with only 2 "hills" a mile long each in the second half, and even those hills, for faster folks who race shorter distances, were completely normal grade to run up. Technically, even I could. If I could make myself.

We drove the morning of, parked right next to the start, and waited. It was located at Frisco Nordic center next to Dillon reservoir. The race was quite large by my ultrarunning standards lately: 200 in half-marathon, and similar number in a 10k. They sent us out in waves at the start to spread out, which was a very good idea. Also, the first half a mile was a dirt double-track, so we spread out a bit. But once we hit the single track, for the next full mile, I was locked in a conga line. I didn't mind, until my first mile beeped at 9:30. Shit, I normally start at barely sub-11 pace, what the hell am I doing here? However, I settled in, tripped over a rock, caught myself, exhale, and after mile two and change got around my "train" of people. From there on, I just ran, trying to listen to my body: am I as weak as I was on Wednesday, or feeling more normal? Is this pace sustainable for me? Miles 2-5 went in 10:30's. It was gently rolling single track along the lake, and I couldn't wait for the hill and a walk break. I was passing people (some from my wave, some from the tail of the first wave I guess), but I still wasn't sure how to measure my effort for the distance. When the hill finally came to view at 4.75 miles, I was so thrilled! I can allow myself to hike! Which I did, with a smile, and still passing few shuffling people. We rolled at the top, climbed a bit more, popped on a dirt road gentle downhill for a mile, then there was a second climb - steeper and hotter by now. I was still catching here and there (all and all I'd guess I passed at least 3 dozens of runners), when near mile 10 there was a woman who passed me. She was powering up in running style and talking! Whoa, good for her, I thought, noticing she was probably also in my age group. She said something like "Good job, you'll get me later", and I was "No way, don't short yourself, you're doing amazing!". She pulled away, we did some rollers, and one more hill I didn't expect (caught 3 more ladies and 2 guys), then almost a mile downhill, and, oh, torture, an incline (not quite a hill, runnable, but so soul-breaking, open, on tired legs) for the full last mile to the finish line. I made myself run it, puked a little from the last gel, and crossed the finish line - exactly in 2:20, like I told Larry I would. I mean, sometimes I scary even myself with my predictions.
Had to catch my breath with all this up-slope running. The festivities this town puts for their local race were amazing! 

 We didn't stay long, but I can attest, just as I read recently in some articles, oftentimes local races are far better organized than those run by "for-profit" ultra-racing companies popping up everywhere. Towns take pride in their events, and they don't spread out thin, for a margin of profit. They really celebrate their people, and welcome guests. Music, food (even beer), great marking and course marshals on every turn, smiles, and atmosphere to be desire. I loved it. With all the participants, I placed 23rd female (of 112), 63rd OA (of 194), and 6th in my AG F50+ - that was a tough group of ladies! Second and third females overall were 50+!!

We briefly stopped by the local coffee shop, and headed home. Originally, I was planning to stop by Leadville to say Hi to Annie, but she was working anyway at the LT Series shop, and Larry wanted to play 9 holes of golf. He surely earned this by driving me to the race and back! I spent the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing. I wasn't sore or tired, pretty bored, actually. Could I have gone faster, stronger, in that race? I am pretty sure. I just don't know how to do that. I have been running ultramarathons for 20 years, and those previous couple of years of intense road racing are long forgotten. In fact, I feel like I am a pretty risk-averse racer to begin with, and this is why I excel(ed) in longer distances: knowing how to dial it to the level I can keep for a very long time. Oh, well. I also really don't like falling down. On Sunday felt totally normal to run easy 5 miles on the streets and get a yoga class in. Wanted to shake off some calories, because in the evening, we were up for some food chow down! Alley party at the neighbors!

I wanted to push this 2-week August post out, because the next couple of weeks are going to be filled to the brinks with so much stuff and photos, it was crazy to try and combine it. So, here we go.