Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snow, Switchbacks & Streamcrossings

Last Saturday a group of us headed out to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. It was Rainshadow Running's Orcas Island 25k. I had never been to the islands and didn't quite know what to expect. It was a whole-day adventure just getting there! Thankfully there was good company for the ride over. Tom's Subaru (plus the car top carrier) was loaded to the brim with people and gear.
Arriving Orcas Island on the ferry.

When I first signed up for this race, I was motivated to start training for my first 25k. I had just done the Wild Moose Chase 10k and Camp Sekani 10k (neither of those with outstanding times, but proud performances nonetheless). I was hoping to log some miles up on Moscow Mtn, time on the bike trainer and sweat sessions with the TRX. But none of that happened. Instead, I sporadically went for a run on the weekends and hoped strength and endurance would magically grow on my legs and lungs.

As the race got closer, my expectations lowered and I just wanted to finish the race , trail run, leisurely-hike-with-occasional-jogging (one of these days I will tell you how much I hate the word "jogging"). There was no rhyme or reason to get competitive this time, I left my pride at home.

Race morning finally arrived and I wasn't able to stomach any breakfast other than a few Honey Stinger chews and water. We had a large group of TRIFORMANCE athletes and friends in attendance (13 total).  It was nice to know you were out there hurting with 12 of your good friends, and over 200 new ones.
Chris, Robin, Tyler, Tia, Rob, Kenny
As we huddled (cuddled?) together at the start line for the pre-race "stay left at the fork, look for red tape" meeting, it started to hail. Of course it did.

Chris is up in the front (shaved head, blue shirt) with the big boys
Tia and I with pre-race hailstorm jitters
Rob and Kenny at the start

Tia and I stayed together for the first couple miles at a good conversational pace. We walked a bit when the crowding forced us to. And then we hit the first climb. All I could picture in my head was the elevation profile. I knew that once we started climbing, it was relentless until mile 6.
The start of the first climb
Ohh, how I felt it. The lack of conditioning and lack of nutrition. I took my time and walked, letting Tia get out of sight in no time. I let others pass while I stopped to get my heart rate back down. Then Robin, Brad and Kent passed (I thought they were well ahead of me, so this was no surprise). They asked if I was okay, and I gave a lame whimper of a "Yep!"

My mind was a mess. From mile 3.5-6, I was walking. Slowly. A lot of that portion was snow-covered and the wind was really picking up since we were more exposed closer to the top. I found a jacket in a stuff sack and comtemplated putting it on before turning it in to the Lost & Found at the finish. I was also wondering if I was going to be able to finish. I could not keep down any calories or water. I eventually met up with a few people that were hobbling at my pace and keeping a conversation. We got to a view point and one of them offered to take my photo.
This sums up how I felt.
The views were breathtaking!
When I finally reached the aid station at the top of Mt Constitution, a switch went off in my brain. "I can't stop now, the next part is downhill." I grabbed a cup of pureed potato soup and a cup of cola. A sip of one, a sip of the other until they were both gone. With each sip, I gained a bit of motivation.

I was up top for no more than three minutes, when one of the volunteers hollered, "It's a race, get going!! You've been here too long!" A bunch of us laughed and I grabbed a few chips and cookies for the road, tucked them in my belt and took off.

I wished my hands were not frozen so I could have taken pictures of the next part. It was incredible. Snow-covered, icy and downright fast. I haven't seen switchbacks so steep since the Grand Canyon's South Kaibab trail. I flew down, confident with my feet firmly below me and trying to make up some time. I glanced down at my watch at mile 8 and pictured my hubby crossing the line. He ran a 2:30, good enough for a 16th place finish. What a stud!

The latter half of the race was a lot of rollers, with only a dusting of snow on the ground. There was a small group of ladies that I ran with off-and-on, but once the final downhill came, I let loose and decided to try and catch the next runner. I caught up to a gal that had cut her leg open (several stitches worth) and a fellow runner/EMT wrapped it up for her to finish the race. Gotta love that spirit.
Rocky trail with the red ribbon!
By mile 13, I had calculated that I could finish in under four hours. FOUR HOURS?!?!?!?! I guess that's what 15+ miles with over 4,000 feet of climbing will do to a grossly under-trained gal. Sheesh!

As I neared the finish, I was overcome with relief. I gave a big smile, got a high five from the race director, then a hug from my number one fan! After a short walk and elevating the legs, I warmed up in the lodge with an ice cold beverage in hand. Mmm, Black Butte Porter.

Rainshadow Running did a great job taking care of the athletes. We got affordable lodging in the bunkhouses, a well-marked course and good post-race entertainment by The Blackberry Bushes.

Thanks for a great time!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Now, when I say "Runner by Nature," what I really mean is...

I like to run...
... or race.
...for a PR.
...just for fun.
...after swimming and biking.
...before a big slice of chocolate cake.
...on the road.
...on the trails. the rain. the wind.
...through the snow.
...after dark.

You get it. I like to run, it comes naturally to me. The problem is, I am also human. I get lazy. I get discouraged. I make excuses (like I am doing right now).

This year (I would say "season" but I have races year-round), I have a couple new challenges and am looking forward to spending a lot of them with my hubby.  I have listed my races at right.

Hope to see you along the way!