Tuesday, May 04, 2010
I am drawn to high-altitude trail races. I live in the Colorado Rockies on purpose. I have been known to gripe about the lack of oxygen at extreme altitudes. Some of you have heard me curse the wind, cold and snow. I really don't mind winter weather. I just don't like nine months of winter weather!
Although I hate to admit it, the nose-bleed zone is my element. I seem to be pretty good at high-altitude running. A dubious skill at best. My next race is a 5K run around Lake George this coming Saturday, May 8th.
At least I will be freezing and gasping for air in a pretty place. Wish me luck.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Yesterday was race day. I dragged myself out of bed at 6:00am. I looked outside. Icy snow covered the ground and wind howled through the trees. The temperature was 14 degrees F. I thought, "Time to go back to bed!" I had gotten in late from California and had about 4-hours of sleep. I felt absolutely terrible.
Oh well, I decided to go run the dang race anyway. The race was scheduled for 9:00am. I hoped it would warm up by start time. I put on my shorts, shoes and a long sleeve T-shirt. I stuffed my cold weather gear in a bag. I downed my pre-race "meal", which is some stuff called "Endurance" by Champion Nutrition.
I fell into my car. I didn't bother to turn on the heater. I didn't want to get used to being warm. I put on "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves and tried to imagine what warm feels like. As I drove to Scraggy Ranch I noticed that the snow became spotty, and then disappeared. The thermometer in my car showed the temperature had started to rise. The sun came out. Maybe this won’t be so bad.
I got to Scraggy Ranch early. My friend, John, was the race organizer. I was there mostly because I didn’t want to disappoint my friend. I helped him set-up the food and registration table. I gave him the entry fee and signed my name on the list of runners. He had the ages listed on the form. I noticed I was the oldest person that had registered, by a lot! People came trickling in. 21 people registered for the 4-mile race. Another 10 people, mostly my age, registered for the 1.5 mile walk. I noticed that the other racers, both men and women, looked extremely fit, lean and muscular. These are crazy high-altitude runners. I was pretty sure that this old guy would be dead last!
The race started late. Mountain people are pretty relaxed. We all stood at the starting line talking and joking. The temperature had risen to a balmy 30 degrees. There wasn’t a speck of snow. A few runners were bundled-up. Most of us, including me, just wore shorts and long-sleeve T-shirts. John explained the course. He said the course record was 38 minutes. I though “How in the heck can that be? That is pretty darn slow.” I would find out later that 38 minutes was blazing fast! John said the first part of the course was a hill. He told us, “That hill will humble you!” He was making a huge understatement.
John’s wife was the starter. She said, “Runners get ready. GO!” She clicked the stop watch. We ran up the Scraggy Ranch access road, turned right, and started up the hill. Oh my goodness, what a HILL! The hill went up and up. The hill went on forever! I found out later that this killer hill was 1.4 miles long with a 20% grade! (20% means the hill rises 20 feet in every 100 feet) I was moving up this monster very slowly. I just knew the whole field was about to blow past me. I checked over my shoulder and found that everybody else was struggling just like me. My legs felt like rubber. I could barely breathe. We were running at 9,000 feet where there ain’t much air! I was sweating profusely. At least I wasn’t cold any more.
I finally got to the top of the hill. The course started rolling up and down. I tried to gain some speed on the downhill sections but my old legs were shot! There was a place where the course made a left turn off the dirt road and onto the Colorado trail. Unfortunately, I missed this turn and kept running up the road. I got to CO Highway 126 just as a semi-truck roared by. I stopped and thought, “This can’t be right!” I knew I was lost. Oh great! I stood there totally befuddled. I heard a faint shout behind me. I turned around and saw another runner signaling toward the correct route. I had lost a couple of minutes at least. I got back on track and caught up with the young man that showed me the right way. We ran together for a while. I found out later he was 26, which is half my age. After a while I sped ahead of him and tried to catch the runner in front of me. My Garmin timer told me I had ˝ mile to go. I had burned up 38 minutes! I tried to push it. The tank is was empty. I was dead dog tired! I turned toward the finish line. I gave it everything I had, which wasn’t much! As I crossed the finish line John’s wife told me my time, “42:56. You are number 5!” WHOA – 5th place! There is no way to tell you how satisfied I felt! I came in 5th out of 21 good runners! I wasn't dead last by a long shot.
After the race we ate some good food and listened to a Bluegrass band! The winner got bragging rights and a $30 gift certificate to Dick’s sports. He set a new track record of 37:15. Even though the course was brutal, everybody had a great time.
We are the few, the proud, the insane.
This is my bib. I think the race name is hilarious!
Scraggy Ranch is a Christian camp for wayward youth. The race is a fund raiser for the camp.
Here is the rustic registration building. This is pretty typical of where I live.
This is the starting and finish line. How many starting lines have you seen like this? I was uncharacteristically nervous at the start. I knew this race was really going to hurt!
Here is the big bad hill. The County dumped ground pavement on the road the day before the race. Not only was this hill steep, it was also slippery.
This is the trail sign I missed. The wind had turned the sign backwards.
The high-tech sign was pointing the wrong direction.
Here is where I ended-up after I missed the trail. Where are the other runners? This is embarrassing!
This is the Colorado Trail. Does everything have to keep going up?
You have to watch your step on the trail. Roots, rocks and tree branches make things interesting.
The Colorado Trail pops out back on the road. Is that another uphill section coming? Yup!
This is the last downhill stretch to the finish. There is a trick to running downhill. Don't over-stride. A heavy heel strike is a good way to get injured. Take short quick strides. Fast leg speed really helps. To slow down, take shorter steps. To speed up, take quicker steps. Never lean backwards.
After the race we had a good meal and listened to Bluegrass music.
This race is an annual event. Come on up and run with us!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 at 5:00pm, it was time. Time to attempt a 5K PR. I am visiting Newport Beach, California. My 5K PR is 23:12 set in Phoenix in February 2010. I was shooting for a sub-22 5K.
I didn't make the sub-22. Not even close!
I stepped on the trail. There were a lot of people running, biking and walking. I saw more people than live in my small town of Bailey. I warmed-up and got ready to go. I hit the "start" button on my Garmin timer and launched myself forward. I checked my pace after the first 1/2 mile - 6:18! That pace will work! I know from experience that my first mile is fast, my second mile is slow, and my last mile is fast.
I blew past more sensible runners like they were standing still! I know the other runners could care less that I passed them. They were doing what they want to do. If they even gave a thought- they think I am an idiot!
Then the trail started going up. I was unconcerned. I can handle a few hills. The trail dropped a bit then went up again. The trail got steeper. There are actually hills in California but I hadn't noticed them before. I was running at an 8:30 pace up this trail. 8:30 just won't work for a PR.
The trail eventually flattened-out. But at that point I was beat! I finished the 5K at 25:43. Not a bad time. Way short of my delusional expectations! I dejectedly walk back to the hotel.
When I get back to Colorado, I am going to be running in the Craggy Ranch 4 mile trail race at 9,000 feet of elevation. I don't know if I want to beat myself trying another assault on the California hills. I may just jog like the sensible California runners.
If you can't beat 'em - join 'em!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
As I write this blog I am in Newport Beach, California, on business. I arrived Monday, April 26th. I have yet to go running. But I am looking forward to a nice run in the warm weather and being able to breathe. As most of you know, I live at 8,000 feet in the Colorado Mountains. For 5 months I have been running in a frozen wasteland up and down really steep hills. When I arrived in California I noticed right off there are trees with leaves and water that is not frozen! Weird!
Prior to leaving for California I went on two long runs over the weekend. I really wore myself out. I ran 8.5 miles in 80 minutes on Saturday. I went on a recovery run on Sunday. I ended up on a rocky trail near Boulder, Colorado, running too fast. I did 4.25 miles in 36 minutes. Instead doing a gentle recovery run, I stupidly beat myself to a quivering pulp!
On Monday when I left for the airport my legs were really sore. The plane ride was a killer. I kept squirming in my seat trying to keep some blood flow to my cramped legs. Plane seats are torture devices!
When I arrived at the hotel I asked the desk clerk if there was a good place to run near some water. He directed me to a nearby Estuary that was about a mile away. I put on my running stuff and decided to do a brisk walk, yes walk, to check out the running potential around the Estuary. When I got to the Estuary I saw a sign, "This trail is closed May 2nd for the Orange County Marathon." I had found the right place! The "trail" is a veritable super highway. There were people running, biking and walking on an immaculate paved path. I thought, "This is going to be fun place to run!"
The walk did me a world of good. I managed to do three miles in 39 minutes. I think I could have been faster if I had not stopped at a Liquor store and grabbed a six pack. I also got a burrito at Chipotle clone. Consuming beer and burritos is called "carbo loading".
I am going running this afternoon. I could do a nice gentle jog and enjoy the spectacular scenery and beautiful weather. But I won't. On Monday as I walked down the trail I saw two guys jogging together. They were obviously very fit. They were just be-bopping along, talking and taking it easy. I had the irreverent thought, "Run faster! RUN!"
I know I have a really bad attitude!
I know what I can be telling myself as I try to blast to a new PR today, "Run faster! RUN!" I plan to be in pain tomorrow. Fortunately, I have a good supply of pain killers. I have beer!
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