Friday, June 27, 2008

More of a hike than a trail run

This trail run didn't exactly go as planned. We drove up to the Palisades visitor's center and stopped to see what maps they had. I picked up a few free maps of the area, and bought a cool trail guide for our zone of AZ. We then parked at the trailhead to Mt. Bigelow. We took the short "upper Mt. Bigelow" trail to Butterfly. I figured I could run Butterfly and Zac could ride it and maybe loop around. Ha! After a short detour where I missed the turn, I saw Zac down below hiking his bike over logs. I crawled under a log and proceeded to roll my left ankle and fall to the ground. It hurt enough to need to stop and walk it off. I continued on and passed Zac, trying to run where I could, but mostly hiking. I got to a spot where the trail had fallen off the side of the mountain, and decided to turn around. I told Zac there was no sense in hiking his bike further, so he turned around too. He had had too many crashes and was tired of dealing with downed trees and an overgrown trail. It was a mess since the fire. I remembered doing this trail years ago, but it was way different then.

After a few more falls (I fell is that possible?) I decided to stop and wait for Zac before hiking on. So it turned into a picture taking hike. The trail was so overgrown that the shrubs were buzzing with bees. I hoped that 1) I wouldn't get stung, and 2) whatever green stuff I was crashing through wasn't poisonous. It would probably be a good trail to train on if I was doing the Hawaii Xterra championships, but the point of this was to get my heartrate up and run trails at elevation. After the hike, we drove up and found the dirt road that leads to the Mt. Bigelow radio towers. Next time we may park at the Butterfly trailhead so that I can run that road, and Zac can explore the Butterfly trail from the other end and maybe Crystal Springs. Who knows, they may be in just as bad of shape.
Hiking during my "warm up" before running. Little did I know this would be the easiest part of the trail!

Zac's bike and the low bridge. This is where I fell the first time and rolled my left ankle.

The site of the crash. The log stopped Zac's bike from ending up in the gully. He went over that and ended up in the gully to the left.

I don't know what statement Zac was making here.

Hey look! I'm actually running part of the trail!

Zac stops for a snack at one of the many log crossings.

View from the trail.

Hefting the bike over another log.

Some shots I took of Zac riding. This is after we got off of Butterfly and were back on Upper Bigelow.

Some shots of the road. We'll be riding this during the TTG Easy Peasy Lemmon Squeezy rides.

Tires burning in the distance. There wasn't much wind that day, so the plume was huge.

The plate on the rock is a dedication to General Hitchcock. It says that the highway will forever be known as "Hitchcock Highway." Hm. Everyone still calls it Catalina Highway.

Zac and I and a shrubbery. The wall is just below the rock with the dedication plate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Time to Incinerate

Holly reminded me last night that my blog is sucking right now. Apologies to all. I will skip the Four Corners XTERRA race report for now and begin blogging again. I need to get that report done sometime. I just haven't been feeling it lately.

I'm between training plans right now and doing whatever works in the schedule. The summer aquathlons are going well, but I haven't been on the mountain bike much. The Lemmon Squeezy rides are taking the place of it right now. This week is the climb to General Hitchcock, at 12 miles. I will be starting at 6AM, just like the plan says. Group rides are kind of strange. Everyone is telling me why they can't or won't attend. It's too early, it's too late, it's not long enough, it's too long...geez. It's not that formal. Folks can ride how early/late/long/short/fast/slow they want. Just get out and ride dammit! ;)

The Snow Valley XTERRA is at 7400 ft, so I need to get some elevation work in. That's 1000 ft higher than Deuces Wild, and boy does that race hurt. So on Friday I will drive up to Palisades and run the Incinerator Ridge trail. Zac will be coming along with me to ride while I run, hopefully helping to ward off any mountain lions. I'm not sure if he'll be able to go with me each week, so I may drive to Palisades and run the road during the week. Not sure if mountain lions come near the road or not.

Race Report: Four Corners XTERRA

Doing this race was Liane's idea. I'm to blame for the Dawn 2 Dusk and 24 Hrs in the Old Pueblo, but Liane was the one that came up with the crazy idea of doing the Deuces and Four Corners Xterras back-to-back. And of course I went along with her. Just like she goes along on the mountain bike races. Somehow a race is always better when you can convice your friends to share in the suffering. But she had a point that Deuces in Show Low was already at the half-way point in the drive to Farmington for the Four Corners Xterra. See, somehow this reasoning seemed cost-effective. I'll be getting back at her though, as we're planning on doing the Snow Valley Xterra in August for our 3rd Xterra of the year. But then all of this is based on her plan (which then became my plan) of us qualifying for the Xterra nationals and getting the invite to Tahoe. Do you see how this circle of insanity flows?

After a nice little vacation in the Four Corners area, we arrived in Farmington with Liane and Nate on the Thursday before the race. The weather was crappy and chilly and overcast. We hit the Pizza Hut, then checked into the Courtyard Marriott before begrudgingly deciding to pre-ride the mountain bike portion of the course. The course didn't seem too bad. No long, awful climbs, and the singletrack was very rolly, similar to Fantasy Island. The back section of the course was really cool, with whoop-de-doos everywhere. You could go stupid fast through here, and at some points I was worried about timing the whoops wrong and smacking my front teeth with my handlebar stem. They used the Road Apple Rally course, which is the oldest mountain bike course in the country. But for the Xterra, we were riding it backwards. This explained all the "wrong way" signs and locals we saw riding in the opposite direction.

Friday we spent playing disc golf and attending the pre-race meeting. Saturday was race day. I must say, it's nice to have a Saturday race once in awhile. This meant we could drive home after the race and have Sunday to recover. Saturday morning we got up early and I asked the hotel about a late checkout. They said no, that a whopping 5 people had already requested it. Now I know hotel rooms in Farmington are at a high demand, but this seemed kind of rediculous. Heck, I was able to get a late checkout scheduled on a Thrusday for the Monday after Ironman in Tempe. But the Courtyard Marriott in Farmington couldn't accomodate. We got a little peeved later in the day when we saw they were a sponsor for the race.

We quickly packed everything up and headed to the T2 area. This race was different in that T1 and T2 were in different places, AND it was a swim-RUN-bike format. This was because the lake was 5 miles from the Road Apple Rally course, which they wanted to use for the bike portion. Though I'm not sure how much difference it made since we were riding the Road Apple backwards. So we dropped our bikes in T2, and headed to the lake to setup T1 with our run stuff. After our areas were setup, Liane and I checked out the lake. The course was a triangle with a 50 meter beach run in the middle. Xterras seem to like the beach run in the middle. But for Liane and I this would be our first, since the AZ Xterras don't do this. I looked across the lake and wondered why we couldn't do a point-to-point swim across the lake.

We donned our wetsuits and headed down to the beach. They made us walk across the timing mat, and then we lined up at the start. Liane and I stayed to the far left of the group. The gun went off and it was time to swim. My goggles immediately fogged up (time for new goggles!) and I swam too far left at the beginning on my way to the first turn. At least the elevation wasn't bothering me as much on this swim. I couldn't see too well, so I followed the people in front of me. We made it to the second turn, and started the swim back to shore. I hit the timing mat and saw 14:XX on my watch, so I was right on pace where I wanted to be for my goal of a 30 minute swim for the 1400 yards. This is where I learned the advantage of a beach run: I had a chance to clear my goggles. I didn't "run" though, and instead strolled along and got back in the water for the second lap. The second lap went much better, and my goal was to beat a guy that was next to me in a shorty wetsuit. After the first turn we could see a hot air balloon right over the mountains, and for a little bit I could sight off of that until the last turn. The last stretch I passed the flailing guy in the shortie suit and got out at 30:07, right on target.

I climbed up the hill and got to my spot on the T1 carpet to get my wetsuit off and put my run stuff on. I bagged everything and headed out onto the run course. The course skirted along the lake, and I could see people were still swimming. At the first aid station, the course turned and headed up a powerline trail. It was a ton of climbing and flat spots at all. The trail wandered behind some houses, and that's where it finally flattened out. But that section was short before leading us to the disc golf course that we had been on the day before. I had to hike over the granite rock sections because they were steep leading up to the parking lot. There was one more steep hill before T2, and I could finally get on my bike.

This is where I quickly became not a fan of the swim-run-bike format. Normally when it's the normal tri format I can pass a lot of people on the bike and hold them off on the trail run. Now the runners were way ahead so T2 had a lot of bikes already gone. I got on my bike and headed out to the course. I immediately felt my legs gone on the first climb. The trail run had zapped most of the strength in my legs and now I had the longest leg of the tri to complete. I felt like I was going MUCH slower on the bike than the pre-ride. At the beginning, the only people I was passing were those on the side of the road with flats. Towards the middle I passed a few slower riders, but for the most part I was alone on the trail. The swim-run-bike format also completely messed up my nutrition plan. Usually the bike is where I get all my calories in, with my Infinit mix in my Camelbak. Then on the run I can eat my Shot blocks and keep topping off the fuel. But by the bike I was already low on calories, and it's impossible to play catch-up. I had stashed a Cliff bar in my Camelbak, and by the mid-point I was desparate and hungry enough to stop at the aid station and pull out the bar to scarf it down. I was on the edge of bonkdom.

At the aid station was also where I saw a gal with an ice pack over her nose and mouth and a ton of blood on her face. It appears she had wiped out hard on the whoop section and knocked a few teeth out. She was waiting for a ride back to the start, and an ambulance came rolling up right as I left the aid station. She appeared to be in her 30's so she was either in my age group or Liane's.

I got back on my bike, and my goal was to get to the dirt road. I knew the dirt road wasn't far from the finish, and I would be able to coast on the road. My legs were completely dead at this point, and I had to walk up a lot more hills than I did on the pre-ride. It's always a bad sign when you walk more in the race than the practice ride. Finally I made it to the dirt road. I spun it in pretty easily until the turn where we hit a new trail. We couldn't find this trail on the pre-ride, so I really didn't know where I was going. The course started to look familiar again when I got onto the road leading to the disc golf course. I must've looked confused trying to follow the chalk lines, because some guys playing disc golf told me to go straight. Sure enough they were right, and the finish line came into view. The coruse folks didn't want us riding across the finish line, so we had to dismount at some cones and run a few feet to the finish mat. I did my cyclocross dismount and hit the mat. They took my chip, gave me a cold, wet towel at the end, and I walked over to Zac and tossed my bike down on the ground. I was cooked.

The towel was nice to have to get the salt off my face and the sand off my legs. I was starving, so I immediately went to the food area. I had put my lunch ticket in my T2 bag so I was able to get some Mexican food they had for us at the end. Apparently several folks forgot their lunch ticket. I told the guys working the counter that the other races use wrist bands that are waterproof, and they thought that would work well for their race. After my lunch I was feeling much better. I ran into Liane at the end and we sat at a picnic table, checking out the awards. They were cool hand-painted bells. I really wanted one, but I've never podiumed in a tri. They were printing out the results and putting them up, so we stayed to see where we finished. It turns out the gal with the knocked-out teeth had been in Liane's group, and she DNFed. So Liane was in 3rd (and she had kept all of her teeth). I was in 4th and had finished just 2 minutes before another gal in my AG. But, the overall women's winner was in my AG. I wondered if that would bump all of us up a spot in the AG standings. If so, I would get the 3rd place bell!

We watched the push-up contest and snacked on more food while they got the results sorted. Finally they got to the 30's age group. Sure enough, the winner was bumped from my group, so they called my name for 3rd in Women's 30-34! I got to go and get my bell, and right after Liane got her bell for 3rd in 35-39. So the Tri Girls swept 3rd at Four Corners. :) It was awesome to get such a cool award for my first podium in a tri.

Overall, the race went really well for a first time race. Sometimes races have snafus when they are held for the first time, but this one didn't appear to have anything major happen. I'm not a big fan of the swim-run-bike format, but if they keep it that way for next year I'll have a better idea of how to plan. I'm hoping they keep it close to the Deuces Wild Xterra, as that really helped in reducing the drive time for us Tucsonans.

Zac and Liane on the pre-ride.

View from the bike course.

Official signage.

Zac coming down one of the steep sections.

Liane coming down the steep section.

Time for us to head down to the water.

The guys were yelling at us to look at them for a picture, but of course we couldn't see in the sun.

My definition of a "beach run" in between swim laps.

Finished with the swim!

Battling the wetsuit in T1.

Heading out to the run course.

Liane in hand-to-hand combat with her wetsuit.

On the trail run where we played disc golf the day before.

This looks like a good spot to hike.

Liane on the trail run.

Me heading out on the bike.

Liane heading out of T2 onto the bike.

My cyclocross dismount. Step 1 - Unclip left foot, swing right foot over saddle.

Step 2 - Coast next to bike and bring right leg around.

Step 3 - Step through with right leg and bring it in front.

Step 4 - Step off pedal and hit the ground running.

Run to the finish!

Liane and I with our cool bells.

The guys made us pose a bunch with our awards.

Check out Liane's race report here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Vacation around Four Corners

The weekend after Deuces Wild was the Four Corners XTERRA in Farmington, NM. Liane had told me about this race and said since Show Low was half way to Farmington, they were going to hang out in the Four Corners area and then head to the race. Sounded like a perfect plan to me!

Before the Deuces Wild race, Zac and I tooled around on Fool Hollow Lake in our new inflatable kayak. This would be our second voyage on our Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Convertible kayak. We learned that when it is properly inflated, it is a lot more fun. The first trip we didn't have the boat quite inflated all the way. The instruction book is full of warnings like "Warning! Do not over-inflate kayak! Kayak may explode and we will not replace an exploded kayak!" So we didn't fill it all the way, which led to taking on a lot of water. This time we put a lot more air in, and it worked much better.

Zac inflating our craft.

Fully inflated. It did not explode.


View from the lake.

Checking out the swim course.

Zac docking the boat.

The Monday after the Deuces Wild XTERRA we slept in, then broke camp and headed to Canyon De Chelly. This was our first visit to the canyon. We drove the south fork, stopping at all of the overlooks to take a ton of pictures. There were lots of signs like "700 ft sheer drop. Control children and pets." The reason was, there was no guardrail on the edge, so you could wander around the slickrock along the edge of the canyon. We hiked the White House Canyon trail, as that's the only trail leading to the bottom of the canyon that you don't need an Indian guide for. After our little hike, we went to find a camp spot for the night. We decided on the free campground at Cottonwood Campground, which is right by the entrance to the drive to Canyon De Chelly. It was a pretty nice campground, with 100 camp spots, restrooms with flush toilets and running water, and an RV tank dump area. Much nicer than some of the pay campgrounds we've stayed at.

Canyon De Chelly

Spider Rock.

It's a long way down!

Not too bad for a free campground.

The next day we headed to Monument Valley, as we had never been there before and it was quite famous. We were rather underwhelmed. Basically it's a couple of red buttes sticking up out of the desert floor. When you've been to Sedona a ton, you're used to that type of thing. We had considered biking the 17 mile loop around the buttes, but there was too much traffic. The campground was also destroyed. We decided to leave Monument Valley and head to Utah. We drove through Bluff, and ended up in Blanding, UT. We found a nice campground at the Blue Mountain RV park. Our fresh water tank was out of water, so we had to stay somewhere with hookups. This place had nice spots with really nice restrooms and showers. Zac and I parked the RV, then got on our bikes and headed to the Dinosaur Museum, which is quite large. We wandered around the museum for quite a few hours, bought some things at the gift shop. I got a cool book called "The Guilded Dinosaur" which was about the rise of paleontology in American science, and 2 small dinosaur figures carved out of stone.

Token Monument Valley pics.

Zac relaxing at the RV campground in Blanding, UT.

The view from Zac's chair.

Dino Museum! Rarr!

Strange sights in Blanding.
The next day we drove to Natural Bridges National Monument, and this was our first visit to this monument. We stopped by the visitor's center and saw the displays, and paid the entrance fee. We stopped at the campground that is in the monument and reserved a spot for $10. There are only 13 camp spots in the park, and it's dry camping. We chose a great spot with a fantastic view and no neighbors. After that we drove to the trailhead of Sipapu bridge. We donned our camelbaks and packed a lunch. We also took our windbreakers, as it was overcast and slightly windy. We hiked the trail down to Sipapu bridge, then continued on along the canyon floor to Katchina bridge. We stopped about 2.5 miles in to our hike to have our lunch and put on our windbreakers. After a few hours we reached Katchina bridge, then took the trail back to the parking lot where we started. Overall it was 5.1 miles, and took us 3 hours. We got back to our campground just in time, as it started raining. It rained all night, and the next morning we woke up to snow! Snow in June! I got a few pics of the snow as we headed on to Farmington.


Sipapu Bridge.


Zac the photo guy.

In the green stuff under Sipapu.

The canyon between bridges.

Snow in Utah in June!
We had been out of cellphone range at Bridges, so once I got service I checked my messages and one from Liane said they were planning to arrive in Farmington around noon. I decided to give them a call once we hit Shiprock, as cell service was much less spotty there. Turns out they had just gotten on the road in Shiprock. They drove a bit slower, and we connected up on the road with them in a few minutes. We caravaned on to Farmington and hit Pizza Hut for lunch as we were all starving. It was still breezy and cool, so for our pre-ride of the mountain bike course we took some warm clothes. We warmed up pretty quickly on the ride. The ride was about 17 miles on singletrack and took us a few hours with following the map and the Xterra flags. Afterwards we went directly to Chili's for lunch, then checked in to the Courtyard Marriott. There really wasn't any good camping in Farmington, and after 7 days, Zac and I were a bit tired of being in the RV and didn't mind a hotel room.

The next day we had a late breakfast at Denny's, then decided to scope out the lake where the swim was going to be held. We noticed the beaches had a lot of broken glass, but the race folks had raked the beach where our 50 yd beach run would be and it was pretty clean. The day before we had parked next to a frisbee golf course, so we stopped by Big 5 and bought frisbees and hit the course. Granted, this was the first time golfing for me, Zac, Liane and Nate. The first 9 went pretty well, as they were around 150 ft. Those took us about 30 min. The next 9 were further apart (some were 425 ft to the basket!) with lots of trees in between. That took us an hour and a half. Basically just look under a tree and that's where the frisbee is. I perfected a move I named the "vertical huck" where you throw the frisbee over a tree like a Chinese throwing star. Hey, it got it out of the tree. After awhile, everyone had used the vertical huck move.

Nate impressing Liane with his skills.

Stretch for the shot!

Nate with the one legged follow-through.

Hey look! It's in the air!

Getting out from behind the trees.

Not for long. Back behind another tree.

Liane makes her shot and has a thought.

Just pitch it over a cliff.

Liane with the style.

We got done with the golf game just in time to attend the XTERRA pre-race meeting, then hit "the only Italian restaurant in Farmington," as it was advertised. Then it was off to bed for an early morning at the races.