Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chase The Sun trail run

I found out about the Chase The Sun Run on the Running in the USA website (I was looking for a different race at the time). Then Tri Girl Joyce sent me an invite on Facebook, so I decided it would be a good race to do. This was a 10K trail run through Tucson Mountain Park, starting from the Ironwood picnic area. And, as you can guess from the name, the race started at 4:30 PM, so we would be chasing the sun.

This race was put on by the USA Orienteering team. This was the inagural race, and it was sold out with a whopping 13 people. Big races can be fun, but I also like to do small, grassroots events like this where you find out about them through word-of-mouth or obscure internet searching. The Tucson cyclocross series used to be like this (it is no longer around) and the Arizona Endurace Series is like this. Smaller events mean cheaper entry fees, and it's pretty much a "show up and race" feel.

Since I was coming from the exact opposite side of Tucson, I gave myself an hour to get to the event. I got to the Ironwood picnic area and found the tent where check-in was and we got our numbers. I used the trip to the bathroom as the jog to warm-up. Then it was time to strip off clothing and get ready. I had brought a wide array of clothing because I didn't know what to expect weather-wise. I decided on my TTG capris, my long-sleeved Underarmor shirt, and TTG top. I put a headlamp in my hydration pack "just in case." I also wore the pack so that I could practice with it. I may be wearing this pack in Saipan as it will definitely be hot and humid, and I want to be used to runing with the pack.

At around 4:30 PM we headed to the start. We got instructions on the course markers. There would be flags in the ground marking the turns, and we were to turn in the direction of the markers. There would also be streamers in the trees to follow. We were to ignore all other splinter trails. At 4:35 PM we were off and running. This was a training race for me for XTERRA Saipan, so my instructions on the training plan from Coach Scott were to go hard during this race. So I shuffled my way through the runners, chatting with everyone for a bit before finding and open spot where I could set my pace. The first part was a bit breezy, and my eyes were watering like mad. For the first part, the trails were pretty flat and not too rocky. As it progressed we got into some small roller hills, kind of like Fantasy Island, where you go down a short downhill followed by a short uphill. The organizers had also put mile markers out on the course, which is rare in trail running. But the markers were exactly spot-on as far as distance, because my Garmin was showing the same distance.

We headed west for a few miles before making a sharp turn and heading east again. After this turn I could feel we were going up a slight incline, and this would last for the next several miles. Thankfully I had the tracks of the faster runners to follow as well. This section had a bit more gravel, and we had to watch out for cholla balls that I'm sure the wind had knocked down from all the cactus. At the 3 mile mark I was beginning to wonder if I could hold the pace and make it. At this time, two other runners caught up to me. I needed to take my mind off of how far we were, so I started talking to the guys behind me. They were happy to stay there and let me pace, so I asked where they were from and how they found out about the race. One runner was Tom and the other was Pete, both from out of town. They had found out about the race from the same website. Thankfully they were both willing to chat, and we talked about running races, Garmins, and the upcoming races we had. This really helped make the miles go by. Sometimes it's tough to tell if the other runners around you are willing to talk, but I'm glad both Pete and Tom were.

The last few miles we were parallel to Kinney Road, and this section got really rolly with the small hills and I felt like it was exactly like Fantasy Island. The course flattened out and I saw people up ahead, and sure enough it was the finish. We crossed the finish line (yes there was an official line drawn in the sand) and I walked around a bit right after to cool down. I thanked Pete and Tom for running with me as we all had a great time out there. I finished in 58:20, for an average pace of 9:21. This was the fastest 10K I've done so far, and it was on trails so I was really happy with my time. Plus, I avoided tripping or falling, which is always a bonus with trail running.

The USA Orienteering crew had a nice spread of snacks of bagels, bananas, clementines, and hot chocolate at the finish. I put the layers back on and enjoyed the snacks and talking with everyone while the others came in from the run.

This was a fantastic race and really well organized and fun for the inagural event. This would be the perfect race for any beginners to trail running because the course is pretty flat with no gnarly technical sections. You aren't on a mountain with the risk of death if you fall off the side. ;) I was able to run the entire thing, whereas other technical courses often require hiking in spots. I asked if the race would be held next year, and the USA Orienteering team is planning on it, although it may be on a different weekend as they have to work around their training and racing schedule. So if you have a goal to try trail running in the future, be sure to check this event out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Trail Runner and The Mountain Biker

Today I had to do a 1 hr 15 min trail run on "difficult" terrain, according to the training plan. I decided the Redington area would do. Lots of climbing and descending in rocks and scree. Actually, I'd rather trail run out here anyways. With the mountain bike there's always a lot of hike-a-bike. This time I'd be free to run the entire way and not have to push a bike. So I threw the trail runners and hydration pack in the Jeep, and Zac put his bike on the roof rack. We drove up to the 3 Feathers parking area on Redington Rd. When we started at 10:30 AM, there was only one other car there. We thought that was kind of odd for a warm Saturday in January.

Zac took his camera and I took mine, so we have pics of me trail running and Zac mountain biking. I went ahead and started my run while Zac got the bike ready, as I figured he'd catch me soon. I walked for 5 minutes to warm up, then started my run. The Jeep road immediately heads downhill on steep, rocky terrain. Loose gravel covers the rocks, so it is super slippery. But this is what I was here to practice on. I made my way down the first steep section, then had a flat spot before "The Chute." The Chute is a large, steep rock formation that many 4WD vehicles play on. A white Jeep was blocking the route I wanted to take down, so I ended up staying far to the left along the hillside. I made my way down this section before the trail flattened out and started to climb. It was pretty much either climbing or descending while on this trail. I ran for about 40 minutes, with Zac leapfrogging past me on his bike. We would take pictures as he rode and I ran, and I got good at fishing my camera out of the front pocket of my hydration pack when Zac rode by.

At the 40 minute mark I turned around and ran back the way we came, figuring the trail was mostly uphill on the way back up. We only had 1 Jeep and 2 dirtbikes pass us while we were out on the trail. When we got back to the parking lot there were a ton of vehicles parking and unloading dirtbikes and quads. Looks like we had picked the perfect time to hit the trail. Overall on this technical trail I averaged a 13:15 min/mi pace. It was a bit slow, but my legs were also super tired from the past 3 days of workouts (A mountain hill repeats on Thurs, mountain bike time trials and run brick on Fri, and hard trail run today). I only had a few slides of the feet on the steep, rocky sections, but didn't crash. Thankfully tomorrow is an easy recovery road ride and TTG swim. The easy workout day couldn't come soon enough!

Johnny and Liane will recognize a lot of where these pics are from the many training rides we did out here this past summer. ;)

Trail running the Jeep trail:
Wee! A downhill!

Zac at the very top of a climb. Does he look tired?

Running past the cow pond:

Zac at the intersection of FR4417 and FR4426. And there's still a little snow in the Rincons!

Zac blasting down the downhill of FR4426:

Me crossing a cattle guard. It's much more difficult to run over these than to bike over them.

Saguaro and blue sky:

Zac enjoying the downhill:

Hiking up "The Chute."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Preparations for Saipan

Check out the 2009 Saipan Championship Gallery. These photos were from the photographer from Triathlete magazine for the April 2009 issue. One thing I'm noticing is that people were wearing their bike gloves on the trail run. Hmmmm...

This is Week 12 of training, and there's 1 month, 3 weeks, and 3 days left until the 2010 XTERRA Saipan. Training has been going well. Scott is having me ramp up into more specialized training now that the base work is done. I did some research on the course, and there's lots of climbing on the bike, and loose, rocky, steep hills on the trail run. So now my training plans come with off-road brick workouts specified, followed by comments of "Please don't kill me afterwards" from Scott. He's not making me swim 3X per week, so he shall live. ;)

I'm averaging around 12-13 hours of training per week, which is more than I've ever trained for an XTERRA. My routine is to come home, empty the bag of workout clothes and gear, and re-pack them for the next day's workouts. As soon as I'm finished with one workout I'm planning and prepping for the next one. Sleep is somewhere in there. I'm trying to keep up on it this week, but being the first weeks back at work from the winter break has made it tough.

So here's how I'm feeling about the 3 sports.

Thankfully it's all coming back rather quickly to me, even though I'm swimming 1-2X per week. Flipturns are part of my workouts now (even though they are not needed for XTERRA). I figure if I get somersaulted in the ocean, I'll be experienced in coming out of it streamlined and knowing where the surface is. But my swim times are right back at where they were before my swimming strike last year.

Lots of work being done here. I'm using all of my bikes. The tri bike goes on the road in the daylight for HR specific work, and stays on the trainer during the week for early morning sessions. The cyclocross bike comes out for recovery rides. The mountain bike comes out on the weekends for trails and brick sessions. I just had my XC mountain bike overhauled at Arizona Bicycle Experts, so everything will be broken in and adjusted by race day. I seem to be climbing a lot better than before, and Zac mentioned I now have muscle definition in my claves on the climbs. I don't know, I can't see them. Guess I'll have to trust him.

Lots of intervals and now the trail runs are on more technical terrain. I need to get used to running on loose rocks on steep hills, so on the trails I'm forcing myself to stay off of the worn-in line and run in the rough where the rocks are at.

Overall I'm starting to see an improvement in fitness and strength. I'm glad I hired Scott's brains. :)

The past few weeks have been spent making all of the travel plans and arrangements for the race. I officially registered for the race, though I'm still waiting for the participant list to get updated for this year. Our flights are all set and are insane. We depart Tucson at 6:10 AM on Saturday, 3/6 and fly to Dallas. We are using Zac's airline miles from American, so we have to go through this hub. Next we fly to Tokyo and arrive there at 4:35 PM on Sunday, 3/7. We depart at 9 PM that night and fly to Saipan and arrive at 1:30 AM on Monday, 3/8. We are in Saipan the whole week and leave on Monday the 15th. My plan is to get there early, adjust to the timezone, swim, bike, and run the course ahead of time, and rest before the race on the 13th. In between we'll do all the touristy stuff.

I've been waiting to see if we would get a discount for the XTERRA at the host hotel, and after much internet scouring I found out they were set up this week. So we will be staying at the Pacific Islands Club resort for only $80 a day! They want to encourage people to travel out to this race, and so they offer this great deal. So that saves us a huge amount, because the normal rates there are not cheap.

I'm still waiting to see if Northwest airlines (the Tokyo to Saipan flight) will be waiving bike fees for the race. They did it in the past so hopefully it goes through. Other than that, we're all set to go!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tour De Cookie

Tour De Cookie is kind of like a scavenger hunt on bikes, with the bounty being cookies and the proceeds going to the Tucson adaptive rec center, and the Kids’ Try-athlon. So it’s a really cool event. This year riders could choose a 31 mile long course, or an 11 mile short course. I was tired from a week’s worth of training and hoping I could convince my husband Zac to do the 11 miler, but he noted that there were only 2 cookie stations on the short course and 9 on the long course. Those that know Zac know he’s all about the cookies, so I was stuck riding 31 miles for cookies.

Holy cow it was freezing this morning! We rolled into the Brandi Fenton Park parking lot and the temp gauge on my Jeep said 37 degrees. Ugh. I donned all the clothing I had brought with me and got the bike ready. I brought my commuter cyclocross bike, which has a rear rack where I attached my commuter trunk. I was prepared to haul a lot of cookies! Zac did the same and attached one of his panniers. We were not going to be limited in the number of cookies we could haul. My bike also had a small furry Cookie Monster attached to the front. He has a hinged mouth and each time he opens his mouth, he yells “Cookies! Kawabunga! Yum Yum Yum! Wha ha ha!” and then he burps. Since he was on the front of my bike, he would talk each time I went over a bump or rough patch in the road. On roads like Oracle I have a rapping Cookie Moster.

We got to the start line and lined up with all the other Tri Girls. Everyone was bundled up but there was a ton of purple out there! At 8:05 AM we took off and the event was underway. I was really mad at myself for not packing my winter cycling gloves. My hands hurt so bad from the cold that I wanted to cry. Zac and I decided to follow the long course as it was laid out on the map and cue sheet, so that we could also follow the course markings. There were orange arrows with a “C” marking where to turn. Our first stop on the map was Bodycentral on Oracle and Magee. Last year this was the furthest stop away, and many people skipped it. I thought this year the organizers put them first so that they would get all the early traffic and wouldn’t get jilted, and it also allowed everyone to string out a bit. It was 10 miles and a ton of hills to get to the first station at Bodycentral. I had remembered from last year they were down a hill, and you can’t see the shop from the road. But as we approached the area there were no signs or balloons or anything. Had we missed the turn? Zac’s dad, who was also riding in the event had their address written down, and sure enough we were in the right spot. We rolled down the hill of the driveway and up to the front of Bodycentral.

No booth. No people. NO COOKIES! Crickets chirped. A lone tumbleweed rolled by in the dusty wind. A baby cried in the distance.

WHAT?!? Are you kidding me? We had just ridden 10 hilly miles and were eager to taste the sugary goodness of cookies only to be greeted with an empty parking lot. Hmm…well, maybe they moved their station on the road for better visibility? (Long stretch here but I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt). We went back down Oracle all the way to the intersection, and there was nothing. That is kind of a downer for a charity ride. Oh well. On to stop #2 and Team In Training we go. Their booth wasn’t too far away, but unfortunately they were packed with people and were running low on cookies, and we were only 1 hour into the event. I think the first booth not being setup caused an overflow to the second booth. But the TNT folks were cheery and doing their best. Zac and I decided to only spend 1 cookie dollar there so that they would have more cookies for the others still coming in. We still had a bunch of other stops to go.

We continued on to stop #3 on Stone and Grant at the Ameripsych booth. Much less traffic here and a good selection of cookies. Since we were behind in our cookie spending, we spent 2 cookie bucks here. Next we ended up downtown at the Tucson Roller Derby booth. They were easy to find as there was a gal on skates with a cookie sign showing us where to turn. They had a great booth setup with lots of derby folks on skates. If Tri Girls skated, we would be like them…it was like a parallel group. They had a fabulous selection of cookies so Zac and I splurged and spent 4 cookie bucks there. A guy from the paper was there taking photos, and as I took my outer jacket off he kneeled down and started taking a bazillion pics of the Cookie Monster on the front of my bike. I also got my pic taken by the roller derby folks with a derby girl and Cookie Monster. The guy from the paper asked me my name and I put in a plug for Tri Girls. So I’ll have to see if Cookie Monster ends up in the paper. ;)

Zac and I had to pick up the pace because I was hoping to go to TTG swim after the bike ride. Next stop, the TTG booth! The purple tent was setup on the UA mall, right by the pool. It was easy to find, especially with the TTG banner up across from the booth, and it was the perfect location. Keli, Shari, Kathy, Joyce, Eve, Leslie, and Jess with Patches the Tri Pup had an awesome spread, and it was so fun to chat with them. Zac and I spent 9 cookie bucks here each, and I think I took about one of everything. Leslie and the other TTG bakers had some tasty stuff that we couldn’t resist. I wasn’t able to get Krista’s truffles though, because those were already gone. :(

Our next stop was the Lightning Rugby booth, and they weren’t far off of the 3rd street bike path. They were on the side of the street, and I have to hand it to them for being very organized. They had a line of cones and they directed the bikes into the cone lane. They had someone mark the cookie sheet on our race numbers while the others got cookies, and the whole thing went very quickly. They were limited on space with the street they were on, but it all worked out well.

We had a couple of miles to our next stop, United Cerebral Palsy of So. AZ. They had volunteers on the street corner directing us into the parking lot, which gave us a safer way to get back to where their booth was in a back parking lot. A couple of their guy volunteers were bike valet, and held our bikes for us as we went to the cookie booth. These folks had a ton of spirit, with music and their volunteers were dancing. They had the cutest cookies shaped like bikes, so I had to buy 2 of those. They also had games, but Zac and I couldn’t stay for the games because we were running out of time. Last year we got done with the ride after they had taken the finish line down, and this year we weren’t going to let that happen. So we had to essentially grab our cookies at each booth and go.

A couple of miles to the next stop at a park, and we were at the Janice Meyer booth. Zac and I bought 2 baggies each of these cool little turtle things. They had taken a small pretzel, melted a Rolo on top, an stuck a pecan nut on top of the Rolo. Oh my gosh were they tasty! I’m going to have to figure out how to make them because Zac and I thought they would make excellent endurance ride food. You know, when I’m not eating Snickers bars. ;)

As we rolled back towards the Brandi Fenton park, we made a quick stop to help some TTGs with a flat. Zac popped the tire back on quick, and add some more air to the tire with his pump. Next we hit the Green Things booth. We had ridden past their plant nursery on the river path many times, and now we know how to get in the front way. This was kind of a self-serve station, where you just grab a brown paper bag and put cookies inside. We talked to the nursery guy for a bit while we got our bags situated and he told us stories of lost riders. The story of the missing Booth #1 had also made it to him, as I guess other cyclists had told him the same story.

Only one more booth to go, and that was the TriSports booth at the finish! Zac and I decided to hit the booth first and got our last 2 cookies. Then we turned around and rolled through the finish line and got our finisher’s cookie medals. They are little ceramic medallions that look like dark chocolate chip cookies. This time we got through the finish line before they took it down. I quickly unpacked my gear, said goodbye to Zac, and left to get to TTG swim. Overall it was a great Tour De Cookie!

Thanks so much to the Tri Girls that volunteered this morning in the cold, and those that made wonderful cookies. Thanks also to all the TTGs and honorary Tri Guys that came out and rode in this event to show support. A big thanks to Shari for making the TTG booth at this event happen. I think it is awesome TTG can give back to the community and support events like this.

Joyce took these great pics, which I'm stealing from Facebook. :)

Zac and I at the TTG cookie stand together:

The bounty of cookies I bought from the TTG stand:

Merry Christmas from the AZ Trail!

Yes, I know. Christmas was last month. I'm still catching up.

The training plan for Christmas morning said I could do an hour run anywhere, so I decided on a trail run on the AZ Trail. I chose the Sycamore Reservoir trail (#39) from Prison Camp to the Sycamore Canyon Reservoir. This section is in wilderness, so mountain bikes aren't allowed on this section of trail. I always like to trail run the AZT sections that I can't bike.

Zac and I hit the trail at 9 AM and were the only ones heading out. The trail starts by the corrals in the Prison Camp campground, and heads up a hillside and then down into a wash. We started our run in the wash and climbed up to the saddle where the official AZ Trail sign is.

We then had a lot of downhill leading to the reservoir. Some sections were quite rocky.

View of Thimble Peak:

Zac and I at Sycamore Reservoir with Thimble Peak in the background:

There was quite a bit of water flowing down the reservoir to the stream below. The snow on Mt. Lemmon was already melting.

Zac by the reservoir:

I hiked down a bit down a steep slope to get a few more pics. Yes, risking my life for pics! ;)

Better view of the steep reservoir wall:
That would be ice in the stream below. The water flowing down the reservoir ended up below the ice.

View of the saddle on our climb back up. The saddle is where the AZT sign is.

That morning we were the only people on the trail. We only saw 2 other hikers coming up the other side of the saddle as we headed down. After we left the parking lot, there was a lot of traffic heading up Catalina Highway...most likely people going up to play in the snow. Overall it was a great way to spend Christmas morning!