Saturday, February 27, 2010

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

Team #421, "Tucson Tri Girls and a Token Guy." (L-R) Liane, Krista, Zac, Me, Anne.

This year we were a 5 person co-ed team, Team "Tucson Tri Girls and a Token Guy." We were one of the rare teams made up of 4 girls and a guy, which is the exact opposite of what most of the co-ed teams do. Mountain biking is still dominated by guys, so many 4 man teams pick up a girl so that they can have 5 and race in the co-ed division, and get more rest between laps. So I think it's cool when we steal more of the eligible women mountain bikers and put them on our team. :)

For the 2010 team we had myself, my husband Zac (the token guy), Liane, Krista, and Anne. Originally Liane's friend Nicole was to be on our team, but she had come down with a serious injury and we decided it was best for her to focus on recovery. During a mountain bike play day at our house I asked Anne if she could join in on the fun of our team. She did some schedule checking, and thankfully was able to make it. Our team was complete!

Zac and I loaded up the van and headed out to the race site on Thursday in the late afternoon to stake our team's claim on the campsite. We had our fingers crossed that our favorite site was open, and sure enough, it was! We love our site because it's not far from all the race happenings, but far enough to get some sleep, and it usually has terrific lakefront property. This year was no exception. We set up camp, I texted the info to the team, and we headed off to bed to get some rest and bank some sleep hours before the craziness of the event started.

Friday afternoon the rest of the team arrived, and we set to work setting up camp. Our camp includes important features like the official Junk Food Table. It is a tradition that we started last year and carried into this year, and this year it was quite impressive. Chocolate, salty chips, candy, and anything made of sugar or fat went on this table. In fact, it was enforced by our team NOT to put anything not junkfood related on the table. Zac tried to squeeze an orange in there and I told him to keep fruit like that inside away from public view. Liane tried to put chain lube on the table and it quickly ended up on the grill table. Over the race weekend, the mountain of junk food grew to where it was impossible to see the table underneath. I'm proud of my team!

Friday is the rest day before the big event, so it was spent around the campfire and watching things like a team of guys trying several times over to erect a tent. They would try, and it would fall, and then they would put it back up only to take it down again. It was great fun to watch. This year we decided to hike to the top of the mountain that overlooks 24 hour town. There is a little shrine of rocks at the top, and you can see the entire town and riders on the course down below.

Saturday morning we had breakfast by the campfire, and while the team went to the race meeting I tuned in to KEpic radio and listened to the race meeting while I got my race gear ready. Hard to believe in the middle of all this camping fun we actually had to get on our bikes and ride! I would be the first rider for our team, and I still had to pack my Camelbak and get my helmet ready. This year I made team schwag bags that included glow sticks, knee high socks with bikes on them, Snicker bars, a purple beaded necklace, and a foam TTG crown/buzzsaw/sun to adorn the tops of our helmets. When the group got back we set to work on our helmets and got our decorations on. Then it was time to park my bike in the transition area, check in our team, and head to the race start.

With 2000 riders it would be crazy to force them all onto the singeltrack all at once. So the race has a LeMans style start where we run several hundred yards to our awaiting bikes to start the race. I seeded myself towards the front of the middle, but everyone joined in at the front and I ended up further back than I wanted. When the gun sounded I was stuck behind a lot of guys, so next time I'll be up closer to the front. I ran down past our campsite and waived to my team as I headed to my bike. I grabbed my bike and officially started the first lap of the race.

The first lap is insane, and you have to be able to hold your own out there with the crowd. This is why we don't send the newbies out for the first lap. I rode down the dirt road with the crowd and wove through the bikers, and made sure to pass quickly where I could. We reached the bottom of "The Bitches" which is a series of 7 steep hills on the gasline road. Thanks to XTERRA training, this was the first year I could hammer up and down all of The Bitches. Normally I would slog up and get passed on the uphills, only to pass on the downhills. So it was great to finally be able to do both. I reached the Corral Trail, and this was where a year of racing in the MBAA series paid off. I was able to pass quickly and get around people, and hold a lot more speed in the corners than last year. We would form trains of people because someone would get stuck behind a slower rider and not pass, and then that would hold up the next person, and the next person, etc. So I would stay in the train and wait until it was my turn to pass. I used the time in the trains to do my eating and drinking, since there wasn't anything else I could do.

After the Corral trail it was the Rattlesnake trail, then the His/Hers trail. We had a few more trains of people on this trail before it cleared up for a bit on the Junebug trail. The Highline trail is where we start another long climb, and I still had the legs, so I kicked it into high gear. Somehow in all of this training I developed a high cadence spin that works wonders when climbing on a mountain bike. I just sat there and spun the legs and motored over the rocks and up the hills. The descent on the Highline is my favorite as it is fast and twisty, and I caught some air a few times. I rolled into the timing tent and handed the baton off to Liane. New for our team this year was our baton hand-off. We duct taped our little wooden baton to a small purple feather boa, and exchanged the feather boa between each rider. I looked at my watch and I had finished the 16.3 mile course in 1:28:55, for an average speed of 11 mph. A new record for me! And that was with being held up in the trains of people!

I got back to camp and was greeted by TTG visitiors Leslie and Robin. Leslie had brought her famous chocolate chip cookies, and I was so hungry I downed 3 at once. My heart rate was still high, so this probably wasn't the smartest idea. No matter what, I always feel like crap at 24 hour events after my first lap. I was all jittery, had a horrible headache starting, and felt like I was ready to puke at any minute. I took the only aspirin we had in the RV, which was Advil that expired in 2006. Oh well, take 3 and hope it works. I tried to take a quick nap, but that didn't work. So I got up and started sipping on different things. When the Root Beer I tried made me nauseous I discovered it was the sugar causing it and nibbled on some salty snacks with water. I also wandered over to the exchange tent with Anne, and the walking seemed to help.

Liane is an experienced mountain biker, so we put her out 2nd to deal with the remaining crowds. She did great and came in in record time, for her own personal record. Anne was our newbie, and we sent her out 3rd where she would have guaranteed daylight for her first lap, and the crowds would be a bit less. Most people are nice out there, but lately there are more and more jerks entering the 24 hour scene and violate the number 1 rule of 24 Hour Town, which is "be nice." Anne had a few of them come up on her, and one guy tried to force her into a cholla. She shoulder checked him into a bush, and he learned not to mess with her. Even the photographer on the course exclaimed at one point to a guy behind her "Dude, you're being a dick." When the photographers say that, that has to tell guys like that something. Anne successfully made it back to the exchange tent in one piece, and a total of 20 minutes faster than her projected time. I walked back with her and told her the nauseous, jittery, exhausted, "There's no way I'm doing another lap" feeling was totally normal in this 24 hour thing. It takes some getting used to, but happens all the time.

Krista was up next, and she had the split lap of part of it being in daylight as the sun was going down, and part of it at night. She had been doing a lot of night riding over the year so I knew she would have no problem out there on the course. She had also done the MBAA series last year, and her riding has really improved over the year. So much in fact that she also turned in a record lap for her first lap of the race. Our team had a whiteboard in camp for recording times and writing notes, and we had stars around the first 4 laps for everyone's record times.

Zac was up next after Krista, for the first night lap. The last rider on a 5 person team usually has their first lap on the course as a night lap, and Zac never has a problem being the first one riding in the dark. After this, we pretty much stayed in rotation, and kept notes on our team whiteboard so that everyone could estimate when they needed to go out.

Once Zac came in, I headed out for my first night lap. I normally use a Niterider HID for night riding, and as soon as I went out my light seemed a bit dim. But, I hadn't ridden at night in awhile, so I figured it was my eyes adjusting and I'd get used to the conditions after a few minutes. When I got to The Bitches, I noticed it wasn't as bright as the other lights around me, even lights that were much older than mine. I finished up The Bitches and decided to keep going, as turning around would mean riding all those hills again. When riders came up behind me I hoped they would stay there, as their lights lit up the trail and for a few seconds I could actually see. But then then would pass and I would be left with my light that wasn't much brighter than my camp headlamp. I rode the trail by feel and memory, which apparently wasn't that good because I missed turns and went off trail a million times. When I got to the His/Hers trail my light started dimming even more, and I doubted I could make it back to camp. On the trail there are "aid" stations that are radio points. They don't hand out food like the triathlon stations, but instead are there to help in getting first responders out on the course. They each have a letter assigned, and about halfway through the course is the Golf station (Golf for G). I had already passed by Golf, and the next point was Hotel. I got to Hotel and called Zac and asked if we had any spare lights charged and ready to go. As a registered racer, he could meet me on the course with lights. The next station, India, crossed the main road, and he could meet me there with lights. So I ate my Snickers bar at Hotel, donned my camp headlamp for more light, and hit the Junebug trail with the dim light that I had left.

It felt like it took forever to do the Junebug trail, which is rather twisty and tough to ride with failing light. About 20 minutes later I made it to India and pulled over just in time as I saw Zac walking up with lights. We pulled the failed lights off my bike and put an older Halogen set on. They turned on right away and seemed like daylight compared to what I had. I told him to get a message to Liane that I was running late due to the lighting issues. What a difference light made! I rode along the Highpoint trail, happy to finally have descent light. At this point a duo guy rode up behind me and sat there. I asked him if he wanted to pass, but he said no, his legs were fried and he liked my pace and cadence. So he fell in behind me and matched the tempo and we cranked along. Then a solo rider came up behind him and fell into our little train. Apparently my cadence is appreciated by those with ailing legs, so I'm not sure if I should take that as a compliment or what. The three of us chatted and the guys behind me mentioned that they had both gone out too fast on the first lap, which is why they were dying now. We finished up the lap, and I met Liane at the exchange tent. My total lap time was 1:58, but ride time was 1:45, so I only lost about 13 minutes due to phone calls and making the lighting exchange.

I got back to the RV and immediately got out of my sweaty clothes and crashed. Zac had his alarm set, so I set mine for an hour later. I got about 4 hours of sleep before waking up. Zac was getting ready for his next lap, so I decided to stay up and get ready for mine. I checked the whiteboard to see if Anne had survived her lap. She had, and turned in another time 20 minutes faster than her expected time. She left a note that she was fried and had gone to bed, and Krista was now out on her next night lap. Zac went out, and would be coming in with the sunrise. The wind was picking up so clothing is always tough to figure out. I decided on my TTG jersey and arm warmers, with my wind breaker over the top. When I went out for my lap the sun was up, so no need for lights. I warmed up right away on The Bitches, but decided to keep my wind breaker on as we headed into the wind after that. Once on the Rattlesnake trail I decided I was getting too warm, and made a stop to take it off and to get my Snickers bar from my Camelbak. I finished up my 3rd lap with a 1:50 lap time, and total moving time of 1:45 (5 min lost for taking off the windbreaker and getting the bar).

I handed off to Liane and rolled into camp. I had hoped to do a 4th lap, but my legs were too tired at this point, and I couldn't stand sitting on the seat anymore. I had climbed most of the Highpoint trail out of the saddle because it hurt too much to sit down. And, looking back at my training I wasn't doing the long epic rides anyways. Zac was way too chipper when he had come in during the morning, so his punishment was to go out on a 3rd lap. He met Liane in the exchange tent and went out for what would be the final lap for our team. The most important rule in the 24 hour race is to have someone for your team cross the finish line after 12 PM. If your rider comes in at 11:59 AM you have to send another rider out or else the team DNFs. At about 11:30 AM, riders start to gather outside of the exchange tent so that they cross the line after 12 PM (that means no one else wanted to go out). Zac left at around 11 AM, and I knew he wasn't going to turn in an hour lap, so we were in no danger. Anne and I met him at the end and walked back to camp to start the packing process.

Overall our team did 13 laps, and everyone did great. It was a great time out in the desert, and our whole team was all about going out and having fun. Turning the pedals on the course was challenging for each of us at some point during the event, but in the end we came out of it alive and smiling. And, I have to say, this year was by far the best for weather. Usually this event can have a mixed bag in the weather department, with past races being cold and muddy. This year it was sunny with highs in the 70s, and at one point we were comfortable in shorts and flip flops! When the weather is good, that adds to the fun factor. As always, when we finish this event we are all tired, hungry, and dirty, and never want to do another one again. Until November rolls around and someone brings up the idea of forming a team for the next year's race. :)

There are too many photos of the event to post here on my blog, so I'll point to the links:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fleet Feet AZ Trail Race

Last year was the first year I had done the Fleet Feet AZ Trail race out at Colossal Cave. Shari and I ran it together and had a fantastic race. So this year we both registered and planned to run the 8 miles together again and hopefully beat our times from last year.

On race morning (Feb 7th) I woke up to rain and started packing clothing. I wasn't sure what the weather would be like once the race started. I parked at the race site and Shari and Renee were parked in front of me. We couldn't have planned that any better! I got out of the outer warm layer of clothing and decided on shorts, tank top, and arm warmers that I could scrunch up and down depending on the temperature.

Shari and I did a quick 5 min warm-up, then got in the mass of people for the start. The start of the run takes us down the road, because shoving 1000 people on singletrack all at once is not optimal. We did the first loop and hit the singletrack and began climbing. At this point it was a lot of shuffling through the group, trying to figure out where we should be in the pack. I just tried to hang on to Shari and not loose her early in the race. Out on the trail we saw a lot of people cheering including people from Fleet Feet, and some mountain biking friends of mine like Jon Shouse and Dave Barger, who were out taking pics.

Around Mile 3 we hit the technical section, which is a lot of up and down hills, and over rocks. At this point an older guy came up behind me and his breathing was annoying. It sounded like he was either coughing up a lung or having a heart attack. He also kept tripping. I suggested he pass me so that I wouldn't get lung butter on my TTG jersey. I was hoping he would leave me in the dust because I really didn't want to have to perform mouth-to-mouth on this guy if he keeled over. Unfortunately my plan didn't work, and he decided to hang out between me and Shari. I had backed off the pace a bit so there was about 15 yards between us, but the guy stayed right behind Shari. The guy totally biffed it and crashed in the trail, but he got up and kept going. Shari asked him if he was ok, and apparently he was because he finally passed and kept going.

The course kind of makes the shape of a "P" with an out-and-back early on, and then a loop at the top. Last year we had the front runners come by us while we were still on the out-and-back. This year we made it to the loop of the "P" without getting caught by the fast people. So that must have meant we improved! We reached a dirt road with a steep climb, and took that hike as a chance to get out our food and get our snacks for the run back. We finished the loop of the "P" and got back on the out-and-back section for the final leg of the run.

We wound our way around the singletrack, and could see up ahead people were falling and crashing everywhere. Shari and I took a couple of the uphills as a chance to hike and get a quick breath, and then were back at it again once the trail leveled. About Mile 6 we turned and got up on a ridge and were greeted with a strong headwind. That wind was cold! Time for the arm warmers to come back up again. We knew we didn't have much time before the grey skies over us started to dump their water. Sure enough, about half a mile later a light sprinkle started. We were on the uphill at this point so a light sprinkle was kind of refreshing.

At about Mile 7 I wasn't sure if I could make it back. This was by far the longest of my trail runs lately. We climbed up the hill that we had previously had fun running down. At this point Tara caught up to me, as Shari and I had been the rabbits she was chasing. We chatted and the talking helped me to keep my mind focused on the trail and not on how tired I was. We reached the final downhill and it was all downhill back to the wash. By now the rain was officially coming down, but we only had a little bit left to go. We crossed the wash, ran across the road to where the cheering spectators were, and crossed the finish line. I grabbed whatever people were handing me (medal, water, etc) and just wanted to keep walking because I couldn't catch my breath. I wandered around the finish area until I could breathe again, and caught up to Shari and Tara to say thanks for a great race.

We went back to the cars to get out of our wet race clothing and into our dry rain gear, then wandered over to the food area. By this time the rain was really coming down and the temperature had dropped significantly. I ate a bit of food, but was zoning out so I said goodbye to Shari and Renee and headed back home where I defrosted in the hot shower and collapsed for a nap.

I finished in 1:25:17, which was an average pace of 10:39 min/miles and a total of 3 minutes faster than last year. Shari and I were both happy with our improvement, so we'll see what happens next year!

I thought this was a great pic of me and Shari before the race. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Me, Shari, and Renee before the race. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Running on the singletrack, early in the race. (Photo by Jon Shouse).

In the train of people. (Photo by Jon Shouse).

Shari and I in the train. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Watching the trail in front of me. The guy behind me is the one that fell later on. (Photo by Dave Barger).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tech Trek with Mom

My mom has been working on getting more fit. She has done great with the diet, but the exercise is the other half of the equation. She wanted to do a walking event with me (since right now she doesn't run) so our first step was to hit Performance Footwear and get her hooked up with some "real" shoes. She had been walking on her treadmill and having heal pain, and I told her it was because she needed real running shoes. We took her to Performance where they put her up on the treadmill and video taped her footstrike and had her try on different shoes. She loved a pair of Brooks Glycerines that came in purple, her favorite color. As long as she loved them, that's all that mattered. I knew she wouldn't want to walk in shoes if she didn't like them. I then told her she had to practice in the shoes on her training walks to get used to them. She's up to 30 min of treadmill walking each day.

Then I set out to find a race we could do. It had to be on a weekend that didn't conflict with one of the other billion races I'm registered for, and I wanted to find a good event. Luckily the Tech Trek was offered again this year, and I signed us up to walk the 2 mile course. It's a family friendly event, and you save more on entry fees if you register more family members, so I convinced my husband Zac to sign up to run the 10K while we walked. Nevermind he hasn't been running lately. This is $5 off an entry fee we're talking about here. I had done this event in the past, so I knew it would be a good one for my mom, and it was only 2 miles from my house because it started at Agua Caliente school. I also had the Fleet Feet trail run the following day, so I would have to do the walk anyways to not blow my chance at a PR on the trail run. No temptation to sign up for the Tech Trek 10K there.

Race day we got there early to get good parking and get our goodie bags. Since we were there so early we waited in the car and took stock of what was in our bags. The bags had cool things like flashlights, hats, tool kits, and Fitness Plus magazine which we read while we waited. It was then time for Zac to get ready. We strolled over to the start to watch him take off on the run, then hit the bathroom one more time before lining up for the 2 miler. I then answered all of my mom's first-timer questions: Would I stay with her? (Yes, of course). Would we be the only ones walking? (No). Would we be the last ones out there? (No).

About 30 or so people lined up for the 2 mile course, and the announcer yelled "Go!" and we were off. I let my mom set the pace, and of course I still wore my Garmin so I could announce the distance we had traveled and our pace with insane accuracy, weather she wanted to hear it or not. We had a simple square course to follow: west on Limberlost, south on Melpomene, east on Prince, north on Homestead. My mom was walking at a consistent pace of 17-18 min/mi, and I carried my camera to take pics along the way. We did catch up to groups of people and had to work on passing to get around them. I let her lead the way and let me know if she wanted to pass. We walked past houses with horses that watched as the groups of people went by. Once we reached Prince we merged into the 10K course, but I think by that time Zac had already passed through. The course was mostly flat with only a few slight inclines here and there.

Mom kept her head down most of the time because she was used to the treadmill and wanted to make sure she didn't trip on anything. Most of my pictures have a great view of the Nike swoosh on her hat. She didn't want to turn around to see who was behind us (I kept telling her there was a bunch and no way were we last). So instead I took pictures. At the end of Homestead St. we entered the back entrance to the school grounds. Since the 2 mile course was non-competitive, there was no official finish line. People just meandered onto the field. So we stayed on the path that went around the field, and I picked out a random painted line and said "That's the finish line!" so that I could get a picture. We finished in 36:40 and walked a total of 2.06 miles. About 15 minutes later we saw Zac cross the finish line for the 10K. He finished in a little over an hour, which is right where he expected.

We wandered over to the goodies and decided against the French toast made out of donuts. In my opinion, that ruined both the French toast and the donuts. Keep them separate, please. Instead we opted for fruit and water, then headed home. Mom had a great time, so hopefully she'll slowly increase the walking so that we can start to increase the distance. I'm already shopping around for a 5K for her as the next goal. ;)

Mom and I before the race:
Zac starting the 10K race:
Mom was excited and emphasising the arm swing at the beginning of the walk:

Still smiling about 1/2 way through the course:

Proof that I stayed with her:

Proof that she wasn't last and was in front of others:

Mom crossing Elaine's Improptu Official Finish Line:

Zac heading towards the finish line of the 10K: