Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reaching New Heights…

As I was running on the treadmill yesterday, I watched the documentary movie called Spirit of the Marathon. This film chronicles a handful of runners that are training for the Chicago Marathon. I love that race. It made me think of my very first marathon, which was Chicago, back in 1997. I recall passing by the mile 26 marker, then around the corner with the finish line in view, I started hyperventilating. Um, yeah, can’t really “sprint” in for the finish if I can’t breathe! I was just so….excited, overwhelmed, and so full of accomplishment and pride that I did it! As I calmed down enough to breathe, I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air in victory and a big smile plastered on my face with tears of happiness starting to flow. Yesterday, I ended up having a great 10 mile run on the treadmill, thinking about that amazing moment back in 1997, and how I will feel crossing the finish line on Day 6 of TransRockies, with Brian, my best friend and love, at my side. I suspect that I will channel those feelings from my first is going to be epic and amazing!

So, what is the TransRockies Run? Well, it is quite a bump up from a single day marathon. It is a stage run that is held in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There are six point-to-point stages of varying distances on each of the six days. Brian and I run the race together as a team. The race organizers feed us breakfast and dinner, with the race in between. At night, we'll be sleeping in race-provided tents. We will take showers via a shower truck, dry our wet shoes with provided shoe driers, even stay "connected" by having charging stations for our techie devices. Granted, there may be a few stages where having a cell phone won't matter much! Here is the breakdown of each stage:

Sunday, August 23 - Stage 1
Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge
Distance: 20.4 miles
Climbing: 2721 feet / Descending: -2398 feet
Min/Max Elevation: 7919/9329

Monday, August 24 - Stage 2

Vicksburg to Twin Lakes
Distance: 10 miles
Climbing: 3098 feet / Descending: -3570 feet
Min/Max Elevation: 9203/12538

Tuesday, August 25 - Stage 3

Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale
Distance: 24.3 miles
Climbing: 2930 feet / Descending: -3833 feet
Min/Max Elevation: 9200/10945

Wednesday, August 26 - Stage 4

Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff
Distance: 14.2 miles
Climbing: 3009 feet / Descending: -3580 feet
Min/Max Elevation: 8650/11668

Thursday, August 27 - Stage 5
Red Cliff to Vail
Distance: 23.4 miles
Climbing: 4407 feet / Descending: -4868 feet
Min/Max Elevation: 8191/11787

Friday, August 28 - Stage 6
Vail to Beaver Creek
Distance: 20.2 miles
Climbing: 4623 feet / Descending: -4718 feet
Min/Max: 7420/10512

Total Miles - 113.5

View Elevation Profile (PDF)

Gosh, I look at that elevation profile and I still can't believe that I'm about to run it! I've been training for this event since about mid-May. Unfortunately, after the Elgin Valley Fox Trot 10mi on Memorial Day, I started to feel quad pain. I went to a sports med doc and he diagnosed a mild quad strain. I believe it was from going down that nasty, steep downhill around mile 5 without using proper form. I had to modify my training by reducing my mileage and doing physical therapy for until July. Luckily I managed to run the long runs on the weekend, but we unfortunately had to avoid hilly trails because my quad could not handle too much downhill. Ugh, talk about demoralizing -- training for a mountain race and having to avoid hills during training!

So, training brought ups and downs. The quad injury was definitely a down moment, but I'm grateful that it was minor and I was able to continue to run. I witnessed my body being able to handle bigger weekly mileage -- 40 miles, 60 miles, topping out at 72 miles. Quite a bit more than my 20-30 average over the last 12 years!

I recall a "character-building" 17 mile run, long run #3 of the weekend, and just feeling completely burnt out early in the run. I was near tears, feeling sorry for myself and really hating every step, wishing the miles would go by faster. Thankfully Brian was there, patient and supportive, to get me out of that nasty rough patch. It wasn't pretty that day, but we got it done!

There were many more highlights. I ran most of the long runs with Brian, my awesome training partner. :-) Most of the runs flew by, especially my 27-mile run at Sunburn Six in the Stix, which was part of the penultimate weekend of TransRockies training. That day, long run #2 of 3 for the weekend, had only 20 miles on the schedule, but it was so much fun to run with other CHUGs that I ran until the six hours was up, earning a mileage PR! I felt so strong and really acknowledged the results of the last few months of training. I know that TransRockies will bring much more challenging terrain at much higher elevations than where I've been training here in Chicagoland, but we will finish!

Our bags are all packed now and we are leaving to go to Colorado tomorrow morning. The first week we'll be getting used to the altitude and relaxing near Colorado Springs, staying with Brian's sister and her family. I'm looking forward to spending time with them, getting to know them! Then, on Saturday, we'll be hopping on a shuttle for Buena Vista for the race start on the following morning.

After these last couple of weeks of much-needed and much-enjoyed taper :-), I am excited and nervous. With this race, I am reaching new heights both figuratively and quite literally! I am going to enjoy every moment, with Brian, as we experience this amazing adventure. I predict some hyperventilation, a healthy dose of tears, and some major smiles, hugs, and kisses when we cross that finish line on Day 6, August 28! Go Team New Leaf Ultra! :-)

IMG_1641 If you'd like to follow our progress throughout the race, Brian will be carrying the SPOT device with him:

Track Team New Leaf Ultra via SPOT

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Triple at Tri-County for TransRockies = Training Triumph!

I survived TransRockies training "peak" week! Back in May I looked at this schedule and thought, oh my, 72 miles in one week?! Woah, that's a lot! I've run marathons almost every year since 1997, but my weekly mileage always hovered around 20-30 miles a week. This past weekend called for three solid days of long runs. It would be a big mileage weekend, but I also knew that everything is relative -- thinking waaaaay back years ago when a 10 mile run seemed long, with the progression of mileage during these last few months, I was ready to do it!

Friday, Long Run #1 - 18 miles before work
I wanted to run these 18 miles on Friday morning instead of after work in the evening, so I got my manager's blessing to start late on Friday and work from home (avoiding a lengthy commute downtown on a non-express train). At 5:30am I rolled out of bed and was out the door on my way to James "Pate" Phillip State Park (formerly Tri-County State Park, which is how I usually refer to it). Brian decided to sleep in and would run his miles later, so I brought music with me to pass the time by and wake me up a bit when I got on the trail. I decided to run the 4 miles to the park to save time. On my way there I left the back pocket of my hydration pack wide open and lost my bandanna that I have found to be quite the useful piece of fabric during warmer weather runs. Luckily later in the day Brian found it while he was running his long run in the afternoon. :-)

I got to the park and started listening to music. I kept the pace conservative knowing the next two days would be even longer runs. Lots of cute bunnies popping out from the prairie grasses to say hi. :-) The time really did fly by, 10 miles done, and then I was on my way back home. I got home in time to take an ice bath and then start work at 10am. #1 long run done!

Saturday, Long Run #2 - 27 fun miles at Sunburn Six in the Stix
The training schedule called for 20 miles for long run #2. I figured I might aim for 10 loops of the Sunburn Six course (2.28 mi for each loop) for 22.8 miles and then do a slightly shorter long run for #3. Brian Gaines dreamed up the idea of having a timed run in the Chicago area, considering the lack of Chicago area ultra races, so the Sunburn Six in the Stix was born. This run was a "fat ass" event which means it's no-frills, no entry fee -- just a group of runners coming together to run and support each other. Of course Brian added some great techie perks that made it feel more organized than some "official" events -- live results and a web cam. Very cool!

Before the start
The run started casually at 7:35am and would last for six hours until 1:35pm. I lingered around the start area and chatted since I wasn't planning on running the whole six hours. About 10 minutes later I decided to get going on my first loop. I ran the official clockwise direction of the main loop, so I didn't see anyone until later on when I passed by Connie and Ian. I snapped a few pictures with them and then went on my way back to the out-and-back part near the bridge where I saw runners starting their second loop. It was fun waving hi and taking pictures along the way.

Jerret and Louise

Torey, Deanna, and Jason

Amit, Leslie, and Bill

Pack 'o fast dudes - Ben, Geof, Matt, Jim, and Craig
The subsequent loops are kind of a blur. It was great to run full loops with Torey Jones, Ian Stevens, Rich Breaux, Leslie Lewinski, and of course Brian :-).

Me and Rich - Photo by Jim "Boombox" Simmons
I ran the big loop in the opposite direction a couple of times so that I could take more pictures of everyone. By the time I was on my 10th loop, about 22 miles, I was still feeling great and figured, why not run until time runs out? I did another loop (11 total), then switched to the small loop (.5mi) for the rest of the time. Right at 26.22mi I entered uncharted "ultra" territory and my smile that was planted on my face the whole day got a little bigger. :-D

One happy runner!
I had time for another small loop (4 total) and ran a total of 27 miles. I felt great in spite of running 18 miles the day before. Just crazy! Something that I could not really imagine, running these miles, became reality. Woo hoo! After hanging out at the pavilion for post-run cleanup, a group of us went to Nest Cafe for a hearty lunch. Yum! Such a fun day!

Brian "rocking out" during the run :-)

Here are some other Sunburn Six highlights/kudos:

  • Congrats to Matt Condron for being the first overall with 43.82 miles. Awesome! Thanks for the encouragement along the way, too!
  • Congrats to Sarah Jurgaitis for logging some major ultra mileage with 34.2 miles (and first female!). You rock, girl!
  • Thanks to Tony for bringing his son, Nick, to help out. Tony, you had a great mileage day, too, nice job!
  • GnP - You guys are always a highlight of any event. Great job on 35+ miles for the day, Geof, and thanks for being our cheerleader/photographer, Paige! Go Team Schmoopie! ;-)
  • Congrats to Leslie Lewinski for winning the prize for most rockin' tan lines! ;-) Sorry you weren't able to even out the tan with all the cloudiness Saturday! Great running with you, though, and awesome job on running 30+ miles.
  • Thanks again to Torey for starting the CHUGs (it cannot be said enough!), for the cool patch, and for running with me - that loop flew by!
  • It was great seeing many fellow CHUGs again and meeting new faces on the trails. Waving hi and exchanging woo-hoos with all of you kept my energy levels high and made me want to keep on running until the end, past my goal!

    Brian and me after the run

  • And of course, thank you, Brian, for organizing this event, being my training partner, inspiration, and my love. You inspire me to push myself to heights I never thought about reaching before. Go TransRockies Team New Leaf Ultra!

Sunday, Long Run #3 - 15 afternoon miles
How does one follow an amazing day of running at Sunburn Six? Well, after a fun-filled rest of the day on Saturday, Brian and I slept in on Sunday with plans to go back out to Tri-County in the early afternoon. We were in "get 'er done" mode and that's what we did. The sun was back out and while the first few miles were a little stiff, I was able to warm up and the miles went by. We ran the 4-mile loop four times, and I shortened the last loop to run 3 miles instead to make it 15 miles total for the day. As we crossed our training run "finish line" we held each other's hand in the air and celebrated the end of an epic week of training! Life is good! Now, it's taper time until TransRockies! :-)

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