Friday, July 31, 2015

Selfies at 11,000' and Collie Flowers

A beautiful hike from Brainard Lake to Lake Isabelle today.  A Friday.  Because if that's what it's like on a Friday I don't want to think about what the weekend is like.  But my growing discontent with the Front Range hordes is a post for another day.

Strummy and I got kind of an early start but not super early.  Hit the trail at around 9:15.  Don't try that on the weekend folks.  This hike was a spur of the moment decision so I didn't have gear packed, crate in the car, etc. and it took a little while to hit the road once I made the decision.  And it was a good decision.

The lake is awfully low (barely visible in this photo) considering all the moisture we've gotten.

Selfies at 10,910'.

I had Garmin with me so I finally know the elevation at the lake.  Ish.

Collie Flowers

Poor dog.  I sat his ass down to pose for pictures next to every patch of wildflowers I could find.  He was such a good sport.  Uncharacteristically so.  I guess he's figured out the quickest way to get hiking again is to pose quickly and get it over with.

So many wildflowers.

 One of these days I'll figure out how to photograph them to get the best effect.  But not today.  It was getting stormy and I don't like to be too high/exposed when a front is blowing in.  I made it to the car no problem.  I'm always amazed at the people starting their high country hikes at noon and going up into dark black clouds.  Lightning is so dangerous and prevalent at high altitude.  But there were asstons of them today and most summer days.

So beautiful but I didn't get an early enough start to go too high.

7 miles/3 hours of hiking and a 45 minute drive later and Strummer is throwing tennis balls at me while I try to do some reading for work.  He is relentless, just like Mountain Champs.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Xterra Mountain Champs

This is the t-shirt from this year's event and it sums up my race perfectly.

Well, aside from the fact that it says the 'man' to beat, which chaps my ass a bit but oh well.  I mean c'mon, it's 2015 already.

Anyway, this was a hard race, stupid hard.  Didn't I say that about this race 3 years ago?  It's not like I forgot yet somehow I entered it again anyway.  The main reason was because I felt it would be great prep for Nationals.  I think it's actually harder than Nationals though others will disagree.  It's a little shorter distance-wise and has about the same amount of climbing for the bike and run but it starts at 7400' elevation and finishes at 9400' whereas Nats. starts at about 5000' and finishes at 7400'.  This is a huge difference and significant for me because I've barely made it up above 7500'-8000' this year.  I went up to Beaver Creek at the end of June to pre-ride the course with my coach but the majority of the course was closed due to elk calving.  Of course it opened up 2 days later.  We were able to ride a short portion of the course at the top but mostly spent the day climbing up paved roads.  Which kicked my ass anyway.  With only 3 weeks until the race I knew I wouldn't be super acclimated or prepared so I was ready for a hard day.  And it was a hard day.

Except the swim went well.  I positioned myself well at the start, didn't get too caught up in the crowd, swam on course pretty well as far as I could tell, turned tight on the buoys.  Noticed a woman swimming next to me at my exact pace so I fell behind her and let her pull me in for the last few hundred yards.  Wish I'd thought of it a few hundred yards sooner.  Felt good coming out of the swim and my time was good.

Interminable is the best way to describe the climbing on the bike course which is point to point with a supposed elevation gain of 3600' though my Garmin showed 'only' 2700'.  Someone else on Strava who was at the race showed 3000'.  So who knows.  It was freaking steep, I promise you.  17% grade, 22% grade, I finally stopped looking down at the percent grade because it was too scary.  Interminably long.  Cruel.  But so beautiful.  Wildflowers, mountain views, momma and baby bears.  Yes I saw a momma bear and her cub.  Supposedly there were 4 of them but I only saw 1 cub.  They were laying down next to someone's house just off the run course across the road from an aid station.  I think they were waiting to see if there would be any leftover snorfies for them at the aid station.

The run was different from 3 years ago, also stupid hard.  Garmin claims 1000' of elevation gain.  Again, 21% grade in places, I stopped looking at Garmin.  I had to walk most of the steep uphills which is to say I walked almost all the uphills.  My quads were fried, I was even unable to bomb the downhills.  So tired for this run.  The one good thing was that it clouded over and there was even a bit of rain to keep me cool.  The bad thing about this was the thunder.  Thankfully it only lasted for about a mile or so and I was in deep forest rather than on some exposed hillside.  But overheating was not an issue.  Still, so tired.

Overall I was slower than 3 years ago by about 18 minutes.  Looking at the results many people were slower by 8-10 minutes so the course was clearly harder.  Or longer.  Or something.  My swim time including run to transition was slower by almost 2 minutes but the swim was short 3 years ago so my pace was faster, bike was 3 minutes slower, run was 11 minutes slower.  Not sure where the other 2 minutes went.  I was tired in the week leading up to the race and my heart rate and heart rate variability numbers were terrible on race morning.  I'd had a poor night's sleep because my pre-historic digital alarm clock radio kept buzzing loudly for some reason waking me up every couple of hours.  I couldn't unplug it because I needed it to wake me up at 4:10.  I also wasn't thrilled about the 2 1/4 hour drive in the mountains so early which didn't help my numbers either.  But they'd been sketchy all week, especially heart rate which was elevated.  So it simply wasn't a great day for me which is how it goes sometimes.  I was looking at the race more as prep for Nationals and it certainly was that, pointing out the weaknesses I need to work on between now and September.  The next 2 months will be all about the climbing.  Once I can feel my quads again and not start crying at the sight of my bike or running shoes.


All numbers are per Garmin, not the posted race distances.

Swim:  1712 yards, 30:34 mins., 1:48/100 yards (Garmin might be overstating the distance, Strava says 1657 yds, 1:51 min./100 yards)

Run to T1:  1:33?  

T1:  1:24?  Had trouble with Garmin

Mountain Bike:  15.1 miles, 2:33 approx., 6.0 mph

T2: 1:29

Trail Run:  5.38 miles, 1:27:31, 16:16 min./mile

Finish:  4:38:10