Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pikes Peak Ascent

"I am so never doing this ever again....Nope, this is a one and done kind of thing....I just really want to sit down...my fingers are so fat it is unreal....these golden stairs look nothing like stairs at all...oh my gosh they are even having beer hand-ups...I so want one...but I so want to puke more....oh let me just sit down here for second...this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life...I am so never doing this again."

24 hours later...."Yeah, I'd probably do that again."

Honestly though it was traumatic and really awesome all at the same time.  Last year we took a trip out to Manitou Springs with some friends so they could do the Pikes Peak Ascent running race. Since I was a  mountain biker I opted out and rode my bike to the summit instead (via Pikes Peak Highway).  It was pretty freaking rad.  However, this year I convinced my coach to support me doing the ascent on foot.   He was mostly worried about me getting hurt.  To be fair, so was I.

Pikes Peak Ascent is essentially a trail half marathon (13.32 miles) that takes you from downtown Manitou Springs, CO to the Pikes Peak Summit at 14,115 feet.  7,815 feet of climb at an average grade of 11%.  Ouch.

Some people (even strangers) asked me if I had "trained for this race".  The answer is a bit unclear...cuz lets be honest, I train my butt off all the time.  But no, I did not train specifically for this race and I would not count the 5 or so 20 minute treadmill hiking sessions as training for this race.  It was really just injury prevention. I didn't have any big goals for this race, other than to just finish. Ok fine, I wanted to break 5 hours...but truthfully I wasn't overly attached to it.

However...the moment the gun went off I pretty much forgot that I was a mountain biker. I ran WAY more than I had intended to. The thing is most of us endurance folk are sick, sick, sick individuals. Once we were on the Barr Trail it was pretty much a conga line  and whenever the person in front of me ran, I ran.  Whenever the person in front of me fell off pace, I made a surge to "close the gap." When we approached technical sections I applauded myself for choosing the better line which allowed me to make another pass.  For the first 8 miles I felt amazing and fast.

Miles 8 and 9 were a bit technical and I completey stopped any and all running at this point.  My lower back was killing me and my feet were starting to cramp from all the uneven footing.  When we got above treeline (about 10 miles in) everyone except me seemed to be suffering from the altitude.  I felt like Pac-Man and started to pick up the pace. In the end, I'm pretty sure this was a horrible idea. With 1.5 miles to go shit really hit the fan!!! I could see the finish line, but it looked SO INCREDIBLY FAR AWAY!!! 

I suddenly felt awful, dizzy, and nauseous.... like I had had one too many shots back in college :)  I could barely put one foot in front of the other and I kept checking my Garmin to make sure that I was actually moving. This is when the buffet of terrible thoughts entered my mind.  I wanted to be done so bad, but I kept having to sit down and take breaks. HOT MESS!   I wasn't even out of breath and I remember how confused I was to see my HR only at 140.  Altitude is so freaking weird.

Finally I had dragged myself to the top, finishing in 4 hours and 11 minutes, crushing my expectations. The last mile took me 33 minutes, confirming that it was indeed the longest mile of my entire life. As I was running towards the finish I heard Tom, Christina and Andrea scream so loud for me that it seriously took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes!!!  One of the girls shouted "Who says mountain bikers can't climb Pikes Peak??!"  Damn right!! This was easily one of the best days of my life!

I can touch the clouds!!!!
One of the reasons this day was so special was being able to share it with many of my friends!!! Huge congrats to my favs Aaron, Eman, Jeff, Lisa, Sue and Katy who all summitted and had great races!! Major props to the three amigas who all PR'd!!

Tom, Me, Lisa, Eman, Aaron at the summit

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ore to Shore - Rolling with the Punches

Last weekend was for the most part, incredibly awesome.  Tom, Brendan, Matt, Alicia and I made the trip up to Marquette. Ore to Shore was to be Brendan's first mountain bike race and that in and of itself was a highlight of my weekend. Being able to share in someones "first" is always special.

Brendan and Tom post race beers!
We raced bikes, drank beer, ate too much food and spent the weekend at our dear friends Evan and Grace's home. Huge thanks to Grace for putting up with all us bikers scattered about her living room....Grace is easily one of the nicest people I've ever met. 

Pre-race coffee stop - all 5 of us + dog Jack packed into this small space in Jeff and Ann's Sprinter

Friday night I had one of those very rare pre-rides where it was as if everything felt effortless.  I was so incredibly excited to race on Saturday and I was absolutely convinced it was going to be "my day."

Okay... so it totally wasn't. 

Well, it started out great.  I had my best start ever and had managed to latch onto a really strong group of dudes.  I was barely able to hang and that was how I knew I was finally executing a nearly perfect race. The course was super sandy and dusty and I was having an absolute blast. Well... that was until about an hour in when we all missed a bright yellow sign with a big black arrow.  Kind of important :) I was sitting about 4th wheel at this point and when I heard the rider up front say the dreaded "I don't see any fresh tracks" I knew we were in trouble.  I think this is probably the worst feeling ever in a race. Well, maybe a close second to the whole "I just had a mechanical" feeling. By the time we realized we had missed a turn there were nearly 20-30 people that had also followed us off course.

Being lost sucks. But looking back it was actually kind of funny. In most races you never really make eye contact with anyone.  Even if you see a friend or fellow competitor on the course you usually just pass one other and exchange a few words of support "keep it up yo!". Since this race was super dusty everyones faces were covered in dirt, hair was disheveled and we all had that super bummed depressed and sad look on our face.  It looked like we had all just came out of a coal mine!!!  I may have even laughed at this point, ha!

7 minutes later we were finally back on course. I only know this thanks to Garmin.  Looking back it really didn't feel like 7 minutes.  SEVEN MINUTES????  I could shower, eat breakfast and be out the door for work in 7 minutes!!!  Almost immediately after getting back on course I awkwardly ate shit on a sandy downhill (more comedy) leaving me with this lovely work accessory and the obligation to explain my weekend shenanigans all week long.

Starbucks drive-thru selfie
At the time all of this was a bit of a buzz kill, but that's racing and one thing that cycling has taught me is to roll with the punches.  There will be more Ore to Shores and there will be many more mountain bike races.  I smiled, reminded myself I was incredbily lucky to be racing and competing amongst some great friends... and promised myself to make the best of the day.  I eventually found another group of fast racers that had also either gotten lost or had mechanicals and we managed to push eachother hard all the way to the finish!! I was happy to ride my way back to a top ten result...but I was even happier to see this guy!!

It's not often Tom and I get to share in a post race high!  I so love Andy Gregg from Marquette Photo for taking this shot!!

Now I am sitting in lovely Manitou Springs, CO eating cinnamon rolls and getting ready for my next adventure.  Tomorrow morning I will climb to the top of Pikes Peak....without my bike :) Stay tuned...and in the meantime, pray for me!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ore to Shore Bound!!!

IT’S ORE TO SHORE WEEK!!!!  I’m so excited I can barely focus at work…seriously I’m counting down the minutes until we leave.  Ore to Shore is by far one of my favorite races and I look forward to this weekend the entire year.  I’m not quite sure what exactly it is I love about this race.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the 2nd half of the course is net downhill, but more than likely it’s because Marquette is an amazing city filled with amazing people and amazing breweries! One of my favorites in particular…Blackrocks!   A fast paced race on dirt + amazing post-race beer =  Heaven! (subtle note to God :) 

I am stoked to be getting back into the swing of things after my recent trip to New Orleans.  I’ve also been sticking true to my mission to find some great group rides.  Last Tuesday I gathered up enough courage to join my first Freewheel “Tuesday Night Beat-Down Ride.”  I wish I had a bunch of sweet photos to show you, however I was way too busy smashing the pedals and holding on for dear life!  I managed to survive the ride (and I even took a couple pulls)!  It was a blast even though it left me pretty shredded for the remainder of the week. Group rides…where have you been all my life?
Last weekend I refused to get out a bed early so I joined Tom and some friends for rides both days.  It was a bit more chill and really I was just focused on getting time in the saddle -- I just recently pulled the trigger on Barn Burner 104 next month!! This will be my first century on the dirt. Admittedly, I’m a bit scared!   I also just saw a ton of Tempo intervals pop up on my training plan. 
Saturday night a couple of our bestest friends (and cat lovers!!) got married!! Congrats to the Hoffenfraser’s!! It was a beautiful night!
In other news this summer I have created one of the worst farmer tans of all time.  In an effort to reverse the permanent t-shirt look I was proud to create my first cut-off jersey.   Racer back yo!!!   Yes, I know it’s a bit triathlete and it’s a bit carnie….but my upper arms are looking damn good this week.
Lastly, this happened during our recent Chinese binge.  Pressure is on Tom!!!!