Monday, August 29, 2011

A Wyoming High: Medicine Bow Peak and Sugar Loaf Mountain

Medicine Bow Pk 12013'
Sugarloaf Mtn 11398'
7.5 Mile loop (CW) from Lake Marie
~3.75hrs RT w/ Caleb

The border between Colorado and Wyoming is a fully human concept, set at the 41st parallel. Notwithstanding the Wind River Range, Tetons, and Bighorns in Northern Wyoming, most of Southern Wyoming generally gets the shaft in terms of terrific alpine scenery.

Except, that is, for the Medicine Bow Peak massif in the Snowy Range of Southern Wyoming. With trailheads above 10000 feet and just off of the paved Highway 130, Medicine Bow Peak is an instantly accessible alpine high.

And what a high indeed! Numerous well-stocked alpine lakes, streams, and giant granite boulders dot the landscape. Wildflowers burst with color, lupine and Columbines alike, the Colorado state flower itself knows no boundaries. And, this never gets too old: snowfields in August!

We strolled steadily up the back side of Medicine Bow Pk, taking our time getting distracted by the stone remains of a cabin, and heading off trail occasionally to peer over the edge to the lakes below. Solid cracks led up obvious climbing routes, and scrambled along some short sections.

The infamous Wyoming wind was not to be found on this glorious day, as we made our way to the summit, where we saw maybe 8 or so other people.
Obligatory summit shot:

Obligatory summit-with-ridiculous-belt-buckle-shot:

Heading down off the mountain, on a loop to the east, leads to a trail that switchbacks and descends quickly, to a saddle with Sugarloaf Mountain. This lesser peak (labeled below from an earlier view) has an interesting enough prominence to make a short Class 2 scramble to the top worthwhile:

Etymological Digression
"Sugarloaf" is a name that refers to numerous mountains and hills around the world, from Brazil to Winona, Minnesota. This refers to the shape of a block of sugar, that used to have a long, conical shape for shipping and storage purposes.

When a person wanted a bit of sugar, he would simply cut a chunk off. Incidentally, the tool used for this is called "sugar nips."

Entomological Digression
Caleb mentioned a friend who was recently recovering from a brown recluse spider bite (ugh!). This led to a discussion of which insects we would remove from existence if given the choice. In a limited list including spiders, wasps, and the pine beetle, Caleb unselfishly chose the pine beetle. But when expanded to other insects, he easily chose the annoying horsefly. I hate horseflies as much as anyone, but suggested the mosquito, so as to reduce malaria and dengue fever. However, Caleb pointed out that I hadn't been specific about species, since when thinking about mosquitos, we were first thinking about the annoying but non-deadly familiar kind (Aves Minnesotus)...and if we wiped out horseflies, would we wipe out all flies? Considering the advances in scientific understanding of evolutionary development we've gained from the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, I hope not.

But I digress.
Sugarloaf was a quick, fun diversion that gave us great views back toward Medicine Bow Peak. Now we headed down along a ridge and eventually hit the rest of the loop trail, where even more wildflowers and great views awaited.

All too quickly, we reached the shores of Lake Marie again, where schools of small trout darted out of the weeds each time our shadow cast a reflection.

This area is an easy 2-hour drive from Fort Collins, and is absolutely stunning. Even short walks and picnics along the shore would be worthwhile. More trails to nearby lakes deserve further exploration, as well as an intriguing canyon on the other side of the road.

Finally, this trail would be a great running loop as well. Start early to avoid crowds, and I would suggest going counterclockwise (opposite of our direction) to start the busier part of the trail in the trees earlier, and then climb up the rockier switchbacks, before enjoying a smooth descent along the plateau of the peak.

The Girls Ride 100: Venus de Miles 2011

J, Nora, and Deirdre RODE 100 tutus!

They did it! By training this summer, all 3 rode 100 miles for the first time in their lives -- AWESOME! No flats, no major mechanicals, nobody got lost, and a good time was had by all. They finished in about 8.5 hours, well under a 9-ish hour goal and with a solid, consistent speed.

I certainly can't speak for most of their day, but I parked in Longmont and rode a section of course backward before finally meeting them at mile 70 at one of the two toughest spots of the course: the rolling hills up 36 towards Lyons. Clouds had come in to cool off the temperature a bit from the heat they had experienced in James Canyon, but unfortunately the clouds were accompanied by a stiff North headwind. I looped around when I saw them on the hills and talked with them a bit, but clearly it was time to focus and just get out to Highway 66 for the left turn into Lyons. We stayed in a line as much as possible and grinded out the miles before finally getting out of the wind.

Now that they could relax a bit, I asked how they were doing on food and water. They were hungry and looking for good food options -- apparently the last few aid stations (in the critical middle part of the race) were lacking in quality food selection. This was bad news, because I had seen what awaited them at the next aid station (mile 76): Gel packets and shot blocks. Now maybe the idea of having eaten several dozen gels in the previous week gave me an unfair negative bias, but they weren't interested in that, either. I quickly decided to go ahead into town and scrounge up whatever food I could find.

Luckily, the day was saved by St Vrain Market:

I grabbed whatever looked good: some plums, a fresh loaf of bread, cheese, turkey, a tomato, a perfectly ripe avocado, and a few sodas, and dashed out of there. (They also had plastic knives which were helpful for making sandwiches). I met them at the aid station with REAL FOOD (TM) ! They were very pleased at having sandwiches and their mood was instantly better after eating and drinking, and we set off across the threshold of 76 miles, officially making it their longest ride ever.

We hit the road together for some cloverleafs around Lyons itself. This section of course was the only set of roads I had never ridden on, and it involved some gorgeous backroads that I didn't know existed, with good pavement, light traffic and shady trees:

After this Tour du Lyons, we headed back East towards Longmont. The Northwest wind and renewed vigor sped us along into zizagging south and east turns. Another very light rest stop was somewhere around mile 90, but was unnecessary. The girls kept on moving until the final turns in the Prospect New Town part of Longmont -- a surprisingly vibrant and fun part of Longmont that we've never visited before.

At the finish, we were surprised by DJ and Neil!

We hung out in the park a bit and they enjoyed some mojitos. The touted gourmet lunch was a lackluster, cold premade sandwich and a small side of grains. Despite being hungry, most of that was tossed aside, and we headed to the Pump House instead to celebrate.

Congratulations to all of them on a great ride!

Monday, August 22, 2011

LT100 2011

Dan Jones, Kieran McCarthy, Scott Slusher, MAH, J, Nora, Mama W

This year's LT100 was my 2nd 100-mile race, and first mountain 100. I knew I would have my work cut out for me with a more challenging course at higher elevations, but was looking forward to the adventure.

Despite bouts of heavy rain and thunder in town the night before, the weather was calm enough for a light jacket and shorts to start the race. This was a relief, as starting in a cold rain would have been tough to manage. My fancy new light North Face jacket and Black Diamond headlamp worked perfectly, but I try not to be too much of a gear nerd because it's just running. It was also cold enough that I donned my alpaca wool hat for the beginning of the race. It doesn't have a brand name or anything on it, but it sheds rain better than cotton, and I bought it in a stall from the woman who made it in Aguas Calientes, Peru.

Now if you're in Leadville, Colorado the 3rd weekend in August, and somehow want to avoid the spectacle of this race, good luck ignoring the blast of a shotgun at 4AM.

With that, we were off and down the road. The advice here is to stay relaxed and easy, avoiding going too fast downhill, as we run several road and dirt road miles to Turquoise Lake. I have no idea what our pace was, but I looked at my watch exactly 3 times before the aid station: 29-something, 59-something, 1:29-something. I planned on taking a gel every 30 minutes, and a cool and underappreciated superpower of distance runners is the ability to estimate elapsed time accurately while running. It's too bad that this skill is utterly useless otherwise.

I had heard that the Turquoise Lake singletrack can get crowded, but from my vantage it was nothing to be concerned about, other than hearing an occasional runner behind with a missed step (worried about them tripping into me) or someone's dizzying bouncy headlamp. It wasn't too difficult to pass if necessary, and we were also reasonably segregated into natural pacing groups. At one point, I stepped off the trail briefly for a bio-break and ended up in a gap between groups, so I had a pleasant 10-20 minute stretch of running alone.

As we went around the lake, I did sneak a few peeks backward to appreciate the stream of headlamps around the lake. More sublime was the mist that had settled over the lake, and occasionally seeing an illuminated runner cast a shadow into the fog and then disappear. Even if I had a camera, my photography skills wouldn't do this any justice, so the image will remain burned in my memory.

A few camping groups greated and cheered us around the lake, and as we neared 2 hours and 13.5 miles, the May Queen aid station came into view. Since this is the first aid station and people are all packed together, I suggested to the girls not to come to this aid station. I think this was a good plan, as they got some rest and were better equipped to make it to Fish Hatchery without the stress of driving in and out of May Queen and trying to find me. However, the May Queen herself (Alex's wife Ean) and Celeste and crew were out here and able to spot me in the crowd somehow, so I felt pumped up by seeing them. I grabbed a few snacks here and more gels, and filled up my 2 bottles, keeping my plan of a bottle per hour.

If you're wondering, 6AM at this time of year is sufficient to ditch the headlamp. I wondered about this but then decided to transport my headlamp to the next aid station at Fish Hatchery, no big deal.

The next stretch is 10 miles including singletrack, a steady climb, and then the powerline descent to Fish Hatchery. I enjoyed the trail sections, and the rest were obvious walk-when-it's-steep, run downhill variety. The views were enjoyable as we climbed sugarloaf, although we had occasional long views of the trail ahead. It was easy to run smoothly on light uphills, and eat and drink when necessary. Finally, we reached steep downhill. I enjoyed the descents and tried to save my quads, but I don't know how successful I was.

The troubling thing was, my legs hurt somewhat at this point. This was unusual because they normally wouldn't feel this way in a 20-mile training run, and hadn't felt like that in any previous 50M or 100M. I'll need to reflect on this some more -- taper? hydration? electrolytes? The simplest answer is likely the fact that more downhill training (and less track work!) could have been beneficial for this.

Before Fish Hatch, we were on some rolling roads, and I was able to run these steadily. Again, we went from a calm run to a roaring spectacle of crowds and cheering -- and that's pretty cool. J spotted me and got my bottle, and she took off running at a great clip to get things ready while I looped through the checkin. I was also happy to see Alex's support crew and family out here as well. I accidentally dropped a glove here -- and then a subsequent F-bomb -- bad karma!

After this, it was time to get ready for a few miles of open road. For the first time in a race of any length, I put headphones in my ears. And I was cool with it, it kept my spirit and tempo up, just cruising and grooving down the road. At this point, I was down to my one large bottle, as the next aid station (Pipeline) was a flat 6 miles out, and then another 10 with a net downhill to Twin Lakes.
After filling up at Pipeline, it was time for steady climbing. Historically, miles in the mid-30s are a low point for me, but I felt consistent here, no worries. My mental focus was all about planning to get to the next aid station.
The Mt. Elbert trail sections here were pretty fun, with some wildflowers, stream crossings, and bridges. I forgot about the additional Mt. Elbert aid station -- I was good on water but topped off anyway, so I could dump some on my head and not worry about dehydration.

Now we had a fun, steady descent to Twin Lakes. I was cruising along steadily here, nothing technical at all, but I slipped and totally wiped out! No injuries or abrasions, I landed pretty well. Now you know how my shirt got dirty.

At Twin Lakes outbound, I was happy to see the girls again, as well as my first pacer, Kieran. Also saw Pete and recognized some other folks. Again, my emotions ran high from the crowd, which was important for the slog ahead.

The next part begins with a trudge through swampy marshland across the street, through calf-deep puddles and mud. You're going to get wet, so no use fighting it, and then your feet are heavy and slow bricks. Eventually we reached the creek, which had a rope across it for safety it wasn't absolutely necessary. I bent down a bit and splashed water on my legs to refresh them a bit. After that, it was a straight shot to the trees, where the climb up Hope Pass begins in earnest.

Now I was on my first truly familiar section of trail. I ran this in training, but there was no need for that today: it was time to hike. The shade in the trees was refreshing, and I kept that in mind as we headed up to treeline. Along here I saw a familiar orange shirt and thought I recognized Brandon -- with hiking poles! I hadn't seen him use them before so I wasn't sure it was him. He was moving decently but I slowly caught up so we could chat. He said he picked up the poles because his quads were blown, perhaps in part from a blazing start to May Queen. But he was still moving good, and it's a long race, so he was appropriately optimistic about the rest of the run, as was I for both of us, and I still expected to see him on the downhill as I felt I'd have to take it easy there.

Every once in awhile we'd hit a short, flat runnable section, but mostly I focused on keeping the breathing and heart rate in check, with no idea of distance or splits. But at least I recognized the terrain, and appreciated the trail opening up into wildflower meadows, then back into the trees, before finally reaching treeline for good.

"Welcome to Camp, can I get you anything?" asked a young male volunteer, maybe 11 or 12 years old. His phrasing made it even more special: here I was at the famous "Hopeless" aid station, replete with the llamas that had carried up the supplies. Although I had been to this same geographical spot 2 weeks earlier, now that it was set up as an alpine "camp," I could pretend I was out in the Himalayas or Andes on an excursion. Context is as important as the environment when it comes to experiences like this.

By now, I had also lost a bit of appetite but knew it was from the elevation, so I had a bit of soup and other snacks to help get ready for cresting the pass. I filled up on water as well and continued to climb. To my left was the familiar lumpy shoulder of Quail Mountain, with the pass itself was appreciably lower.

With a photographer on top, it was time to begin running the last bit of the climb and then all the way down. Now I would get to figure out how to deal with the 2-way traffic on the tight singletrack, but it all just worked out. I did everything possible to give the leaders room, and often enough they did the same and let us continue downhill, and they were all pleasant and encouraging. It just all worked out. Team Spandex was in the lead, and I was happy to recognize Burch coming up 3 spots later (but no pacer?). I tried to be conservative enough on the downhill and not get injured, I passed a couple folks but got passed by a few more and was fine with that, as I was on or ahead of pace.

It was getting pretty warm by now and I reached the Winfield road, knowing I was ahead of my 10-hour turnaround estimate. I ditched the shirt and stuck to the south side of the road for shade. This is rumored to be the last year of having to run on the dusty road in traffic, as they are building a parallel trail that should be ready next year, so I told myself that at least I got to appreciate the classic experience. They offered dust masks at the bottom, but had also watered the road, and it was manageable. I think I also hit at a good time, as J told me traffic picked up significantly after I left. Along the way, the fabulous mAy Team drove by and cheered me on.

The girls spotted me pretty quickly, and Kieran ran right along to get ready for his pacing duties. He was diligent about figuring out what we might need for the Hope Pass re-climb, and was perfectly stocked up with anything I might need.

And then we were off on the road again. Mentally, the whole idea of re-climbing 3000 feet again can be daunting, but it absolutely blocked from my brain. Having new company helped significantly, as well as muling some of my gear. We ran most of the road and then got ready for the climb, settling into having me in front to set a pace.

I had only met Kieran briefly during CPTR, and he graciously offered to pace by responding online. This is just another example of how the ultrarunning community works in strange and awesome ways. It was fantastic to have this boost, and although I wish I had more oxygen for more conversation, for his part he was equally encouraging, distracting (with jokes, etc.), attentive, and informative about other parts of the race. I was a bit worried about my stomach, but kept taking gels and it never got worse.

Obviously, this section was more crowded going up, now that I was spending over an hour going 3 miles while a large contingent of runners were heading down, but again it all worked out, and we were all encouraging of each other. I felt steady but slower than when I was fresh for a training run a couple weeks ago. I told Kieran that it took about 65 minutes in training, so maybe 80 minutes would be good today. We hit the top in 70! It just shows how much perception can be off at these times.

Now some more downhill to Hopeless, and I tried to take it easy technically so as not to twist an ankle. I had one little slip before I was able to open up my stride, and then Kieran ran ahead to get supplies ready. I still didn't have much of an appetite, but again had some soup and Coke, definitely more out of caloric necessity than desire. Some clouds had moved in but we had beaten any threat of a real storm -- never a given in the Colorado mountains in summer.

We continued downhill at a steady pace, my quads remained in a constant sore but functional state. We got back into the trees and enjoyed the shade and more runnable downhill again, before the final flattening to the open marshes of Twin Lakes. Again I soaked a few seconds in the river, and had the unpleasantness of small rocks in my shoes, but knew that would end soon enough.
Kieran ran ahead to get things ready for the handoff.

How would you measure the effectiveness of a pacer? How about this: my split over Hope Pass, with Kieran, after 50 miles and a loss of appetite, was 30 seconds faster than my solo split after 40 miles!

At this point, I planned on cleaning/drying off my feet and switching socks, yet keeping the same shoes, based on Pete Stevenson's advice. This ended up being a fine choice, as the fresh socks felt great and the wet shoes dried soon enough, yet still performed as predictably as they had for the first 60 miles. The only risk was sitting in a chair for the first time ever in an ultra for me, but my "pit crew" attended to me quickly: a truly fast 2-tire change, top off of fuel, a round of wedge, and we were off.

"We" now being Dan Jones and I. Kieran did great, and Dan picked up right where he left off. Did I mention Dan just ran up Pikes Peak earlier in the morning? Yeah, then he drove out a few hours for a "fun run" to help me in Leadville! I enjoyed meeting and catching up with Dan as he told me some of the PPA stories, and that they had perfect weather. I also appreciated his insights into Leadville, having successfully finished the course the previous year in his first attempt. Again, I wish I had more energy to be conversational, but I think (or at least hope) veteran runners and pacers understand this.

Dan was great at keeping me moving and motivated, eating and drinking, and getting ready at the aid stations. I had a Red Bull stashed at Pipeline (~M70) and that helped out, and it was still nice not have to carry both bottles. I think I walked a bit more of the gradual uphills here but was still satisfied with my own pace. About 5-10 minutes past Pipeline, though, I asked Dan if he had a headlamp. It turns out both of us had the same negative answer! Whoops. I had stashed one at Pipeline just in case, but forgot in my 70-mile haze to do the new math on whether I would need it or not. But I also remember thinking that most of this section wouldn't necessitate a headlamp anyway, and it turns out we were just fine, as we hit the road at dusk. Lights could have been nice for safety from (annoying) oncoming cars, but Dan graciously shielded me from harm by running in front of me. And it worked! We weren't killed, and we made it to Fish Hatch. Dan's duties were complete in spectacular fashion.

Slush spotted us before Fish Hatch and I didn't recognize him at first as he offered us a light. But he ran us in and we got ready for the return climb up Sugarloaf.

As promised, Scott injected new life and encouragement into my run. But, I use the word "run" here very loosely, because other than a bit of downhill after Sugarloaf, I severely abused Scott's generosity with a long nighttime walk. But first, he caught me up on his own PPA race experience, which involved an unfortunate exploding electrolyte tablet, but otherwise an enjoyable day on that mountain out East. Let me remind you here: Like Dan, Scott had come out to pace me after climbing 8000 feet in the morning! Through his own admission, and observations later from the girls, Scott had suffered from a coffee deficiency earlier in the day, something I can totally relate too! His enthusiasm though certainly didn't miss a beat, so I like to think that I took it easy on him for these last 6-7 hours so he didn't have to, you know, run a bunch and stuff, like when he paces people to course records and all that.

He also pointed out -- rightfully so -- how glorious the stars were above the top of Sugarloaf. Again, I wish I could have been more sociable, but for his part he kept me on track and moving along. He was also sociable with other runners on the climb that caught up to me, which helped pass the time. Sorry, but my legs were now shot. I was able to gently shuffle down on the smoother parts after Sugarloaf, but he biggest threat was a lack of proprioception, so that I was unstable on even the slightest technical section. The focus was merely on moving forward. I also wanted to lean against a tree and take a quick nap but Scott kept me going.

The focus was on May Queen. At this point of the day -- no, it is past 10 pm -- if you stop and think about having 6 or 7 more hours to run, it would be absolutely overwhelming. You absolutely have to break it up and focus on the next aid station. But the important thing is, we did arrive at May Queen, and fueled up on coffee and soup. The girls were there -- did they get a chance to sleep? -- and I told them we'd see them 3.5-4 hours later. This is still a ridiculously long amount of time to run, but you know what? We were going to finish, and we would get the big buckle.

Heading out, the remaining goals were sub-24 hours, and sub-Brownie's-time-from-last-year. And we hit the Turquoise Lake trail, which I told Slush was "flat" and "lightly technical", but now somehow it was longer, more technical, and quite rolling. My legs felt like tanks of lactic acid: swollen and slow. I could walk decently, and it actually felt good when we hit the road later, but running was out of the question. I apologized to Scott a few times, but he came up with a new positive response each time. I felt like I was passed by gobs of people. I didn't mind the act of being passed so much as the envy of not being able to run. So, as I learned, I would have enjoyed the race more if I had been in a position to run through the end. I'll even go so far as to say I would trade finishing slightly slower but being able to run through the end. But that's what you learn in these things.

Sub-24 would require just a bit more running, but I just didn't have it. In my addled brain, though, I knew the Big Buckle was ours. That's what I wanted, and that's what I owed to myself and my crew. By now, we had survived and formed all the stories and memories that would make up the race. So after the interminable Turquoise Lake, we hit a bunch of long roads that I didn't remember from the morning. I could shuffle down a slight downhill, but anything more than that and it was back to power-hiking. (In hindsight, I think I needed a better salt strategy).

Finally, town came into view (it sneaks up on you in the last mile). A full day had passed, full of adventure. Scott had kept me moving, motivated, and on-course. Kieran and Dan were there, and I was happy to have them pull me up the hill as a group together. My uphill "run" was glacial, but the important thing was that it was in the right direction.

After a few hours sleep, walking was painful, but I can always ride a bike.
Luckily I brought my junker Minnesota free-bike with me to town. I never drove anywhere all weekend.

I can't say enough about how important all of my crew and pacers were, as well as the support along the course.
That is what helped me to finish and earn "La Plata Grande"

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

24:11 Leadville

Missed my stated 24 hour goal (and Brownie's time by a half hour), but still had a fun race. My fault for too aggressive of a plan in the lower 20's when I had no business doing so, especially for a mountain/altitude/Leadville first-timer, trying to get impressive results. I had a great run for 60 miles, then early leg pain caught up to me, subjecting poor Slush to a night-time hike around endless Turquoise Lake while gobs of people passed us. Should have backed off like many experience runners have said and run a first 60+ miles that felt very easy, and I know better! Lots of things went well, especially the crew and pacers and numerous friends on and along the course, and nutrition/gear/stomach/head all felt fine all day (more than any 50M)

But, for those unfamiliar with these races, the "award" is a belt buckle for finishing. There is often a more strict cutoff for a "big buckle." In Leadville, the cutoff for "La Plata Grande" is 25 Hours. I certainly wanted to earn this and was excited to do so -- the 24 hour number I came up with was only because it's a more "natural" number and would end the suffering earlier. Once I knew 22, 23, and 24 hours were out of reach, I focused on being conservative enough not to get injured and to get the big buckle.

So, overall it was a blast and I really enjoyed the Leadville experience more than I thought. It was also very difficult and satisfying to finish this race. Tedious report and pictures forthcoming.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Leadville Race Tracking: #417

You can track Leadville race progress here.

The race starts at 4AM Mountain Daylight Time.
I am #417, though you can also search by name.

Keep in mind there will often be a gap of a couple hours or more between aid station updates.

If you want something to root for, my main goal is to finish in a day -- less than 24 hours -- and hopefully comfortably faster than that, which will be based on feel after a conservative first 2/3rds. Lots of things can happen out there...and they will!

Good luck other racers!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Countdown to Leadville: Unnamed 13500

Unnamed 13500 from Independence Pass
? Miles, 1400 ft gain

Very happy to be in Leadville, staying in a wonderful house just a couple blocks from the race.

I guess I could, and maybe should, lie around and not move, but after doing some work this morning at the coffee shop, I got restless and headed up to Independence Pass. Besides great views, I hoped that a little time above 12000 feet with some mild exercise would increase acclimatization.

I knew there were some easy and obvious trails at the top, and a hunk of rock to the north of the road that looked particularly inviting, looking no more than a half hour walk away and several hundred feet up (I am very bad at estimating . I pushed it steadily until near the top, when I met a friendly couple from Kansas, Andy and Deb. There, I stopped to chat and took their picture. I was clearly feeling the elevation, but grateful to have had a mile headstart living in Fort Collins. Andy was a few months returned from Afghanistan, and I promptly thanked him for his service and welcomed him back home and to Colorado.

I headed up to the top and enjoyed new views to the north, and a fun bit of exposure if you hang on the North edge. An alpine lake lies below: I could have guessed its name by pure luck, since "Blue Lake" is the most common unimaginative name around here. As these things go, though, there was an obvious higher chunk of rock just a short stroll to the west, so I headed that way as well, tracing the Continental Divide. There was a small summit marker here but no log. A more impressive, prominent peak lies further to the West: this is Twining Peak, and would have to wait for another day. The saddle looked to be at least 300 feet lower (and it is), so I declared my position a satisfactory summit of some sort.

I headed back along the ridge and saw Andy and Deb hanging out, and offered to take some pictures for them up there. We chatted some more, I told them how much easier it is when you get used to it and that it's certainly hard coming from sea level. They were originally just heading up to see some snow and decided to go for the top -- good for them! Eventually I disclosed the upcoming race and then the distance. Andy was graciously excited for me and said it was the first time he met an ultramarathoner, so that was a fun compliment. They told me about some trails and events they recommended out in Arkansas (a new state for me which I'd like to visit), and that there GPS had us up at 13400. Whoops, underestimated that one.

We headed down, and I told them about watermelon snow (which I was unable to smell), pointed out La Plata Peak, ptarmigans, marmots, and pikas, before heading down in a light better-not-trip jog. Near the bottom, I met Rick (?) from Dallas, who had a race shirt on. I accosted him (and his pacer, "CC"): "Shouldn't you be at home with your feet up?" He was out for a bit of elevation as well, though he's been here for a week. I'll be excited to see them on Saturday as well.

I checked the map when I got home to learn that Unnamed 13500 is a legitimate 13er, 255th highest in Colorado. That makes it a "tri" for the people working on climbing the highest 300 peaks in the state. So I have a head start on that. Assuming I finish this weekend, "Unnamed Runner #417", I'll recommend this as a mellow altitude hike to check out on race week.


I headed back to the house and then learned about early packet pickup, so I hopped on a bike for a short ride down there. Met a few folks there and participated in a brief research study. Now I have a green bracelet on my wrist that ain't comin' off until Sunday morning.


Then made a quick batch of couscous and rode over to Brandon's house. I definitely appreciated the hospitality and camaraderie over there, it'll be even more fun to recognize faces and see everybody run a strong race this weekend.

Go time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sex, Alcohol, and the Leadville Trail 100

Maybe everybody else knew this story already, but I sure didn't. Here's something to read for your Leadville taper if you were unaware like I was.

My curiosity began with a spreadsheet.

At the bottom, there is a footnote of a runner named Ricklefs dropping out at mile 95 of the LT100 in 2001, despite being at the front of the race. I wondered about this story, finding Chad Ricklefs's website, among other things.

But I also learned about "Divine Madness" for the first time.

Technically, it was mentioned in McDougall's "Born to Run," but somehow I missed it. Even in a generally sensationalized book, "Divine Madness" received only a brief mention:

Not surprisingly, an event with more flameouts than finishers tends to attract a rare breed of athlete. For five years, Leadville's reigning champion was Steve
Peterson, a member of a Colorado higher-consciousness cult called Divine Madness, which seeks nirvana through sex parties, extreme trail running, and affordable housecleaning.
- "Born to Run", Christopher McDougall

However, the story was actually covered in some detail in the late 90s and early 2000s by mainstream publications, such as SI and the New York Times, with brief mentions in the local Denver publication Westword. Online, the Rick Ross institute has a collection of several critical articles, including the death of one of their runners in an event. The group trained and lived in both Boulder and New Mexico.


The most lurid mainstream presentation is the SI article:
Soon the group, which came to be known as Divine Madness, was running ultramarathons twice a week. By '96 its members were dominating at Leadville, with five of its runners in the top 15 that year.
Each Sunday as many as two dozen members will run as far as 50 miles over the paths and trails outside Boulder. In the past, two former Divine Madness members told SI, runners who didn't finish were occasionally not permitted to eat that day.
On Thursday nights, according to several former members, the group would typically dance until sunrise at wild, alcohol-fueled parties where random sexual couplings were encouraged. Monogamy was discouraged among those in the community, and rest and nutritional intake were severely rationed. Most members made do with about four hours' sleep on futons or mattresses laid atop bare floors.


I had never heard of this before, so I find it utterly fascinating.
The group certainly produced running results, and was the source of the popular mainstream book that introduced Chi Running.

Now I can't pretend to know what is truth or what is exaggeration, and it would be easiest just to present the details quietly, but if some of the quotes and representations were falsified, I would have imagined libel lawsuits. Instead, sexual assault allegations (among others) led to an out-of-court civil settlement. I am most certainly critical of cultism and dogma in any form, especially when dispensed from a single, self-appointed individual, and I have zero tolerance for misogyny and sexual control. But, other members suggest it was just a harmless running community, so if these details are exaggerated, then how about this seemingly innocuous one: "Tizer forbade reading of outside literature." I would suggest that forsaking the collective wisdom of mankind, the great historical works of art and science, for a singular insular viewpoint, would be a sin against one's own humanity. Exploring the limits of the human body is fantastic, but not if it comes at the expense of the mind.

Or would more reading necessitate more alcohol?
He has rationalized his need to drink excessive amounts of alcohol by explaining that his mind gets overheated by the intensity of the thoughts he thinks and that he needs to cool it down.

So, what about Chad Ricklefs, the footnote that piqued my curiosity?

At Leadville last August, Ricklefs gained his revenge on Peterson, setting out at a torrid pace and letting it be known that he meant to sustain it. Ricklefs had become an outspoken critic of Divine Madness, believing that it further marginalizes a sport already well on the fringe, his resentment fueled, in part, by the belief that he and other top ultrarunners -- and not Peterson and his unusual lifestyle -- should be getting what little publicity the sport attracts.

Amen, Chad. I see ultrarunning as an endeavor and challenge to promote happiness, fitness, and confidence in other aspects of life. It is a means, not an ends. So it turns out the "footnote" of the spreadsheet I had seen is a multiple-time Leadville champion, still running fast and coaching...and is, presumably, monogamous (since he's married).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ready to Roll

The girls in Jamestown, CO

The girls got their longest ride in ever -- 75 Miles -- as final preparation for their century ride in two weeks.
They are ready!

This route started from North Loveland, and puts the hardest climbing of their ride (Lyons to Jamestown) right in the middle, before looping back on different country roads to the start. I am in an awkward position where not doing anything all day, and even all week, would have more benefit for me than Leadville, but they wanted me to ride along as well. Though I suspect it's mostly for mechanicals and flats (none!) and routefinding, I also try to focus on nutrition, water, keeping the pace appropriate, and making sure there's no stopping on the climbs (possibly by slowing down the initial pace)...oh, and getting up early in the morning to beat the heat, rain, and traffic -- without being too overbearing (I hope)! With all the warning and mental preparation, they all handled the climb up to Jamestown easily! They'll be passing girls on the climb. And it was fun to hear them enjoy rolling past farms, ranches, and small towns, that most people never see on the highways, and enjoying the early morning start when the weather is cool and you can smell the plants in the air, yet still have the rest of your day when done. These are the things that I love about cycling!

We took a break at the top at the Jamestown Merc -- I've never been there, and it's certainly an iconic and cycling-friendly place.

They got a sense for the climb they had just done with a solid 7-mile no-pedals-needed descent back down the canyon.

So, they're ready. It's been fun watching them stay focused and help each other out, on the long rides as well as the weekday rides. They took the training seriously enough that they'll undoubtedly finish the century and be able to enjoy every bit of it.


Por moi, that wasn't ideal Leadville tapering on paper, but it's hard to justify not joining your wife for a bike ride when I'm used to riding solo and she's getting into it. I took it really easy and hung off the back, including the Jamestown climb, and I've found that cycling feels like a long, good stretch. The niggling pains that I had the day before and generally have during running weeks all summer went away after yesterday's ride. I have no soreness or strange pains from riding, which suggests I don't push too much, just a difference in "pep" in the legs that I would have if I hadn't run at all. But, I trust that will come back in the next couple days. I am stoked to get up high and out on the trail!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mt. Audobon Morning Run

Mt. Audobon
13,323 feet

Pic taken by and stolen from GZ.
Justin and I approaching the summit. Behind us, mountains beyond mountains, and an inversion with a low layer of clouds blanketing the front range cities below.

George put up a post mentioning Mt. Audobon for the morning, which was something I was considering for a morning mountain run, and I had coincidentally borrowed the parking pass from my brother-in-law earlier that day. I had never been up there, and it has a good bang-for-the-buck of solid elevation and gain on a Class 1 trail, without having to drive too far or past Denver. And by starting early, we were able to beat the typical crowds and parking madness (actually, even the descent wasn't too bad, with respectful and attentive hikers). I was very glad to meet him and Justin in the parking lot (and, later, TZ and JZ), and enjoy the run with those guys.

My small camera is still broken, so I'm glad to see some of the pics from GZ and Justin. The drive out included a gorgeous full moon revealing the jagged outline of the mountains to the west, followed moments later by watching the sun rise while going up Brainard Lake road. I thought I might have missed the guys, but saw the rockin' minivan pull up moments later.

Justin got us going in a hurry, and despite everybody talking about taking it easy, I wasn't finding it incredibly easy to chat leisurely without running out of breath. Those guys seemed pretty comfortable with it though. But it was a great pace and we were quickly above treeline in the full sunshine and practically no wind.

Justin and I peered over the saddle towards the Divide, then power-hiked up to the Audobon summit. Awesome views all around, and some snacks, and then the descent. Justin admonished us to take it easy so as not to ruin our races, and then they took off. I quickly took a step next to a sharp rock that poked my inside heel, and then definitely focused on not doing anything else stupid. This route wasn't overly technical by any means, but Leadville is significantly less so.

This was a great run for the morning, really enjoyed getting to know JM and GZ better, and meeting some of GZ's family, and look forward to more runs with the guys in the future. I was a little more winded going up than I would like, but it wasn't insurmountable and hopefully a couple days at altitude will help. Everything else feels fine, a few tweaks in the right leg that haunt me but are manageable and should feel better over the week. Hopefully this workout helped, rather than hurt anything, but mainly it was fun!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mountain Avenue Mile

Mountain Avenue Mile is our traditional 1 Mile summer Thursday night race. There is only a single left turn to the finish, so it's nearly impossible to get lost. A steady 40 foot drop over the course undoubtedly helps with fast and competitive times, but is barely perceptible when looking down the straight road.

8.5 days before Leadville, with zero relevance to that event, would doing a quick intense workout be a Lydiard-esque stroke of mad genius, or a foolish hamstring-tearing, lung-bleeding nightmare?

4:47, still in one piece. PR by 6.5 seconds from 2008.

And Slush earns a margarita glass for 2nd Masters!

Monday, August 8, 2011

LT100 Pacer

I am incredibly stoked and grateful to have the services of Scott "Slush" Slusher as a pacer from Fish Hatchery in (Mile 76.5), the critical part of the race where I'll need it the most.

I'm not worthy! Scott has paced Nick to a CR at Jemez, so expectations are high. Too high! He's faster than me on Towers, and just blew away his 10k PR with a 37:23, 2nd-place finish in the FC Human Race 10k. And he has a GPS watch! Just as important, though, he's got a great sense of humor. I missed out while we were in Denver, but since this summer I've found that Scott and his wife Celeste constantly make me laugh. And on a serious note, he's done work in Ghana in the Peace Corps, and I haven't gotten a chance to hear stories about it. He's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again.

With any luck, he's got the grail (big buckle) already.

Earlier in the day, Scott will be running the PPA, and based on his training and racing this year, he's going to have a great day.

This is going to be awesome!


However, I do not currently have a pacer at Winfield (50-60-76.5)
Not sure about this situation: I've had a few well-meaning possibilities that didn't work out for one reason or another, and I feel strange drawing attention to myself and bringing somebody else in to an already boring, slow endeavor (OK, I'm not an advertising agent!).
But, Scott may have a friend from the ascent that might be interested -- we'll have to work on timing from the PPA, but it would likely be Twin Lakes at earliest.

I've thought about either...
1. No pacer at Winfield: Some vets have suggested this, that sometimes logistics make it more difficult and that it's not necessary. I see their point, and the muling aspect is still strange to me, but this would only be possible precisely because I do have Scott for the hardest, make-or-break part of the course, at night. Having this to look forward to will help get through those earlier miles -- I think it's going to be a mental benefit even before Fish Hatch. But over Hope Pass again, with several hundred friends hiking nearby, I won't slip on pace or motivation like what happens when we're all strung out in races with "only" 100 people or so.

But, it would be nice to have the company AND some muling help, since it's allowed...

2. Random pacer found ahead of time: Anybody interested, or know anyone? I might ask around on Friday in case somebody's interested. I regret not heading out to Silverton last month as I saw that people picked up some pacers that week.

3. Pre-paid Lifetime Fitness Pacer (with optional IV kit): Wait, that doesn't exist. Yet.

4. Random pacer at Winfield. It's been suggested. At Lean Horse, somebody asked past the turnaround if I had/needed a pacer. And, unfortunately, some pacers will be ready to rock but their runner DNF'ed. Hopefully, a knowledgeable person would see what condition my condition is in and figure out from my time what sort of pace would be appropriate. If I looked like incoherent garbage, nobody would feel obliged; if I'm still smiling, we could hitch a ride over the pass together. (At least, that's how I would decide if I wanted to pace someone randomly). This kind of has an intriguing since of adventure and randomness to it -- like hiring a mercenary -- but is it a realistic possibility?

Oh, I just decided that I'm going to refer to any of my pacers as "mercenaries" for the badass factor alone.

Anyway, if anybody has some interest, leads, or ideas, let me know!

Herman Lake Wildflowers and Continental Divide

Herman Lake and Continental Divide
~7.5 miles, 2800 foot gain (10,200 to 13,000)

J and I were looking for enjoyable wildflower and tundra hiking, with less than a 2 hour drive from Fort Collins, and something different than the reliable but crowded IPW. Herman Gulch met these requirements, and then some.

Herman Gulch is located East of the Divide tunnels, just off of I-70 on Exit 218. Correspondingly, the large dirt parking lot just off the freeway can be crowded. But getting there around 8AM, there were still plenty of spots.

This hike is well-documented elsewhere on the internet and guidebooks. A class-1 trail leads
3.5 miles up, through the forest and into wildflower meadows, before leading to Herman Lake itself, which sits in the shadow of 13er Petingell Peak.

So essentially there were 3 goals for this hike.

First goal: to see the wildflowers in full bloom.

Second goal: Get up on the Divide.
After visiting the lake, with maybe a dozen or so other folks, we headed back down less than half a mile to the Jones Pass/CDT trail split. We descended slightly on the Jones Pass trail, which follows below a ridge to the north before cresting it. Shortly after that, we headed up the steep tundra to the ridge itself, giving views of a whole new basin and range of mountains. Next, we followed along the ridge to the flat, loafy 13,000' shoulder of Petingell. This is an unnamed expanse of tundra, but gives fantastic views above Herman Lake, as well as new views which opened up to the North. And for a couple of hours of hiking and lounging around, we had the place to ourselves.

J took a nap:

I poked around restlessly:

...before waking her up to achieve the 3rd goal of the hike:
Hit J with a snowball in August!

Another beautiful day up high. This hike is rightly popular for being within an hour of Denver, but it's undoubtedly less crowded than Torrey's/Grey's across the street. The trail here, as well as the CDT trail towards Jones Pass, is also fantastically runnable: need to stare at the map for some loop options.

Here is a map. The extra effort of getting to the Divide more than triples your views:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hope Pass Double, plus Quail Mt.-ish

Alex and I on Hope Pass. Pic courtesy of his camera courtesy of JP Martin


Favorite (and first) Erik Solof Quote:
"So I guess the bridge is out. I have a Visa with me -- would you guys mind carrying us over Hope Pass?"

Alex and I had arrived in Twin Lakes on a gorgeous morning to run the hardest (but prettiest) part of the Leadville Trail 100: The infamous double crossing of 12,500' Hope Pass. We knew that the course bridge was "out", and I recalled reading something about Parry Peak campground as an alternate bridge route further up Hwy 82. But when we reached the course location, we saw a couple of other obvious runner-folks parked and looking around.

And that's how we met Erik and Kate.

I was completely out of it when Erik made his first comment, thinking he wanted to drive around to the Winfield side or something. But when he cracked a smile and some more jokes, we caught on to the humor.

So we were all out ready to run the trail: Alex and I for specific training, and Erik and Kate, essentially, for fun. Erik had said he ran it in 2005 and it was a fantastic course -- "Gospel, man" -- but we were still unsure about the bridge, when a sheriff rolled through and gave us directions. The directions had more turns and references to the "new bridge" and the "old bridge" and such that I mostly nodded and hoped somebody else was paying attention. And so did everyone else! The course will go through the water, which will be fine in race day crowds, but for today it was nice to keep our feet dry and stick together as a group in the beginning and not have to think about it, as the river is running pretty solidly.

We followed Erik and Kate to a small gravel lot a few miles further up Hwy 82, got ready, and then headed up along the shoulder of the road. In less than half a mile, there's a "one-man bridge" which we fit 4 people on and then hit the trail. This training route heads back left (East) towards the race route. Within a mile or so, we hit the Little Willis/Big Willis junction, and re-grouped to discuss. Alex suggested a left onto Little Willis (correctly) as the most conservative route that headed in the general direction, although it heads down immediately and wastes some of the elevation we just gained.

After 20 minutes or so, we hit a 4-way with a "No Vehicles Allowed" sign that matched the course description. This, indeed, was now a right turn onto the course (and the course will have come in from the left and head straight through). Let the climbing begin.

Alex and I were set on our own paces, deciding to do the run to Winfield and back and regroup when it made sense and see each other on the course. As it turned out, enough other folks were out training (maybe 5-6 other small groups) that it was a nice combination of solitude and companionship, as well as an ability to figure out where people were through the "pipeline," as I asked later if people saw Alex/the guy with the red shirt, etc.

The first goal I had was to run as much of the Twin Lakes as I could and get some sort of split. I didn't have any numeric goals, as I didn't research or remember any specific numbers -- I wanted to remember the numbers I got and then see how that fit into any sort of pacing plan. The trail grinds steadily up through the trees, but is nicely shaded and pleasantly runnable. Eventually, the trail opens up into a splendid wildflower meadow:

This is and the top of Hope are the last pictures I got before my camera died -- hopefully Alex got some good ones!

Hope Pass loomed in the distance, getting closer with each step, and I set a goal of running this entire side. I was happy to achieve it, at 1:32 flat, which included the pauses for directions.

But the entire time going up, the insidious plan of going up Quail Mtn. was also on my mind. I discussed this with Alex earlier: he thought I might have extra time and would be able to head up above 13k. I had initially thought about doing this on the return (if at all), but the temptation was too great. If anything, I could skip the Winfield Rd. in lieu of the extra elevation, but that would be less "course-specific."

But I'm more interested in heading up something high, so I scrambled up the scree and some climbing trails to the summit. Or, what I thought was the summit: the second hump of rock visible from Hope Pass, which I had seen before and focused on as the summit. There was a cairn there, and spectacular views, but no summit register or anything. I saw another point further up but was convinced it was something else, and was a bit hurried when I saw runners now coming up Hope Pass. (Later, at home, I know that the summit has some interesting mine structures on top, and I was merely on a non-descript 13,300' hump).

That excursion took about 20 minutes, and it took almost as much coming down as I was careful on the scree and talus (falling on my butt once) and not wanting to fall too far behind. I recombobulated at the Pass and headed down at a good effort.

I saw and gained on a group of 3 ahead, including a red shirt, but it turned out not to be Alex. But, it was someone who knew Alex: JP Martin from Ft. Collins. We introduced ourselves and chatted briefly for a few minutes, he was out with his 2 pacers. I took off then, hoping to catch up to the real Alex, who was even further ahead than I thought since I was mistaken in the group of 3 that I saw descending Hope.

I enjoyed this run down and seeing folks climbing from the Winfield side, and hit the lot in 31 minutes, before turning right and heading up the road. I kept watching the road for the other runners but didn't see them until right before Winfield -- at least it was a nice distraction from the otherwise boring, uphill road! This section was about 25 minutes (and the same time down) to the bridge, but not the campground.

So I saw Alex, Erik, and Kate looking great -- the latter two hadn't initially planned on the Winfield section. I was a couple minutes behind Alex, but needed to refill/filter water. I sat down by creek awkwardly and got a strange leg cramp, so I shifted around until that felt better and ate some chips. This break ended up being over 10 minutes so I needed to get moving.

Now this side of Hope is much steeper, and I remember it as such from hiking up it a few years ago with J. How far up could I run it, though? Not far at all, as I hiked nearly all of it with my heart banging in my head. Whatever. I think this is common but I'll see what people are doing during the race. I am OK with a sustained hiking pace though if that's what the situation calls for.

Above treeline, I saw Alex a good 5 minutes ahead, and JPM's group heading back up. I entertained myself with the thought that I now can stare up at 13,400+' Mt. Hope and Quail, and think, "At least we don't have to go over those -- we're taking the easy route over the pass!" I hope I can remember this in a couple weeks.
Alex waited a few minutes for me up top: our climbing was done!

Now we headed back down from whence we came at a social pace, running together and chatting. I tried taking some pictures but with a broken screen I didn't know until later that the pictures failed. We were still enjoying great weather, and it was nice to get back into the shade of the trees. That last mile descent to the 4-way was an absolute blast.

The last couple miles on the re-route dragged a bit, including the kidney-punch climb back up to the Little Willis fork. Oh well: that's non course-specific. I decided to grab another bottle of water rather than thinking about it for another 25 minutes. Back to the bridge and the car. Didn't catch up with Erik and Kate again, but glad to have met them, and really glad to have a fun day running and chatting with Alex. Ready to be back there in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WIN for KC Tri: J and J's Excellent Tri-venture

The reason for visiting Kansas on this particular weekend was so that J and her friend JSko could participate in the WIN for KC Women's sprint triathlon. This triathlon is an excellent, safe, and fun introduction to the sport for women of all ages and abilities, but is also sufficiently competitive with all-event chip timing and a staggered swim start. The swim is 500 meters (~1/3M) in the warm July waters of Smithville Lake, followed by a 10-mile out and back mostly flat ride on a controlled course, before ending in a 5k run along the lake on a leafy bike path.

Now, despite having been hot and soaking wet with sweat at 3:30AM, somehow we found ourselves wet and cold 3 hours later. Unfortunately, a powerful storm moved in and sat right on top of the course. After everyone was lined up for the swim, lightning flashed and hit the ground on both sides of the lake, and a cold, hard rain pelted the triathletes, who were standing around in swimsuits. The 7:30 start was delayed by 10 minute increments, but we were all worried about a cancellation. The storm clouds were swirling quickly, literally colliding from two opposite directions above the lake. We were in the eye, hoping the storm would move past.

Eventually, the race started handing out garbage bags for warmth, which helped. It was a mad and chaotic scramble to get one, so the girls shared one (and I, like the sorry guy in the Titanic lifeboat amongst women and children, shamelessly huddled in for a bit until I stopped shivering). I felt bad for their anxiety as they waited out the storm. I had nobody to blame for my foolishness: I was standing around in full cotton clothes, drenched in cold rain and shivering, barely able to move achy legs.

Finally, the rain and nearby lightning stopped for at least 20 minutes, and the start was on for 8:30, after an hour delay. The day was still somewhat dreary, but the water (I was told) was pleasantly warm. The race had swim pace groups from 6-20 minutes, and the girls lined up at 15, despite my call of sandbagging on their part. The system worked nicely for spreading the swimmers out, but the girls finally got into the lake at 9am.

I missed JSko coming out of the water, who is generally a faster swimmer, but saw J come out running somewhere in the 13's. As I suspected, they were faster than what they gave themselves credit for. I hobbled over to the transition zone as quickly as I could and saw J come out on her bike. With a small rise to start, I saw her get off the saddle and start passing immediately -- awesome! Within a couple minutes, I saw JSko come out, too, smiling on her bike. They both survived the dreaded swim!

Now I had time to get in position to watch the bikes come back in. The fear of course is a flat tire or mechanical issue, but now also some sort of problem with the wet roads. But, the sun was out now, and it was as nice of a day as they expected. I had time to watch the women come in, a mixture of road and mt. bikes, generally smiling and enjoying the race. I did some math and hoped for J in the 15mph-17mph range, and was happy to see her come in right on schedule, looking strong. I just barely saw her get out of the transition and start running, so I knew she was still feeling good, and I'd have time to watch for JSko.

JSko was on a mt. bike with slicks. I remember when she bought that bike, back in San Diego where we all lived and met probably 7 years ago or so. Among a few casual rides in San Diego, we also had a road trip where we all rode near Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ. We had also done a few runs together, most memorably Coronado Island, another 4-mile partly trail run in Del Mar, and a road-trip run to Monterey for the Big Sur Half. I would say that their enthusiasm for doing different runs really helped get me into it.
Anyway, JSko was most anxious about the bike portion, and unbeknownst to me at the time, she had slipped and endo'd due to slick conditions when she started, but had hopped right back on the bike! Soon enough, I saw her riding in strong and smiling. I caught her coming out of the transition, running! She didn't know how much she'd be able to run and didn't want to be at the end of the pack but was looking great and still ahead of plenty of others.

Now the day was getting hotter, and I hoped J was able to keep running, and sure enough she was right at a solid running pace and finished up strong.

JSko's husband and kids made it up to the finish line just in time to see their Mom finish as well, still running!

What started as a horrible day still ended up being the event the girls were hoping for, and I think they did as well or better than they possibly expected. The event and organization are fantastic, they are very much encouraging of women to incorporate sports into their life. Women like JSko, a full-time working mom of 2 young boys that still fits training and sports into her schedule, are the exact sort of people that events like this can bring together. In the swim line, and in many pictures afterwards, I saw lots of little tykes being handed over to mom's for pictures. Physical activity is important for everyone, but I can't help think about how powerful a message it sends for kids to see Mom, who is more often the maker of lunches and influential in lifestyle messages on a day-to-day basis, out there working hard yet having fun in a race. And maybe, along with her, you recognize and cheer on your Aunt, your teacher, your babysitter, your Doctor. I don't pretend that running 100 miles or whatever is the most for everyone, but I certainly enjoy the more realistic inspiration that comes just from watching one of these events.

I'm proud of the girls for how they did in the triathlon, and I'd encourage anyone to look for a local race -- they're everywhere! -- that's a few months in the future, and then make a focused goal to finish it. Everyone can do it, and ends up a happier and healthier person for doing so!