Oct 5, 2015

Fear of Missing Out

It's a real thing - the fear of missing out. With so many great races and events in Colorado alone, there's not enough time and money to do them all. Something has to give and despite how much fun or how much prestige an event has, some times, enough is enough. Back in March, I had someone ask me if I was going to Weaverville for worlds this year. I admit to not having a clue as to what she was talking about at that point - the WEMBO 24 Hour World Championship. I did some research and filed the event away in my mind. If things worked out and I would be able to race, I would. It would be a honor to wear my Stars and Stripes for a World Championships and be racing for the chance to trade those in for a Rainbow. So very tempting. I could redo my plan for the rest of the year, moving my focus race back three weeks and then taking the previous A-race and turning it into start of the last hard block before Worlds. I actually sat down and planned it out to see how that would look.

But the reality set in - it's not that far to California, but it's not that close either. And I've done my time traveling across the country for racing. After a long discussion with Nick - on several occasions, the racing schedule would remain as it was. The racing is a partnership here - we both race and we both help each other. Despite the prestige of racing in the world championships, it wasn't something we both wanted to do. I didn't have my heart set on the race - which is what was needed for a shot at competing at that level. Nick also had some very good points about the quality of the races right nearby, including what was my A race for the season - Vapor Trail 125. It's a good thing I have him around - otherwise I might give in to Fear of Missing out more frequently. He also didn't want to travel that far for a race. It might have been for rainbows, yes, but still.

So instead of racing this past weekend, I watched the day unfold on line - cheering on the many friends who were competing. Yes, a part of me wished I was there, wondering if I would have been in the mix. But the desire to be racing was well tempered by distance. I realize that I may never get another chance to compete at a World Championships - they will be held in NZ next year. I've also realized that while the solo endurance challenges of 24 hour racing suits me, the NASCAR style of racing that is 24 hour racing does not. I much prefer the challenge of the unknown - a new trail around the bend, greeting the sunrise far away from where I started. The realization of self and self awareness of the types of challenges that stimulate you do wonders for banishing the fear of missing out.

Sep 30, 2015

Bobcat 25K

I'd had my eye on this trail run through Palmer Park for several months. Kept debating signing up - I knew I'd be able to do the distance, but wasn't sure about the quality of my running at this point. Two weeks after Vapor? Was I nuts for even attempting? After doing my last longish run before Vapor on part of the course - the sections on Templeton and Edna Mae - I was even less sure that it was a good idea. That was one of my slowest runs in a while and I was a little freaked out. I know that the running in Palmer Park is hard to begin with and the race course was taking us on some of the hardest and most techy trails around. Actually, the race course was hitting nearly every system trail in the park!

While my legs were cycling tired after Vapor, I felt great running. Might as well - I was planning on running longish anyway. Instead of suffering alone, I could do it with some friends and have the support at the aid stations if I chose. Only problem - my old trail shoes were just that - old. Once I decided that I was going to race, I needed new trail shoes and needed them in a hurry so I could at least get one run done in them before the race! And I needed to figure out if I was going to wear my Rev 1.5 pack or the solo waterbelt. I really didn't need that much stuff - the race was starting early and was very well supported. I could get away without anything if I wanted. But that wasn't the point - in addition to getting my long run in, I also wanted to keep testing out my gear. So the pack it was. I've been wearing it and it's really comfortable. Time to try it with a number and in a race situation.

This was a very small, low key race, with a 50k of about 15 people starting at 7:00, the 25k I was doing starting at 7:30 and then a 10k starting at 8:00. I got to the park after the 50k has already started. For sunny, September morning, it was pretty chilly still. Most of the runners in the 25k were hiding in their cars, trying to stay warm. As the start approached more and more runners appeared. There were plenty of people I knew and more that I didn't. I've been out of the running scene for so long, even the old faces are new again. 

And then it was go time. With a 25k - just a little longer then a half marathon, I was pretty comfortable with pacing. The leading guys took off pretty quick, leaving the rust of us in the dust. I started out pretty chill, but found myself in the lead with two women right behind me. Huh. The competitive side in me kicked into high gear and I started upping the pace. The first third of the race was the easiest running - not that too many trails in Palmer Park are "easy" even for running! But that was the fastest running section. I figured I would use the rolling but not super tech trails above Maizeland and over by Grandview Overlook to get some time and shake off the other women. Amanda stuck with me for a while, always right there until the Cheyenne descent where I was able to extend the gap. Having riden the trails at speed made it a little easier to run then at speed. Even though the lines are a little different, there is some good cross over. 

I bypassed the first aid station and headed right back out on Palmer Point Trail. It was still cool and my little backpack had plenty of water. The next aid station was just a few miles away - around the Mesa at the top of Yucca Flats. I took a small cup of water there, stopping long enough to drain it and toss the cup in the garbage. No sign of Amanda, but that didn't mean much. She could have bee right behind me and I wouldn't have seen her with the twists and turns of the trail. And then things got challenging as we turned onto Templeton. No more easy running. It was Templeton all the way around and back down to the Stables. I was starting to catch the 50k runners at that point and made sure to pass nicely and wish them luck. Unfortunately, some of the "normal" trail users were a little annoyed that there were course markings all over (at no point were any trails roped off) and that there was an extra 60 people spread out along the trails. There were several places where people had purposely torn down and mistakes the course. I know we needed to stay on Templeton, and even then still got a little off track in on place. Oh well. 

Templeton was still fun. I was running more then if anticipated based on my little adventure before Vapor - the new shoes made a big difference! It's still not fast running because every foot placement has to be precise. I made to the Stables in good time and took another glass a water. No food - the three gummy worms I had were making me happy food wise. Then up the stairs of Edna Mae to regain the top of the mesa. Only a few more miles of tricky running and it was on trails I ran all the time. We ran out on lower Templeton, hitting all the fun technical sections, then popped out Yucca Flats road. My first chance to take a good look around and I saw no one. Good. It was back to the raider running as we meandered on and off the Yucca Flats road and single track. 

One last aid station and the final push back to the finish. While I knew th trails, it was the only part I hadn't figured out when studying the course map. So I would have to just follow the flags and hope no more had been torn down. The part through Little Moab was a tad confusion, but only because I was anticipating going down a specific way and wasn't looking outside that line. But it all led to the same place in the end and I was back on track. Now I was just running for time. I knew there wasn't enough time for Amanda to catch me, but also that I would have to push it pretty hard to break 2:20. 

Alas, the clock won this round and I wasn't able to hit the mark I wanted.  I finished in 2:21:56, 5th overall and first women. The nice think about first year events? My time is also the course record! At least until the real fast people discover this fun, low key family race....

Sep 24, 2015

Testing the Limits - 2015 Vapor Trail 125

Like with most big races, I came into the 2015 Vapor Trail 125 with a plan. Time splits, light management, and food and water management. Would everything go according to plan? After a week of tapering and a day of sitting around getting nervous, it was finally time to find out.

Last year, when I lined up on the F Street Bridge in Salida, I had no clue what I was in for. This year, I knew what was coming and was eager to get started. That last four hours of waiting is the hardest. The sun sets, darkness envelops the town and finally, it's time to get ready for a long evening and day on the bike. It was warmer this year then last and I opted to dress lighter - knowing that if I was a little chilly on the climbs, it would be a good incentive to ride harder! No long-sleeved jersey - just wool tank undershirt and arm warmers and knee warmers with the standard kit. An old pair of booties over my hike-a-bike shoes, some warm wool socks and my mid-weight gloves with my rain jacket for the rollout. The hard decisions of the day were made. Nothing left but to pedal!

Sep 15, 2015

Saying Thanks - Vapor Trail 125 Volunteers

I did the same thing last year - writing about the volunteers of the Vapor Trail 125 before actually getting the race report finished. Why? Because without the volunteers, the race would near impossible to do except for the dedicated few self-support bikepackers in the group. So it is really the volunteers who deserve the kudos and congratulations for putting up with stressed out, mentally fatigued and possibly impaired riders at all stages of the race.

Cascade Aid - in some ways the easiest aid station but also the hardest. The volunteers have to be there, ready to help from midnight on. It's the shortest time period for an aid station in the race, but the riders are all clustered together still and it's dark - making it harder to help. Nick and I met one of the volunteers at that station before the race. She was visiting from Oklahoma and was helping out "because it sounded like fun and you guys are amazing." No affiliation with any of the racers - just wanted to be a part of it. I was in and out too quickly to see her, but Nick did and said hi.

Snowblind - Dave Wiens and his Gunnison crew take the dawn shift for volunteering at the Snowblind Campground. It's the first sign of civilization after 34 miles of darkness, brutal road climbs, hike-a-bike and thrilling descents. From hot coffee, pancakes and sausages, the Snowblind crew knew exactly what you needed to push on to summit of Monarch Pass. Encouragement and moral support - along with a warm blanket and a chair to rest in that was what you needed - was also readily available. Another quick pit stop for me - just long enough to get some water, a glass of OJ (Yum!). Then it was on to the next checkpoint.

Monarch Pass - This year the high school racing team helped out at Monarch Pass. They'd raced the day before and I think they might have been a little tired still... Food was cooking - eggs and bacon, but the kids were moving a little slow at times. I was lucky - I had Keith Darner (Director of the super fun sounding Monarch Crest Enduro) helping me personally with everything I needed. I was more organized then last year with the drop bag, but still took a little longer then I wanted - the chair was feeling really good at that point.

Marshall Pass - The two pass checkpoint is one of the hardest aid stations on the race, I would imagine. They have to be out there from the early morning hours as the leaders come through and then till late into the afternoon waiting for the back of the pack. Riders are already tired when we get there, and we are faced with the beauty and hell that is the Starvation-Poncha loop. Dropping at that point is so easy - just point the bike down Marshall Pass and coast down hill... The volunteers there need to be able to balance encouraging riders to keep going, but being aware of physical and mental issues that might put the riders in danger. They are also faced with the hardest part of the race - being one of the few stations with a firm cut-off point, having to tell riders that their day is done. For reasons outside their control this year, the Marshall Pass crew was working on limited supplies and didn't have all the luxuries they normally can offer. But the volunteers made up for it in enthusiasm and encouragement. Seeing the riders twice - once before Starvation and then after - and the differences in attitude that 11.5 mile loop brought with it highlighted how challenging this event really is.

The last official Aid Station was at the start of Rainbow Trail. A final checkpoint before the last push into town. Just a small table loaded with food and supplies. Another firm cutoff point though, and another point where the volunteers have to be aware of rider condition when encouraging them to keep moving.

And those are just the official check points. This year, Jefe B and Rachel A set up an impromptu bacon station on the Palisades. A sight for sore eyes, their warming bonfire after the chill of dropping off the Continental Divide.
Earl Walker - one of the race organizers - was all over the course on his moto. From tail vehicle on the road out of town to the checkpoint at Blanks. Then again just before the start of Tomichi Pass - on the other side of the Divide. Always aware and enthusiastic about everyone. I think I saw him twice more during the day - at Monarch and Marshall Pass. I was able to get info on how Nick was doing every time I saw him, and he passed along the same info to Nick.
Tom Purvis - another one of the race organizers and truly the face (or voice) of the Vapor Trail 125. In the two and a half minutes I was in at Snowblind, he cleaned and lubed my drive train and gave me updates on how everyone was doing. Again at Marshall, he was checking with the volunteers and providing encouragement to the riders. How much did Tom drive during the race? More then we rode - I'm sure! And yes, everyone in Salida has to have a slightly shy, crazy eyed dog named Vicki! I'm sure there are many more behind the scenes organizers and volunteers who work hard through out the year to make sure we riders have a smooth and safe race. If I didn't say thank you before, then I'm saying it now - Thanks to all the volunteers, race officials and everyone else involved in putting on the Vapor Trail 125. All your hard work really makes for an outstanding event.

Sep 10, 2015

Missing the moon

Last year, I wrote about the moon during the Vapor Trail 125 - the light of the nearly full moon illuminating the Colorado Trail as we started, creating ghost-like shadows on the Chalk Cliff and then vanishing behind the mountains as we climbed up towards Hancock. There was darkness in those trees - the total darkness a September night brings. And then the climb over the Continental Divide for the first time. The darkness was banished by the orange moon hanging low against the horizon. Truly surreal, combined with the tiny dots of lights across the valley. A moment that can only be experienced once and one that I was thrilled to be immersed in.

This year, there will be no moon. Perhaps, if I am lucky, the sliver of moon will appear as I climb up Granite Mountain. But otherwise, just the darkness of night and the chill of that darkness. Who know what lurks in the shadows of the backcountry? Without the moon, the noises will remain just a mystery - an incentive to pedal faster. If it is clear, the stars will provide somewhat of a distraction from the climbing, but that clearness will wrap the trail in alpine cold. Who knows what will greet me this Saturday night?

The darkness calls. To find the answers is to test myself to the limits.