Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ski to Sea

I now understand very clearly all of the the words of warning about the quad blasting 8 mile 2200 ft downhill run leg of the Ski to Sea.  My choice to do this 6 days after running a 50k ultra-marathon was simply my own typical "wise choice".  Smiles still all around, its all in good fun and I was happy to help out Team Deep Cove Outdoors http://www.deepcoveoutdoors.com who were in desperate need of a runner at the last minute due to a sickness.

All aside, the Bellingham Ski to Sea http://www.skitosea.com/ is a fantastic event.  Beginning at the top of Mt Baker with 8 athletes per each of the 500 teams relay down to the sea (Fairhaven, WA).  It begins with a cross-country ski, then downhill ski, run, road bike, 2 person canoe, mountain bike then finishes with kayak.  Unfortunately, the weather gods decided to ignore us for the day and gave us a steady downpour of lovely west coast rain.  We all just smiled, shrugged our shoulders and thanked god for Gore-Tex.

Knowing I was competing on last year's 3rd place winning team, I was mighty anxious that my lack of preparedness would effect the team and didn't sleep a wink the night before.  I pulled out my road runners, laced them up good and tight, and just aimed to keep my leg turnover quick and my stride smooth.  Seeing as I couldn't really feel my legs because they were wet and frozen I felt quite super for about 6 miles the rest was a quad cramping suffer-fest but I kept my spirits high with "she'll be coming around the mountain" ringing over, and over in my head!  (Too boot I ran my first sub 40 minute 10k on the way down, even though it doesn't really count).  I passed on the timing chip to our biker who had the bluest lips I have ever seen, gulped down my bottle of water, plunged into my warm bag of warm clothes I left with the biker and then laid down, put my legs up a cold cement wall, and watched the world upside down for a while while I tried to get the blood from rushing to my damaged legs.

During the remainder of the 3 hour wait for the remainder of the runners to finish and for our team cars to trickle down the one lane mountain road, myself and the rest of the 500 soggy runners stood in puddles, and did our best to just keep the laugh going. 

So happy to sea my teammate's VW Westifalia, I slopped myself in the backseat as they drove back to Bellingham.  Along the way we received text updates on our ranking and we made it to the finish in Fairhaven just in nick of time to greet our finishing kayaker.  I polished off a couple of IPA's (awesome recovery drink in my world) at the beer garden and then received our award for 3 place in the Women's Competitive Division.

So glam I am, taking no time to smile for the camera too distracted by my jacket zipper.  Soggy but fun day, with the world's best sleep after (and very moisturized skin)!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sun Mountain 50k

(photo credit to Glenn Tachiyama)

Any race that involves those awe-inspiring stop and smell the roses (wild flowers) moments are good in my books.  The HWY 20 drive up east through the Cascade Range is absolutely beautiful.  The town of Winthrop, Washington is a hidden gem (as was the resort we stayed at "River's Edge Resort"....a definite gem!). This was my third "ultra": my first was the 2012 Kneeknacker, followed by the 2013 Chuckanut 50k, and the upcoming endeavor being the White River 50 mile in July.  My goal was to race in under 6hrs and without injury seeing as Kneeknacker I was in the depths of Iliotibial Band syndrome and Chuckanut I pulled a hamstring the week prior.

I entered this race a month or so ago after Chuckanut 50k.  With a leisurly 10:00am start I approached Sun Mountain 50k with my standard "I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing-and-wish-I-took-the-time-to-research-the-course" approach.  Coming from my background of rowing very competitively on the national team, having a race plan memorized down to the every stroke, and with a definite plan saturated with precision - I have swung to the other side of the pendulum and now just love simply being out there moving one foot in front of the other.  Thus far I find my I-have-no-idea approach so very fresh and exhilarating.

Sun Mountain 50K was undoubtedly up to par; we could not have asked for better weather. The sun was warm but the wind was a crisp and cool northwesterly.  The race organizers are awesome...highly organized but very laid back at the same time. It had rained throughout the week but only a few mud puddles were to be hopped.  The majority of the course was a dirt, very non-technical single track with rolling terrain.  The 1200ft first climb was only existent on my heart rate monitor, I could not get my heart rate below 180 for the life of me, then realized after the fact why.

As per the norm, the group around me were full of positivity and strength that somehow osmotically pulled me up the hills and pushed me down (I still right suck at downhills).  The race literally flew by for me (since this was the first time I set my GPS on miles...felt so much shorter!).  My only hitch was the last 1200 ft climb up Patterson (an out and back climb up a steep, highly exposed. mountain-hill where the crew leading and coming back down gave us this look of sympathy while muttering some words of strength).  The race was an expected definite challenge with 5000ft of elevation gain but the "oh-gees" moments are those I live for.  I exceeded my expectations with a time of 5:38:37 and 14the female overall.  To boot, there was the most delicious beer at the finish line!  Definite stars in my books!!

Without injury (well...2 days later I am still using my arms a lot, and downstairs are entertaining - but much better than the last).  I am actually starting to love not being all that good at something and the challenge ahead to get better.  Can't wait for the next....