Friday, December 31, 2010

I'll be coming home next year

Ah yes, the last day of the year when bloggers/facebookers/tweeters/number FREAKS start talking stats.
Well, mine are low compared to years past. I knew they would be but I was surprised by how much.
This year, I ran 1057 miles. That's almost 500 miles less that last year.
I rode 1010 miles and swam 27 miles in my half baked return to triathlons.
There are several reasons for the lower milage. I stopped marathon training and longer running after Boston as I knew I wasn't doing any big fall racing. I was still struggling with the naggin PF. Loren and I had a lot of hiking planned.
So let's review some high lights shall we?
Shamrock Half 1:41:18 PR while the sub 1:40 still eludes me, I'm really close and think 2011 might be the year.
Boston Marathon 3:41:07 PR BQ My first real shot at sub 3:40 and a BQ. I'm aging up so as things now with the BAA, I need a 3:50. We'll see how that changes going forward, though I don't plan on running Boston again for a while after 2011.
On the high pointing front, it was a hugely successful year, one which I don't think we'll be able to out do. We hit 17 high points brining my total to 28 and Loren's to 31. Oh and Ms Bea now has 7. In this quest, we ascended 40,220' (this number includes La Plata, which is not a state high point but is the 5th highest peak in CO at 14,336' and is a tougher hike than it's neighbor Mt Elbert which is CO high point). We did 2 winter climbs Mt Marcy in NY and Mt Mansfield in VT. Winter hiking is an amazing thing. These were my first 2 serious winter climbs and I loved every minute of it, even that brief time when I was bonking on Marcy.
We've seen amazing, beautiful, odd, parts of the US that most people never see and/or never think about. Some serious true America. This country is beautiful and amazing. Nature is one of the few places I know of where I can go out and meet someone I know has values and ideas that could not be more opposite than mine and yet that does not matter because we have (literally) this enormous common ground. When your 20 miles out from anything, your life may also depend on a stranger on the trail with you, political difference mean little in such situations.

So what does 2011 look like? Well here are my goals:
sub 1:40 in the half. I don't know which half yet
sub 3:40 in Boston (this is all starting to sound a bit familiar)
Sub 13 hour Ironman. I haven't done an Ironman since 2004. I think I am a much better athlete now so this should be interesting.
Summit Mauna Kea the high point of HI. I'm turning 40 in a few weeks so this will be my birthday present. While I won't be there for my actual birthday, Loren and I are planning for late Jan.
Summit Mt Rainer the high point of WA. Still working on when this will be as the climbing season is short but this is very exciting.
See what other high points we throw in there.

I think that about wraps it up. Thanks for following along this year and I wish all of you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I might be old but I'm someone new she said

As you might remember, last week, I ran a 15k in Van Corlandt park. It was wet, windy and wild. It wasn't a great run, but all things considered...
I also knew I'd be doing it again this week though in the friendlier Central Park. There was almost no chance the weather would repeat itself. Plus it wouldn't be on trails and mud even if it did rain/snow/ blow a house in my direction.
At the start, it was just about freezing, which is actually a nice temp. to run in.
I started running with old pal Megan. I knew I wanted to run faster than last week's 1:23:40 which, come on, shouldn't be hard. I told Megan I was looking to go somewhere between 8:30s-8:45. Just sorta a longish run a bit faster than a long run. Megan hasn't run that far since the NYC Marathon back in Nov.
Well weren't we just running and chatting. When I looked at my watch, I was surprised by the pace. It was hovering around 8 minute pace and didn't feel hard. This wasn't a goal race by any means so it was nice to run this way, chat through the miles and enjoy the morning.
Megan told me she wanted to finish fast and would pick it up at mile 6. I was quite content to stay right where I was, so off she went.
As she was leaving me, my long time friend and sometime coach Kelsey came by. He was out on a longish run as he gets ready to run his first Boston (fear not Kelsey, you're going to run through this winter!!!). Kelsey is a sub 3 hour marathoner so my pace was no problem for him. We spent the last 3 miles catching up and chatting. Just after mile 8, we saw Loren out running with Bea.
We came through the finish together.
This week: 1:15:59 about 8:09 pace.
I admit, I was surprised. I ran a 10k 2 weeks ago at 8:15 pace that felt a lot harder. This does tell me, however, I'm going into my Boston training pretty fit. Of course with my history of plantar fasciitis I do worry about it rearing it's ugly head (and painful heel) again. Loren and I have made a serious effort to do strength training for the last few weeks. Things that strengthen the core and hips and things that are generally weak with runners. After just a few sessions, I'm noticing a difference. Fingers crossed this is the piece that's been missing.
This will be my last race for the year. This will also be my last race (barring me getting some crazy idea in my head) as an open runner. Gulp. Yes, in a few week's time, I'll be debuting as a master. Fear not, however, I plan on staying the same immature jackass I've always been!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Against the wind

While getting back into shape, I've pinned on a number and run a few "races" the last 2 weeks. Last week was mostly so I'd get some speed work in. Look, I know I'm not in shape. No where near it. I had also just returned from my winter hiking trip which covered about 22 miles and 5000' or so of ascending and descending a couple of New England mountains that were frozen and snow covered, in 2 days.
Last week was a 10k that I ran with my pals Ishii and Rock. It actually went much better than I expected. 51:21 which is about 8:15 pace. So semi-tempo for right now.
This week however, oh this week was something special indeed. I've mentioned running cross country in Van Cortlandt park about a million times here. Well, every year, they end the season with a gift to all of us dirt devils: The Pete McArdle Cross Country Classic. Now in it's 49th year, this 15k race takes us on 3 lovely loops of the 5k course.
There are a few reasons I wanted to do this race:
1. I love it. It's crazy.
2. I really really really like 15k as a distance and it's just not a distance that's run often.
3. 15k is a nice build up for me milage wise. I don't think I've run even close to this far in months.
4. It started at 11:30 am
Now if this course isn't hard enough just on it's own, Mother Nature decided to pin a number on and come along this year. It was pouring off and on. Like sideways pouring. And it was sideways pouring because there was wind gusting up to about 30MPH.
The course is 3 loops, half hills in the woods, half flat flat flat straightaways.
Due to construction in the park, the start this year was a bit different. Instead of a nice fast straight on a lovely groomed path, we ran straight across a soggy soggy, like geese swimming in the grass soggy field. This wasn't too bad since once we hit that flat flat flat straightway, we were smacked in the face with the 30mph wind. It was relentless.
Every lap.
There's a lovely down hill that takes us out of the woods to the flats. Usually I look forward to this. I'm a good downhill runner and look forward to making up some time in the flats.
I was climbing the hills faster than I was running the flats. It was so strong you couldn't hear the person next to you, it was pulling drool out of my mouth. Such a good look. There was a reprieve for maybe a quarter mile leading back to the woods.
All things considered, I felt pretty good. I ran consistently though not fast AT ALL (1:23:40). Like 10 minutes slower than I've run 15k. Ok, yes, I know I'm not in shape, but times here were soft (first woman 1:14) though I do not think for lack of trying. I now feel like I had my ass seriously kicked.
In the end, it's all about who shows up. And today, not a lot of people showed up but the 165 who did earned their stripes. Holy crap, and those volunteers, oh man, what a great group. And or course a special thanks to Loren and Rayk who came out and did their own run while we were racing and cheered us all on.
My showing up was good for 2nd in my age group and 10th woman over all.
Lucky for me, I get to do the distance again next week, though in Central Park. That will be a cake walk compared to today.
Take a look at some photos of the race.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Wonderland

In late 2003, Loren and I planned on hiking Mt Marcy, the high point of NY. This trip never happened thanks to an insane blizzard. On the high point list, she had already done NY and I was missing it. Somewhere in my mind was the thought that I wanted to do it as a winter hike. Partially because I didn't get to do it when we first planned on it and partially because there are other mountains that are high points that require winter like skills, such as Mt Rainer, Mt Hood, and of course, Denali.
Mt Mansfield, the high point of VT isn't far from Marcy, so we decided on a double header.
Luckily with our schedules right now we can be flexible, which is a very good thing. We had planned on going the day after Thanksgiving. After keeping a close eye on the summit forcasts, we decided that 90 mile an hour winds with windchill of -20 just wasn't an option so we postponed the trip. For the next week, we watched and watched and watched until we found a window. Thurs and Fri we'd have air temps in the low teens with a wind chill of about 0 or maybe -2. PERFECT! (did I just say that?)
We drove up to Burlington on Wed. in the pouring rain. The entire way. We stayed with an old Esalen pal of mine for the night.
Thurs. morning, we headed to Stowe for the hike up Mansfield. There's a big difference between East coast and Western mountains. Western mountains are huge. They're high but generally have nice winding trails. East coast mountains are not very high (Mansfield tops out at 4393', Marcy 5244') but they are steep and rocky. The hike to the summit of Mansfield gains 2800' in 2.3 miles. It took us 6 hours to get up and back down, so do the math: less than a mile an hour.
What's also nice about East coast mountains are east coasters are crazy. About 1.8 miles up there trail (the Long Trail for those interested in the route), there's a lodge. And not a small one. 30 people could easily sleep in the bunkbed like platforms. I know in the summer it's gets a lot of use, but it does not sit empty in the winter either. People hike up the mountain all winter long, some of them then skiing back down the slopes of Stowe. We took off our spikes on the big porch (yup, spikes. The trail was pretty much a frozen stream bed) and sat inside for some tea and a snack before the last push up.
At the lodge, the trail splits giving one the option to stay in the nice warm protection of the trees for the last half mile. This is an option we took since it was very windy out of the tree line. Of course, there is a trade off for this. The trail, aptly called Profanity Trail, goes straight up and at times requires use of both hands and (spiked) feet.

Coming down it is no picnic either. I think we both fell at least twice.
Once above tree line, the weather changed dramatically. No more trees to protect us from the -0 windchill. This is not something you want to linger in, so we scurried to the summit, snapped some photos and got the hell outa there.

Once we hiked out and back to the car, we stopped at the Ben and Jerry's factory to refuel. Yes, it's winter and below freezing, but come on, how can I say no to ice cream?
Then on to NY. It was about a 3 hour drive and we arrived at the Adirondak Loj at about 8:30 pm. The loj has been there since 1890 (see? East coasters-CRAZY) and has a sign that says something like "hospitality since 1882". For the winter they keep half the camp ground open. Loren and I found a lovely lean to, pitched the tent inside and crawled into our 0 degree sleeping bags. It was about 25 degrees out so we were totally toasty.
We were the only ones camping.
The alarm went off at 5am. We were up, did camp chores and hit the trail head, with headlamps on, at 6:30.
The Van Hoevenberg trail to the summit is 14.8 miles round trip and gains 3200'. There was already snow on the ground and it fell lightly all day. After about 2.5 hours, we stopped for our first break. Right after, we had a tricky stream crossing. Luckily, we both made it with out soaking ourselves. If we had, it would have been grounds to turn around. No one wants to risk what would be 6 more hours with a frozen foot. Shortly after the stream, we put the spikes on.
We saw no one else on our way to the summit. We were following foot steps of someone, I assume a guy from the size of the foot prints, all the way up to the summit. He was alone and I thought about when he was there and what his accent was like. I also thought about the young man who has gone (what seems to be intentionally) missing the week before. While search parties were sent out searching, the only sign of him to turn up was his jacket at the Marcy Dam campground , 2 miles up the trail.
As we got to the sign indicating the summit was .6 miles away, we stepped out of the trees. Like in VT, the wind picked up and every thing was frozen and covered in rime ice. The trail blazed in yellow blocks of paint on this point of the trail, were almost impossible to find as most of the rocks they were painted on were covered in snow and ice. We relied on the large stone cairns hikers build for each other so the trail can be found. Those too, were covered in ice and snow but still visible.
It was a very steep climb up what was pretty much a sheet of ice.

Here's Loren on the last stretch. Snow shoes are required if there is more than 8' of snow. Since we didn't know what trail conditions were like that high up, we both had to carry our snow shoes which never left our packs. A Cairn is off to her left.
It didn't feel as cold on top of Marcy, but we didn't linger. Getting to the top is only half way. We still had 7.4 miles to negotiate back down.

I did climb on top of this rock slab to try and find the actual USGA marker but with no luck, it's under snow.
We hustled back down the mountain faster than we went up, going ass over tea kettle once or twice.
As we got about 4 miles down the trail, I was getting pretty tired. My feet hurt from walking on rocks for 2 days, in truth (yes Loren, I believe you were right) I may have been bonking a little. We stopped at Marcy Dam sat in a lean to and had a snack. I felt so much better. We covered the last 2.1 miles in about an hour. Over all, it took us 9 hours.
Once we returned to the trail head, wet shoes/socks and gaters were removed and we packed up all our gear.
2 more high points for me, brining my total to 26. More than half way there!
Just a few things about this sort of hiking:
1. yes it's cold, but your body will generate a lot of heat doing this sorta thing.
2. yes, it can be dangerous. Very. You slip and break your leg out there, you can be in serious trouble.
3. Wanna try it? Take a winter camping/hiking class or pal up to someone with some experience. Try something easy at first.
4. Invest in good equipment. It could, with out exaggeration, save your life.
5. Don't do anything stupid!
More pictures can be seen >here starting with 131.