Monday, April 18, 2016

Early season happenings - skiing, injury, track race, Buffalo 50k, bosho

Forgive my everything-in-one post.  I just need to get it all down and checked off the life to-do list

So the plan after Wasatch 100 was to take an off season.  A real one.  Like I haven't had in several years.  You can only push the body so long and I didn't want to push those limits.  I want decades in this sport enjoying my body and what's around me.  
Well, then  TNF 50 came up as an Altra USATF team event and I jumped.  I still had the fitness, would just need to tune it up for a month or so and then would take that off season.  And for the first month I so enjoyed it!  I loved not having to go out in the frigid cold or wind or chunky icy trails or roads.  This break was good, I wasn't itching for it to be over.  We skid several times as a family which was SO fun!  So neat to see my kids be so into and active.  Truth moment?  My kids are really whiny about getting outside and being active, and sometimes are lazier than kids should be, and that's hard for my active husband and I.  It feels like we're not teaching them something or not teaching effectively.  So to have our whole family out on the mountain, even if it is green runs for the baby and I (and they're my comfort zone), was so good!

These two kids, our 10 and 8 year old are animals on the slopes!  They get a kick out of having to wait for their mom :)

And then this happened.  First week of January at Outdoor Retailer Demo Day at Snowbird my husband encouraged me to go on this beginner backcountry guided ski tour as I do really like skinning up, but need more practice going back down.  Which made itself very clear 2 turns into my first big powder experience.  With a crust hidden underneath.  Yep, sprained my ankle bad.  Bad enough I thought I broke it and the guide offered to call a helicopter since there was no way I could ski on this thing.  Um, no thank you.  So I spent the next hour awkwardly and painfully hiking down in my ski boots with a snowshoe group that was heading down.  Ugh.  
 Long story short, it took way longer to heal than I expected.  This getting older thing?  A reality!  Ligaments are always slower to heal though and I just didn't have the patience for it.  But I was a good patient and used crutches for a week, didn't run for at least 4 weeks I think, and even swimming was out, too much ankle movement.  So at least I got a nice long off season for the rest of the body eh?  Like I predicted would probably happen though, the generally advised 8 weeks would come by, and I'd be ok.  And that's about how it went.  But those 8 weeks had me pretty worried.

During my time off, my husband decided out of the blue he wanted to do the Antelope Canyon 50, except only the best parts scenery wise.  And he certainly wasn't in shape for a 33 mile day, but we had hoped he could just go slow and take care of himself and enjoy a long day on the amazing course.  I so wanted him to have a good experience, because his last big thing, the Zion Traverse a few years ago, left him not wanting to do anything like that again.  Kids and I saw him around 13 and he complained a little but was fine.  Missed him at 20 or so which I hated, but I hear he was in good spirits.  And then we saw him come into around mile 28.  NOT HAPPY.  He was hot, tired, worn out from miles of sand and simply miles beyond what his body was prepared for.  He was discouraged and emotional.  All things I have been many times and while friends teased us that he would have to give me a real hard time to make up for how whiny and grumpy I can be during crew stops, I was happy to be there and take care of him!  I knew not to take anything personally, I knew to offer him what I knew could help, but not to offer too much when his brain was fried, and to not get upset if he said no to everything.  I was worried how he would handle these next 5 miles, knew he wanted to be done, but the best canyon to come was thankfully in front of him and I was able to get him out of there.  And it was the best feeling ever to see him 5 miles later, smiling and running to his finish for the day.  He did a big thing for him, and he was happy, and I'm so happy it went that way!

Back home, able to run up to 9 miles fine on paved surfaces, certainly no trail, I decided to get the competitive juices flowing again with an indoor 440m half marathon at the Utah Olympic Oval.  I have done a 50k here before, so wasn't too worried about the boredom side of it, I enjoyed that 50k.  Got there literally 2 minutes before the start, story of my life, and squirmed my way up to the front hoping to run with friend Ari (center in the photo below) but didn't quite make it.  And she is a beast who took off and I never would have stayed with anyway.  Good news, ankle was good for half the race.  Bad news, it didn't feel great for the other half and neither did I.  Just felt so heavy and forced and mentally  not there.  There was slow office music playing overhead the whole time and I forgot my own music.  Anyway, it was good to get the miles, but didn't leave me with the excitement races usually do.  Ran a high 1:3something.  2nd place.  Was slower than I expected, but it seemed like everyone was without the aid of any downhill.

Skip forward a month and I had been enjoying my time on the paved trails close to home, really!  Pavement doesn't have to suck.  I get to run with my daughter in the Chariot and there are better views of the mountains down here too ;)  Really I was just doing what was good for my ankle, and also working on leg speed and turnover, really training for Western States now.  Buffalo races on Antelope Island is a race I've been to every year since I started ultrarunning.  Their fall 50k was actually my first ultra fall of 2012.  I wanted to volunteer out there and also run so was planning on the 25k.  I really hadn't run on trail more than 3-4 hours total since my injury and it was touchy.  But I figured I'd be ok for 25k.  I've been ranked in and following the Ultrarunning Magazine ultrarunner rankings for a few months after I popped into the top 10 after TNF.  They take your top 50k, 50m, 100k, and 100m time over a year period and basically try to produce a ranking of overall ultra performance.  The only distance I had not done for the ranking was 50k.  Nursing school was and is crazy, and I just wasn't sure I'd have a Saturday free in the next month to travel to a race before the ranking ended.  So after much self deliberation and trying to get other people to make the decision for me, I decided I'd go out with the 50k and if I needed to stop after the first 25k loop for the ankle, I would.  Or I hoped I would.  For a competitive mind like myself, this wasn't the smartest plan :)
These great photos courtesy of Lori Burlison.  Thanks for your cheery face Lori!
I did not bring my brace with me because  I don't like how locked in I am, I almost feel more unstable.  But I also didn't want to hurt the ankle again on this run, more trail than I'd done in months, so I decided to have the medical sports guys there tape my ankle.  And I pretty much hated it from the get go :(  Something bothered me and I didn't know whether it was the ankle or the tape job, but I figured I'd give it a while before ripping it off.  I tried to be somewhat conservative that first loop, but like the track race, just felt kind of off.  I decided with about a half mile to go before the 25k point and turnaround for loop 2, I needed to know what this feeling was.  So I sat down in the dirt beside the trail for a couple minutes and ripped all the tape off (which can I say left my leg burning for like an hour!  ouch!).  The burning hurt but the ankle felt better!  I resistantly but almost instinctually headed back out for lap 2.

 And lap 2 rocked!  I mean it took me about a mile in, but then things just kind of clicked and I felt normal and fast and strong.  The goal for this race was to even split if I ended up doing the 50k, and I wanted to try for that.  So I pushed, but not crazy like, I just never gave up any time.  I had a great experience at the Ogden Marathon last year where I really pushed the last 15 miles, and it told me I could, I could push for a while.  I've used the mental strength I gained there in several races since, and used it that day at Buffalo.  I wasn't afraid of the pace I was running, I could be strong and hold it, none of this waiting for the last mile or two to start pushing.
The Wasatch Mountain Wranglers were out there and it was fun to see them and have their help to move quickly through their aid station.  I continued to push hard hoping to run under 5 hours, and never gave that up until I saw 5:00 hit, about 100 yards from the finish line - darn!  But it was exciting to try for it.  But I ran a 5:01, 3rd place, I'd made up a lot of time on those ahead of me, even splitted!, a 19 minute course PR, but more than that - my ankle was good!

Gosh that was a huge turning point for me.  It meant that Western States training was game on more than it already was.  And it's helped push me onto the next phase of training both physically and mentally.  Little podcast I was flattered to be asked to do by Trail Manners, here

So this last weekend I had the opportunity to do a run which shall not be named.  Ok, that's the story we like to tell, but it's an organized fun run more than race, Bosho.  You can report your time, but there's no timing, no shirts, no entry fees.  I've wanted to do this one for a while and was excited for the chance. 
The day before it rained and snowed up there good. We were all worried about mud but the trails were in such good shape and so green and beautiful!

A lot started at 6am, some started at 7am, and I started at 6:20am.  I was bummed to have missed the first group, but those first few miles of trail all alone in the twilight sky with sunflowers popping all over the green hillside were really nice.  And then I spent the next several hours passing earlier starts and getting to chat for a moment with everyone along the way.  I don't remember most names, but they were all so happy and friendly, what a way to spend a morning!

Soon enough the 7am speedsters came just blazing by, like crazy fast.  Made me question my training pace that I thought was sufficient, and it was for a training effort, they were just super fast and fun to watch.  It was good to get up and down bigger climbs than I've been doing, and remind myself what a big climb is.  Need to do more of those up and down and strengthen the quads and downhill steep technical footing.  I wanted to push the last 4-5 miles as prescribed and that was fun.  Tried to once again chase down that sub 5, but ended up at 5:10 and that's ok.  A great training run in control like it was supposed to be, super happy to not have any real mental or physical lows, didn't take any caffeine or vitamin I, and didn't feel the need to put music in till 4 hours in despite running alone for most of the race.  Great morning!  Happy to be alive, healthy, improving, and be supported by my generous but human husband who picks up a lot of the slack.  Couldn't do all this without him.

Onward and upward!  He and I get to head out to Mendocino, California this weekend for a 50k I'm really excited to see!  I graduate May 4th and hopefully take the NCLEX that month.  Then want to run a 50miler May 14, thinking Quadrock (ouch) but not sure yet.  End of May is Western States training camp, and then comes the big dance June 25!  Oh, and lots of training and family spread in there too of course  :)


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