Thursday, May 26, 2016

Testing the Tricks of the Trail

After studying trail running techniques and purchasing trail shoes, it was time to seriously practice trail running.  Sue and I had thought this through and signed up for the Shootout at Blackridge 5K last Saturday, May 21.  But we both had brand new never-been-worn trail shoes, and as all runners know, you don’t break in new shoes on race day.  So on the Monday before race day, we laced up the shoes and drove ourselves all the way out to Herriman so we could practice the actual race trail.

It was a good thing we did.  The trail was much different than what we expected from the race description.  While there were sections where the trail was “two-track,” for the most part it was a single, mildly steep, narrow lane.  The good news was (drum roll, please) – it all worked!

My new trail shoes, Altra Lone Peaks, are marvelous.  They feel great and they really do hold the trail – both uphill and down.  The technique of taking smaller steps and using the upper body for balance was a huge success.  I laughed at myself as “little tiny steps – dance with the mountain” became my mantra on the downhill.  I smiled as I realized that I was going a lot faster than I had allowed myself to go before.

Then it was race day.  And instead of the sunny weather and dusty trail we had experienced before, we found ourselves – along with 111 other crazies – running in the wind and rain on muddy trails.  Once again the news was good.  The new shoes held the mud well – a little too well.  I felt like my feet weighed 20 pounds as the mud caked on the shoes.  But I did not slip.  Not even once.

This was not my fastest 5K.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it was my slowest.  But I felt really good about the practice, and am feeling more confident in my trail running ability.  My advanced age also contributed to this slowest-ever time still resulting in a 2nd place finish in my age division.  Sue and I were in the same age division in this race, so it didn’t bode well for the home team.  Sue finished a good 5 minutes ahead of me.  We both held our own against our much-younger competition. 

As we warmed up in the car after the race, taking care not to get too much mud on the floor mats, we commented that now there was nothing the Yellowstone Half could dish out that we couldn’t take.  And our shoes are now, well, a little more trail-worthy.

T-minus 16 days and counting down to the Yellowstone Half Marathon.  Bring it!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Hot Time at Red Rock Relay

Team Girls’ Day Out, the coolest team that has ever run the Red Rock Relay, arrived in Moab late in the afternoon of May 13.  This year our captain and official housing arranger, Dawn, secured a beautiful condo for the entire team, including Helen and her very brave husband, Bill.

Helen made the decision last year to transition to alumna status on the team, so Dawn’s niece, Merissa, took her place in the lineup. We showed up at 5:30 AM – in the dark – wearing our new team shirts with this year’s logo, and sent Lyndsay, our first runner, on her way.

The temperature was pleasant – until the sun came out.  And then it started to warm up.  And then it started to really warm up.  We knew that hot weather was in the forecast, but we didn’t think we’d be affected by it until the last few runners of the afternoon.

We were wrong.  Once we started the heavy climbs, everyone started to feel the effects of the heat.  We started dumping water on ourselves.  We ran in our sport bras – yes, even those of us who are old enough that we probably shouldn’t run in our sport bras.  But the heat still took its toll.

Even with the heat, the race was a lot of fun.  We bantered back and forth with several other teams, including a team that came all the way from North Carolina, a bachelorette party, a really fun team that had brought a large spray bottle and used it liberally, and an ultra-running team, 3 men that were all veterans.  We picked the team we had to beat – the girls in the blue tanks.  Why?  Because they changed clothes in the porta-potties.  Note to all relay teams:  never do this.  Porta-potties have one purpose and one purpose only.  To use them for any other purpose is just sick and wrong.  And yes – we beat them.  By about 5 minutes.

My personal experience was that I really couldn’t run more slowly, so I found myself running a while, walking a while, drinking/dumping water, and doing it again.  I felt so sluggish, and felt that I’d let the team down, until we realized that we really had done quite well.  Our finish time was 10 hours and 18 minutes – only 2 minutes slower than last year – for a 10:06 pace.  I finished leg 7 – that horrible uphill with the switchbacks – in the same time that Lyndsay had done the previous year, and I finished leg 12 in 58 minutes – only two minutes slower than my projected time.

As we debriefed, we realized that this was the first time the Red Rock Relay had been hot.  We decided that if it’s hot again next year, we’ll split the late afternoon legs so nobody has to do six to eight miles in 90 degree weather.  And we’ll bring our very own very large spray bottle.  Oh, yes, we’ll be back next year – only we’ll change our title to “Hottest Team Ever.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Role Models

Helen, Cheri and Sue - the first half of team Girl's Day Out
Shortly after I retired I learned that two women I had known for years – Sue and Helen – were also runners.  Why I didn’t find out until after retirement still astounds me, but the good news is, I did find out.  And we started running together.  And we started doing races together.  And we started doing travel races together.  And we became half of the well-known relay team, Girls’ Day Out.  What?  What do you mean you’ve never heard of us?

I find it so much more fun running with people than running by myself.  I train harder, and I go out to run with them no matter what conditions are like.  Because Helen and Sue are going to be there, and they’re not going to wimp out because of a little rain or snow.  We talk while we’re running.  We talk about our families.  We talk about our plans.  We talk about the races we’ve run and the races we’re planning to run.  Sometimes we even whine about our running injuries – but not often.  We encourage one another.  We cheer for each other’s accomplishments – both on and off the pavement. 

Ida Keeling
Helen and Sue are both older than I am.  They are role models to me.  I hope to still be running when I am their age.  Actually, I hope to be still running with them when I am the age that they are now.  I hope to someday have Sue’s speed and strength.  I hope to someday have Helen’s peaceful determination.  I hope to one day watch as Helen or Sue beats Ida Keeling’s record for the fastest

At the last 10K we ran together, we chatted with some younger women who had just finished the race.  They commented on how much fun it must be to have friends that you’ve been running with for years.  And while we’ve been running together for a much shorter time than our respective chronological ages might indicate, we all encouraged them to keep running, and to keep running together.

 I guess that makes me a role model, too.  I am hopeful that I, like Helen, Sue, and Ida, can encourage women of all ages to be runners for life.