Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BooneCrusher 12-hour Adventure Race

This winter I decided to focus on running.  If you know me this probably seems like an idiotically obvious statement, but what I mean is that I opted to fore-go including myself on the summer calendar of my adventure racing team (GearJunkie/WEDALI).  One of the only races I committed to was the season-opener race down in Boone, IA.  A 12-hour event called the BooneCrusher.  So this past weekend, my GJ/WEDALI teammates and I packed up our plentiful gear and headed south to "Go for Broke, or Be Broken" (the race slogan).

Moving on to the race itself... I'll try break it down by section.

Section 1 - Trek. The course started out with a trek section that included a long road-run out-and-back that took teams up and out of the river valley area, and then back to the Seven Oaks Resort ski area.  The guys were nice enough to load me up with an extra pack for the most of the road-running section so I could get some extra run training in.  ;) 

Section 2 - Bike.  Single-track, technical mountain biking. Not the most difficult I've ever seen, but not the easiest.  And although I've been known to threaten to throw my bike off of cliffs while struggling to stay upright on winding, greasy single-track trails, I think I did all right.  My teammates are much better bikers, but were patient and encouraging throughout the section and we were able to maintain a lead on the competition despite having to fix a flat tire at the very end of the section.  Oh and at the very end, we got to bomb down a legit ski hill on our bikes.  Super fun!

Section 3 - Bike.  Road biking, mostly gravel and hilly.  When you think of Iowa, you think of flat farmland.  That was not the case with this race.  There were plenty of hills, and lots of gravel.  Flat tire number 2 happened on this leg, and someone (not involved with the race) stole one of the checkpoints from it's location, but other than that, a pretty uneventful section.

Section 4 - Trek.  We pulled into this section essentially tied with two other teams (Wild Hares and Inspire), but Biz's magical ability to sniff out checkpoints, along with our teams good fitness, allowed us to separate from the field throughout the tough bushwhacking section.

Section 5 - Paddle.  We ended the trek back by our bikes, but instead of hopping on our wheels, we packed our bikes into the canoes and took off down the river.  The water levels were decent and the flow was good, so even though we were bucking a serious headwind, we were able to knock out the approximately 9 mile paddle section in under 2 hours.

Section 6 - Trek.  We unloaded our bikes from the boats, but before we hopped back on the saddle, we had a quick trek loop, mostly on roads.  The day was heating up by now, and running on the open cement recreation trail was taking its toll on everyone.  We were running low on fluids and looking forward to wrapping this section and getting back to our bikes (with water bottles).

Section 7 - Bike.  We came back to the transition area, hopped on our bikes, and PSSSSST...flat tire number three.  The dudes fixed it lickety-split and we were back on the road, until PSSSST...flat tire number four.  Replacement number two in place, when PSSSST...flat tire number five!  All on the same bike, same tire.  The guys worked as fast as they could to change each tire, but it was hot, we were now almost completely out of liquid, and we could see other teams starting to catch up.  Finally after three changes, we got back on the road.  Now we just had to pray for no more flats because we were out of spare tires (and had been when we had flat #5, fortunately one of our competitors, the Gnome Hunters, were in transition at the same time as us and offered up one of their spare tubes).

Section 8 & 9 - Bike.  Section 8 was supposed to be a trek, which I needed.  I had been holding my own pretty well all day on the bike (especially considering I hadn't biked all winter long), but the day's efforts were starting to wear on me and I could have used a trek section (my strength).  But because the race was taking longer than expected, the race director informed us that we could bike section 8 instead of trek it.  Makes for a much faster effort, but my bike legs felt like jelly.  We picked up all of the section 8 points, and now it was just a long ride (picking up a few points along the way) back to the finish.  For the last 30 minutes or so I relied on my teammates to help me mentally and physically power through to the finish.

When we finally arrived back at the start/finish location, we were the first 12-hour team to arrive, and we had cleared the course (found all checkpoints).  It took 11 hours for us to finish, and it wouldn't have been possible without some excellent teamwork, navigation and perseverance.  I feel extremely lucky to have found a place on the GearJunkie/WEDALI roster.

Kudos to race directors, Jerrett Fried and Steve Oberbroeckling, and all of their wonderful volunteers who put on a first-rate show.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston 4/15/13

Preface:  everything in this post is trivial compared to the horrific, senseless acts of violence at the end of the marathon.  My heart goes out to all of the people who suffered injury or worse due to explosions. There has been a saying/quote going around that I think sums it up best:  "If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target."  

That being said, in an effort to keep on, keepin' on, here's a post about my experience... 
                Smiles were aplenty BEFORE the race...
So it's done.  It's over.  It's in the books.  With big expectations and visions of a PR (personal record), I set off for the Boston Marathon this past weekend.  After a winter illness setback and a disappointing effort at the Senshu International Marathon in February, I felt like I had done everything right from mid-February to race day to get myself in respectable racing shape. 
First up, before the race, the technical meeting (a meeting to inform all male & female elites of the race day sequence of events and "rules of play").  Sitting in that room with all of those heavy hitters was a super fun experience, and something I hope to replicate in the future.  Water bottle staging was next, then it was off to the hotel for final prep and a night of restless sleep before race morning.
Special buses took elites to the start, escorted by a full police motorcade stopping traffic for us.  Nice.  Sat around in a small church, staying warm and getting my mind right before race time.  I felt good, felt confident.  I had a race plan based on my fitness (not quite 100%, but within striking distance of that 2:45 PR) and the course elevation (those tricky hills).  If I stuck to my plan, I should have a good day. 
9:32am.  Game on.  Luckily the field of elite women went out tentatively so I got to run with the big dogs for a couple of miles.  Felt easy, breezy because we started out with a downhill.  I passed through the 5k about 5 seconds off my planned time.  Sweet!  Kept rolling, feeling strong and fit and hitting all of my pace markers until the half-way point.  From 13 to 17ish, the first couple hills, I started gaining on the two runners in front of me and I felt GOOD!  Then from 19 to 20 the wheels kind of feel off.  21 to the finish was probably the longest, worst 5 miles I've raced to date.  I had eaten a bit during the race to this point, and been drinking a combo of water and electrolytes at every station, but my energy just disappeared.  My legs weren't cramping, but I started getting tunnel/starry vision like I might faint at any second.  Not ideal for running.  This seems to be a trend, which ticks me off to no end...more about this later.
I put everything I had into those last five miles, but it was pretty pathetic.  I slogged across the finish line about 15-seconds under 2:51. 
So...am I disappointed? Beyond what I can explain. This was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow that days later still gives me a stomachache.  I was given an amazing opportunity to start with the elites and make a statement in the world of running, and I feel like I pretty much blew it.  Will I be salty about this and replay every moment of the race for days (and likely weeks to come)?  Yup.  Will I re-examine my training for necessary adjustments?  Yup.  But I think the biggest consequence and most lasting effect will be that this disappointment has ignited a fire in me.  For two years I have basically enjoyed constant improvement with my marathon results.  I set a few lofty goals and I achieved them.  That's easy to handle.  Now this year, I've been hit with two back-to-back sub-par performances where I didn't achieve my goals (Japan being the first sub-par performance).  I feel like this is a golden opportunity to test how I'm going to react when things don't go well.  I'm not going to pretend like I'm not still sulking around, I am.  But I'm also recovering, looking at my racing/training calendar, and getting fired up for my next race. 
Running might seem like a silly and trivial thing to most, but it has become one of my greatest passions.  And to accept mediocrity in this passion simply won't do.  I know I have a few good racing years left in these legs and I will continue to push the limits of what my body can handle.  

Oh, and I should mention...racing in Boston is amazing!  The crowds, the race organization, the expo, basically everything, is first-class awesome.  AND my buddy Pete from the orienteering club, and ALL six of my MN RED club mates had great races.  Kudos to them!  

                     Pete and me on race morning...Pete killed it!