Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oceanside Sunrise

One of my favorite things to do when I am back East is catch the sunrise from the beach. Sure, it requires getting up a bit earlier than usual for the drive to the coast from my parents's house, but the 3am alarm and the hour drive are well worth it. I hopped in the car with my friend John this morning and we headed down to the Rhode Island shoreline in the dark early hours. The sky was just barely beginning to turn pink when we arrived, and we waded out into the water to soak it all in. I got overly excited and hopped into the water before the sun peaked up over the horizon.

I love sunrise in the foothills, but there is no comparison to watching the day start from across the ocean. I could talk more on that, but my sunrise companion this morning, John, put together a video for me that does more justice to the morning than I ever could. He even put it to the song that I was singing all day long. 

Video Credit: John Shadwell
Music: 3rd Planet by Modest Mouse

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Road Trip! Leg Three: Missoula to the Whitetail Cabin

I honestly don't remember much of the drive from Missoula to the cabin that I reserved in Custer National Forest. Lots of freeway time with 80mph speed limits, lots of mountains in the distance, and lots of yawning. This was the only day of the trip that I felt incredibly discouraged and questioned my decision to make this long drive by myself. I was completely exhausted from my night of little sleep, and when I got on the road in the morning, it seemed unfathomable to me that I had to spend the entire day in the car, and then the entire day after that, and after that.. I was in that mode of being too tired and feeling as though I could start crying at any moment. I tried to pull over to rest my eyes for a few moments, but the car was hot, and Gracie just panted in my ear, preventing me from falling asleep.

View up the road from the cabin. 

I had to pull off the freeway several times because I felt myself getting drowsy. This is something important for anyone taking a long drive to consider. Even if you have enough sleep and caffeine, sitting on the freeway for hours and hours can lull you into tiredness, and it's important to not be so dedicated to not stopping that you neglect to pull off and take care of yourself. There were a few times throughout the week that I pulled off the freeway to find a shady spot to nap, but I wound up driving around for five minutes looking for shade, and that was enough to wake me back up. Just hopping off at an exit for a few moments was often enough to reset me.
I was super intrigued by
this little guy.

For this night, I decided to reserve a cabin in Custer National Forest. I was checking out all my green spaces on the map for a place to camp, but after evaluating the area and realizing that I would be in bear country, I thought that it would be worthwhile to reserve a space with walls and a door, especially because I had the dogs with me. I found a few cabins that were available through the forest service, and settled on the Whitetail Cabin. In order to get there, I had to hop off the highway and travel for several miles on dirt forest service roads through beautiful fields, rolling hills, and forests. It was a very isolated location. I noticed a campground just up the road from my cabin, but there was only one vehicle visible, and I didn't see or hear another person for the entire evening. This particular cabin is equipped for people who may wish to bring their horses, so I had to open a padlocked gate as well as the door to the cabin.

The axe is already there- perfect for a murder movie.
I got to the cabin at about 6pm, and I was just ready to collapse by the time I arrived. I thought to myself that I may be safe from the bears, but the cabin looked it could have been the backdrop for an axe murder film. I was pretty amused as I walked around and checked the place out. The website says, "Whitetail Cabin is a registered historic site and was once used as a ranger station for the Whitetail Reserve in the early 1900's." I learned that "historic site" may mean "slightly dilapidated."

That isn't to say that I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone passing through the area. In fact, I would highly suggest checking it out. The cabin is not in the best shape- it is super old, there are plenty of bugs inside, the outhouse is around back, it was baking hot from sitting in the sun throughout the day- but it offered everything that I could want. I didn't have to worry about bears bothering me and the dogs in the tent, it had electricity (including a stove and refrigerator), and mattresses. It was also cool to be able to read the register for all the other people who had come to stay in the cabin. It's pretty cool that we have the ability to stay in such places, though minimally maintained, they are real gems. And did I mention that it only cost $25 a night? The tent spot that I reserved in Bryce cost more!
Evening sky.

I cooked myself up some dinner (pasta mixed with a box of Thai-style soup and a can of chickpeas) and sat outside with a book. I was so wiped out that I couldn't even focus on reading, and I eventually gave up and just sat at the table with my dinner. I continued to sit after I finished eating, just enjoying the quiet and the fact that I wasn't doing anything. It is easy in the time that we live to feel like we must always be DOING something. Anytime you go someplace with lines, observe what people are doing while they wait. Especially with phones, it is easy to find ways to engage in things that are not immediately present around you. I am frequently sucked into this trap myself. I listen to my news on a podcast when I am in the shower, I watch Netflix on my computer while I cook dinner, I play on Facebook when I am standing in line at the store. Not that it is bad to sit and read a book, but it was so nice to just enjoy the moment and watch and listen and think.

Evening sky.
View from inside- getting ready for bed.

I sat outside until the sun started to settle and the brightness in the sky began to fade. (I probably would have gone to bed earlier if it wasn't light!)  I moved myself into the cabin, journaled for a little while and left my mark in the register, and got myself into my sleeping bag on the plastic-covered mattress on my bunk bed. Jake still insisted on sleeping in my bed with me, but Gracie was happy to sleep on the other mattress. I was worried about her barking at noises outside, but we slept peacefully the whole night.

Morning sky.
My breakfast at the picnic table for sunrise through the trees.

 woke up feeling incredibly well-rested and in great spirits, completely opposite from the day before. I could hear morning happening outside the cabin. The world was coming to life as birdsongs and light was beginning to fill the sky. I was surprised when I looked at my watch to see that it was a little before 5am. I took the dogs outside and made myself a nice cup of tea and a breakfast of granola and banana. (Shelf-stable soy milk is a wonderful thing to bring camping.) The colors in the sky in the morning rivaled those of the sunset the night before. Both were stunning. The day felt a bit brighter, and I wasted no time in getting us loaded into the car and back on the road while the day was new and the air was still cool.

I had to stop along the dirt road on the way back to the highway to take photos. It may just have been my attitude shift, but everything seemed more vibrant in the morning. I was ready to be on the road with another long day ahead of me.

Next leg: Whitetail Cabin to Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse Memorial to Badlands National Park to Palisades State Park (Spoiler: It was an awesome day.)
The start of a new day.


One of my favorite photos from the whole trip.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Road Trip! Leg Two: Riggins to Missoula

The leg from Riggins to Missoula was another short hop- just a little over 4 hours. I have to say that of all the driving on the trip, this section was probably the most beautiful and enjoyable. I left Riggins with plenty of snacks in hand and recommendations about where to stop along the way. Following those pointers, I pulled over and checked out Wild Goose Campground along the highway and explored a bit at the top of Lolo Pass. 

Lolo pass is notable not just because of the scenic mountains, but because it was on the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There is a pretty big welcome center that is full of books and displays that detail the trip and the local area. Since I had the dogs in the car, I didn't spend too much time inside- I just wanted to inquire about the trails. Jim had mentioned that I could get on a trail at Lolo, so I asked the woman at the information desk about the trail. She told me that the loop was just about two miles but that there may still be snow. 

"Oh yeah," piped in some guy that was standing nearby. "There is still really deep snow. You wouldn't be able to get through the whole trail unless you had boots. It is up to your knees." He went on about this for a few minutes. I had my doubts about his description, but I figured that it wouldn't be worth changing into my running shoes. I headed out to the loop, and found that he was, in fact, being very dramatic. I find sort of discouragement is something that I encounter every so often from strangers. It wasn't that this man was trying to be discouraging, but perhaps that he was looking out for me, assuming that I am more delicate than I like to think that I am. I think women encounter this a lot. I know that I have on other occasions- checking my oil, etc. 

Wetland Trail on Lolo Pass
We did encounter snow on the trail, but because of the time of year, the spots that were covered on the trail had pretty dense snow, and I could easily walk across the top of it- in my Chacos. In fact, I decided to run the trail after all, and I give the Chacos an A+ for wearability for a 2 mile trail run. The trail was cool, but nothing crazy special since it was so short. The sky spit on my just slightly while I was out there, but it was great to see the big dark clouds going through the old burn on the hillside. The trail I ran is also used for snowshoeing in the winter, and I was thoroughly amused by how high the yellow trail markers were that lined the trail for that time of year. I would recommend this stop for anyone making the drive, if nothing else than for a little chance to stretch the legs. I would have checked out the welcome center a bit more if I didn't have the pups with me.

Cloudy skies, old burn. Beautiful.
Please note the little yellow sign that marks this as a snowshoe trail in the winter. 
Onward to Missoula! As I mentioned in an earlier post, Missoula was not quite on the route. However, I had heard great things about the city, and since it didn't add that much time, I thought it would be a worthwhile detour. I was planning on camping, and as my departure date got closer, I seriously considered rerouting because thunderstorms were predicted for the night that I would be in town. I was very fortunate, though, to have been offered another place to stay with a new friend from the NEW Leadership Idaho conference, Ellie. We made plans to meet for dinner downtown, so I got myself to the first trailhead I could to take my puppies out for a run. Especially at the beginning of my trip, I was very worried about their manners in strange places, so I wanted them to get some more exercise to be a bit more tired. 
I wouldn't mind living on that hillside. 
One of the reasons that it is nice to have a smartphone on a road trip (in addition to navigation, pandora, podcasts...) is that I was able to easily pull up a website that showed me local trails, so there was no time wasted in trying to figure that out. The Missoulian has a great site that allowed me to figure out where to go. I hopped onto the Mo Z trail and the Pengelly Trail on Mount Sentinel. We were all happy to be out of the car, and it was also a great place for me to scope out the city. At least from what I saw, something unique about Missoula is that it is a thriving city that is relatively isolated. Boise is a small city, but it sits in the valley with many other towns and cities nearby. Looking down on Missoula, it was just Missoula surrounded by mountains. My kinda place!
Stormy skies.
The clouds caught up with me again and it started to rain, but just for moments at a time. It was very enjoyable since I stay off our trails in Boise for trail preservation if there is any kind of moisture looming. It was very refreshing, and I could use some freshness after sitting in the car all afternoon.


After our run, I headed downtown to Tamarack Brewing Company where I met up with Ellie and her family. The place was bustling, but the beer, the food, and the company were lovely. We continued the talk from NEW Leadership about women and politics for a bit, which was also wonderful and refreshing for me in a different way. As a Women's Studies major living in Idaho, well, it gets a bit isolating sometimes. Ellie knows what that is like since she is a state representative in Montana. (She is also kind of a big deal, deemed as such by both myself and Time Magazine.) 

By the time we got back to Ellie's house by the University, it was already getting late. (By my old lady standards, it "gets late" at about 8:30 or 9.) I was pretty tuckered out, so I just shuttled the dogs into the guest room and hit the hay. Since Ellie's family has a cat, the dogs didn't really explore the house or really see much more than the guest room since I wanted to make sure that they didn't cause a ruckus. Jake and Gracie have not really had any experiences with cats, so they are very intrigued and get pretty excitable. However, they did see the cat on the way into the house and I am sure could smell it, so Gracie sat at the door and woke me up several times because she was whining. This is a pretty uncommon thing for her, and it prevented me from getting much sleep, despite my luxurious accommodations.
Missoula below the clouds. 
I love a dog-friendly city!
I got up in the morning feeling verrrrrrrrry sleepy, but I knew it was time to get moving. I took the dogs for a walk around downtown for about an hour and a half, giving me a little more time to see what this Missoula place had to offer. On Ellie's recommendation, we checked out the farmer's market. It was excellent, although, like the Boise market, it does not allow dogs. I was scolded by one of the vendors for having my dogs with me and hopped out to see it along the perimeter. (Later on my walk I did see a sign that no dogs are allowed due to the health code.) I will give it to Missoula, they do the farmer's market right.

Most of downtown still wasn't open, but I was able to get a good feel for the shops and restaurants. It is a neat little downtown, and other than the market, very dog-friendly. I did find myself getting a bit exasperated by my dogs that morning from being so sleepy. I was not at all looking forward to the long day of driving to my next destination. However, I had no choice! I got myself back to Ellie's and packed up my car to hit the road. I left around 9am with a seven hour drive ahead of me.
An interesting quote to ponder on my great American road trip.

Missoula was great, and I wish I had more time to explore and experience it. I will have to head back there sometime in the near future. For the second night in the row, I had wonderfully gracious hosts and didn't yet have to sleep in my tent on the ground, though that would come in time.

Next leg: Missoula to Custer National Forest!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Road Trip! Leg One: Boise to Riggins

I stopped along the river for a little bit to undrowsy myself.
The trip from Boise to Riggins is not very far, a bit over three hours. I planned my trip this way for two reasons. One, I didn't want to have a long day of driving on the first day. Inevitably, things get delayed in the morning and I have to tie up loose ends, so I knew that I would not be likely to leave first thing in the morning. I didn't want to hit the road late and then have a really long drive. I wanted to hit Missoula on my road trip, and even though it wasn't really on the route, it only added 3 hours of time to the trip. Riggins was a perfect stop in between. My second big reason for wanting to stop over in Riggins was for the chance to catch up with my friends Jim and Jane.

The amazing duo!
Jim and Jane are some of my favorite people in the Idaho ultrarunning community. I first met them at the Weiser River 50k where Jim and Jane worked an aid station and Jim made fun of my then-boyfriend for the fact that I was carrying the hydration pack for both of us. They are always good for a cool story about living in the mountains or running ultras and for offering delicious snacks that usually come right from their yard.

I was planning on camping in Riggins, but Jim told me that there were a bunch of drunk fishermen down by the river for the salmon running and that I should stay in their camper. I also asked Jim if he would be interested in taking me up to see the Seven Devils, since I had never been up there before.

I left Boise around 11am, and of course remembered about ten things that I meant to bring with me as soon as I was on the road for ten minutes. Oh well! I tried to pack minimally, but I am sure that I overpacked some. Still, mostly everything I had fit in the trunk, which left plenty of room for me and the dogs. We had an uneventful (but always beautiful) drive up to Riggins. Highway 55, for you non-Idahoan folks, is the route that you take from Boise to McCall, which gets you mostly to Riggins. It winds alongside the river through much of the drive. All trips up that direction have always been wonderful, so the drive feels sort of nostalgic for me every time.

June snow still blocking the road.
Arriving in Riggins, we got the dogs acquainted and hopped into the truck to head up to the Devils. Something that astounds me about this particular landmark is that you are able to climb so quickly in elevation. Riggins sits at about 1800ft, but the highest point on the Seven Devils peaks out at about 9300ft. With a car ride of less than fifteen miles up dirt mountain roads, you can be up to the mountains.

Seven Devils

We drove up, avoiding the cows and calfs that were congregating in the way, and parked the car at the snow line. We walked out for several miles to soak up some amazing views of both the Devils and surrounding mountain ranges.

Jim and Jane were able to name all of the peaks visible on the horizon, and there were mountains in all directions. The Devils were super beautiful, of course, and Jim informed me that there is a trail that circumnavigates the peaks that is a bit under 30 miles. I have good intentions of returning (hopefully at the end of the summer) to run that trail and get a bit more up close and personal with those mountains.

I had to stop a few times to just look around and enjoy the beauty of the mountains. I often am asked by people back East if I find myself missing the ocean since I moved to Idaho. Surprisingly, I don't. For me, I love the ocean because it offers the opportunity to experience the great expanse of something- something bigger than me and bigger than all that humans can create around me. The mountains offer a very similar feeling, and I often find myself needing to just stop and absorb that beauty- that expanse. It's a different kind of ocean.
Mountain ocean.

We shuttled back down the mountain in Jim's truck, and Jim and Jane told me stories of the mountain lions, wolves, and bears that they have encountered on their runs up and down the dirt road. Jane fed us a delicious soup with vegetables from the garden and we ate strawberries for dessert. Even the dogs made out really well for food; Jane fed them some of her homemade dog biscuits. We bunked down for the night in their camper, and it was nice to have made it through the first day on the road. Actually, the first day made it hard to leave Idaho when I thought about the fact that I could spend my summer on these excursions! I felt lucky to be so welcomed by Jim and Jane.
"Oh, would you like to sleep here?"

The dogs and I got up in the morning and mostly got ourselves ready to hit the road again. Gracie pulled a Houdini maneuver under the chain-link fence that allowed her to go on a deer-chasing mission across the hills. Jim and I hopped on the four-wheeler in our pajamas to go search for her, but she returned back to the house where Jane rounded her up and came to find us. Jane made us a wonderful breakfast (breakfast smoothie and vegan pancakes from Scott Jurek's book), and with a full belly and a happy heart, I hit the road again.

Next leg: Riggins to Missoula!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Road Trip!

As you may know, I am currently a graduate student. I am in a two-year program, and as luck may have it, I have the entire summer off! I had quite a bit of time to consider what I wanted to do with my break, though once I started thinking about taking a road trip back East, the idea would not go away. I grew up in Massachusetts, and my immediate family and half of my extended family are still there. Trips from Boise are expensive, so I don't get home as much as I would like and I hadn't seen my family since last August. 

It really hard to think about not using these three months to work and put aside a little money for the upcoming year. However, in perspective, I have it pretty good as a student. I have a graduate assistantship, which cuts my tuition and fees in half in addition to paying a little bit. I also obtained an internship position with a stipend and was awarded a bit of scholarship money. Okay, a little easier to compromise with those things in mind. But ultimately, what it came down to in my consideration was that this is a unique time in my life- a time where, as an adult, I have a summer with no obligations. It seemed like a good time to do something memorable. Plus, once I pitched the idea to my mom that I would get to hang out with her all summer, there was no taking it back. 

I originally had thought I would leave Boise as soon as school released, but I had a friend's wedding, a conference, and an ultra worm their ways into my schedule. I hit the road on Thursday, June 19th and made it back to Massachusetts on Sunday the 29th. I stayed with some friends and family, but camped for the majority of my nights on the road. To find camping spots, I laid out my trip on a map, and zoomed into the green spots (public land) and figured out where I could pitch a tent. We have some beautiful places in this country, even in unexpected places. I am going to write a few posts to detail my stops along the way, should anyone's interest be piqued.

I am only halfway through my summer, but I am already so thankful that I am taking time for myself. If you have an opportunity to explore, don't let it pass you by. It doesn't have to be for a whole summer, or even a week. There are little green spots everywhere, and your couch will always be there when you get back. 

Not all of the numbers correspond with a stop- but this is the general idea.

Boise, ID
Riggins, ID
Missoula, MT
Custer National Forest, MT
Palisades State Park, SD
Great Bluffs State Park, MN
Racine, WI
East Harbor State Park, OH
Poe Paddy State Park, PA
Uxbridge, MA

Days on the road: 10
States crossed: 13
Cost of gas: $304.84
Cost of camping (6 nights): $140.83

Monday, June 30, 2014

Race Report: Bryce Canyon 50 Mile

As usual, this is a bit belated, but I have been on the road for the last few weeks, which seems like a valid excuse (more on that later). A couple weeks ago, I drove my car down to Bryce, UT from Boise to run the Bryce 50 put on by Matt Gunn's Ultra Adventures. That is how I was seeing this run- as an adventure. I have Vermont 100 coming up in about three weeks, so I was wanting to just run a little tune-up to see where I will be since I haven't been training super specifically or diligently for Vermont. Things have been very busy in my world with the semester ending, working, and planning my road trip.

Fire barrel.
Pre-Race: I got down to Bryce two nights before the race and camped out with my friend Zac and his pacer, Bob. I didn't get a ton of sleep, but we had a nice loungy day. We hung out at the campsite for a while and then drove into town to the host hotel and campground so that we could get situated. I pitched my tent there so that I would be closer to the shuttles and not have to worry about transportation as much, even though the campground there was much more expensive- $30/night compared to the $8/night of the state campsites. I had emailed Matt, the RD, several months before the race and volunteered to help at packet pickup and the finish of the 100 mile, so I scooted over to packet pickup early to get situated. This is a pretty big event with several hundred runners between the three distances (50k, 50m, 100m), so it was a pretty busy few hours. A note to runners- be nice to the people that are working packet pickup/ working aid stations/ etc.! I finished up with packet pickup, cooked up some pasta for dinner, and hunkered down in my tent for the night.

Very early in the race- beautiful hoodoos. 
Race Day: I was planning on taking the shuttle over to the start (only about a 10 minute ride), but I was kindly offered a ride over with Zac and his crew. We all huddled around barrels to keep warm at the start, but as I suspected, I was in my tank top and comfortable with the temperature after only a few miles. The first 10-20 miles on the course are just beautiful, and I couldn't do enough to soak up all the scenery.

I had connected with my friend Chris, whom I met at Silver City 100k last year, and he was running the 100, which is an out-and-back of the 50 mile course. He attempted the Bear 100 last year but pulled out of the race at mile 75 with an injury. He was trying to take his time with the first half of the race, so I told him to stick with me for a bit so that my meandering pace would keep him from going out too fast. I spent the first 20ish miles with him and his friend Jim, and I think that we all enjoyed the company. The miles ticked by fast, but I could feel that my body was not loving the altitude. I was concerned about altitude since most of the course is run around 8,000-9,000 feet.

Chris, cruising along in the early miles with that buckle in mind.
Last year at Standhope, I experienced altitude sickness for the first time, and it was pretty miserable. I didn't find myself feeling as sick, but I had a hard time catching my breath and keeping my heart rate down on the climbs, so I was extra meandery. The first aid station was at 10.9 miles, and the second was at 18.8. The time went by quickly between those two aid stations, but it seemed to take forever to reach the aid station at mile 27.7. When you look at the elevation profile, you can see that it is at that point that the race hits 9,000 feet for the first time, so I think that the zone where I need to train to acclimate needs to be in that range, because it seems to be where the elevation gets me.

A runner's favorite view- blue sky at the top of a climb.
I encountered a lot of runners having similar issues, we would move back and forth past each other as we would have the need for momentary breaks in the shade. We would stop for friendly conversation and to commiserate, and by coincidence, I met another runner who lived in Boise. It was nice to run into him, and we kept each other company for about 10 or 15 miles. During that time, I stopped and walked and struggled with a bit of nausea in the higher miles. Finally, at about mile 40, my body started to feel right and I could pick it back up again. I was happy to be running, and my legs felt really fresh from going at such an easy pace.

We had some furry friends out on the trail!
(Note my Lone Peaks- right out of the box on race day.)
I had put a headlamp in a drop bag at mile 40, but I had been saying to myself (and other people) all week that I should only need a headlamp if things went terribly awry. I figured that since my Wild Idaho 50 was under sixteen hours that I should finish this one in less time. Wild Idaho has 16,000 feet of gain as opposed to Bryce's 10,000 feet. However, I had a feeling that it would be a good idea to pick up the headlamp anyway because things were not going as quickly as I had anticipated. The sun was going down as I was approaching and leaving the aid station at mile 45, which made for some amazing views, but left me thinking about the dark a little bit. 
Dozens of times along the trail, you could look out and see views like this. 

Pink Cliffs at the end of the day.

Pink Cliffs, and a trail closer to the edge than I like. 
It did get dark on me. For at least the last mile and a half, I ran along in the dark, being stubborn and keeping my headlamp in my pocket. I figured that if I didn't need it, things must not have gone awry! They really didn't go awry. It was a longer day than I had anticipated and the course was much more challenging that it appeared on paper, but it was a great day. I loved the course, had great chats with people, and saw some amazing views. I got to the end of the race in the dark with another runner with whom I had connected in the last mile or so. In the very anti-climactic fashion of a point-to-point race, the volunteers who were in the dark with their clipboard asked for our numbers and laughed heartily at me when I said to no one in particular, "Well, we're done." They commented that it was the funniest finish to a 50 mile race that they had ever heard. 

My bling.
Shuttles back to the hotel were taking longer than anticipated, so I sat by the fire for a bit and tried to get down some miso and protein shake. I have an issue when I finish a race and don't eat/warm up right away that causes me to feel very nauseated. Even though I did the best that I could, the 45 minute shuttle ride down a dusty, bumpy road did me in. I had to have the driver of the van pull over several times anticipating that I would get sick, and then I finally did get sick when the van pulled up in front of the hotel. It was the first time I have had race-related puking, but again, I blame the shuttle. I had the driver bring me right to the shower house so I could wash off and warm up, and from there I drove myself to the start/finish for the 100. I wanted to help and I wanted to be able to support the 100 mile runners as they finished. The next 18 hours were a whirlwind of driving back and forth, cheering on finishers, and snoozing for brief moments in my car. The major recaps were that my friend Zac won the 100 mile race, and my friend Chris got first 100 mile finish.

I thought that the race was great. The course was incredibly well-marked; I had not a moment of doubth about being on the course (even when I was being a brat running in the dark). Aid station workers were, as usual, wonderful. I wore a pair of Lone Peak 1.5s right out of the box and finished with happy, happy, unblistered feet. The apparel for the event was some of my favorite. I was very happy to get a hoodie instead of another shirt to sit on my shelf. And the finisher medal is one of my favorite finisher items from any race! I have been wearing it as a necklace since it is so beautiful. I would like to give huge props to Matt for his environmental consciousness with the event in trying to have as small of an impact as possible. He also typed up a nice report that can help bring all of us runners a bit greater awareness. If any of them fit into my schedule, I would do any of the other Ultra Adventures runs in future years. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Race Report: Robie Creek and Lessons on Recovery

If you live in Boise, you know about the Race to Robie Creek. It is a big deal in these parts for trail and road runners alike, and has more runners than any of the other events around here. Registration opens at noon on Presidents' Day and fills in minutes, followed by a few days of people desperately trying to purchase entries on Craig's List. Months later, people who purchased and don't feel prepared are practically throwing them at anyone who will give them a little cash in return. It is sort of a rite of passage for local runners. The event begins with a theatrical start coordinated with whatever the theme is for the year, takes runners up and over Aldape Summit and into Robie Creek Park, where runners and spectators can enjoy the sun, the creek, and as much free beer as you can drink before the kegs tap out. 

Pre-race is always smiley.
This was my second year running Robie- I gave it a pass in 2013- and my feelings about it are the same. I HATE Robie! Of course, this does not mean that I will not do it again. I think it is one of those races that people love to hate. It is hard, hot, and nowhere close to my beloved single track. That being said, as one of our local favorites out here often says, "It doesn't have to be fun to be fun." Thank you Jenny Stinson for that one.

When I ran Robie in 2012, it was just two weeks after my first 100 mile effort at the Pickled Feet 24 Hour Run. I began the day feeling happy and recovered, and about a half mile into the race I realized that I was not even CLOSE to recovery.

I had a similar experience this year, although I did not have the same extent of early fatigue as I did that first year. Three weeks have passed since the Pickled Feet 48 Hour Run, and I have been feeling pretty much back to normal since only a few days after the race. However, the challenge with recovery from these kinds of races it that it feels so much different than one expects. I had the realization over the past few weeks that recovery from these huge efforts is more challenging because it manifests differently. If my legs don't hurt and nothing is stiff, I feel recovered. It is not until I start running and realize that everything takes extraordinary amounts more effort than usual that I can recognize that something is not quite right. It is actually a rather frustrating experience; since nothing hurts, it is easy to forget and wonder why I am crawling along like a snail. Robie served, once again, as a good reminder that recovery is a process that does not end when the muscles loosen up.

Getting some water in my bottle! Photo from The Pulse Running and Fitness.
It was hard not to stay and hang out with friends up at the top!

Post-race with Nicky.
I did run more of the course than I did in 2012, where I called it good after the first few miles and walked the rest of the uphill. This year, I walked a good amount on the hills, but I also jogged intermittently. I also wore headphones this year, which I NEVER do, but this is the kind of race that calls for such a thing. I found it was helpful for me to have that distraction and the rhythm in my ears that made me want to pick it up a little more.

I made it up the hill without dying and was quite happy to have the 4+ mile backside to get the end of the race over with. I ran pretty much all of that, though I did have to take a couple breaks because I was feeling sort of dizzy (poor job with pre-race hydration, I think!). None of it really mattered when I made it through the end and got to hang out in the park for a few hours with friends, which is really the only reason I like to run this thing. ;)

Post-race group.
As always, running gives me the enduring lesson of humility. I was hoping to be in the 2:10 range, and wound up with about 2:22. Not terrible, but not fantastic. It is a reminder to be gentle with myself and my recovery process. Also a reminder that I hate Robie, though probably not a lasting one that will keep me from running again next year...