Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

August 5, 2018

Utah Spartan Super & Sprint, July 2018

Spartan race photos have to be some of the most flattering pics ever.  Pain, suffering, and sweat with some muddy water mixed in.   Considering that's really all I've posted about this year, for the official record, then I guess I'm usually muddy, grimacing, soaking wet, and tired.  Actually I'm not sure why I'm posting them.  Because they are there, I guess.  To prove that I do get out of bed (occasionally) in the morning.   To make my mother wonder if her child was switched at birth with a stranger's.  

Today is my one year Spartan anniversary.   After suffering through my first race here in Utah last year in the heat, I decided I liked them, and I've done 9 more since then.   With varying success and occasionally an Age Group podium, giving me just enough hope to keep chasing the dream.  

Today was my first Spartan bonk.  

Expression used by cyclists to describe excercise induced low blood sugar levels; being a feeling of light-headedness and weakness in all limbs. Similar to 'The Wall' in running. Has fallen out of usage in recent years due to alternative meanings.
I am feeling a bit light-headed, if I don't have a banana, I think I'm going to bonk. 
Perhaps I should find another word to describe this, as alternative meanings can be rather suggestive.  Either way, after about 6 miles of running fast and feeling good, conquering a lot of steep, calf busting hills (ok I walked on those along with everyone else), I forgot to drink enough water.   I found myself unable to run, sort of weaving along the course wondering what was wrong.   Suddenly just getting over a 6' wall was hard.   While I usually make up time on my competitors on the second half of the course, today I was barely maintaining.   Somehow I managed to complete all the obstacles in my way, and getting my wits about me, chugged a bit of water.  It was probably too little, too late, on a very hot morning.  
Then I missed that darn spear.   I'd been practicing in the back yard twice a day for months.  Perfect throw, too far to the right.  30 burpees was suddenly a very painful addition to my race.   By the finish line, I couldn't run a step, and soaking wet, could barely haul myself over the slip wall, watched a woman in my Age Group bound up and over.   All I could think about was that I still had to jump over the fire.   "Don't fall in, don't fall in" I repeated to myself as I gathered energy to take 3 running steps to make it over.   Even in my own eyes, I was pathetic.  
My mantra at the end was "Don't fall in the fire"
Fast forward 24 hours to the sprint.  I had guzzled enough water to empty Utah Lake, and eaten a few carbs to help my neglected glycogen stores.   Plus we had soaked ourselves in Pineview reservoir which felt amazing.  My legs felt pretty good, as I hadn't pounded them with running the day before.   Small favors I guess.

It was a much quieter crowd on the second day.   Spartan had added the sprint to the schedule late in the game, and only about 1000 people were doing it.  5000 people had finished the Super yesterday, so everything felt a little calmer.  And the shortened course meant that those terribly steep hills on the Super were not part of this race.  In fact, it was almost, but not quite, flat.

The whole race started a bit later, and Jim and I had start times only 15 minutes apart.  No waiting around today for us.   We were going a bit later than usual though, so the temps were already heating up.   Smoke from some fires out West actually made it stay a little cooler, although our lungs probably weren't as happy.

I felt really good the whole way around, and quickly ran past my former self weaving crookedly down the trails.  I even hit the same spear dead center.  No burpees.  My first finish under an hour (:47 minutes to be exact), and enough for a second place finish in my age group.

Jim had a great race with his fastest finish as well.   I think once you get the hang of an obstacle, it isn't as scary and you're more likely to get it the next time.  That's certainly been true for both of us.  Jim finish first in his age group and was very excited....I think he's picked up the Spartan bug as he was even contemplating trying a Super someday....!

Next up in late August is a weekend trifecta (Beast, Super, and Sprint) in West Virginia, which is also the Spartan National Championships.   That might be a little hard.  Difficult.  Painful.  My mother will again wonder if I officially belong in their family.   My official goal is to finish, my secret goal is to podium all three races.   Actually I really want a 1st and 3rd to round out my medals.  My very very secret goal is "not" not drink enough water and watch the whole world pass me by.   Although in West Virginia with all the rain lately, I might be able to drink enough water out of the humid air to last for the whole weekend....

Heat shimmers from the fire.  Luckily I'm soaking wet from the dunk wall. 

Backcountry Mountain Biking & Hot Springs in Idaho with Western Spirit Guides, July 2018

Bikepacking is hard.  You have to carry all your gear, and food, and water, and tools, and tent, etc.   Hills really suck.  That, in a nutshell, is why we don't do it.  LOL.

We went with a lazier but more fun idea, and took a guided tour of the Idaho backcountry with Western Spirit. They are a guiding company based out of Moab, and run trips all around the western states.


In a nutshell, they carry all your gear, follow along on the rides, provide all the water and snacks that you want during the ride, and cook amazing meals in camp.   Just bring your bike, tent, and camping gear your need, and enjoy the ride!

There were a ton of options for tours with Western Spirit, everything from getting lost in the high desert to technical trails in the deep forests.   We picked this trip, because the lure of hot springs to soak in seemed better than anything else in the world.   Indeed each campsite on this trip was carefully selected to have an amazing hot spring within walking distance.  There are a lot of these springs in Idaho, but they are often hard to find, and we visited a few that were definitely off the beaten path.   I could often be found soaking in them both morning and night....

Our 5 day bike tour started in Sun Valley, Idaho near Ketchum.   We then meandered east along gravel roads, along wide, gentle valleys with clear streams next to us almost all the time.  We did cross a couple of passes, but the riding wasn't too strenuous.   Or at least, I figured the guides (who were amazing by the way) would be feeding us amazing meals each night so I needed to work off some calories on the ride, so bring on the uphill sections!

Our ride on the second day was on a gravel road that had been blocked off on both ends by the river flooding and eating away at the road bank.  So we rode this deserted stretch of road, a beautiful river flowing right alongside, and a blue sky glowing overhead.

The weather for our trip was absolutely delightful, sunny, mostly not too hot, not too cold, and no rain.  Couldn't have asked for a better time to go, on what was their first trip of the year along this route.  We got really lucky and our raincoats stayed stuffed in the bottom of our packs.

After 3 days of riding, we ended up in the town of Atlanta, Idaho, although calling it a town is a stretch.  I think there are about 20 full time residents and a small airstrip, tucked deep into the mountains.   We had a layover day in the campground there, over the 4th of July, and even then the campground was mostly empty.  We had two different hot springs and a warm swimming hole almost all to ourselves.  When we got too hot, the river near our campsite had a really amazing swimming hole too.   It was heavenly.

Our favorite cold soak spot near Atlanta
After a day off in Atlanta, on our final morning we loaded our bikes and gear on the truck, sent it off back to Ketchum.  Then we took a leisurely stroll down to the airstrip, with a stop to soak one last time in the hot springs along the way.  Our ride home was going to be two small planes, which fit the 7 of us comfortably, and gave us the birds eye view of the route we had followed on our ride.

Aside from our sit bones being a bit sore (we didn't really ride enough to prepare for this!) we had a great time and hope to go our with Western Spirit again sometime!

Our ride back from Atlanta!

Frost on our bikes on the first morning in camp

First night's hot springs had multiple pools with different water temperatures
A closed road due to mudslides let us have the whole place to ourselves....
This stream was NOT warm.   Brrr 

All flagged up for our 4th of July riding
This swimming hole was fed by a hot spring, and was warm!

One of a few hot springs near Atlanta, this one had a hot  waterfall!

August 4, 2018

Boise Spartan Sprint, June 2018

Well, after my last Spartan in CA, the week after I woke up with a muscle spasm in my left hip.  At 3 a.m.   Sleeping is dangerous, evidently.   I had been nursing a nagging right hip strain, so perhaps my left side was compensating for a while, and finally gave up.  While I was sleeping, luckily, and not while I was in the middle of a Spartan race.      
Anyway, I limped for a few weeks, couldn't even walk the dog.  Finally I got a few manual adjustments from a chiropractor, and it starting getting better.  But leading up to the Boise Sprint, I couldn't even walk much less run.  I ran about once in six weeks leading up to the race.   I was very happy to be regaining mobility and mostly pain free by race time.  

So race day was a bluebird day, hot and sunny.  Luckily our start times were in the early morning at 8 am and 10 am so it wasn't blistering.  Those metal obstacles can get really hot in the full heat of the afternoon sun.   The race area was a dry plateau with forays up and down the hills , similar to the Ft. Carson Spartan a few months back.  But without the cactus in burpee zones!  

As usual, the course wound around a fairly small area and up and down as many hills in that area as they could squeeze in.  The Sandbag carry in particular was super steep, and I passed a guy with no legs at all, doing the race, shuffling with his arms, and carrying the darn sandbag too.   It made my race seem fairly easy in comparison.  I wondered as I ran on, how he possibly did the bucket carry, walls, etc.  Any why.  Why?   

In a nice change of pace on a hot short race, the rolling mud pits were in the first mile, so my feet were cool for a while.   My running form definitely wasn't up to speed, and women I recognized from other races seemed to float by me.   Oh well.  I made all the obstacles and remained burpee free.   I really love passing people doing burpees.   

Jim was really happy with his race and conquered both the rings (multi rig) and the rope, among other things.   Having a spear throw in our backyard for practicing has really helped with our accuracy, and we are starting to hit it more often.   For such a painless obstacle, it is really painful to have to do burpees if you miss. 

That's about it.  Heat, sweat and mud, which seems to be what city dwellers crave to find on the weekends.  

We are off now to explore a bit more of Idaho and do some mountain biking.   Next Spartan coming up in a month in Utah, close to home!

June 1, 2018

SoCal Spartan Beast (National Series), May 19-20, 2018

Hadn't planned on doing this race, but since it gave me a chance to qualify for the Spartan World Championships in Tahoe this September, it was hard to think about not going.  It was a long drive down almost to LA from Utah.  Jim couldn't come with me as he was gone as well for business.  So I got to see the Snow Summit ski resort where he had originally learned to ski at.   Actually I saw more of it than I really wanted to, on foot anyway!   

I took my time going down and stopped to soak my feet in these hot springs, just a couple miles off the I-15 in Utah.   Amazing recommendation from a friend and I will definitely be passing by these again.  Just out in the middle of a dry cow pasture, no trees or anything, but deep pools of blue, hot water.  I considered jumping in, but forgot I had no towels with me at all.  Next time!
The desert gave way to pine trees finally, as I approached Big Bear and the Spartan area.  My hotel was literally 50 feet from the registration area, which made it easy to come and go over the weekend! The Beast was on Saturday, it turned out to be about 12 miles long, with 5000 feet of climbing.   Since the ski hill on the mountain only has about 1200 feet of vertical, that meant we had to climb the whole thing at least 4 times.  Ouch.   

Right out of the starting gate, we were going straight up the ski hill.  It was steep.  Power hiking was the word of the day.   The Elites may have been running, but nobody in the Age group could keep it up for long.  

I finally felt like I got my clothing right for the race.  Dirty Girl Gaiters on my shoes to keep the dust and rocks out meant I didn't have to stop at all for foot problems.  No blisters.   Spartan gloves on my hands to protect me from sandbag carries, bucket carries, walls, burpees, more walls, and the 2 barbed wire crawls.  Oh, and the Olympus wall.   I took of my gloves for the monkey bars, spear throw, rope climb and Twister.   Shoved them in a pocket of my Gypsy Runner shorts, which had huge pockets.  Large enough I could carry 1/2 liter of water without noticing, and a snack for the 4 hour race.   Sports bra and that was it.  

The weather was perfect.   Warm but not hot, sunny, a gentle breeze, and dry.  The dunk wall wasn't until the end of the race so I didn't have to worry about soggy shoes and socks.   The whole day was a series of steep ups and steep downs, but that suits me so I continued to pass people along the way.  Even a women who said she was an Olympic athlete (in the past).  Clearly she could run faster than me, but kept failing on the obstacles and had already done 120 burpees by the 1/2 way mark!  

There was no snow left on the mountain but a couple of mounds.  We got a good tour of the bermed mountain biking trails, though...although I suggest they would certainly be more fun to ride down than walk up, which is what we were doing!    My least favorite obstacle of the day turned out to be my first time doing the double sandbag carry.   One balanced on my back, one hugged to my chest, and it was up and down an awfully steep hill.  It was awful.  It was the first and only time all day that I had to stop and rest while I was doing it.   Along with everyone else!   That was diabolical.   Managed to clear everything even spear throw this time...no burpees!  And the dunk wall at the finish felt amazing, I was so hot by then.  

I finished by noon, which gave me a chance to watch everyone else finish too...all day long.   I was amazed to walk out at 8:30 that evening, and still see headlamps on the bucket carry, about a mile from the finish...cutoff was at 9 pm!  The dunk wall at the finish didn't seem quite so inviting by then I would guess, as it was pretty cool, windy, and dark by then.  

Sunday was a repeat of the same, but just a 4.5 mile Sprint distance.  This time on tired legs.  That first hill after the start somehow felt even worse, but at least this shorter distance only had us going up and down the ski hill once.  And that terrible, horrible double sandbag carry wasn't on this course either.  Even one sandbag felt like it was taking inches off my spine!  

Anyway, 5th in my age group on Saturday, 2nd on Sunday, but I didn't stay for the awards as I had a long drive home.  Very excited though, as this qualified me directly for the World Championships in Tahoe in September.   If I can manage it, there I will be doing a Beast on Saturday and an UltraBeast on Sunday.   Ouch!  

Found this little gem of a hit spring on my way down to the race off 1-15!
Elite Women's heat was full, this was one of five National Series Races for sweet prize money
Ben Greenfield jumps in on the Men's Elite heat on Sunday Morning Sprint