Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

January 31, 2015

Task 3: Roldaniillo Paragliding Competition

A little interview about me by Red Bull, talking about race preparation:


Day 3 and Task 3, which means we are having great weather down here in Colombia.   I got an early start to the day by hiking up to launch from the hotel, which is almost 12 miles.   Even at 6 in the morning it is anything but chilly here, this close to the equator.  

3 hours later I arrived at launch, started getting my gear ready, and had a very late breakfast.   Conditions looked good again although the south wind was supposed to kick in later.   Our task started close to launch, (whew), so no big race just to get to the starting line like yesterday.  I had about 30 minutes in the air just cruising in circles trying to stay high.  Which I did, until 2 minutes before the start, when my thermal died and I sank way down.   I spent the rest of the race trying to place catch up, and finally did find Jim in the air as we headed north for a ways.   

Turning south again wasn't as nice, as the wind had definitely kicked up.  The sky was rapidly shading over and climbs were getting weaker.   Many many wings seemed very low below me crossing the valley, and our little gaggle thermal hopped while staying high.  We weren't making much progress, though.   Paragliders aren't very speedy against the wind, and I think we went all of 10 kilometers in an hour.   

In front of us, a huge cumulous cloud started growing, and then dying.   Under a black sky with no lift, every wing I could see sank down an landed.  We all made it about 32 kilometers for the day.   Somehow the leaders were able to sneak through the sink and headwind way ahead of us, and finished the 86 km task!  

Race Results are here...I'm a little scared to look.

The Start Gaggle....or a very small section of it anyway

January 30, 2015

Task 2: Roldanillo FAI Open Paragliding Competition

Wow, I thought Task 1 was a long one, but Task 2 sent us 100 kilometers south of launch!  Or it did for the lucky sods who got that far.   Yeah, I wasn't one of them.   :(   

On launch and waiting for the window to open
I had a good start, though.  Conditions for the day were clear and strong, with a north wind perfect to help everyone push south.   The start gate was huge, a 15 km circle.  Right after launching it was clear I had to keep moving to position myself across the valley for the start.  I almost made it, only a couple hundred meters below the lead gaggle as they took off.   Just getting there was a feat...I left a lot of wings behind and below me, as crossing the valley was proving difficult for many.
5 minutes later I tagged the first and last turn point before goal.  That sounds pretty good, but my GPS then said I had 84 km left to fly!  Yikes.    Lift was good, there were wings around me...yet 10 km later I found myself on the ground.   My wing isn't as fast as the comp pilots (it's safer, but that's a tradeoff for speed), and their glide got them to lift, and mine didn't.   Retrospect gives me lots of better choices to stay in the air but then again it always does!  

The cows barely cared that I landed in their pasture.  It was hot I got back to Roldanillo via a lift from a nice family and two buses.   I seemed to be in good company at headquarters...many people were already there, so perhaps I hadn't fared too badly?  

Jim and I waiting for the bus up to launch.

The task briefing

Jim's cool colors for his new Ozone Delta 2

January 29, 2015

I MADE GOAL!!!! Task 1, Roldanillo FAI Open Paragliding Competition, Colombia Jan 27-Feb 3 2015

It's the first day of the 2015 Roldanillo FAI Open Paragliding Competition.  150 pilots are sitting on what is a very small launch, waiting for the clouds to lift, as they always do here in Colombia.

At the pilot briefing, it was a little stressful trying to input the task points into my GPS.  I managed to misread the task board right off, thinking the start window opened at 11 am, when it really said the Start Gate was 11 km wide!  (This turned out to be a big bummer, as I put in a 400 meter circle for the start gate).  Imagine my surprise once I launched, that the start gaggle wasn't going where I thought they should.   I really didn't figure it out, but went back to the gaggle figuring wherever they were going, I should too.  Whew.

Yvonne Dathe and I, the two women participants in the X-Alps!
On launch I met up with Yvonne Dathe, the other woman entered into the Red Bull X-Alps!  I guess we are both crazy enough to want to take on such a challenge :)

Everyone did all manage to get launched, with the start window opening at 12:35.  First day jitters were over.  Now to stay in the air.    It seemed like most of the pilots were able to do just that.   The task was 80 km long which is further than I've flown for a while.   And we did it all...some mountains, some valleys, some low saves, and plenty of other pilots in the air to show me the lift.

I did manage to get a very low save (my track log shows me 150 meters off the valley floor but I swear it seemed closer!).   It felt like I had a lot of low saves...with the airspace limit of 2400 meters meaning no score for the day if you go above it, I didn't want to get too high.  So instead I didn't get high enough sometimes.  In retrospect I could have gone quite a bit higher but....next time.

Nevertheless, I did eventually, and after much scratching, make it to Goal!  Jim arrived just a couple minutes ahead of me after staying high all day, and we were stoked to have both made it!  

A lot of pilots did finish the task, but in the end I was 49th!  We were some of the first Sport Class gliders to make goal, so that was really cool.   I was 5th woman out of 13, but of course it's very early in the competition.  Consistency is the key here, we have 7 days of racing and it's important to do well every day.

There may or may not be live tracking for this comp, but if there is it will be here: https://airtribune.com/roldanillo2015/blog

Results are here:
Open Class

Here's my flight, uploaded to XContest

Catching a ride back to the hotel with my new friend

January 28, 2015

I'm Pledging $1 per Mile for the USA Paragliding Team

As you might have read, by courtesy of getting into the X-Alps, I've made it onto the US Paragliding Team this year.  Paragliding competitions do not have any cash prizes for winning, which makes it hard to earn a living at it, unlike other sports (NFL Football?!?!).  While most competitors pay their own way to competitions, the US Paragliding Team is there to help out and make sure we field a strong team to international competitions.    

For the next two months,  The US Hang gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) and the Foundation for Free Flight (FFF) will be matching funds for the US Paragliding Team.   This means for every $ you donate, USHPA and the FFF will match your $.  I can't pass that up.

So for the next month when I'm down here in Colombia flying and training, I'm going to pledge $1 for every mile I fly.  I only hope I'll be able to fly long distances!  I'm aiming for at least 500 miles....  So far I've only gone 31 miles (!) but there is a lot more flying to come.  The FAI Open starts today, and I hope to at least make goal a couple of times.  The flying down here in Colombia is really amazing.

Stay tuned for updates on my mileage and blogs about how the competition is going!

January 25, 2015

Roldanillo Paragliding Launch Trail

Well, I'm here in Roldanillo, Colombia and up at launch for the last day of the 14th FAI World Paragliding Championships.   I've been watching from home and competition has been fierce and close between the top pilots.    I'll be competing soon myself here, in the 2015 Roldanillo FAI Open, but we've come down a few days early to get ready.

Luckily the weather cooperated for the worlds, and they've had 10 good tasks and a safe week of flying.   After watching all the pilots launch and fly out to a huge gaggle, I changed into running clothes and headed down the mountain to continue my X-Alps training.   Of course it's possible to run right back down the road we drove up, but I was hoping to find a shortcut trail.   With all the people around for the competition, someone was able to direct me to the right turnoff, and I found a steep, gravelly trail.  It frequently had trail splits but they always seemed to meet up again, and within three miles I was back down on the valley floor.  It was HOT...I was running in mid afternoon and looking for shade trees to get a respite.  Total distance to the center of Roldanillo was less than 7 miles, making it a lot shorter for walking than the road to launch.
The gaggle flying past Los Tanques launch above Roldanillo
Since I wasn't able to find a good map of this trail online, I figured someone else might want to know where it is as well.   As long as you are willing to brave a steep last couple of miles, it's not a bad hike to get up to the Los Tanques Launch.   The most dangerous thing I saw was a chihuahua wearing a soccer sweater, but he was more sound than fury!

View this Course on MapMyRun

The gaggle streaming overhead during Task 10 of the 14th FAI World Paragliding Championship

January 24, 2015

Powertraveller: X-Alps Sponsor!

Imagine my surprise at getting a cool Powermonkey Explorer 2 in the mail!   As the number of electronics we use even in sports and the backcountry increases yearly, the question becomes one of how to keep them charged.  Powertraveller has handily answered that question with their Powermonkey Explorer 2.    It's an off-grid power solution that is waterproof, durable, and can charge cell phones and other electronics multiple times.  

The red Powermonkey will keep my electronics up and running during competitions and long expeditions

Powertraveller have also sent me a bike mount for the Powermonkey, so I could use it for those long Adventure Races.  I'm starting to get ideas now...!

Powertraveller have partnered with the Red Bull X-Alps to give the athletes a charging solution during the race and during training.  Future add-ons to the setup will include a hand-crank, wind turbine and solar panels to produce power anywhere.  I'll be excited to see what else these innovators can design to keep us charged up :)

January 23, 2015

Black Diamond: X-Alps Sponsor!

Getting the mail was like a second Christmas today when my gear from Black Diamond arrived....many thanks to Bill Belcourt and Black Diamond for their race sponsorship!    In the box were headlamps and trekking poles.

I love these trekking poles already, and they're not yet out of the box.   Black Diamond's Ultra Distance Trekking Poles are super light.   A pair of these 110 cm z-poles weighs a ridiculously low 10 ounces.  They're packable too...they quickly fold into three sections of only about 14.5 inches.  It will be easy to stow them in my harness while I am flying, and yet they will help me power up the hills to get to launch.

Also some needed gear were headlamps...I'll be hiking in the early morning and late at night during the X-Alps.  I won't need tons of light, just enough to see the trail ahead of me, but I want consistent light and bright enough to see intersections and route changes.  The Storm Headlamp and Spot Headlamp will be great for that.  They both have a high power beam that shines well ahead on the trail, yet the batteries last for hundreds of hours.  Best of all, they have a battery indicator, so no need to switch out the batteries when they are still good, or have them go dead on the trail.  The Storm is waterproof, so if the weather turns horrible, I'll still have light down the trail.

I was so excited about trying these out I got up at 4 am this morning and went for a night run....the Spot Headlamp stayed on my head and gave me great light down the trail.   The dimmable light allowed me to choose exactly how much light I needed, and turns on and off easily.

Thanks again, Black Diamond!

January 22, 2015

Foundation For Free Flight: X-Alps Sponsor!

I just want to say many thanks to the Foundation for Free Flight, who donated $3000 to each USA Red Bull X-Alps athlete!   Training and competing in this race is going to incur a fair amount of expenses, so this grant from the Foundation for Free Flight is very timely.

 The Foundation is focused on the conservation of the sport of hang gliding and paragliding in the United States.

The Foundation for Free Flight run completely by volunteers and is funded by tax-deductible contributions.  It has very low overhead, and has been supporting free flying since 1987.   According to http://www.ushgf.org, if you are thinking of asking for a grant:

"A project should preserve a flying site, enhance free flying opportunities in some way, advance the cause of improved safety or education of the free flying public, or foster community-building events such as competitions."

Again, many thanks to the Foundation for Free Flight!  I am honored to be the recipient of such a grant, and hope to represent the USA well in the X-Alps!

January 17, 2015

Improved VO2 Max Test!!

Now that my training is ramping up, and I've been doing intervals on the treadmill for a while, it's time to redo my VO2 Max test.   Last time I had a pretty low score, due to a couple of factors, so I was curious to see if the intensive training had paid off.   Sure enough after 20 grueling minutes on the treadmill, I had run much faster and further than the first time.   

My VO2 improved from 30.4 to 50.8, which my trainer said was the largest jump he'd ever seen someone make!  I was really happy to see my top speed increase almost a full mph to 9.4 mph by the end.   Plus my fat burning percentage went up, meaning that I'm burning more fat at the same running speed than before.  This will help me continue to exercise without bonking.  It also allows me to run faster at the same effort level.  

I guess there's a couple of reasons for this improvement.   I've finally got my iron levels up to par, so I've got plenty of red blood cells.    Plus, I'm doing specific interval training for really, the first time in my life.   While I've run 68 marathons or ultra marathons, I've never used speed sessions in my training.  So this is a whole new way to get faster!  

I'll be doing another test like this in April, to make sure my training is staying on track before the big race in July.   Until then, I'll be doing long sessions in the mountains of Colombia, where we will be paragliding and training in the equatorial sun!

Here's my first VO2 test results if you want to compare.  

January 12, 2015

Ozone Paragliders: My X-Alps Sponsor!

For the X-Alps, I want to fly the best and lightest gear that I can find.   For me, that's Ozone all the way.   They have agreed to sponsor me for the big race, and I'm super excited to try out their new gear! 
I currently fly an Ozone Delta 2, and I really love this wing.  So for the Red Bull X-Alps, I'm going to fly the lightweight version of this, called the Alpina 2.    My practice wing hasn't arrived yet, but I'll be flying it soon, and of course will post pictures from down in Colombia, where we are headed next to train and compete.  

My harness arrived in the mail today, an Ozone Ozium.  This lightweight harness weighs in at only about 2.5 kg including pod!  I'm excited to fly in it, and currently  have it hanging in my garage, so I can get everything dialed in.  I must say that it was pretty comfortable straight out of the box.  
There's even a small, detachable cockpit to put my instruments on.   So far, I'm really liking the look of the Ozium, and love the fact that it has plenty of storage space.    To carry everything, I'm using the Ozone X-Alps Backpack.   It's large enough to fit everything inside, which might be good for those bushwhacking moments during the race.  Yet it has plenty of pockets to store snacks and water while I'm hiking.   My plan later this spring is to do lots of laps of the South Side at Point of the Mountain, to practice packing and unpacking my gear.   The faster I can pack it inside the pack the quicker I can get down the road again.    Ozone, thanks again for sponsoring me and I'm really excited to fly my new gear!!

January 10, 2015

Santa Barbara New Year's Day Fly-In

Our last day out in California, and conditions are looking good.   Santa Barbara always has a fly-in on New Year's Day, so we rolled out 2015 in style with a mountain flight looking over the ocean.   The Eagle Paragliding van was headed up to EJ Bowl, and we hopped on board with some old friends.  

On January 1, the hoped-for landing area is always Elings, the training site where I'm sure many pilots there learned to fly.  It's not an easy place to fly TO, however....conditions have to be pretty lifty in the mountains to allow for such a long glide to Elings.

It was beautiful on launch, even with a strange bit of white stuff (snow?!?) clinging to the hillside.   We dressed for cold weather flying, and launched in more wind (still not much) than we had predicted from the weather reports.  I was the last one off the hill and it was fun to thermal again...winter in Utah doesn't have a lot of warm air.

I shared the air with more hang gliders than I've ever seen in the air before...the nearest hangy launch was a hilltop near my take-off, and there must have been 20 of them lined up and ready to run down the hill.

Unfortunately, conditions at mid-day weren't allowing us to get high enough to glide to Elings.   (As a side note, a few friends doing a hike and fly from Ohi were able to make it to Elings later in the day when conditions improved a little)  Instead most of us headed to Parma, which is a strange and interesting place to land...it's got more trees, rocks, hills, sink, and bumps in it than really any official landing zone I've been too.  The most I can say is that it is big enough.   Plenty of shade to pack up wings, tho!
Landing at Parma looks....interesting!

January 3, 2015

Flying the Dumps

We are out in California for the holidays, enjoying the warm weather and getting outside a lot.  There's snow on the ground back in Utah so we are lucky to be in the sunshine.  

The day after the Woodside 50k, Jim and I were both walking a little stiffly but headed up to the central coast near San Francisco.   The Dumps is a popular coastal site, sometimes known as Mussel Rock Park where the flying site is located.   Local pilots were showing up as we arrived, so we knew it was looking like a good day!

We got a thorough site briefing from a friend, and waited quite a while in calm winds before it was lifty enough to launch.  Once in the air, I was high really quickly, and snapped a few photos of myself with the Golden gate in the background!   It was really nice flying along the ocean and great views of San Francisco and the coastline.

Within minutes of Jim launching, tho, the winds came up and forced everyone to land.
Oh, well.  
Where to fly next?

Getting a glimpse of the Golden Gate...it's really, really small and blurry in my photo, tho :(