Monday, June 10, 2024

Race Report: Garden of the Gods 10 Miler

This time, its my race report! 

I signed up for the Garden to Peak challenge this year, three races in the Pikes Peak area, all of which I have run before, but its been a couple years. The first is Garden of the Gods 10 miler, so Sunday morning I made my way down the pass to the Garden for the race. I found myself getting a little emotional on the drive, remembering this is the first "real" race since last summer's unfortunate events.  "Don't go there," I told myself, and turned up Rage Against the Machine on the radio to drown out my brain. I'm sure the other drivers seeing this middle-aged woman in her top-off Jeep blasting metal punk at 5am were impressed.

I prepped in the parking lot, then walked toward the start line, where I decided I should pee one more time before the race start. After 22 minutes in line and with 5 minutes before the start left, I determined I was just going to have to hold whatever was in there for the race. Spoiler alert, I definitely peed a little, but at least I didn't completely wet my pants, and that's a win.

The race sold out this year, and there were notably more people than I have encountered in races past. Mile 1 is uphill, from the parking lot into the main entrance of the park. Its a dramatic view, with the features of the central garden lit up in the morning light and Pikes Peak rising in the background. Add in crystal blue skies, and it was a good site to start the run. You follow the park road up, and then twist in to the backside of the central garden, then out onto the park road, curving up with long rolling hills for another several miles. The temps were cooler than previous years, so I skipped the first few aid stations and plowed on. I was feeling strong and steady. 

Mile five takes you by Balanced Rock, and curves you back the way you came. After miles six, there's probably a 3/4 mile uphill slog, and by the end I was feeling it more than I knew I had in years' past. I ended up taking a short walk break, which was disappointing as I don't particularly like to walk in road races. However, I was back to running and had a relatively good downhill stretch to recover. We curved around to the front of the park, where I used my handy-dandy (and free from the race) reusable cup clipped to my hydration belt to fill up on some electrolyte drink and continue on to the only place in the park where spectators can see our sweaty selves, and then curve back in to the park through the central garden. It was getting warmer by this time and I could smell the juniper bushes as we cruised through mile 8. 

The uphill after mile 8 was tough. I had to walk again, and more than I wanted to, but such is that. The lesson out of this is that I need more hill work, and maybe not to visit the Midwest for two weeks prior to a race at elevation. I got myself going again and crested the final hill. There is a long downhill stretch that takes you from the central garden parking lot around to the front of the park with the rock formations to your right. Coming down the hill is unusually quiet- you've passed the aid station and there's no sound except the slapping of your feet on the road, and then crickets and birds. With the rock formations, the bird song and the blue sky, my thought at the moment was that this had to be one of the most picturesque races in America. No wonder it sold out. 

Through mile nine, and then you take the curve back out of the park entrance, right at the parking lot and down the dirt track to the historic ranch on the park property. A loop around the ranch and by the barn that smelled strongly of farm animal, and then it was the last stretch. I pulled my remaining energy and found my kick, picking up speed, passing a number of people and feeling strong. I wish that energy had been available at miles 6 and 8, but I finished with an average time of only about 6 seconds per mile slower than I wanted to be. Knowing those seconds all came from the walk breaks, I know my actual running pace was where I wanted it to be. Now I just need to lock it in and sustain it.

I met up with running buddies and cheered in others until a friend ran in, then she and I toured the after party expo for a bit. We parted ways and I caught up with other runners from Achilles and the Incline Club, before taking a seat and having a drink at the special tent set up for Garden to Peak registrants. I felt pretty spoiled sitting in the sun in an Adirondack chair, chatting with others and watching the race awards.

Time to hit the trails again.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Not My Race Race Report

I run with Achilles International, guiding weekly runs and the occasional race for athletes with physical or cognitive challenges. For our chapter, we are doing mostly shorter runs and road races. The bigger city chapters, particularly on the East Coast, have athletes who are doing a lot of longer races but we are who we are. I love it, and its one of my favorite parts of my week. 

Several weeks ago, we got a call from an athlete from Texas who has a visual impairment. He asked if we might be willing to find some guides for him for a 55 mile trail race he registered for. Eight of us pulled together and said we'd figure it out. 

Fortunately, the heads of our chapters are ultra runners, because we quickly realized the course started in Manitou Springs, ran through Garden of the Gods, up Rampart Range Road to Rampart Reservoir, around the reservoir, and back down... and the gate to the Road was still locked, so there was no switching out runners for 18 mile stretches of road. The pros took those, and a partner and I were assigned half of the reservoir. 

We met up with Christian, a 29-year-old former collegiate swimmer running his first race of this distance, on Friday night. Christian has total blindness in one eye, and about 20% vision in the other. He told us this means he can see shapes from the one eye, but not details, and has no depth perception. He's also built like a swimmer and is about 6'3". That made me a little nervous as that meant I would be taking about twice as many strides as he would be in order to stay with him. Eek.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

2am Consequences

 I had a work call at 2am this morning. 

I do not (anymore) generally take calls at 2am. Unlike my last place of employment, in this first six months on the job, I have done better at setting boundaries. I have turned down multiple 2-3-and-4am meeting invitations, simply stating "this is well before my working hours. Please send me the notes or we can reschedule." 

However, there was a particular exception for this meeting, and I took it. I do not plan to make this a habit.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Goat Massage

 I’ve been climbing the Incline about three times a

week, starting to build up a base for this coming race season. As you know, this routine has included ice bath at a temperature causing me to evaluate my life choices… but I also called up my massage therapist to get back on her schedule.

My massage therapist is awesome. She’s only part time,  but happens to have a studio right at the end of our street, in what is literally the only business block in our community.

The rest of the time, she lives out in the mountains on a farm. Which is how, when I walked into her studio last Friday, I met Patrick McLovin.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Bathtub Salmon

Since I shared about, you know, almost dying and then

not, people occasionally ask me how I’m doing. That’s incredibly sweet and I really appreciate it.

The general update is that I saw the cardiologist and had some tests done in December. All looks well, the patch is where it’s supposed to be and everything appears to have healed up. They took me off the blood thinner medication and so now I don’t walk around looking like I have been beat up anymore.