Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Goats, Running, Drinking, Politics, & Religion...

This past weekend was the Houska Houska. It was a space theme this year. This event always brings out creative and eclectic.

Most of the costumes were Star Wars, My Favorite Martian, and other space-like stuff from the 60s-80s. I bet a lot of readers don't even remember My Favorite Martian except that they made a movie about it a few years back. Plus they had the petting zoo (hence goats) and face painting for the kids.

It was a record turnout, which is great for the Bone Marrow Donor Program and the Cancer Center. It was perfect weather, nice and cool, running conditions we haven't had lately. It wasn't too cool because I wasn't freezing. I wore one of my Walmart tank tops.

At the Houska Houska, you find all sorts of odd things. For example, the coneheads who were working the parking lot. A few years ago there was a Saturday Night Live theme, I think it was the Blues Brothers. I don't even try figuring out a costume. Walmart fashion is enough.
Princess Leia was helping with registration.

I ran hard but kept in mind that I wasn't going to run all out, because I was doing a tempo run Tuesday. I ran hard enough that it would have been difficult to hold a conversation, but I was never so uncomfortable that I couldn't pick it up. Finished in 23:20, which is about 7 1/2 minute pace. Who knows if the course is accurate. I think that's my fastest time there yet, but who cares?

I had my root beer float and Dennis had some bloody marys and we hung out and caught up with all the people we usually never see except for each year at the Houska Houska. All runners we used to hang out with more when we were all younger, now everyone is busy with their lives and their kids, and we meet up once a year. It's always a fun day.

After the run we went home, hung out with the girls in the yard, didn't do too much, just enjoyed the cool sunshine and drank some margaritas.

I did make a big salad for lunch. Iris was sitting there in front of me, drooling. I don't know why. There was no meat in the salad. Lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, avocado. That was it.

So that brings me to the things that have twisted my brain over the past 24 hours.

1. What's this thing I keep seeing about a Runner's World-initiated running streak? My question is, why would Runner's World want to encourage this? I suppose if someone was having a hard time getting motivated, this sort of thing might possibly help them break through a mental block. But if someone is just getting started, it's not such a great idea to have them run every day. I hope walking counts too?

First of all, I don't do things that everyone does. Usually, if everyone's doing it, that's a good enough reason for me to NOT do it. And even if it's only a mile a day, for 38 days, there are days when running a mile for the sake of running a mile can actually impair healing. For example, with the workouts and runs I do, especially those that cause swelling in my feet or other places, running or even walking a mile is not such a good idea on those days. Elevating my feet and sitting on my butt seems like a better streak during those times. (Add a good Fort Collins microbrew or a frozen margarita with salt and I'm happy!)

I realize there are lots of runners out there who have personal running streaks. That's their business. I don't think it's a good idea for most people. So, thanks, but no thanks. And I suppose RW might imagine otherwise, but I'm not a sheep. Baaaa.

2. I was in the grocery store today doing my rare but obligatory big box supermarket visit to get the things that I can only get at the big stores. No, it wasn't Walmart, either. I went to King Soopers (or King Stoopids, as they call it here). I was walking down the aisle with the paper towels and toilet paper, and noticed a little sticky note on a package of toilet paper. It was white, so it was hard to see, but I read it. Damn, I also took it with me but now I can't find it! I was going to post it here on the blog. It was a little square white sticky note that had one of those smart phone scanner codes in the corner, but in a font that looks like handwriting, it said "Groceries or Gas? Thanks Obama!"

Well, I had to find out the source, and I had left my cell phone at home. When I got home I googled on it and came up with a group calling itself the Longmont Tea Party. Funny, Longmont is just down the road. I looked on their website and found a couple of links that I clicked on, one link led to another sticky note that they were putting on gas pumps. That one said something about how gas cost $1.78 a gallon in 2008 before Obama was elected, and blaming Obama for high gas prices.

That's funny. I seem to remember paying well over $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008. I remember that because I ran Badwater that summer and gas prices were at record highs. But it seems like someone else was President at the time. How can that be, when it's all Obama's fault, he singlehandedly destroyed the economy. Oh, I know- Obama was secretly undermining the economy because he's related those A-Rabs, ya know, his middle name is Hussein. He's actually related to Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein. Both! He wasn't born here, either. You know, if we elect Obama, we'll all be speaking Arabic. And he'll take away our guns.

3. I said religion in the post title, right? I guess I don't really have anything to say about that this time. I was worshipping the Black Hills topographic map series I received in the mail this weekend. I love maps. Dennis says I love maps like Imelda Marcos loves shoes. Maybe I should update that- isn't it that Kardashian chick who loves shoes? Imelda Marcos is so 80s.

That's about the closest thing to religion I got all weekend. I have a more secular explanation for my behavior. I'm a map nerd.

This morning I did my tempo run because Shannon had a schedule conflict for our usual evening run tonight. I got a good 8.3 miles at an average pace of 8:08. Not bad. After that I went to the sauna and was lucky- I had it to myself!!!

Training-wise right now, I am maintaining without adding additional fatigue to my legs. I haven't trained this spring to do multiple long days but I know that mentally I can do it. If I try doing anything long now it will take away more than I will gain, the five days off last week was perfect.

All I will do for now is keep my mileage in the mid-50s, continue with speedwork and strides, and spend time in the sauna. It's only another 2 1/2 weeks until the Double Mick!

Friday, May 25, 2012

How Not to Meet Women in the Sauna

1. Shave. Bringing your razor to the sauna is not entirely socially appropriate. Yes it does show you have talent by doing it without a mirror, but if you cut yourself, it can be quite unsanitary. Also, getting your little chin stubble hairs all over the bench is not fair to the next person who sits down in that spot that already contains your dried sweat. Keep some samples of your DNA to yourself.

2. Have business conversations on your cell phone when there are 4 other people in the sauna with you. We don't need to know the details of how you flubbed up that last contract and you need to dictate an e-mail to your secretary, as you tell her on the phone, in order to get everyone on the same page immediately, because, as you tell her on the phone, you're sweating in the gym right now. Now there are 4 potential customers you've just lost because we all know you flubbed up. And yes, you're sweating in the sauna, which happens to be in the gym, and we can all see you sweating.

3. Infuse the air with your favorite scent of essential oil. Not only might ylang sandalwood jasmine lemon eucalyptus not be the flavor of the day, but for the sake of other people who might want to use the sauna in the several hours or days following your presence there, leave it at home, or in your car, or wherever only you can smell it. Same with cologne- keep it to yourself and use only when you're around people who want to smell you, and when you're not in a small space with other people. The smell of sweat-infused pine boards baking at 180 degrees has never been proven carcinogenic, and it's okay for people to be able to inhale while they're in the sauna. It won't hurt them one bit.

4. Engage in conversation with the woman in the sauna about the intimate details of your life, even though you just met her but you already feel warm, comfortable, and confident sharing this small space with her. She doesn't need to know about your prior DUI conviction, your hepatitis, or your messy divorce. There's a reason why she's in the exact opposite corner of the sauna from you with a towel over her face. Did you know the towel actually maximizes the benefit of the sauna? Really, you should try it. But it only works if it goes over your face...

5. Repeatedly puff your chest and make loud, heavy breathing noises as you inflate your chest wall to maximize the dimensions of your rippling pectoralis muscles. There might be a health care professional in the sauna with you who could mistakenly think you're in respiratory distress and call 911. It might be the fastest way to get you out of the sauna.

I am sure there are women out there who are just as guilty of doing socially unacceptable things in the sauna, but this is what I've observed being in the sauna with mostly men. My advice: Bring a towel.

Thought for the Day: Stop Forrest Stop!

Early this morning I checked my e-mail and found a post on Woofie's ultralist from one of the runners who often writes thought-provoking and creative posts.

The question he posed to the list was whether we ultrarunners look like many people he's observed out walking or running around a park in his hometown, looking rather discontented.

He also asks if someone saw us running with that look on our faces, would they assume we weren't enjoying it?

I replied to his post with my thoughts:

I often see people out walking or running who have that stressed out look on their faces, or look unhappy. I don't think it's because they aren't enjoying the exercise, but they are processing their feelings and thoughts in general while they are moving, either consciously or unconsciously. I think a lot of people are unhappy- and might not even realize they have a choice because they haven't stopped to think about it.

People are stressed- they have so much to do and it seems that they get little in return for it. I'm not talking about their jobs or financial situations, which are stressful these days. There is so much distraction by minute details- so many ways to multitask and keep the brain occupied by little things- our little handheld electronic gadgets for example. There is so much out there to consume our energy, but I think most people are lost when it comes to putting something back, or restoring their energy, spirit, and overall well-being, that I think most people don't know how to listen to themselves, and let go of all the background noise.

I enjoy doing long runs alone for that reason. It's a great opportunity to leave everything behind. I also take the time as often as possible every day to be quiet, just look out the window, listen to the birds, smell the air, appreciate something simple, whatever it is, and feel gratitude for something in my life.

I think the reason many people look so unhappy is that while they are always on the go, they have forgotten how to STOP.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Prepare to Houska!

I’ve been tired and hungry for a few days. It was hot yesterday, but today we got a break in the weather and it’s raining and 59 degrees. According to my body, that is freezing. Fortunately the house had a chance to warm up to 70 before the clouds rolled in. Otherwise I would have turned on the heat. As long as I stay indoors, I’ll be okay.

I started out the day with a staff meeting at work, and afterwards I went out to the nursery to get some starter plants for the garden, just a few peppers and tomatoes, and some delphinium, because I’ve been wanting to plant those in front of the woman cave. I also got some small basil plants and repotted those by the woman cave.

I also went to REI to look for some Black Hills maps but they didn’t have any. I ended up ordering them online. I should have them by next week.

My plan was to run 10 to 15 miles today and maybe do a bike ride, but after planting all the plants I got at the nursery, I was hungry. I started searching for food. I ate all of last night’s leftovers, and then another smoothie. I could eat everything in sight. Fortunately we don’t have a lot of food in the house.

I’m meeting two friends this evening at Tortilla Marissa’s, and I will be eating there, too. I hope I can pack enough calories in today and be done with it. Tomorrow I go back to work and I won’t have time to eat much.

My legs feel sore in a few spots and I decided to make this a day off. I’m going to stay home and eat. I might as well do it today, plus next week is looking to be a challenge. Shannon has already threatened to make me work hard in my next tempo run, after I told him my goal for this fall, which is to drop a minute per mile off the pace we’re running now for my 10 mile tempo runs. He’s already planning to make me work for it this coming week.

This weekend is Memorial Day, and I’m working, except for Monday.

Monday is the Houska Houska, an event that I try not to miss. It’s a 5K in town, low key and fun, Fort Collins’ answer to the crowds of the Bolder Boulder. People dress up, it’s a fun race with no frills, no numbers, no starting waves or prize money, but you do get an interesting t-shirt based on whatever theme the race has for the year. The most important thing about this run is, it’s a fundraiser for the Bone Marrow Donor program and the Poudre Valley Cancer Center.

It starts on Monday at 9 am at Houska Automotive on Riverside Avenue in Fort Collins and runs along the Poudre Trail and dirt footpaths off the bike path, finishing back at Houska Automotive. Afterwards they serve root beer floats, hot dogs, and Bloody Marys. I like the root beer floats. Right now, that sounds so good.

I’m not really a fair-weather runner. A few drops of rain from the sky won’t scare me. Fifty-nine degrees might cause me to put on tights, gloves and a jacket, but it won’t keep me indoors. So I guess my excuse is, I’m officially tapering and calorie-loading for the Houska Houska.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Ninety Three Degree Reprieve

Tonight was my tempo run night with Shannon. Before the run I thought, he is going to kick my butt tonight.

Except it was 93 degrees and both of us were hurting when we started at 6 pm. So we decided to just do the miles and not push the pace.

When I suggested that, he let out a big sigh of relief. We'll get back to it next week. He's been pushing the mileage, and I'm still recovering, because I am still sore from the run on Longs Peak Friday. I guess my legs weren't quite ready for that.

I went to the sauna this morning and got a total of 14 miles today, but slow.

I need to start getting supplies together for South Dakota. It's not much, but I do have to make a plan for what I'll want when I'm there. I need to get some supplies for Rocket, like spare inner tubes, some tools and extra bolts and stuff. And a pump. But I have most of that already, just have to dig it all out.

This week there was a solar eclipse, and I swear, it brings out the weirdos. Worse than a full moon. I worked Monday night and it seemed like the day got weirder the longer it went on.

I've always wondered what it is about me that seems to draw people who are weird. Am I weird? Maybe so. But it's always been like this. In places like Boulder people always ask me for directions. They say I look like a local. That happened to me the first time I went to Boulder, in 1983, or something like that. I was just walking down the street and I get stopped. I lived in Steamboat Springs one winter back in the mid-80s when I did seasonal forestry work, and people used to do the same thing to me there.

And then occasionally I'll draw some weirdo, like the weird dude in the sauna, last year. They start talking to me like I'm their psychiatrist. Excuse me, but do I look like your new age therapist? Should I whip out my crystals and heal you?

Anyway the other night there was this patient who addressed me as "Ma'am" and I wasn't even his nurse but he proceeded to start telling me the most private details of his personal life that I really didn't want to know about. I finally got away from him and let his nurse know about it. I don't even think he knew I was a nurse. I could have been some random employee walking by.

Sometimes people can wear you out.

I suppose there is some degree of compassion for people, that goes along with being a nurse, for most nurses, though I have encountered a few nurses who seem to lack these qualities altogether. But speaking in terms of the general population, some people don't have the capacity for appropriate social interaction with others. And some don't have the capacity for social or emotional connection with people, period. I happened to love my psychiatric nursing clinicals when I was in nursing school, but I can't imagine working in it. Nursing anywhere provides enough psych, anyway.

One thing I recognize is that there are a lot of people out there who struggle with behavioral problems, have difficulty in social situations, and might even be considered personality disordered, but it's them and they're unlikely to change. It's usually not something you can fix or cure. It's painful to interact with them and very difficult to deal with them, but once you learn not to take it personally and accept them for who they are, it's a lot easier.

I've had to learn that the hard way with someone I care about a lot, a friend who probably would be diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder. It can be extremely frustrating until you take yourself out of the equation, then it's easier to deal with it objectively.

Anyway, enough psych for now, back to running.

I'm hungry. I want food. I only ran 40 miles last week, might hit 50 this week with some miles on the bike. I'm not in a big hurry to increase mileage before South Dakota. I need to maintain the speed I have and once I recover from that week, start building the speed again. I have some ambitious ideas brewing in the back of my head, once I get them into words, I'll share them.

And I got this in the mail today, my mileage and name to put on the Iowa-shaped wooden plaque we got after the Cornbelt. Cool. Along with a personal note from the race director congratulating me on my PR. Another reason why races like the Cornbelt are so special.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Are You Nuts?

As planned, Ed, Dale, Rocket and I met in Boulder at the Reservoir Saturday morning at 9 for our test run and planning session for the Double Mick.

Dale, the weatherman on our team, who is a meteorologist, one who studies meteors...advised us Friday night that the weather was supposed to suck all day Saturday.

So we decided to go ahead anyway and if it sucked that badly, we would just hang out in a Starbucks and plan things, and leave a test run for a later date.

Fortunately when we all arrived at Boulder Reservoir, nothing was coming down from the sky at the moment. There were big puddles and the sky looked like it would dump on us any time, but we decided to go ahead, and just run on the dirt road on the northwest side of the Reservoir, up to Niwot Road and back. That gave us a little over 5 miles with hills to test it.

We loaded a big, heavy cooler inside of Rocket, strapped a tent on the front to balance out the weight a little. I pushed Rocket on the way out, and Ed pushed it on the way back. About a mile from the cars on the way back, it started raining in a steady downpour that lasted until we were done.

We were amazed at the number of runners we saw on the road that morning. Then we remembered that we were in Boulder. The People's Republic of Boulder, that is. That's one of the names that local people give to Boulder, and it works regardless of your political orientation.

Things Ed remarked on were the number of women out running on the road. And Dale mentioned how fast everyone runs. The other thing we noticed is that pushing this Rocket contraption along the road, no one gives you a second look. This is considered normal in Boulder. In any other place people would be pulling over or slowing down to ask if you were okay or needed any help. Or asking, "Are you NUTS?"

We adjusted the handle for Ed's height. It was good for Ed except going up the steepest hills, but the hills on that road were a lot steeper than anything on the Mickelson. Going downhill it was no problem. For me, all I have to do is put the handle at the lowest possible setting and it works great.

The biggest issue we had was the front wheel's tendency to go up in the air, we can fix that by placing some weight over the front and as will most likely happen during the Double Mick, carrying a lighter cooler. The Rocket is ready to go! We'll bring some spare inner tubes for the tires, a pump, and a few tools and extra screws and bolts.

It was great to have Dale along, he's making a steady recovery from being sick last year. He kept making stupid jokes and promised me I would be sick of him after 5 days on the trail. He calls me Nurse Ratched and I threatened him with certain tools in my arsenal...

Afterwards we went into town to the Starbucks at 28th & Pearl and talked about what we'll need for the trip. It's pretty simple, all 3 of us have been through so many Badwaters that it becomes a lot easier. Also, on this trip we'll have the luxury of being able to re-stock in Custer, which is centrally located on the route, so we won't be having to worry about having 5 days worth of supplies and food.

Our biggest challenge is to find the points along the route where Dale will be able to crew us without having to carry things from the car. Dale and I are familiar with the sections along the Lean Horse 100 route, but the other parts of the trail are new to all of us. Rocket will be there in case we need it. We need to do more research by looking at Google maps and maybe the Black Hills area maps if we can find some good ones. We've talked to some local people but there isn't much along the route.

Only 4 more weeks to the Double Mick! My legs felt fine during the Rocket test run, but I took a nap late Saturday afternoon and since then I can feel my quads from the descent off Longs Friday. I tried going for an easy evening run and my legs were just dead.

Dennis gave me a massage last night but my legs were so sore he couldn't do anything with them. This morning I'll go for an easy run and then to the sauna. If the day warms up I'll get on the bike and spin easy for a while, too. You never know what the weather will do from one day to the next around here. It's freezing this morning, 42 degrees is freezing for me! By Tuesday it's supposed to warm up to 91 degrees. I might get brave enough to take off my jacket, tights, hat and gloves!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hangs With Marmots

The Hewlett Gulch fire has filled the Fort Collins area with smoke off and on for the past few days. When I woke up this morning it was smoky again, with about 1/2 mile visibility in town. Time to get out of town for a run. I've been wanting to go up Longs Peak, not to climb it, but to get on the trail and do some high altitude trail running. Since my longest trail run so far was less than 6 miles, I didn't need to do too much more, but I wanted to get a decent workout in, and I needed some vertical. This was perfect.

I drove up to the Longs Peak trailhead, and the air is a bit hazy up in Estes, especially looking back toward Loveland, but it's a lot clearer than the Fort. It's been a while since I've been on trails and above 10,000 feet. I didn't have too ambitious of an agenda. Just up and back to the Boulderfield, if it was passable, without too much deep snow, postholing and slipping would not be so good. I didn't even know how my legs would respond to a 3000+ foot climb and descent, each in about 5 miles, less than 2 weeks out of my 100+.

Going up the trail, I hit my first patch of snow near the Goblin sign, about a mile from the trailhead. Hmm. I kept going, there weren't too many people out and the parking lot was empty. I wondered what I would find. As it turned out most of the trail was in great shape, runnable and dry. There were quite a few big soft deep snowbanks in the upper trees before you hit treeline and come out in the exposed tundra below Chasm Lake. Once I hit that, there was almost no snow to deal with. I only postholed once all day, which was amazing since the snow was so deep and soft.

The trail looked clear past Chasm, and I headed up toward Granite Pass and the Boulderfield. It was slow going, I wasn't pushing hard at all, and taking lots of pictures along the way. it was a little windy but not too cold. I stopped to put my fleece shirt and gloves on once I made the turn past the pass and started heading up the last few switchbacks to the lower Boulderfield. I decided that once I hit the Boulderfield I would choose a spot to stop and turn around, the footing gets worse the closer you get to the Keyhole, and I didn't want to stress my ankle too much. I twisted it good a couple of times and I felt it, but I only felt it when I twisted it, not afterwards, so that was good.

I didn't feel too lightheaded above 12,000 feet this time. I was able to run all of the flat strecthes and the not-so steep uphills without getting too winded. That surprised me most of all.

I found a nice rock in the lower Boulderfield, took some pictures, ate a peanut butter and jelly Lara bar, and then started down. The clouds were moving in and it looked like rain. I hope it would rain, that fire needs something to keep it from spreading.

About 10 minutes after I started down the trail, I ran into a familiar-looking runner coming up the trail toward me. It took me a minute to figure it out and then I realized it was Reid Delman, who puts on several trail/adventure races around the region, such as Desert Rats, 24 Hours of Boulder, Moab, Laramie, etc.,and the Spring Trailrunning Festival in Fruita each year. I haven't seen him or run any of his races in so long since I had to avoid trails. We talked for a while then each went on our way. He was doing the same thing as me, to the Boulderfield and back.

I stopped for more pictures on the way back to the trailhead. This pair of marmots hanging out on a rock stayed there and I got my iPhone ready to take their picture. But by the time I snapped the picture, the male had mounted the female and they were busy making baby marmots. Fortunately I didn't catch that in my photo. I took off to leave them to their marmot business.

On the way down there was this group of 4 older people, well into their 70s at least, I had passed them at the beginning of my run near the trailhead. They were still coming up and approaching Chasm Lake, and I was on my way down. The man leading the group saw me and said, "Oh, no, not one of THOSE." The dreaded trail runner. I wished them a nice hike and kept going.

Once I passed most of the snow I picked up the pace and ran hard down the last mile or so, trying to not worry about rocks, since the lower trail is in such good shape. It took me over 3 hours to do the run but I was taking my time. I got at least 10 miles in, with +/- 3200 feet of vertical gain and descent. I guess I'll find out in the next two days if that is enough to make me sore these days. I hope not.

Driving down Big Thompson Canyon it looked like rain. it smelled a lot less like smoke when I got back to town. The flowers in the front yard are opening up and it's getting more colorful out there every day. We need rain!

Tomorrow, I meet Ed and Dale for our Double Mick planning session and Rocket Run in Boulder. I hope there's less smoke by tomorrow. It's supposed to rain!

Word of the Day: Mottephobia

Poor Isabelle. We've been having an infestation of miller moths in town this year.

They are these horrible ugly gray moths that swarm the house in the evening when we turn the lights on. It's good that Isabelle wasn't around 22 years ago. In 1990 when Dennis and I were spending our first summer in Fort Collins, it was the year of the miller moth. There was a major invasion of those gross things. This year isn't as bad, but it's the worst I remember other than 1990. When you swat at them, they leave this disgusting dust, which is actually scales from their wings. It gives me the chills.

I don't know why moths gross me out so bad, I used to really like insects, I'm such a nerd, that I even took a couple of classes in entomology when I was in my Bachelor's program in Forestry at NAU. Back then I thought insects were pretty cool. I prefer beetles, though.

I woke up early this morning, around 5, after not sleeping so well. I went downstairs to start the daily routine: start the coffee, give the girls their treats, go out with the girls and get the paper out of the driveway, and feed them. Isabelle cowered upstairs next to the bedroom door, which I kept closed so Dennis wouldn't wake up while I was doing things downstairs.

I couldn't figure out what was wrong, she wouldn't come downstairs, even for her morning treat. Then I saw that nasty moth fly away from upstairs, over to the kitchen light that I turned on. Isabelle has always been afraid of flies and moths. I think it's because we swat at them and she doesn't like that. She's sensitive to loud noises and 4 letter words. She doesn't like the vacuum cleaner either. Nothing fazes Iris, she isn't afraid of anything. Iris will snap at moths, flies, and bees, and she attacks the vacuum when it's running. Isabelle is afraid of everything, except fence fighting. Then she becomes the tough dog.

I looked it up on Google. Mottephobia is the term for fear of moths. I hope the moths go away soon, both for Isabelle's sake, and my own.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Badwater runners, CREW and anyone else planning on being in Death Valley this summer for the Badwater Ultramarathon, if you haven't started your heat training by now, that should be a BIG priority.

Don't wait any longer. The race is only 2 months away and this year is shaping up to be a hot one...

Last year in May and June I went down to Arizona to do some heat training in the desert and the temperature was only into the 90s in May and barely cracked 100 in June. This year, it's already been 112 in Death Valley, and it's only mid-May.

I'm not only referring to the runners here, I'm talking about the equally important CREW. Runners need to be diligent about heat training, but they usually do their homework. It's the crews who have often been less prepared for the conditions.

A Hot Year

In 2003 I crewed and paced for my friend Ken Eielson. That was the year it was 133 degrees. I also crewed for Josh Miller in 2002, when it was was 127 degrees. I remember how intense the heat was, and yes, there really is a difference between 115, 120, and 130. Those two years I was living in the Arizona desert and one of the things I did to prepare myself was a 30 mile run on a 117 degree day in Phoenix, where I stayed overdressed most of the day.

I didn't have access to a sauna back then, but I'd park my car in the driveway, roll the windows up tight, and sit there baking for up to an hour with a magazine, a good supply of ice water and electrolyte replacement. My neighbors thought I was nuts, and it was uncomfortable, but I paced Ken the whole way from Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells that year and I had no problems with the heat.

Sauna training, overdressing and running in the heat, cranking up the heater in your car, attaching a hose to your clothes dryer and a hot suit and running on a treadmill, or whatever contraptions you use to prepare for the heat, make sure you're doing plenty of it.

Crew Preparation

I can't emphasize enough to runners that they insist their crews be prepared for the heat. Crews are the ones who tend to be less heat-trained, even if they are endurance athletes themselves.

Being in a hot car and staying busy tending to the runners needs makes it easy to neglect your own needs as a crew member- staying hydrated, cooling down, getting out of the sun, eating enough, getting enough electrolyte replacement.

Crews, you have to be on top of things in the extreme heat for your runner's sake. To function well under such intense conditions you are going to have to take of yourselves. Not only do you need a plan for the runner, but you need an equally important crew plan. You won't be running the A/C in your vehicles, so you'll be exposed, too. Inside a vehicle is hotter than outdoor air.

If it's your first time, if you can get out there to experience that kind of heat before the race, along with any or all of your crew, it would be a good reality check. Everyone on the crew should be doing some kind of heat training. Especialy if they aren't normally exposed to hot conditions. Even people who live in warm climates can easily be overpowered by the intensity of a 130 degree day.

If a crew member is new to intense heat and hasn't experienced anything like Badwater conditions, it's a good idea that they check with their own physician before jumping into a heat training program or just showing up in Death Valley in mid-July. If you have some undetected medical condition, it could become a serious, even life-threatening problem out there. I can't emphasize this enough. Don't assume that being a healthy, active person, or even a well-conditioned runner, under normal conditions, qualifies you to physically tolerate 130 degree heat.

Crew Supplies

Crew supplies include sunscreen, hats, clothing to protect them from the sun like those Sun Precautions suits, ice bandanas, towels for covering up hot vinyl like steering wheels, seats, and other items that heat up in the vehicle, towels for placing over the body with ice and ice water, enough ice for the crew to use for themselves, enough electrolyte replacement, water, and drinks for crew members, cotton gloves for touching hot metal on the outside of the vehicle, shadescreens for the windshield when the vehicle is parked for a period of time.

You'll need sunscreen, hand wipes and ways to keep the sunscreen from getting into the runner's drinks and drinkable ice, be careful keeping any food that could spoil. I advise avoiding thing that spoil altogether- certain fruits such as melons, anything with mayonnaise in it, anything with a short shelf life or that needs constant refrigeration under normal coonditions. At least one person on each crew or crew shift should be taking extra care of the crew, making sure everyone is getting adequate fluids and breaks from the heat.

Be Prepared for The Worst: A Backup Plan

You need a backup plan in case something happens. What if Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, or Panamint Springs run out of ice? Where will you go? Lone Pine, Beatty, Pahrump? A backup plan includes a cooler large enough and enough extra ice that in an emergency, everything could be dumped out and the person can be cooled down in it. Have an emergency plan of what to do if someone does get sick. Plan for the worst, and keep the evil spirits away!

Knowledge is Power

For information on heat illness and how to prevent it, the Badwater website has great information. Check out all of those articles on heat training. Read every single one.

Everyone is going to suffer some degree of heat discomfort out there. The key is to stay on top of it, get ahead of it before it becomes serious heat illness, and know when your body is starting to heat up. It's time to cool down before you get uncomfortable, don't wait until you feel really bad. See my post on "Lessons Learned" about my cooldown breaks.

Stay Away From Me!

I'm looking forward to being on the medical team again this year and as much as I love seeing the runners and their crews at Badwater, I'd rather pass you on the road seeing you moving forward, smiling, or giving a thumbs-up. Other than that, I don't want to see you until the post-race party.

With just two months to go, it's enough time that you can adequately prepare for the heat. But don't wait any longer. Even if you follow a formal training plan such as Art Webb's excellent sauna training program that lasts 4 weeks leading up to the race, some extra preparation is a smart idea this year.

Be safe, and make your Death Valley experience a successful and enjoyable one.

photo credits: Nathan Nitzky

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Day of Surprises

I enjoyed having the day off today. Normally I work Monday and Tuesday together, but it's a nice break right now just doing one day at a time. I don't get nearly as exhausted that way. I took the girls for a walk early this morning and the day was heating up fast. I got an e-mail from Miles, the sports editor at the local paper, who was interested in an article on the Quad Rock, so I got to work on that right away. Nick's in Europe, but I was able to reach Pete who gave me all the information I needed.

I went over to the sauna for 35 minutes and felt pretty good in there. I can tell my tolerance isn't quite what it was last year. Partially because I haven't been doing it, but I also suspect thyroid. It's a fine line, if I want good heat tolerance, I have to make myself get hypo enough, but that comes at a price: gaining weight and poor running performance. It's a trade off for sure. Since this year my priority is not to do any major events in the heat, I'll stick with what I have now.

After the sauna I was pretty wiped out. I drank an S-cap smoothie and worked on the article until I had it basically done, minus some details from Pete and editing about 200 words out. I went for a bike ride along the Spring Creek and Poudre Trails, about 21 miles, easy. I forgot about the big Hewlett Gulch fire up Poudre Canyon, and the smoke was visible above Grey Rock and the foothills north of town. The river is starting to rise a little, but it's low this year.

Then as I was riding back home, I came across this: swarming bees. I've had some experiences with swarming bees around here. One time Allsion Horn and I were running along the ditch near Tavelli Elementary, a million years ago, and we were stuck on the canal bank, with nowhere to go, unless we took a dive in the icky water. The swarm was just high enough and Allison and I are both short enough that we decided to run underneath the swarm. Fortunately we never got stung, but found out later that was really a dumb thing to do. At least we don't have the killer bees here like we did in Arizona. We had a 4 foot honeycomb in our garage rafters from those bees.

After my bike ride I came home, ate lunch, worked on a few things, and took a nap. Then I got ready for my run with Shannon. I had no idea what to expect. I thought I'd struggle with running a faster pace and decided to just go with whatever happened. But once we got out there, I was moving well, even pushing the pace up the hills without realizing it. I managed 8:30 miles for 10 miles. Not bad for a week after my race. I feel like my effort in Iowa was much more mental than physical. My knee felt decent tonight too. I could feel it slightly in the last 3 miles but it's not even what I'd call sore. It's just there.

Not a bad day's work!

This weekend Ed and Dale and I are meeting in Boulder to take Rocket for a test run at Boulder Reservoir and then we'll do a planning session somewhere afterwards. The Double Mick is only a month away!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Six Mile Week

I'm wrapping up a recovery week, it's been nice to have the extra time to do things.

This week I did two easy bike rides of 10 and 20 miles, two runs totaling 6 miles, 5 of which were in this morning's run, went to the sauna once, finished Rocket (thanks to Dennis), and had a birthday party for Iris, who turns 11 today.
It was weird to be in the sauna again, it's been 10 months! But it was relaxing. I did 30 minutes this first time, which wasn't bad. I felt like staying longer, but I didn't need to. I want to get some heat training in before South Dakota, and it's probably a good idea because this year is looking to be a hot one everywhere. With my plans for Lean Horse in August, and just being out on the Badwater course in July, a little heat training will help. It's already been 110 in Death Valley and it's only mid-May. My stepmom said it was supposed to be 105 in Phoenix when I talked to her today. Last year I remember I went down to train in the heat and it didn't hit 100+ until June.

We had pupcakes from Arfy's for Iris and Isabelle, for Iris's birthday. The girls sang Happy Birthday, and Iris blew out her own candle, she's so talented. I was trying to take a video and forgot to snap a few pictures, but Isabelle's birthday is coming up in July and we'll have pupcakes again.

The other thing I did this weekend was go up to Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park to check out the Quad Rock 50 and 25 mile runs. This is Fort Collins' first real trail ultra race, unless you count the Blue Sky 50km race that is also a trail marathon, that has been going for a few years. Not to say that a 50Km isn't a legitimate ultra, but having a 50 mile race is a big deal for this area, we've never had one up here before. Nick Clark and Pete Stevenson were the main forces behind this event and it looked like they did a superb job. I heard lots of runners saying good things about it and that they'd want to come back and run it again, even those who struggled with it this year.

The weather was probably perfect running conditions for many of the runners. It was on the cool side, only hit a high of 49 degrees in Fort Collins all day, and the course is on terrain that is 1000-2000 feet higher than town. It was overcast and I heard there was some snow on the higher elevations of the course. If the weather was following it's recent pattern it would have been close to 40 degrees warmer and then it would have been a bit more difficult. The cold weather also kept the snakes away. May is unpredictable in Colorado, you can have any conditions from blizzards to extreme heat, so I think the weather gods were smiling on this race.

They had a 50 miler and a 25 miler. The 50 was two loops of the 25 mile course with the second one done in reverse. It took runners on a variety of trails throughout both parks, with 5500' elevation gain and descent on each loop. That's 11,000 feet gain and descent on the 50, which qualifies it as a very challenging 50 miler. The aid stations looked well-stocked, and while the cold weather seemed to take everyone by surprise, I saw the aid station on the south end providing hot drinks for the runners when they came through at 40 miles.

I think this event puts Fort Collins on the ultra map as a having a legitimate ultra destination run. We have so many great trails and scenic places to run, it's going to catch on fast as a popular race. While I was out there I wished I was up to running trails enough that I could have participated in the 25 miler. Maybe by next year. People seemed to be coming into the finish area happy and I didn't hear any griping. I hope Nick and Pete are happy about the result because putting on a race is such a huge effort, it's a commitment, and they did a fantastic job. Once you put on a first time event and it's successful, people want to come back. I think this one is going to be big.

I go back to work tomorrow, and I need to get my butt back in gear. Only 5 weeks to the Double Mick. Next weekend Ed and Dale and I are going to hook up for a planning session and a test run with Rocket. When I ran today I felt good, just a little soreness in that right knee after 4 1/2 miles, and I came home and iced it.

The weather is supposed to warm up this week again. Bring it on!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Loaded Rocket!

It's recovery week, and things are going well. I still have some residual soreness in my left hip and the inner side of my right knee, which I presume are from the track curves. Each day they've gotten better. Today I hardly notice the hip. It's the knee that I can still feel.

The swelling is gone and I can see tendons in my feet again, my ankles and knees are back to normal size, and my appetite has settled down some, after a major sushi binge Tuesday night.

I've been taking naps and getting some good sleep and I feel like I'm mostly recovered already. I'll find out the truth as soon as I try to run fast again, that should be interesting.

Having these few days off with nothing urgent to do has been great, it's given me a chance to kick back and think about what I want to do the rest of the year with my running. I'm full of ideas today, but I have a plan that should work well.

I took Rocket for a run this afternoon, my first run since the race. I only ran about a mile with it, in the heat of the afternoon, 83 degrees or so. I put a big cooler in with tons of full water bottles in there, and it was heavy. It's comfortable and it feels fine, both pushing and pulling. Dennis ordered a bigger wheel for the front, so we're waiting on that to make the adjustment, and then Ed and I will have to take it for a test run. I'll do a few miles each day and build up slowly, I think getting about 20 miles max with that thing is all I need.

The other thing I need to add to my training now is heat. I'm going to add a couple of visits to the sauna each week from now until Double Mick, and continue some of that all the way to Lean Horse. If we have a hot summer I won't have to spend much time in the sauna, I'd rather be out running in the heat. But it's there if I need it.

I rode the Surly 10 miles yesterday and 20 miles today, easy, and I feel pretty good. My butt got sore from the seat, since I haven't been riding the bike. I'll have to get used to that again. It feels good to ride, I'm going to do a lot more of that this summer than in the past.

I go back to work tomorrow, just for one day, which is an extra shift I picked up for someone. If I didn't, it would have been a full 2 weeks off, but this just means less vacation time I have to use, which is fine with me. I feel like I got enough of a break from work that I am ready to go back. I have this weekend off, then I have a weird schedule for the next two weeks, work a day, have 2 off, work another day, 2 more off, etc. As of Memorial Day weekend I'll be back on my normal schedule, just in time to go away in mid-June for the Double Mick.

This weekend is Nick's Quad Rock 25 & 50 mile race, unless I find some other pressing thing to do, I will go up to the park and cheer for the people I know who are running. I hope the race goes well and becomes a popular one. It's a great course, and I'm hoping it gets some media coverage too. If it doesn't get local coverage, I'll put it in my running column at the end of the month.

I just found out about a new race, the Equinox Half Marathon, this fall in Fort Collins. I'm going to sign up. It's September 23rd and it runs down the Poudre Canyon, like the Colorado Marathon, but from Mishawaka to Ted's Place. Lisa Sinclair is organizing it and she's got her act together. I don't run too many local races these days but I think this one will be good, even in the first year.

I need to find a few short races this summer, anything from about 20K to 30K, to use as fast training runs. That will be one of them. I'll have to find something in July, August, and October too. Maybe a marathon in early October. As soon as I get my August schedule and am sure I have the time off in the end of August, I'm signing up for the Lean Horse Hundred. And the same with the race in Oklahoma, 24 The Hard Way, I'm going to do a 12 hour there.

And I saw on Nick's blog that he made it up Longs Peak last week, so that's on my list soon- I want to at least run to the Boulderfield. Most of the trail isn't too rocky until you get up higher. I can test out my ankle up there with a good high altitude run. I'll try to do that before Memorial Day- when the crowds come back. I used to run a double Boulderfield or a triple Twin Sisters once a week years ago, it was a staple of my training when I used to run Leadville.

I don't enjoy the drive to Estes Park so much anymore, but I'd like to get back to doing those trails, at least once in a while. I don't spend enough time in the mountains anymore, since I spent so much time doing heat and road training the past several years. Now that trails are an option again, I can look forward to more variety this summer.