Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taking a Break

In an effort to allow my shin splits and other running aches/pains to dissipate before our backpacking trip (which, for the sake of privacy and theft avoidance we'll just say is "upcoming") I took a break from running. Well, I tried to take a break. I suffered through a 6 a.m. trail run last Tuesday with Lynn and Elissa (not really suffered...it was pleasant once I got over the fact that it was 6 a.m.) and then called a Time Out.

The reason for my Time Out was because I noticed that weight was making my shins hurt more. When I carried my bike downstairs, my shins, which hadn't twinged for days, hurt. When I carried in what must've been 25 lbs of groceries or something, they hurt. So it stood to reason that carrying a 25-30 lb backpack might make them hurt...I wasn't sure, but I also wasn't taking any chances. So, no running. I took 3 days off completely: No running, no hiking, no nothing. Saturday I went out for an early morning hike (wearing the trail runners of course) but it was so hot and the trail so bumpy that I didn't really attempt more than 5 minutes of running. I enjoyed the hike and was able to actually look around at my surroundings instead of straight at the ground!

Sunday I biked Rustler's Loop. Sure it's only about a 45-50 minute ride, but that's enough to get your heart pumping fast and put a grin on your face! I had work to do or else I would have ridden longer. Today I was grumpy. Well, if I'm being honest I was grumpy all weekend, except for when I was biking. I finally had had enough. Still not really willing to risk our trip, I headed home at lunch for a 20 minute walk/run. Hey, 20 minutes was all I had and it was better than nothing!

I really did feel better. Even just 11 minutes of running interspersed with walking felt great. After our trip I'll come back and get started training again for the first of two half marathons: The Mount Sneffels Half Marathon. If you check out the route map, on the hand-drawn map you can click on each mile marker to see what the area looks like there. It's beautiful! I'm SO lucky to get to go run this 13.1 miles...even if I'm next-to-last I won't care because I'll have spent 2+ hours jogging, walking, huffing and puffing, in this beautiful stretch of Colorado. At the end, I hope Lynn and I look like this:

But I"ll probably look more like this:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Western Rim...a new favorite?

The BF says to me yesterday, "If you could bike anywhere around here tomorrow where would it be?" I said, "Western Rim." Who wouldn't want to spend hours looking at this view?

I think I'm getting comfortable with this trail. Last year I took a bad endo (head over handlebars) off of a ledge right at the start of the gorgeous rim portion and I kind of froze up for the rest of the season. I improved a little, but I was nervous. This year I feel like I'm breaking through every time we bike there. Each time I've ridden something I didn't ride before and I've gotten more at ease with the whole trail.

If you've never been there, the Western Rim trail starts way out in Rabbit Valley by the McDonald Creek Trailhead. You can read some great directions here. When you start out I suggest heading straight over the cattle guard and up the double track Kokopelli Trail. You can follow this all the way to the overlook. You'll save some energy climbing this as opposed to Trail #2 which bears to the right over the cattle guard. Ride the Trail #2 back to the trail head for some awesome downhill!

From the overlook I suggest riding clockwise. You'll hit a huge sandy portion of the trail but after that it's almost all rideable. There are a few hills to push up and maybe a few ledges to walk over/around, but a lot of it is like this:

Fun single track close (but not often scarily close) to the edge of a cliff. You get this for oh 5 or so miles. Here's a challenging but fun little bit on the rim:

I suggest staying far left coming down this!

After that there are 2 hills that will require some pushing by all but the most awesome of awesome riders. Past this is MORE fun downhill over rocks and then you hit the slog...This is me, halfway through the slog:

I'm smiling because I found shade! The 3 miles or so of grinding away at the road takes you back to the overlook where you can bomb down Trail #2 almost all the way back to the car.

IF you decide to check out Western Rim you'll need a high clearance vehicle, or at least a Subaru to get out there ;) I also think, for your virgin Western Rim ride, it's best to have a guide! Happy riding!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Break Throughs

Well the weekend was spent looking out of the windows repeating, "It's still raining!" I won't bore you with the details of that. I will mention that (as seen on FB) I did in fact run 8 miles yesterday. But since I've written 2 posts about running, I'm skipping over most of that as well.

Last week after work the BF and I decided to head out to Lunch Loop for an after-work ride. Lunch Loop is one of the most technical areas for biking and I've struggled for a year with overcoming physical and mental obstacles out there. I assumed this day would be no different. We headed down the main trail and took a right on Pet-Y-kes and huffed and puffed our way up the trail. It was hot. I'd stop and pant and hear my heartbeat in my head...kathump kathump kathump...then I'd go again. The BF was way ahead of me because honestly we just try to get up the hard parts as fast as possible. Who can blame him for riding ahead?

I let a guy pass me and then tried to psych myself up. There was a piece approaching that I never ride. That's not an exaggeration. I've never ridding this. It's a part of the trail where the left side is exposed, and as you come around a curve on the very narrow single track, a big rectangular rock sticks its big ole corner right out into the trail. I'm always afraid I'm going to hit my pedal and go flying off the edge of the trail. For whatever reason this time as I approached it I just kept riding. I didn't look at the rock, I looked at the left edge of the trail. That way i'd be aiming for as far away from the rock as possible. I rode past it and was so excited and focused on that that I didn't make the next obstacle. Still, one obstacle down! I figured if i didn't ride anything else new that day , i didn't care. You can see in the photo above how narrow and exposed the trail is.

From the top of Pet-Y-Kes (after I'd gotten a few bruises and a scrape on some rocks, just to prove I wasn't invincible) we headed left towards the main trail, crossed it, and continued down High Noon. This is the fun part! High Noon is a great connector to the ridge and doesn't require you to climb up to Lemon Squeezer. There are 3 obstacles in a row: The first is a drop which rolls off. It's a big drop, but because it rolls it's doable. Then there is an up-and-over spot that I still have trouble with because I have to pedal up then try to get off the seat and back as far as possible as I go over. Finally there is a craggy, rocky drop between 2 big rocks with a turn at the bottom. I almost made this one before I chickened out that day. Still, I'd never even attempted it before! What was up with my confidence???

Across the ridge we went...easy peasy with just one stop to walk up a ledge. I was talking to myself. "Come on Julie...you can make it down the hill at the end here. You almost did it last time. Just drop the ledge and go. Follow _____ (the BF)." This was the hill in question, from the top:

That's my buddy Andy riding down last year. No fear. A lot of people aim for the left side, then head right halfway down. The BF takes a more straight forward approach. He goes straight down the right side, drops a ledge and cruises to the bottom. No turns, nothing. Just aim straight ahead and go! So that's what I did. I dropped the ledge. By that point I knew he was at the bottom watching. "You got it! You got it!" I could hear him cheering and I knew there was no way I wasn't making it down the hill. I cruised to the bottom like it was nothing! Here's the hill from the bottom:

(That's Andy again. His bro took these last year.) You can see from here the difference in going straight down the biker's right (viewer's left) and going biker's left then right...

As I pulled up beside him he stood there with his mouth hanging open. "That was...amazing. It was beautiful! You looked so calm and in control!" I'm pleased when I accomplish any new trick or obstacle, but at Lunch Loop, well, I'm doubly proud of myself anytime I make it out of there without Life Flight!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Trail Running

Not the best picture, but not the worst place to get in a good run either. I started trail running because of shin splints. Nasty, tiny knife-like pain in my left shin right above my ankle. Leaving behind the neighborhood roads and heading for the hills (literally) seemed like a good move. It was, it has been. Yesterday the mid-80s temps and cloudy skies made the weather perfect for a trail run. I headed out right after work to Lunch Loop / Tabaguache and decided to run up Eagle's Tail, over to High Noon, then all the way across the ridge and down Kurt's Lane. It's really only about 3 miles, but it's 3 trail miles which, the way I figure it, is at least 4 or 4.5 road miles.

Trails present all kinds of new obstacles: rocks to hop over, sandy or rocky steep hills to crank up or run down, trees to snake past, and of course, bikers and other hikers all on a single track course. The first 20 minutes saw me running for 5 and walking for 2 repeatedly. I told myself if I ran up every hill on this trail I could have all the beer and pasta I wanted afterwards! So I cranked it up all 5 hills on Eagle's Tail and recovered in between. (I'd post a map of the area, but my map is old. Eagle's tail can be found by taking the main Tabaguache trail out to the first intersection, taking a right there towards Pet-Y-Kes and Eagle's, and then taking another right at the next intersection).

Once I was through the hills I only made one more stop on my entire 52 minute route. That was after running up the hill to the top of the ridge and was mostly because I was letting some bikers get ahead of me. The rolling almost-all-downhill section from the ridge top to the parking lot makes for fast time and tricky footwork. Still, you'll never hear me say that I hate running. How could I hate running when the hills and views around me are so amazing? How could I hate it when the whole 52 minutes is spent leaping over and around obstacles, taking my mind off any problems or issues I might have? If you run and you hate it, you should find a new sport. I run and I love it. Even when it hurts.

Today's weather is proving to be difficult for biking. Rain, clouds, rain, clouds...we might actually have to REST for a whole day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Running vs. Biking

It's a difficult decision these days...do I train for the half-marathon in October by running, or do I mountain bike with the BF and consider it cross-training? Well so far I've managed to do both. I get in two-three runs a week and bike on the days the BF is off. My shins greatly enjoy the biking because it gives them a chance to rest and my ego enjoys the huge strides I've been making as well. I think my biking is improving because my legs are stronger, my endurance better, and my confidence in my abilities is growing too. My running is going well. I've got like 17 weeks to go and I'm up to 8 miles (this weekend anyway) already! I've got tons of time to enjoy my growing endurance in both sports.

My sometimes-running-buddies, Lynn and Elyssa, are super supportive as well. I'm way slower than them and yet when we run together they stop and wait on me. I can text Lynn and give her the breakdown on my run and even if I ran 3 miles in 50 minutes she'd say, "Way to go! You're breathing down my neck!" It's a good thing I have her to keep me motivated some days...my competitive streak comes out and all I want to do is keep up with her on those trails! She'll be hitting her 8 miles on Sunday probably while I'm still at home reading the paper...but then I'll bike with the BF and drink beer and life will be good for us all :)

Still, when I'm doing one, I'm thinking about the other. When I'm trail running I'm thinking which line I'd take if I were on my bike. When I'm biking I occasionally catch myself watching trail runners with envy. (Then of course I hit a technical section and can't think about anything except cleaning the section and then I'm stoked and I forget about everything else). I guess having 2 sport loves is better than no sport loves, but it sure does make it difficult to choose some days!