Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

December 29, 2015

Pioneer Park and Slot Canyon, St. George, Utah

Top of the slot canyon
Just off Interstate 15 through the town of St. George is a tiny slot canyon.  It's only about 100 feet long, but at only about one foot wide for some of it, it might make you wonder if your buttons will pop off your pants before you get through!

We were passing through on our way to a family reunion, but also wanted to scope out St. George for an upcoming race.  The Happy Mutant 72 Hour Adventure Race will be held from 15 - 18 January, 2016.    The race is supposed to include bicycling, canyoneering, caving, hiking and orienteering.  My teammates and I hope it won't be too cold that weekend, but we are excited to explore the slick rock and canyons around the area!

The slot canyon was as narrow as advertised...at times I couldn't turn my head around to see behind me!  And if I took a deep breath, I could feel both sides of the rock pressing in.   It's not for the claustrophobic, that's for sure.  There is no way to pass someone coming the other way, but it's short enough I suppose it usually isn't a problem.  On this particular day we had the place all to ourselves.

The area has a lot of nice rocks to play on, and even a couple of arches.  For the first time we let Spot off the leash so he could play on the boulders.   It also has a great botanical garden near the slot canyon...the area is well worth a stop to explore the slot and stretch your legs.

December 28, 2015

My New Training Partner....Spot!

5 Months
Well, I've wanted an animal for a long time now.  Actually, I wanted a cat.  But cats can't run and play and travel with us, and Jim loves dogs.    He had previously had an Australian Cattle Dog (also known as a Blue Heeler), and said they were the smartest dog ever.  I can concur with that now...Spot learned to sit, stay, roll over and many other tricks within weeks of getting him!   I was particularly happy when he learned to fetch...allowing us to tire him out chasing balls from the comfort of our chairs :)

Unfortunately, Spot won't be able to run with me for a while...his bones and joints are still growing.  But we go for long walks and he loves traveling with us wherever we go.   

Anyway, I'm excited to have him grow up so he can go on long runs with us.   He should be able to go long distances, as long as it isn't too hot.   Ironically, although he was bred to herd cattle in the hot Australian outback, he seems to prefer cold weather and snow!

Picking up Spot at 8 weeks
He needs to grow into his paragliding harness!
In the tractor
Obstacles at the dog park

First day at the beach

So cute at 8 weeks

He loves snow!
Tearing apart his first halloween costume

December 27, 2015

Woodside 35k, 27 Dec 2015

We're back for a second year at Woodside for a trail run through the thick forests south of San Francisco.    This race is part of the Pacific Coast Trail runs, and it's a great way to work off the excess Turkey from Christmas dinner!

I had downgraded this year from the 50k to the 35k.  I hadn't been running very much in 2015, and finally realized that I would enjoy the race a lot more if I didn't bite off too much.   That's a hard lesson for me to learn, but I did remember from last year that the 50k loop was a huge downhill/uphill  slog, so cutting that section out this year wasn't hard to do!

Jim had decided to do the 17k again this year, and had actually been running quite a bit, so he was excited to best his time.  We were both freezing at the start, the car said it was only 32 degrees and there was frost and ice along the trail until well past half of the course.

The coastal mountains are nothing if not steep, so after a few minutes of downhill, the true uphill started.  It went on for miles and miles.  For a few glorious minutes, I had been the leading women, but as the grade steepened, the whippets streamed by me, and I wouldn't see them again until the turnaround point, where they were already far in front.

At about 4 miles into the race, I realized that this equaled my longest training run in the last 7 months.  Ouch. Only 18 miles to go...  That's definitely not the proper way to train for a race!   In my defense, I had gotten a new puppy (more about that later), so I had done a lot of walking with him.  Puppies can't run until they are a year old, so if I want to walk the dog, it's hard to get a run in too on the same day.

I've also been training for an Adventure Race in St. George next month, The Happy Mutant 72 Hour AR.   So I've been hiking up hills, doing spin classes, and rock climbing in the gym.  Not much time left for running.  I could only hope that my legs wouldn't hurt too bad by the end of this race.

The 10k race had started 10 minutes before me, and I caught up to a few of them as I pumped my arms up the hill.  Not to be outdone, some of the 17k runners, starting 10 minutes later than I had, caught up to me!

Well-stocked aid station
At the top of the ridge was the (very well-stocked) aid station...it was nice to know that the hardest part of the course was done.  Jim's course would turn around here and head back down to the finish.  I half envied that, but knew the second half of the course was beautiful too.  Following the Skyline trail, it meandered for about 5 miles just below the top of the ridge, in a mostly flat fashion.   Actually it wasn't very flat at all, but had constant small ups and downs that were pretty runnable.  

I found a speedy runner just ahead of me and vowed to catch up to him.  We ran together for a few miles, and that helped me to push the pace quite a bit.   All the same, the uphills were getting old by the time I hit the turnaround point.   I snagged a cup of Coke and some gummies before heading for home.   By this time I was hurting a little, but figured that I could run the rest of the way back without looking like an invalid at the finish.

Temperatures never changed very much, and I cringed when I saw 50k runners pass me wearing tank tops in the near freezing temps.  My own hands never seemed to get warm, and I alternated wearing one glove on first one hand, then the other as they always felt cold and swollen.

At the finish
With 3000 feet of elevation gain (and loss), this race keeps the hills coming.   Jim was waiting for me at the last aid station as I came through, and it was nice to know that he had finished happy with his race.   From there I knew it was mostly down hill to the finish.   Except for a sneaky little uphill in the middle of the descent, I would lose at least 1000 feet in the last 5 miles.   Unlike last year in the 50k, this time I could still run, so I pushed it as hard as I could down the hills.

The hot chicken noodle soup was very yummy in the finish area, along with handfuls of chips.  I hadn't eaten much during the race due to a sloshing stomach (or perhaps that caused my sloshing stomach?).  Either way I was grateful to sit down and do some munching.  Warming up would have to wait until we got in the car, though...Jim was freezing too while waiting for me at the finish line.

It's always nice to repeat a race, especially when the scenery is so nice.  We really enjoyed coming here again even if it was a bit colder than we were hoping for.  After all, we come to California to escape the Utah winter!

Fog over the lake on the way to the start

The trail markers made the course easy to follow
A very large banana slug

September 26, 2015

Navajo Rocks, Moab Mountain Biking

So many bike trails in Moab, so little time.   Today we were out on Navajo Rocks, on the road up to Canyonlands NP.   Navajo Rocks trail system has 6 trails with about 18 miles of trail.  It's best to do the trail as a figure 8 starting in the middle.  That way the descends are really nice.

The whole figure 8 is a lot to do in one day especially if it's hot.  This time we did the eastern side, consisting of Big Mesa, Big Lonely, and Coney Islands.   Big Mesa is a nice way to start out, with really nice scenery and the huge mesa towering over us.

Our group for the ride consisted of Jim and I, with friends Bill, Marty, Trevor and Frank too!  We were all pretty equal riders so we could stay together and weave through the single track.  There were a few tricky sections on this intermediate trail, but after a do-over or two we could all make it up and over.

Big Lonely is truly lonely, out in the middle of the flat sagebrush, although it does have a couple of the steepest climbs of the whole trail on it.   To finish off the day we bombed down Coney Islands, which (if ridden as a descent) is a really fast cool ride through some pretty interesting rock formations.