ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
The title of this entry is a reference to this race report from 2009, when I ran the Steamworks Half Marathon for the third time, but the first time having actually trained for it (and by training I mean running more than twice a week and 15mpw). That race, I had hoped to get under 1:50 - all my tempo running had been at around 8:20 pace - and shocked myself by clocking a 1:44:19, which is slightly better than an 8 minute pace. I ran this race two more times before this year, in 2012 (1:38) and 2014 (1:36).

This year, I had hoped to come in at maybe something like 1:43, but instead I couldn't muster any speed at all. After three sub-8 miles, my pace was mostly around 8:20, and toward the end of the race I was just hoping, you guessed it, to get in under 1:50. I managed 1:47:21, my slowest half time since those first two undertrained races. Still, that was fast enough to give me first in the F50-59 age group (out of 17), and 13th overall woman, 38th overall human being out of 260 finishers. Also, to my surprise, looking through the results I just discovered I was also the female Masters winner, that is, first woman over 40. These placings are more due to the fast old ladies staying home than due to any speed of mine, though!

It was a hot day (for a race), and the sky was cloudless, which made for a beautiful but sweaty experience. I took two cups of water at every aid station (they were two miles apart) and dumped one on my body, except at the mile 10 aid station where a guy with a SuperSoaker offered to squirt runners, and I said "Yes, please!"

Steamworks Half 2017

I'm #286; the other woman in a turquoise top and I leapfrogged each other for much of the race. She passed me for good around mile 8, saying she was going after a woman ahead of us in red shorts, and finished at just under 1:46, about a minute and a half before me. I eventually also passed Red Shorts, though she was waiting in line for a porta-potty and so maybe that shouldn't really count. :-)

It was 70F by the time I hit the unshaded uphill section just past the 11-mile marker, and it was unsurprisingly brutal. (The course climbs 70 feet in half a mile, dips slightly, and then climbs 80 more feet to the finish.) It's also brutal to hit the end of the course because the quiet country road with little traffic ends, and the course turns onto a busy road with cars parked along both sides, making it feel quite narrow and dangerous. Fortunately the course marshals are there to guide runners and drivers - I did this job one year when I couldn't run due to injury - and so I pushed along to the crossing where the policeman stopped traffic for me, hooray, and did a pathetic sprint to the finish line, where members of the Durango Roller Girls encouraged finishers.

Steamworks Half 2017

The usual navel-gazing )
ilanarama: my footies in my finnies (snorkeling)
Like I did last year, I signed up for the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile at nearly the last minute, when it was clear we'd be spending Memorial Day weekend in town. I figured that I'd be able to improve a lot on my time of 1:21:44, since last year we had been on vacation a lot and I was biking more than I was running, in preparation for our epic Purgatory-to-Moab ride. This year I've been gradually increasing my mileage since my long string of illness in February, averaging over 36mpw, as compared to last year's 23mpw over the same period. I've also been riding, though not nearly as much.

Spoiler alert: I ran 1:22 flat, 16 seconds slower this year. (I still would have come in first in my age group, if there had been age groups. Also I'm pleased to see in the results that my "age percentage" of 71.0, which I assume is some form of age/sex grading, puts me in 10th place by age percentage!)

Why did this happen? Am I in worse shape now than I was then? Was all that riding actually more beneficial than running more miles?

Short answer: possibly poor execution, definitely lack of taper. Long answer under the cut. )

So I think that what happened is that I just had too much residual fatigue to sustain a hard 10M race, and ran out of energy. Which is an object lesson for me with Steamworks coming up, especially since...I'm doing another White Rim trip the week of the race, unless the weather is too hot (which it might be, Moab in June). I knew it wasn't going to be a goal race anyway, and some old friends invited us on the trip, and even though we just did it last month we would like to spend time with them, and hey, White Rim's pretty awesome. Hopefully if I do a very short run on Friday when we're back home, just to remind myself how to run, I will be okay for the race on Saturday. Because even if it's not a goal race, I would like to finish strong!

Anyway, it wasn't really a failure. I enjoyed myself, I had a good workout, and when I finished, I had beer AND ice cream - for breakfast!
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
It's been six weeks since I posted about my slow increase of running mileage and my upcoming racing plans, and (knock wood) things are going pretty well. From 118 running and 41 cycling miles in March, I managed 157 running and 135 cycling miles in April, and if I can stay healthy, I may get to the vicinity of 200 running miles this month. My paces are still fairly slow, but improving relative to my heart rate, and last week I hit 46 (running) miles for the week with a 12-mile long run, both of these high points since last October.

I've started joining our running club for Tuesday night track workouts, which I haven't done in a few years. Usually when I do speedwork I just program a workout into my Garmin and run intervals on the rec path, but I have to admit that I work harder in a group, with other runners around me, and of course tracks are flat and have measured distances that don't depend on the vagaries of GPS. So far I've gone twice, and enjoyed myself both times (for values of 'enjoyment' that include 'finishing an interval feeling like I might throw up'). I'm about mid-pack out of the dozen or so club members who have shown up at these, as far as speed goes, so I don't feel too bad about my ability level. In only two sessions my short-distance speed has improved, which is encouraging!

I've also started doing tempo runs, which I do at half marathon pace and so are a key training run for me. These have been going well also, though I have to remember not to compare myself with my 2013-self - my expected HMP right now is slower than my marathon pace was that year, sigh. But the real test will come in (gulp) just under four weeks, when I will be running the Steamworks Half Marathon for the, hmm. Sixth time? Wow.

I also have a race on the calendar in July: The Kendall Mountain Run, which is six miles and 3200' vertical up a jeep road, and then a 300 foot scramble to the 13,066 foot summit - and then back down again. A non-running friend won a free entry in a raffle and gave it to me, and I gladly accepted. It's going to be tough, but I am hoping I can do it in under 3 hours. (The course record is just under 1:35; for a woman, a bit more than 1:55.) To train for this, I'm going to do more of my runs on trails (right now I run once or twice a week on trails) and do a lot of hills.

After that, my plan is to cut back on running slightly and ramp up the mountain biking in preparation for our mid-September Telluride-to-Moab ride. We'll probably be doing some backpacking as well, so I expect my weekly mileage will vary wildly, but as long as I can maintain fitness and get a few long uphills on the bike, I will be happy.

I have vague ideas for running another half marathon or two in the fall - maybe the Other Half, which I always enjoy, maybe something else instead or in addition. And if things are going well, I may try to schedule a marathon in the late fall or early winter. But that's so far off it's not even worth thinking about yet!
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
Our friends Ryan and Steve organized a White Rim trip again this year, and this time we were the only other people on it. (We did it with them last year, and also in 2013. We also did it twice in the 1990s with friends from Boulder, where we lived then.)

Ilana at top of Mineral Bottom switchbacks

Read more! See more pictures! And there's even a linked map! )

Or just look at the Flickr album.
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
A month after my last post in which I bemoaned my February lost to illness, and I'm happy to say that things have been on a steady upward climb. I managed just under 118 miles in March, a huge improvement over February's 48 and the most since last October. My pace is also getting back under 10 minute miles for the most part, which - this is a small victory, since back when I was actually in shape my pace was generally 9-9:20. But it's still a victory.

Last week I ran 35 miles, which is, again, the most in a week since October 2016, with a 9-mile long run yesterday (at 9:54 pace!) that was my longest single run since The Other Half on October 23rd. Today I ache like I was hit by a truck, but I did it. Victory.

I'm trying to stick to a 5 days run, 2 days bike schedule. During the winter I skied once or twice a week, so this is just the logical springtime extension. Plus, we have a White Rim bike trip (four days) planned for mid-April, and a week-long ride to Moab in September (the same hut system as, but a different route from, the ride we did last summer) and anyway I have that gorgeous expensive mtb we bought last year, so riding doesn't suck so bad (and I have to justify the expense). So far we've been on our local trail system three times - it's really only recently become dry enough to ride - and we took one jaunt out to Phil's World, a fabulous trail network about an hour's drive from here. (I should probably go for a ride today, but the weather's kind of icky. Plus, I ache like I was hit by a truck.)ETA: We did actually go for a ride when it cleared up in the afternoon, 12 miles on the paved rec trail. Felt pretty good, actually!

If I can manage 35mpw more or less through April, that would be about 140 miles. (I'm talking running, now.) And if I can manage 40-45mpw in May, the Steamworks Half in June might not be horrible. I might even win my age group, though that's more because I'm old than because I'm any good. Which would be awesome, since prizes are beer. And then I'd have a real victory!

tiny update

Mar. 4th, 2017 09:23 am
ilanarama: my footies in my finnies (snorkeling)
You might be wondering if I've dropped off the face of the earth, since I haven't posted since October! The truth is that when I went on vacations I wanted to post about, I was too busy to compose posts, and running has not been worthy of being posted about because I've been sick most of the winter and am only now beginning to get out again (even though I'm still not completely well).

Vacations were a week in the BVI on a sailboat charter with friends over Thanksgiving, plus a few days of land-based tourism there and in San Juan, PR on each end; and a long weekend over Christmas in Santa Fe, eating delicious food and visiting museums.

As far as the running goes, I dithered on signing up for the Canyonlands Half in March before the price went up in February, but ultimately decided I didn't have enough base to get in the shape I wanted to be for it. Turned out to be a good decision as I came down with a respiratory thing the first week of February and am still fighting it. I did register for the Steamworks Half which is in June; hopefully I will be back on form by then!

Being sick most of February also meant that my skiing ground to a halt, but I finally got out yesterday for a glorious bluebird day which reminded me of how nice it feels to twist one's body around and work with gravity to glide across the snow. Looking forward to our next storm!
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
Me cresting a hill in The Other HalfThe last time I ran The Other Half I was light, strong, had just turned fifty; and not only did I set a PR, I was the first female Masters (40+) finisher. That was three years ago, and a lot has happened since then. After herniating a disc in late 2014, I had to stop running for a while, and though I've been clawing my way back to fitness I'm a lot slower and running much lower volume than I was then. Also - and I'm beginning to think this is more of a factor than I originally expected - I've hit menopause head-on, though it's not strictly official yet (the medical definition is one year without periods; I'm now at six months). By contrast, in 2013 I still had a more or less monthly cycle, though not long after I started getting hot flashes and ever more widely-spaced periods.

In my previous post I said "While I'd like to run under 1:40 again...I'm okay with not hitting that goal, which is arbitrary anyway. I mostly want to improve on my last half time of 1:43:46, and if possible, beat the time of 1:41:44 which I ran my first time on this course." Well, I managed those last goals by the skin of my teeth!

I drove out to Moab on Saturday afternoon, stopping in Cortez (about an hour from here) to ride a quick loop at Phil's World on my mountain bike. I met my friends Kevin and Nora for dinner at Miguel's, which is a venerable pre-Moab-race tradition, and then went back to my motel to lay out my clothes, take a soak in the hot tub, and then get to bed early to rest up before my 5:50am alarm. It was a great plan, but alas my sleep has been terrible lately (another consequence of menopause) and I did not get nearly as much sleep as I really would have liked.

I walked the few blocks to the Moab Valley Inn to catch the 6:30 shuttle to the start. A tall young man with a shaved head slid in next to me, and as the bus turned up the canyon and the predawn darkness began to lighten, he commented on how beautiful it was, with a distinctly non-US accent. His name was Kees ("Case"), and he was from the Netherlands. He had just finished the first week of a three-week vacation around the US southwest with his wife, at the end of which he would run the New York City Marathon. "My wife saw there was this race while we were here, so I signed up for it," he told me. We ended up chatting the rest of the way up the canyon, and also hanging out together in the starting area. He would be taking it relatively easy since he'd be running the NYCM, though as a much faster runner his "relatively easy" was still faster than my "all-out"!

At the start, I drank some coffee and attempted to eat the Clif bar that had been in my packet. (Usually I have something with me for breakfast but I didn't manage to get anything this year!) Unfortunately, it tasted terrible to me - it was the new "nut butter filled" and I am not a fan, as it turns out. So I only ate a few bites and then threw it out, but I wasn't really that hungry, and there would be Clif shots at mile 6.

I started just in front of the 1:40 pacer, which was more an accident than anything else. I have noticed that the pace team the Moab races use seem to be fairly bad more often than not - once I was on pace for 1:35 when the 1:40 pacer passed me - so I wasn't planning on running with him. But as it happened I ran pretty much alongside him (either in front of - I could hear him talking - or next to him) until just after the big hill at mile 8, at which point he seemingly accelerated away from me.

What really happened, of course, is that I slowed way down. It wasn't a horrible fade or anything, just that the hills took it out of me, which has certainly happened before. Also, it was a very hot day, or at least, hot for me. I overheat very easily, which is why I'd made the last-minute decision to wear only a sportsbra and shorts. I drank at every aid station, but I still felt as though I wasn't getting enough fluids. I took a Clif shot as planned from the people handing them out at mile 6, but I only managed a little squeeze of it because I was just too thirsty. In retrospect I should have stopped taking water and gone for the sports drink instead.

toh16d

Here are the splits. I set my Garmin to manual split, as I almost always do in races, but for some reason my watch was misbehaving and frequently when I poked the button as I passed the mile marker, nothing happened, and I had to re-poke it a few times before it actually registered. I also missed the mile 7 marker somehow. So instead of reporting the actual splits I'm reporting the pace per split, which might be .99 miles or might be 1.01 (or 2.01).

mile  pace  Average HR      Max HR    Elev chg
 1   07:37.36	139 (68%)	151 (78%)	65
 2   07:28.61	151 (78%)	155 (81%)	-52
 3   07:27.11	152 (78%)	155 (81%)	57
 4   07:34.76	154 (80%)	157 (83%)	-54
 5   07:33.63	154 (80%)	156 (82%)	-4
 6   07:41.24	156 (82%)	159 (84%)	-20
7-8  08:20.85	156 (82%)	165 (89%)	210
 9   07:27.91	157 (83%)	165 (89%)	-107
10   07:57.92	157 (83%)	165 (89%)	5
11   07:34.99	157 (83%)	160 (85%)	-60
12   08:01.73	156 (82%)	160 (86%)	-9
13   07:18.58	158 (84%)	162 (87%)	-82
13.1 06:56.10	161 (86%)	162 (87%)	-1

A couple of things. First, the elevation change is just the difference between the start and finish, and can mask a lot of up-and-down in between. (Here is a map and elevation chart.) Second, the HR is given in both beats per minute (bpm) and % of HR reserve, which is the difference between resting and max HR. However, I'm pretty sure that what I'm using for my max is wrong and should be lower. This is supported by my max readings being only 165, when in previous Moab half marathons they have been in the lower 170s, and my average reading has been in the lower 160s. Finally, as usual my Garmin read more than 13.1 at the end, though with a Garmin distance of only 13.17 this was one of my shorter half marathons - I guess I'm getting better at running tangents!

toh16f

My final chip time was 1:41:32, just 12 seconds faster than my first time on this course and my nominal goal. This was good enough for first in my age group (50-54F) out of 42 as well as placing me 16th woman (out of 526) and 57th person (out of 845). Though also, I came in 6 seconds behind the 55-59 winner - and both of us beat all the 40-44 and 45-59 women except for two, one of who came in second overall, the other who came in first Master's female (with a slower time than my win 3 years ago la la la!)

I ran in the Saucony Fastwitch, a shoe I bought at a fairly large discount not too long ago. Good thing it was cheap:

shoesole

I have a terrible footstrike with my left foot. :-(
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
My running's been sporadic over the last two years, after my herniated disc injury, much lower mileage than it used to be, and alas much slower as well. But after a spring and early summer more devoted to mountain biking than to running, I've started to get serious again.

Though I've run a dozen races post-injury, I didn't really train for any of them, and of course that shows in my race times. In 2013 I set non-downhill 5K (21:43), half (1:35:55), and marathon PRs; post-injury my best 5K was 24:12, my best half just under 1:44, and I haven't dared run another marathon.

But I'm a competitive person. I like to race because I like to do well - and I don't like not doing well. I registered for The Other Half Marathon, one of my favorite races and the course on which I ran my half PR (these things are probably related :-) with the idea that I'd have 12 weeks after our Weminuche backpacking trip to train. I wrote an "unplanny plan" - a skeleton layout of weekly mileage goals, long run goals, and key workouts - and started doing it. And now I'm halfway there!

I'd been running 20-35mpw most weeks, with occasional weeks of 10 miles or less when I was doing other things or sick, so I decided to start out with three weeks at 40mpw, followed by three at 45 - though the second week of this included most of Labor Day weekend and our Rio Chama raft trip, so my actual mileage that week was only 38. I also started incorporating speedwork: first strides and hill sprints, which I'd done occasionally in the previous month but now do weekly, and then formal intervals, followed by tempos.

Now I'm about to ramp up to 50mpw for the rest of the cycle, and I feel pretty good about it. The more I run, the more comfortable I feel running. I also find that consistent mileage (which I haven't had in a few years!) improves my fitness quickly. And I got a reminder of that when I ran a 5K this past Saturday morning.

I was a bit handicapped by the loss of my Garmin. Well, I didn't really lose it; the strap broke when I took it off my wrist after Tuesday's run. I ordered a new strap kit from Amazon that was supposed to arrive on Friday, but somehow it ended up getting sent to the wrong transit center, causing a delay. (It's still not here. The tracking page says Wednesday. So far it's gone from the Garmin warehouse in Phoenix AZ to two different places in California, and is now in Salt Lake City...)

The day after my strap broke I had a 2x2 tempo run (after my usual two-mile warm-up: 2 miles tempo pace, 2 minutes easy, 2 miles tempo pace, where 'tempo' = 'more or less hoped-for half-marathon pace') and I thought maybe I'd try it by feel, so I put what was left of the watch in my pocket and set out. Unfortunately I couldn't feel the watch buzz at the first mile mark, which meant I wouldn't be able to tell when my intervals started and stopped (okay, I know this route so I pretty much know where 2 miles is, but still) so I took it out and held it in my hand as I ran.

My next run two days later was an easy run, so this time I did just keep the Garmin in my pocket the whole time. And what do you know, my pace - retrieved after the run - was pretty much my usual easy pace. By then I had gotten the notification from Amazon that my strap wasn't coming in time for the race. I decided that it would be good practice in racing by feel, since I knew I wasn't in PR shape so if I failed, I wouldn't be too upset. My goals for the 5K would be: a) get a new valid HRmax, b) pace reasonably despite not being able to look at my Garmin (I kept it in my pocket), c) come in 1-3 and get an award (no age groups), d) break 24 minutes.

I ran the 2.4 miles to the race as a warm-up, with my Garmin in my pocket; checking it later, I was a little on the fast side but not bad. The race itself was a typical small Durango race, though with both a 5K and a 10K starting together, so I had to look around and see both who else was lining up near the front, and which course they were running, according to their bibs. One of the fast women I know was out of town, according to her husband Steve who was there (he won the men's 5K) and I didn't see anyone else that looked definitively faster than me, so I was feeling pretty confident as we took off.

I knew I couldn't keep up with Steve, nor with the other fast men who were at the front, so I didn't try. Instead I attempted to keep a hard-but-not-brutal pace and not let any women pass me. The course went gently downhill for the first mile, then there was a short uphill followed by a steeper downhill to the 5K turn-around. Unusually for a small local race, they'd gotten three bands to play along the course, which was fun and motivating, especially since after the guys had taken off I was pretty much running by myself. Every so often I'd glance over my shoulder but never saw anyone there other than one guy who passed me about a half mile in.

When Steve passed me going the other way we yelled cheers and encouragement at each other. At the turnaround I saw there was a woman maybe ten seconds behind me, but after I glanced around at the next curve she was gone, so I figured she was running the 10K. The second half of the course was net uphill, since it was an out-and-back, and I concentrated on holding what I thought was a reasonably fast pace without blowing up.

Since my Garmin was in my pocket I had no idea what pace I was going, and so I was pleased to see the finish clock reading just under 23 minutes as I approached; I sped up to try to get a 22:xx but the seconds ticked over inexorably, and the clock read 23:06 as I hurtled myself past the finish line and then tried to catch my breath.

As far as my pre-race goals, I'll give myself 2.5 out of 4. On the negative side, my heart rate data was not as unambiguous as I would have liked, with no real legitimate max, but I think I am fairly comfortable saying that it supports the numbers I've been using for HR training. My pacing felt okay while I was doing it - I didn't feel like I was dying halfway through - but my splits were terrible, though part of that's likely due to the down-and-up course profile.

On the other hand, I smashed my sub-24 goal. Still nowhere near what I used to do but my best 5K in two years. Oh yeah, and I won. First overall woman, 4th or 5th person. Which basically means that the fast women didn't show up, but hey, I got two $50 gift certificates, one for each of the running stores in town, so that's a $70 profit on my entry fee investment!

Now I'm looking ahead to the half marathon in six weeks. While I'd like to run under 1:40 again, this 5K result is not as good as I'd need for that; plus, while my tempo workouts are indicating I'm in better shape than I was before my last half, they're not supporting the sub-1:40 either. Of course, I still have six weeks. But I'm okay with not hitting that goal, which is arbitrary anyway. I mostly want to improve on my last half time of 1:43:46, and if possible, beat the time of 1:41:44 which I ran my first time on this course.

Chamarama

Sep. 10th, 2016 05:25 pm
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Over Labor Day weekend we rafted the Rio Chama, a wild and scenic river a couple of hours away in New Mexico. We did this trip five years ago (also on Labor Day weekend!), with a completely different group of people, and once in between then and now. The river is dam controlled with releases on weekends; though sometimes enough water flows during the week to float it, weekend launches are restricted by permit. Fortunately, our friend Jenny got a permit, and (maybe to pay us back for including her on several backpack trips this summer!) invited us along.

Not a lot to say about the trip this time, other than it was delightfully non-eventful (where event = raft capsize or camp injury or other thing you really don't want to happen). The only minor disaster happened in our second night's camp, where Ryan misplaced her iPhone and despite ransacking the camp, none of us could find it. We were preparing to leave when she jumped into the water next to her raft and started squelching around with her feet, in case she'd dropped it into the water the previous night without realizing it...and yep, there it was! AND due to its protective case, it still worked!

But have some photos, anyway: )

Above pictures and selected others (16 total), no words, at Flickr
All the photos (34) at Google Photos
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
We did our annual backpack in the Weminuche Wilderness at the end of July, but gah, I have so many photos to go through and so much to write about that I haven't even started trying! So instead have a very short write-up about a mini-trip we did last week to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico.

As you probably know, the Perseid meteor shower peaked last Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and as it was expected to be an "outburst" event with many more and brighter meteors than usual, we decided we ought to spend that night in the desert, where we could sleep outside far from city lights. For previous celestial events we've camped at Valley of the Gods near Mexican Hat, Utah, and originally we'd been planning to head out there, but at the last minute we decided to go south rather than west. Neither of us had been to the Bisti Badlands, and it's about the same driving distance, around two hours.

We headed out after work, following Google Maps. When we got there, we found a nice flat spot to park the Sportsmobile, with room to lay out a tarp and sleeping bags nearby, not far from the main parking area. Two other vehicles were parked not far away, and as we surveyed our spot we noticed a group of people with packs heading into the hoodoos. Clearly others had the same idea!

After a brief hike down a wash through some of the formations, we returned to the van for drinks and dinner. Then, as the sky darkened, we took out a pair of binoculars for each of us and looked at the various planets: Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus were all visible near the west horizon, while Mars and Saturn were in Scorpio near the moon - a five-planet night! (Mercury was particularly cool to see since it's rarely visible.) I saw an amazing meteor slash across the sky even before it got fully dark! We went to sleep around 10 and woke up around 1:30 am, after the moon had set, and watched the Perseid display for a couple of hours. There were only a few really bright ones, but the frequency of meteors was impressive - sometimes we'd see one after another, four or five within a minute.

(Alas, no photos of the light show - our camera wasn't good enough, and we were too busy using our eyeballs.)

When we could no longer keep our eyes open, we went back to sleep. The sun woke us after we'd had far too little sleep, but we got up anyway, because we wanted to hike around the badlands before it got too hot. This is seriously a wilderness, in that there are no trails and no water sources: hikers are advised to bring a GPS (we had a GPS app) and plenty of water. A map at the parking area indicated several areas of interest, and Britt had grabbed the coordinates of a few others from people's web pages.

So what did we find? Wild and wonderful pillars:

Pillars

The "Cracked Eggs", oval rocks with reddish layers peeking out from under the pale tan sandstone (no doubt they hatched dinosaurs!):

Cracked Eggs

Eerie arches:

Bisti Arch

And other strange landscapes, weirdly-shaped rocks, and petrified wood that looked exactly like someone had just split a few logs and left them there with the woodchips scattered around them, and it had all bleached in the sun. Then we tried to lift them.... It was like a practical joke played by nature, "Haha, you think this is wood, but it's NOT!"

Petrified wood

The best of our photos are on Flickr. We definitely need to go back at a better time of year (spring or fall) and explore further!
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
Moab, in Utah, isn't very far away from Durango. We go there three or four times a year, for the Canyonlands running races in March and October, for the nearby backpacking when our mountains are too snow-covered for access, and for the world-class mountain biking. It takes a bit less than three hours to get there by car; how much less depends on your willingness to exceed the speed limit, and your need for gas and bathroom stops.

Or you can bike there in seven arduous days, over 215 miles of secondary roads, jeep roads, and trails, up mountains and across desert valleys along the route set up by San Juan Huts. (Here is a map Britt put together, showing the route - click "->7.5' Topo Maps" and zoom in to see it more clearly.)

Want to guess what we did? Yeah. Strenuous climbs, scary descents, rain, heat, mud, and mosquitoes - also killer views, deserted roads, and cold beers enjoyed with good friends. I call it a win.

Riding toward Geyser Pass

Day by day trip report, with lots of photos )

All the photos (119!), none of the blahblah

Advice I'd give to anyone contemplating this trip )
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
I go to a conference every June in Breckenridge, which for me is partly an opportunity to listen to climate modelers talk about just how doomed we are, partly a chance to reconnect with my old friends from Boulder and remind my co-workers that I am more than just a mysterious voice on the conference calls and a response on the other end of the email, and partly an excuse to go mountain biking on some awesome high-elevation trails. :-) Biking in Breck! With photos! )
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
I've been biking a lot lately. This isn't because I've fallen out of love with running, or because I'm too injured to run - okay, I'm a little injured, but it doesn't keep me from running. But Britt and I, and four friends, will be doing the San Juan Huts Durango to Moab ride at the end of the month: that's 215 miles over 7 days, mostly on secondary dirt road, with a whole lot of elevation gain and loss. So we've been getting our butts in shape by riding a lot of steep high-elevation jeep roads and dirt roads, and a bit of single track.

So have some photos. )
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Many of the place names here in the southwest US come from the Jesuit explorers, who tended to the religious in their name choices. For example: the river they named the Dolores, which means Sorrows, as in Our Lady Of. The most sorrowful thing about the modern-day Dolores River is that it's been dammed to create McPhee Reservoir, the water of which goes to irrigate the alfalfa and bean fields of local farmers, and most of the year only a trickle of water flows through the beautiful and remote downstream canyons. So when the Dolores Water Conservancy District announced that the reservoir was full enough - and the inflow from snowmelt high enough - to do a recreational release for the first time since 2011, local boaters rejoiced.

We'd run two sections of the Dolores before: miles 47-97 (Slickrock to Bedrock) twice, most recently in 2008, and mile 141 to the confluence with the Colorado River, the Gateway run, in 2011. When we heard that the river would be boatable beginning the weekend of June 4th, we thought of doing Slickrock to Bedrock again, but we couldn't find anyone willing to join us other than right on the weekend, and we knew it would be crazy crowded then. (You need to have at least two vehicles to shuttle between put-in and take-out, and anyway, it's more fun to boat with friends.) But then on Monday, our friend Joe asked if we'd be interested in a day trip on Tuesday, in the Ponderosa Gorge section (miles 1-19), which we had never done. And so we got to see another part of the Dolores!

At the Bradfield Bridge put-in on the Dolores

Ponderosa Gorge is a beautiful canyon, walls of red sandstone contrasting with the dark green of pine and juniper. The grass grows lushly along the banks. No bugs, and few birds, but we did get dive-bombed by a succession of butterflies who must have thought our brightly-colored rafts some new gigantic species of flower before realizing their mistake and flying away, disappointed.

We hadn't brought our real camera, and the river was busy enough that I was reluctant to take out my phone-camera while underway, so I only have a few mediocre photos from some places where we stopped on the shore for breaks. The rapids were frequent but not very difficult, and so it was a great deal of fun and not too traumatic - at least, not for us. We did pass a group obviously drying out their gear on shore after one of their number, in an inflatable kayak, bumped a rock and tipped out. We passed a few other groups taking breaks on shore, or camping, as many of them were doing multi-day trips, taking out at Slickrock. But mostly we saw only each other -- and, of course, the butterflies.

In Ponderosa Canyon, Dolores River In Ponderosa Canyon, Dolores River

The sun beat down on us from a hot blue sky, but the river, fresh from the bottom of McPhee, was icy cold, so it was really very pleasant. Toward the end of the day the walls shaded us; they'd grown impressively tall and sheer as we had continued down the canyon, and of course this was where the hardest rapids were! But they turned out to be only a very little bit more challenging than the previous ones, and none of us had any difficulties. (Which was partly due to Britt, the most experienced among us, taking the lead. So much easier to navigate rapids when you have someone else to show you the best line!)

We pulled out at the ramp, disassembled our gear and loaded it onto our truck, shared our last beers, and headed home after a delightful day on the River That Flows Too Infrequently. No sorrows here, just a great day!
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
We're not often in town over Memorial Day Weekend, but this year, we'd just finished a string of out-of-town vacations (New York city, Tobago, White Rim) and a friend invited us to his birthday party on Saturday night. So since we'd be around, I signed up somewhat last-minute for the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile Run. This race is actually the oldest continuously-run race in Colorado history, dating from 1978. One guy at the race has run it every year! I've run it twice before, in 2006 and 2009. The course has changed since then, but one thing's always the same: it runs from town up mesa to Fort Lewis College, a climb of about 500 feet in a few steep pitches, around the mesa rim, and then back down to town to the finish line.

This means that even if I had been in good shape (which I am not!) I was not going to challenge my 10-mile PR of 1:13, set two years ago at the CARA Lakefront Marathon in Chicago. (Hee, looking at those statistics it had less elevation change by an order of magnitude!) In 2009 I ran 1:24:20 at this race, and three weeks later ran 1:44:19 at the Steamworks Half Marathon, a PR at the time; that's 33 seconds slower than my recent Canyonlands Half time, and the current course puts the big hill at the beginning of the race rather than at the end (which I think makes it easier), so I figured I ought to be able to beat my 2009 time. Maybe 1:22 or so, which not-really-coincidentally is the time that the fastest 50-59 woman ran last year (I looked it up).

On the other hand, I haven't really been running a lot. I'd been managing a mere 29mpw before Canyonlands, but all those vacations in April and May got in the way of running, and my average dropped to 22mpw. Then again, in the past three weeks I've ridden my bike ~160 miles, which ought to count for something, right?

Here is a map and elevation widget for the race. (I don't know why it's in metric!)

Here is my map-corrected GPS elevation chart, with pace and HR superimposed:
elevation chart

The start/finish was conveniently located at a park 1.3 gentle downhill miles from my house, so I jogged there as my warm-up. Saw my friend Allan at the start and lined up next to him. We took off across the grass of the park, through the balloon arch, and then out to the road where things started going uphill fast. I kept my heart rate in half-marathon-pace territory and just tried to keep my pace comfortable-but-steady, knowing that if I blew up on the uphill I would be too tired to push the downhill.

Mile 1: 8:58 pace, 73% average HRR since it ramped up slowly, but ended the mile with 82% (156 bpm), right in the correct zone for HMP HRR of 80-84%.
Mile 2: 9:23 pace, my slowest split, and 82% HRR. At the end of the second mile, I'd climbed almost 400 feet.
Mile 3: Up on the rim things flattened out a bit. 7:44, 82% HRR. I was running pretty close to two guys who were yakking up a storm, and I hated them for being able to talk at this pace. I consoled myself by the thought that I was probably about their moms' age.
Mile 4: About halfway through this mile the last big climb started, another 100 feet to the high point of the race. 8:30 pace (which was essentially the average of my 7:45 at the beginning, 9:15 at the end), 82% HRR. The gabby guys finally pulled away from me, the bums.
Mile 5: Allan yelled out to me as he nearly caught me at the aid station at the mile marker, but the course turned downhill for a delicious half-mile here before leveling out in preparation for the big plunge, and I turned on my motor and pulled away. 7:44 pace, 80% HRR.
Mile 6: WHEE DOWNHILL! 7:10 pace, 77% HRR, and 185 feet down!
Mile 7: Still gently downhill, with a few steeper bits. Just before turning the main road to wind through the neighborhood, some friends drove by and hollered encouragement out of their car window at me. Gave me a lift! 7:45, 75% (possibly spurious HR here)
Mile 8: On the Animas River (paved) trail now, a familiar running route. Dodging the usual traffic of kids on tricycles and dog-walkers, passing a few runners. Mostly flat with a few dips and hills. 8:01 pace, 82% HRR.
Mile 9: I can see the yappy guys ahead, too far to catch up to. I do manage to pass a few other racers, though I'm definitely fatiguing. 8:09 pace, 81% HRR.
Mile 10: Up to here my Garmin has been a bit ahead of the mile markers, but it's all added on at the end. I get 1.03 miles for this one at 8:15, which works out to about 8 minute flat pace, and an average of 83% HRR, though it maxed out at 90% at the end. At the very end, the course goes over maybe 20 yards of packed river-rock surface, like cobblestones, which almost makes me fall over; a little pavement through a parking lot; then 50 yards of grass. Oog. But the clock read 1:21:44 - I made my goal!

Allan came through maybe 30 seconds later, and we congratulated each other on a race well run. Then we got water in our finisher's pint glasses, and cans of beer from the cooler, and collapsed on the grass.

They haven't posted full results yet, but I got a look at the scoring computer before I left. My time of 1:21:44 put me in 15th place among women, and if they'd done age groups (which they don't) I would have won the 50-59. I think I was the third woman over 40 to finish. Not sure how many runners there were, something like 200, so this is not particularly a spectacular finish...but all things considered, I'm perfectly happy with it!

ETA: Yep, I came in 1st F50-59 (out of 17) by about 4 minutes, and 3rd F over 40 (out of 47). 15th woman out of 95, 36/170 overall. And here is a picture!

bridge1
ilanarama: me on a bike on the White Rim trail (biking)
Uh, hi! Remember me? I used to do stuff and post about it!

Last week we joined friends for a White Rim bike trip. This is the same trip we did three years ago (and look, I wrote about it here!) and it was organized by the same couple, though this year it was mostly a different cast of characters, and also in the opposite direction. And also, I have a new bicycle!

Ilana and new bike

For those of you who care about such things )

The ride was to start Wednesday, but Britt had a meeting he couldn't miss and would come later, so I got a lift to the start with some of the other riders. We had lunch at the top of the Mineral Bottom switchbacks and then rode the ~10 miles to the Hardscrabble campground. The road between the bottom of the switchbacks and the camp is often very sandy, which makes for hard riding; due to recent heavy rainfall, it was instead nicely packed, with occasional mud that was mostly avoidable by choosing a path wisely (or briefly leaving the road). Britt rolled in sometime around 8 pm, which was still well before sunset.

In addition to the mud, the rain had made the desert bloom. We rode by orange globe mallow and blue blanketflower, by the pinks and yellows of flowering prickly pear cactus. (Photo by Ryan)

Cactus flower (by Ryan)

Read more... )

All 15 of my photos at Flickr (the ones in this post, plus a few more)

Brendan's photos, which are better than mine, at Google Photos
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
The Canyonlands race in Moab, UT in March is one of my favorites, a beautiful course along the Colorado River, and I've done it every year since 2010. After running the 5-mile course last year due to injury, I was happy to get back to the half marathon at Canyonlands this year, even though I hadn't trained nearly as much as I would have liked. I paced well and felt good despite the windy, warm weather (not as windy as 2011 or 2012, though), and though this was one of my slower races, it is my "best slowest race" compared to others run on similarly low mileage and little specific training. I hope this means that if I can get back to the kind of miles and workouts I ran in 2012 and 2013, I will be able to get back to similar race times.

Training )

Weather )

The race )

Final stats

My chip time was 1:43:46 (one second less than on my watch which I must have started a little early) for the 13.18 miles I ran by my Garmin. Which means my work on running the tangents paid off, as usually this race comes in at 13.2-13.3. I was 2nd of 85 in AG 50-54F, just 15 seconds behind the winner - darn! - and actually, I also came in faster than every woman in 45-49 and all but one in 40-44, who won the Masters award - with a time over a minute slower than my best time on the course, which got me only a 3rd in AG in 2010! (I also beat all the girls under 20, but that's not as significant.) I was the 48th fastest woman out of 1083, and the 165th fastest person out of 1801. Despite all this, this was my second slowest time of five doing this race; but despite that, I feel good about it.

I do have to admit, though, that the placement is only so good because there were not many fast women running - or many at all. The race has shrunk over the six years I've been running it; in 2010 there was a lottery to get in, and over 3200 runners, but for the last several years all entrants have been welcomed and this year there were only 1800 runners. (According to a friend, the drop, which seems to have been most acute between 2014 and 2015, is because Moab hotels have become too expensive.) It's okay - I don't mind being a medium-big fish in a medium-small pond! Or a medium-fast fish, anyway...hoping to get faster!
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
I've become wary about registering for races very far in advance, if I don't have to; usually entries are nonrefundable and nontransferable, and in the past five years I've DNS'ed enough races that I could fly to the east coast and back on those lost entry fees. Even though my back is apparently healed (according to the MRI) I still have a sore knot in my glute that makes my hamstring ache, so I was dithering about this spring's Canyonlands Half Marathon, which is on March 12th this year.

Last year I ran the 5-miler instead, as I was still pretty injured, and not running enough weekly volume (or long enough runs) to be able to run the half. Even though I not only won my age group but came in as first masters (over 40) woman, I felt that if I couldn't run the half, I didn't want to go at all. My placement had been due less to my nominal speed than to the fact that other than the top overall racers, it's not a very competitive race. And I just haven't been doing much fast running - I would probably be running only a very slightly faster pace for 5 as for 13.1!

But the Canyonlands race organization kept sending me email, and my running has been solid - 35-40mpw except for the multiple weeks I was traveling and/or sick and didn't run more than 6 miles, which bring down my average, unfortunately, to 32mpw. Finally they lured me with a $15 discount, so I registered both myself and Britt - Britt for the 5M, which he's done for the past several years, and me for the half. I figured, if I can't run the half, I can drop down to the 5M, and we will bring our mountain bikes and have a nice weekend in Moab regardless. (We've got a couple of major mountain bike rides planned in May and June, so need to get in shape for those!)

I have a checkered history with this race, which I've run five times. The first time I ran it, in 2010, I ran 1:37, a PR which stood for years, until I broke it at the Other Half in fall 2013. In 2012, after running a then-PR of 3:29 at the Houston Marathon in January, I couldn't overcome a cold, a calf strain, and a windy, hot day, and ran 1:45:50, my personal worst half ever since I started seriously racing in late 2009. (Race report is here.) Other years have ranged between 1:38:28 and 1:40:25. Obviously, I'm not going to come anywhere close to my usual mark here. But I'm hoping to beat that worst time.

I'd also like to beat my 1:44:33 at the Thirsty Thirteen in August. I was, I think, much less prepared for that race, and I'd been actually expecting to only run about a 1:49, but it's a very downhill course. On the other hand, it's also at or above my home elevation, and Canyonlands is about 2500 ft. below Durango.

In preparation, I've been increasing my long run (up to about 10.5 miles now - I hope to get it to 13 in two weeks) and have just added in HMP-paced tempo runs. My first tempo wasn't so great, as it's hard to get the body adjusted to the idea of running fast when all it's done is slow, but the second, yesterday, was much better: 6.3 miles with some strides and then two miles at my HM heartrate, "comfortably hard". The two tempo miles averaged 7:46, which is better than I was hoping for. But while when I'm running 50mpw, I can take my 6-mile tempo pace and aim at that for a half, with less mileage and topping off at only a 3-mile tempo next week, I can't make those assumptions. I hope I can hold faster than 8 minute pace, which would be a 1:45. By how much, I don't know. We shall see in a bit less than three weeks!
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
We went down to Tucson late last week, as my husband's company was holding board meetings on Thursday and Friday at the fancy Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. The plan was for me to work from the hotel room during his meetings, and then we would have a micro-vacation over the weekend.

On Thursday I got miserably sick (maybe the delicious food at the fancy resort restaurant had issues? It tasted good, anyway!) but by Saturday I was ready to vacation. We drove our rental car (a Ford C-Max hybrid, which we both liked very much!) to Kartchner Caverns State Park and took a tour of the Big Room. These caves were kept secret after their discovery in the 1970s, so when they were finally developed after the land was purchased for a state park, the formations were in nearly pristine condition, unlike most tourist caves (even in National Parks!) where casual use over the years has destroyed a lot of the delicate ecology. Development was undertaken with extreme caution, so that now the caves remain in exceptional condition; we've taken quite a few cave tours over the years and were very impressed! No photos allowed, but the website has a video tour.

Afterward we went to the Pima Air and Space Museum which is the largest privately-funded aerospace museum, with over 300 aircraft of various vintages. We took the (free with admission) "Highlights of Aviation" and "World War II" walking tours, and lucked out with an amazing docent, Don McLean (no kidding!) who told us many more stories than were on the placards in front of the planes.

Sunday (all of it) was spent hiking the Ventana Canyon trail to The Window, 6.4 miles and 4260 feet each way. Britt had gone to school at the University of Arizona here many years ago and had fond memories of this hike - I figured it must be good if he still remembered it after 40 years. It was pretty cool: we started out in Sonoran desert, with saguaros all around, and by the end - a natural arch in the rock - we were hiking through the snow among pines!

IMG_20160131_142321

We should have got going earlier than our 9 am start, though, as we ended up hiking out the last half hour in the dark. Still, it was a great hike, and I definitely felt it the next day. The best of our crappy cellphone photos are on Flickr: Ventana Canyon.

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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
Ilana

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

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