Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zion 50K: Changing it up

Funny, the changes we experience in life. One of the hardest things in my 31.5 years of life has been accepting change. I've always taken pride in being a prepared person with a plan, but often became derailed and almost panicky when my plan was changed. Fortunately, going through physician assistant school while juggling a career as a professional cyclist (albeit with lots of tears and stress) forced me to reevaluate how I responded to change. The "cycling plan" and the "PA school plan" never seemed to jive quite right forcing me guessed it, change! My new outlook was best compared to the overused "Life is a journey, not a destination" theme. Never the less it seemed to be working for me and I slowly transitioned out of the crazy life of a middle of the pack pro cyclist (a long story for another time) into life of a PA working 9 to 5.

Enter Joel Hatch and THE CHANGE! Joel and I have been friends for a while, I have been training at his gym for a few years. Apparently Joel has this innate ability to send subliminal messages because when he heard I signed up for the Ogden 1/2 marathon last December, he planted his first seed (read challenge). Thus, messing up my plan to retire from bike racing and enjoy a summer of camping. I went to Bomber Athlete on day for a routine workout to find a race schedule on the white board with my name on it. There are two things I will never be able to change: my competitive nature and accepting a new challenge. Original plan diverted, new journey: Try trail running and maybe even an ultra!

Enter the HUMRs! My new change had a sort of snowball effect. One tiny idea quickly turned into an obsession. Before I knew it, I was running more miles than ever and loving the trail again. Then Joel dangled another carrot in front of my nose by introducing me to this group called the HUMRs. Sure, I had heard of them because Roosters sponsors them, but who were they? After a few runs with these guys I wanted in (who wouldn't)! Now I know where Joel gets his subliminal message super powers, the HUMRs. Let's just say, one sip of that Kool-Aid and I was poisoned. I had ultras on the brain and needed a fix! The Buffalo Run 25K was like adding fuel to the fire. I needed more and the Zion 50K seemed like a reasonable next step.

I was trying to hold in my excitement on the drive down to Springdale, but probably looked more like a kindergartener doing the potty dance in my seat. Packet pick-up was a breeze compared to bike races. No long formal pre-race meeting, ID checks, number plate rules, etc! Good change, point for runners. Pre-race dinner consisted of a restaurant with burgers, fries, and beer with friends! What? Sorry cyclist, another point for runners!

                                                           Photo Credit: Breein Clark

Race Day! I am no stranger to race day routines with pre-race jitters so the coffee and eggs went down with ease. I was very glad to see some familiar faces at the start and after a few quick pictures we were off...on time! That never happens at a bike race! It only took a couple hundred yard before Britta found me and I hoped that I could tag along using her experience at the front of the pack for the first few miles while things sorted themselves out. That's when things went South, or was it West, wait right turn? Yep, the first couple of miles in the bueno! The boys in front (which will remain nameless, unless you read Harrison's report) had trouble finding those pesky course markers! I felt like slipping back to my old ways of panic, this was definitely not in my plan. I somehow remained calm and we finally got on track. Then came the game changer! A stream crossing around mile 2. Ummm, I've never really ran with wet feet. I've never ran more than 20 miles. And now I going to attempt to run 30 miles with wet feet! Where is the freakin' panic button?! I saw Britta cross and bolted in after her. What else was I going to do, quit? About a mile later my wet sock had bunched after running a steep downhill and I knew it could be disastrous if I ignored it. I stopped to fix it while what seemed like 50 people passed me. So, 3.5 miles in and the plan had changed multiple times. Luckily, I settled into a nice pace on the long uphill road to Guacamole Mesa as it began to get light and I managed to pass a few people along the way. I was surprised that my feet weren't yelling at me for being wet and cruised through the first aid station without stopping.

                                                         On top of Guacamole Mesa

Guacamole Mesa was the loop I had been looking forward to. I have ridden this terrain multiple times on a bike and love it. My problem was those damn yellow flags, they proved to be quite difficult to follow and at one point I made a complete circle promoting a small tantrum with lots of bad words. The desert sunrise was incredible and made me forgive the 4:30 alarm clock. Food was going down well and I was feeling pretty good about where I was. Shortly thereafter I passed Jim who was running the 100-miler and that gave me a little boost as well.  I did begin to worry around mile 14 or so when I passed runners going both directions. Had I taken a wrong turn and was now backtracking? Feeling relieved when I arrived at the aid station again, I filled up on water and started back down the dirt road. I turned the music up and switched my pace into cruise control mode. I was pleasantly surprised to see Brandon, Breein, and Madi around mile 20 since I wasn't expecting anyone until mile 23. This is were I first learned that I was in third place and that second was not far ahead. I grabbed a couple more snacks and added some more Squeaky Cheeks in the shoes for good measure. I was still blown away that my feet were surviving.

At this point I was entering a new world! I was about to run farther than ever and I was actually in a race situation. Not knowing how my body would react to another 12 miles was unsettling, but my competitiveness could not be denied. I wanted to catch second place! Just before the aid satiation at mile 23 I saw her! I hadn't raced in over a year, but my race brain kicked in and I started strategizing. We reached the aid station together and I was feeling nervous. I had been pushing the food in preparation for the big climb ahead so I felt good. Brandon and Breein added to the excitement when they announced that Jared and BJ were not far ahead. Perfect! Someone to chase. (Sorry guys, but we girls love to beat you so I was pushing it to catch you). I didn't see the third place runner after that, but I kept looking back just in case. High fives and cheers from the guys gave me another boost and I could hardly keep the smile off my face and increased my pace. Well, until I laid eyes on the Flying Monkey climb! We have a term in cyclocross called suffer-face.  This usually comes on mid race when you are redlined, can't hear, can barely see, have snot running down your face, and completely forget that anyone can see what you look like! I'm pretty sure I had major suffer face going up that climb! My legs were so happy to get to the double track where I could run again. This is where I met Ryan and his running pal Zach from Altra. Seeing their smiling faces made me forget that nasty climb and eager to push ahead for the final 5 miles.

Bring on the Pain Cave! Been there many times during bike races and the road descent was my pain cave. Lasting only 2 miles, it seemed like an hour and I actually had to walk for a short distance when my back was screaming at me. When I finally got back to the dirt and could literally see the finish, I could feel the smile coming back to my face. Crossing the finish line in second place felt so good. What an amazing course! I was proud of my ability to work through some of the challenges and learned a ton during a short 5 hours and 20 minutes. I can't wait to see what the next race brings. Funny the changes we experience during a race!

Thanks to all the HUMRs for such a fun time What an incredible group to be part of. Thanks to Brandon for all his support, he has spent way to many hours waiting for me to cross finish lines. Also, a special thanks to Altra, its a pleasure to be an ambassador for you guys. Most of all thanks to you for reading.

                                                            Photo Credit: Breein Clark