Friday, September 12, 2014

Stayin' alive - American Discovery Trail Marathon 2014 Race Recap

I added the American Discovery Trail (ADT) Marathon to my schedule pretty late in the year when I saw that I could score a pretty cheap flight from New Orleans to Denver for Labor Day weekend.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, this was supposed to be a quick in and out trip, but with the addition of the Jackson Hole Marathon this trip turned into quite the little trip (and raised the price of the flight quite a bit).  After finishing up the Jackson Hole Marathon, we made our way down to Cheyenne to spend Sat night and then finally arrived in Colorado Springs Sunday morning.  I thought for sure that I would be sore from the Jackson Hole Marathon, but surprisingly I was not.  I actually felt like I hadn't run at all the day before.  Since we had all day to kill in Colorado Springs, we decided to go check out Pikes Peak.  I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking when I suggested that we drive to the top, since I am a very anxious passenger.  For much of the drive up (and down) I covered my head with my infamous Marshall University Marathon jacket, turned up Tenacious D in some headphones, and delighted the other passengers in the car with my beautiful singing voice!

Sweet God Jesus!  I don't look ridiculous at all!

Once almost to the top, it started to freakin' snow and KG thought that it was a good idea to bring this to my attention.  Because now the thought of driving on a snow covered road at the top of Pikes Peak was very reassuring.  

Cowboy lovers.

By the time we parked and got out of the car it had stopped snowing and it was actually really clear, but super windy.  I wasn't scared at all once out of the car and we walked around a bit and took a bunch of pictures and got a quick bite to eat.

Beautifully clear!
I believe that this train would have been more terrifying to ride up the mountain.
Hey look at us!  We're at 14,110 feet!
GK doing his best John Travolta impression.  Stayin' alive, stayin' alive!

The drive down was slightly less terrifying for me.  We made a couple stops to snap some pictures.

Unfortunately we did not see Big Foot.

Sorry for all the giant pictures, but I'm too lazy to make little collages.  After spending more time than we thought we would with Pikes Peak, we were hungry, so we ordered take out from a place just up the road from our hotel.  Sitting on the beds in our PJ's just seemed a whole lot more appealing than sitting in a restaurant eating.  Our order was all messed up - my salad had cheese and GK's spaghetti and Italian sausage wasn't spaghetti and sausage.  Our dinner was made even more appetizing after discovering that one of the beds was infested with little black curly hairs!  KG called the front desk to inform them that it looked like there were unsanitary pubes in our bed.  A nice boy came and changed our bedding and ended up knocking one of the salads on the floor and ranch dressing went everywhere.  I'm sure he thought that we were a little odd as we could just not stop laughing at the whole situation.  

Race morning we were picked up in front of the hotel by the shuttle and brought to the race start at Palmer Lake.  I have no idea where this is in relation to Colorado Springs.

Race start
No frills here.

This race was a bit larger than the Wyoming race, but still quite small at about 350 participants. We started just about on time and began our 26.2 mile journey back to Colorado Springs.  This race is mostly run on a hard-packed dirt trail, nothing technical at all and therefore not in violation of my "no more trails" rule.  This proved to be an ideal surface to run on as my legs felt fantastic for about the first half.  I didn't even feel like I had done another marathon 2 days before!

Dirt and mountains as far as the eye can see.
GK loves being a little teapot!

This is a net downhill course that starts at 7200 ft and ends at just about 6000 ft above sea level.  This I'm sure helped me in the first 10-12 miles of the race as I was able to keep a nice pace and stay just ahead of the 5 hour pacer.  He was the Grim Reaper for GK and me and we had to stay ahead of him.  Around mile 8 we entered the Air Force Academy and this is also where the course started to roll.  

More dirt and mountains!
Pretty flowers.
The first "Oh sh!t" hill.

Somewhere before this giant hill I lost both GK and the 5 hour pacer.  And by that I mean I was way behind them.  And my stomach decided that it didn't like me anymore.  I believe I must have been unknowingly poisoned by some animal product but I have no proof.  Port-o-potties were pretty scarce on the course too.  So I just commenced to walking when my tummy got cranky.

Can we please please please move here?  Running trails everywhere!

Somewhere around mile 17 or 18, we started to run on asphalt/concrete.  This was quite the shock to my spoiled legs.  Don't get me wrong.  I love road running, but after your legs have been on soft dirt for 18 miles, they will definitely feel the difference!  My walk breaks were quite frequent and it might be more accurate to say I was taking running breaks from walking.  I felt fine other than my stomach.  

Pikes Peak
More Pikes Peak.

Somewhere around mile 23 we got back on the dirt and my stomach started to cooperate slightly.  I was able to run faster than a snail for the last few miles and made it to the finish a few minutes faster than I had at Jackson Hole two days before.

Don't blink or you'll miss me!
I have excellent head balancing skills.
Me with my much faster friends, one of them an award winning runner.

Obviously both GK and KG were long done with the race and were waiting on my slow butt.  KG won 2nd in the masters division and walked  away from the race with cash money!  Sadly, I only walked away with a Dr. Thunder and a very unhappy gut.  I ran to the bathroom one last time and it was the most awkward situation ever!  There were no doors/curtains/anything on the stalls.  This surprised just about every person that walked into the bathroom.  I waited for the very last stall as the first stall just did not seem like a good option at all!

I though this was a great race for Colorado, especially with the Jackson Hole Marathon being the same weekend.  There were aid stations about every two miles with both water and Gatorade.  Some aid stations had gels.  One suggestion for improvement would be more port-o-potties.  I didn't see very many.  The course is not closed so you will be sharing it with bikes and other non-race runners.  The course got a little congested on the Air Force Academy campus and it remained that way until the end.  This wasn't a bad thing to me, just something for you to be aware of if you are interested in this race.  I thought the course was very nice and scenic.  There is a stretch of the course that runs alongside I-25, but the trail is pretty far removed from the actual highway.  The rest of the course is pretty quiet.  

As far as costs go, the Jackson Hole Marathon cost $70 (this was after a $20 discount) and the American Discovery Trail Marathon cost $81.  For travel, I flew into Denver (Southwest flight $316 including Early Bird check-in).  I met up with KG and GK in the airport and we rented a car (Priceline bid totaling $172 from Hertz).  We ended up adding a driver which added another $65 to that.  This is a bit high for a rental, but it was a holiday weekend and it was the best I could get.  We drove the 9 hours to Jackson, WY, where we stayed at the Ranch Inn ($140).  After the Jackson Hole Marathon on Saturday, we drove to Cheyenne and stayed the night at the Fairfield Inn and Suites ($99).  Sunday morning we made our way down to Colorado Springs where we stayed at the host hotel, the Antlers Hilton ($109).  Both hotels were in excellent locations for the races (Ranch Inn was about two blocks from the race start and the Hilton was a shuttle pickup location for the CO race).  I paid one third of all the car and hotel expenses.  Not a bad ticket for such a fun trip!  Plus you can't take it with you when you die and you are not guaranteed tomorrow!  Experience life while you can!

Next up is NEBRASKA!!!!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

On the ROAD again - Jackson Hole Marathon 2014 Race Recap

What an adventure this past weekend was!  I originally signed up for the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs on Labor Day and this was supposed to be a quick in and out trip.  But then I started looking at what other races may be "close" that weekend so that I could possibly knock out another state.  In comes the Jackson Hole Marathon, in Jackson, WY, which is not "close" to Colorado Springs..........but there was a day between the races, so that gave me more time to travel between the races..........then I recruited fellow Maniacs GK and it was set that we would knock out both Wyoming and Colorado in one trip.

KG, GK, and I all met up in Denver bright and early Friday morning, picked up our super cool red Fiat, and then made the long drive (9 hrs) to Jackson, WY  The drive was pretty much uneventful.  We made a quick stop for lunch in Laramie at a delicious vegan-friendly restaurant.  Once we were semi-close to Jackson, we came upon some pretty awesome scenery.  After living in south Jersey, eastern North Carolina, and now Mississippi, the mountains always mesmerize me!

A scenic spot along the Hoback River.

We rolled into Jackson just in time for our dinner reservations at the Lotus Cafe - another vegan-friendly restaurant.  We met up with several other Maniacs and enjoyed dinner and conversation.  After dinner, we checked into our hotel (the Ranch Inn), made our way to pick up our race packets, and then headed to the Jackson Hole Rodeo, which I'm pretty sure was not very vegan of me.  We didn't stay too long, as we were pretty beat from the long day we had. 

Race morning was super easy since our hotel was only about a block or so from the race start.  My "training" for this race was pretty much non-existent.  Since the Big Butts 50k (that I pretty much walked) five weeks before this marathon, I really haven't done too much running.  But when you are a 50-Stater, most of your races are definitely not going to be for time!  Being a 50-Stater is all about the adventure for me!  

Antler arch!
Ski slopes up ahead.
This was a pretty small race - I think it capped at 220 marathoners.  Half Marathoners started somewhere else.  Pretty much a perfect size race for me.  We started the race and headed out of the Town Square.  This race is run at 6200 ft above sea level, but this didn't really affect me.  From the start, I was pretty much on my own, which is fine by me since then I don't really have to worry about anyone except for myself.  In the first four miles we ran through a neighborhood, past an Elk Refuge, and past the Rodeo, all with a nice view of some mountains.  We eventually started to run on a nice paved bike path along the side of a beautiful stream. 

The peacefulness of the stream did not last very long.  Just past mile 4, the stream was replaced by Highway 89 and the tranquility of the running water was replaced by the sound of semis whizzing by.  Not ideal, but the scenery to our right was still amazing.  

All next to a very busy/noisy highway!

I felt great in these early miles and I attribute that to the course being pretty much downhill for the first 9 miles.  From miles 8-14, we moved a bit from the busy highway (although we were still on the side of the road).  Still amazing views.  I felt good until about mile 12 or so when I was passed by a race walker.  And, yes, I was running.  Obviously just barely though.  In my defense, he had really long legs.  I made it to the 13.1 mark in about 2:26, pretty typical halfway time for me.  Yep, this race was going to be a BIG positive split for me!  Anyway, miles 8-14 were some of the prettiest on the course.

I started walking a lot after the halfway point.  Beyond mile 9, the course is mostly uphill until the very end.  My untrained legs were not too happy about this and my feet were pretty sore.  I refilled my hydration vest (this is a NO CUPS race, so carrying some sort of hydration vest is required) and started in on the second half.  Just past mile 14, we started to run along a VERY busy highway and this is where I thought I might die.  And not due to my general lack of fitness, but because I thought I might literally get hit by a car!  We had a very narrow shoulder of the road to run on and cars were NOT moving over or slowing down one bit.  

We had the area to the left of the cone to run on.  And don't let that road fool you!  It was busy and cars were going very fast!

Even though it seemed as though death would be imminent to our right, to our left was still some amazing scenery - you just couldn't look too long!

Unfortunately I didn't see a single moose.
Crossing the Snake River on a very narrow sliver of a very busy bridge.

After the terrifying miles of 14 through 17, we were rewarded with a few miles completely hidden from the road.  At this point, I was walking a half mile, "running" a half mile (and I use the word "running" very loosely).  I guess it's not a good idea to forget to run for five weeks before you are scheduled to do two marathons in one weekend.  Oops.  Honestly, time was not important to me here (if that's not obvious to you).  I was enjoying the scenery and the lovely weather.  This Mississippi girl got a little taste of fall weather.  Just before mile 20, we started to run along the road again, but at least this time it was on a paved bike path that was set apart from the road (and this road wasn't nearly as busy as the last).  

The most scenic part of this course starts somewhere between miles 23 and 24 and continues until the finish.  The trail opens up to this field of horses with a magnificent view of the mountains behind it.  It made the rest of the course worth it!

Just before mile 26, we turned into Teton Village and made our way to the finish.  I finished in 5:28:xx, obviously not my best time but not my worst either.  All my friends were pretty much done and waiting on me.  The finish line area was pretty sad.  When I crossed the finish line I was given a bottle of water and a paper bag with some things in it that I couldn't eat.  There was a small tent with a guy watching over coolers filled with delicious sugary carbonated beverages.  There may have been some bananas, but I was too tired to care.  

GK is a little teapot!
Nice medal for state #19 (WY)!!

We rode the free shuttle back to our hotel and then found the Jackson Hole Rec Center so that we could shower (it cost $7 but was totally worth it).  Of course, no trip to Jackson, WY, would be complete without visiting the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, so that's what we did!

We literally saddled up to the bar.

After the Cowboy Bar, we drove to a highly rated overlook in Grand Teton National Park.  This overlook, called Schwabacher Landing is supposed to offer a fantastic view of the majestic Tetons!  Well I guess we would have gotten a majestic view if it hadn't been so damn cloudy!

Mary's Nipple and Frank's something-or-other is behind those clouds!

On our way out of the Tetons, we noticed a car pulled over on the side of the road with their very large camera pointing to something over on a hill.  Of course, this looked very exciting so we pulled over too but couldn't really see whatever it was that they did.  After much searching, we finally discovered two very tiny black dots over on the hill.  Obviously, we decided that these two dots were bears............

Can you find them?

We eventually figured out that these were not bears, but two moose.  We laughed at how excited we were over the thought of them being bears.  Moose just didn't seem as exciting as bears..............

So overall I thought this was an OK race for WY.  You really can't get a much better location than Jackson for WY with it being very close to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, but the actual race course is a little disappointing.  For about half of the race, be prepared to run along busy and/or noisy highways/roads.  I would think that the course could be much improved to make it a bit more quiet.  This is a "cup-free" race, meaning there are no cups at the aid station, so if you want to do this race, get used to carrying your own water if it's not something you normally do.  For travel, I flew into Denver (since I was also doing a race in Colorado Springs) and drove the nine hours to Jackson, WY.  We stayed at the Ranch Inn in downtown Jackson.  I'll do a cost breakdown after my next post.  

We finally headed out of town back towards Colorado.  We would have one day of rest before the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs....................

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Farewell to trail running - Big Butts 50k

Wearing the giant underwear that I got in my race packet!

I guess I should get this post up.  I'll make it short though because there's not much to say about running around in circles for 8 hours.  Two weeks ago I did my second ultra marathon - the Big Butts 50k here in Jackson, MS.  I actually was signed up for the 100k, but due to it being hotter than hell that day, I decided pretty early on that I was going to drop to the 50k.  Actually, I knew before even signing up for this race that I would not be able to finish a 100k in July in Mississippi within the 14 hour cutoff.  The course was a 10.4 mile loop with probably about half of each loop in the direct sun.  Give me heat and humidity any day, but put me in the direct sun and I'm done!  The month of July was actually pretty mild for Mississippi, with 3 different cold fronts coming through throughout the month.  Guess which day was not during these cold fronts?  Yup, you guessed it - the day of the race.  "Feels like" temps approached 120 degrees F!!!!!!!

A nice reminder of how effin' hot it was after each loop.

We arrived at the race start/finish and set up all of our crap.  One of the many things about trail running that I will not miss is all the crap you have to haul around with you!  I had some glimmer of hope that the 100k would work out for me so I had everything that I needed labeled and ready to grab after each 10.4 mile loop.  I wanted minimal thinking.  The race starts at 8 AM which I think should be illegal in Mississippi in July.  The RD wants it to be hot and hard!  

All ready for 8 hours of hell.

We (JB, TW, MS, and me) started the first loop.  JB and I planned to keep a 9:1 interval for the first 2 loops with maybe 5 minutes at the aid station after each loop.  First loop was actually not too bad.  For the first mile or two we ran through freshly mowed grass.  The sun was still a bit low, so we had some shade.  We entered the trail (where we spent pretty much every Saturday).  We did a couple sections of the trail that I had never done before.  And I hated these parts.  One area was all covered in grass and you couldn't see what you were stepping on!  It was awful!  I imagined all sorts of creepy crawlies or dead bodies waiting for me under the grass!  We approached the only aid station on the course (besides the start/finish) around mile 4.5 and grabbed some ice.  We were making decent time, but soon after that we began running on the blacktop portion of the loop.  This is pretty much maybe 2 miles (maybe a little less) on pavement in the direct sun.  It sucked but we pushed through and made it back to the trail.  I finished the first loop exactly on target, but pretty much resolved at that point that I was only going to do the 50k.  JB decided to also drop to the 50k and to wait for her aunt and finish the last two laps with her, so I was on my own for my final two laps.  I'm not a big fan of running trails by myself.

She's a lady!

I swear that each lap got longer and longer (or is it that I got slower and slower??), especially the portion from the 4.5 mile aid station back to the start/finish.  Physically and mentally I felt absolutely fine.  It was just too damn hot.  So I walked much of the last two laps.  In the beginning miles of my last loop I came upon a very large snake that was spanning the entire trail.  He/she saw me and slithered back into the woods, but I was not interested in running by him/her by myself so I waited for the next runner to come by me and followed him.  I probably stood there and waited at least 5 minutes.  Runners were pretty spread out.  So the entire last lap I was anxious and on alert for snakes and other creepy crawlies!  I could not wait to be out of that hell and be done with trail running.  It is definitely not for me!  To make a long story short, I emerged from my hell just after 8 hours.  I collected my finisher's cap and drink receptacle and sat my ass down and drank the most deliciously ice cold Pepsi ever.

Well that's the story of my second ultra and my farewell to trail running.  I miss the road!  My next marathons are in three weeks with a "sort of" WY/CO double.  I say "sort of" since there is a day between the two races - Jackson Hole Marathon on Saturday then the American Discovery Trail Marathon on Monday.  Don't worry - this race isn't a gnarly, rooty, stumpy trail.  It's just a crushed gravel/dirt bike pathThis type of "trail" is acceptable to me.