Thursday, June 26, 2008

Primal Quest Montana!

The past few days I have been glued to my computer, watching with fascination the going ons way up in Montana. A little thing called Primal Quest is taking place right now and boy have I been fascinated with the whole thing!

Primal Quest is billed as one of the world's toughest ultra-endurance race on the planet - this year's race seems to be living up to that reputation by pushing athletes with 500+ miles of trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, river boarding and other fun stuff. On top of that, there is suppose to be about 100,000 feet of climbing - WOW! The race can take anywhere from 5 days for the elite teams to 10 days for the weekend warrior. And in the true tradition of Adventure racing, the biggest test is not so much the physical tasks but the lack of sleep, navigation and team work (or lack of it, for some).

Why am I so fascinated with Primal Quest, or even adventure racing for that matter? I'm not sure. There is something about it that intrigues me and I honestly can't put my finger on it. I have never been one to push myself that hard - I usually wimp out before I get to that point. So maybe I'm intrigued by the possibility of doing something I'm not familiar with. Isn't it always the opposite of us that we are attracted too?

Last week I was given the opportunity to actually be in Montana as support crew for the team Dancing Pandas. (pic to the left is them!) Due to my new job I couldn't go but oh, how I wanted to! I know I will probably never run a race like Primal Quest but that doesn't mean I can't be involved in some way and this seemed the perfect way to do that. I've already requested a place on their support team for next years race - I don't plan on missing out next year!

If you have a moment, check out the Primal Quest website - they have information on all the teams, a live tracking system of the racers and lots of other fun stuff. Team Nike, a Colorado team is, as usual, in 1st. They are just about the best adventure racing team out there and the reigning champions of Primal Quest - for the past 4 years! They are machines - Ian Adamson, one of my hero's and a legend in adventure racing circles, was the captain for years. Despite his retirement the team continues to dominate.

I have other friends racing that I've been keeping track of - primarily Brain Attack and New Mexico Blue and Green. Both of these teams are first time racers who only want to finish, which in this race is a rare thing. My hats off to them and Dancing Pandas, as well as all the other teams, for doing something most people can't even imagine. It is truly an amazing accomplishment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


After a good (and tough) weekend, I've been thinking about the fine line between challenging myself and knowing when to throw in the towel. Saturday I challenged myself at an Orienteering Meet; then Sunday I completely freaked during a mountain bike ride. The difference between the two? Orienteering is done with 2 feet solidly on the ground, while mountain biking involves the threat of my already bruised body being thrown to the ground. See why I might be willing to hike my bike rather than ride?

I write the above as a round about way to say I think I might not be cut out for mountain biking. Sunday's ride was a continuation of past rides - my fear getting in the way of any fun I might have. Granted the trail was more difficult than most I have been on and after the initial terrifying, single track ride (where I walked the entire time) I was able to enjoy a nice, simple ride with another friend. But I am tired of being "challenged" on rides that elicit panic attacks, not shouts of joy. When do I say "no more" without feeling like a quitter?

While I contemplate that question (and you are more than welcome to offer comments with advice, encouragement, or a "kick me in the ass" type of comment) I plan on riding the whole weekend. Ironic, isn't it? But, these rides are not exactly typical mountain biking - more like road biking and some simple, wide and hilly trails that lack any of the typical technical stuff usually associated with mountain biking. This whole thing puts into question all the adventure races I want to race - unfortunately most races do not have easy biking sections. Now, if I could just find a race without mountain biking, I would be extremely happy (unlikely but hey, I can wish can't I?)

I'm still planning on running my 12 hour/60 mile race in July - I figure if it gets too bad I can do the whole "hike my bike" thing. That's part of the reason i am doing it alone - I won't have the pressure of letting my teammate/s down with my fear of riding - I'll just be riding for me. That might be the best idea I've had yet.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm Back!!

My confidence took a pretty hard hit after the last adventure race and I was pretty sure I was doomed to live the rest of my life struggling with my workouts and any type of activity that requires, well, energy. It's been a couple of months of not feeling well and despite knowing that it was due to the sinus infection and my asthma, it still didn't sink in that that was the cause of my exhaustion. I'm funny that way - my moods tend to get in the way of reality.

I know all of you kept saying "give it time, you'll feel better." But I don't think I ever believed it because honestly, I didn't feel that bad. Yes, I was a little more tired than usual. But to me sick means wanting to crawl into bed for days and hoping that death comes soon. And that wasn't how I felt. This week, however, I realized how crappy I had been feeling when I suddenly began to feel much better. As the title above stated... I'm back!

It helps that my confidence was boosted by two big rides last week, one 20 miles and the other 30 miles. The 30 miler was flat for portions but also had some good hills for climbing - I felt so good by the end I could of kept going (except for my butt - oh my god, it was sore).

Then this week I was actually able to run 3 miles... all at one time! I'd lost a lot of my running last month and was barely doing 2 miles a couple of weeks ago, which was such a change from the regular 5 miles I had been running before. It was such a relief to know I could do it again!

I'm now working on building my confidence - I really think that was part of my problem at the last race. And I'm going to need it because I just signed up for a 60 mile/12 hour adventure race in Summit County on July 26! I decided to take the plunge, knowing that this race was more suited to me and my skills and finishing within the time frame is a very good possibility.

So, I'll be working hard the next 6 weeks - I've got some orienteering courses planned, as well as a day of kayaking at Lake Dillon, some long mountain bike rides and a mountain bike skills clinic. All stuff that sounds fun to me, which is the key ingredient.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm a Wimp

I've been going back and forth on how to report on my adventure race last weekend and I'm still not sure what to say. But I'm going to give it a shot.

It was a gorgeous day for the race, which was in Fenton Lake, NM - a beautiful, mountainous area about an hour west of Santa Fe. I raced with my brother, his first adventure race but an extremely strong biker with tons of experience. It turned out he was much stronger than me in all the disciplines - I completely bonked during the biking section and never fully recovered. I was mostly dehydrated, no matter how much I drank I could not get in enough water. Since the biking section was toward the beginning it made the rest of the race pretty tough for me - I was even having a hard time during the running/trekking portion, which was my strength. I was exhausted and frustrated and it made for a very long race.

Despite that we did finish and placed 4th in the co-ed division (out of 4 teams) - all the teams were pretty close together time wise but most got more checkpoints than me and Steve, so that knocked us down some spots. Steve was incredibly patient with me and my lack of energy and for that I am extremely grateful. But I was, and still am frustrated with how I performed. It really seems to be a pattern lately - I'm having difficulty doing just about anything physical. Not sure what is going on but I'm pretty discouraged by it.

I spent the entire trip home trying to feel better. I kept downing electrolytes, which helped some. I couldn't eat much though - my stomach wasn't cooperating at all. It took me a another day before I felt somewhat normal and even then I was still struggling. I now fully understand what dehydration feels like and I don't want to experience it again.

I'm seriously rethinking whether I want to do more races. I started this whole thing to fulfill my dream of running one and I've done that. Part of me would love to get out there and keep running more races, building up to longer and harder ones. But to be honest I don't know if I'm cut out for it and not sure if I even enjoy it that much. I haven't been enjoying my workouts at all since I began training for the races and the whole purpose of them was to keep me motivated to continue to be active. If I'm not enjoying it, then why do it?

I know I'm discouraged and that's part of it. But I can usually snap out of it pretty quickly - instead I have been getting more discouraged as the week has continued. Maybe taking a break is what I need - I want to get out there and enjoy being outside, not feel like it's a burden. And right now, it's a burden.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

And it continues...

So, that sinus infection that wouldn't let go? It's still trying to show who is boss (if you haven't guessed, it's in charge - not me). I'm better but not great and have spent the past 2 weeks sleeping like crazy. You know what that means? Extra sleep = less time (or energy) for working out. I ran yesterday for the first time in 2 weeks and felt every single step down to my bones. I can't believe I have lost that much of my conditioning in just 2 weeks - it kind of sucks. Especially since I have my 2nd adventure race this weekend - if you hear a story about an adventure racer who tragically lost her life from exhaustion at Fenton Lake, NM... assume it's me.

All kidding aside, I was feeling well enough to attend my orienteering training weekend this past weekend and so glad I did - it was a blast! What's orienteering, you ask?

What is Orienteering? (from the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club Website)

"In orienteering, you use a map and compass to locate a series of checkpoints shown on a specialized topographic map. You choose the route, either on or off trail, that will help you find all the checkpoints and get to the finish line in the shortest amount of time. Each checkpoint, or "control," is a distinct mapped feature such as a trail junction, a boulder, a hilltop, etc. The controls are marked with orange-and-white flags.

Orienteering is often called "the thinking sport" because it requires map reading, problem solving, and quick decision-making skills in addition to athletic ability and general physical fitness."

Orienteering is a big part of Adventure Racing, thus the reason why I wanted to get some training. And I got LOTS of training this weekend!

Saturday was the all-day training day. We began with an intro to orienteering (maps, pacing, terminology, etc) and then set out to do a beginner course with small groups. We had about 12 in our group and got lots of hands-on experience for the hour we spent in the woods - the beginner course has controls that are primarily right on the trail and fairly easy to find. My team had a family with 6 kids who just loved the whole thing - they were so much fun to watch as they tried to figure out where the next control was, all of them running through the woods with carefree abandonment. Ah, to be a kid again.

I spent the rest of the day doing more courses - I moved up to the advanced beginner after lunch, then jumped up to the advanced course with a couple of ladies I met that morning. Great training for navigation and just a lot of fun! After all that I got everything set up at camp, then went for a bike ride until dinner. There were about 10 of us camping and we pooled all our food together to create quite the feast - chicken, meat kabobs, pinto beans, asparagas, pasta and other fun stuff was passed around and shared among the group. It rained most of the evening but we had a nice shelter to sit in and cook, so it wasn't so bad.

The best part of the evening - smores! I haven't had smores for a long time and they were just as good as I remember. Yum!

That evening I did a Night-O, which is the same courses just in the dark. If you want to learn how to use your compass, this is the way to do it. Since you can't see very far in front of you, you have to depend on the compass to tell you the right direction to the next control - it is a challenge! But I did really well, found most of the checkpoints until it got too rainy and I had to head back to camp. By then I was ready to crawl into my nice, warm sleeping bag - I was tired!

The next day was the actual meet and I decided to do the orange course, which is the intermediate course. All the controls are off trail and a little more difficult to find - I was determined to get all the controls and not get a penalty, which is exactly what I did! I got all nine stamped on my passport, although one of them proved to be a challenge when I paid more attention to another runner then my actual path. I followed him for a while before I realized that I was in the wrong place. I had to back track a couple of miles to get to the right area and lost some precious time. A good lesson for me (and one I have heard about from countless other, more experienced racers, but it never makes an impact until you actually do it yourself.)

I ended up placing 3rd, although my time was realllyyy slow (2 hours, 30 minutes). The 2nd place finisher did it in 1 hour, 48 minutes, much faster than me. My goal for next time will be to finish under 2 hours. I just need to practice the whole "running and reading a map at the same time" thing - when i ran, I didn't pay attention to my surroundings. So I didn't run much, just lots of fast hiking.

My next adventure race is this weekend and I feel pretty ready to do the navigation after this past weekend - we'll see how I do. We could win the whole thing due to my brilliant navigation choices or get hopelessly lost in the mountains of New Mexico.


And fun!