Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

May 28, 2012

48 Hr Swift Adventure Race this weekend

Get your winter booties back out, kids, because it's gonna be cold out there!   Forecast may change, but right now it's looking like weekend highs of about 10C, low around freezing esp up on the hills.
Trickles of information coming out now about the big race this weekend, the Adidas TERREX Swift, 48 hours of fun and well, pain.  

Jon, Gavin, Sarah and I will be Team #18, called WCP Tolent AR. 

There should be online tracking available during the race so you can see just how much pain we are in. 

Watch a Google Earth FLY THROUGH of the route here

Some potholing (caving) will be involved during the weekend.   Yay!

Maps should be arriving in the mail soon but here's what we are in for:

Ow, my aching butt!   What possessed the race organizers to put in 180 km of biking with only 16 km of trekking to break it up???!?!  They must want to see us suffer...

Here's the Route Map: 

May 24, 2012

Adventure Racing Gear - My Top Picks

Adventure Racers tend to accumulate loads of gear.  It can be fun, but it's also hard on the pocketbook.  I keep telling my husband that NOW I've got everything I need and I won't have any more surprise purchases...but.  There's always a new race requirement, or that piece of kit which will make me race faster, lighter, safer, happier, etc, etc.  

Here's a few pieces of that gear that I wouldn't want to live without:

1. Arm Warmers:  
I love arm warmers in the summer, I can still wear a short-sleeved shirt and then push up/pull down the arms as needed.  I especially love the Btwin Arm Warmers, they are a little bit thicker (for cold British summers) and seem to wick water away from the fleecy-feeling inside.   So rain or sweat is no obstacle and my arms always feel warm and dry.

2. Backpack

Inov-8 Race Pro 22
 You can't have just one, and I use the smallest pack I think I can get away with, even if it means dangling something temporarily on the outside for a few miles.  For shorter races, I love the Nathan Intensity Vest, which is so balanced and light I forget I'm wearing a pack.  Until I want something to eat, and then it's waiting for me in the handy front pouches!

For anything up to multiday races, my go-to pack is the Inov-8 Race Pro 22   It's stood up to years of abuse and everything still works great.  I've attached a couple of extra Inov8 front pockets to the shoulder straps, which give me 4 front zippers to store food, compass, etc.  On the back I tied on a few strands of elastic shoelace to give me a secure place to put a multisport helmet if I'm not wearing it.  For multiday races, I've just upgraded to the Race Pac 25, which feels quite a bit bigger than the Race Pro.  It should easily fit a sleeping bag and 24 hours of food, gear, etc during the 4 day Adidas TERREX expedition race this summer in Scotland.
3. Hydration:
 I hate bladders.  They are a pain to fill, refill, empty, clean, etc.  I love to put electrolytes (see #7 below) in my liquid, which makes them doubly hard to clean out afterward.  So now I use Blue Desert drinking tubes.  The tubes come with several attachments to fit on most water bottles, bike bottles, etc, so you can use whatever fits your style, even the really cool Platypus collapsible bottles.

4. Lights
Any old cheap headlight will seem great while running, until it comes time to submerge it or ask to see a boulder in a distant valley.  Then it's time to bring out the tough stuff.  I like the Princeton Tec Apex Pro , it's waterproof and throws a strong beam for biking as well.  I've got the model with CR123 batteries, as they are much cheaper than buying AAA Lithiums.  Bummer is the light on high only runs an hour (substantially longer for the medium setting), and it's tough to change batteries in the rain.   Ok, it's tough to do anything at night in the cold rain anyway. 

For my MTB, I'm too cheap to throw out hundreds of dollars on a really good bike light.  So I've picked up a couple of these on Ebay: Bike Light   The great thing is that I now have a spare battery and a spare light, so if I break a light, it won't cost a month salary to replace it.   Do watch out with all really high-powered lights (expensive ones, too) not to run them on high beam while stationary, as they will produce too much heat and might (literally) blow a gasket. 

5. Socks: 
I don't tend to get blisters but I don't want to, either.  In racing conditions where I find it amusing to count the miles before my feet get soaked for the rest of the race (I usually don't make it to double digits), socks are key.   My favorite is now Drymax, as I can feel how quickly they absorb water and get it away from my skin.   I love Injinji toe socks but after one episode of my teammates waiting not so patiently for me to put my socks on, I don't wear them in adventure races anymore.   I also love SealSkinz waterproof socks, but I can't afford to keep myself in them as they aren't as durable as I'd like.  I tend to save them for biking portions as they keep my feet warmer as well as dryer.   For more blister prevention, I use SportSlick or Hydropel lubrication.  

6. Trekking Poles:
A friend showed up to a Bob Graham recce one day wearing trekking poles.  I mean they literally attached to his palms, but could be easily detatched to have his hands free for eating, digging in pack, etc.  I decided that they were for me, as I've always hated the straps of regular poles.  So now I use nordic walking poles, specifically Leki Traveller (Carbon). I prefer to use them in the latter stages of a long race, rather than the beginning, when I am tired and need a little extra power. 

7. Liquid Calories: 
Don't get me wrong, I love to eat.  But in a race I might not have time to think about doing it often enough.  From my background in triathlon, I learned to combine Nuun tablets and Carbo-pro powder into a dense liquid that would get me through an Ironman with no stomach issues.  But then I rarely have stomach issues anyway.   Hmmm.  I've recently discovered Perpetuem, which is has a little fat and protein mixed in with the carbs.  I've heard stories of people living off Perpentuem in multi-day adventure races.  I haven't tried it yet, as I use AR as an excuse to eat jelly beans, potato chips, and other normally terrible foods...but I love the taste so much I think I could use it exclusively.  If I run out of jelly beans, that is. 

8. Waterproofs:  Aside from my cheap everyday waterproof, which I think works just as well as the heavy Gore-Tex breathable ones, for really tough conditions I turn to my Paramo Smock. This seems to be the only fabric that actually breathes while being waterproof.  Sure, it's a bit heavy, as it sort of combines a fleece and a waterproof together.  Trust me, you don't need anything more than a baselayer if you've got this on, unless it's well below freezing.   Also always in my race bag are my OMM Kamleika Race Pants.  It surprising how little I've needed to wear them, but these rain pants almost make me wish for rain because they are so comfortable.

9. Sleeping pad: 
On the Rab Mountain Marathon last year, I discovered the Inertia X Frame, which is an airy pad that rolls up to the size of a soda can.  Plus it's so tough that you can jump up and down on it and it won't rip.  Sleeping in adventure racing just got comfier, as before this invention I probably wouldn't have brought a sleeping mat at all and taken my chances with cold hard ground.   Now if I could just find a sleeping bag that is as small and light (and cheap, too!). 

10.  Climbing Harness:
I remember on Open 24 race last summer, my normal climbing harness took up most of the space in my pack.  Not this year, as I've switched to the Camp Alp 95.  Another "soda can size" object to forget it's even in my pack until it's needed. 

In my mountain of gear, I'm sure I could keep adding things to this list until it overloaded my whole blog, but these are some of my big purchases in the last year.  I hope they will help keep me warm, dry, fed, rested, and light on my feet!

May 19, 2012

Malhamdale Meander, 23 Miles, 12 May 2012

It was somewhat of a shock to leave the warm sunshine of the Utah desert and return to the UK.   Evidently we did miss the wettest April on record (YAY!), so we picked a really good time to leave the country.  My condolences to all of you who had to endure the wet and cold spring.  But after being gone for 6 weeks, the weather now is actually colder than it was before I left.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is springtime and it should be getting WARMER!?!? 

Luckily for my first long run, the sun was shining and it's always nice to see the days getting longer and longer and longer and longer.   The LDWA Malhamdale Meander route is now a favorite of mine, the scenery really is gorgeous and the trails are very runnable.  I see from my notes that last year the weather was much warmer, but at least the skies were blue to start the day this year.  A few hardy souls were in shorts and t-shirts, evidently they were dressing for the predicted rather than actual temps, but I was happy with full body cover and a wind jacket the whole day.   Total bummer as my hard-earned stateside tan is already diminishing. 

23 miles of running + 50 mile mountain bike ride = 14 hours of great training!

I was joined by teammates Jon and Tony, and we loaded up our packs with extra heavy gear as training for our 48 hour Adventure Race coming up in just 3 weeks.   The Adidas TERREX Swift is looming large, and we wanted one last big training weekend for preparation.  To that effect, we planned on completing the 23 miles of the Meander, and then heading directly out again on a long mountain bike ride that would take us into the night. 

Unfortunately with all the recent rains, the waterfall hike up Gordale Scar was running a little too much water, so we couldn't climb up it.  Instead we got diverted up and over the moorside.  I was happy to keep my feet dry, but Jon and Tony were disappointed as they had never been in the area before and were missing out on a cool part of it.  There was brief talk of going up anyway (for training, of course), but common sense won out in the cold temps and we stayed dry. 

5 hr 35 min saw us back into the finish for a feast of pie and peas, which we devoured with the single-mindedness of people who know that the day is not done yet.  Then it was back out on the bikes for a long loop from Settle to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and then almost up to Hawes.  We got plenty of climbing in, going up and over Dodd and Wether Fells, then down to Semer Water.   Yet another slow climb and fast descent (with a flat tyre on the highest, windiest, coldest point of the ride) brought us down to the River Wharf.   The water level was significantly higher than usual, but as always I imagined that this would be a perfect place to come on a nice sunny day for a picnic. 

Sunset was approaching by then, so we hauled out our bike lights and I reluctantly admitted that I hadn't brought my really bright lights, for some reason.  I guess I hadn't been thinking clearly and had only brought lights for emergency rather than planned use.  Luckily for a while, the ride was nice and smooth through the valley and a large forest and lights weren't needed.  

One of the required items for the race in a few weeks is a 4-man bothy.  This resembles a giant day-glo canvas drawstring bag, albeit big enough that 4 people can put it over their heads and then sit inside it, sheltered from the wind and rain.  We decided that we should try it out, since we'd never used it, and perhaps we were a bit chilly anyway.   Well, it was amazingly warm as soon as we had sat down in it, with all our body heat immediately bringing the temperature up inside.  It also felt like the oxygen levels were falling quickly, but being warm is more important than breathing, right?  Just kidding.  We realized that we should have gotten in this when fixing the flat tyre on top off the moors, as our fingers were getting cold rather too quickly.   It may be an asset during the race if temperatures stay below normal and/or rain is falling.

After the forest stop, there were just a few miles of singletrack left to get back to the road in Horton.  I managed to ride these using ambient light and my bouncing, tiny bike light, plus a little extra glow from my teammates riding behind me.  But I will never leave my bright lights at home again.  At least, not if I think I "might" need them! 

May 18, 2012

Paragliding, Point of the Mountain, Utah

While home in the States visiting family, I had a chance to get out for a few days of paragliding.   Yes of course I planned it that way! 

Point of the Mountain, Utah, has to be one of my favorite places to fly.   South Side is a ridge soaring site good in the early mornings.  It is perfect for beginners and for working on skills like side hill landings, kiting, and high wind wing control.   North side is an evening soaring dream, where the highest point of the mountain is easily reached by many, and can accomodate about as many paragliding and hang gliders as can park in the parking lot (or more).

My brother-in-law Keith and friend Randy have also gotten the paragliding bug (it's catching) and kept me company out on the hill.  Randy was just starting to learn, so provided us some moments of levity with his attempted launches!  He also reminded us just how fun the sport can be for spectators :)   Just kidding Randy...you're learning much faster than the rest of us did, and it was fun to witness your first moment of free flight and the resulting huge smile on your face!

Keith put together this cool video of our flights last week, check it out! 

Randy walks back up the hill to launch

Kiting on South Side

Ready for takeoff

May 4, 2012

The Boonecrusher AR, 12 hours, 29 April 2012

There is nothing quite as satisfying as racing in your hometown. I’m on a short visit back to the States at the moment, and as part of my buildup for an expedition-length race this summer, I’m trying to get a lot of training done this month. So The Boonecrusher 12 hour Adventure Race fit in perfectly with a visit home.

The newly created Find-a-Teammate Forum on their website let me troll for a 2 or 4 person team, and 3 guys soon rang me up looking for a girl to make a coed quad team. We managed to meet each other for the first time a few days before the race, when we went for a ride on the singletrack mountain biking trails near the race start at Seven Oaks Ski Resort. In dry conditions, the trails were still tough, with lots of short, sharp uphills and switchbacks. The designers managed to fit almost 7 miles of trail into a very small forest, mostly by making us ride frequent switchbacks up the hillsides, but the dense trees made each trail seem isolated, and it was really cool to find such a trail so near where I had grown up.

On to the race, though. Packet pickup was on Friday night, so I got the LARGE topo map and list of map coordinates, then met up with the team to plot controls and make a plan. As we put our heads together, the thunder and lightning crashed outside and the rain poured down. We knew that would affect the singletrack trails and perhaps the river levels. I was keen to see what differences there would be between racing in the UK and the USA, and the map was the first obvious biggie. It was much huger than what I was used to, and more importantly was missing the premarked controls, so we had to plot our own. None of us had much practice at that, so we went slowly and double checked all of our locations carefully.

I would be riding a borrowed bike without my own cleats and pedals, but using running shoes and flat pedals turned out to be a bonus in this race. I counted up the transitions and saw that we would have to switch on and off the bike NINE times during the race. Carrying bike shoes and changing that often would be nothing but a waste of time.

The rain was finished by the 7 am start of the race, and it wasn’t as cold or windy as those pesky weather forecasters had predicted as we had feared either. In fact it was perfect racing weather, especially as wearing leg coverings would help protect us from the thorns in the orienteering sections. The national anthem played and then we were off on the first of two short trekking sections, split in the middle by what should have been the mountain bike singletrack. A last minute decision to let us run or bike the trails was an easy choice for us, as the singletrack was steep and muddy and running was way faster.

The first trek took us about an hour, out along the Des Moines river and through some dense forests. After just a few hundred feet of bashing through the trees, we were careful to try and stay on the trails every chance we could, even if it was a little longer, it was still faster. The second control was an island in the middle of a pond, and Joe gamely volunteered to wade out to it with the passport to punch in, while Eric, Ron and I cheered him on.
We pitied the poor souls who had chosen to actually ride the singletrack, and blazed through it without much trouble as the guys were familiar with the area and led us straight to the points. The map wasn’t much help, as the topography was quite accurate but the roads and trails were only minimally marked and not very useful. I must admit that I was bragging about the UK maps I’ve gotten used to, and how great it is to see every road and trail clearly marked on the map.

With three trekking sections in a row due to the rain, we were 11 miles and 3 hours into the race before we finally got on our bikes. My teammates were feeling the strain by then, as this race would be the longest and farthest they had ever gone. Very shortly into the biking section was a steep hill, and Ron quickly realized that he hadn’t gotten enough training in, and felt that continuing on would be a mistake. We were willing to slow down the pace to get the team to finish together, but knew that it would be a very long day out if we were struggling this early on. So we rode back to transition to drop off an obviously frustrated and disappointed teammate, and Team Four-Runners continued on as a threesome.

The rest of the biking was fast and straightforward on gravel roads, and they brought us to Don Williams lake for the canoeing section. We all piled into one canoe, and three paddlers in one boat made quick work of the lake. But the lake itself was a bit tricky due to really low water levels, as they had drained the lake the year previously and dry conditions this spring hadn’t filled it back up. We tried a little portage to save time across a peninsula, but took the wrong line, so it didn’t help or hurt much…except for the fact that we accidentally dumped Joe in the lake as we pulled the boat out of the water. He came up sputtering but didn’t complain much!

Back on the bike to Holst State Forest, where a small but tricky orienteering section in the woods had us really happy with our navigation skills. We had found all of the controls so far, but not everyone was so lucky, as a team ahead of us left the woods with only 1 of the 3 controls in that section.

Another short bike led us to Barkley State Park and another orienteering section, this one literally in my backyard as I had lived within a mile of this ravine until I went off to college. But don’t try to visit this area with a picnic basket, there are absolutely no roads leading in or out of the park! There are a few ATV trails, which we trusted would lead us to the controls (they mostly did). Once again we used the small topography clues to pull us into the controls, carefully counting spurs and valleys to find the correct locations. We sucked in a few other teams along the way who were hopelessly lost and grateful to finally find the flag and punch their passports.
A final bike back down to the river valley and YMCA camp led us back to the finish 9 ½ hours later. We were really happy to finish in 5th place overall, out of 29 teams doing the long course.

Well ahead of us were the 2 combined teams of GearJunkie/WEDALI, who proved that they were still on top after their win at last year's USARA Championship.

Results are here  (We are Team Four-Runners)