Sunday, October 16, 2016

Things my body has been saying and a couple things from our week

Runners are notorious for ignoring what their bodies tell them.  I'm pretty sure the reason for this is because we would like to ignore injuries.  But sometimes, body signals are not injury related and if we are paying attention those signals won't become such.  Mine has been talking to me a lot the last couple of weeks.  I haven't been listening very well and today the voice was loud enough I couldn't ignore it all any longer.  Here are a few things that I'm going to start taking to heart.

1.  Donating blood isn't awesome for athletes:

I have donated blood for years.  When my second baby was born, she was premature and required transfusions on more than one occasion to save her life.  I consider it my way of giving back to donate blood often.

Unfortunately, there are consequences to losing a pint of blood when you are athlete and it takes quite a while for your body to fully recover.  Red blood cells carry the oxygen to your muscles. I have known this for most of the time that I have been a runner and try to schedule donations during the time of year when I don't have races on the schedule.  I donated a couple of weeks ago, but the timing is still bad.  I noticed that the burn in my leg muscles were far more prominent than usual during our ride in Yellowstone.  I didn't put the puzzle pieces together until later.

2.  It's good to get a flu shot, but that has consequences too:

I'm sold on flu shots and I get one every year by the end of September.  This year was a little later than usual.  That being said, a vaccine works because it sets your body in to "fight a virus" mode and makes your body think you've already had that virus.  As a result your immune system is busy for a few days which means you can be more susceptible to other bugs going around.   Many of my coworkers are sick right now so my immune system is working double duty to ward away the boogy man.  So far it's been a success, but I'm tired and that affects my running.

3.  My nutrition is not up to par and I need a reset:

Fall is loaded with delicious comfort foods and pumpkin beer.  All day at work I eat the food I have prepared and I am on point with a healthy diet.  After 5:00, bring on the poor choices.  My body feels it and it adds to the sluggish way I feel.  I'm ready for a day of fasting to reset my eating habits.  It seems like I need to do this once a year.  Its almost as much a mental fasting as a physical fasting.

4  Finally - Good shoes are so important:

I adore my Altra Superior trail runners.  They are my favorite trail shoes and are what I ran The Rut in.  Today was the first time I have worn them since.  On my "long run" I discovered that it it definitely time to retire them.  My body ached most of the time and after less than ten miles of running and more walking than usual, I feel like a brand new runner.  Everything feels like I did in my first long runs: getting out of the truck hurt, walking down the stairs hurt, just sitting here kind of hurts.

I don't have the heart to put these in the trash.  They have well over 500 miles on them and were a key tool in the hardest race I've ever done.  They have earned a hanging on the wall in our run/ride room.

So this happened this week.......

But by the weekend, it looked like this:

That's Montana Autumn for you!

The big deal from our week......

We (and I really just mean Mitch) are proud new owners of a 2011 Ford F250.  I'm excited to see how this baby pulls the travel trailer!   The Chevy blew the transmission a couple of weeks ago and with so many other problems, it was just time to retire it.

Are you a Ford, Chevy or 'other' person?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Old Faithful Cycle Tour Recap and Review

This weekend, I kept my part of a deal I made with Mitch months ago:  he would run the Yellowstone Half Marathon with me if I would ride the Cycle Yellowstone Old Faithful Tour - West Yellowstone to Old Faithful and back for a total of around 60'ish miles.

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been a little uneasy about this adventure.  I'm not a good rider and I didn't get as much training as I probably needed.  In fact, my longest single ride before this event was 25 miles.  

We took off on Friday.  Getting a room in West Yellowstone was really expensive considering it is technically the off-season.  So we booked our room in Belgrade, which is about 1.5 hours away from West Yellowstone.  We needed to do our packet pickup on Friday and ride on Saturday, so that meant two round trips from hotel to event.

On the way, we stopped at one of our favorite small town bars for lunch in Big Timber.  The Thirsty Turtle doesn't look like much when you drive by (nor does the town for that matter), but the food is out of this world.  I had the pulled pork and bacon gravy grilled cheese sandwich.  OMG!  So good.  I don't recall what was on Mitch's plate, but it looked good too.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, you should definitely stop by and eat!

We stayed at the Quality Inn in Belgrade.  Overall it was a decent place but we had the tiniest room I've ever stayed in.  I think it was smaller than my bedroom! We had to bring our bicycles in to the room so they wouldn't be a target for theft and they took up enough space that getting around the room wasn't super easy.  That being said, the service was good and they had a full breakfast better than some of the more expensive hotels we've been to.

60 miles on a bicycle means we should carb-load!  Dinner was at The Wild West (bar and pizzeria) in West Yellowstone.  We've been to this town many times and been to most of the restaurants.  This one is our favorite.

After dinner we picked up our ride packets and headed back to the hotel.  It was fairly late when we got back so we pretty much went straight to bed.  After all, we'd have to turn around and make the hour and a half trip back in a few hours.

Ride start time was 9:00 - 9:15 a.m.  The parking lot at the Visitors Center was bustling with cyclists of all kinds.  We saw most every kind of rider:  hand cyclists, tandems (2 person cycles), ElliptiGos (if you don't know, Google it) and a few other different contraptions as well as road bikes and mountain bikes.  

Mitch is getting his bike ready.  I have a thing about running shoes and I have several pair.  I'm not sure my shoe collection comes anywhere near the number of jackets my husband owns.  This bright yellow beauty is his newest addition - rain gear purchased because there was a good chance it was going to rain or show for this event.  As you can see... barely a cloud in site.  We had perfect weather, though a bit chilly early on.

I did not stop and take as many pictures as I would have liked.  It was a pain to hold the bike up (which doesn't have a kick stand) and take my phone out of the holder mounted on the handle bars.  It should have been more of a sight-seeing trip, but I was more focused on getting through the ride.  I've never ridden in a group of people or in the amount of traffic we encountered on the road to Old Faithful.  I expected the traffic to be relatively low in October but I was mistaken, for sure!  It was pretty much constant.

The ride was very well supported so there were signs all along the way that warned drivers of the bicycles on the road.  Most of the cars were good about moving over, but some... not so much.

The actual route was on the main roads only.  Due to park concerns, they were going to send us on the scenic roads through Firehole Canyon and Firehole Lake.  In the last couple of days before the event, the park allowed us to use the original route on the main road.  We thought this was unfortunate since Firehole Canyon is one of the more stellar views in the Park.  We took the scenic route anyway.  Traffic is one way only and there was very little of it on the two mile road, but I know now why the event organizers didn't prefer it.  That road is really bumpy!

On the main road, there is a brutal climb.  Taking Firehole Canyon still had a wicked hill but it was shorter and since the view was amazing there were many reasons to stop and look around which was a welcome break for the legs.

I just wouldn't be a responsible blogger if I didn't take a selfie.  I think this was in the Canyon, too.

There were two aid/feed stations on the entire route.  Madison Junction (which we stopped at each way) and Old Faithful.  At Old Faithful, we stopped for lunch which we pre-ordered when we signed up.  The sack lunch consisted of a sandwich, chips, pasta salad, an apple and a cookie.  There was way more food than I could eat.

Our picnic table was the ledge of the Visitor's Center patio.  I was surprised that there were no picnic tables in the vicinity.

We arrived at Old Faithful shortly before 1:00 p.m.  The geyser wasn't expected to erupt until 2:00.  so we didn't stay to watch.  Besides, we have spent many weekends in Yellowstone and have seen all of the main sites multiple times.  Now when I go, I take in the sites by going on hikes in areas of the park that are off the beaten path.

If you did the math at all, you would know that it took us well over three hours to get to the turn around.  With an overall gain in elevation (1000 feet) and a headwind, it was hard.  I didn't think I would do the second half.  I admit, there were tears on more than one occasion.  I would get frustrated when I would get stuck behind someone and would be too afraid to pass them because of traffic. Also when I would put as much effort as I could muster on what seemed like a flat section and only be able to get my speed up to 13 miles per hour.  Yep... tears.  But I am tough and those moments were brief. 

I should mention here that the event offered shuttles at pretty much any point along the course you could want one.  You could hitch a ride for any portion of the course.  All you had to do was find a turn out, watch for one of the shuttles and flag them down.  You could ride to the next turn off, the next aid station or all the way to the end if you want.  Many of the participants took the shuttle to Old Faithful and only rode back (and vice versa).  

This was most likely why I made it all 63 miles actually.  At Old Faithful I decided I would give it a try and see if the tail wind made it more bearable.  I could always catch a shuttle if it was more than I could handle.  Sometimes on the way back I would convince myself to ride just to the next turn off, but then I would keep going.  Having left Old Faithful a bit after 1:00, we made it to the end by 3:30 so it was MUCH faster on the return trip.

So you might ask, "How does one feel after spending over 6 hours riding a bicycle?"  Well obviously my butt hurt!  My nether region started to argue that it was time to stop riding about 4 hours in.  I'm surprised it took that long!  What bothered me pretty much the entire day way my neck.  It's still a little tender.

The last fifteen miles were from Madison Junction back to West Yellowstone.  That might have been the hardest part for me because I was definitely ready to be done and was again fighting a head wind.  When the West Entrance of the park came in to view I was never happier to be leaving Yellowstone National Park!

I expected to go through similar emotions as when finishing a marathon.  After all, I spent as much time (longer) riding as it takes me to run 26.2 miles.  But it wasn't the same.  I certainly felt a great sense of accomplishment, but I didn't finish with tears of elation.  In retrospect, I think maybe it's because I wasn't as dedicated to the process of training.  If I ever sign up for something like this again, it will be with full commitment to preparing for it.  I know this wasn't a race, but seeing that I only averaged 13 miles per hour for moving time was deflating.

Mitch was awesome.  This is the only cycling event he signed up for this year and he hung back with me and my slow self all day.  He would ride ahead from time to time and then wait for me.  He loves riding hills, up and down and he is much faster than me.  I'm pretty sure it would have taken him a couple of hours less if I hadn't been setting the pace.

Even after all I put my body through during this ride, the worst torture of the whole day came when we got back to West Yellowstone....

Yep.  Getting that sports bra off was the hardest thing I did all day!  Worse yet, I was trying to change clothes in a bathroom stall at the visitor's center.

Excuse the sideways picture.  They served dinner after the ride: lasagna, salad, bread and dessert.  There were others pasta dishes too.  Who am I kidding?  Lasagna is the ONLY pasta. Delicious!

We got back to Belgrade around 7:00 or so.  We were in bed by 8:30.  Pathetic, I know but we were damn tired!

Would I consider doing this ride again?  Yes, I think I would.  It was an enjoyable day and was a very well organized event.  I had fun even though it was hard and it made me want to become a better rider.  Maybe someday I could consider signing up for a Half Ironman, but not unless I can ride 60 miles in WAY less time!

Do you enjoy other sports outside of running?  What are they?

What is your favorite National Park?

What is the longest amount of time you have spent doing an endurance event?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ice Cave Adventure and Things I Actually Like About Fall

There are precious few days left of trail running season here in Montana.  Soon the snow will fly and cover all my favorite places.  I'm definitely not in to winter.  I'll run even in snowy conditions, but most mountain trails will not be easy to get to and the snow will be too deep to do anything without skis or snowshoes.  

With next weekend slated for our Yellowstone ride, we knew we better get out and enjoy the beautiful weather while we still have it.  On Mother's Day weekend we drove the 2 hours to get to this trail head only to discover that the road was closed 7 miles out from it.  We took this opportunity to give it another shot.

The route we took was a 12 mile loop that included the little excursion off the main trail to get to the ice cave.  This would be a perfect training trail for The Rut as it covered many of the types of terrain I encountered during that race.

The entire loop was single track with varying levels of difficulty.  It started out pretty easy... it didn't stay that way for long.

In the first three miles, we climbed over 2,000 feet in elevation.  There were several scree fields - this one was quite steep though the picture doesn't do it justice.  There were a few switchbacks on this section.  I thought it would never end!  It was painful.

Along the top, the views were amazing.  We worked our way around that entire bowl!  It's hard to believe that the route was only 12.5 miles when you look at how far we still had to go from this vantage point and we were already 3 miles in.

We never saw another soul all day.  It was a little chilly and the weather looked a little threatening, so maybe only the crazies were out.

The Devil's Chute cave is deeeeeeeep.  Again my picture can't do it justice, and neither one of us was crazy enough to get down in it for a better shot!  I have no idea where this came out but I can just imagine it being a slide that opens out the cliff side of the mountain.

But the Ice Cave was what we went for anyway.  The side trail to get to it was very technical, steep and covered in loose scree.  It was an adventure, but as you can see.... 100% worth it.

How cool are these ice formations?  And how random that they are down in this little cave on the side of a mountain?

I think I look like a goof in this picture, which is what makes it totally post-worthy!

These two pictures give you an idea how big the formations really are.  The bottom of the cave is also filled with ice and the water is still dripping in to the cave from the rocks.  I have no idea where the water is coming from.  We hiked the trail above it and there isn't a body of water or a glacier of any type.

Outside of the Ice Cave and back on to the main trail.  Do you see a trail?  I don't.  But there were cairns all along the area that didn't have a well defined trail. Thank you to whoever was responsible for that!

This is my favorite part of the trail to run!  It's along the ridge line of the mountain.  The trail from this point on is incredibly runnable.  The ridge lends to the most gorgeous views.

Grandview Point - one of the highlights along our journey.

I didn't take any more pictures on the way down.  Overall the elevation gain (and loss) was 2,704 feet.  Most of the gain was in the first quarter of the route.  The second half of the day was a nice, gradual, downhill run.  The trail was mostly easy single track.  Loved. It.

We did get a tiny bit lost in the last mile.  Thankfully, Mitch has a pretty good sense of direction and we found our way back on track.  For a moment it was scary though because it was getting dark quickly even though it was only 4:30.  Why was it dark that early?  Because there was a storm rolling in!  We got back in to the truck after spending five hours hiking, sight-seeing and running.  Within five minutes of leaving the trail head it started to storm.  Talk about great timing!!

It was such a fun day and I'm glad we went.  If we're lucky we might get another adventure in before foul weather sets in, but if we don't I feel like we ended trail running season on a great note.


Each year when Autumn arrives, I have to remind myself of the things I really love about it.  Fall is a wonderful time of year and it's sad that I dread it so much.  I hate to see summer go away.  So a few things that make Autumn livable:

1.  Sleeping with the window open, but using the electric blanket.

2.  Drinking hot tea (or any hot drinks for that matter) and enjoying it.

3.  Fuzzy socks.

4.  Cool weather to run in.

5.  Leaves.  Leaves are the BEST!  Don't they just smell amazing in the fall?

6.  Rain.  Today it rained ALL DAY and I was happy.  

7.  Halloween and all the fun movies that come with it.  I'm not talking horror movies... I like scary tales and fun Halloween stories.  Think: Sleepy Hollow, Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus.

8.  Of course, fall comfort foods are the best.  I'm one of those people that love pumpkin everything, including beer.  But... Especially......

The Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard!!!!  

I have to go at least once every October for my Pumpkin Pie Blizzard.  I've already been twice this year.

What is the coolest thing you've gone out of your way to see on a run?

Pumpkin Spice everything?  Yay or nay?