Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More randomness

I haven't had a lot of extra time lately, what with reality TV being in full swing and trying to keep up with a series of fun/great training/time-away-from-home weekends. Luckily I haven't set any great expectations with this blog and posting frequency!

Here are few random things from the past couple weeks.

First, a photo in the "view out the back of Howie" series, courtesy of John at his parent's farm in East Texas - thanks John! This also provides a nice mellow cover picture for the Facebook link instead of the next photo that follows a bit further down.

But first (unless you skim ahead) you get to hear some stuff about the DBR 50-mile race that I did the day before the Boston Marathon. DRB stands for "Don't Run Boston" and it takes place in a park south of the city (of Boston) with a wonderful network of trails. It has great appeal to me as an orienteer slash ultra runner (yeah I could add a few other slashes but let's keep it relevant for the moment). Fun navigation with a trail map while running long distance - a wonderful combination of having to use your brain, but never getting lost for more than a couple minutes because the next intersection is usually about 200-400 meters away. And most intersections are marked with numbers. It is possible to get really lost, I could tell, so I was quite careful about making (mostly) the right turns. It kept me on my toes, which I loved. No trail markings for us that day!

I followed the lead guys for an hour, which certainly made for a nice comfortable start, but at the first aid station they took off without hardly stopping, while I decided to mix up some Spiz and let them go. Time for my own fun. A couple guys asked if I had run this before, and I told them I couldn't help them in that regard - turns out they were concerned about me! I thought that was cute. And tried to demonstrate that I knew what I was doing with the map. I think I was only partly successful, but they seemed to realize that I wasn't going to get horribly lost and stopped worrying about me.

Right about the time they got ahead of me, we had just started along the Skyline Trail. Most of the course was runnable and really great footing, but the Skyline Trail cut straight through the middle of the park, up and over hill after hill along the rockiest footing around. I think they carted all of the rocks from all over the park and piled them onto this trail. It was great for variety but certainly slower.

And... since it had been raining at the start (for the first half hour or so), the rocks were wet and a bit slippery. Just about the time I was wondering whether a particular rock was too slick and slanted, my foot decided to go ahead and get the answer for me - yep! Very much to the affirmative. I went down and landed on my right side. Here is a photo from when I got home (much, much later that day):

At first I was concerned, more actually about my forearm that seemed to have a small knot on it. Plus I bloodied up the inside of a Too Cool arm warmer! Note: Blood does wash out of the Too Cool arm warmers. One less thing to worry about in case you ever fall while wearing them. Everything was still working OK, so I continued on. More Skyline Trail, more rocks, more fun!

In fact, my bloody appendages started making me grin for some very strange, unexpected, perverse reason. What that reason is, I still don't know. But it totally added to the happy feeling for the day. Volunteers at the aid station wanted to wash it off - heck no! I was dang proud of my "war wounds," plus I enjoyed watching the faces of the tourist hikers who got a glimpse. One guy went speechless and just pointed, and I was like yeah dude, I think I noticed that too. I just kept smiling and running on. Maybe it's related to the "slash adventure racer" tag that you could add to the above list.

One highlight of the day was listening to Glee songs for the whole last 19 miles and still managing to follow along on the map while bopping along. Amazingly, my playlist lasted the whole time and I was on the very last song as I chugged into the parking lot just as the sun was setting. Many thanks to Bob and Howie for putting on this race!

For the awesome trail conditions (well, except for them being wet and occasionally covered in small ponds) I was going so slowly. But I didn't care - this was just for fun and training. It took way longer than the Bull Run Run the previous weekend, but my legs felt great, my knees thanked me for taking it easy on the downhills, I loved the occasional view of the Boston skyline, and the weather turned out wonderful (cool with a nice mix of sun and clouds). I wholeheartedly recommend this race, and there's a 50k version too. I was the first, last, and only female 50-miler finisher. Talk about no pressure!

Link to the results/writeup:

I had so much fun, I decided that Sunday would be my birthday instead of the following day. Then there was no pressure to make a workday "great" in any way. And Monday actually turned out surprisingly OK, topped off with a birthday cake in our group meeting. Sweet! (literally) Thanks to all for the wonderful birthday wishes.

Last weekend I decided I needed more actual climbing (to get me almost through another virtual trip around the Hardrock course), so I returned to the Catskills to see how the snow melting is going. Repeats up and down Black Dome/Black Head were just the ticket. Although there was still some snow on the trail near the top to keep things interesting:

Water-logged moss:

The worst of the icy-ness on the trail was at the very top of each peak, so I did it one time in each direction to check out the views and found them not worth the hassle of repeating. But at least I got pretty much all of the climb in before this point:

Before the clouds and mist and rain rolled in, here's a photo of Black Dome from a scenic spot going up Black Head (who named that one, anyway?):

And a closing shot of randomness - I found a replacement for my Gregory Reactor running pack on eBay and made sure I won the auction, yay! My old one has a zipper issue that isn't a problem in training but is making things annoying when I'm trying to be fast in races. A really nice cyberspace birthday present!

John is coming tomorrow, John is coming tomorrow... :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blossoms, Calves, and the Bull Run Run

Stars aligned last weekend, I got to experience the Bull Run Run 50-mile race in VA (one of 3 race lotteries I won this year, wow), and the DC cherry blossoms exploded at the perfect time for me to see them. AND I got to see Kathy and Bob. How awesome is all that?

Let's get to the good stuff - Kathy and Bob picked an amazing street to live on! My jaw dropped when I turned the corner onto it, wow:

By the time of this writing, most of the show is probably over. What a lucky break to be in Maryland last weekend!

Now for the race report portion of this post. I don't have a ton of time, which is great news for you. I ran the Bull Run Run 50-mile race in Virginia, it was great, and I finished. OK, I can probably do just a little better than that. Race photos courtesy of several photographers on the course - thanks!

Here's the start (I'm nowhere near the front, although I still started too fast):

We did a loop around the parking lot - Hi cars! And back up to the start/finish before heading down to the river.

The first third of the course goes up the river and back, with a couple creek crossings, lots of pretty bluebells, and a wonderful reminder of the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin. I really enjoyed it, and even though it seemed really comfortable I still kinda ran too fast.

But not nearly as fast as Annette (the women's winner):

The larger creek crossings had big lily pads to hop across:

The last couple miles of the out-and-back were mud-covered and slippery. That was entertaining, especially with all the people running in both directions. I made the mistake of counting women in front of me and found I was running in 11th place. So I had to pass one to make it 10th. She eventually passed me back up, which was fine. Long way to go.

After coming back through the start/finish, we went back down to the river for a second, much longer out-and-back in the downstream direction. After about 20 miles of running, my legs started asking just how far was I planning to go today? 50 miles is quite a bit longer than I have run in a while. I was also watching behind me and worrying myself about several women who were hot on my tail.

Finally I figured out that I needed to relax, let my body recover from the quick start, and just enjoy the day. The weather was absolutely beautiful, the trail (once we were done with the muddiest miles) was wonderful, and I started feeling good again.

Hey look, they even got a photo of me!

I reached the Wolf Run Shoals aid station where the Toy Story gang was manning the tent - fun!

I actually made it there without getting passed, but that didn't last long. There were quite a few women in the mile behind me, and they began passing me one by one, over the course of the rest of the race. I noticed but didn't mind. Time to focus on myself for a while. Or the rest of the world - what a pretty course. Much of it was on horse-ridden trails but you only knew that by seeing the occasional pile of dung. In Texas the trail would be completely torn up and annoying - this soil was dealing with the hoof prints a whole lot better.

I came into the "Do Loop" aid station and was sampling a piece of cantaloupe when I looked over to see flat white boxes stacked up on a table along with the words "Ham and pineapple" on a piece of tape. Shut up! They actually had pizza delivered - and it wasn't just for the volunteers. Now, I almost never eat solid food during a race, but I love love love love pizza. And I was no longer racing, just trying to keep moving well. So I had to experiment with a slice. The volunteer tried to get me to make a sandwich out of 2 pieces, but I didn't want to overdo it even though the pieces were small.

I took my pizza down the trail, smiling and mumbling to myself. On a slight run down a hill a piece of pineapple flew off, oh no! But my stomach handled everything just fine. I spent the next 3 miles of the Do Loop thinking of almost nothing else. How to run not too fast so my stomach is still OK, but fast enough that there is pizza left when I get back to the same aid station? What if this person passing me takes the last piece? I'll fight ya for it!

I can't recall ever spending this much of a race, much less any of a race report, thinking about food...

I did manage to notice the rowing competition going on over on the reservoir, that was interesting to watch for a minute (pizza pizza pizza)

OK, I'll spare you any more suspense. YES, there was pizza left! They told me they were ordering more, too. I asked which aid station the order was going to. To this one, sadly, but at least I got 2 shots at it so I really cannot even begin to complain.

I took 2 pieces and made a sandwich. No more flying pineapple pieces. I wandered down the road in pizza bliss, eyes almost closed, obviously making enough of a spectacle that the oncoming runners were grinning at me. Or maybe they love pizza as much as I do and were just excited to see it coming down the trail.

So the rest of the story is pretty mundane in comparison. My legs held up great with the more-reasonable pace, my endurance is still here, my feet did great in wet shoes for many miles, and my knees paid the price for running fast down the early hills. Eventually I ended up running well on the flats, climbing great on the short uphills (good to see my climbing practice is getting better), and easing my way down the other side with achy knees. That was enough to get me to the finish line in 9:37 as a mostly-happy camper.

Phew! That was rather hard.

The next day I talked Kathy and Bob into coming to Waffle House with me. This probably sounds strange (well, maybe not, if you're coming off the last few paragraphs), but one of the things I miss about the South is the lack of Waffle Houses anywhere near Albany.

Thanks for humoring me!! I have great friends :)

Bob found an event at a nearby creamery, so we drove over to meet some really cute calves.

Kathy and a calf getting to know each other:

"Hey little one, check out this video I downloaded":

Creamery trucks and a rooster:

Apparently the calves were expecting bottles every time someone got near them, so they tasted everything with their long tongues:

Kathy was psyched to pet a cow for the first time:

We did a nice walking tour of Frederick where we found this in a tea shop - too funny!

The lovely canal:

And one last cherry blossom photo for good measure!

Next up: Recovery and another 50-miler next Sunday...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Photography workshops

Vermont is lucky to have Bryan Pfeiffer: Birder, photographer, guide, dragonfly expert, and awesome teacher. I was lucky to attend his weekend photography workshops and I got to see my parents. An excellent weekend all around.

Saturday involved learning photography fundamentals and how to make your digital camera do things you never knew it was capable of (even my little travel/race PowerShot). Here is Bryan talking about ISO while using his laser pointer in a more normal fashion than usual, i.e. instead of pointing out birds up in the canopy:

Playing with depth of focus (and now salivating over the memory of a chocolate chip cookie):

Different levels of exposure:

Playing with the Macro mode:

A Photoshopped low-res picture of a photo on a projector screen...

Some notes, including the Exposure Triangle (very helpful):

Sunday was all about Photoshop Elements and the neat ways you can get the most out of the photos you have taken. It was at the beginner level but I certainly got a lot out of it. Again, a fun class with an excellent teacher.

A few "Pre" and "Post" pics, all from my 2010 Travel Series:

I highly recommend Bryan's birding trips and workshops!