Monday, December 28, 2009

Harvey the Adventure Monkey

Our nieces Abby and Lindy have loaned us their pet monkey as a travel companion.

Introducing Harvey Lykins, the Adventure Monkey:

He comes with an excellent pedigree as a National Champion:

His first foray into the jungles of Austin, at the Greenbelt:

Look for more Harvey in future posts...

Skiing at Monarch

Last week we traveled to Monarch, CO with the Beard family for a couple excellent days of skiing. Great snow, good weather, no driving issues - a really nice trip. Snow can be great fun in small doses :)

Jerry Beard ready for sledding:

John practicing snowboarding:

Beautiful scenery:

Family photo:

Rescue dog in training, about to take the lift up the hill:

Ready for a couple more runs:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Running Like the Wind

Last Saturday I entered the "Run Like the Wind" race in Austin, TX. It's a timed race on a 1-kilometer track in Oak Hill, and I figured I could get in some good training. My main goal was to still be moving at the end of the 12 hours (there were also 3, 6, and 24-hour categories), which turned out to be a lot more of a challenge than the 80 kilometers I also decided to try for.

The course was perfect - I can't think of a better place to do a timed run. It was all dirt/mulch trail (no pavement!), good footing, through the woods, slight downs and ups, fun turns, and even an occasional dog being walked nearby or trained on the agility course we ran beside.

The chilly, sunny day didn't hurt, either. I love running in the cold.

I started out at an easy pace and was rather surprised to see that my laps started clicking by at almost 6 minutes per lap. That made it easy to keep track of. Once I got warmed up, I settled into a pace of just under 6 minutes per lap, which turned into 10 km per hour including short breaks for water and Ensures.

Hour 3 was awesome - I was on a roll, just enjoying my run in the sun.

Hours 5 to 7 began to get harder, although I was still running the same pace. I started walking one lap every hour to eat and take a break. Kip joined me on one of those laps, and John started joining me on most of them as the day wore on. I alternated talking with them, listened to my book on tape (currently "Merle's Door"), and just running in silence. Over the years I've gotten pretty good at turning off my brain during long runs, to the point where it's nigh impossible to actually focus on a topic if I try. But it makes the hours blend together.

Even when you're going around in circles and there are no mountains or vistas to reward your efforts.

I hit 80 km at 8:09, which means I probably got a 50-mile PR if I knew exactly when I hit 50 miles. After that, having reached my distance target, I let myself slow down. I "dropped" a lap from my count so I could continue to keep track of my total by adding 10 km per hour, but that got difficult when my lap times inched toward 7 minutes. Now the math wasn't so easy and I wasn't all that excited about figuring it out. It was simpler to slow to 7.5-minute kilometers, or 8 km/hour. Easier on my legs, too.

John hung out during the evening and watched my progress on the timing laptop. Out of 9 people in the 12-hour race, I was running a solid 2nd place. John helped me figure out who was in the lead, a young man in black tights and an orange cap named David. David seemed to be walking more than I was, hmm. But his walking was faster than my walking, and his running was faster than my running. All I had going for me was my run/walk ratio. And the fact that I had commited to continue moving for the whole 12 hours. If David stopped, it wouldn't take long to make up the 2-kilometer difference.

But David kept moving, going strong, and he was obviously keeping track of me. He would say "Hi, number 88!" as he ran by on my walking laps. "Good job!" I would answer. He kept a good pace while I gradually slowed, not worrying about the competition but just keeping an eye on it. John told me I was doing fine over 3rd place, so I decided to go back to my top priority of moving for the whole 12 hours.

That's not an easy thing on a loop course. It was great that the trail wasn't completed flat, so my muscles got a change every few minutes from up to down and back again. But still, there was no rock dancing or long climbs/descents, or any real change to just running forward. My main consolation was that I wasn't attempting the 24-hour race. Those folks are crazy :)

I hit 100 kilometers at 10:26, a solid PR (although most of my 100K's have been at Bandera, which is a totally different animal).

Only 90 minutes left! John got me some coffee, which worked wonders both times I had some - better than Coke even, it seemed. I was 5 laps down from David now, so there was no pressure to run fast, just to keep going. I ran relaxed until the 11-hour mark, at which point I switched my iPod over to my running music playlist.

As soon as Mambo No. 5 started, my legs suddenly took off like they were possessed. "I Get Knocked Down", but apparently I get up again, because I was moving faster than I had the previous 11 hours. Passing other solo runners, I made sure to shine my light on the side I wanted to pass so they would tell I was coming by - because I was hauling butt and didn't want to run anyone over.

Strangely, there was a pair of walkers that seemed startled every time I came upon them. I tried shining my light all around, calling "excuse me", and "thank you!", but it took a few laps before they got the hang of giving me some room. I'm sure they were plenty glad when the 12-hour race was over!

I passed David once, and he made a comment like "Oh, so you're pushing it now" but didn't make a huge effort to keep up. He had no reason to - but he did keep walking all the way to 12 hours just to be sure.

I passed a guy who I think was the 24-hour leader. He initially tried to keep up, but I was running close to 5 minute laps and that was fast even by his normal excellent pace. I couldn't quite figure out why he was trying to catch me, but he mustered up some velocity and right near the end of 12 hours he passed me back. Funny!

More music, still zipping along, now breathing hard for the first time. Great training for the end of a long day! The funnest part was flying across the timing mat between each lap, on a slight downhill and with amazement at my lap times.

I started lap 115 at 11:55 and a few seconds, realizing I didn't have enough time to get back by the 12-hour mark for the opportunity for one more lap. Ah well. I wasn't going to beat David anyway, as he was still moving around the course, and it was probably for the best that I stopped bugging the 24-hour runners with my antics. I finished with 115 km in just over 12 hours. Nice!

The next morning I heard rain pattering on the roof and I was glad yet again that I wasn't in the 24-hour category. Those people are maniacs - and I am completely impressed with them.

Great race, fun course, I highly recommend it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Las Vegas race report

I have finally finished all my pending race reports!

The Las Vegas High Trek Adventure version is now posted:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Beards in print

There is an article in the November/December 2009 issue of "Inside Texas Running" magazine about us, courtesy of Joe Prusaitis. I scanned it and put a copy on my web page:

Pretty funny to see our photos and bio in print!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Orleans race reports

It's only slightly late, but we have finally finished a couple race reports from GUR NOLA:

Kip's report:

My report:

Monday, November 16, 2009

HTA Las Vegas recap

Last Saturday we had our last of 3 national championship races in 4 weeks. Phew, that was a lot of racing!

Again, I have plans to write a real race report soon. Until then, here are some photos from the morning race:

The first race went great. We ran from the Miracle Mile shops (the start/finish) out to UNLV, up to Fashion Show Mall, and along the Strip to New York, New York and back. Along the way, we bargained with a shop owner for 10 1-dollar bills with an "L" or a "V" in the serial number. We also got a photo with 20 people on a pedestrian walkway.

We ran back into Miracle Mile, just behind Kip and Dave for second place. All five of our Austin teams made the 10-person finals race. Congrats to our whole group! Then it was time to recharge the phones, eat a quick lunch, and get back there for the finals.

Photos from the second race:

We had a local cross-country runner tag-along named Kyle. Each team had a tag-along, apparently to ensure that no one cheated. Sounds good to me! Kyle was fun, and he was definitely fast enough to stay with (or way ahead) of us. He appears in the Marie Antoinette shot, above :)

The first half of the second race again went to UNLV and back, plus a stop in Game Works to play skeeball (which was fun once we got the stupid card to work in the machine). Then we headed to Margaritaville to locate a woman who had our second set of clues. Time to head downtown! It was a long bus ride with a bunch of other teams who had caught up while waiting for the bus. Then a quick run through downtown, and back on another bus.

We got (stupidly) lucky on our bus route choice back. The buses seemed to all be on detour routes through downtown, and the one we tried to catch actually turned out to be a different bus going down a different street than normal. But somehow we managed to get on the fastest bus back to the finish. That was a huge break.

We crossed the finish line first - but wait! There was one final challenge, a 60-question crossword puzzle based on the Ocean's 11-13 movies, UNLV school colors, names of casinos, and the cities HTA has held races in this year. Basically a trivia quiz, with no help from other teams or people at home. So you either knew it or you didn't, in many cases. Each wrong answer was a 5-minute penalty. We did our best, but we obviously didn't have the right info in our brains because it wasn't good enough to hold onto our lead and we ended up in 3rd. Bummer.

John's knee mostly held up, although he was limping again by the end of the day (I ask again, how can someone limp faster than I can run?). We pushed hard, raced well, and were very pleased with our urban racing performance. Trivia questions... not so much. But that's how it goes sometimes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

GUR New Orleans recap

John and I raced in the Great Urban Race championships in New Orleans last Saturday. What a day! We talked about taking it easy because John's knee is still in question. So I figured I'd have a relatively easy time keeping up - not even! He would have left me in the dust (we didn't trust his knee enough to bring a tow rope) but he kept a slower pace so I could keep up. And there was much heavy breathing...

Anyway, we went into the race with a good attitude - let's just have fun, see what we (and John's knee) can do, and just try our best. I think it helped me from being too serious/focused/whatever it is that is causing me to yell at John during our urban races. We worked together well, had a good plan, had an awesome crew helping us out, and had a LOT of fun.

I'll get a real race report written after this next weekend's race. But for now, here are some photos...

In the morning race, I spotted this checkpoint on the Tulane campus - thank goodness, because it was a tough clue to find online:

I offered John a piggyback, but he was feeling good enough to pick me up (the instructions on the sign were to have one teammate piggyback the other and get a photo with one of our race numbers visible):

The best part - riding Cruisers around town! Here's us at Lee Circle for our CP5 photo:

Molly A Market with the correct # of fingers (also known as the "Waffle House Salute"):

Us with the horse and the cathedral and a clock:

In the finals race, with a statue of a previous governor, doing the Charlie's Angels thing:

Silver Man!

Well, there's a lot more to the story, but I'll finish for now with a summary:

Morning race = longer than expected, rode a trolley to Tulane, did a word search, tried to find a CP in chalk on the sidewalk (skipped that CP, as we were allowed one skip), donated money to St Jude's charity, did a charades problem (my friend Kathy thinks more like I do than John does, let's just put it that way), and finished up by carrying a real LIVE and pretty pissed off alligator around a room (OMG!)... came across the line in around 2.5 hours and were stunned to learn we were the first ones back. All photos good = yay! Many teams finished right after us, including Kip and Dave who also made the top 8 for the finals race.

Finals race = interesting time management challenge with a race cut-off of 2.5 hours and a lot to do; started at City Park, assembled a Lego racecar, did a logic problem and guessed correctly which pretty much saved our race, paddled row boats on the lake, rode a trolley back downtown. Then ran out to the Garden District, found a fake flower among a bunch of real ones, found and played a 45 record, did a smell test to identify 5 scents, skipped the pie-eating challenge (thank goodness), headed back to the French Quarter. Started running low on time... rode a mechical orca whale (??!!) and barely hung on sideways for 7 seconds, and finished by building 30 paper boats with about 20 minutes to go. Somehow managed all 30 boats and ran back to the finish line with 5 minutes to spare before the cutoff time. We were the first team back with all points (except the one allowed skip point) completed - so we won!

That was too amazing - perhaps the closest finish in an urban race championships ever?

Thank you to everyone who helped and cheered us on from New Orleans and from afar!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween murder mystery

Last night Jason hosted a dinner party/murder mystery. We weren't required to come in costume, but it was the perfect night for it (when else can you shop for interesting dresses at Goodwill? Actually, I don't really know the answer to that question...) and everyone came in character. Good food, good company, good fun!

Malcolm R. Conntint and Khover T. Ageante:

Mal and S.T. (Scott Tiberius) Holmes:

Mal and Belinda Screete:

A gang of, well, something:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

USARA Nationals - race report

It's a long one! Probably my longest report in a long while. Thank you to Kip for posting it, with a few photos:

Monday, October 26, 2009

USARA Nationals - brief recap

Team Vignette (me, Dave, Kip) raced the USARA Nationals near Denton, TX last weekend. John was supposed to race with me and Dave, but his knee is still healing. Thank you to Kip for stepping in at the last minute!

We got to bike on pavement for much of the first half of the race, plus we paddled on the lake for over 6 hours. It was pretty windy, but we managed to keep the canoe going in the right direction and we found all the checkpoints on the water. More biking, a couple short trekking sections that we enjoyed (except for CP9), and then more biking on pavement. I'm not a fan of running on pavement, but I'll bike on it any day.

The second half of the race looked to be mostly on trails, but we detoured around the worst of them. The main Greenbelt trail could not be avoided, but luckily it was 10 miles (out and another 10 back) of mostly solid hard-packed gravel. It was covered in water, thin layers of mud, and an occasional muddy puddle, so we got wet while riding it, but we could still ride fast and it was more cold (being nighttime) than nasty. A bit more on-foot orienteering, then the sun came up (yay!). Our final challenge was riding 4.5 miles of awful, thick muddy equestrian trail that we were required to take, and we disliked it intensely but at least it was the last thing we had to do so we pushed through it. There was supposed to be a 7-mile trekking section at the end, but that got removed (to our dismay). But at least we were done. We rode 110 miles total!

We finished in 13th place overall, out of 68 teams. Our whole goal was to do the best we could while still enjoying ourselves for the most part. Dave towed Kip on the bike, I led the paceline a couple times, we stopped at a convenience store for snacks, we didn't rush through transition like normal, and we raced for ourselves instead of getting caught up in the competition (since there were a lot of other teams around us much of the time). We started out in the back of the pack and had fun slowly moving up, and we were really happy to clear the whole course and finish as well as we did.

I'll write a longer race report, but that's a start for now :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A pain in the knee

We went to College Station last weekend for John's rugby reunion. It was fun meeting his friends from way back, and John played a bit of rugby. He would have played more, except his knee got bumped during a tackle and now he's walking all gimpy-like. He had it diagnosed as a sprained knee, hopefully nothing more serious than that.

This weekend's USARA Nationals is out for John, bummer. Kip has graciously stepped in to replace him at the last minute. I haven't raced with Kip in almost a year, so I'm looking forward to that at least!

John is putting a tiny bit of weight on that leg today. We're hoping for lots of healing in the next 2 weeks so he'll be ready to go when we get to New Orleans. Positive thoughts!

Good luck to all adventure racing teams coming to Pilot Point this weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Haunted Navigation

Last night I joined Sheila R, Sheila TB, and Sally for some biking around downtown Austin looking for "haunted checkpoints". Too much fun! Many very creative costumes, I was impressed. I guess I was dressed as an aspiring Hardrock 100 runner.

Our team, the "":

With Amazing Robyn, the Too Cool Magician:

Shoal Creek, where a ghost is sometimes seen speed-walking:

Playing around at the Neill-Cochran Museum:

Nice lighting on the Capitol, although we never found the tall ghost with a mustache walking the grounds:

Two random ladies at the Driskill who agreed to join us in our photo - one of them was celebrating her 21st birthday:

Who knew Oilcan Harry's is haunted?

At the finish, with Sheila showing off her devilish tail:

Thanks to Steph for putting on this fun event!

High Trek Adventure - San Antonio

John and I, along with Jason and his stepdad Mike, raced last weekend in San Antonio. It was a High Trek Adventure race, a nice tune-up for Vegas next month.

We had a good time, running from Augie's BBQ toward downtown via the awesome fish sculpture on the Riverwalk:

Not much in Maverick Park - except this sign:

20 people in front of the Alamo! This one was easier than I expected:

John and Jason have done work for Melrose - we knew right where this store is located:

Bonus photo - us and 3 strangers wearing sombreros - cool!

Frida Kahlo in the Mercado:

Mi Tierra - a tough anagram, but Jason figured it out (nice one!):

The Vogue building - too bad we didn't also get a photo of the chalk street art going on below our feet:

We had some trouble locating the Medusa Lounge...

On the way back up Broadway we stopped briefly at The Painted Lady Inn for our final photo:

From there we jumped on a bus toward the finish. A couple stops later Jason and Mike also jumped on the same bus - fancy meeting y'all here! Instead of trying to out-run each other back to Augie's, we opted for a tie finish. An excellent conclusion for a race where we helped each other out and managed to end up on the same bus home.

Us with Jason, the race director:

The Japanese Garden waterfalls - very pretty (the waterfalls, I mean):

It was fun to be racing again! Now we have 3 nationals events in 4 weeks starting next weekend. Should be fun (and busy)!