Thursday, September 8, 2011

Racing, Trying To Stay Upright, and Competitive Weather Forecasting

I'll cut to the chase on Saturday's 8- and 16-mile races at Mary's Loop. My last run here was in 2007; it was my third race ever, and longest race to date as a final tune-up before my first half-marathon, The Other Half in Moab. That year, I managed a so-so 1:23 and change on the 8-mile course, did a lot of hiking, and got passed by a everyone and their geriatric brother on the home stretch, the frontage road that rolls on forever after coming out of the beautiful first six miles of canyon. This year, I ran the whole thing, did pass one person with no one passing me on the frontage road, and trimmed about 7 minutes off that time for 1:16 and change, not age-grouping but probably finishing fourth or fifth in the womens 30-39. I still haven't seen official results but that's about what it looked like on the preliminary results posted right after the race. It was all pretty decent for a tune-up race that I didn't want to do quite full-out, except for the part halfway through when I tripped and fell for no discernible reason.

Yep...oops, I did it again. I didn't go nuts like Britney Spears....just wound up catching a toe on a flat-ish section, and wound up with a really good bruise, scrape and cut line running from right knee to left elbow and hand. On the upside (and there is an upside), I really didn't feel myself going down so there was no braking or tensing up. And I got back up immediately, hurting a lot right after, but not letting the fall get in my head like wipeouts have done in the past. I felt sort of stupid running and bleeding with the woman right behind me asking "are you okay?" but other than that, I wound up wasting no more than about thirty seconds between time on the ground, and getting a slow running start again. At the finish, one of my friends mentioned having hydrogen peroxide in his car to hose off, and I gladly accepted getting to use some of that stuff on my lovely oozing trail rash. Between that, and a pool swim and run in the afternoon with my friend Loralie, I think I'm really no worse for the wear. I'll just need to make sure the grossest trail rash is covered on Saturday in case I happen to fall and potentially re-open the stuff. This is how a little part of elbow and arm....looked a few days after the fall.

On another was one of those gloriously beautiful Western Colorado mornings. The race started earlier this year-7:00am-which meant that we weren't boiling right away. Although there are a lot of runners in our area, they don't all race every time. This race, though, was truly a gathering of most of the people whom I like to call "The Usual Suspects," and it was fun to cheer people in after finishing, as well as finding out how far ahead the speediest among us had come in. Oh, and the schwag at this race was great. Somehow, I scored a 3-month membership to Gold's Gym in the prize drawings. I haven't had a gym membership in years, and can't really justify the expense now. There were a lot of cool things given away, but I was stoked to get something I'm going to use.

Now, turning to the big thing on the calendar...the Imogene Pass Run. For the past three years, we've been graced with some of the best race weather in the history of the run. If you read here, there are some gnarly accounts of bad weather years, but 2008-2010 were really walks in the park. Well, HA-it looks like this streak comes to an end this year. At the moment, those of us who are racing Saturday are keeping a close eye on awesomeness that is the forecast for some combination of wind, rain, and snow on Friday night, and more of the same on Saturday. I kind of dislike the expression "It is what it is," but that's sort of right-on this time. It's an uncontrollable factor-no use wishing for 50 degrees and no precipitation. If we get a weather worst case scenario, I'm just going to laugh it off, relax, and throw the watch out the window. Okay...I'm really not going to pitch my Garmin. I'm not going to be bent on making particular splits, though. It's going to be about running the conditions of the day the best I can.

When it comes to this blog and other runners, this is actually my "favorite blogging season." Some of you guys know that I have a nifty little tool called a "statcounter," something that many bloggers use. For me, it's just neat to see how people wound up on the blog, and if they are searching for a particular race, training plan, injury information, wandered over from a friend's linked blog, or somewhere else altogether. My friend Jen will occasionally search my blog and throw in funny search terms just to see if I notice, which is always good for a laugh.

Well, the Imogene Pass Run seems to draw some of the best searches ever. There are usually a ton of run-of-the-mill searches by race name from the time of registration until race day, but all the cream-of-the-crop searches are taking place now. Some of my favorites include, but are not limited to: "incessant forward motion," "Imogene Pass Run accidents," "what to bring to Imogene Pass Run," "tapering schedule for Imogene Pass Run (three days before the're a little late in planning that out)," and perhaps my favorite of all time, "Imogene Pass Run death."

So, I might as well try to cover some of those searches, and give my .02 all in one spot. Keep in mind, this comes from a woman who has never finished in under four hours, and who has gone slip-sliding away all over the mountain. I have FINISHED the race three times, I might have some semi-valid opinions.

Death? No. As far as I know, nobody has ever died running this race, which is a pretty good course record if you consider how often one hears of a runner keeling over and dying in the heat at some road marathon. Don't worry about dying while running this race unless you deliberately jump over the edge of Drinking Cup Curve (photo by my friend Ilana). You might get banged up but you're not going to die. Well, okay. I guess I can't say that for sure. It's highly unlikely, though, which should be reassuring to those friends and relatives who really do think you're crazy and that you'll surely die out there.

What to Bring? The course is well-supported, but personally, I like having a hydration vest to drink from between aid stations, and as a place to shove my camera and jacket (which I'll probably be wearing this year). Some people just carry handhelds or use waist belts/fanny packs. It's truly whatever worked for you in training, keeping in mind that the weather can change very quickly in the mountains, and will probably be doing so a great deal this year. They don't have gels on the course, but there's water, electrolyte drink, cookies, crackers, and the delicious, salty chicken broth at the summit. I've run in shorts one year, and pants twice. This year, I'm going for compression pants and a kind of compression-y shirt with another shirt over the top, plus hat and gloves. The hat and gloves have been my mainstay every year. If the appendages stay warm, the rest of me stays pretty well-regulated, temperature wise. I've used compression socks for the past two years as well, and for me, it's felt very good on the uphill on those calves. Still, so much of this is personal taste, and what has worked for the runner in training. The lightweight, waterproof jacket will be a must this year, and I think it's a pretty good idea to put some extra socks in a ziplock bag in case the feet get soaked during the race. I'll also be sending over a full change of clothes in a plastic bag within my gear bag, fully expecting to be soaked upon arrival in Telluride.

Tapering? Yes, you should be doing that now. Even my friends who are much stronger and faster are getting their rest in, paying attention to nutrition, resting, running easy, RESTING, RESTING, RESTING. Get it?

Imogene Pass Run Accidents? Again, people fall and get banged up. I'm not aware, though, of anything major in the race history. Keep an eye out for your fellow runners during the first few miles. It'll be tightly packed through those first few curves. No one has ever been pushed off a cliff, though, and the road is closed to vehicle traffic during the race (no jeeps going over during the run).

And finally Incessant Forward Motion. This is the key to making the cutoffs. Even if you're at a crawl and moving as slowly as you can possibly go without being totally stopped, you'll still be moving forward. Don't look up and get overwhelmed by how far you have to go. Just stay focused on the now, and the space you're running, hiking, walking, or tiptoeing. You'll make it over if you stay relaxed and just keep moving.

Well, that's about it. Today I'll be gathering up gear and getting ready to ride down with my friend Sandra, who is running her very first IPR courtesy of a transfer entry from another mutual friend. A bunch of the Grand Junction area runners will be there, and we're going to do our best to hang out when we can over the weekend, whether that's pre-race, chatting on the course or celebrating after. In the end, I'm just excited to be healthy enough again to do this thing, and looking forward to getting my "ass over the pass."

(**NOT the official race shirt. We had an iron-on shirtmaking party and pre-race gathering locally, and used what seems to have become our unofficial local trail runner mascot, the Honey Badger. If you see our shirts on the course, yes, it's those kooky kids from Grand Junction**)


Jonesy said...

Great post, as usual. Thanks for the advice on what to bring to Imogene. I'll bet you'll do great this year and break that 4 hour mark (hopefully without re-opening those elbow wounds - ouch!). I'm so excited about this race. It will be my first time running it and I can barely sleep due to the anticipation. If I see you there, I'll say "hello".

Anonymous said...

Woot! I hope you have an AWESOME race (and decent weather)!

And, speaking of stats, so far today three people have looked at my photo of Drinking Cup Curve via your blog. PS and here are all my 2008 IPR photos