Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

May 26, 2018

Colorado Springs Spartan Super/Sprint, May 5-6, 2018

Second Spartan weekend of the year for us, and I'd been training hard on upper body strength.   I had also topped up my iron stores after testing a little anemic after the last Spartan.  But Ft. Carson, CO was at 6000 feet of elevation so perhaps those two factors would cancel out?  

The race was on the Army Base, which I hadn't been on since my own Army days.  Luckily getting on base was fairly painless aside from a military dog sniffing my bag as I checked into the race.  The weather was again perfect for racing, cool but not cold, and warm enough by the midway of the race to get soaked under the dunk wall and feel good about it.  Except for the mud and rocks now stuck in my shoes....perhaps gaiters next time?  

The course looked rather flat on the map.  I guess they always do.  In reality, we went up and down a rocky plateau into a gully about 6 or 7 times.  It was only 100 feet or so, but I started to dread those accents.   The only good this was that I could pace myself and not rest, and pass a few people here and there.  

The course was absolutely sans trail, and we plowed our own new trails, through tall grass and cactus, on what was probably Ft. Carson's shooting range.  We passed shot-up tanks, mock Iraqi villages, and other detritus.    I couldn't believe how many cactus got stepped on, and was hoping my shoes were up to the challenge of keeping out the spines.   No barefoot shoes for racers today I hoped!   Even the obstacles had cactus in the area, and I pulled spines out of my hands after the barbed wire crawl, and again after doing the mandatory 5 burpees at the Atlas carry.  Ouch.  

The steep short hills continue until the end, with the course sometimes taking us up to the plateau and then straight back down again.   After the dunk wall, we climbed the hill again, and tackled the Twister, which I almost skipped and went straight to the burpees.  But I thought, eh, I'll try it.  To my amazement, this time it was easy!   As easy as the Twister can get, anyway.   
Right after the Twister was the Olympus Wall, which seemed rather diabolical.   I was so excited not to be doing burpees that my mind blanked out for a bit.  I did get some burpees at the Spear Throw, darn that thing.    I got more spines in my hands as punishment, but the race was almost over by then, so the tweezers at the hotel came in handy.  

After racing Elite last time in Las Vegas, and realizing I was out of my depth, I moved to Age Group category.   Very happy to find out I had finished 2nd in my Age Group, which got me a spot on the podium and qualified me to go to West Virginia for the US National Championship in August.  

On Sunday Jim joined me and we raced again, a Sprint this time which always seems nice and short after a Super.   The course cut off many needless trips up and down that plateau, but that just meant the dunk wall, now deeper and muddier, arrived sooner.    

Oh happy day!  When I hit the spear I knew I would have my first BURPEE-FREE race!    That felt really nice.   Now to go home and do more ring swings and spear throws so I can do that more often :)

Checking out the newest anti-bomb transport for troops in the desert

Horses led us out at the starting gun of the race

Spot was not impressed with the award ceremony

May 25, 2018

Amasa Back Run 25k, April 28, 2018

I probably won't ever be good enough to ride my bike on the trails in the Amasa Back trail system near Moab, UT.   But it is really fun to hike and run on them!  In the weeks leading up to the race, Jim and I were able to recce almost all of the course.  This helped us not get lost on the Rockstacker trail coming back to the finish.

The weather in Moab always seems to get really HOT just for the day we have a race planned.   Sure enough, highs in the 80s were forecasted, and only a few clouds across the sun saved me from the heat.

From the Colorado River, the trail took us up the Amasa Back jeep trail, then down Jackson's Ladder (no jeeps can make it down this steep rocky hiking trail!), and then around Jackson's Hole, a 4 mile sandy track back down at river level.  Climbing back up Jackson's Ladder seemed harder than going down, and it was getting hotter too.   From there we went along the Pothole Arch trail, back around on Rockstacker, and then finally a 2 mile stretch on Jackson's Trail down to the river and the finish.   Wow, I came 3rd woman today!!!  

Neither Jim or I took any photos today...guess we were too busy running!  Here's a couple of the area, perhaps not exactly this trail....

May 24, 2018

Buffalo Run 25k, 10 Mar 2018

I was moderately surprised by how beautiful Antelope Island was, everyone kept saying it was cool, but this was finally a chance to come see it for myself.   I was moderately surprised to see an Antelope out grazing in a meadow, it took a few minutes for my brain to make the connection.  Finally..."Antelope" Island, duh!     Of course, there were some namesake Buffalo too.   The island immediately felt homey to me, reminding me of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, with the Great Salt Lake surrounding the island with wild views in all directions.  
The weather was perfect too.  Cool but not cold, clear skies, no rain or wind, and really lovely trails.  I don't know why I haven't been here before in the winter, when the trails near home are snowed in, often here they are still clear.   They are also wide, runnable, and scenic.  

The race went really well,  I did about 16 miles in 3 hours a few minutes faster than planned on, probably because the terrain was more runnable than I had thought.   My fastest miles were the last couple downhill to the finish.   No buffalo were chasing me but a lady in a pink skirt might have been.   I will definitely try to do this race again!


March 7, 2018

Spartan Las Vegas, 3-4 Mar 2018

I've gotten the Spartan bug.   My first Spartan race was last August up in Eden, UT.  It was hot, it was really hot, and the route went straight up a ski hill and back down again, and the whole way around I was just dreaming of the finish, where we got to dunk under a wall in a puddle of dirty but refreshing water.   I wasn't sure I liked the race, but when I realized how well I had done overall, I figured this style of obstacle racing suits my strengths and why not try to do well at it?

So in 2018 I've signed up for the Spartan race pass...I can do as many races as I want this year, including multiple race distances in the same weekend!    So sy first race was in Vegas.  Actually, the race venue wasn't in Las Vegas, it was near Mesquite.  It wasn't in Nevada either, it was across the border in Arizona.  So everyone was calling it Vegazona.    https://www.spartan.com/en/race/detail/3129/overview

Beyond the obstacles, nothing about the race was similar to Utah.  It was flat, sandy, low elevation, and cool.   I had signed up to race the Elite class, which meant I had to do all the burpees and not get any help on the obstacles.   It also meant I could start early in the morning, avoiding heat and lines and hordes of people on the course.

My first race on Saturday morning was the Super, 8.6 miles with about 30 obstacles.  With a 7:45 start time, it wasn't hot, not too windy, and the course was dry.   It started with about 4 trips up and down the steepest hills in the area, only about 100 feet high but even some of the elites were crawling up them!   Within the first mile, we had already carried a sandbag, climbed the rope, and were headed to the dunk wall.   Luckily I was warm by then and didn't mind getting soaked.  My shoes weren't too happy though and I had to take a second to tighten up the laces as the water squelched back out.

The Olympus Wall

Then we were off on a long sandy running loop near the Virgin River.   Breaking it up was a particularly memorable barbed wire crawl in a sloppy muddy cow pasture.   It took quite a while and I emerged coated in slimy goo 1/2 inch thick all down my front side.  I was happy I hadn't tried to roll through it and get it all over my back too!   Other people had, and rather than bringing us to the river quickly to clean it back off, we ran another 3 miles first, enough that the mud dried and cracked while still tenaciously clinging to my skin.  Along the route was a Farmer carry, an 8 foot wall, and a few other barriers to our path.   Woe to the people trying to recognize their friends as we came back near the main spectator area, as we were all basically brown and muddy.  In quick succession, I crossed the Olympus wall,  hit the spear throw (YAY!!!!), and made it to the Twister.  My nemesis.  One missed grip and I fell off, to serve my only burpee penalty of the day.

Finally we got to the river, where at least my legs and shoes got washed off and pounds lighter with the mud gone.   I chose to keep my muddy clothes dry, as having wet hands on obstacles can be a detriment.  From there we went straight to a sandy barbed wire crawl, so we got dirty, bruised and scraped all over again.  This time everyone arrived at the final few obstacles covered in red sand and grinning that the finish line was near.  

My final time was 2:01, good enough for 32 out of 50 of the elites, but about top 50 of 1500 women overall.   I concluded quickly after seeing the results, that my best chance of qualifying for the World Championship in Lake Tahoe was to move to the Age Group category in my next race rather than running Elite.  I need to be in the Top 10 to qualify, I think I will easily do that in Age Group but could never get there in Elite.  Watching those speedy women pull away from me at the start was expected but still a little hard on the psyche!

On Sunday morning, I showed up to do it all over again, but this time I had company.  Jim was running his first Spartan race today along with our friend Sylvia!   It was a little chilly this morning, and the water obstacles early in the race looked colder than ever.  Sylvia and I had the Elite start time of 7:45, and it was really hard to shed our clothes even after a little run to warm up.    Sylvia is a world class runner, and took off at the start with the leaders, even slowing down a little because she got in the lead and didn't know how to do all the obstacles!   But Spartan isn't just about speed, and doing a couple of sets of burpees let me almost catch up to Sylvia again at my slow plodding pace.   I was warm when I got to the first water obstacles, but it was a true shock putting my head underwater on the dunk wall!

Sunday's race was a Sprint, and only about 4 miles long.  They had cut out the long sandy trails from yesterday's course, including the muddy barbed wire crawl and the 8 foot wall.  YAY!!!!   YAY!!!!    But I missed the spear throw, I hit it square but it didn't stick.  Doh.  Burpees.  5 minutes later I swung my way across the twister, agonizingly slowly, and made it to the very last hold before I fell off.  Doh.  Burpees.   I was trying to run faster because this was a shorter race, but 60 burpees slowed me down a lot.  The upstream plod in the water was tough too... the river was slightly higher this morning due to a shower the night before.

The final rings obstacle was a joy to cross...I felt like a monkey swinging through the trees.  I finished in 1:07, which was slower than I hoped for.   Once I jumped the fire and congratulated Sylvia (who had finished 10 minutes faster), I raced to get my gear and go find Jim on the course.  He had started 45 min after us, and the timing was great for me to meet up with him as he got to the spear throw.   His face showed that he was having a tough race, but he wasn't going to give up either.   The men's obstacles are slightly different from the women's, including heavier sandbags, higher walls, heavier buckets and atlas stones, and a tire flip that is rumored to be 450 pounds.   I'm always glad to go to the lighter options!   I met up with Jim again at the tire flip, which he managed to do with every ounce of effort he had left.  Then he was really happy to get through the ring swing, which we had practiced in the garage over the winter.  

The sign that we might be doing more of these races is that we immediately started talking about how we could train better for some of the obstacles that were surprisingly tough, like the rope climb and the climbing hold traverse on the Olympus wall.   And how to keep the sand and mud out of our shoes!

Here's the Course map for the weekend, 8.6 miles on Saturday, and 4.1 on Sunday:


Super  https://admin.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-28743

Sprint https://admin.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-28791#

Oh, and the Utah Obstacle Racing team is one of the largest in the country, and together we managed to nap the "Largest Team" Award both days on this Spartan Race....pretty nice, considering the award comes with a tent and tables, free spectator pass, free bag check, and a plaque, among other things.   Check out our team "Warrior State of Mind" on Facebook if you are curious!

The rope climb
Slip wall right after the dunk wall!

Sylvia leading the way in the Sprint up the first hill!
The men's tire flip is a beast!