Monday, June 13, 2016

Dear William (82 months)

Dear William,
Yesterday you were 82 months old!!

This past month you watched your father race the Quad Rock 25.

You summited Horsetooth Mountain for the first time in your life. You were so brave! You didn't complain on the long hike up the trail, and you weren't even scared a little bit once we began the climbing.  You just scrambled straight up the rock.  You loved it.  I was so proud of you.

Shortly after summiting Horsetooth Rock, you finished 1st grade!!

You decided that since it was summer vacation, you weren't going to wear a shirt anymore.

Except that you do still wear clothes so long as they are costumes.

And if they are baseball uniforms.  You started playing baseball this month! You seem to like it.  If you can hit the ball and kids behind you don't strike out, you will score a run for your team, because you can run. In fact, you scored the very first run for your team during your very first game. We were all very proud of you.

In addition to baseball, you are also taking swimming lessons this summer, and you continue to train for The Barkley.  We got you a pair of proper trail running shoes-- your first pair of Salomons.
Good outsoles are important for running on trails.

Just after Memorial Day weekend, we loaded up the camping equipment and headed to New Mexico.

After one last night of tent camping, we traded in Daddy's station wagon and bought an RV.

Saying goodbye to your dad's station wagon.

Our first night camping in the RV, on our way home from New Mexico. 

So far you love having the RV!

Shortly after we got home, we left again for another trip, where mama ran the North Fork 50.  You and daddy drove around in the RV and met me at the aid stations.  It was a long day for everybody! Having the camper made it a lot more comfortable.
Daddy cooked us dinner the night before the race.

Pre-race vegan marshmallow roasting.

The morning after the race at our campsite. Photo by @ragfield.
You also asked me to give you a haircut this month.  You said you were tired of your hair looking wild, and you didn't want the neighbors to see you like that when you were outside jumping on your trampoline.  You asked me to cut the back short but leave the top a little bit long.  You were really pleased with the results.  I told you I thought your new haircut made you look like a fourth grader.
Aren't you a handsome young man.

2nd grader, or 4th grader? In the doorway of the RV.

We finished off the month with another camping trip to one of our favorite places in Colorado (and maybe the world)-- State Forest State Park near Gould. That's why I'm late writing this post.  We just got home last night.
Hiking at Ranger Lakes. Nokhu Crags in the background.

William, I am so proud of you for being so brave and strong and kind. You will still stop what you are doing at certain intervals and come find me for a hug. Your only complaint about the new camper is that you sleep so far away from us, compared to how we used to camp, all sleeping close together.  Whenever you have a bad dream at night though, whether at camping or at home, you always come in for a cuddle.  You tell me every day that you think I am the best mom in the world and that daddy is the best dad.  And I tell you that you are the best kid.  You really are.  I am so, so lucky to be your mom. Stay gold, Ponyboy.

State Forest State Park. Photo by @ragfield

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

North Fork 50: Life is hard, running is easy

I wanted to run the North Fork 50 because it was more of a "real" mountain ultra.  The other 50 milers I've done were either in the flatlands (Frisco Railroad Run) or the Bear Chase--which I've done twice and don't get me wrong, it's a great race--but one of its selling points is that you can see the Denver skyline from the course. No thanks. It was time for something different.  North Fork involved drop bags at 2 different aid stations (honestly I've never done drop bags before), and it was not a loop course (I love loop courses).  I will never be able to run the kinds of races that Rob runs (like Quad Rock and Never Summer), but the North Fork 50, with its 7,500 feet of elevation gain, seemed like it was within the realm of possibility for me, and logistically, it worked out for my schedule. It would be a challenge, but a challenge I was up to. That is: most likely, a search and rescue mission would not have to be called.

Training went about as well as I could have expected (I blogged the whole thing here).  I was sad, however, for @angelmurf, who had to make the call to opt out of the race just a couple weeks beforehand. I had been hoping to see her again and run with her, but I know it was a good decision, and North Fork will be there if she decides to go back in the future.

Also just before the race, Rob bought a camper van, which is something he has been keen to do ever since we moved to Colorado.  This turned out to be a huge asset.  The van has a bathroom and kitchen, plus very comfortable sleeping areas, all of which would make us more "glampers" than "dirt bag," but would be a vastly preferable way to spend the night before the race and get ready on race morning.

Happy Glampers
Rob cooked us all pre-race pasta in the van. (Photo by Rob)
Everything went very smoothly leading up to the race and throughout.  I have to say, the North Fork 50 is just about the best organized race I've ever run, and Janice (the RD) seriously does a fantastic job in every way.

Course map from race website

Both the 50K and 50 Mile started at the same time, on the same trail, but it never felt too crowded.  It was uphill from the get go. The incline was not super steep, so it felt very runnable, and I tried not to get too caught up with the 50K runners, who could afford to burn energy this early on.  

Start line photo by Rob. I'm wearing my fave colors: teal and red. I didn't plan this, but that matched my new Altras. A lot of people (other runners and aid station volunteers) complimented me on my outfit throughout the day. (And yes, those are cut up socks on my arms as arm warmers. Because I'm still dirtbag).

The vast majority of these people are running the 50K.  It really didn't feel congested though. (Photo by Rob)

7,500 feet of elevation gain over 50 miles. Elevation profile from race website.
Before I knew it, I was already at the Strawberry Jack aid station 5 miles in.  The RD had explained that many of the aid stations were being staffed by Hardrock runners who were using North Fork to earn their volunteer hours.  This was an asset.  These people knew what they were doing.

I had already drank both of my 10 ounce Jenny vest bottles of Nuun, so I had the volunteers refill the bottles with water, and I dropped another half Nuun tablet in each. I did the same thing when I circled back around to Strawberry Jack at mile 10.  I had some orange slices and watermelon to supplement the Trail Butter I was eating on the run.  So far so good.  I felt like I was keeping up on hydration and nutrition.  Self care would get me through this race.

Out of Strawberry Jack the second time, it was mostly downhill to Buffalo Creek at mile 14.7.  We had drop bags here, but I didn't take anything.  We'd be hitting Meadows in less than 2 miles, and that's where everything was.  Meadows was a central location that we'd hit 3 times during the race.  That's where everyone's crew was, and we had drop bags there as well.

Out of Buffalo Creek and going uphill around mile 15. The 50K runners would be splitting off from us soon, and I was looking forward to that. Up until this point, it seemed like everyone I encountered was running the 50K race, and it was messing with my mind to be mixed up with people who were going 20 miles shorter than I was.

I was so thrilled to see Rob and Will (and the camper van) as I rolled into Meadows.  They ran to greet me, and Rob expertly filled my hydration pack with water and ice and refilled my Jenny bottles while I stuffed my face with potato chips at the aid station.  I asked the volunteer who was handing me chips if he was running Hardrock this year and he said yes, it would be his 10th time.

Coming into Meadows aid and seeing Rob and Will at mile 16-ish. I've already ejected my bottles from the Jenny vest and am ready to hand them off for a refill.

It occurred to me that I kind of had to pee (yay, hydration! I'd had 60 ounces of electrolyte and at least 20 ounces of water by this point), and there had been no porta potties at any of the aid stations so far.  The camper van (and its bathroom with a flushing toilet and sink) was relatively nearby. I decided hold off on a lengthy off-course pee stop because I'd be back at this aid station in just 6 miles, and I was very eager to get this section out of the way.  From Meadows this first time, we went up Green Mountain, which I'd heard was one of the hardest parts of the course.  It was also the only part of the course I'd run before (back in November, when it was covered with snow). I hadn't remembered thinking it was that hard back then.

It was very hard now.  With the 50K runners having split off, I was alone for almost the entire loop.  On the bright side, I ran right past a campground bathroom at the start of this section and veered off for a pee-break without losing too much time.

I had done a lot of walking up to this point in the race, but now on the Green Mountain loop, I did a lot of walking.  It was 3 miles straight up, and I still was at the relative beginning of the race. So many more miles needed to go on these legs. During the descent, I lapsed on nutrition and hydration a little--it was good and runnable but technical enough that I really had to pay attention to where I was going and not be distracted by eating and drinking. No matter. I'd be back at Meadows soon.

Rob and Will greeted me and efficiently filled me up with water, ice, and Nuun, while I resupplied my Trail Butter packs and filled my vest pockets with baggies of boiled, salted potatoes.  I felt like I'd just climbed a mountain but still had some 30 miles in front of me.

Rob's photo. I think this was when I was coming back into Meadows from Green Mountain at around mile 22.

I wasn't exactly sure what was next. I knew the Colorado Trail section out to Rolling Creek was supposed to be hard, but I also thought it was supposed to be more rolling (hence, the name), than straight up like Green Mountain had been.  I don't know.  It was tough. It was 5 miles mostly uphill.  The trail was rocky and pretty steep in sections, and there were several areas with giant downed trees you had to maneuver over.  There was also some sort of firing range off in the distance and for a couple of miles could hear rifle shots (and see signs warning us to stay on the trail).  This was a little disconcerting.  The main thing, though, was that it was an out-and-back, which meant I got to see exactly how many people were ahead of me as they bombed down the hill I was trying to climb up.  There were a lot of them.

The Rolling Creek aid station (which involved one final big, crazy climb to get to) was one of the best aid stations I have ever encountered in an ultra.  The volunteers were fantastic. One lady gave me a shoulder massage while a guy filled my pack and got me all ready to go.  I headed back out on the course and before too long, high-fived @tagreen60 who was on his way to the aid station.  In total, I figured there were maybe 10 people behind me in this race.

Near the end of the Rolling Creek descent, there was a dirt road to cross--exactly the way we had come before.  When I got to the dirt road, I could not find where the trail started up again. I stood there, dazed for a second, looking for the orange flags marking the trail. Everything had been so well marked up until this point. I wandered back and forth for a bit, knowing that the trail had to be right there.  I thought back to the last time I'd been at the Meadows aid station, when the leader of the 50-mile race had been coming back from this point already and telling the volunteers he'd gotten lost crossing the road.  This must have been what he was talking about.  Shit.

"Over here, over here!" I heard a little pack of 3 runners call out. Three of the 10 people who'd been behind me.  Now I saw it clearly, the orange markers.  But were those runners on the same trail I had come from?  Had a taken a wrong turn somewhere before the dirt road? It didn't seem possible.  There was only one trail.  Shaken at my mistake, I called out "Thank you," and ran to catch up with them.  

I wasn't in the best mind set as I made it back into Meadows for the last time. My GPS said 32.2 miles, and I was supposed to be at 31.9, so at least if I'd taken a wrong turn, I hadn't added or subtracted mileage drastically.  But I wasn't thinking very well, and I couldn't figure out what I needed from this aid station before continuing with the race. It would be the last time I saw Rob and Will until the finish.  I couldn't remember what the elevation profile was like from here on out, but I knew that these last 18 miles might take a long time.

I left Meadows aid mostly with the small cohort of people who had gotten me back on course at the dirt road.  It started off downhill, and that felt good. I ran with this British guy for a while (at least I think he was British, I could have been hallucinating the accent) who was wearing long sleeves and long pants.  It was like 80 degrees. I hoped that outfit was some kind of special cooling fabric, because otherwise, I had no idea why he was wearing it.

The downhill gave way to an ever increasing up, up, up.  Tramway trail. It was as much uphill as Green Mountain, but less wind-y and more rocky.  I had passed the British guy and was now on my own.  After my navigation kerfuffle at the dirt road, I was really starting to second guess myself.  Was I still on the right trail? At our pre-race briefing, the RD had said all turns would be well marked (they were), and there would be "confidence flagging" at intervals in between.  I began to scan the trees ahead for these markings (now yellow instead of orange), and whenever I saw one, I would raise my fists into the air and say, "Confidence flag!"

I was definitely behind on nutrition by this point.  Calories just did not want to go in.  My memory of the timeline becomes a little bit foggy around here too. It might have been here that I caught up with a guy who was struggling on the uphill.  I gave him a word of encouragement as I passed.  He caught back up to me once we started descending and we talked for what felt like many miles.  He'd been vomiting and felt terrible.  The uphills were hard for him, but he could still bomb the descents.  He was an absolute veteran of ultra running, with 17 hundred milers under his belt.  He was 9th on the wait list for Hardrock.  He told me about one time when he was running Cascade Crest and they got 6 inches of rain during the race.  So much mud.  He was so exhausted. He'd lain down and fallen asleep right there on the trail.  I'd thought he was going to tell me that race was a DNF for him, but it wasn't.  He'd finished.  "You get back up and run, it's what you do," he said.

We made it into the next aid station together, which I think was Shinglemill.  The British guy arrived about the same time too. I didn't feel good. I couldn't get any more calories or electrolyte in me. I thought about Rob saying how in every ultra, there comes a point where you know you are not going to be able to eat or drink anything more, and you just slog it out until the end. I wondered how soon I would start throwing up. 

It was all downhill to the next aid station at Buffalo Creek, though, and I made it there.  I think the British guy was with me.  "It is a brutal climb out of here," a volunteer cautioned us. "No shade."  They filled me up with ice.  I put ice in my hat and down my sports bra. I tried to take a salt tablet, but I gagged on it, and it came back up.  I picked up another tablet and put it in my pocket, hoping I'd be able to get it down later.  I was concerned about the cut off times.  How close was I to getting pulled from this race?  The guy I'd been running with earlier--the one who was 9th on the Hardrock waitlist-- said we should be fine.  We had 8 miles to go and something like 4 hours left on the clock.  Or maybe it was 3, I can't remember.  "You could walk it in from here if you had to," the Hardrock waitlist guy said, and I felt better because I thought maybe I could do exactly that.  I could finish DFL but still finish.

I left right behind the British guy to head up this brutal climb.  At first it wasn't so bad. I walked several paces behind him.  Every once and a while the trail would flatten out a bit or even dip downwards. The British guy ran.  I winced.  But when he ran, I forced myself to run too. Even if it was only a few steps before I walked again.  Every step that I could run, I would run.

The trees went away and we were completely out in the open.  Like desert and cactus and sun beating down open.  I racked my brain to count every asset I had.  Miraculously, my legs didn't hurt too bad.  That was an asset.  There weren't as many mountain bikers to dodge during this section: asset.  I had less than 8 miles to go: asset. I could still walk: asset.  I felt terrible but it was not nearly to the level of hyperemesis nausea: asset.  I was going to finish this: asset.

The trees came back eventually.  I lost sight of the British guy as he went on ahead.  I kept moving forward, by every means I had.  I desperately wished that there were porta potties at the aid stations, because my stomach was a roiling, broiling mess and I could really use a bathroom.  I had to get myself under control. I reached into my vest for a packet of Run Gum and began to chew. The jolt of caffeine brought me back to life. For the first time in almost 4 miles, I could run again. I felt like laughing.  I didn't feel like throwing up anymore.  "I rode the fucking wave," I said out loud.  This was it, the thing that happens in ultras.  Going to the very, very dark place and then finding your way out. "I rode the fucking wave," I said again. 

When I made it to the last aid station at mile 46, Coke sounded like it would be amazing.  Calories and caffeine rolled into one.  But there was no soda left at the aid station.  This is what life is like at the back of the pack.  

"Do you have anything that's like Coke?" I asked.  One of the volunteers, a Hardrock runner, suggested beer.  I studied him and thought about this.  "How technical is the trail from here?"

"Not at all. Smooth," he assured.

"Don't we have like another 1,000 feet of elevation gain?" my voice wavered.

"No," the guy's girlfriend (also volunteering) said.  "It is all downhill to the end."

Clearly, I had read my GPS wrong.

"I've never had beer during an ultra before," I said, but I desperately needed something to get through these last 4 miles.

The Hardrock volunteer told me that the carbonation in the beer might help settle my stomach.  It had helped him in many an ultra.  He went to a cooler (which may actually have been his own personal cooler, not associated with the race) and said, "Well, we've got Coors Lite, and then some crappy kind of beer."

Wait a minute. Coors Lite was not the crappy kind of beer?  "I'm from Fort Collins," I said.  "I'm kind of picky about my beer."

"Oh!" he nodded in recognition. "I've got some New Belgium, Upslope..." 

I shook my head. I wasn't at a brewery tour.  I didn't want something Belgian style or high ABV.  "I'll go with the Coors Lite.  That's what people drink during the beer mile, isn't it?"

He got out a Coors and poured me a dixie cup of it.  Down the hatch.  That was all I could swallow.  I thanked everybody there, popped another Run Gum, and then took off down the hill.  4 miles to the end.

Parts of the descent were actually pretty steep and more technical than my bombed out legs wanted to handle at this point.  A couple people passed me like I was standing still. I didn't care.  All that mattered was that I was going to finish this race.  Maybe two miles from the end, I caught back up to one of the women who had passed me, and her pacer.  She had been with the group that helped me get back on course so many miles ago.  Now they were walking again, and not feeling good.  I shouted some encouragement and kept going.  So close to the end.

I began to see people along the course--spectators to cheer their runners-- and the lake at Pine Valley Ranch that signified the finish line.  I felt like I was flying, but I didn't know how long I could last.  "How much farther?" I rasped to a spectator who cheered me on. "Not far!" she called.  "Two tenths of a mile!"

I could do this. I heard footsteps behind me.  The woman I'd been leap frogging with, and her pacer! She had rallied and was running again.  I ran harder, flying down that hill.  The trail gave way to pavement, and I could see the finish line.  Rob was there, and so was Will, with his hand out.  I extended my palm to him and he ran with me for a second, then stopped.  I kept going.

When I crossed the finish line, the RD herself said, "Congratulations, Melissa!" and handed me the finishers award pottery. That was just like her-- to be so organized, she even know my name.

In just a bit the other woman and her pacer crossed.  I wondered if she'd be upset that I kicked it hard at the end, but I don't think she was. I told her great job, and she said the same to me, and we had a little hug. The long sleeved British guy was there too, and gave me a cheer.  I laid on the grass so numb I couldn't even think.  As I tried to recover, the other guy I'd been running with, the one who was 9th on the Hardrock waitlist, finished.  I found out that he was none other than Sherpa John.  I'd been running with ultra royalty and I hadn't even known it.

The comfort of the camper van beckoned. I had a real, actual shower and then curled up in the bed while Rob heated up some vegetable broth.  The jury was still out as to whether I would post-race vomit.  But thankfully the salt and calories replenished me.  We made it back to the campsite and called it a night.  I had trouble sleeping because my mind wouldn't shut off, and my wrecked legs thought they were still on the trail.  I couldn't eat, but at least I didn't feel sick anymore.  I was happy to have finished this race.

(Photo by Rob). The next morning Will was running laps (to train for The Barkley) at our campsite. I felt good. And I felt more at home in our camper van than anywhere we've ever lived, except for maybe Urbana or Ometepe.
I don't even know what my finishing time for this race was.  Sometime between 12 and 12 and a half hours.  A personal worst.  It doesn't matter.  Life is hard, running is easy. That's why I do this.  I was slow, but I stayed vertical and kept moving. I never freaked out.  I did the best that I could to take care of myself and get to the end.  But I know I never would have finished without everything that Rob and Will did for me and without the support of everyone who thought of me that day. Thank you all for carrying my heart in your heart.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Training for North Fork 50: March, April, and May 2016

Do I even still blog anymore? It seems like mostly I don't. It is easier and much more efficient to post a picture with a caption on Instagram or Twitter. But once upon a time, I liked real, actual writing. Now that the semester is over and I've turned in final grades, maybe I'll try it again.

I left off in March, when I was injured and had no business running the Monument Valley Half but did it anyway.  Much like I've experienced before, the instant I took off from the start line, the pain magically disappeared.  Suck it, medical science. I have no idea why.

The latter half of March was much better than the first half, given that my injury suddenly disappeared after having done the race. I hit the training again super hard, managing to power through a foot of school-canceling snow and also, food poisoning.

It had been 70 degrees the day before
The snow started melting pretty quickly, but it left the trails so muddy that park service closed them to the public. I made do with the dam hills on Centennial Drive.

Blue pre-dawn run in town.  So tired of the cold and snow. But the full moon was pretty.

Desperate to get on the trails and resume training for the North Fork 50, but they were still closed with mud, snow, and ice.  I drove to Lory State Park and ran on the park service road because it was open and at least it was dirt. I felt terrible the whole time and only made it 6 miles. I barely got home before I started throwing up.  I threw up once per hour for about 24 hours. That was great for the PTSD-Hyperemesis Flashbacks. Rob got sick about an hour after I did. We think it was food poisoning. That night Will had to read himself a bedtime story and put himself to bed.

I only took one day off running and still managed a 38.8 mile week. On my "recovery run" just hours after my last vomit, I felt as bad as I looked. It reminded me of that time in Nicaragua I had The Vortex for 2 weeks, and then tried to do a full-day follow on the monkeys.

Feeling better, trails still closed, running the dam hills on Centennial.

With the North Fork 50 approaching in early June, I needed to start getting very serious about vertical.  And trails.  North Fork has 7,500 feet of elevation gain, which is about twice the profile of any other 50 mile race I've done.  As soon as the trails opened up again, I started doing things like running Towers twice.

It had been a long time since I'd done Towers (1,700 feet of gain per ascent), but it was still beautiful.

At first there was still snow.

A week or two later, the conditions were much more like spring than winter.

Towers ascent 1 (smiling). Towers ascent 2 (not exactly smiling anymore).

In addition to vertical, I also wanted to prioritize getting more comfortable with rugged trails for this race.  This prompted a shoe crisis.  I'd been wearing the Salomon Sense Pro's, which are part of their "city to trail" line, and generally perfect for people like me, who on any given day, run a couple of miles on the road just to get to a light-duty trail.  But for this, I wanted a very good trail shoe, super lugged up for much more technical terrain.  

I tried the Salomon Wing Pro's, which at a 10mm drop, felt weird to me, and I did not love them out of the box.  So I went ahead and bought a pair of Hoka Stinsons, to replace the worn down ones I already had and liked pretty well.  But the new Stinsons were the most terrible shoes I've ever put on my feet.  I don't know if Hoka did something to change this version (I had the 1.0...these are no longer available and I bought the 3.0) or if they just needed many miles on them before they felt, you know, wearable.

I decided to run in both of these shoes, to see if I could get used to them, and to see how they felt on rocky trails.  The Salomons grew on me, but the Hokas did not.

Monday morning on the "A" trail

At the top of the A (on a different day, when the sun was shining!)

Sunrise deer on the "A"

More deer.

On the weekends, I started running the Black Squirrel course, which was every bit as beautiful as it was tough.  And for me, terrifyingly technical.

13 switchbacks up, on Howards. 13 switchbacks down, on Timber. Or maybe it was 17.  Either way, brutal.
The view along Westridge Trail is especially worth it after climbing up Howard.

I can't even begin to tell you how terrified I was to do this run. But I did it. And then over the next few weeks, I went back and did it again and again.

I got it in my head that for my peak training week before North Fork, I would run the Black Squirrel course plus Towers, which I estimated would be about 22 miles and at least 4,000 (but possibly as much as 5,000) feet of elevation gain.  I tried to get this out of my head because it seemed like that would kill me.

My plan had been to alternate weeks of high mileage with weeks of higher vertical, but found that it was actually pretty difficult to run lots of climbs without also increasing my mileage.  So for the most part, it was all intense, all the time. 

The day after I ran Black Squirrel, Rob convinced me to do the ~9 mile "beach run" with him on Foothills Trail. Parts of it were very rocky.

I had a ton of work during this time as well, and all of it became very overwhelming. I had insomnia but was exhausted. My legs were restless at night.  Whenever I did manage to fall asleep, I would end up jolting awake and moving my legs as though to stop myself from falling off the side of a trail.  Every minute of the day and night I was desperate for food, but nothing ever tasted good and I was constantly on the verge of throwing up.  Pretty much par for the course for me during intense periods of ultra training.

And then, my sciatic nerve went.  At first I thought it was just a tired hamstring from a rough day on the Black Squirrel course, but after a little bit of rest, it was obvious that the pain was burning and zinging for the length of my sciatic nerve.  

I had this once before, when I was training for my first marathon in 2003-ish.  I ran through it and wrecked my hip flexor, IT band, and ended up having to take 12 weeks off and missing the marathon. I did not want that to happen this time.

I went to Rocky Mountain Rossiter and had several very intense sessions over the next couple of weeks.  I don't think I've never been so close to passing out without actually passing out, but I wanted to make sure they really got in there and fixed the problem.  And they did.  It was like a miracle.  I never really took much time off of running (I still managed 3 weeks in a row of close to 50 miles during this period), but I drastically dropped my vertical.  Climbing really aggravated my sciatic nerve pain, so I just couldn't do it while I was healing.  I hoped that still maintaining relatively decent mileage during these weeks would be good for something, at least.

We ran laps around the field while Will had soccer practice.
Oh! Also during this time, I felt recovery was going so well that I finally did it-- I registered for Javelina Jundred!!

Celebrated my healing sciatic nerve injury and registration for Javelina Jundred by running a May the 4th 4K with Rob and Will, trying out a Rey costume.
We got more snow (in May!!), and the resulting mud closed down the trails again. I just couldn't deal with the concrete bike paths in town, so I spent a couple weekends running on the dirt road at Redstone Canyon.  This also gave me about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, which my sciatic nerve seemed to handle well as long as I followed it up with more rossiter.

And as long as I followed up the rossiter treatment with walks in the neighborhood.

Also during this time, Will decided that he wants to run The Barkley someday, and he asked me to train with him at Red Fox Meadows.  He may have taken over my Jenny Jurek vest.

I'm not sure he has a good idea of what he's getting himself into.

The other main thing I needed to resolve before North Fork 50 was the shoe issue.  The Salomon Wing Pro's were okay, but I didn't love them.  The very expensive Hoka Stinson version 3's I had bought were seriously stressing me out.  I hated them.  But I'd worn them 30 miles through mud, trying to break them in.  During the bit of down time I had between the last day of classes and when my students' final paper was due, I went back to REI with the shoes and explained my situation.

The cashier was completely unfazed.  "Of course you can return them.  We're REI!"

I was elated.  But still somewhat shoe-less.  Everyone I know raves about how the Altra Lone Peak 2.5 is the best shoe ever manufactured.  I haven't been so sure about that.  I left Altra a few stress fractures ago because I was afraid that they had been a contributing factor.  But I was intrigued by the improved lugs and cushioned feel of these 2.5's (Rob has several pair).  I resurrected my ancient, worn-down Altra Lone Peak 1.5's and wore them for a few test runs.  They seemed fine.  Zero drop didn't bother me.  Once I switched to forefoot striking several years ago, I forefoot strike even in 10mm drop.

IT band KT taped as preventative. As I was running in these, I remembered that the real reason why I had decided that I didn't like Altras was because these were the shoes I was wearing when I tripped and fell and thought I got a concussion.  Which probably really didn't have all that much do to with the shoe.  Maybe it was time to give Altra another chance.

So I did what could have been the most supremely stupid thing I've ever done in my life, and bought a pair of Lone Peak 2.5's that I found on sale.

I loved them straight out of the box.  The things everybody says about them-- it's all true.  All of it.  They really are the best shoe ever created.  I would marry them if I wasn't already married to Rob.

Everything had fallen into place. I had shoes.  I was able to run hills again.

I celebrated my 2-year anniversary of becoming a Coloradan.  

There was more rain, and mud, and trail closures, but I still found some blue skies on the Centennial hills.

I spent a massive week grading my students' massive research papers.  I turned in their final grades and then went to go do my last big run. Black Squirrel, plus Towers, in my brand new Lone Peak 2.5's.

You can't see them so well in this photo, but there were tons of tiny yellow, white, orange, and purple wildflowers all along Howard Trail.

Arthur's Rock

Made it up to Westridge! 

There it is, the view that makes it worth running this trail.
The run went ridiculously, surprisingly well.  Especially considering that I was wearing Altras almost straight out of the box. You're supposed to take 6 weeks to transition to zero drop.  Not go out for what ended up being a 23.5 mile run on day one.  Don't try this at home.

Despite all the climbing and technical trails, the only time I ran into trouble was about 2 miles from the end.  I'd had plenty of water and food, but I hadn't taken in any electrolyte drink since about mile 14.  And the day was hot.  This was something I could have avoided--by running an extra 1.5 miles to go refill my bottles at the Soderberg Trailhead and then dropping Nuun tablets in them.  Or I could have filled the bottles by squeezing water into them from my water reservoir.  But I'd already run a few bonus miles earlier in the day (for some reason I just completely buzzed by the turn off onto Westridge Trail from Howards), and I'd had so many stops as it was.  I didn't want to waste any more time out there while I was not running.  It was getting close to 6 hours, and I was getting freaked out that this run had taken me so long.  I'd have to more than double this distance at North Fork.  What if I couldn't do that within the cut offs on race day?

My legs were almost completely fine, but my mind snapped quickly and suddenly near the end. I just wanted to be done.  I needed to be done.  My stomach rejected everything, even water.  It was agonizingly clear that I would be throwing up soon.

And yet, I didn't.  I made it back to the car.  I didn't drink any more electrolyte, but I had some reasonably cold water and forced down part of a (I kid you not) pizza margherita Clif shot.  It tasted terrible, but it was salty, and there was no way anything else sweet was going down this hatch.

I had done it.  Black Squirrel plus Towers. 5 hours 36 minutes of run time, 23.5 miles, 4,911 feet of elevation gain.

Did it. There is no way I am not going to throw up during North Fork 50. This absolutely terrifies me. Also: you can just barely see my lovely new Lone Peak 2.5's in this picture. 

My totals for the week exceeded my expectations. Technically speaking, I had over 70 miles, because it was a Friday, and I'd done my previous long run on a Sunday.  If you counted it this way, I also had over 9,000 feet of elevation gain during the past 6 days.  Even if you counted it the more reasonable way (starting over on Monday), I still had 53.3 miles and 7,136 vert. Whatever. I was done training. It was time to taper, and it was all good.

The most amazing this was: my calves didn't hurt at all from taking my new Lone Peaks out of the box and running for almost 6 hours in them.

I took Saturday off and then on Sunday, Will wanted to climb Horsetooth Rock.  I was so, so proud of him. It is not a super difficult hike, but it is pretty scary if you have vertigo and fear of heights (like me). I don't think that many 6 year olds make it to the top. But he did it.

Now to look back through my totals.

I ended up with 99 miles for March, 177 miles for April, and 210 in May.  May is my second highest mileage month (after December 2015, when I ran 100 miles in one day at Across the Years).  This gives me 718.2 so far for the year.  I can't figure out how to make Strava (which I still hate) tell me how much elevation gain I do per month (only per week).  Whatever.  I am not as well trained as I would like for North Fork, but in all honesty, it is far better than it could be.  And the very best thing of all: I am not injured leading up to this ultra.  I haven't been able to say that for a long time. 

Thanks for reading.