Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Family vacation

The morning after: The start/finish of the Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado
I get the hint that the remnant readers of my blog don't really care about my UTMB training. This makes sense, of course, and I thought I'd give fair warning that August 2012 may contain little else. Just in case anyone was looking to clean out their blog reader ...

 With the exception of my first showing at the Iditarod 350, I don't think I've ever felt so insecure about one of my goals. Even my first Susitna 100, when I had never even entered a race before, my attitude was "Why shouldn't I be able to ride my woefully inadequate mountain bike on slush trails for a hundred miles?" And then there was Susitna 2011, when I was still struggling to eke out seven-mile "practice" runs, and when I was so bad at running that I sprained my ankle while jogging along a perfectly smooth, flat trail — I still held onto the delusion attitude that "I already finished this with a woefully inadequate mountain bike. Why shouldn't I be able to do the same without the bike?"

 But UTMB is a different monster. I'm frightened, because I realize that any training at this point isn't going to add much padding to my armor. I pretty much have what I have, which feels like woefully inadequate legs and soft feet that are really going to miss the cushioning effect of snow after ten or so hours, which, if I'm extremely lucky, is only a quarter of the time I'll be out there.

Alas, I'll stop myself before I write another of what Beat calls "whiny" blog posts. Yesterday and today I had one horrible and one pretty good training run, eight and nine miles respectively. Monday's run was horrible because I ate some Asian dumpling leftovers for lunch and ... let's just say I had to fight with them for six of those miles. Today I felt much stronger and tried to push the pace on the descent, only to have my shins protest painfully. My main problem with running fast downhill is that I strike with my heels. My normal stride is midfoot, and I climb on my toes, but I can't seem to quicken my stride on descents without pounding those heels. I haven't yet figured out how to avoid this, and it's obvious my shins can't take it. Not that I'm planning to run any of the UTMB miles "fast," but I do have many issues with my form that I'd eventually like to correct.

I am excited for this coming weekend. Beat and I are making a quick trip to Utah to hike the Zion Narrows with my mom and dad. The canyon itself is worth the trip, and sharing this spectacular outing with Beat and both of my parents is a unique opportunity. In my family, my dad and I have long been the "outdoorsy" ones. My mother and younger sister are more tolerant than enthusiastic; they enjoy outdoor excursions but don't seek them out. My youngest sister is less tolerant; I'm pretty sure she'd choose a few of the recognized methods of torture over my hobbies. This is fine; we've been on family vacations in the past where my dad and I went hiking and my sisters and mom went shopping. The outdoors is something we don't often bond over, as a family.

But my mom loves the Narrows. She actually hiked the entire canyon a few years ago and suffered substantially. I was surprised when she expressed interest in going back, and this year she vowed to train for it. She joined my dad for a series of training hikes in the Wasatch Mountains that culminated in a "test" on Mount Timpanogos. Her stipulation was, if she didn't make it to the top of Timp, she wasn't going to join us in the Narrows. This plan made me nervous for my mother, who until recently only embarked on hikes once or twice a year. The climb up Timpanogos is fifteen miles round trip, with 4,500 feet of elevation gain. It's a good trail but I wouldn't consider it a "beginner" hike by any stretch of the imagination. But my mom must have rocked it because she and my dad made a celebratory cell phone call from the summit — interestingly while Beat and I were sitting in the Hardrock 100 pre-race meeting. When I called back a few minutes later, my mom's voice rang with elation as she recounted their climb. I was so proud of her accomplishment ... it felt cathartic after all those times that my dad and I used to call her from "some peak" in the Wasatch. (The "some peak" phrase is a long-standing family joke, because my dad and I once called home from the top of the Broads Fork Twin Peaks — at age 19 it was my hardest climb yet — and my youngest sister, then 12, answered the phone and called out to my mother in a derisive tone, "Dad and Jill are calling from some peak again.") Now my mom was calling from "some peak" of her own.

Anyway, I'm really excited to share the Narrows experience with all of them on Saturday. And even better, it will probably keep my mind off of UTMB for a few more days.