Monday, August 14, 2006

Haulin Aspen Race Report

Let's just cut to the chase here. It was AWESOME! Totally great - I loved it! My time was 2:58:41. I can't believe we came in under three hours. Here's the story.

George, Jenny and I headed over to the high school to catch the shuttle about 7:45. We got to the start area shortly after. Due to the lack of parking at the start/finish, we didn't go up with the marathoners to see them off - they started at 7:00 am and we started at 9:30. We did all the prerace things that needed doing, including a liberal application of sunscreen with cold hands. Finally, it was time to start.

The course starts out on the park road, nice and flat, then we turn on to the trail, and run back near the start area - still nice and flat. In fact, I think we had 2.5 easy miles before we hit our first hill. Jenny and I were feeling pretty good about the flat start - it gave us time to warm up and settle in. It gave me a mental boost, because the online course description said the first eight miles were up hill - leading me to think we'd be starting out at a walk. So we are feeling happy, cruising along, crossing various bridges, including a covered bridge, and finally, we are at the bottom of some switch backs. I think, "okay, here we go, eight miles to climb". We decided to save energy and walk the switchback section. It was maybe 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile long. We got to the top, and see that it's pretty flat, maybe a very slight incline - just enough to know you are working. We pick it back up to a run. Even when we are running, we are being good and taking all walk breaks. We were both feeling relaxed, chatting away and running along. After awhile, we both begin wondering where the climb is, but we just keep going and assume we'll see it soon. By this point, we've run on asphalt, single track, and an old jeep trail. Not too bad, a few rocky spots, a few rooty spots.

Finally, we are climbing a bit - still, nothing worse than our weekly hill climb, in fact, no where near the steepest hill on that run. We come around a corner and find an aid station. We are at 5.71 miles! We are right on pace for about a 12 minute mile, it's not too hot, and we are feeling good. We both get pretty excited at this point - for one thing, we are farther along than we expected to be at this time. The road has turned into a forest-service type road here, but it's kind of a soft, black sand. Not too deep, and very comfortable to run on. We are still climbing, but again, it's not too bad. Eventually, the road turns to a rocky, dusty climb. It's okay though, we just run and walk, run and walk. We are out in full sun, but there is a nice breeze. I guess I forgot to mention that my heartrate monitor had been beeping pretty steadily since we hit the half hour mark - but I kept reminding myself that Olga mentioned that the elevation would do that to me, plus it's a little bit warm. We decide to cut to a 7 minute run, 2 minute walk - not because anything is wrong, but just to play it safe. We got to one point where we could see runners flashing past us through the woods - down hill. We started to get excited, thinking we were going to hit the turn, but we didn't, we just kept climbing.

The walk beeper went, and we were going along, and Jenny was telling me a story. The run beeper sounded, and I thought to myself that I needed a little longer break - Jenny didn't notice the beeper. I kind of zoned out, listening to her talking, and we just kept walking. Finally, Jenny asked me why the beeper hadn't gone, and I looked down and discovered we'd been walking for seven minutes. Whoops! But we could see the next aid station, so I said we should just walk to it and see what it looked like after that. Jenny said, "Now, Michelle, we want to take breaks, but we don't want to be lazy." I laughed at that and agreed we should pick it up after the aid station. The good news was that this was where the marathon and half joined, and where we started down hill. We were back on single track and again, it was a very gentle downhill, but enough to make me feel fresh and fast.

For most of the run, we were pretty much on our own. We had one lady we were leap-frogging, and a young kid, too, but that was it. It was nice - we weren't eating dust and it kept us relaxed. After we joined up with the marathoners, we had more people on the trail - but I bet there were only six or seven total that either passed us, or we passed them. We had one technical, rocky, switchbacking downhill section that we ran down - I couldn't believe I was doing that. I fully intended to walk down any sections like that, but Jenny was leading and I just followed her. I could tell I was getting a little tired because I stumbled a little more often. We were back on the 9/1 cycle, no extra breaks. We came up to an aid station - they told us it was only 1.7 miles to finish - again, we had no idea that we'd come so far. Jenny told me that if we could do it in 24 minutes, we could come in under three hours. We were back on the same flat section of trail that we started on, so we just flew. Now, I'm saying we flew, because it felt like it, but in reality, it took us 22 minutes to cover that 1.7 miles. Not exactly flying - but not too bad for the end of a half. We crossed our bridges, came around a corner and there was Eric and Jenny's husband Paul - and just beyond them, the finish line. We did it!
That last section was a push for me and I had to go lay down right away - I couldn't quite get a good breath, and could feel the faint beginnings of trouble. I laid down on some grass, Eric brought me a wet towel and icy water, and within a few minutes I was good. Down to the river - I was supposed to soak my legs but it was so cold and hurt my feet so much, that I was in and out in about a minute. I'm still pretty excited - this was my first heart-pain-free half!The race was great - I expected to have times when I was hot and tired and would just want off the trail, but that never happened - not once. Instead, I was relaxed and having fun. I think that had I been on my own, it wouldn't have been that way - I think I would've felt like it was never going to end. Instead, Jenny was the best running companion I could have asked for. We had a great time and both agree we want to do it again. In the picture below, you can see Jenny wearing the cowbells they gave us instead of medals. Perfect for our group - we ring cowbells at the finish line of every race!

Eric placed first in his age group - on the very last day it was possible! His time was 3:58 something. Below is a picture of all of us from the Y Run Club that shared the weekend.
As for the rest of the weekend, it was wonderful too. We got into town Friday about 5:00 and all met at the house. We went out for a good dinner, a little local beer and some wine, then back to the house to relax. The next day we shopped at the outlet mall, wandered through town visiting shops, had a great spaghetti dinner back at the house and just hung out. Sunday after the race, we had dinner at a local brewery, followed it up with Starbucks ice cream, then hung out again. Great conversation, good friends and an all round good time.

Now it's on to a series of long runs for the marathon, crewing for CCC and a couple of local races. Thanks for all your good wishes for the race!

26 comments:

olga said...

Woo-hoo, Michelle!!! Now I REALLY envy you:)

Robb said...

There, you did it! It's in the bank...and you can visit anytime and withdraw the good memory as needed. Nice finish for you and great to have a good friend help you through. Congrats! Onward & upward...

Wes said...

Woo hoo! What a great race report. Is that proper protocol at the end of the race? Do a flat back roll in the grass to celebrate!!! Now that's the way I want my first half to go!

Wes

angie's pink fuzzy said...

YAY!!!! That is inCREDible, woman! Way to go!

So when are you doing a race down here in AZ??? : )

robtherunner said...

I am glad it all went well and the pictures looked like you all had a lot of fun, and yes I am jealous. Thanks for not making us wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to read the report. I am not sure I could have waited that long.

craig said...

Never doubted that you would have a great race. Congratulations. Should give you lots of confidence as you push on to the marathon.

TryAthlete said...

Congratulations and well done Michelle.

Jack said...

Congratulations on a great race, well done!

Ryan said...

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words! Great pics & race report! That's the wonderful thing about trail races, you have periods of isolation, just you and the woods =) It always a good feeling to kick-back and relax after a hard run race!!

Ironayla said...

I am so glad everything went well and you had a good time! I wish I could of joined all of you as the pictures show you all having fun :)

I talked with Sonya this morning @ the Y and she informed me what time you guys are running on Saturday. I am looking forward to running with you guys!

Annette said...

Nice job on your 1/2! Congrats! That sounds like a fun course - lots of variety. Hope your body recovered well. For now, you can bask in the glory of a good race! :)

Sarah said...

Yay! Glad you had a great race. I'll have to put that one on my calender for next year. Congrats!

Anne said...

Nice job! I wonder if you hadn't accidentally taken that extra long walk break if you might have shaved even more time off -- or if it would have cost you. Who knows. And who cares. You did it -- and under the time you expected and without heart pain. Woo hoo.

matt said...

fantastic job, Michelle...and a wonderful report! now you can take a rest for a few days before getting back on track for the marathon. your progress is exciting to watch...very inspirational :)

Rose said...

What a great report and wonderful pix! You have the most interesting events - I love reading about them!

Nicole said...

yeah! I'm so glad to hear about a great race. Nice job.

Lana said...

Great job, Michelle!! I loved the race report...congrats on such an awesome run!

Running by.... said...

I'm so happy for you! I'm really glad you had such a great time and your heart is just fine. I love your description of the course too. I want to run it!!!

Sarah Elaine said...

Congratulations! You deserve to bask in this success. A pain-free half is definitely worth celebrating!!

E-Speed said...

Great job! So glad you had so much fun! And kudos (and happy birthday?) to Eric!

JustRun said...

That's fantastic! Congratulations on the race and, more importantly, on having such a great attitude that's contagious to the rest of us!

D said...

Excellent report Michelle and well run race. AWESOME that you had no heart pains or issues. You guys ran a smart race! Congrats!!!

Dori said...

Good job! I'm so glad the half went well for you. Great race report.

Yvonne said...

wow, nice race report and pics. CONGRATS!

Donald said...

Wow - this was a great report! Excellent job with the race, Michelle. I loved reading about it.

*jeanne* said...

Awesome race! It sounds so perfect! Congratulations on earning your under-three-hour COWBELL! :-)