Friday, September 14, 2012

From the Mountains to the Sea

From High Elevation and Little Air, to Low Elevation and (Very) Humid Air, From Rocks to Dirt, From West Coast to East Coast: My Silverton Alpine Marathon and Leave No Trace ½ Marathon Race Reports


Normally I wouldn’t write a race report on non-key races, or anything under a 50k, but I was really proud of my half marathon, and the Silverton Marathon was just so unique that I figured I might as well…

Silverton Alpine Marathon

Sandi and I registered for the race at 4:30 Friday afternoon (right before the cowboy fight), 13 ½ half hours before the races.  We had slept in the car on the side of a bumpy road by a porta potty, and climbed Handies Peak (a 14er on the Hardrock Course) that day.  Sandi has run Pikes Peak Marathon on Sunday.  I had arrived in Colorado the Friday before, nowhere near acclimated to the altitude.  This was not our best idea….
How sweet does that look!?

But, we were having a road trip Twin adventure!  Like old times, we were often lost, but having fun.  The race fit in perfectly to that agenda.

Sandi had found out about the marathon when looking up Silverton before we took the drive there, and then we saw signs for the race around that beautiful, quaint old town between the mountains (sigh).  She urged me to check out the race registration tent, which I did.  After asking how much it cost, I walked away.  For two people who had been camping the past few days, it was a bit over my budget.  Luckily, my sister is Sandi Nypaver and the other race director recognized her.  We ended up working out a “two for one” type of deal, chatted with the RDs, Nick Coury and Jamil Coury (yes, the Javeline Race Directors and both awesome guys), and happily walked off with our race bibs (and just in time to still make the cowboy fight).

After setting up our tent, we went to Avalanche for dinner…so so good!  It’s a cafĂ©/brewery with some healthy options and a great gluten free granola bars.  We also met a couple that has raced ultras all over the county, including MMT and Hardrock.

(Warning: May be TMI.  When we got back to our campsite, making sure we had everything we needed for 26.2, we encountered a problem. (Sorry boys) Shaving.  We hadn’t showered since the day before at a Laundromat.  Legs could be dealt with easily thanks to compression socks.  Armpits, not so much, especially because I wanted to wear a tank.  There was a guy camping to one side of us, so I took a water bottle and a razor with me and squatted on the other side of the car with my sweatshirt around my shoulders.  As I was attending to my armpits, I suddenly heard music, and a man walking on the road behind our campsite.  I pulled my sweatshirt down and dashed into the car.  I looked out the window from my seat, and saw the man do several backwards glances, taking in what he just saw, LOL!)

On to the race! 

I was happy that it the race started at 8 AM (the 50k started at 7) as it gave me a bit longer to sleep, and more importantly, let the sun warm up the morning.  We actually started to near perfect race conditions, with crisp cool air and a hit of dampness from the rain the night before.

At 7:59, all 25 of us or so lined up behind the start.  No one wanted to be in front, including Dakota Jones (who ended up setting a new course record).  So Sandi, Ivy, and I took center stage. For about 2 seconds.  Then Dakota floated past.  I watched Sandi and Ivy easily move ahead as well, completely losing sight of them after a half mile.  I, the low-lander, settled into a slow pace, which felt like a tempo would back home, and let a few others pass.  But I held my ground, knowing what I was doing was the best for my body, and it gave me a chance to talk with some of the runners anyway.

The first 8 miles were a very small and steady incline on a level dirt/gravel road.  Too groomed for me.  The monotony bothers my left leg, which forced me to keep slower pace, probably a good thing.  I couldn’t complain anyway, the sun was out and I was surrounded by mountains.  It still hadn’t clicked that I was really running this race.

Finally, to groomed road changed into a rocky jeep trail and the incline steepened.  (Yes, this is the same rocky jeep trail I though Sandi and I were going to die on the night before.  I actually felt much safe running it).  I welcomed the change.  Even though we were technically still running on road, it was so rough that my movements mimicked those as if I were on a trail. 

The sun started to beat harder on our skin, the incline increased, the air grew thinner.  I did what I always do: I kept putting one foot in front of the other, in a (slow but) steady running pace.  I surprised myself a bit as I continued to run in the thinner air, but even more surprised the other runners who lived at elevation: “Hey Ohio! I didn’t expect to see you again!”

Mile 14 is where things really got interesting.  At every turn, the course got steeper.  The next 4 miles would be the longest and hardest.  I’d turn around another hill, thinking the course might level out, or that I might see the 16 mile aid station, but no, just more climbing.  Everyone in front of me and behind me were hiking, and I was too, but still keeping up the effort to pass a few people.


There is always a reward for hard work and climbing your way out of a challenge, and mile 16 was no disappointment.  To be up so high and look down the mountain and into the valley below was an instant adrenaline rush.  Plus, I knew downhill was to come.  I stopped at the aid station to grab a little fuel and chat with Nick Coury (now looking at me like I was a little more crazy then the rest of the runners after Sandi told him we climbed Handies the day before), asked how Sandi was doing (fantastic despite tired from the previous marathon), and set forth downhill.

But, there was a catch.  One more big hill of course.  Then it was time to cruise downhill. 
My pacer...for about 3 seconds!
Actually, cruise is a bad word to use.  I know this from experience.  “Cruise” means you just let your legs go, with very little effort otherwise.  However, this was a significant grade down, on a bumpy, rocky road.  I’d say parts were even a bit technical. And so I took nice plummet down on to the rocks, scratching my thighs, hips, elbows, and my right hand despite my glove (my left hand was holding my water bottle).  I did a quick assessment, briefly looking at the blood trickling down, pulled up my compression socks, and kept going knowing I was lucky it wasn’t worse.  The part that really bothered me was actually the bloody nose, that took 5 minutes of blowing snot/blood rockets to get rid of. Gross, I know.

Eventually the downhill became a bit more gradual, and the running got easier.  I had time to relax, reflect on the beauty of my surroundings, contemplate the history of the old run-down mines, and just be happy having this adventure. 

On the other hand, the last and mostly flat 5 miles weren’t exactly fun.  They kind of hurt.  They felt excruciatingly long.  But I think that’s how they are supposed to be (though I am still certain that last .2miles was really longer than .2 miles).

As I came to the finish Sandi was there waiting for me.  I murmured, with a smile on my face, that this had been another dumb idea of ours. 

I learned that, just a week after she placed 10th female at the Pikes Peak Marathon, Sandi had won first female and 3rd overall.  And, get this: Us girls earned 3 of the top 5 spots overall, Sandi with 3rd, Ivy with 4th, and myself with 5th.

Then it was time to transition from thin, dry air to heavy, wet air…

Leave No Trace ½ Marathon

(This is the longest race of the Dirty Trail series, put on by Race Director Vince Rucci, who always does a wonderful job!)

Again, I had no plans to blog about this race (especially twice, as it didn’t save the first time).  I signed up because I knew it would be a fun race after running it with Steve last year, and it would be a great tempo workout.  My plan wasn’t so much to race, but just to do my best and enjoy it.  After just coming from Colorado, I was sure if my body was fully acclimated to the huge dose of humidity that was being poured on us (though normally my specialty). Plus, I don’t have the speed for half marathons! Or so I thought…(However, I am sure I don’t have the speed to do well at a road half marathon!)

Because a mountain bike race immediately precedes the half, the race starts a bit early at 7 AM, so Steve and I got there a little bit early to run a few miles prior, headlamps on.  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that it was light at 6 AM!?!?!

Anyway, just like the week prior, I found myself at the front of the start not because that’s where I thought I should be, but no one else would.  Within seconds of the start I was passed by 20-30 people.

Then guess who passed me!?!?


Now, we had discussed this the night before and I said it wasn’t one of those races where I planned to stick together the whole time, in which he looked slightly offended.  But I did think he would stick with me for a bit longer. 

However, I was feeling good with my pace, and I watched him weave his way through other runners.  Part of me was thinking he was faster than me anyway, and another part thinking “when will he ever learn?” as he has a tendency to go out to fast, race after race.

In the next 3 miles, as the sun came out and the humidity grew, I passed some and was passed by others. I passed one woman, but then was passed by another as her Navy teammate screamed at her to go faster.  I ran past way too many people wearing headphones, not a good idea for a single track trail race (I will stop my rant there).

At the 4 mile aid station, I think a few people began to realize that this was not a 5 mile race and had quite a bit farther to go.  I must have passed 5 people at the aid station (I love handhelds) and 5 more who decided to slow their pace.  I can’t criticize, after my crash and burn had been in April…we’ve all go to learn!

There runners began to spread out. ”. I was pushing, but at a pace I felt confident I could hold. I grew, as Jillian Michaels likes to say, “comfortable with being uncomfortable”.  Every once in awhile, I saw a flash of color of someone’s T-Shirt, and I had a target to catch up to. 

For the first time all season, I felt like I was truly running my race.  I was enjoying the course of hard packed dirt and minor (If you’re used to the Buckeye Trail, or Colorado) hills, on a trail I rarely get to run, in my ideal racing weather (probably very few others would agree with that).  My stomach was bothering me a quite a bit, but at least I wasn’t noticing my legs as much.

Around mile 8, on a long gravel hill that no one else seemed to be enjoying too much, I caught up to Steve, who looked (I’m sorry hun) a bit like he had gone for a swim in the pond to a right and then drowned.  As I passed I told him how silly he was, and he told me to save my breath to catch up to the guy in front of him, which I did by the top of the hill.

Then I saw her.  The lead woman.

I caught up to her as she started walking up a hill.  She glanced back and saw me, and I offered a feeble smile.  I stayed a few feet behind her until the next aid station, where I was surprised she ran right through as she was carrying no water.  As this was on a grassy hill, which I don’t particularly love running on, and I discovered we still had 3.5 to go, I decided now was not the time to pick it up.  Before I knew it, she was 200 yards ahead and it stayed like this for almost the next 3 miles.

With ¾ miles left I, as Steve says, began to “smell the barn”, or now I was close to the finish.  I told myself that this is where it is okay to hurt.  I didn’t have much more speed in my legs, but I made a push.  To my amazement, I found myself right behind the lead woman with 1/3 of mile left to go, up a hill of switchbacks.

If you’ve read my other blogs, you know the important role hills have played in my life this year…

It began with the chant “this (hill) is an opportunity to make myself stronger” to “this is an opportunity (tired or not) to prove how strong I am”.  So when I saw the woman and the hill at the end of Leave No Trace, I took my opportunity.

I barely noticed the pain in my legs and lungs and the adrenaline pulsed through me.  I just surged up the hill.  At the top, with just over 100 yards of a grassy downward hill to the finish, I glanced back, knowing my finishing kick lacks great speed.  A man told me not to worry, just go.

I crossed the line 10 seconds before the 2nd place woman.  I surprised and amazed myself.  I don’t want to say I didn’t think I had it in me, but I didn’t. 

I spotted some friends and muttered again how much I hate short races (only partially true), laughed as they commented on the deep cuts I still had on my hips from the previous Saturday, and then went over to congratulate and thank the other woman.  She had a great race, and truly helped make me a better runner.

So where does that leave me now?

Well one, about to go crazy because Sandi is about to start Run Rabbit Run and I’m not there, for the first time missing her 100 mile race.

Two, feeling pretty good about my training and ready for Virgil Crest 100 next week.  Besides the past few days where I swear someone filled my legs with lead, my training has gone better than it has all year.  I am excited for some hills! (I picked Virgil because it is mostly single-track and has 20,00 ft of elevation :)

I’m sure that one will result in another blog in a few weeks.  Until then, Happy Running friends!

For the Love of Hills,




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