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Riding in Circles! Ok, ovals.

A couple months ago, Ross and I were invited to go up to a velodrome in Boulder. We kindly declined the invite citing that fact that Lincoln had his first soccer practice. First, we had no idea what a velodrome was, and the more research we did on it, the more scary and intimidating it sounded.

According to Wikipedia, A velodrome is an arena for track cycling. Modern velodromes feature steeply banked oval tracks, consisting of two 180-degree circular bends connected by two straights. The straights transition to the circular turn through a moderate easement curve. It looks something like this:
Although the velodrome in Bolder is smaller and STEEPER. It looks more like this:See that rider? He is approaching a curve and will be riding on a very slick wall that is banked at 45 degrees.

So, when we got to the track, I was more than a little intimidated and wondered exactly how I got here.

See, the one thing about me is that, given the opportunity, I will try to face my challenges head on. So when we were invited to come this time, we accepted. For me, I look upon my biking skills as a BIG weakness and I thought that this would be a safe environment and opportunity to work on that skill set.

Seeing the track and some of the experienced riders on the track, I began to doubt the safetiness of it all and if I would be able to do it. The riders were zipping around steep embankments and taking the curves with ease. I immediately felt out of my comfort zone, but decided to stay there and face the track head on.

At first I wanted to just jump in and give it a go, but I am so glad I didn't. Tim, the instructor, showed the newbies around the track and explained how it worked, what the various lines on the track meant, the angles of the track, how to stop (did I mention our bikes had no brakes?), how to enter/exit the track, etc. After, I was glad I got the information before just jumping on.

It was a lot to intake, so here is what I took away:

- If I went too slow, I would fall off.
- Beware of others around me.
- If I went too slow, I would fall off.
- If someone was passing me, don't veer laterally.
- If I went too slow, I would fall off.
- When in doubt, ACCELERATE!

And after being explained the basics, we were off.

For the first 2 minutes straight, I said over and over to myself "Accelerate in the curves. Accelerate in the curves. Accelerate...". I was convinced that if I did, I wouldn't fall off. And I didn't.

Secondly, I realized that the previous riders were so speedy on the track because if they WEREN'T speedy, they would've fallen off. So, I kept up my speed.

I just continued to ride the track, keep up my speed and worked on my bike handling on the track and especially in the corners. The corners were the steepest and the tightest. The further down the track you got, the harder they were. So I tried to go down to see how far I could get.

The next challenge, getting OFF the track. Exiting the track actually required slowing down to a speed where you were fast enough to stay on the track and then making an exit right before you were about to fall over (from riding on an angle slowly) and then continue riding on level ground until your bike slowed to a stop. Mind you, we had to do this without brakes and while we were being aware of those around us. Scary, but we got her done.

Here are some picts from the ride.Some riders warming up on the "straights" (14 degrees)

Riders taking the curves (45 degrees)

Along with simply riding on the track, (crazy-fun as it was once you got going), Tim also led the groups in various exercises to practice cornering, speed, and other bike handling essentials. I was really surprised how fast I caught on and how much I enjoyed it. To think, I was improving one of my weakest skill sets and enjoying myself at the same time! Just the thought of being able to ride on an 45-degree angle was enough to make my money worth it!

So, there you have it. One scared Randi. One crazy riding experience. One happy rider (and many others - pictured below!).

24 Miles in MOAB!!!

First off, let me just say Moab, UT is so, so, so, so beautiful! And after trail running through it, I can't think of a better way to see the area. The area is filled with awesome canyons, mesas, cliffs, gorgeous views and LOTS of rock. I know already that this blog is not going to do its beauty justice.

So, I started off on my little journey to Moab with some crazy car mates. I was kind of a tagalong on a trip organized by Beth. My guess is when she invited me along, she never thought I would take her up on it, but little did she know... :)

Here we are being total tourists and stopping about every 5 minutes for pictures, the closer we got.

This is where I got the first couple of glances at the kind of terrain I would be running on the following day.
Around 3:30, we finally got into Moab after many stops for gas (twice in same town- where is that darn Shell station?), coffee, potty, lunch, to see a friend, to see another friend, and our site-seeing tour at the end. Note: Avg time to Moab = 6 hrs. Our time = 8.5 hours.

After settling in, we met up with more of the group.
Beth had organized about 20 runners + friends, spouses, etc. We appropriately deemed ourselves the FOBs (friend of Beth's) since we were all from different places in her life. Since Beth is adamant about running with a "very cool" bandana at all times, Ken and his family had purchased, washed and brought along bandanas for us all. Most of the runners were signed up for the 10 miler (which really was a 12.5 miler) and a few for the 20 miler (which really is a 24-miler), but it turned out I was the only one planning on running the 50k... This fact played with my mind a little bit and I started to doubt that I could do the distance, especially in this rough terrain.

That night we headed off to town, picked up our race numbers, had some grub and went back to the hotel to get all settled and get some sleep.

The next morning, we were all up and ready to go. I filled my Nathan (water backpack) and stuffed it full of things to eat on the run and was good to go.
We had a lot of fun at the start line posing for pictures with the race map...

...and on the podium......all sporting the FOB bandanas.
(Can you find the cool, black and white camo bandanas on us all?)

At a route debriefing, we were informed that the run would have a variety of everything-- sand, rock, hills, canyons, slick rock, exposed area-- basically any and everything you could think of. And it did.

I really don't know what to write about the run. It was gorgeous and challenging. There was lots of uphill, downhill and everything in between.

So, here is how it started,us running through a nice, rocky canyon that was a mixture of up and down

(but mostly up).

Until we got to about mile 4.5,
where it was all up.

There were parts where you were literally rock climbing up, down and around boulders. Like this climb.

But it was always worth it at the top.

Here we are on the top of another cliff.

Here we are trying to get down from that cliff.

When they mentioned "exposed" area in the debriefing, I had no idea what to expect, but I quickly found out that meant running alongside the mountain, one misstep and you are falling off. They were probably referring to some times like this:

As you can see, the group took many pictures along the way (the majority of these pictures are not from me, but friends in the group-- thank you!).
Us about to run into (I think) Hunter Canyon

Us in (what I think is) Hunter Canyon.

And, here is where the group divides. Mile 10 aid station where the 10-milers turn off to run the last 2.5 miles of their run.

At this point, I was getting used to trail running and the rough terrain. I had formed some blisters on my feet and put some bandaids on them, but that didn't help much. In a way, I think it helped when I turned away from the group and continued on, as I could just focus on myself, but subconsciencely I think I was doubting my ability to do the distance over the rough terrain. Because of that, I continued running super slow even when I knew I could run faster. Somehow my feet weren't listening to my head and, at the time, I didn't really care. I was running through some GORGEOUS terrain that I wouldn't have been able to view in this fashion otherwise.

I continued and miles 11-14 were in a canyon which, although beautiful, I HATED. I was at a nutritional low point and needed some water, but only had a protein drink with me. On top of that, running side to side through the canyon was grating on my blisters.

The one good thing that did come out of that canyon was Andrea. I found her part way through and she gave me some water. As we exited the canyon, she caught up with me and we started running together.

We continued to mile 15 where we saw it. The mesa. 2 miles of climbing. Straight up. When we ended this climb, we would be on top of it. I had been warned about this and Andrea had known about it from last year. We walked the whole thing. We separated about halfway through, but I found Andrea later.

The views from the top were worth it.
And here is proof that I made it:
From there, it was a mixture of maneuvering over rock faces and running/walking, but mostly descending. I was at mile 17 and had 7 miles to go.

There were some crazy parts on this part of the journey as well. Like a little crevasse to squeeze through. (I barely fit, with the walls squeezing my backpack.)And other fun stuff. I think at this point, too, we were done with the picture taking. Time to just get home. And we did. One foot after another.

I don't know what to say at this point. I had set out to do the 50k, but it looked like I wouldn't make the time cutoff to continue past the 24 mile mark.

I came to Moab believing I could do the distance and the terrain and, somewhere along my journey, I doubted myself and my abilities. During the run, I felt like I could run faster, but for some reason, my body wasn't allowing it. It was very reminiscent of my first marathon experience. I was afraid I would run out of energy at the end of the race and not finish, so I compensated by running a much slower pace and finished with a 5:15. My second marathon, I went out confident I could do the distance, ran my regular pace and finished in a 4:10.

Andrea and I finished 2 minutes past the cutoff time for me to be able to continue to the next leg. I felt like I had another 7 miles in me, but in a way I was relieved and happy to finish when and where I did.

While I wasn't able to go on and complete the 50k, I did have a rocking time on some pretty gorgeous terrain. I got to see views I wouldn't have otherwise, learn a lot about the mental state of racing (not to mention nutrition), do a challenging trail run, meet some wicked-fun people, drink some "Polygamy Porter", and have an AWESOME time.


And just when I thought it couldn't get any crazier...

OK, maybe I knew that it is going to get crazier. A lot, lot crazier. But I guess I expected that "crazy" time to be more like next summer. When I am doing mad, long training hours in swimming, biking and running. Closer to the actual Ironman day.

But, no, the time is now.
Or, more appropriately, it is starting now. I am working on my mileage and doing lots of LSD (long, slow distance-- not the drug). When I posted "to 50k or not to 50k" on my Facebook page, I got the comment back "Why not, it is only another 8 miles or so".

And that is true. Logistically.

However, there is a distinct difference between a 26.2 mile "flat, fast and fun" marathon and a trail 50k. Especially out here where race directors intentionally look, plan and orchestrate the hardest courses possible, I swear.

If you think I am kidding, check out the course description (taken from the actual website):


No babies allowed. Most of our distance advertised are wrong. For instance our 10 miler turned out to be a 13 miler. Our 20 miler was really a 24 miler and our 50km was in reality a 56 km.

This is not a normal or standard 50km. The Ultimate Xc Moab Edition 50km is considered as one of the hardest 50km on the planet. Most of our participants will attest that this is as hard as a 50 miler.As a rule of Thumb, if you can run a 50km in 6 hours ;count to run this one in 9 hours. Yes 50% more time to complete the same distance. If this sound like a daunting task, this race is probably not for you.

So... it is a little daunting (ok, A LOT daunting).

Why? You may ask am I doing this:

- The experience, not the time. I don't expect to do this race in any record time. I will be happy to finish. (This will be the first event I will participate in where they actually check your vitals part the way through before they let you continue.)

- To challenge myself. I have never been one to take on a task that I am unsure of. I usually, if anything, over-train. With this event, I am taking some advice and guidance from my coach and friends and going for it! Doing something that I am unsure of and putting it out there.

- For the training. I am treating this event as a training run, not a race. The more events I can do where I am on my feet for numerous hours, the more prepared I will be come Ironman day.

- For the views. I have heard about the beautiful scenery. And while it is scary to think of all the elevation I will cover, I must remember for every cliff I run UP, there is a canyon to run DOWN.

So there you have it. My first 50k and not an easy one at all. November 14, 2010.

Two weeks from now, I hope to be posting that I have successfully finished and with pictures that I have taken myself (not 'borrowed' from the internet). With a real, live account of what it is actually like. Of the grueling details of the weird foods I will eat to keep me going and the wonderful accounts of the scenery around me.

If this is my last post, count on me still being lost in the desert...