Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some People...

There are some people in your life that when they come into it, you realize you had been holding a special place in your heart for.

Your life feels more complete once you meet them.

You miss them when they are not there.

And no matter what, the thought of them can always make you smile.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Love Visitors

I love when people come to visit.

I enjoy making the trip to the airport (even though DIA is in BFE), especially when it means that I get to pick someone special up.

Saturday, it was Husband's cousin, Kristen. She just graduated from Colgate University and is getting ready to start a 6 week summer geology program that happens to begin in Denver. So it worked out perfectly for her to come visit us for a few days before setting off on her next adventure.

Kristen is like the little sister I never had. When we are together we laugh uncontrollably, talk nonstop and just have a great time. She is an amazing person, one of those people that you can't get enough of, she is funny and caring and really wants to experience all that life has to offer. We've talked about traveling and school and the future. She makes the most random comments sometimes, and she makes me laugh all the time. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and her scatterbrained moments are always amusing.

She makes me a better person.

She keeps me young.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I love my Bikes

This should say bikeS, plural. Last year when I let Husband talk me into getting 2new bikes (a handsome Gary Fisher 29er for him, and a beautiful Specialized Dolce road bike for me), my only stipulation was that we get rid of at least 2 of the bikes we had at home. So, with the help of good ol' Craigslist, we sold my old mountain bike and his old fixie. That took us down to a 4 bike family - a road bike and a mountain bike for each of us (I inherited his old mountain bike.)

Fast forward almost a year exactly, and I opened my big mouth and said I wanted a "junker" bike, one that I could take on the lightrail to and from work, I could ride downtown, and one that I could lock up somewhere and not be completely heartbroken (and broke!) if it was stolen.

Once again, trusty ol' Craigslist came through for us and on Sunday morning we responded to an ad for a "Single Speed Convert - $50". The size was perfect for me, and the price was right, so we went to check it out. Just so happened that the guy actually had two bikes, one just a larger version of the other...the perfect size for husband.

After taking a ride around the block, the very nice older gentleman selling the bikes said, "I'll tell you what, if you want them both, you can have them both for $50."


After chatting some more with the seller and exchanging $$ we loaded the bikes onto the yak rack and set off on our way. As we were driving away Husband said, "We are a six bike family again."

What the...?!?


Oh well, I love my bikes, all of them. The two in the workout room, the two in the basement, and the two new (to us) bikes that are currently leaning against the wall between the living room and the dining room. I mean, isn't that where you keep your bikeS?

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Race - I Did It!

Despite all of the nerves and anxiety of last week, I managed to get my stuff in order on Friday night, have a delicious dinner and head to bed by 8:30. I know that is crazy early, but so is 4:30 in the morning when my alarm was set to go off.

I rested in bed before dozing off watching mindless tv and trying not to think about the race.

In spite of the party our new neighbors had that night, I managed to get a good night sleep (poor husband was not so lucky, but good for him, he wasn't racing on Saturday.)

At 4:30am when my alarm went off, I hit snooze, thought briefly about the race and dozed again. 9 minutes later, the alarm chimed a second time and I shut it off, stretched my arms and legs big, and decided to get up.

On Friday, I made sure that I had gotten everything together so that I would not feel rushed or forget something on race morning. After brushing my hair and teeth and getting dressed in layers, I woke husband up and headed downstairs for breakfast. 10 minutes later we were heading out the door just as the sky was changing from the dark of night and the sun was getting ready to peek over the horizon. I love the color of the sky at that time.

We drove to the park and I waited for the nerves to kick in, but they never really did. I was pumped, I was excited, I was ready.

Husband stayed at the jeep to finish a couple of last minute tuning things on my bike while I headed to the check-in tent. I was handed a packet with three copies of my race number (1 for me, 1 for my bike, and 1 for my helmet.) A second person handed me a Vitamin Water backpack full of sponsor information, treats, coupons and my race shirt. Then I ventured into the intimidating lair that would be the transition area.

I felt like I was in over my head, but I just pretended like I knew what I was doing and walked to the front of the transition area where all of the Elite/Pro and veteran racers were setting up. I had read about this part of the race a lot online, so I looked around and found a spot that I thought would work best for me and was easy to find and I began to lay out my things. I had a bright towel so I could recognize my spot when I came through the transition area both times during the race. I layed out my bike shoes and my bike helmet with the strap undone, ready to throw on my head. I opened my clif shots and had them ready for a quick slam. Husband brought my bike to me and I set it in the stand. Determined not to look like a first timer that couldn't find their bike, I walked the transition area twice: the way I would come in from the first run, and the way I would come back with my bike. I counted the racks to my bike from the entrance and from the water cooler in the middle of transition area. I knew where I was going.

After a quick pre-race talk, the organizers kicked everyone out of the transition area to begin staging the start. There were 7 waves of starts based on division and length of the race. There was a short course and long course (I did the short course) and age divisions. I was in Wave E, so there were a lot of people starting before me, and 70 women starting in my wave. My goal was to stay ahead of as many of the other women as I could.

When it was my wave's turn to line up, I found myself in the middle of the pack. Originally, it was my goal to finish in the top 1/2, but as my training progressed, I knew that I would be more successful than that, so I moved closer to the front. 1/3 of the way, still too far. Not wanting to have to fight through a crowd on the opening run, I made my way closer and finally landed in the second row behind the starting line. 10 seconds...5...4...3...2...GO!

With only a handful of people infront of me at the start, I made sure no one from behind came up. As we made the first turn, there were 6 people in front of me. (Husband told me later that by the first 1/4 mile, there was a gap between the front group and the rest of the pack.) Immediately I thought, "7th place is great, if I can just keep close to the other 6 maybe I can pass a couple of them on the bike." Then one started to slow and I passed her, then another, then another. I was in 4th place and felt good. Right on the heels of 2nd and 3rd place, we all ran into the first transition together. They were at the back of the area, while I had strategically placed my bike up front knowing it would be easier to run through the transition area in my running shoes than it would be in my bike shoes toating my bike (no riding in the transition areas).

I shot 1/2 my chocolate Clif shot and took a swig of water, changed my running shoes into my bike shoes, threw my helmet on, and just as I was grabbing my bike I saw the 2nd place girl heading out. I wanted to catch her. Crossing the bike mounting area I jumped onto my bike, and started rolling, I was out of breath, I was shaking, I was FULL of adreneline. She started pulling away from me, and I tried to gain my composure and catch her. On the first climb, I succeeded, and was trying to make ground on her for the rest of the race. After the first climb, racers are treated to a fast, 3/4 mile descent which always makes my eyes water. I flew down it and regained my control steadying my breath. I looked forward for new carrots. The ride is a roughly 10-mile out and back loop, at the turn around I was close to a guy and was determined to catch him. A couple of minutes later, unable to close the gap, I put my chin to the bars, rolled forward on my seat, and dug in, passing two guys in one move. Smiling to myself, I kept pushing on.

3/4 of the way through the bike is a double steep hill, racers would hit one longer, not as steep section before turning at the top for a brief 20 foot rest before a super steep shorter hill. (I found during my training that thinking of it as 2 hills instead of one long one, actually made it seem a little easier.) It was hard, and although I passed someone, it still felt painfully slow.

Again, the course was nice treating racers to a flat stretch at the top of the hard climb before a long, fast downhill. I caught my breath and took a few swigs of water on the flat section, and then went into the drops and spun my legs hard as I cruised down the long descent. So fast actually that because of another racer's near crash at the bottom, husband didn't even see me coming until I sped by him. "Hi baby," I told him.

Only one more uphill, a turnaround, and a return to the transition area left on the bike, I passed a couple more people and flew into the turnaround. Shortly after, I saw the next girl heading towards the turnaround. Again, I dropped into the drops and pushed hard. She had beat me (barely) on the first run, and I knew that I would be hurting for the second, so I needed as much time between us as I could get.

I spun my legs out as I raced to the transition area and jumped off my bike. Again glad to be at the front of the TA, I put my bike back in the stand, stripped my helmet and bike shoes and put my running shoes back on. As I grabbed my 1/2 finished Clif shot from earlier, I saw the next girl come into transition. I needed to move. With a mouth full of chocolate goo, I started running.

Out of the back of the transition area and onto the paved path, my legs felt like they were the size of an elephants legs and were anchored to the ground. Just keep moving.

Husband was ahead on the path cheering me on, and for a minute I forgot about the pain. But just for a minute.

I caught a guy on the road and told him, "Good job." A minute later, another guy passed me and told me the same thing. Turns out he was the leader of the men's long course. They had started 20 minutes before me, but had done twice as much distance as I, these guys were quick! I only saw him for a second before he disappeared in the distance. I pressed on knowing that the next girl could catch me. I told myself that if she did, I would need to be able to keep her close, but in reality, I just didn't want her to catch me at all.

At about mile 1.5 into the 2nd run, there is a switchback and as the path turns, it climbs steep hill. As I was climbing I had full view of the path behind me and I saw her. Damnit...she was getting closer. Just keep moving.

I passed a few more guys, told them "good job" and encouraged them that we were almost done. At the mile 2 sign, I had to pee. 1.1 miles to go, this would either make me faster or make a mess.

A couple more climbs, around the parking lot and downhill to the finish, I knew the course and I was ready to be done. I didn't know how much longer I could hold her off. When I popped out of the trail to cross the road I was suprised by the volunteer telling me to take and unexpected turn. In an effort to add distance to get the full 5k in, the organizers made us run to the end of the road, turn around, and come back to the trail that crossed the road. On the way back from the sudden detour, I saw her. If she had a big kick left in her, she could catch me. I took a deep breath and ran.

Finishing the path, I raced around the parking lot and was grateful to make the run onto the downhill to the finish. I pushed and didn't look back for fear that she would be right behind me. I heard my name as I crossed the finish line and I felt like collapsing. A volunteer handed me a water bottle while another took off my timing chip anklet. I saw husband and he asked me what I needed. I told him that I needed to pee.

It was over. After all of the training, all of the anxiety, all of the time, it was over, and I had done it. A short while later, the organizers started posting the results on a board outside of the transition area.

We searched for my name and didn't have to look far down the list. I was the sixth name on the sheet, having beat the times of all by 4 guys and 1 girl. I beat the third place girl by over a minute, but I felt her chasing me the whole time.

I did it!

As my training progressed my goals had changed. Leading up to the race my final goals were:

1:10:00 total race time
9:30 first run
32:00 bike
<24:00 second run
and I thought it was a stretch goal but I wanted to be in the top 10 women.

Actual results:
1 hour 7 minute 1 second total race time
8:13 first run
31:58 bike
24:46 second run (This was due to the added detour on the second run)
6th place overall
2nd place woman
1st place age division

Friday, May 6, 2011


So tomorrow is my first race and I definitely feel like I am cracking under the pressure. Husband keeps reminding me that I am the only one putting pressure on myself, but I feel like I have put all of my hard work out there for everyone to see, so now everyone is expecting to see big results. I just hope I can do it.

Sometimes when I think about the race I am totally fine. Other times I feel like I am going to yarf on my shoes.

I am just going to go out there, give it my all, and do the best that I possibly can.

9 1/2 minute first leg
32 minute second leg
<24 minute third leg

I can do this, I can do this, I am not a lu-lu-natic.

Monday, May 2, 2011

AZTR - A View From Home

At the end of March when Erick was laid off from his job, a lot of questions hung in the air. Naturally, one of the big ones was what to do next. We sat down and had that necessary husband/wife discussion, "What do you want to do? What will make you happy?” and ending with me telling him 'I think you should take some time off to really figure out what you really want'.

A couple of days later he mentioned that Jill, his 24-hour racing partner asked him again about riding a 300-mile Arizona Trail Race with her citing that since he no longer had a job, now he didn't have any excuses either. I agreed with Jill. Even though he hadn't been preparing for this race, I know a long ultra-endurance race like this was something he had always wanted to do and it was the type of race that really suited him, so I told him he should go. A little befuddled at my encouragement of a trip given the unemployment status, he now had a decision to make. To race or not to race. He had reasons and support to go and the only thing stopping him was himself.

He agreed to do the race and over the next 2 1/2 weeks (in true Erick fashion) he poured over the past race reports, studied the course, bought the necessary supplies, loaded and reloaded his bike. Thought it was too heavy and eliminated weight again. Daily he questioned his sanity for committing to such an event, daily I reassured him that he could do it.

The prep consumed our discussions and haunted his dreams. I didn't stress about which tires to ride, how many tubes to carry, or the weight of a bike - That was his job. I thought about his safety, the mean Arizona cactus, the toll 300 miles can take on his body and I thought about missing my husband. I unequivocally knew he could do this, I just questioned whether his equipment would put up as strong of a fight.

Finally the time came for him to head to Arizona. Jill & her brother came to pick him up to head to the airport. With hugs and kisses and the promise to watch and be available if they needed anything, they were off. They were riding a high as they left Denver. I sat down on the couch with a glass of wine and truly contemplated what was about to occur.

Glad they had gone down a day and a half early to get final prep done and not have to rush to the starting line early Friday morning, life in Denver went on as usual. I sent out messages to our family and friends giving the link to the leader map for race tracking. I enjoyed the emails back from across the county and around the world offering support and cheers for his journey.

Friday morning chatting with a friend on facebook he asked me, "Why haven't they started yet?!?" I reminded him that it wasn't 9 in Arizona yet and I felt reassured knowing that I wasn't the only one with the tracking page loaded in a new tab hitting refresh every 5 minutes to see if the dots had started moving yet.

Now I've been around enough adventure races and watched enough other bike races to know that the waiting and watching for your people to check in can be unbearable, so I scheduled some distractions for the weekend starting with 2 of my best friends coming over on Friday night for dinner and drinks.

On my way home from work I got the first call from Erick. Seven hours into the race he was in Patagonia and did not sound good. The heat (which his body has never responded well to) was kicking his ass. We had checked weather reports and knew it was going to be hot, but we didn't think about how his body would react. I knew though that he would fight through it and that if he could figure out how to keep moving, even slowly during the heat, he could make up time by speeding through the cooler temperatures of the nights.

He loves to ride at night saying that everything else disappears and it allows you to just concentrate on the next 5 feet. Feeling his spirits lift a little during our call we said goodbye and I didn't expect to hear from him until the next day. I was shocked and concerned when my phone rang an hour and a half later and it was Erick. He was in Sonoita and having major cramping in his legs. This had never happened before. He wanted to know natural remedies so I jumped online and googled. He needed potassium: bananas, tuna. He needed liquids and water filled fruits. He took the advice and didn't have cramping issues for the rest of the ride. I think the brutal Arizona heat had just drained him, literally, of the nutrients he needed.

Unable to sleep knowing he was still riding, I made cupcakes and frosting from scratch at 1:30 in the morning. I didn't go to sleep until I saw his pin stop for the night. For the next several nights our dog enjoyed being able to sleep in our bed to keep me company. Also in arms reach were my cell phone and laptop. On more than one occasion I woke up in the middle of the night, booted the computer and checked everyone’s locations before falling back to sleep.

I seeded and composted the yard, caught up on DVR’d shows, worked out, baked, visited with friends...I did everything I could to keep busy to help make the time pass without focusing solely on the race. To this end, technology can be both a blessing and a curse. Knowing that he could call me or send me a SPOT message if he had a problem is truly a comforting feeling. But staring at a computer screen waiting for a blue dot update can be nervewracking.

Positive thoughts came flooding in across emails and social media. High school friends and college friends, people we’ve just met and people who we’ve known our whole lives, people near and people on the other side of the world sent well wishes and cheered him on. Every brief time I spoke with him, I shared their messages. He would tell me later that it was all of the encouragement that kept him going mile after mile.

Monday morning while in the shower, my phone rang. I stuck my head out of the shower, dried off my ear, and said hello. The voice on the other end was not as chipper as I had hoped. He was 200 miles into the race and had just spent over an hour on the side of the trail dealing with tire issues. There were no more towns, no promise of cell coverage, and no tubes left after this last one. He was pissed, but he was going to press on and hope the last tube could get him to the finish. Unsure if he would have much cell coverage, he told me that if I got a SPOT message from him, that he would continue forward to the next road and wait for a ride. My heart sank. He couldn’t be done, he was SO close (figuratively speaking of course).

All day long I hoped that my phone would not ring. I sent out all of the positive energy I could muster, and just kept telling myself, “He can do this, he WILL finish.” I tried to keep myself busy and not stare at the race tracker, but it was hard. He could do this...he could finish...

At 4 that afternoon with less than 50 miles to go I got a call from a friend who, like me, was following the race on the computer. When he asked, “Why is Erick so far off course?” my heart dropped into my stomach. I refreshed my screen and saw that he was indeed quite a ways off course and headed directly for a road. NO! I quickly hung up with my friend and called Jill, who was going to be picking Erick up at the finish. She was just as worried as I was and reassured me that she would get to him as quickly as she could knowing that he would have to be walking his bike for him not to be pushing forward anymore. A minute after hanging up, Jill called back and said, “He’s back on course!” What...a...relief. On the online discussion thread related to the race, someone posted, “Looks like Erick Lord is off route getting water at one of the waypoint marked locations.” I felt silly.

Before Erick left, he mentioned that he was a little jealous that we would all get to sit at home and watch the race playout, but I reminded him, “You are the race, you get to live it.” It’s funny to look back and see how different our experiences were. That blip off the trail was a planned stop for him, and it had me ready to call out the search parties!

I finally heard from him around 9pm Monday night. He was in much better spirits, and he was tired. He said he would go a little farther that night then sleep for a couple of hours before making the final push to the finish line. I talked to his mother that night and she assured me that she had been watching the whole race unfold. I felt good when I went to bed that night (dog, laptop and cell phone close at hand) and woke up around 4 am. I checked the website, he was moving. I woke up again around 5:30, he was moving. 6:30, moving.

Something I forgot to mention previously was the attrition rate of this years race. By Saturday night, 36 hours into the race, half of the racers had dropped out, by Sunday night it was more including Jill, Erick’s 24-hour racing partner and the reason for him making the trip down to begin with. One by one, I watched their names be crossed off the race tracking website, their blue dots disappearing. Two racers finished on Monday. Come Tuesday morning, only 2 dots were left on the screen.

Several times on the discussion thread about the race, people mentioned that the last 10 miles were frustratingly slow miles and that was the case for those of us watching at home too. Immediately Tuesday morning when I got to work, I opened the race tracking website. In a new tab, I logged into Facebook, and was immediately greeted by notifications cheering Erick on, and chats from family & friends. Slowly the dot moved across the screen, slowly the minutes ticked by. I tried to do work, but just couldn’t focus, so I stared at the screen. A.l.m.o.s.t. t.h.e.r.e...

Finally, at 8:52 am Tuesday morning, I got a text from Jill at the finish line. After 3 days, 23 hours and 52 minutes, he was done, he made it, 300 miles in the mean, unforgiving Arizona desert. I couldn’t wait to hear from him, to congratulate him, I couldn’t wait to see him and hug him. The knot in my stomach began to unravel, my heartrate returned to normal, and my tense shoulders relaxed. 20 minutes later, I got the call. “I’m done, I finished.” I said, “Yes you did finish, and you finished in 3rd place!”

At first I think the words just confused him, because he started asking about some of the other riders, “Matt?”


“Brad M?”



“Behind you, he’s been chasing you all morning.”

Then I swear, I could hear the smile creep across his face.

10 hours later, I was at the airport waiting for Erick and Jill to arrive. They both got off their planes tanned, scratched, and bruised, but with unremovable grins.

A race like this can teach you a lot of things, whether you are actually participating or just watching from home. It teaches you about the inner strength of people, the support you have that you may not always realize is there. I know Erick fought his own demons (and the Arizona cacti) while racing. I missed him, but I am so proud that he went, that he tried it and that through it all, he pushed through and finished. I am married to an amazing man.