Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Skyrace Bolivia 2014

Preamble

One of the great frustrations I've had about living here in Bolivia has been the lack of advanced notice one receives pertaining to races.  It's out there, but you have to know where to look, and Google isn't much help; it's best to know somebody who knows stuff.

Fortunately during the run up to the Superbowl a motivated chap from New Zealand got a group of expats together to watch a playoff game and I met another runner (who knows stuff) who pointed me in the direction of something called the Bolivia Adventure Series.  This past Sunday was the third race (of 5) in the series, the SkyRace.

As near as I can tell, this was the third running of this event, the first having gone off in 2012.  What makes the event unique is that it climbs up the World's Most Dangerous Road.

Photo taken from the window of the bus as we headed back to La Paz.
Now I should note that the moniker "Worlds Most Dangerous" seems rather hyperbolic.  It certainly wasn't dangerous for those of us who were traveling on 2 feet, and I'd be perfectly comfortable bombing down it on a fully suspended well maintained mountain bike, but you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming into a large bus or material transport vehicle...

Race Morning

My alarm went off promptly at 3:15 am.  A rather beastly time for an alarm, but given how I was waking every hour on the hour, not too bad.  I had a hotel room (very nice, which will get a follow up post) in La Paz about a mile away from where a bus would be waiting for us at 4 am to drive us the 3 hours to the race start.  The concierge was kind enough to be waiting for me and had already called me a cab when I came down the stairs at 3:45.  

Once on the bus, I got settled into a seat next to a French chef and owner (I think) of a restaurant in La Paz called Chez Moustache.  We talked a bit in Spanish at first, but switched to English when it became apparent I was still learning...How do you think you'll run, what do you do, etc., then quiet.  

To me it became apparent we were traveling through some rather dramatic country, but because it was so dark, I found it better just to close my eyes and meditate.  

The view from La Senda Verde's footbridge.
Eventually we arrived at La Senda Verde, which provided the race headquarters near the start.  I had to sign a liability release and pick up my race kit, then get changed and stash my clothes on the bus.  I also needed to eat something, as the 3 am wake up call does all kinds of weird stuff to my desire to consume solids, but eventually all ducks were aligned and we walked off to the start.

The long slog

Once at the start, many people were running around warming up.  I don't mean to be too critical, but I don't really get the point of warming up for a race that's going to last multiple hours.  I can understand a "system check", but to crack a sweat even before the race starts just seems silly to me.  Take the first half hour or 15 minutes of the race as your warm up and call it good.  
The race start - Herbalife is everywhere in Bolivia it seems...
Turn number 1.  Right out of the gate.
Something seemed to be up with the chip timing (as in: we were supposed to have it, but nope) of the race as we were delayed until the clock struck 8:45.  During this time I was able to talk to a couple of other racers including the guy that eventually finished 2nd overall...nice guy from Denmark, who lives in Santa Cruz.  Beat me by an hour and 45 minutes.  I expect that the race between him and the winner was solid too, as they were separated by less than 2 minutes at the finish.

At some point along the bus ride I had decided that I was going to shoot for a sub 4 hour time, even though I thought 5 more realistic because I've been fantastically inconsistent with my training this year.  Visits from the homeland, rain, and other things have conspired to keep me from developing any kind of routine with regard to my training.  Had I participated in this race last year, my goal time would have been closer to 3:15, but this year fun was the only objective.  And that was achieved.
Someone by the name of Patricio Crooker got this picture of me having a good time. Thanks for the hat mom.

Anyway, the "gun" went off at precisely 8:45 and I was quickly at the back of the pack, not wanting to go out too fast.  I was "running" consistent 11-12 minute miles and taking a gel every 25 minutes.  

The race was pretty well supported, with aid at 6km, 12km, and then every 3 km thereafter.  However these aid stations only provided water or Gatorade, no food.  I'm positive I picked up a bunch of places in the second half of the race because I was fueling and others were suffering severe bonk issues.  In future editions of this race, the organizers really should provide food.  It's a necessity for any race that can be reasonably expected to go over 1.5 hours.
Coming out of an aid station about 1/2 way into the race.
Death Road? This doesn't look so bad...
I kept up my early pace until about mile 9, with only a bit of hiking sprinkled in.  However, something switched at that point and I barely ran 1 more step after that .  Even so, I was hiking fast enough that I passed many people who were "running".  Around mile 12, my lack of fitness really started to show up and I started cramping, but I was able to manage it by taking an extra gel and fluid.  I could still hike quite quickly however and only got passed by 1 person (who I had been going back and forth with for several miles) in the last 5 miles.  Had I been able to stay with her, I would have caught up to my friend from the bus who finished just 3 minutes in front of me.
Race profile - relentless.
Near the finish, a few competitors who are just a bit too far away.
Coming into the finish.

After the race

The finish line was quite crowded.  Several mountain bike tour operators were staging for their adrenaline rush, and lots of racers were milling around.  I recovered my bag, and found some food (post race bar-b-que with beer was missing - presumably it went to some ultramarathon in the US).

I felt really quite good at the finish.  The surrounding vistas were quite spectacular:
I must get back to La Paz and explore the mountains.
I had several good chats with other competitors as we waited for the awards ceremony to play out.  One of the conversations resulted in my (immediately upon returning to my hotel room) signing up for a marathon in Uyuni in October.

After the awards, it was on to the buses and back to La Paz.  As I had suspected in the morning, the countryside was dramatic.  Quite possibly the most beautiful scenery I've ever driven through, but I've got to go for a run so I'll leave it there.

Thanks for reading,
J

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week in review. April 6-13.

Hmmm...Well it looks like this past week was even more ordinary than the last one I wrote about.

Last week I had 6 workouts planned for 7 hours and 15 minutes.  I completed 5 for just over 5 hours and missed my long run thanks to rain. Obviously, the weather contributed to the less than spectacular training numbers, but that's not much of an excuse.

I got an invite to go running with a friend here in Santa Cruz on Saturday, but when Saturday arrived so did a nasty mix of cool rain and drizzle.  It went on throughout the morning and into the afternoon and we decided that there would be better days (like maybe today) to get out and explore some trail and bagged the run.

Otherwise, all of my workouts were on the order of an hour, easy; with one really good stride session and a faster run on Sunday (weather aided/inspired).

To better describe the stride workout, I run for 20 seconds at about 400 meter race pace, then take 2 minutes of easy jogging to recover, and I repeat the cycle 8 times.  My goal during the 20 second work interval is to have at least 30 left foot strikes - and the goal of the weekly workouts is to turn me from a plodding runner to a prancing one (though it's hard to imagine a 6'1", 200lb Prancer).

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see if I start getting better turnover rates on my daily runs.  I do enjoy the interval sessions, they really help break up the monotony of KM 14, 7 mile loop.

That's about it, given the spectacular weather, I'm going to take today's unspecified "rest day" and get out for 90 minutes or so...

Thanks for reading.
j

Monday, April 7, 2014

An actual race calendar.

For the first time since moving to Bolivia, I have a calendar of races for which to train.  They're all in Bolivia, but just this morning I discovered the possibility of a 100K in Argentina.  That'd be a backup if the Ultra Trail Tiwanaku turns out to be a mixed Bike/Run event.

For now, I've had 2 very solid weeks of training, nothing terribly long or hard, but no missed workouts. Yesterday featured the Bella Vista road for an hour and fifteen minutes, and this past Friday I found myself way out...somewhere near the end of the road behind my house, somewhere I've never been before.
Cattle Ranch
Near the end of the road
The thing about Friday's run (and something which hasn't been a problem this summer because of the ridiculous rains) was the strength of the sun.  Holy cow did I get dehydrated.  I described it to Nataly's cousin:  pee the color of a rotten orange.

Anyway, my other runs were essentially nondescript: the usual roads, easy miles, one "stride" workout and 1 short run in Vibrams, in total seven hours and fifteen minutes of time dedicated to exercise last week after five very easy hours the week before.

On to the race calendar.  Last September I ran my first race in Bolivia, a 10k which I essentially did as a hard training run (I had all of 2 weeks notice, and really hadn't done any specific prep).  I did nab a PR, but the real benefit was meeting another expat runner who was connected to the race scene.  Via Facebook, she alerted me to a calendar of races in Santa Cruz for 2014.  All 10k or less, but at least it was something.

Then about 4 weeks ago, out leaked info in regard to an actual marathon in Santa Cruz.  Unfortunately, the race organizers decided to provide 2 weeks lead for competitors to get ready, and I didn't participate:  why run a road marathon, out of shape?  I could have finished, but... I gripped on the FB and one of my friends a couple of days later provided me with a link to the "Bolivia Adventure Series".
Oh Happy Day!  

A series of 5 races potentially concluding with an 80k Ultra outside of La Paz in November.  Since then I've been tweeking a training schedule and calendar and I've got it pretty dialed.

Here they are.  A, B, and C indicate whether I am using them as training races, or if there's any focus/special prep for the race.
  • Circuit of the Stations, 8k: C priority, will be using this as a LTHR test.  May 18.
  • Laguna Volcan 18k: C priority, part of the Bolivia Adventure Series.  June 8.
  • Sky Race 28k: C priority, part of the Bolivia Adventure Series.  This race climbs the "Bolivia Death Road".  August 10.
  • Ninos de la Calle 10k.  This is the race I PR'd in last year, and I'll come back to it this year, C-B priority.  If I'm feeling strong, I'll probably ease off the volume for the week and give it a good crack.  September 7.
  • Conociendo a la PACHA MAMA 100k:  This is where things get a bit fuzzy.  This race is the race in Argentina.  If I do this race, it's because the Ultra Trail Tiwanaku is a part bike/part run event and I couldn't convince the race organizers to let me run the whole thing solo.  It would be the end of my racing season. A priority (or not at all).  October 13.
  • Salar 42k.  Part of the Bolivia Adventure Series. B priority (or not at all) October 19.
  • Ultra Trail Tiwanaku 80k.  80 kilometers running around La Paz? Yes please.  November 23.  A priority.  
  • Cotoca 21k December, date unknown.  A or C priority depending on UTT.
There you have it.  I've got training weeks scheduled out to the end of November, the longest individual week will have me at eleven and a half hours.  That should equate to a distance somewhere in the neighborhood of 135 kilometers, which should get me to the finish line of the Pacha Mama.  Last year's winning time was 13 hours there, so it's not an easy race, but the field wasn't exactly from Boulder either.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and check back for weekly training updates as my season progresses (so cool to be able to say that)...
J

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Holy Crap! A Race (report in 3 parts)...Pt. 1: Discovery.

Wow, so it's been a long time since I put keyboard to screen in this manner, hopefully I'm not too rusty.

First, a bit of an apology for dropping off there.  A number of things happened that made writing more than a little difficult (and perhaps too personal) so I took a break.  I don't know how much or how consistently I'll post here in the future, but having just run in my first race since 2011, I figure I probably ought to put something down.

As anyone who's read more than one entry on this blog is likely aware I like to style myself an ultrarunner.  Of course, I've run all of 2 ultramarathons, so it's probably more appropriate to call me an aspiring ultrarunner.

This year I've been hoping I'd be able to get to Colorado this coming weekend to run in Ouray and follow that up with 50 miles in Steamboat next weekend.  I've logged miles directed at Running Rabbit Running in what I thought would be good for a finish time somewhat under the 10 hour mark.

As the race dates have gotten closer though, I've realized that the airfare wasn't going to materialize and I decided to pay attention to an injury (achilles tendon) that I'd been ignoring.  So on August 16, I took the first of 10 days off.

Around that same time I gripped about my achilles on Twitter.  @RunnerMatt (fast guy from Boulder), responded that he'd had great success treating his ailing achilles using a roller.  I gave that a google and found myself a bit confused as to why I'd never encountered the treatment in my previous searches for relief.

I went to the grocery store and bought a rolling pin and went to work on my calfs.

Let's just call them tight and leave it at that (ouch)...

After a week off which involved nightly rolling pin work, I felt good enough to try out a short run.  I made it all of 100 meters from my gate before stopping, turning around, walking home and going to work with the rolling pin.  That was Friday about 2 weeks ago.

The following Sunday, Deneb, Nataly and I were at the IC Norte (a grocery store with a little mall attached) for lunch and some supplies for the house.  Recently a New Balance store opened upstairs in the "mall". Now...I prefer Brooks shoes, but NB are a decent second place and I've written at length about the MT10 on this very blog.  Love that shoe.  Anyway, since they opened I've harassed the store owner to:

  1. Order shoes in size 13+, and
  2. Stock some of the Minimus line.
This time when we went in there, there was a table set up on the side:
Sign up for 5k & 10k race on Sunday, Sep. 1.  
The woman who was collecting the entry fees and registering participants was on lunch and I wasn't sure how my heel would feel so I didn't leave my name on the desk, but did say I'd be back later on in the week (pending a successful test of the achilles)...

Thanks for reading, up next: 1 week of specific training.
J

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Tale of Two Eights.

Saturday late we went to Cuevas.  Last week I was hoping for 60 and found myself on track, hitting the mile 42 point at the end of my second run Saturday.  All I needed was 18 more Sunday...

When I woke up, I found myself less than inspired to run.  I mustered a couple of times, but something (which I will relate soon) made me feel a bit weird about taking off for a three hour run in Cuevas.

Lunch rolled around and we all ate, and finally I told Nataly, "I'm going to feel bad whether I go for a run or I don't." To which she replied, "Go run."

Deneb was asleep, I had a bit more than an hour...

I went out 4 miles and back the same for 8.  I saw some folks on the road, 3 French guys who were walking to the "Bella Vista" and one of the dudes who helped harvest potatoes in Cuevas last December.  I spoke briefly with all of them, and informed the French guys that their "Bella Vista" was 5 kilometers out (it was actually more like 6, but...).  This was at 3 something in the afternoon and to get to the "Bella Vista" and back to the campground at Cuevas was 10+ miles.  They did have packs and presumably tents so the rain that came in force soon after I left them probably wasn't too big a deal.

Anyway.  I only had time for 6 miles on Sunday, but ran 8.  I ran them pretty hard, and have paid for it.  Brutal delayed onset muscle soreness took me out of action yesterday, which had me considering a second day off today.  Seems it was a good thing I didn't actually try for the 18 I'd planned.  Fortunately, as today wore on I felt more and more like going for a run even though I am still quite sore.

Deneb has started daycare.  His first day was yesterday.  Loved it.  Loved it again today.  He's not sure how to interact with the other kids, but just having them around, playing, seems to get him jazzed.  It's messed with his schedule.  He's been sleeping almost until 8:30 in the morning and now we're asking him to get up at 6:45.  It's a brutal transition for me.

Whatever, I prefer earlier wake ups...

So back to today's run.  It was weird.  Laps of the back yard.  Done them before, but today I kept feeling like I should just keep going.  Ended up running for an hour and 10 minutes, just over 8 miles by my GPS.

There's a neighbor kid.  If he sees me, he asks if he can come over.  It's gotten quite annoying.  Not quite Glenn Close, Michael Douglas annoying, but well downright annoying.

Today I realized I could use that to my advantage, and before I started my run I unlocked the gate, set out some stuff for playing in the sand  pit and then set out trotting in circles.

On my second lap, The Question Was Presented.  I said, "La Reja esta abierta."

A couple more laps and I opened the gate for Franco.  Who quickly went off to play with the dogs and Deneb.  What seemed like some kind of sad, "Where's my Dad?" constant prodding has evolved itself  an ideal situation.  My son is playing happily with an older friend, and I can keep an eye on them.  I look forward to having him over some more.  Maybe he'll run a few laps with me (he did today)...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where's Waldo?

At one point in time this blog was about me and my travels with Homey.  Much running to keep my rather rambunctious and (at times) quite destructive Golden Retriever too tired to do anything foolish.  Running with him was something of a stop and start affair until around mile 3 or so and then he'd settle into a rhythm and could go for hours.  

I have stopped running with him in Bolivia, in part because I don't trust the dog-life around here, and in part because he's starting to lose a gear.  He'll join me when I run laps of the back yard, but tags in and out almost like he and Ella are running a relay.  

Anyway, in my previous life, I worked in the Geology Department at the University of Colorado.  My task was to create a series of videos which showed the geologic history of the state. Occasionally, this allowed me to take off with my camera and collect “media” for incorporation into my work. One day, I took advantage of that opportunity to head out and drive around the Eastern Plains, visit Garden of the Gods, look at some exposures of quite old (for Colorado) sedimentary rocks on Hwy 24 West of Manitou Springs, and finally end up at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.  

An example of the videos I was working on is below.  I wrote, directed, animated (all but 2 scenes - the good stuff is Nataly's younger brother's work), provided many photographs and the voice talent, edited and uploaded this video.   One of the photographs I took on this day's drive ended up in this video - the photo labeled "near Manitou Springs, Colorado" which was, in actuality, the now infamous Waldo Canyon.
After the the Fossil Beds, I headed back toward CO Springs when...on the lefthand side...a trailhead whizzed by - Waldo Canyon Trailhead.  I still had a fair bit of time left in the day, and I was wearing my running shoes so, I found a turn around and made my way back to there.

As usual, Jackson was absolutely stoked at the prospect of getting out of the car.  Especially on twisty roads, he gets carsick.  Weird malady for a dog, but his previous owners warned us about it.  "He doesn't do well in cars," I believe was their exact phrase.  I assumed that the thrill of exploring a new area outweighed the pain of twisty roads.  

We'd already been out and about at Garden of the Gods and outside of Manitou, but this was too good to pass up.  We parked, I grabbed my little Nikon Coolpix, 40 oz. Clean Canteen and headed up the trail.  Jackson dressed as a dog, and me in jeans.  Whatever - one of the joys of running is just how little you need to be able to enjoy an outing such as this one.

The "Waldo Canyon Loop" was really a lariat in the neighborhood of 7 miles long.  It started with a decent singletrack climb over decomposed Pikes Peak Granite.  One of my favorite running formats and surfaces.  We stopped for many pictures and I didn't have my GPS, but I do remember turning left at the beginning of the Loop portion of the trail.  

I remember running through a very pleasant copse of Douglas Fir or Ponderosa Pine where the earth was recognizable dirt and the trail just begged one to open up the throttle and run.  

And I also remember the shock I felt when I ran past a signpost planted next to the rocks.  It turned out to be one of many, each with something else interesting about the geology in the canyon.  

One pointed out the Great Non-conformity.  The sign showed where sandstone rested on top of granite, and pointed out that the surface which separated the 2 rock types represented a gap in time of something like 500 million years.  Another identified the Peerless Dolomite.  I think I remember that one because the name of the formation is simply unmatched. There were others, but I don't remember them well...

At different junctures along the trail, Pikes Peak was visible to the South and Colorado Springs to the East.  A really cool area I hoped to visit again with my DSLR.

Unfortunately, my memories are fuzzy - Homey and I ran together here in late January, 2008 - and "Waldo Canyon" is now synonymous with the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. I expect that even though the rocks are now going to have even better exposure, it will be a rather inhospitable place for quite some time.  I wonder how long it will be before the organization that stewards the land back in there re-opens it.   

Thanks for reading, and give a nod to your local emergency services personnel, would love to see some of them around here...
J

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Game Planning

OK so the heavy stuff is out of the way.  On to why we're here (at least me and my 4 readers)...

Training for the Vermont 50!  Somehow that seems less cool than "Leadville 100" even when I make it big.

Anyway, The VT50 is packing almost 18000 feet of total elevation change  (down counts, really), but something about their elevation profile has me thinking: GPS track...
Source: http://www.vermont50.com/html/course.html   
I've been pretty much all over Vermont on my bicycle and have hiked many miles there too, so I simply don't believe some of the spikes.  That said, some of the steepest terrain I've hiked is in VT so, maybe?...

Whatever, the winning times are fast.  It looks like at least 7 times have folks gone under 7 hours in VT and the course record is just over 6 hours 15 minutes.  Goeff Roes record at Steamboat while he was "mediocre" is 7:11.  Not saying Steamboat is harder or anything, but it sure is higher...

I've got that to base my expectations on.  Lots of the route is on gravel roads, those won't be too bad, cars have to go up them, so they're probably runnable.  There're also aid stations every 5 miles or so.  I think I'll be able to significantly beat my Steamboat 50 time. I'm thinking 1, maybe 2 hours.  Absolutely going to give it a rip.

Of course, I'll have to see how the training goes, and how many miles I can log in Cuevas (probably perfect training ground for this race), but I'm glad to have something a bit more "bite sized" to chew on for the next 3 months.

Thanks for reading, and stay cool...
J
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