Welcome to The Blue Bandana. I’m Judi, and I am here to tell stories of adventures. Life is a grand journey full of excitement and I want to explore it all. It happens fast and I often forget so much because it goes so quickly and I move on to the next thing before I get a chance to write it all down. So join me as I travel, cook, eat, design, run, cycle, push myself to the limit. I am interested in SO MANY things, and I will explore those here also – everything from poetry, wisdom, love, and beauty in all its forms. Hop on board!
The Kokopelli Trail. 148 miles. In the desert. in June.
A HUGE challenge for noob (that would be me) and veteran alike. The oppressive heat and relentless wind indeed proved formidable opponents from beginning to blistering, blustering end.
I had started off the night before at the pre-race meeting a bit intimidated because I had never done anything like this before, and there were all these people who had done this one and many others, and looked like they lived in the mountains and just ran up them all day long. And then there was me, who basically can run for about 1.5 to 2 hours before my back started seizing up and I have to walk/stretch/run the rest of the way.
We start at 1:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon with temperatures already in the 100’s. The rolling hills commence and quickly turn into technical steep ascents punctuated by steep technical descents. Lots of climbing over rocky terrain, drop-offs, and hot. Lots of HOT. Everywhere you turn. Grab some shade if you can, if you will, but rest assured that it will only be a brief respite from the unrelenting heat. So anyway, the climbing started, and did not stop. But my lungs did, protesting to the point where they would not expand, then my heart chimed in with erratically supercharged beating. I had to stop to catch my breath. A LOT. It slowed me (us) down to finish just before cutoff.
At the finish, my back was hurting quite a bit (no surprise there) and I was just glad to be not moving anymore. One racer, obviously younger, pain free and having finished in the top 3, looks around and the detritus of human life sprawled around the campsite, and exclaims “it sure is quiet!” Yes, I sneered back, I am just trying to breathe, leave me alone as I contemplate how I am going to move my legs to get to my tent without crawling and completely embarrassing myself. On the inside. I was too discouraged to actually form coherent words so I said nothing.
I had a few moments (read ALL DAY LONG) where I had to ask myself “what on earth have I gotten myself into?” I had started this ‘race’ and I use that term very loosely as it applies to me, wanting simply to finish; I just wanted to finish.
I will not continue with a breakdown of the actual race and how I did, except to say that I did not, and that every day it was more of the same, heat, wind, and by day 4 the sand.
Against the natural backdrop of endless sky, sandstone spires, the Milky Way and prehistoric canyon, amidst heat, wind and dehydration, we ran, walked, climbed and rode our way along the Kokopelli Trail. There are lessons to be learned out there. Many will speak of pushing yourself….asking your body to do more than you ever thought it could… knowing that whatever your perceived limits are, they can always be stretched, and knowing you can do anything, because you’ve done ‘this.’
What I learned, however, on the trail … not so esoteric:
People tell LIES … okay, maybe not MEANT to be LIES, but when you are gazing longingly ahead searching for a yellow flag or other sign that the end is near, and the person next to you says “just over this hill,”…. sounds like a lie to me. When the race director says ‘just a half mile to a mile until the next water drop’…. then you see it 2 hours later, LIE. See the camp? Just ahead…. around the corner, or just a few more miles… all LIES. The concept of distance is a subjective, and it is foolish to listen to those voices who, while thinking they are being encouraging, are really just lying. BEST STRATEGY – you are going to out there a long time, so bring lots of good music and podcasts to drown out the lying.
TIME is subjective … there’s what time it says on everyone’s watch, then there’s what I call “RATS time.” Which translates to a half an hour to 2 hours later, depending. On what, I couldn’t say, but I’m sure it’s a very good explanation…. whatever. Or “it should take us only another hour to get to the next aid station” and 4 hours later there you are. Sounds like another lie to me. Except for the fact that it’s my fault because I’m a slowpoke. But if everyone else can lie, I can blame random stuff on them. Just sayin.’ BEST STRATEGY – you are going to be out there a long time; be realistic about your pace. I am not a math person, so it might help to have one of those along who can help you figure out that part of it. On the 40 mile day the last person came in at 8:00 p.m. She was out there 12:30 hrs. That’s a LONG TIME. Just get used to the idea.
HEAT… and what it does to you, and how you cope with it.
It’s all part of the mental game you have to be prepared to deal with. You are going to be very hot for a very long time. Starting off at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. does not really help all that much out there in the desert. It gets hot quick and only gets hotter as the sun rises. On Tuesday, the 40 mile day, my thermometer read 104 degrees at 10:00 a.m.
BEST STRATEGY – you are going to be hot for a long time; just get used to being hot. Drink a LOT. At every aid station take your shirt off, soak it in water then put it back on. The cool refreshingness will not last long but will serve to reset your body temperature. Also, carry extra water bottles to drink and to sprinkle on yourself. You will not regret it.
BEING PREPARED means not only being physically able to complete the course, but also mentally and psychologically going into the race knowing what lies ahead and having a plan to cope with it. There will always be the unknown, unplanned for hardships that pop up, and enduring those well comes with practice and experience.
When Day 6 was over I told myself never again, but by the next day I was already planning my strategy for next time. So here it is:
LOTS of time on the Stair Master and on the treadmill with 15% incline. And by lots of time, I mean at least and hour every day. As RD Gemini Reid would say, it’s a ‘net uphill.’
Strength training. I feel that if my legs had been stronger then the uphills would have gone better.
Time on the feet just walking, preferably into the night. The prospect of finishing the expedition stage (52 miles) would have seemed more realistic and I would have been more mentally prepared for what that was going to feel like.
Transition to a plant-based diet. More on this later, but basically it is the best diet you can adopt, and I believe it will help to alleviate my back issues. We’ll see.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK::
Michael looked cool sporting his ‘Orange Crush,’ ‘Animal,’ ‘Super Genius,’ and ‘Fanta Grape’ shirts (although he did get a little ribbing from Leslie who said he looked like he was going to cut the grass).
I love being a lawyer, I really do… really. But on days lik e today when I am just brain-tired and have a mountain of work to do, some of which will actually make me money, what am I doing?! E
verything else but – obsessing on my favorite blog – www.joythebaker.com (check it out, people!) updating my training log, and thinking of what a lovely weekend ahead with my amazing, hot, fantastic boyfriend. Is that TMI for you? I make no apologies, just deal with it, (especially the jealous tri-list weenies)(that means YOU, Kurt!)
Anyway, the other thing I am doing (right now, actually) is a race report for my first half ironman distance tri – ACT – Atlantic Coast Triathlon.
We had reserved a room at a hotel about 100 yards from the start and transition area, a move that proved highly advantageous for a number of reasons:
#1 proximity to transition and start;
#2 proximity to the little swimmer’s room;
#3 the ability to set up our transition area then head back to the room to rest, get warm, and put on wetsuits, and rest some more before getting to the beach. It looks like proximity rules…
The weather was good – not to hot, not too cold (for me); and while the waves were not nonexistent, neither were they so intimidating as to make me dread the plunge. So, as it turns out, getting out past the breakers – not too bad; the actual swimming part, not so bad; navigating and trying not to get lost out there in the water – gotta work on that (after one ocean swim Michael said I looked like Billy from the Family Circus making his way home after getting off of the school bus); going from swimming to standing up and getting out of the water – much room for improvement there also. As I’m running toward the transition area, I hear my name, and who is behind me? Michael! Finishing just behind me…. . I was so glad to see him … So we ran to T1 together, and stopped to get our picture taken by the race photographer. Time? 38:17 T1 time – 3:24… yeah, I know! Don’t remind me!
HHHMMMM…. My transition times, I know, could use some serious trimming. I think the hardest part, and one thing I hadn’t really practiced, anticipated, or trained for was the getting OFF of the wetsuit. Well, yep, there I was, sitting on the ground, straining to get that dang thing off of my ankle. It was as if my ankle had swollen to epic proportions, and was hanging on to that thing for dear life! Finally I wrench it from my straining foot and head to the port-a-let, then onto my bike.
All I will say about the bike is that I felt good the whole time and averaged around 19… AND I must have snot-rocketed my body weight in fluid during the first half.
Time – 2:58:05 let’s not talk about the transition time.
good thing you can’t see the rockets
On to the run – hot and long, but fun all the same. Those Boy Scouts were so cute… handing out gels and drinks so diligently….. and SO PREPARED!! Amazing. Michael said he was going to come back and meet me to run the last few miles together, so I was looking for him and find him… at the start of the last mile or so sitting down at an aid station eating pizza and chatting it up with the volunteers. Apparently they thought he had given up and was just waiting for his hardcore girlfriend. A fact supported by the request for pizza. So he runs in with me, but goes steps aside as I am about to run across the finish line. Then I hear the announcer guy say my name over the loudspeaker, and “with her boyfriend Michael waiting to give her a big kiss.” And he did….. Now THAT’S the way to end a race! Time – 2:20:46 and thankfully…no transition. Halleluiah and amen.
And after all was said, done, swum, biked, and run, I had an amazing time and look forward to a few more, and longer, races in 2011. Final time – 6:05:05