Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recap: Women's Trail Running Clinic

Well, a few weeks ago I got a email from (the site where I register for the majority of my races) and it was an announcement for an all women's trail running clinic up in Red River, NM at The Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area there. Since I had been thinking about signing up for a trail half marathon (which was really stupid now that I've done this clinic) and I have a quite substantial amount of fear/reservation about doing trail runs I decided that I'd check on attending. I wrote to Ellen, the coordinator for the clinic, and warned her that I was slow, had ankle and hip issues and a fear of trails and she told me that not to worry the class was for all levels and speed. So once that was cleared up I went ahead and checked with my local running friend, Teresa, to see if she might be interested in joining. After a week or so she decided that she was going to go and so we got registered and worked on logistics.

Day Before the Trail Clinic
Last Friday finally arrived and it was time to head out to Red River. Now, I'd never been up there and I didn't do any research other than finding a place to stay. It is about a 5 hour drive from home and the drive is pretty boring until you get up to the mountains. I'd say an hour or so out of town I started coughing for no reason, like I had something in my throat...this is something that would hang out for the whole weekend. It was just a cough...I didn't feel ill or anything so I think it had something to do with the altitude. When we arrived in town and got settled, we walked up and down the main road and stopped at some of the gift shops, candy shops and knick knack shops before hitting up Texas Red's Steakhouse for a bison rib eye. Now, if you really know me you know that I usually take pics of my food especially if I'm traveling but I'm not sure why I didn't this time around. The bison  rib eye was good, but too lean for my taste. At least now I can say that I've tried it, but I'll stick with beef rib eye thank-you-very-much. After dinner we headed back towards the hotel stopping at several other shops on the way. Teresa found a map that showed the elevation in town to be 8,672 feet. I thought that was great because I wasn't feeling tired or anything so I was taking it as a good sign for my Madison Half Marathon in July where the race starts at 9,200 feet elevation. About the only thing, aside from the cough, that I could attribute to the elevation at this point was my skin becoming very dry and itchy. We got back to the hotel and turned in for the night to rest up before the big day on Saturday.

Trail Clinic - Day 1
I ended up waking up at 3:22am on Saturday. Not a happy camper especially since I couldn't fall back asleep and my phone signal was sporadic. We headed out to a light breakfast (just some donuts and coffee/hot chocolate) at T Buck's Hole Thing since we knew there would be some breakfast at the class. Then we headed down to the town grocery store so that I could get some lotion because my skin was just itching terribly. While I was picking up my items, Teresa met Laurie who was going to be our primary instructor for the class. Laurie looks like she has zero body fat and has so much energy it's crazy! Here's a little bit of her bio:
"Laurie Lambert has been a lifelong runner and racer. She's an avid trail runner and cherishes long mountain runs with her favorite four-legged running partner. Laurie has raced road and trail extensively all over the U.S. and the world in 10K's, half-marathons, and marathons and is a three-time member of the U.S. National Snowshoe Team."
Since we had a little time before the class started, Laurie said that there had been big horn sheep near where we were going to go check out a mining area. So we decided to search for some big horn to take pictures of as well. After we got the last of our stuff ready for the class, we packed up and headed west to go check out the mine and look for those sheep. As luck would have it...there were no sheep to be found! The closest we got were a few rocks we thought may be sheep. So, with our photo hunting mission failed we headed back to town and checked out the car show before over to the ski area for the clinic.

My favorite car at the car show...lover the pearl paint job!
This would've been the hub's favorite car...he drools over '69 Camaros!
The night before we had wondered how many of us there would be attending the class but when we met Laurie she told us about 8 total. Not bad...not so many that you get lost in the crowd and not so few that it feels like a private class. As everyone started arriving we found out that we had ladies from Denver, Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Taos and ourselves. Most had done some kind of trail running in the past and only myself, Teresa and Stephanie (from Denver) were the trail newbies. We hung out in the shop at base camp for a while eating some more breakfast before heading outside to talk about some more technical aspects. The class wasn't structured and we could discuss whatever came to mind but some of the things that came up were gear (specifically hydration), downhill running, how trails were marked and most to pee without being noticed if there was nothing to hide behind!

Pre-run discussion & introductions

I want to say that around 10:30 we packed up and started onto the trail. It was then that I found out that we were already up above 9,300 feet in elevation in base camp and would be heading up to over 10,000 feet if you did the full 10K course. I had thought that the 10K would be fine, but we didn't get much more than a quarter mile up the trail before I was huffing and puffing and trying to catch my breath. Somewhere around 3/4 of a mile my head started head ache...just pounding to my pulse (which was pretty stupid MotoACTV failed to charge overnight for some reason). All I could feel in my head was: boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom...Between that and my breathing, which in turn made my chest feel like it was going to explode I changed my goal from the 10K to hopefully the 5K. Much thanks to Ellen who hung with me and got me down to the base camp...she told me in our initial email that she was slow...she didn't know the meaning of slow until she met me!! lol! Anyway, as I slowed down and headed back down the mountain things seemed to start settling down but I began second guessing my choice to participate in the Madison Marathon in July in Montana because that race would be starting at about 9,200 feet and going up to nearly 9,700 feet in elevation. The rest of the day was spent having lunch (salads from Trader Joe's), and a yoga class by one of the other coaches, Kimberley. Here's a little of her bio:
"Kimberly Ritterhouse is an avid fitness and nutrition enthusiast. After being diagnosed with a gluten allergy Kimberly had to rethink fueling and adjust to new ways to conquer "bonking" on long hikes and runs. She has a passion for teaching and sharing her joy in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains. Kimberly has a level 3 Yoga-Fit certification and has run several half-marathons and the San Diego Marathon. She has also been a two time snowshoe racing national qualifier." 
Wheeler Peak
The others went on another 5K run in the afternoon before the clinic let out for the day, but I was so worn out by my short jaunt I decided to sit it out and try to take a nap in the truck. After everyone got back we made plans to go to dinner with a could of the girls and ended up at Sundance Mexican Restaurant where I ended up with a nice 12 oz beef rib eye (yay!) with a side of cheese enchilada. What a combo right? It was great, but again no picture and I did enjoy this steak much better than the bison since it had more flavor (read "fat"). After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a shower and turned in for the night.

Trail Clinic - Day 2
We were awake and packing everything up by 6:30am. We decided against breakfast since there was going to be breakfast at the clinic so instead we packed up and went to look for the big horn sheep again. Strike 2. Apparently the sheep either 1) did not want to be found or 2) got chased off by the rally that was in town the weekend before. For both my friend and I our luck with finding some of the unusual wildlife is pretty much nil. (However we did see a female bedded down on the side of the road on the way to the clinic and on the side of one of the hills the night before). Since we struck out again, we headed back into town and made one last check of the room before checking out. As we drove through town, we noticed that The Pied Piper's Pastry Shop was already open so we stopped and picked up some goodies. I had an apple turnover which was seriously yummy...yet again no picture. Wow, I'm really lacking on my foodie pictures!

At the base camp we were the first to arrive so we helped set up while we waited for the others to get there. After allowing some time for everyone to eat we broke up into the ones that wanted to go faster (yet slower than the day before) and one that preferred a slower pace on easier trail/forest roads (this was where I was). This run/hike, while even slower than yesterday, was still hard for me with the elevation. I was still lagging behind but at least the head pounding was less than the day before, the breathing situation was just a little bit improved but my heart rate monitor was maxing out at 168-178bpm with almost minimal wogging (walk/jogging). I usually don't get into the 160 range until the middle to late portion of my half marathons and even then my heart rate recovers pretty quickly when I start so at elevation. It seemed like it took forever to get my heart rate back down into even the 150bpm range! I do have to admit that the trip was worth it with some of the views that we got to see. We did a couple of  staged action shots of everyone and managed to finish about a 4 mile loop. I almost thought I'd come out of this clinic unscathed, but I ended up spraining my ankle about an hour into the jaunt...then it slipped another 3-4 times as we were returning to base camp. Luckily (or unluckily) my ankle has been sprained many times before although this time I did hear it pop; I was still able to mostly walk on it with just a slight limp and as soon as we got to camp I put some ice on it. It only ended up swelling to about twice it's normal size without any bruising.
Wheeler Peak in the background.
Full group except for Ellen who is taking the pic.
Wheeler Peak/Gold Hill/East Red River View
9,960 feet in elevation at this point.
Aspen Grove
Latir Wilderness with view of Red River
Since it was the end of the clinic, the awards were given out. One of the leaders wrote up the calligraphy slips and found off the wall prizes to go with the awards. The day's run was supposed to be an unofficial "race" but that idea was set aside for a more relaxing activity. Each of the awards was tailor made for each participant. For me it was the "Least likely to become a vegetarian" award with a bar of chocolate. This award transpired because during the first day when we were talking about how to eat we got off on a tangent when I started discussing my recent experience with deep fried/chicken fried bacon and my love for all things meat! lol! You've got to realize I was with a bunch of women who probably ate way more healthy than I do. :)  After a little while just chatting and laughing it was time to say goodbye and leave for the 5 hour trip home.

Concentrating too much on my feet!

"Most likely to never become a vegetarian Award
(and bravest newcomer to trail running!)
All in all it was a great weekend even though it confirmed what I already pretty much knew...that I am not a trail runner. If I do decide to do any trail runs they'll be short 5Ks and at much lower elevations! I'm just wondering now how I'm going to deal with the elevations at the Madison Marathon in Montana next month which has the start at 9,200', maxing out at 9,675' and finishing at 8,850'. I'm thinking that since I have a race in Wyoming on July 14, then Idaho July 21 and finally Montana on July 22 that I'll just have to take the travel trailer and head up to Montana on Tuesday or Wednesday prior to the race to start acclimating and drive back down 3 hours for the race on Saturday before heading back up to Montana. I had even entertained the idea of taking the trailer up to Red River and staying up there for a week before leaving for Wyoming but I'll be in Oregon and Washington for three races during the July 4 week. At least it's a road race rather than trails...granted, not paved roads but as long as I can have pretty sure footing I'm good with that! :)

If you have an opportunity to do a trail running clinic at The Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area in Red River, NM I'd recommend that you do!

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