Day at the Office

Day at the Office
All Terrain Vehicle
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Phillppians 3:14

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Races

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way –

If reading the above quote that Charles Dickens pens as an opening line in his epic novel, “Tale of Two Cities,” you would have thought that he shadowed me this past weekend. I had some of the best of times…and worst….at times wisdom prevailed and others…oh such foolishness…There were times I saw the light…and times my mind was dark…at mile 30 there was hope and mile 70 despair…we had 100 miles before us…and when done, nothing left to ride…cruising in a peloton at 27 mph were on our way to heaven and fighting brutal headwinds at mile 80…on a straight path of Hell…for this was…well, this was the weekend of the Hotter N Hell.

With all that being said, the “Best of Times,” far outnumbered the “Worst of Times.” It was the best of times meeting up Legacy Cycling Team members…of watching team member, Tony win his age group on Friday’s mountain bike trail race…of riding a bike in United States’ largest cycling event…of meeting Carolyn and her sweet family…she is done with her last chemotherapy this week…of running with my brother in law in a ½ marathon trail race…of riding in a peloton out of the gate like we were demons on fire down the highway of hell…only to serve as a foolish reminder during those worst of times from miles 60 to 100…in fact those were really the only “worst of times.”

Friday evening I had traveled up to Wichita Falls and met up with most of the Legacy Cycling team. Did the packet pickup - cruise the expo thing and then headed out to watch the criteriums and to cheer on Tony for the mountain bike race. As I mentioned before, he won his age group. Then we all went to eat together. Saturday morning the Legacy team gathered up close to the front of the start, to get on out of the chaos of the 14,000 other cyclist as there can be carnage and mayhem. Coach Jim did a great job of getting us out of the gate…and soon we had formed up as a group of about 10 to 15 riders. The first six miles are mainly about navigating through dropped water bottles and wrecks of the unfortunate…and we were heading into a good clip…and then at about mile 10…we picked up the pace…and the hammering began…we ranged from 23 to about 27 mph…about 10 of us…I was feeling good…and we continued till about mile 30…and I still kept hammering for the next 15 miles at about 22 to 24 mph. What was I thinking…if I was running a marathon there is no way I try to keep up with someone running a 6 ½ minute mile for all 26.2 miles. My first break of getting off the bike and resupplying with water was at mile 50 and remember thinking to myself, “my quads are already barking and I am only half done!” My original thoughts were maybe to burn a few matches in the book to get out of all the chaos at the start. But once out…I kept hammering with a group…kept burning matches…at a pace I had no business trying to carry for 100 miles…maybe a 100K…but there is a huge difference of being in the saddle for 60 miles and a 100 miles.

I arrived at Hell’s Gate (100K) marker at about 10:25…with more matches burned that I had left…and met up with Amy and Jan….Jan and I rode some of the next stretch to the 70 mile marker…Anthony and Tony were in there somewhere along the way….and frankly I don’t remember at what point…Anthony was also a casualty of the hammerfest foolishness I had participated in about 4o miles ago and were now paying the piper in spades. The last 40 miles where windy…much of it straight on headwinds…and much of it being battled solo…the heat now was rising off of the blacktop as the Texas temperatures encroached 98F. The winds served as a blast furnace and the legs seemed as on fire as the asphalt. I cursed myself for being so stupid…so foolish. Relentless forward motion…and finally I was done…most of the Legacy Team waiting at the finish line…cheering on each member to finish. Coach Jim comes up and says, “Rookie mistake…that pace at the beginning was unreal.” I nodded in agreement….said I need something to drink and went to look for refreshment. I heard someone ask if I was alright and Coach responded, “Yeah, he’s just mad.” That summed it up pretty good. Glad it was over…but I didn’t enjoy any of the completion of my first century ride or my first event. In hindsight that was wrong on my part…I should have celebrated just riding…just being able to ride. My rolling time was about 5 1/2 hours...not counting water break stops. I stayed at one place so long they wanted to name it after me. At the finish line Carolyn and her family met up with me. She’s fighting cancer…and I rode for her and Sarah Grace. That put things in perspective…and to be upset in a less than stellar performance is crazy when friends are fighting cancer…when people are having to endure pain and suffering of chemotherapy...the pain and suffering of a bike ride pales drastically. I also met up with my parents and my brother’s family. He was riding in the event too…word was he was struggling…the heat had grown stifling….and I know the winds were making it ugly for him. He finally made it to the finish…but only to get some medical attention at the aid station…dehydrated and spent. He’s fine and tells me he will be ready to ride it next year…it is the 30th anniversary of the thing.

I cleaned up and Carolyn’s family and my family went to eat a late lunch…what a blessing. Marshall, my brother – in – law, and I then left and made it back to where we were staying…I had to start prepping for a ½ marathon trail race the following morning. An ice bath, a good night’s sleep and several carbs later, and I was ready to roll on Sunday morning when the race started at 7:00AM. Everything I did wrong the day before was corrected…and I started out slow and steady only to pick up the pace as I went along. I was told by ultrarunning buddy Laura Underwood, who did the same thing last year, not to expect a mind-blowing ½ marathon time after riding the century. She thought 2 ½ hours would be really good. 2 hrs 33 min later I crossed the finish line. I stayed sure and steady, passing more people than passed me…feeling pretty good the whole time and thankful to be back running on the trail.

These were the best of times…and the worst…but mainly the best…I have a wife who supports this stuff…I have some good cycling buds…I have friends who are beating cancer…and that far outweighs any bad times on a bike…in fact a bad day on a bike is better than a good day on chemo…and so I press on.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Bicycle Ride with 14,000 of My Closest Friends…

That’s right…that is a comma after the 14…and that is what the Hotter N Hell 100 Mile Ride attendance was for last year…and they are expecting to surpass that this coming weekend.

With so many riders, well, I don’t know what my expectations should be as far as finishing time. The experienced guys say that for the first 20 to 30 miles expect mayhem, wrecks and carnage on the road…and so for getting a good pace and going strong…well that probably won’t happen…unless…well….unless you get up closer to the front…and hammer out of the start. You know… burn a few of the matches in the book to get on down the road and then settle into a pace line.

So how long do I think it will take me to finish? I don’t know! I know what I have in mind as for a goal…but there are a lot of variables here…lots….my first century ride….with 14,000 people….on a Texas August Day….So I am not giving any odds on this one. As far as the 1/2 trail marathon the following goal is to have a good time and get it done as soon as possible.

I have been doing a lot of riding with the Legacy Group and Coach Jim says he has a plan…I probably will line up with him and the other Legacy riders…but Jim is a beast…like finished it last year in just over 4 hr 30 min.

Let me talk about the Legacy Group for a minute…MY FAVORITE GROUP TO RIDE WITH…bar NONE! They are a great bunch of people…and some really MONSTER cyclist. Saturday’s ride was a 50 mile cool down country ride starting and ending at Coach Jim’s house with hamburgers and swimming afterword. My whole family showed up after the ride for the food and swimming. On Sunday, at 3:30 we went for a 30 mile heat training ride….it was only a 107F…I guess you could say it was Hotter N Hell…oh wait that’s next week…till then…PRESS ON!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I PRESSED ON...To Touch the Face of God at 13500 Ft

It was about 10:00 Wednesday night and I was putting fresh batteries in my Petzle headlamp. My wife looks over at me and says, “I usually don’t worry about you…but this one has me worried. There are bears and mountain lions…a lot can happen on that mountain and most of it is bad…and to top it off, you’re doing this in the dark.” Just two weeks prior, a husband and wife Team from Dallas Texas had perished mountaineering in the same vicinity that I would be climbing when an unexpected storm had moved in and they had fallen off the mountain. This was fresh in Bren’s mind…I could tell. I I responded, “Bren, I will be fine…I will watch the weather, I am properly equipped, I am in good physical condition…I will get a great picture of the sunrise over the mountains…and will be back before you’re done with breakfast.”

My goal was to proceed from the Lodge at Horn Creek Camp, about 5 ½ miles to Horn Peak. The elevation change would roughly be from 9,000 feet to 13,500 feet. My original goal was to summit in less than two hours. This goal proved ludicrous. I had spoken with David who had lived in Horn Creek for the past 8 years and summitted it 48 times. He told me that 3 hours would be considered strong. I had also talked at length with Andrea about the climb. She had been on staff the past 4 summers and summitted the peak 20 times. She told me that she tells people to expect the climb from the treeline to the peak to take 2 to 4 hours. She had completed that part in an hour. These conversations were good. They taught me what to expect…climbing routes…and timelines.

Sleep was restless that night. I tossed and turned…from the excitement. I couldn’t stand to wait…patience had been tossed to the curb…and at 0300 in the predawn morning, I was up…dressed in Nike Running shorts and a North Face tech shirt…ready to roll. I would be carrying a small generic pack….loaded with a generic fleece, North Face Wool hat, Nike Running Gloves, and a REI E-Vent Jacket…worth every dime I paid for it. Knowing that this would be over 4 hours of aerobic activity I also threw in an apple, a peanut butter sandwich and a 2 liter Camelbak for hydration.

At 0333, I stepped out the front door of the lodge, and started the Garmin 405 to begin the time…I was off…and time was of the essence if I wanted to catch the sunrise.

The Rainbow Trail runs over 100 miles long the Sangre de Cristo Mountains…named by the Spaniards because of the pinkish hue that occurs when the sun first peeks over the mountains…reminding them of the “Blood of Christ.” I head off into a jog up the trail head for about ¾ of a mile until I come to the Rainbow Trail…make a right and run an undulating and rocky route for another 1 ¼ mile till I come to Horn Peak Trail…make a left…and climb…up…up…up…a rocky terrain that my buddies Aaron and Hans named boulder alley…rocks…on top of rocks…with more rocks…footing is sketchy…and you’re climbing…two big climbs up to nearly 11,000 feet elevation…I had made good time…running… then fast paced walking as if on a mission….through the switch backs…up to the treeline. It was dark…for some reason this didn’t seem right…I should come out of the treeline…see a post marking the trial up the ridge to the first peak...the false peak…something is wrong here…and so I backtracked a little less then a 1/4 mile…and started back up…I came out a different place but recognized Horn Peak. One thing though… I wasn’t on the ridge…but along the base of the ridge…and so I began the ascent to the ridge at over a 45% grade…at over 11,000 feet. From the treeline to Horn Peak is about ¾ mile….and oh yeah…with about 2,000 ft vertical climb in that little jaunt. The darkness had caused a bit of disorientation…but not for long…I was on the ridge…climbing. Andrea had warned that all you will see from the treeline is the false peak. The air was thin…the footing difficult as the rocks left anything but a solid flat surface. The shadows cast by my lamp made the jagged edges of the rocks treacherous. The footing was bad enough, but being fooled by shadows made it more precarious. In the dark…with a single headlamp, I was cognizant of my footing…a wrong move here and it would not be pretty. There was no protection from the wind and I had donned my jacket. The wind would gust strong the farther I climbed. The temps were, I estimated to be below 40 and the wind would gust…up to nearly 50 MPH. Twice I hunkered down on all fours as the wind caught me in attempt to blow me off the terrain. I PRESSED ON…20 steps at a time…recovering for 15 seconds to get some oxygen in the whisper thin air…onward…the wind…being ever so vigilant on were to put my feet…and 27 minutes later I was at the false peak…27 minutes for less than ½ mile stroll…and the Peak still seemed too far…and the rocks were getting bigger…and the wind stronger…keep moving…the sun will be cresting soon. For some reason this part was the most difficult...I had pushed it physically and my body was ready for some recovery time…so onward, I PRESSED ON…as fast as I could go with over 12,000 feet of elevation to provide my oxygen. I live at 500 feet…and my mind was tired of focusing on where the next precarious step would be. I was about 75 feet from the peak and the sun began to show…quick…I grabbed my camera…snap….snap…snap. I turned around to summit…I PRESSED ON…quickly…pumping my legs…gasping for air…gasp…gasp…move, move…there…there…I was there…on the summit of Horn Peak…2 hours 52 minutes and for a brief moment…I stood in awe…of my Creator…of His wondrous love…from there it seems you can reach out and touch the face of God…not so…only with your heart…only with your praise…redeemed by the Sangre de Cristo…not sitting down but standing up…looking around…quickly…more pics…I must descend quickly if I want breakfast…I promised my wife I would be back for breakfast…I PRESS ON…

A rapid descent with this terrain can be brutal. The footing is so precarious…so poor…the quads have to compensate…and although you are not as winded on the way down…the legs are hammered. From the peak to the treeline in 45 minutes…it had taken just about an hour to go up…and I felt like I had been put through the ringer…I find the trail below the treeline…and there are my friends, Aaron, Hans and their wives, Lorren and Star. All 4 athletes…all four had begun the hike at 0500. They looked good…refreshed. Hans wife, Star, looked at me and asked, “Can I make it?” I knew she could…but not wanting to discourage her by telling her it will be the hardest ½ mile you have ever tread….I responded, “of course you can do it…of course!”

I continued my descent….quickly…trying to run…I PRESSED ON…the legs didn’t seem to want to move like they should…the quads were so hammered…and my mental focus was waning too. My mind was as tired as the body…I continued…running slowly…down boulder alley…careful…careful…don’t roll an ankle at this point…and down…down…so much easier on my breathing…but not on the legs…and there...done…across the field to the Lodge…5 hours and 12 minutes…11 miles round trip…and just in time to catch some breakfast…I promised my wife I would be back for breakfast…and I couldn’t break that…Reed, an Ironman triathlete, looks over at me and brings me some eggs…some fruit. I kissed my wife…told Luke and Hope…let me take a shower…then we will go bowling…the day had just started…and we had a lot to do…and so I PRESSED ON…

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:13

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Best Week of My Life - AKA The Great Compromise

A great time for me would be to backpack a 100 miles down the Rainbow Trail along the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado. Anything less than a Holiday Inn with 500 thread count sheets is considered roughing it for my wife Bren. Thus, when presented an opportunity to spend a week in the aforementioned Sangre de Cristo mountains in a cabin with and indoor shower and toilet…with cooked meals, the Elliott family decided to go out on a limb.

The Lodge Cabin...Where we stayed.

How we came to actually knowing about Camp Horn Creek is a bit convoluted with a circuitous route…our family getting an email from a member from our church…not meant to be sent to us…inviting us to family camp for a week….at Camp Horn Creek. We called Mr. White, the original author of the email…and his response is, “Absolutely you are Welcome to come!” So Friday before we left for Colorado, I found myself looking up on line for driving directions….to Camp Horn Creek (elevation 9000ft), nestled at the base of Horn Peak Elevation 13500 ft…about 45 miles from Pueblo. My wife ask me the week before we left if I had any idea what we were getting into? My response was simple, “No, if it’s bad…we will go into Colorado Springs and stay there.” By Sunday evening, after arriving at Camp Horn Creek Lodge, 3 hours earlier, we both knew we were to have a special week.

Founded in 1951, Camp Horn Creek, is a Christian based camp that caters to the family…much like Pine Cove except that you don’t attend a camp with the East Texas 105F temps with humidity. The crisp, cool, dry Colorado air at 9000 ft caused me to have amnesia of the sultry, hot, Hell like temperatures of a Texas August.

I would love to give you a minute by minute account of the entire week….but I am not writing that much…and frankly you couldn’t stomach reading that…so I will give a feeble attempt of the Highlights with pictures.

Macy and Andrea who was on staff...and loved on my kids...

As I previously mentioned, this was a “family” Camp. These families constituted about 110 people and there were children of all ages. For some, this camp was generational as parents who attended as kids were now bringing their kids to Camp Horn Creek. By mid week, there were no strangers as all the kids run off into the woods to go play together or head down the to rec center to play an organized game. Each family has more activity options to partake in than you can fit into 4 weeks…little lone a single 7 day period. Russ the camp director could not have done a better job either….knowing he and the staff were working there rear ends off…and making it look effortless.

Luke with his new buddies on skit night.

On Pancake had to catch your first pancake...Macy trying not to go hungry...

Tuesday found Me, Macy and Luke shooting the white water rapids with Noah’s Ark Rafting. We would hit the Cat III rapids and Macy and Luke couldn’t stop laughing. Thursday, Macy and Bren went Horseback riding…Luke, Hope and I went bowling in the Rec Center. Friday morning I took Hope kayaking on a peaceful Colorado Lake. Wednesday morning, Bren took the girls to an arts and crafts activity while Luke and I went geo caching, trail blazing over 2 miles as the crow flies. Monday morning the Elliott family went for a 2.5 mile hike along the rainbow trail…and Hope even held her own. When we came to Horn Creek, we took off our shoes and held a contest of who could keep their feet in the extreme frigid water the longest….Macy Won! Every afternoon found the kids at the water slides.

Ok…lets talk trail running and training…every morning at 5:30 you would find me at the Rainbow trail head…running up to about 10,500 feet of elevation…ranging from 6 to 8 miles…on what I would call “technical” terrain due to mainly rocks and few tree roots. I would be back in time for breakfast and then the day would commence. Training at 9000+ feet took some acclimation and I have to say after 7 days, I still was not completely acclimated as running uphill at 10000 ft elevation left me huffing and puffing. My endurance was good for the week though and this showed when I went 11 miles round trip to summit Horn Peak at 13,500 feet for sunrise and descended in time to catch some breakfast. (This adventure will have it’s own blog post with details later this week!) The coming week it’s time for me to climb back on the bike…but with the increased red blood cell count, I am hoping to make some of my buds suffer trying to keep up with me…the Hotter N Hell 100 mile bike race and ½ marathon run is less than two weeks away.

Horn Peak...I eyeballed it all week...gazing up 13,500 feet elevation....

Most evenings would consist of a post supper Christian devotional from Andy Neillie and music by Nathan Clark George. Both of these guys are incredibly gifted. On Wednesday there was an old fashion Western Melodrama and square dance in a barn…Ok…I can’t believe I am saying this…but that “Western Night” was a blast…ok… I said it....

So the week came to a close…spending wonderful quality time with the family… lots of trail running …standing in awe of my Maker’s creation…meeting new friends….the fun and fellowship cannot be fully described here…heck, my kids have already booked in their minds for next year.

If you are interested in attending next summer, drop me a line….would love to have some of my peeps show up…and my endurance peeps…yeah…we got some running to do in the Sangre de Cristo mountains…I need those people at Camp Horn Creek to know that I am sane in some circles….Press On…

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tonight We Run...Tomorrow We Ride...

It’s mid afternoon on Saturday and I am hanging with the kids after my 70 mile morning ride with Plano Bicycle Association. I had chosen to ride with DB1 and we averaged nearly 19 mph for the ride with some good pace lines between 23 to 25 mph. Towards the end of the ride 5 of us broke off to go climb Windhaven Hill just for good measure. We had decided to dial it back a bit and get ready to climb hard. About a minute and half later we were in a 5 man pace line into the wind hammering at 26mph…so much for dialing it back…and then we hammer up the hill…and take it on home…good ride…no…GREAT ride! So…back to where I was…oh..yeah…mid Saturday afternoon…my buddy Paul Tidmore who was coming off of a stellar 100 mile Ultramarathon (1 of 5 finishers) texted me and said that there was to be a kid’s fun run at Northshore trail to be put on by Rochelle during the North Texas Trail Runners night run. I asked Luke if he was interested. After some deep thought of about 2 seconds….he says, “WELL YEAH!!!!”

So at about 8:00 PM Saturday with the Texas Mercury reading 102F, we ran. Luke did well with the fun run of about 1 ½ to 2 miles on the trail…and well I got to run about 3 to 4 miles. The legs felt great…it was a little warm…but good times…I love hanging with my Trail running peeps. I caught up to Buddy Teaster…and we ran together a bit…just enjoying catching up…he is headed of to run the Headlands this coming weekend.

On Sunday, the temp was 103F…and at 3:30PM Bryce, Chris and I head off to ride with the Legacy Group…about 30 of us that day. This has become one of my favorite groups. I will blog on this later…but let me say they are a great bunch of people. It was going to be a 30 mile ride and I was going to dial it back a bit. Then at about 4 miles into it…Steve was feeling froggy and too took off followed by Tony…”what the heck…see what you got Dave,” I said to myself…and I find myself on their wheel at about 21 mph….and thus the hammering began…nearly all 25 miles of it…so much for dialing it back…and I don’t think I would have had it any other way.

Yep…I was done after that ride…it was a great weekend of training…we have the Hotter N Hell 100 mile bike race and the ½ marathon is 4 weeks out…and I am beginning to feel dialed in…at least my endurance is now at a decent level.

Ride On…Run On…