Last week I raced in the US Skyrunning Championships held outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. The final race in the US Skyrunning Ultra Series, I was excited to try and race against some of the best runners in the country and check out some new mountains. I knew the course had some serious climbs, as well as a long running section which worried me, so I was not sure how I would do. My right foot and ankle had been wonky since the Tushar 93K race in Utah, and although it had been improving on a daily basis, I had basically only been able to speed hike since the beginning of August. No worries, hopefully I would make up all the time I knew I would lose on the rolling flat section on the big monster climbs - especially the Vertical K in the last 3 miles of the course.
So the week before, in an effort to "rest" as much as possible, I went bouldering, skateboarding, and read books - as well as worked a ton.
These are two poems I found in a book of Chinese Poetry published in 1919. These were written by Po Chu-i, who lived between 772-846. Although I'm not the biggest reader of poetry - or really any reader of poetry - they struck me when I read them.
Some bouldering up at Guanella Pass on the local granite. Good problems up there, with a wide diversity of grades. Love Matters Low (V8?) was a fun problem, although the amount of excavation work on the boulder is slightly disturbing. I'm psyched to go back when it is a tad cooler to try the slopy arete on the boulder below - looks hard and temperature dependent.
Blasting down a mountain road on the board - I need to get some better wheels and tighten up the back truck a bit. Still a great way to check out the aspens.
Some of the topography around Flagstaff, Arizona.
The start of the race. At 6am, the sun was just peaking above the horizon, so we didn't need headlamps, which was great, since I forgot to bring mine! I felt OK, but my legs really didn't seem to respond for the first couple miles which was frustrating.
This is coming down off the second big climb. We ascended a peak, then dropped down off the backside to the valley floor before running around and then ascending it again via a different route. Two big climbs done in the first 13 miles - now for 15 miles of rolling, sandy Ponderosa forest running. I was still doing good here, but over the next 15 miles I once again became discourage and lacked the necessary energy to keep pace. I do really well when it is up-down-up-down, but throw in some rolling terrain, and I get dropped by those who can crank out 7:30ish miles. Of course, if I'm lucky, I catch back up on the next big climb... but not this time.
Still up high. The mountain in the background is where we were headed, and was the final climb up to 11,500' after 31 miles of running. It kicked pretty much everyone's ass.
What really made it sweet, however, was that I ended up with 7th place overall for the series, and 1st master. I'm pretty happy with how it all worked out, and after only really running for 4 years (my first race ever was in 2012) I've come a long way. However, I know I can still improve, and that keeps my fire burning. The learning curve has been pretty steep when it comes to racing, running, and ultras, but it's starting to come around and I'm only going to keep working and improving (or so I tell myself ;))