Monday, September 28, 2009

Spice Up your Running

There are times in any sport no matter how much you love it, training can become stale. Running is no exception to this. We find ourselves running the same loops day in and day out. I know I can run the river loop by my house during the day, at night, with one eye, or probably even with both eyes closed. I personally have found the best way to bring excitement to my running is to add an element of adventure! Run some place new. The beauty of running is the fact that you can cover tons of ground and see things that would take someone walking hours to see. You can also travel places that cars and motor vehicles are not allowed. These are five of my favorite places to run in Spokane that offer a small element of adventure.

Riverside state park

There is much more to Riverside State Park then the Bowl and pitcher campground. Most people venture across the bridge but don’t branch out and cover many of the other amazing trails that wind throughout this massive park. A good starting point for your next run is the little dirt parking lot by the 7-mile horse stables. From here you can run the classic trail in the park “Little Vietnam” (honestly it’s quite Jungle like at times). This trail is a flat single track trail that winds along following the Spokane River. On hot summer days the dense vegetation on this route shades you from the hot rays of the sun.Even less traveled than little Vietnam is the single track trail system just south of deep creek. From the dirt parking lot at the 7 mile Bridge head west out seven mile road. After traveling about 50 meters past the centennial trail heading to 9mile, you will notice a post(trail 25) marking the trail on the right hand side of the road. Trail 25 is a very shaded run and is also a great run on hot summer days. All the trails in this area connect back up with each other, so feel free to pick small side trails. It does not matter what time of year you run these trails they are always a joy to run.

Indian painted rocks

Most residents in Spokane have visited Indian painted rocks at some point in their lives, But most people have missed out on the most beautiful and scenic part (the top). Located right next to the bathrooms you will notice a small single track trail, this is known as the “valley trail”. Pace your self at the start of this run because the trail does not stay in the valley for long. Eventually you will come upon two locations where this trail splits, stay left both times(if you are looking for a real monster of a climb take the first right, you will find yourself on top of rattle snake ridge in a little over an hour). Though challenging this run is very rewarding. Remember what goes up must come down. After running on top of this small mountain, and taking in its scenic views, you will hit a paved road and can either follow that down the hill, or follow the trail that crosses the road. Once at the bottom you take the traditional Indian painted rocks trail following the little Spokane River back to the car.

Dishman hills

Out in the Spokane valley is a large park (450 acres) named Dishman Hills. Located in this park is skull rock, which can be found in the enchanted Ravine. To get there you must first travel through camp Caro. Starting to sound like a treasure hunt? Ok sadly there is no buried treasure at Dishman Hills (I am still looking), but there are miles of well maintained and well marked trails. This Forest is scattered with granite rock outcroppings, and small ponds. If you explore around a little you will find small bridges, and many worth while viewpoints of the Spokane Valley.

Rim Rock

If you look west from SFCC you will notice a large ridgeline, which stands tall above the city. At the top of this ridge runs a road named Rim Rock. Just recently this road was gated off to cars, and incorporated into Palisades Park. If you want a simple run that has amazing views of Spokane and the surrounding area, park at the gate and run out and back on the road. The road is very flat, is dirt and soft on your joints, and is also smooth lacking rocks and roots that you may trip over running on trails. From this road you can also run many trails that take you deeper into Palisades Park, a natural wetlands (I promise you won’t get your feet wet). This park is also connected to Indian canyon, which boasts a small canyon with a scenic waterfall at the end of the canyon. Spring and early summer are the best times to visit this waterfall. Most years the falls dries up by late summer, so don’t procrastinate your visit.

Liberty lake County Park

Its parks like this that make me love the Spokane area. You really are not that far from town, and yet you feel as if you could get lost way out in the wilderness. Liberty lake County Park located on the south end of Liberty Lake offers miles of scenic running. Near the top of this trail system is a small waterfall, and there are plenty of places to stop and just enjoy the view. If you have never been to this park it is time to make a visit.

So next time you are dreading going out for a run, hop in your car and drive somewhere new. You may be surprised how much running in a new location can spice up your training that has become slightly dull.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spokane Triathlon

As I stopped my car in a field of weeds that was blanketed by a dark night sky on Sunday morning, there was only one feeling running through my mind. Excitement! I love to race, and to have a race less than 10 minutes from my house was a cool thing. This was the inaugural year for the Spokane Triathlon and I have to say for a first time race the directors and volunteers did a great job.

With the darkness came some colder temperatures, and from the moment I got out of my car I knew it might be a cold race. Setting up my transition area in the dark it was cool to see so many familiar faces. When you train with a group then race with a group, the level of tension before a race is minimized. Having friends around is a great thing :). Somehow I found myself frantically rushing to put my wetsuit on with only 10 min until the race start. I knew the water was cold but the reality is everyone has to deal with it, so I tried to have to best attitude I could about the conditions.

Honestly I think the fact that the air temperature was so cold, it made the low 50 degree water feel warm. That good feeling lasted until the water got passed my ankles. Yes I know I am a wimp. As I entered the water and tried to get a warm up in ( I think I might call it a cool down instead, or a deep freeze) I readied myself for the swim and the start of the race. The key to doing well for me at this race rested in my ability to stay focused on my swim. In the pool I feel like my swim has been improving, but that does not matter until you can bring it to the open water.

As the race started I gave it 110%, I needed to get out fast! I gave it my all but still found myself being swallowed up by the pack swimming behind me. I centered my focus on swimming with good form and finding a rhythm, but neither came. In mountain biking trails with rocks can be considered "technical trails" well I am proud to say for the first time in my life I swam a "technical swim". I had this great plan to swim a straight line right out to the last buoy, but this quickly became a problem as I was dragging bottom and hitting rocks. It became apparent very quickly that the water may be a little shallow in places. After the race one competitor talked about how he hit a lawn chair that was resting submerged under the surface of the cool water. Honestly lawn chair collisions are something I have never seen before in the swim of a triathlon :).

The swim out to the turn around felt tough but I honestly expected that because we were technically swimming in a river upstream the first half. The idea of swimming upstream quickly became apparent as the turn around buoys were encountered. Approaching these buoys I noticed swimmers struggling to get around them, and many swimmers missing them all together. As I swam perpendicular to the currents I realized indeed the struggle to reach these buoys. Never the less I made the buoys and was on my way back. Looking around at this point I knew I had fallen way behind. I pushed hard on the way back and gave it a good solid effort. The rocks were still there on the way back but I used a couple to my advantage as I grabbed them to propel myself along. Still feeling cold, I just wanted to be done.

I pushed hard to the dock and the boat launch that elevated the swimmers out of the lake. It was so cool to see such a large crowd waiting on the dock and on the shore cheering swimmers in. Crowds always get you pumped up. I hit shallow sand and started running(I can run fast so I gotta add it in wherever I can). After a few steps I found the concrete of the boat launch, and Wham!! Yeah, Definitely took a nice spill in front of the crowd. Apparently many swimmers ahead of me took some nasty spills, so the crowd was probably ready with anticipation for the next fall. I sprung back up shaking my head and took the long run to transition.

Swim: around 5-6 min slower than the leaders I think.....just thought about that Kalen swam like a fish lets make that 10min down then (results aren't posted yet)

Entering T1 I was really unsure about what I was going to do about the whole situation that was rapidly unfolding. I quickly got to the bike and started taking off my wetsuit. The problem was my hands were so cold I could not peel the suit from my skin. In frustration I stopped shrug my shoulders and shook my head. At this point I was a little flustered. But knew I could not give up. Eventually I got the suit off and started running out of T1 with my bike. I ran past the mount line, and performed a flying mount. Flying off through some cones and into the grass that is. After a slight course adjustment I was back on course.

Starting the bike I was a little flustered. The water had me a bit disoriented, but now that was past and it was time for the bike. I rode hard giving it all I had. I was about to tap into my huge advantage. I live within minutes of this bike course and have ridden it weekly for months. I know every bump, turn, and incline that Charles road has to offer. Sadly my secret advantage did me no good, as I struggled to catch riders ahead of me. I know the gears and speeds I like to ride on this road, and I was not hitting those gears. Only being about 7 miles into the bike I was cold and ready to just be done. I had another encounter with bad steering and swerved off into the gravel. My cylinders were just not firing. After the turn around I started to warm up. my body temperature was rising and I was on my way back. Luckily the way back of this route is much easier than the way out. A couple miles out from transition, I knew I had no excuses not to pull out a fast run. A fast run was the only way I could pull this race back together and make something out of it. coming off the bike I found myself somewhere around 8th to 10th place

Bike: 1:03:xx (again not sure as results are not posted yet)

T2 was there I executed it and got through it.

Starting the run I had no excuses, I lost tons of time in the swim and bike because I did not stay mentally focused and tough. In a nutshell I pushed hard on the run. It is what I do and am used to doing, so it really did not feel that bad. This was a very cool running course. A couple turns :), but I enjoyed the course very much. It was spread out and roomy but you could still see your competition. I was able to reel in some competitors on the run, and better my position.

Run: Mid 34's (again results not posted yet)

Overall time- 2:04:06 (thanks to Steve I have a picture to prove it)

I was reminded of something very important at this race. Something I was first introduced to at XC club nationals back in December. There is a huge difference between racing and competing. Racing is what you expect from the day, it is everything you plan for, and we train hard to emulate the coming situation and race. I expected to show up at this tri and race a certain race. Competing is rising to challenge no matter what is thrown on your plate. No matter what the conditions are like, a good competitor always shows up and competes. This is a huge aspect of what separates the good athletes from the great athletes. A great athlete goes with the surprise curves of the situation, takes unexpected punches and not giving up still gives it their all. In both XC Nats and the Spokane Triathlon, great athletes stepped up and performed on a high level despite cold conditions. They did not whine about the weather (both of these races were a little cold), they simple stepped up to the line and dealt with it.

Both Roger Thompson and Brian Hadley threw together great races on this day. I don't have results yet, but I am pretty sure Roger beat me by at least 6min (if not more) and Brian Hadley also had a very large gap on me. Even on a perfect day these gaps would not be closed by me.

To everyone else that was out competing on this day, nice job! It was so cool to see so many familiar faces out on the course. A huge thanks to everyone that was out on the course cheering us on. I know for me the cheers helped push me along. I really do appreciate that.

What is left for me in 09? The next two weekends there are two final triathlon races in the Washington season, but as of right now I am competing in neither. 09 has been a good season for me, It is my first full year competing in tri's and I have learned a ton, and grown as an athlete. I am pleased with the years results. I am super anxious to keep racing this year, but the fact that I am so hungry to race will have me fueled throughout the fall winter and spring. I know the weaknesses I have as an athlete and know what I need to do to improve on them. This fall winter and spring will be focused largely on improving these weaknesses. I will still be competing in 09 but I won't be in tri's. Most competitions this fall will be running, on a mountain Bike, and in the pool(maybe a masters swim meet).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hooked on being Single

Hooked on being on a single speed bike that is. Recently my neighbor who is an Uber Mt. biker let me borrow his single speed Mt. bike because he does not ride it much anymore. When we are kids all we want are bikes that have big shocks and lots of gears. I know I did. So I found it ironic how much I enjoyed the simplicity of this bike. No suspension and one gear. Your first ride takes a little getting used to but after a while I found it amazing how 1 gear could work in most situations, granted on the road it is a little slow, but on technical trails I can keep a pretty quick speed. What I like about this bike is the fact that it simplifies your rides. Your focus is drawn to one thing, pedaling hard! Yes hills can be a bugger(have found myself pushing the bike up a couple), but after a while you enjoy the challenge. Recently I find myself hurrying to finish my workout on my tri bike so I can go play on the single track trails by my house. If you want to try something new and different, hop on a single speed and give it a whirl.