Over the course of my endurance sports experiences, priorities have changed. I'm not sure it can be attributed to just my interests changing but more of a subconscious understanding of what I need both physically and mentally. Finish times have been shelved gradually into an abstract compartmentalized object.
Last week I headed to Grand Junction for the purpose of running start to finish with a couple running their first ultra race, the Grand Mesa 60k. It's a challenging race occurring at 10,500-11,200 ft elevation over uneven technical trail consisting of a mixture of volcanic rock and lumpy newly cut trail that bogs one down mentally over time.
My general plan (plan is a loose term in my life that morphs by the minute) was to spend the better part of a week in the area. I wanted to challenge myself on new (to me) technical trails on the mountain bike in Fruita, hopefully avoiding further "yard sale" crashes and gaining more skills and confidence with the ancillary benefit of physical training furthering my preparation for upcoming races. I also wanted to detach myself from my normal daily routines as much as possible - hopefully my athletes understood the general void of contact over those days. My justification is that my "escapes" will benefit them over time, as well.
For one of my rides Dennis provided me with a printed color map (I would expect no less from him - the engineer who breaks down every detail in its atomic level). I tend to, as a former linear-minded boss termed it, "wing it" and had planned to simply show up at the parking lot and hit all the trails in whichever pattern seemed natural beginning at the entry level Rustler's Loop. By the time I was fully warmed up and riding as hard as possible I found myself at the point where my exertion dulled my sense of caution and I was attempting sections that normally would seem to have a forcefield around them, bouncing me off the bike for the portage. There definitely were sections that stopped me dead in my tracks, a combination of head scratching technicality along with serious consequences in the form of sheer cliffs overlooking a steep rocky demise softened only by the far reaching views of the valley and mountains.
Those portages were few and clustered together and in ten minutes I was back to sustained effort making my way through the remainder of Troy Built and Lion's Loop to the Kokopelli cutoff. All in all, a satisfying ride that unintentionally served to solidify my thoughts on living in Grand Junction or Fruita in the winter months.
On a technical MTB note, I was given some very nice SRAM XX components from my friend, Mike, including brakes, carbon cranks, derailleur, and hollow cassette. It also allowed me to turn my gearing into a 1 x 10 (eliminating the three chainrings in front). Removing the front derailleur, cable, and shifter was odd at first but riding the stripped down gearing without the clanging and rattling noise I've been used to for so long was a pure treat. So, with the stealthily tight range of sweet gearing I'll be attacking St. Kevins, Powerline, and Columbine climbs next week in the 100. At the risk of alienating any runner friends still remaining with further, and more geeky, discussion of MTB, I'm also concerned with tire selection for the race. In the current (unending) weather pattern in Leadville, my tire selection of the traditional tight, fast rolling, small knob pattern is being called into question. If it pours rain during the race (a likely scenario), I'll feel more comfortable going with a tread more suited to muddy conditions. I may just set up my spare wheel set with the heavier knobbed tires and have my crew (JT) drag them along in his truck, so I can switch out if needed.
Now that everyone who began reading this post is long gone other than my mother (who will tell me to "stay on the sidewalks" at Leadville), I'll say goodbye for now. I'll likely write a post about my pacing Mary and Dennis at the Grand Mesa 60k at some point. Spoiler alert: They finished and still seem to want to talk to me, so that's a good thing. I don't coach them and don't try to align myself with every runner who does a good job in an attempt to appear like I'm a good coach but I like to think I've had a slight influence on their passion for the sport.
To fit in with the cool kids, who seem to be on a music sharing kick, I'll share an oldie I listened to this morning. I'm coming back as Chris Cornell when I die - best voice in rock.