#43 - WYOMING!!! A LESSON ON MANAGING A HIGH ALTITUDE RACE
YES!!! This is a high altitude state, but…for the first time, I had made a plan and I have been working the plan HARD and hoping to turn around my altitude issues on this race. I listen to podcasts and read some blogs about running…I’ll admit…I don’t do this a ton because much of it can be elite athletes complaining about not reaching a goal that they have that I could never reach if I were 18 years old (I’m not) and I don’t have a lot of free time. However, there are a few that I have been reading and listening to and though I rarely add anything, I have been formulating a plan for dealing with altitude since Montana. Montana was soooo amazing the only thing that taints the trip is that I didn’t perform very well, I feel like I over ran the race and was ill prepared for the hilliness of the course. I now know that in that part of our beautiful country, hilly means mountains to me, living and training here in the flatness of Illinois. I spent the last 9 weeks before the race running virtually ALL of my medium and long runs around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I made a training plan that works for me with 3 days a week running, as follows: Wednesday – short run, Friday – medium run, Sunday - long run and I incrementally added miles, very slowly each week. Of the 26 runs planned, I only missed 2 and that’s fine because that is life, things come up…don’t beat yourself up over that. Let me tell you about Lake Geneva (LG), it is a lake that has a public shore path that is open all the way around the lake. Depending on what you read, it is somewhere between 21 and 26 miles in length, yes, I have walked it twice, no I haven’t run the whole thing, I don’t have that kind of time. The path is various surfaces…rocks, flagstone, pavers, wood planking, grass, mud, roots, steps (pretty much everything you can imagine) and I’ll tell you that it runs from terribly challenging bordering on dangerous to pristine and manicured. Running on this path means paying attention to EACH AND EVERY footfall. Mentally, it challenges your concentration, but on the upside, we have had a CRAZY HOT summer and running at LG allows me to run until I get too warm and then jump in the lake to cool off and keep running. My dog, Trixie, and I just LOVE that!!! I do get some weird looks as I am the soaking wet runner (I’m talking water dripping off my hat, wet) with the equally soaked and enthusiastic dog! I see some of the same running people every week and that runner’s nod does a lot to keep me going, amirite?!? So, the plan, run as fast as I safely can on the uneven shore path at LG and that would make running at 5,000 feet in a semi “hilly” race seem easy as long as I keep my pace between 10 and 10:30 minutes per mile. I know what you are thinking, geez Joan, that’s slow as shit! If you have read any of my blogs on the other high altitude races that I have run, you know that altitude beats the crap out of me (57 years young) and I have kidney pain, hematuria (blood in urine) and I have even barfed, so, yea, I’m running 10 – 10:30 minute miles and I don’t care what you think!
Friday 09/20/2019, Brian and I left the house at about 4am for a 7am flight. We made it to the airport no trouble and found that our flight was going to be delayed 20-30 minutes. We weren’t working with a ton of time as our layover was only 45 minutes to begin with…yikes. I scoped out the Denver airport map in flight and we knew that our gate was in the same terminal but ALL the way on the other side (of course). Our plan was to hoof it and hope for the best, but we did book the later flight in case we missed it (which meant a 4-5 hour layover). Somehow we made our flight with 10 minutes to spare and we were off and running (heeheehee). Brian and I have done a lot of traveling and to date the smallest airport that we have been to is College Station, Texas where his brother Doug and his wife Cheryl, live. College Station has 2 gates…Cody has 1. It was a LONG walk to the rental car counter (50 feet) and a LONGER walk to the rental car (80 yard) and, of course, the drive to our hotel took forever (7 minutes)…we like it already!!! We decided to stay at the historic, Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill Cody for his daughter Irma and honestly the only reason we stayed there was the 5 minute walk to the start/finish of the race and it’s standing as the #1 most haunted place in Wyoming!!!
We were working off a smoothies for breakfast at 4am so we got to our hotel and check in wasn’t until 3pm, so at noon we ate the buffet in the hotel, the food was pretty good, but not great. The sports shop for packet pick-up was across the street from the hotel so we went over and met the race director, a young bubbly runner named Janie, we were set! We roamed around Cody, population 9-10K, very cute, easy to walk around in and just checked out some shops. We walked through a photo gallery with pictures of the local wildlife, amazing!!! Since we still had considerable time to kill we walked across the street from the hotel to the ‘DUG UP GUN MUSEUM”. It is just what it sounds like, guns from every battle on US soil, dug up by random people and displayed with descriptions of where it was dug up and what we know about the gun, battle, etc. Very interesting, thought provoking…many of the guns were still loaded with rounds and some were even stuck in cocked position. It makes you wonder what was going on when that gun was discarded…you know?
The weather in Cody changes quickly because it is nestled down in a plains area and surrounded by mountains, Heart Mountain to the North, Cedar Ridge & Elk Butte to the South, McCullough Peaks to the East, and Trout Peak to the West. We were walking around and the sky opened up and it began raining and hailing vigorously! So we hopped in the rental and went to the grocery store for some supplies and waited in the bar until hotel check in. I had brought shorts and a T-shirt to run in based on the weather forecast for race day and I was beginning to realize that I might be screwed as the latest prediction was 46 degrees…can you say chilly? We checked into our room and it was gorgeous!!! Very well done renovation in the old part of the hotel (remember, we were hoping for ghost activity, so we booked the old part of the hotel). The common areas of the hotel, I won’t lie, looked worn, beat up and marginally maintained so we were both happy to see that our room was spotless. I did what I always do and did a quick inventory of race stuff to make sure I had everything I needed and Brian and I discussed the weather and we were off to the sporting goods store across the street to buy some clothes. Janie, the race director, was still handing out race packets and she agreed that I’d be needing more than shorts for the run. She directed me to some smartwool pants and socks that she had been contemplating adding to her own collection and I added a light weight hat and we were good to go. The good news is running clothes are always worth it as they will be used. We were back to the hotel to try on and with a successful purchase made we were off to dinner of a pulled pork sandwich and french fries, race day food is so fun because I get to eat stuff I never eat! I was exhausted from getting up so early and pretty much sleeping before 9pm. I was up a couple of times to tinkle but slept pretty great until 5am, at 6am I got out of bed took care of bathroom business, showered and got ready for the race at 7am I ate my pre-race banana and at 8ish we walked over to the start and roamed around, bathroom, bathroom, met Melissa the announcer. She wanted to know our story so we told her about the quest and then we were off! I found it hillier than advertised but, I have learned that this part of the countries hilly is “mountain” to me training in Illinois. I was monitoring my speed, trying to stay in that sweet spot between 10 and 10:30min/miles and was doing great with that. I took a gel at mile 3, stretched my back for 30 seconds at mile 5, filled one of my water bottles at mile 6 and took a gel on the run. That one had caffeine, I was sporting a little headache all morning, it went away quickly. I was running down a hill just before mile 8 and noticed a car that pulled over the side of the road, turns out it was Brian coming to check on me, he turned around and I gave him the “thumbs up all is well” as I went by. I took another gel at 9 and carried on into town, the roads weren’t closed to runners and there weren’t even cones out to warn anyone, so I was keeping my wits about me and looking for knucklehead distracted drivers. There were a couple, but nothing terrible, then there was a good downhill for a half mile at 12 and then the straight away for half mileish to the finish where Melissa announced me and the crowd actually cheered!!! This was one of the most well managed races that I have run. I am not usually one to blow my own horn…but…toot toot!!! I finished the race in great spirits, feeling great and I got second in my age group! The finisher’s medal was a Klean Kanteen pint glass with the race name and “finisher” on it, and my prize was an antler, yep, an antler.
Here are my stats 2:15:54.41, pace 10:22mins/mile, 31 of 56 overall, 20 of 39 women, 2 of 5 in AG 50-59 female. GOOD RACE, GOOD PACE - NO KIDNEY PAIN, NO BARFING!!!
Our lives are definitely made better with accomplishment, but more than that, made better when you don’t have pain while you’re accomplishing! The beer garden was open and the medal also acted as a bottomless cup for beer, Wyo gets me! I bought Brian a pint glass and we had a few to get the party started. I got my award and we chatted with some folks about races that they would recommend for me for the future, but no one had any suggestions for the 7 states that I have left, so we headed back to the hotel, a 2 block walk, to get cleaned up. Brian had eaten breakfast whilst I was running so he took me to his breakfast place and I had breakfast of COFFEE, eggs, toast, bacon and hash browns (gotta replenish those 1500 calories burned) he had a hot dog and we grabbed a couple of bottles of water and headed to Yellowstone. Folks…if you haven’t driven from Cody to the Eastern entrance of Yellowstone in your lives, do it!!! It is one of the most gorgeous drives, filled with mountain views, a damn and lake views that are not to be believed! We arrived at the gate and continued the beautiful drive and as we ascended the mountain another 3,000 feet we entered a whole new climate of snow! It was amazing, we have the one selfie of us by the lake and the one in the snow was 20 minutes later and 3,000 feet higher.
We took in our fill of the views and then the clouds rolled in and we couldn’t see squat…so we drove back to Cody and found a cute little place across the street from our hotel to hunker down. Brian likes to try Bourbon, especially local bourbon, so he tried a couple and I found one that is in a really cool bottle that we don’t have in our basement grotto bottle collection so I bought it for him in addition to some flatbread pizza. What a great way to wind down from a long and strenuous day. We slept great and were up and looking for breakfast. We tried to return to our breakfast place from the day before but it was closed so we found a coffee shop and with ridiculously slow service and finally had breakfast. We headed to the Chamber of Commerce building and chatted with a super nice gal named Kristi who told us the low down. It being a GORGEOUS DAY, we decided against indoor stuff, like museums and art galleries and opted for the Settler’s Village about 3 minutes away on the edge of town. Of course, the biggest reason that we did that is because there was an indoor gun range right there too where Brian could tryout shooting 2 rifles that he had dreamed of…1860’s Henry and Spencer. So, that happened, too. The artifacts at the Settler’s village were super interesting, just seeing how people lived makes me feel like such a weenie (gotta have A2 milk in my coffee, waaa waaa waaa). They lived lives with meager possessions and were happy to have what they had. Then, we went to the gun range and Brian got to shoot 1860’s era Henry and Spencer rifles and we also decided to shoot the S&W Schofield 6 shooter, pistol from the 1880’s. Brian outshot me, again, and we had a great guide who walked us through the whole thing, his name was Casey. It wasn’t just a gun range guy; Casey told us the history of the guns, how they had all been modified to shoot 45c for gun range purposes and what they were used for originally and by whom. I was shocked at how often the Spencer rifle jammed! It was awkward and slow to load and jammed about every third cartridge and it was used in the civil war and had these same problems then (yikes)! How the heck…you know? Well, our trip was drawing to a close; we had some lunch at a BBQ place and headed to the airport. It was surprisingly busy, oh, that’s right…apparently Kanye West was in Cody…he bought a huge ranch on Big Lake and he was giving a free “service” on Sunday near the Wild Bill Museum. It was a whole thing, Brian and I don’t care about that kind of stuff but our flight was full of them! We didn’t sit together because Brian has special leg room needs, the guy next to me was a huge Kanye fan and unabashed name dropper, kill me now…fast forward to me putting in headphones and zoning out…43 races done, next one New Mexico first weekend in May 2020!!! Can’t wait!!!