Wednesday, October 12

Hunting season

No, I don't mean KOM/QOM hunting season. I mean real hunting - heading out into the woods with a deadly weapon in the hopes of filling the freezer with meat for the winter. In Colorado, archery season kicks off at the end of August and goes through September, depending on the type of animal. Muzzleloader hunting is in the middle of September. And finally, rifle season for big game such as deer and elk started October 1 and depending on where you are, runs through November 20. Why are those dates so important? Because the middle of September through the middle of October is also prime leaf season and fall riding season. Riders from all over are converging on the mountain trails for the final alpine loops and golden singletrack. And most of them aren't thinking about the hunting season or the precautions they should follow to stay safe. That fact became quite clear last year during a late season trip to Salida and Fairplay. We met several groups of hunters, all decked out in their orange. And us? Nothing. I had to scrounge for something bright to wear for my long run.

So what should runners and cyclists do to be safe during hunting season? Hunters are required by CO law to wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange above the waist, in addition to a hat that can be seen in all directions. And the orange camouflage seen in the sporting goods stores doesn't cut it - it hast to be solid. And as of August, fluorescent pink is also a legal color for hunters - as long as they follow the same rules for the orange. Obviously, every state is different and these are just the CO rules. I would encourage everyone to research what is required in your area or where you plan to travel - some states also require hikers to have some amount of orange on their gear. Think about that - 500 square inches of orange in addition to a hat. That's a lot - and the bright Enduro baggies, helmets and bikes don't always cut it. Runners are even worse - with most clothes being on the sedate side of the color scheme. We need to take a cue from the hunters and make sure that there is something blaze orange in our riding and running gears during hunting season.

Blaze orange and Fluorescent pink - two colors highly recommended for wearing during hunting season.
 Here are some other tips for riding and running during hunting season:
- Know when the hunting seasons are and in what areas. Different areas of the state are open for hunting at different times.
- Be aware of other vehicles in parking areas and at trailheads. If there's an unusually large number for the area, there may be hunters around and you need to be aware.
- Make some noise like talking or using a bell. Sound travels and voices are a good clue that the movement isn't coming from an animal.
- Wear bright clothes. Reds, oranges and yellows are all good choices. If in doubt, getting a blaze orange hat or buff is never a bad idea. Even putting a blaze orange vest over your pack would help
- Along those lines, put away the tans and browns, and the white helmet. A while helmet over brown clothes and the rider having fun on the decent closely mimics a deer running away. If you don't have any other color helmet, tie some florescent flagging to your helmet to add some color.
- Don't forget about your trail dog! Invest in an orange vest for your puppy if you plan on taking him with you during hunting season.
- If possible, avoid riding at dawn or dusk during hunting season. That is prime hunting season and the low light makes it even harder to discern objects. Make sure you have lights if you are going out in the afternoon and might be caught out after dusk.
- Be courteous. While mountain bikers and trail runners have year round access to trails, hunters have small windows in which to pursue their sport and hopefully fill the freezer. And the tags and licenses are usually pricey...
- Check for closures. Some areas close trails during hunting season to ensure safety and provide for a better hunting experience. Make sure that your travel plans and riding plans won't be impacted by any potential closures.

Ready for hunting season? I am now! Same hat as in the prior photo.
Don't let the fear of hunting and hunters keep you inside during the prime leaf peeping and fall riding or running season. Just take some precautions to be visible. Common sense goes a long way in staying safe.

Sunday, August 14

Failure Redefined

In racing, the goals are usually black and white - finish or bust; finish in such a time; finish in such a place. The success of racing - and the emotions that are tied to that success are measured against these concrete goals. So what happens if you come up short? So much time and energy invested in that one day, that one race and the ability to go faster or further. It's easy to view the entire event and the build up leading to the race as a failure based on the final outcome. I didn't reach my goal, therefore I failed. It's the most common reaction.

And most of the time, the wrong one. Yes, the goals weren't met or the race wasn't finished. You fell short of the objective and did not succeed. But not succeeding is different from failure. Any time a race doesn't go as planned, it's important to review the training and preparation for the race as well as performance in the  race. A race becomes a failure if you don't learn from the process building up to the event and then the race itself. A race only becomes a failure if you repeat the same mistakes, expecting a different outcome.

It's not something that's easy to do right after a poor performance or a DNF. This is the hard part - separating yourself from the emotions tied to the event and the performance. But after the emotions of the event have settled - the anger, disappointment, and frustration - it is time to review. In order for the race to not be a failure, you have to learn from the experience and grow as an athlete. You have to be able to objectively analyze the entire event and identify areas where mistakes were made. Here is where a coach is important - it's hard to be analytical when there was so much invested in the event.  Everything about the event has to be reviewed. The training leading into race - finding the balance between intensity and volume - quality and quantity - and still being able to have a life. Race specific training - was there enough training that targeted the complexities of the goal race? The gear and the equipment used for the event - from something as simple as sidewall thickness on a rocky race course to the method of packing for a week long bikepacking gear. The strong areas, the weak links and the eventual break point all need to be addressed.

In the case of the CTR, Judd was feeling great leading into the race.  We'd reviewed bike and gear briefly and he'd done several shorter bikepacking trips of 1-2 nights to practice with his gear. Mentally and physically he was ready to finish this year. Once the race started, he was moving well. The pace was strong and he was on pace to finish and finish under his goal. But when I got up on the fourth day of the race, and his blue dot hadn't moved, I knew something was wrong. It wasn't a catastrophic mechanical, nor a mental breakdown. It wasn't his legs giving out from the hours of pedaling and pushing. It was something as simple as a sunburn. Yes, a sunburn - something neither of us had even thought about while preparing for the race. But this wasn't just any sunburn - but a second degree burn along the top of his shorts, from his shirt riding up under the pack on the long detour around the Lost Creek Wilderness. From what Judd told me, it was a blistered mess on day two, which quickly turned into open sores and an infected mess. Not something you want to head across HWY 50 into the most isolated sections of the Colorado Trail. While scratching wasn't what he wanted to do, it was the only option for him at that point. Continuing on would have had lasting effects that would have impacted his goals for the rest of this year.

The post-race review focused on his gear as that was the weakest link in the CTR attempt. In races like CTR, Arrowhead 135, and the Vapor Trail 125, gear plays just as much a part as the physical and mental training. Carry too little and if things go wrong, then you are in trouble. Carry too much and the pace will be slower, meaning you will be out there longer and will need more gear. With the Vapor Trail 125 coming up quickly, having the right gear - and then training with that gear will be key for a strong finish. We may not have had the outcome that we wanted, but learning from the event will redefine our preparation for races next year. Taking the lessons from the CTR and implementing them for future races will mean that CTR wasn't a failure.