Gemini News – 2016 Events and Sponsor Discounts


Only 2 months until our first event and we can’t wait to get out on the trails! This season in addition to our current Desert RATS race series and small group tours we’ll also be hosting a new half marathon in Fruita in May and new multi-sport tours where small groups can run, hike, bike, and canyoneer all in one epic trip. We also have great discounts on nutrition and gear from our 2016 sponsors for Gemini athletes.

2016 Events

Desert RATS Trailrunning Festival – 5mile, half-marathon, marathon, 50K, Double Marathon

Desert RATS mtb Classic – 50K, 100K, and a new 100K relay!

Desert RATS Rabbit Valley Half Marathon – New event!

Desert RATS Kokopelli 150 Stage Race – Run the entire Kokopelli Trail fully supported.

Gemini Adventures Small Group Running and Mountain Bike Tours – New Multi-Sport Option!

2016 Sponsor Discounts

Summit Canyon Mountaineering – Awesome adventure gear store in Grand Junction. Bring this coupon into the store and get your new shoes for the Festival! Check them out online at Summit Canyon Mountaineering


WAA Ultra Equipment – Founded in 2013 in Paris, France WAA Ultra Equipment has pursued their mission to make gear that helps runners run better, longer, and happier. New to North America WAA Ultra Equipment now brings innovative new products to runners all over the world. From your weekend 5k to the toughest races in the world, WAA creates gear to support any adventure. Come see all of their gear being offered in North America.

15% off all WAA gear at Rocky Mountain Ultra with the code GEMTRAIL15%


Fuel 100 – Calorie and electrolyte replacement for distance athletes. Electro-Bites are designed specifically for endurance athletes to help extend training and improve race performance. Designed as an alternative to the sweet and sticky products currently on the market each 100 calorie pack contains bite sized snacks that are slightly salty in taste.  Electro-Bites contain only the best all-natural ingredients including coconut oil and agave syrup.

Reid loves this fuel! Use discount code “Gemini” for 25% off online orders and

Tailwind Nutrition – Tailwind is designed as a “complete fuel” containing a full complement of electrolytes and calories. The easiest way to wrap your head around Tailwind is to think of the 3 components of your fueling strategy: calories + electrolytes + water. You are expending 500+ calories/hr, but in general you can physiologically process only between 200-300 calories/hr. The goal is to stave off the depletion of your glycogen stores through a combination of what you are consuming, your fat stores, and anything else it can convert to glucose.

Your body has about 1.5 hours worth of calories within its glycogen stores, and the key to running with Tailwind as part of your fueling strategy is figuring out what your caloric intake/hour should be. For Gemini Adventures, Tailwind will be provided at a 200 calories/24oz of water solution. What this means is that if you fill up a 24oz water bottle with Tailwind, you’ll get 200 calories in that bottle. In addition, you will also have the following amounts of electrolytes:
606mg sodium
176mg potassium
52mg calcium
28mg magnesium
Please be aware that Tailwind does contain much more sodium than your typical 15% that most sports drinks provide. For comparison, each S-Cap provides 341mg of sodium and 21mg of potassium.
Tailwind is happy to answer any questions that you may have. Feel free to email us at

Check back soon for more awesome 2016 sponsor gear and fuel deals!

Friday, 19 February 2016 08:22

Training – What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Training – What Gets Measured Gets Managed

By Cindy Stonesmith

Now that we are closing the door to last year’s racing and training season and as our 2016 season approaches, it is time to sit down and reflect what we did right and what we want to add or include into our 2016 training. Here is my evaluation list of 7 training elements.

#1: Weight:
Are you at your optimal race weight? If not and you are thinking of losing those last 5 extra pounds now is the time to take action. It is difficult at best to lose weight when you are in the depths of hard training. Our bodies like homeostasis, this set point is hard to renegotiate when the workload is demanding. If you do experience weight loss during the racing season this often equates to a performance loss, as a depleted body is a sluggish body. If you’re really hoping to peak in your 2014 season, losing the extra weight now is imperative to peaking for that “A” race in August.

#2: Recovery meal and hydration:
How well did you recover during the critical post 30 min workout recovery window? All too often, athletes forgo the refueling and rehydration post workout due to busy lives. This is a big mistake and one that can lead to a slow recovery phase, burnout, and injury. Finding a recovery drink or meal with 15-20gr of Protein and 45-60gr of Carbohydrate that works well for you can get you on the fast track to a full recovery for your next day’s workout. Your workout isn’t over until you’re fully recovered.

#3: Rest and recovery weeks:
Its not the hard workouts and long training run that most runners have troubles with. It’s the balance of when to rest vs. when to build miles and intensity that most don’t get right. Too hard or too long of a training run early in the season can lead to performance doubt if not injury to an athlete. And never allowing your body a rest week or taper for a race will lead to burnout and sub-par training and racing season. When to build mileage, intensity and volume weeks and when to rest are important training practices and should be considered an integral part of any athlete’s training schedule.

#4: Training specificity:
Did you train for your “A” race, by add training elements to our plan that addressed race specific terrain? For example: was your “A” race, a mountainous 100mile run or a flat hot and humid 50mile run? The training plan for each one of these races will look very differently. Some of the pit falls can be training with other runners who’s goals don’t match yours, or only training to a “miles diary” and forgetting about the quality and specificity of those miles. Did you choosing “C and B” races that supported your “A” race? Lets say you got into Hard Rock 100miles last year, but you live in Alabama so your training consisted of road marathons every weekend. Needless to say your race did not go optimally. Before you sign up for that “A” race, break down the course and terrain profile then ask yourself can I get quality training in all the areas needed to have a great race between now and the race date. If the answer is no, then this maybe a 2 year race goal while you build the strengths needed to achieve your goal.

#5: Train to your weaknesses:
It’s really hard to not want to train only your strengths. After all, when you go out for a training runthat plays to your strengths, you naturally feel better about yourself. This is a tough habit to break since your body and your mind want to do what they do best. To make the most out of your training, make sure you are putting in enough time working on your weaknesses. Some training pitfalls are narrowing your pace and heart rate zones that you’re training in. This is the quickest way to plateau your fitness and sub sequentially will lead to performance stalemate. Or if you know you need to become a better climber, make hill interval workouts a part of your weekly schedule. The idea is to improve enough on your weaknesses that they become strengths or at least not detriments.

#6: Heart Rate and Pace target zones:
Did you have clear and defined training heart rate and pace zones? Did you use your zones to reach your goals or did you train in your comfort zone with LSD? Training is an ever-changing process. As you get stronger and you become a more efficient runner your training zones will change. Neglecting to update your training zones or not use them at all will lead to over and under training. Revising your zones with a Lactate Threshold test every three months will keep you training in the correct zones for your fitness and goals.

#7: Did you have fun?:
If you can’t answer unequivocally and resoundingly “YES” from the depths of your heart then it may be time to step back and take a break. Remember when you first started running. What was it that hooked you? For most people, their answer will include the word “fun”. I challenge that training and racing should always be fun. If we allow ourselves to embrace the full process of training, the hard effort, the exhaustion, the beautiful scenery and our fellow runners, this can be affirming and metaphoric for the other parts of your life. But if every workout leaves you drained and broken down emotionally and mentally this should not be ignored and a break from racing and training and or/a call to your Dr is in order. Try to mix elements of fun into your training whenever possible. This can take form in a variety of ways. Whatever makes you smile during your training is well worth incorporating into your schedule. Staying true to the “fun” that hooked you to running is crucial to being a lifelong athlete.

Taking the time to reflect on your training and racing season will give you insight and set you on the right foot for your new goals! What gets measured gets managed.

Happy Trails!
Cindy Stonesmith, Running Endurance Coach with

On the Trail – Junko Kazukawa: Grand Slammer, Leadwoman, 2x Cancer Survivor

Junko mtb small

*Originally published on the Ultrarunning Magazine Website by Tonia Smith

Junko Kazukawa has always been a woman who is unafraid to make bold moves in life. Growing up in Japan, she knew that young women were expected to follow a traditional path: Go to college, take a job in an office for a few years and then get married and start a family. While that path was fine for most, it was unacceptable to Junko. She explains, “I wanted to do something that would change my life. I had to be by myself and I did not want anyone to help me.” Realizing that the traditional path was not for her, Junko set into motion a plan that would ultimately take her far from home, sending her on a life-long journey that would not have been possible if she had stayed in Japan. Over the years, Junko’s inherent courage has led her to a life of taking on challenges that others have often advised against. In 2015, the brave 52-year-old two-time cancer survivor tackled something that no one else had ever done, completing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and the Leadwoman series in the same calendar year.

Though Junko has become a tough and dedicated endurance competitor, she was not a naturally athletic child. In Japan, children are graded numerically on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. Junko was a good student, but she never enjoyed physical education class. She routinely ended up receiving a “2” in PE. One year, she actually got a “1” in the class. While Junko was never pleased with receiving a “2”, seeing the “1” on her report card sent her over the edge. She recalls, “I had no idea why I got a ‘1’. Did the teacher not like me?” Rather than let the perceived slap in the face get her down, Junko set out to prove herself to her PE teacher. She began practicing with the basketball team. Through hard work and an intense desire to succeed, Junko secured a spot on the basketball team. In time, she earned a “3” and the respect of her teacher.

This grit and determination has become a constant theme in Junko’s life. As she grew up, she saw very clearly what her future would be like if she followed the traditional path in her home country of Japan. While it was fine for most people, she could not bear the thought of following the road from office worker to wife to mother. Junko set a path in motion created a plan that would allow her to do something radically different from her peers. She knew she wanted to come to the United States to study, so Junko started her journey by spending two years studying the English Language. During that time, she spent a month with a host family in California. When she returned to Japan, she set her sights on returning to the US to live and study in Colorado. Leaving behind her parents, her older sister and younger brother in Japan, Junko moved to Colorado at the age of 24.

The girl who once received the lowest possible grade in PE class opted to study exercise science, eventually obtaining a Master’s Degree in the field. After completing an internship in cardiac rehab, she worked in a variety of settings, from a physical therapy clinic to corporate wellness. She is currently the Group Fitness Coordinator at the Colorado Athletic Club, Tabor Center. Throughout her career, Junko taught classes and worked as a personal trainer. She ran 5ks and 10ks for fun over the years, with the Bolder Boulder 10k being a long-time favorite. In the early 2000s, a friend’s qualification for the Boston Marathon planted in a seed in Junko’s mind. Though she had no idea how difficult running a marathon is, Junko chose the 2002 Tucson Marathon as her goal race. She completed the race in 3:27:08, qualifying for Boston on her first try.

Thus began Junko’s love affair with distance running. She went on to run multiple marathons over the following years. A typical year of running consisted of several shorter races along with five or six marathon distance races. The Boston and New York City Marathons were consistent favorites for Junko.

In 2005, life took an unexpected turn when Junko found a lump in her left breast. Testing revealed that her lump was breast cancer. Junko was shocked by the diagnosis. She had taken excellent care of herself and she could not understand how she, of all people, could have cancer. Fortunately, because her cancer had been discovered early, Junko was able to have a lumpectomy followed by radiation. Though hearing that she had cancer was frightening, Junko knew that she was exceptionally lucky because her cancer was found early before it had spread.

Junko during chemo treatments

Junko went on with her life following her cancer scare. She continued in her career. She ran more races. Junko’s boyfriend was a professional mountain biker, and she began dabbling in the sport, too. Junko never considered mountain biking to be her athletic strength. However, she had never ever been one to shy away from activities that scared her. She rode in some 50 and 100 mile mountain bike races. It was Junko’s exposure to the Leadville 100 mountain bike race that ultimately got her thinking about running the Leadville 100 mile footrace.

Though she continued to ride and run in multiple events per year, Junko never signed up for the Leadville 100 run. But then, in 2009, her world was turned upside down once again when she discovered another breast lump. Junko made an appointment with her doctor. It turned out that what she had felt was simply scar tissue. However, further testing revealed that Junko’s breast cancer had returned. This time she would have to undergo a full mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. The normally optimistic and good-natured Junko found herself facing feelings of both fear and depression. She had moments when she wondered, “Why me?” Though her surgeries and treatments were very difficult, Junko continued to be active. A month after completing chemotherapy, she ran and finished the New York City Marathon. She says, “I was not running any record time. I was just doing the distance. I had money to catch the subway if I needed to.”

New York City Marathon after chemo

It was this second time around of facing her own mortality that pushed Junko to finally sign up for the Leadville 100. The realization that she might not have an infinite amount of time prompted Junko to take on what she considered the ultimate challenge. Because Junko wanted to make her running about more than just herself, she ran Leadville as a fundraiser for the Susan B. Komen foundation. She decided to put it out to the world that she was going to finish Leadville as a way to motivate herself to train and put pressure on herself to finish.

In 2011, Junko assembled a core group of friends who dubbed themselves “Team Junko”. She recalls, “I was so scared. I wondered, ‘What if I don’t make it? All of these people donated money to my fundraiser.” Leadville, which starts at 10,000 feet of elevation, is a challenging test of endurance for even the most skilled athletes. Though she was terrified, once Junko started the race, she never once thought about quitting. With Team Junko’s help, she completed the Leadville 100 mile run for the first time in her life, crossing the finish line in 28 hours and 35 minutes. “I was so relieved to finish,” Junko explains. “It was such an emotional experience. It is just so hard mentally and physically. With all of the logistics involved in running a 100 mile race, you can’t just go ahead and run. You have to figure out your pacing. The team really has to come together. It was all such new experience. I was so happy to be able to do it after cancer. Leadville was my celebration after cancer.”

Because the Leadville 100 is close to the major Colorado cities that run along the Front Range, it has a “hometown” feel for many Coloradans. Junko fell in love with this hometown feel. She returned to the run and finished the race again in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In that time, she also decided to take a shot at finishing the 100 mile mountain bike race, as well. Her first couple of times out, Junko missed cut-offs and had the dreaded “Did Not Finish” (DNF) in the 100 mile bike ride. But because she seems to work well under pressure, Junko decided to sign up for the Leadwoman series in 2014. This series consists of the Leadville marathon, the 50 mile mountain bike ride, the 50 mile “Silver Rush” run, the 100 mile mountain bike ride, the 10k trail run, and finally, the 100 mile endurance run. Since Junko had DNF’d in the 100 mile bike already two times, she felt the enormity of what she had taken on. “I needed to make the cut-offs,” she explains. “It was a big, big challenge for me.” Fortunately, the third time was the charm for Junko. She completed the series, finishing third among the women.

Simply completing the Leadman/Leadwoman series is a tremendous accomplishment. The majority of athletes who are brave enough to sign up for the series fail to complete all of the races. Junko had just accomplished something monumental by any standards, and yet it was not quite enough. She knew that she would return for the 2015 version of the Leadville mountain bike race. However, hitting it big in a lottery would now prove to be a life-altering experience for her.

Team Junko at the Leadville 100 finish

Junko had long set her sights on running the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which consists of four 100 mile races (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch) run in a 4 month span. Just to get into the Grand Slam is an exceptionally difficult task in this day and age. Runners face long odds of getting into the first race in the series, Western States. Entry to this race is via lottery and first-timers have little chance of being accepted. Again, the third time was a charm for Junko. After being rejected in 2013 and 2014, she was accepted for the 2015 Western States. Immediately she realized that she had better put in for the Grand Slam, because she knew she might not get back into Western States at a later time. She applied to, and was accepted into Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch.

Team Junko at the Western States finish

While running the Grand Slam is an extremely daunting challenge for most endurance athletes, Junko wanted more. She couldn’t help but think that now that she was committed to the Leadville 100 bike and foot faces, maybe she could somehow squeeze in the Leadwoman series and the Grand Slam in the same year. Junko looked at her calendar, and though she knew it would be difficult, she thought that she just might be able to pull it off.

Friends and family were very concerned about Junko taking on such a grueling undertaking. People begged her to reconsider her plan. However, Junko had something much bigger than herself that was fueling her desire. Earlier in the year, three of her close friends were diagnosed with cancer. Two friends were battling breast cancer and the third a cancer of the blood. All three women were athletes who were otherwise healthy individuals. Each diagnosis felt like a personal blow to Junko. She explains her motivations behind wanting to take on something that many people thought was impossible, saying, “These ladies are battling right now in this moment. They can’t do their favorite things. They can’t run or ski for a while. I am going to take on their battles and do this challenge. I decided to do the series for them. I just needed to do something more.”

Junko spent the months leading up to the Grand Slam and the Leadwoman training hard for her events. Though she runs a lot, surprisingly a lot of Junko’s training is in the form of cross-training. She teaches a number of fitness classes each week, including spinning and plyometrics training. She cycles quite a bit and goes for some short runs during the week, if she has time. However, the bulk of her training for 100 mile runs comes in the form of back-to-back long runs on the weekends. Junko typically puts in 45-50 miles in any given weekend, divided up into two runs. She believes that all of her cross-training keeps her strong, healthy and free from injuries that plague higher mileage runners.

Junko’s challenge began in June, 2015, with the Leadville Marathon. “I was nervous,” Junko recalls, “But I just had to trust myself that I could do it.” She kicked off her summer-long odyssey by completing the high-altitude marathon in 5 hours and 45 minutes. One week later, she would travel to California to toe the line at the Western States 100.

Western States is one of the oldest 100 mile endurance runs in the United States. Junko was excited to run with some of the best ultrarunners in the world at this prestigious event. She knew the course was going to be mountainous, but thought that the net downhill would suit her style of running. “Western States lived up to its hype,” Junko says. “Right from the start, it was so fun. There were lots of ups and downs. I felt so strong in the first bit of climbing. However, I set a goal time that was too fast. In first big descent, I could really feel my quads.” At mile 40, Junko developed the worst blisters of her life. “Half of the backside of both feet was gone. I should have changed my shoes, but just didn’t. Every step was so painful. I slowed down quite a bit and did not make anywhere near my goal time.” Still, despite the difficulties she encountered, Junko finished the Western States 100 in 27:32:52, well below the cut-off time of 30 hours.

Most people would have taken weeks to recover from such a challenging race, but two weeks later, Junko completed the next phase of her quest to be a Leadwoman: the Leadville 50 mile mountain bike ride. She was nervous going into the event, because biking is not her strong suit, but she did well and finished without incident.

The second race in the grand slam, the Vermont 100, is written off by some as the easiest of the four 100s in the slam, because it lacks the high altitude and overall climbing of the other three western races. However, Vermont’s constant undulating course is underestimated by many runners. Couple the relentless rolling hills with East Coast humidity and the race has been known to present real challenges for many runners. Junko had expected to run a fast time in Vermont, but she faced many obstacles in Vermont and it turned out to be one of the most difficult races of her career.

About a year after she completed chemotherapy, Junko began experiencing extreme spikes in her heart rate. She was diagnosed with Supraventricular Tachycardia. At times, Junko’s heart rate can spike above 200 beats per minute. For the first seven miles of the Vermont 100, Junko felt great. Then, suddenly, her heart rate climbed dangerously high. She was suddenly reduced to walking. Though she never once considered quitting the race, she wondered if she would have to walk 93 miles of the course. She recalls, “The heat and humidity made it really hard. I walked every little hill. It was a really painful race. After about 12 hours, my heart rate came down, but then I started dry heaving. It was horrible.” Making things even tougher for Junko, she had opted to forgo having a crew or pacers with her for Vermont. As a solo runner, she had to traverse all 100 miles without any outside assistance. Still, Junko was persistent. With about six miles left to go, she made the decision that she was going to run to the finish line. Junko pushed herself as hard as she could over those final miles and finished the race in 27:30:57.

Three weeks later, Junko faced back-to-back races in Leadville. The Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race was held on Saturday and the Leadville 10k was on Sunday. The Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race had long been a big obstacle for Junko. She timed out of the event twice, before finally finishing it in 2014. If she failed to complete it in 2015, her dreams of being a Leadwoman would be over. Though she had minor mechanical issues early in the race, she went on to finish the race ten minutes faster than she had previously. This was a big confidence-boosting moment for Junko going into the following weekend’s Leadville 100 mile endurance run.

Finally, on August 22nd, 2015, Junko lined up to run the Leadville 100 mile endurance run. Even though she had run this particular 100 mile race several times before, she knew this was a critical event. It was the final race in the Leadwoman series and it was her third 100 out of the Grand Slam. This would be her fifth time running the Leadville 100, but even though she was familiar with the course, she knew she could not underestimate its difficulty. The high-altitude race has brought many seasoned athletes to their knees.

Fortunately, Junko would not be facing the race on her own. As part of the Runner’s Roost Mountain Ultra Trail race team, she would be surrounded by many friendly and familiar faces. With so many team members in Leadville for race weekend, she had plenty of crew and pacing support for this classic ultrarunning event. What made Leadville extra-special for Junko in 2015 was that two of the women she had been racing for all year were able to be with her. Junko’s friend Kristina, who was battling cancer, even paced her through the final section to the finish line. Finishing in 27 hours and 40 minutes, Junko describes the moment as “Emotionally very big.” She had been carrying her three friends names with her during each race, but to have them present for Leadville made the moment unforgettable.

Finishing Leadville made Junko an official Leadwoman and she knew that she now only had one more 100 mile race to go to complete her quest. Junko says, “I felt lots of relief and joy when I finished the Leadwoman and I was pumped to only have Wasatch 100 left!”

Junko got to rest for four weeks between Leadville and Wasatch. She describes the final race of the Grand Slam as very difficult. She explains, “The elevation of Wasatch is not as high as it is at Leadville, but there is lots of climbing.” While the other three 100 mile races all have a cut-off of 30 hours, Wasatch allows runners 36 hours to complete the notoriously difficult course. Fortunately, Junko had two crew members/pacers who were very experienced. Long-time friends, she trusted them completely. She explains, “I was confident that these two knew what to do and knew me. I thought, ‘I am just going to go ahead and run.’” In addition to her two pacers, one of the women she had been running to honor, Mary Jo, was able to come out and help crew. Having Mary Jo with her added to the emotional experience of race weekend.

Hiro, Junko, Mary Jo, Kei at Leadville

Though the course was incredibly tough and challenging, the beauty made the experience a joy. “You run on a ridge a lot, so you we could see Park City. It was beautiful. There was a lot of steep climbing. The temperatures dropped close to zero at night and it was super warm in the middle of the day. I needed a lot of preparation to handle the big temperature changes.” In the end, 52-year-old Junko Kazukawa finished Wasatch in 30 hours and 45 minutes, becoming the first person to complete the Grand Slam and the Leadwoman series in the same season.

Junko at Wasatch

So many people had tried to talk Junko out of taking on this challenge at the beginning of 2015. How is it that an older female runner was able to accomplish something that so many younger, faster athletes would not even consider tackling? Junko chalks up her mental toughness to having survived cancer twice. She explains, “The breast cancer experience made me strong mentally and physically. It has changed the way I think and it affected me positively. I am lucky that I learned a lot through those experiences and became a more positive person because of it.” Many people would be content to live a relaxing and quiet life after surviving cancer twice, but Junko looks at it differently. “Having breast cancer helped give me the determination to finish. I never give up. Even when I am having difficulty during a run, I know it is just temporary. My focus is very strong. When I am racing, it hurts but it is fun. If I do not keep moving, I know I will have regrets. I feel so alive when I am suffering during a 100 mile race.” The thought of suffering during a long endurance race is frightening to many, but Junko thrives on the adversity. She explains, “This is the sport for me. I love the journey. Every race is a really amazing experience. It is my time to think about life, health, challenge, excitement and my friendships. I have to have this kind of challenge every year. It keeps me alive. Life is short. I am 52 and I do not have a lot of time left. If there is something I want to do, I am going to do it.”

Grand Slam awards


Gemini News – Kokopelli Running Tour Recap

“I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as it did before. Or else I am awake for the first time, and all before has been a mean sleep.”


Edward Abbey
“Do you want to sleep outside,” asked Bear, as the cacophonous noises of tooth brushing and sleeping bags unrolling erupted into the quiet stillness surrounding us.  I studied him uncertainly.  I’d never slept outside before and, in fact, the idea hadn’t appealed to me on previous camping trips.  Sleeping outside meant that I would be exposed to the night, without even a thin layer of tent fabric as a barrier against all the amorphous possibilities out there lurking in the darkness.  The question burrowed into my mind and stuck there, annoyingly, appealing to my sense of adventure, a niggling worm gnawing away at my reluctance.  Dang it! I did want to sleep outside underneath the starry dome, enveloped by the sounds of the desert …but I was afraid.  I had visions of shapeless, possibly menacing, nocturnal investigators creeping up, occupied in their nightly escapades, while I dozed unwittingly in my sleeping bag.  The threat of the unknown and the vulnerability of sleep sat heavy in my mind for those instants of consideration and no rational line of thought managed to clear them; yet despite the fear, the draw of the open air remained.


Apparently uncompelled by Bear’s suggestion, Megan and Ula rustled off into the ostensible shelter of the tent with a friendly “Good Night.”  I sat in my camp chair lingering in indecision for another few moments, but ultimately my caution got the better of me and I too headed off, muttering “Maybe tomorrow night,” leaving Bear and Justin, our guides on the Kokopelli, to the mercy of the night.

Our little group had commenced this adventure tour by running two early sections of the Kokopelli Trail, beginning on Mary’s Loop from the official Kokopelli trailhead and then, after stopping for lunch, jumping on Lion’s Loop for a sustained low grade climb along a cliff-side trail over-looking the greenish-hued Colorado River.   That day, the first on our four-day expedition along sections of the Kokopelli Trail, through the deserts of Colorado and Utah, had stunned us.  We stopped every quarter mile to snap pictures and stood rapt, gazing out across the valley in awe.  Stretched before us, sprawling for miles and dotted with strangely verdant shrubbery, everything lay calm beneath angular mesas and fissured sandstone cliffs.  Occasionally the movement of a bird circling overhead caught the eye, surprising us with its motion among the otherwise still panorama.  In a way, it often felt like a classic movie scene: stark open country beneath a blazing sun, the land braced in quiet peacefulness intermittently broken by a hawk’s piercing scream.

Despite the nagging fatigue of the day, sleep evaded me for much of the night–perhaps I would have fared better in the wide open after all-and I fidgeted in and out of consciousness for hours.  But with bird song and coyote yips, along with the mooing of an elusive desert cow, the sun finally crept over the hunching Junipers, throwing shadows across the striated landscape.  I watched the desert’s morning ritual from my sleeplessness via the open flap of our tent and rolled around trying to position myself off the rock that, palpable through my partially deflated sleeping pad, persisted in jabbing me in the back.  Dawn in the desert can feel so fresh, with its brisk, dry air and the broad blue skies that create the illusion of an enormous domed bubble.  The morning predicted another pristine spring day and I climbed out of the tent stretching the fatigue and soreness out of my body like a cat.

After raiding a breakfast table laden with everything from Greek yogurt and granola to sausage and scrambled eggs, our little group of adventure-seekers, coffees in hand, huddled up for a briefing on the Western Rim Trail.  From our campsite, sections of the trail were visible below, curving in and out along the cliff’s edge, wide swaths of white-ish sandstone mixed with patches of loose dirt and bordered with scrubby vegetation and succulents.  Western Rim, Bear explained, was a common bypass to this section of the Kokopelli.  Its single and double track meanderings were more scenic and enjoyable than the sometimes rutted and straightforward jeep road called Kokopelli at this point.

The morning we tackled ten miles on Western Rim, it was yet too soon for us all to feel like we knew one another; caution and reticence still pervaded our interactions.  Our fearless leaders, Bear Barnett, a rugged-looking but soft-spoken fire fighter, and Justin Malloy, a talkative, easy-going student at Colorado Mesa University (and one heck of a camp chef), had worked together numerous times guiding raft expeditions and staffing endurance events on Colorado’s western slope and in Utah. To dispel some of the discomfort of new acquaintances on the road out of Grand Junction that first day, they presented us with a Goodwill Costume Challenge: $5 and 5 minutes to put together the most awesome and outlandish getup.  Losers had to run the first mile in their costumes.  Of course, experts that they were at this game, Bear and Justin both managed to find ridiculous moo-moos in about 30 seconds, leaving the three of us girls to hunt frantically through the moth-ball scented muddle for another few minutes before being heckled to the register with our mishmash of items. Despite time violations, which lost us the challenge, Ula’s Hawaiian inspired nightgown, Megan’s fuzzy scarf turned foxtail, and my purple children’s tutu made for a hilarious first mile and an excellent initiation rite.  Not to mention the guys’ moo-moos, which made continued reappearances, spawning an absurd hilarity during more than one dinner’s preparations.

Western Rim was a sunbaked and stunning declaration of the Utah desert’s beauty and power.  We hobbled into camp, one at a time, somewhat dehydrated, hungry, and renewed by the majesty and grandeur of the experience.  Though the day before we had run as a group, that morning the trail had spread us out along its edges.  Ula got an early start, following in the dust blown up from the wheels of our guides’ mountain bikes as they raced ahead to scout and point the way.  Megan and I got a later start due to an unforeseen wardrobe malfunction, but before long we too separated.  It was strange the subtlety with which the transition occurred, but one moment I was waving to a mountain biker going the opposite direction and the next I found myself running alone in the wide open, feeling the apathy, the insatiable Nothing, release my heart.

It is a strange secret I have discovered logging long hours running alone, that peace and freedom are freely available amongst the wilderness, but they are a painful, lonely lot and they come with a cost.  Once you know them, you cannot forget; but if you abandon the grasping reach of the modern world, you’re alone out there and I think, at some point, you likely quit being able to come back.

I don’t know if the other girls had a run similar to my own, but we all seemed a little wiped out from the morning.  When we arrived at the Overlook Trail for the second run of the day, we were a bit reluctant to get our feet moving, but the clouds had rolled in and huge fluffy cotton ball puffs provided some respite from the unwavering intensity of the high desert sun.  Megan, Ula and I puttered off between the eerie, gnarled Junipers lining the trail, kicking up a miniature sandstorm behind us.  We couldn’t help but goof off a little, taking silly pictures and ridiculous videos reminiscent of Rocky Balboa’s run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Eye of the Tiger played in my mind for 5 miles.  About a mile out from the rendezvous with our guides, I encountered an epic bonk, the kind that hits at mile 22 of a marathon when you’ve decided today’s the day to run 26.2 on water and a salt tab.  My blood sugar fell through the dirt at our feet and landed somewhere in the canyon below.  I ate all the food I had packed with me: honey packets, gels, Clif Blocks, and only felt partially revived.  I bravely pushed on, knowing Camp Paradise wasn’t too far away.  As we crested the small hill in front of us, Terra, Bear’s aptly named truck, came into view.  Mentally, I had crawled, I had struggled, I had eaten 500 calories of pure sugar to get me through the next mile… and there our rendezvous sat, 500 feet beyond the hill.  Talk about overkill.  I laughed my way to the picnic table filled with Oreos, chips, and, yes, even some nutritionally valuable food too, and promptly stuffed my face.  It had been a long day already and we still had to drive to camp.

Groovers, in case you don’t know, are a kind of camp toilet consisting of a box with a removable cover, to which an actual toilet seat can be fixed.  I was informed by our fearless leaders that Groovers earned their names from the grooves they left in the user’s bottom before the toilet seat became an additional component.  For whatever reason, the name “Groover” refused to stick in my mind and I kept calling the contraption a Grinder, which, under the circumstances, was a little more intimidating.  Our second camp sat on the most lovely, open clearing surrounded by aged Cottonwood trees and tall grasses.  There was even a perfect secluded spot for the Grinder…I mean Groover…behind a clot of trees in the next clearing over.

I’ve always heard that the first night of a backpacking trip no one sleeps well, but by the second night fatigue has its way, yielding a deep slumber.  On this second night, I slept, which in itself is a wonder, but I did wake once in the middle of the night when everyone else was deep in dreams.  On my way to find relief among the bushes, I discovered the magic of 4am.  That rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland–it lives at 4 am.  It’s the time of night when the world seems so still and silent because all that you are familiar and comfortable with has disengaged from action, yielded to the physical and surrendered to powerlessness.  In its place rises the nightmare and the hunter, the purity and the void.  All is strange and attractive, like the witches crooked finger beckoning you into the woods. I found myself wanting to wander out from camp restricted only by the tight tether of my fear, for no logic exists, in the dead of night, that usually restrains a sane mind, and my sane mind was far from with me.  I heard “We can’t stop here; this is bat country” echo in my ears and looked up at the clearest blackest sky I’d ever seen, filled with bright yellow stars twinkling on its domed surface.  But I turned my head to look behind me, as my fear always commands, and saw the open tent flapping with the wind.  Back there was sensible and real, back there lay what I knew as truth and I turned my face away from what seemed like freedom, because I am never brave enough to go alone into the dark.

The morning broke, releasing all the sparkle from the world of night back into the cosmos, and I shook the stars out of my eyes.  The trail ahead followed the water and the mud followed that. My shoe literally got sucked off my foot once.  But by mid-day both my shoes had managed to tag along for the view and we all enjoyed a pleasant, sunny lunch with an uneventful visit from some dirt bikers, who we mentally belittled from our human-powered movement pedestals.  The morning had pleasantly nudged us back to wakefulness, just in time for nature to show us her petticoats.

I’ve often heard the running aphorism claiming anyone can run downhill fast and that the climbs are where the winners earn their victories.  In reverence to this, I’ve spent many a run trying to learn to love the incline, a tool I found quite useful ascending the mesa on the Yellow Jacket Canyon section of the Kokopelli.  But, while this mesa climb possessed a certain duration, it wasn’t a climb with teeth.  The grade remained relatively gradual throughout, and it turned out to be an easy hill to love.  As our motley band of runners spread out on the trail, I chased after Bear on his mountain bike and watched the skies blacken around me.   By mile three, the storm had caught up, pelting us with rain and hail, transforming the terrain with roiling ravines of water where only shallow washes had been before.  The formerly peaceful shrub-land seethed to life with water rushing in every direction towards its one final destination. Down.

Freezing in the cold deluge, I left Bear waiting for Megan and Ula near the top of the mesa and took off on a solo sprint toward Terra and the promise of dry clothes.  But soon the storm had passed and all that remained was the rushing of the water as it found it’s way, relentlessly, through a parched and unwelcoming terrain.  The miles ticked off on my Garmin and went unnoticed.  The desert had stolen my soul in it’s tantrum, leaving me running, mindless, lost in all the beauty.  I didn’t want this run, this adventure, to end.  The sandstone cliffs loomed like rainbows in the distance, too far to touch, but seeming so close and tangible.  The depth and immensity of time confounded me.  It’s span stretched out and yawned, but the shallow confines of my own short existence slapped me in the face.  I did not endure; I did not flow.  I opposed like we all do, in the way that is the nature of man.  I wanted to roll in the sand, and cover myself in the essence of the desert, and yet I knew I would always be an outsider.  I am tied too intimately to our modern existence, too much to ever escape: the stranger in the wild and a discombobulated member of mankind.  Where would I ever find a place? Alone, alone, alone, but no…wait. I was not alone. There was Terra! There was Justin! There was FOOD!!! And such was the mental state I embodied running into camp on the third afternoon of our four day adventure.  How quickly one can fall down the rabbit hole and into…what?  What would you call that, madness, mere confusion, or some version of truth? I still don’t know, but I did turn around and run back up the Mesa for a bit before surrendering to the welcome of warmth and sustenance and company.  I just needed a little bit more of the profane to satisfy my lust.

Though the Goodwill Costume Challenge broke the initial ice, it wasn’t until the final evening, huddled together beneath a canopy tent watching Justin whip up a delicious stir-fry and Bear build a struggling fire in the rain, both wearing their Goodwill moo-moos, that we really felt like friends.   A bottle of Bitch Bubbly, supplied by Megan, the team’s resident sparkling wine connoisseur, was popped open with a bang to celebrate the last night of the tour and we drank it out of our plastic camp coffee cups with gusto, maybe too much gusto.   In truth, it may have been the margaritas, the bottle of Lagavulin, and the tiny bottles of Fireball making their way around our little huddle that were consumed with too much gusto, but who can tell?  By the time Bear broke out the giant marshmallows for an epic battle of chubby bunny, which Megan won with a startling 2 whole marshmallows, we were all acting pretty silly and a scandalous game of Catch Phrase ensued.  The game eventually wound down in cackling fits of laughter and someone put on some music, sending Toto’s “Africa” spilling out into the crisp La Sal mountain air. Needless to say, a spontaneous dance party broke out. We were almost in Moab, halleluiah! Well, of course I made a fool out of myself, as I do, but it was the most fun and not even the epic hangover the next morning could make me regret it.

Until the next morning, that is.  I awoke before everyone, as is my nature when camping. What? There was absolutely no reason to get up early, and yet…there I was brushing my teeth for 20 minutes in the snow, while the rest of the crew snored and wheezed their way through the earliest and most delicate hours of dawn.  I think I must have still been drunk.  Once I ate, however, the hangover set in and I transitioned into zombie mode.

I barely got my bag packed before we were winding and bouncing along the Kokopelli Trail once again, this time toward our final run. With car-sickness and hangover combined, I was doing my best not puke in the back seat when we encountered some mud.  This is actually an understatement.  The mud we encountered sucked poor Terra into its quicksand-like grasp and the more she struggled, the stickier the situation became.  Despite the use of four wheel drive capabilities, a wench and copious creative thinking, we were soon hoofing it down the trail towards Moab, leaving Terra halfway submerged in snow and cliff-side muck in the distance.  Our prospective run on Porcupine Ridge had now evolved into a much longer trek from the La Sal mountains down into Moab, and I, in my severely debilitated state, had decided to meander every. single. step.   A few hours down the road, I finally regained my composure and felt ready to run again.  It was just then that a reluctant couple in a rented jeep drove by and was willing to give the two cleanest of us a ride to town.  That meant Megan and me.  So we hopped in and cruised down into town, trying to be friendly to these people who refused to take all of us back to civilization, despite plenty of room in their jeep.

After getting dropped off on a corner in an unfamiliar place, I can’t pretend I wasn’t happy when Megan proposed getting a hotel room and staying an extra night in Utah instead of heading back to Grand Junction.  A shower and clean clothes sounded like the most wonderful things imaginable at that moment.  A few hours later, Bear and Justin, gallant and ever diligent guides that they are, made it down to Moab with Ula and continued, remotely, to work on getting Terra unstuck. Though their efforts were unsuccessful until things dried out a bit, they made sure we all got our belongings from the truck via ATV delivery service (actually just Bear and Justin on a rented four wheeler).  Bear even called his girlfriend, Kilian, to come and give us a ride back to Grand Junction the next morning so he could keep working on extracting Terra from the Kokopelli’s vicious grasp.


Before we left Moab, Megan, Ula and I invited Bear, Justin and Kilian over to our hotel room for a farewell get together.  We all seemed very formal and stiff, despite our adventure friendship.  We simply didn’t feel completely at ease back in civilization with one another.  Clean and starched, our conversation became, again, stagnant and impersonal.  We had returned to the realm of cell phones and ceaseless noise, of glaring lights and easy living.  I was pretty depressed about it, but that hot shower sure had felt good.


It was the best trip.  Sadly, for Megan, Ula, and me, it was over.  Bear, Justin and Kilian went back to their lives and we went back to ours like nothing had changed, but these kinds of experiences never pass into mere memory that easily.  I get restless at night; I chomp at the bit like a tethered horse when I can’t make it to the mountains every few days.  Something out there, something in the wild has its teeth in my heart and when it puffs it’s hot breath down my neck urging me to flee captivity, I can hear the siren singing of the trails calling my name.
Sunday, 17 January 2016 08:20

Training – Heart Rate Training Tips

Training – Heart Rate Training Tips


Find running coach Jeff Cooper at

Running ability builds when you are always workout-ready-that is, able to fully meet the challenges on the day’s schedule. This obviously means from day-to-day your intensity will change, as a recovery day follows an intense day of speed-work, for example. As we’ve discussed in the past, if you are not running within a specific day’s goal intensity-wise, your gains will be
compromised, or worse, you will become injured.
One of the most effective ways to stay within your desired running intensity is to monitor your heart rate. By knowing at what percentage of maximal heart rate you are running, you are empowering yourself to adjust exertion in more subtle ways throughout the run. Common exertion goals correspond to specific heart rates.


For example, since the purpose of interval training is to increase VO2max, there are no gains to be made running intervals at a pace above your anaerobic threshold; the following table illustrates that your target heart rate for this type of workout, then, would be 80 to 89 percent MHR (max heart rate). (In the case of interval workouts, rather than running faster, optimize the time spent at this heart rate by adjusting the distances or the recovery times between intervals.)


For these heart rate percentages to have meaning, you must gain an accurate sense of what your MHR in fact is. To do this, you will need either to accurately take your own pulse, or wear a heart rate monitor. The usual formulas (for men, 220 – age = MHR bpm; for women, 226 – age = MHR bpm) are not acceptable estimates for MHR in trained runners. Using 205-1/2 your age is a more accurate calculation for those that are fit. Studies of very fit athletes reveal an even wider gap between the general public’s typical decreases in MHR with age and these elite runners, some of whom show no decrease at all in MHR for up to two decades. As Earl Fee writes in The Complete Guide to Running, “My own experience with a heart rate monitor indicates my MHR is of the order of 195 bpm but the formula above would predict only 150 bpm at age 70.”


Fee offers several methods for determining MHR. Here is one:


When in good shape, do fast intervals after a thorough warm-up. Run 4 x 200 m or 3 x 300 m at 95 percent effort with 5 or 6 minutes of rest in between. Immediately after the last interval, measure the heart rate.


Without a monitor, you can check your pulse to determine heart rate. Place the fingers of your left hand on the artery at the top inside of your right wrist. When a pulse coincides with one of the seconds on your running watch, call this zero. Count all beats for 15 seconds, and multiply by 4 for bpm.


While regular, daily pulse-keeping offers benefits such as indicating if you are sick or unrecovered from a severe workout, the main advantage to pulse-keeping is to keep each workout in the optimal range of effort. By carefully monitoring whether, say, you are just inside the anaerobic threshold, over time you will notice that at the same heart rate, your pace becomes faster. This is adaptation at work; its mechanism is achieving optimal training effort on a daily basis.


Having a target heart rate allows you to establish purposeful training. It is always good to ask, what is the purpose of this workout? It might be to establish a particular racing ability, provide stamina training, or simply to recover from a prior, hard workout to get you ready for the next one. Every training purpose will have a target heart rate associated with it.


As Olympian and exercise physiologist Pete Pfitzinger has written, “The greatest value of using a heart rate monitor is preventing yourself from accidentally training too hard on your recovery runs.” He feels that keeping your heart rate below 75 percent MHR lets your body recover so you can enjoy higher-quality workouts on hard days.


Once you set up a workout with a specific ability-building purpose, run the workout wearing a heart rate monitor. Your goal is to establish a set of target heart rate zones, and the advantage to using a monitor is that you can track your heart rate during the run. Monitors with a memory function are best; you can record and analyze your exertion patterns at home after the run.


Use a heart rate monitor to also gauge your exertion during cross-training activities. Many runners are not sure how hard, say, cycling is supposed to seem-their quads may tire easily, for example. Shoot for 70 to 80 percent MHR during your cross-training to ensure the workout is worth your time.


Most models of heart rate monitor involve wearing a band around your chest that transmits data to the display on your wrist. Newer models are without the heart strap and have a band that fits around the wrist. A basic heart rate monitor can cost less than $50, while countless additional features, from monitoring the temperature, altitude, or calories burned, can drive the cost upwards of $500. Monitors that can download data onto your computer tend to be the most expensive. You also may want to check if the monitor’s memory is large enough to store more than one workout.
Heart Rate Training Chart
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