Saturday, July 16, 2011

Western States part 2

OK... seriously, I've had part 2 done for a week or longer but needed pictures for it and kept forgetting to put off pictures.. so here it is with a few random stolen internet snaps!  Part 3 has lots of pictures so I just have to write the damn thing!

....After we left Duncan Canyon aid station, things got a little hazy for me... it's impossible to remember every section of the course and this one is coming up pretty blank for me.  I do remember trying to be friendly to a guy wearing headphones but he was lost in his own world.. which is fine, I do it myself sometimes during races  .  At one point we hit pavement and a course marshal was giving us directions and headphone dude yelled "what did he say??" to me a few minutes later.  Seriously dude, if you see a course marshal (and at WS they are pretty damn obvious, wearing bright WS shirts) turn your freaking headphones off or down so you don't miss anything.  Danny joked that I should have told the guy wrong directions.  I have issues with headphone etiquette especially on single track... I either just wear 1 earbud or keep the music down low enough so I can hear people talking to me or coming up behind me, nothing is more annoying then not being able to get by someone 'cuz they have no idea what's going on around them.  /rant over.

Back to the race... this section was about 8 miles and you hit both the marathon distance and the 50 K distance before another aid station.  I usually hit a bit of a low point right around 28 or so miles but having Danny around was a huge help, I didn't feel the mental letdown although my stomach was giving me grief.  In hindsight, after looking at how few salt caps I took over the course of the race, I think this was the start of my problems.  In KC, where it's hot and humid, the amount of sweat pouring off of you reminds you to take a salt, in a dry state like California, I kept forgetting that I was hot and sweating.  We got lucky this year and it was relatively cool (upper 80's) but I should have been sticking to my 1 s-cap an hour routine instead of randomly when I thought about it.  (Thinking is a dicey proposition at best during a 100).  The climb into Mosquito Ridge Aid Station was long but up to this point I was enjoying the climbs.  I really don't mind long, steady uphills (*remember this quote).  I kept my mind on the aid station ahead where I had my first drop bag and could restock my dates and hopefully get more watermelon.  The day was heating up nicely and watermelon was sounding better and better.

Mosquito Ridge aid station was a medical checkpoint which meant a weigh in.  I was down 4 pounds from the start of the race which is nothing to worry about.  My wonderful personal volunteer handed me my drop bag and took my pack to fill with water and ice.  I believe it was at this Aid Station that I got yelled at by a volunteer for the first time for not drinking enough.  I had my big Nathan pack filled with water, but I was also carrying a small handheld with Succeed Amino in it.  My handheld was empty but apparently my pack was still too full for my volunteers liking.  Bless him!  I refilled my pack with dates and swapped out bandannas which I then had my volunteer fill with ice.  Grabbed some more fruit.. grapes were great!  Danny was near the exit of the aid station so I figured he was ready to go and headed in his direction.... I have no idea what he did at this aid station but apparently he forgot to get anything out of his drop bag.  What were you doing Danny????

The next section of course was a 4 mile loop thing that was tacked on to make up for missing miles due to all the snow.  This was probably the least fun section of the course.  Not scenic,  too exposed and boring.  I kind of got in a zen mindset here and trotted along with my head down just taking life one step at a time.  I realized after awhile that I had dropped Danny so I walked for a bit and let him catch up but then dropped him again when I started trotting again.  I wasn't going to leave the next aid station without him but he caught me just before heading into Millers Defeat at 35.3 miles.  I was DAMN glad to get off that section of the course. Danny perked right back up too once we got back under the shade.  The next few aid stations kinda blended together.. I know there was lots of downhill and lots of uphill.... 'cuz really that's what the whole course seemed like.

 It was somewhere in here, before Last Chance that my quads really started to complain... which worried me to no end.  I had always heard that if you can get into Foresthill (62miles) with your quads intact you can really blaze the rest of the race.  I had a bad feeling that I wasn't even going to get into Michigan Bluff (55 miles) with quads.  (And this is the point in my race report where I could complain that it's impossible to get any decent downhill training in Kansas where a 1/2 mile of downhill is a LOOONG stretch.  This is also where I say I got lazy and didn't do anywhere near the amount of lifting and plyometrics that I should have been doing to make up for the lack in downhills.  (STOOPID Coleen)) There was also a ton of dust being kicked up that was making me very slightly wheeze on some of the uphills... this would return in the days after the race as a hacking cough that would bring up some wonderful looking lung cookies.  I would also be blowing dirt out of my nose and picking it out of my ears, eyes and bellybutton for days.

The next section of the course that I remember is the Devils Thumb climb.... this section is seared into my mind.  It's where the wheels fell off and Danny Miller became my rescuer.    The aid station worker at Last Chance (get it.. last chance to drop before the devil!) told us that it was a 45 minute climb and it was tough, but once we were done with that everything was easier.   I'm pretty sure Last Chance was the aid station where they had fresh mango and papaya in addition to all the other afore mentioned fruits.  (I am SO spoiled for all other races).  I was not feeling so great but after a really long downhill stretch that further ruined my quads I was kinda looking forward to going uphill.  How bad could it be right?  I have done Hope Pass.. and that's murder AND at 12,000 ft.... really can't be THAT bad.  Famous last thoughts.  36 switchbacks later I wanted to die.  Poor Danny put up with a whole lot of me walking slowly for a few yards and then stopping and bending over trying not to puke on my shoes.  And repeat over and over for over 45 minutes.  I kept telling Danny to leave me (in a totally melodramatic tone).... it went something along the lines of "leave me.. save yourself!"  but he refused and for that I owe him a lifetime debt.  I might still be struggling up that darn hill if it wasn't for his encouragement.  It was definitely my lowest point in the race, but even when I was dying and struggling, I still knew that I was going to finish the darn race... there was never an iota of doubt in my mind.

The roving medical team caught up with us near the top of the climb and gave me a ginger chew to settle my stomach.  I must point out that Danny had been offering ginger the whole climb but I was being a total brat about taking one.  He must have been ready to slap me upside the head.  I was pretty darrn happy to see the El Dorado Creek aid station (52.9 miles).  Sometimes just some enthusisastic, new faces are all you need to feel better.  It was also great to know that we were over halfway done and the hardest climb was behind us.  Ice in the pack... ice in the hat and some more fruit and I was almost a new person.. unfortunately the aid station table was fresh out of new quads so I had to continue on with the wrecked ones.  I think both Danny and I were just hanging on and hoping that the next miles would go quickly since Michigan Bluff (55 miles) would be the first place where we could see our crew.

The climb into Michigan Bluff is about 1700 feet over about 3 miles.  Remember how I said that I didn't mind uphills?  Yeah, I was struggling with nausea on the uphills and screaming quads on the downhills...     not sure which was worse.  I was definietely frustrated by the time we got to Michigan Bluff.   Danny was thrilled since he knew that he would see his crew there, but I had told mine not to bother coming to Michigan Bluff, just to meet me at Foresthill (mile 62).  I have never been so freaking happy as when I rounded a corner and saw both Raven and Deb at Michigan Bluff... I almost cried.  They left Debbie at Foresthill since she was going to be my first pacer, just in case they didn't make it back in time.  It was so fantastic to sit for a few minutes, talk with them, grab stuff out of my drop bag (headlamp, iPod) and dump my sun hat.  I had some cold caffinated peppermint tea which helped the stomach a bit and discussed my stomach issues with Deb.  She promised vegan boullion at Foresthill and access to all my gear and food.

 It was here that Danny headed off on his own... before he left he made sure that I was going to be continuing on and not dropping.  But there was NEVER a point in the whole race that I ever considered dropping or even feeling like I didn't want to be doing this anymore.  I was in a fantastic place mentally  the whole race even if I wasn't physically.  Danny was rarin' to go and I wanted him to have a fantastic rest of the race... I knew that he too was going to finish.   I marched out of Michigan Bluff by myself but with determination, stuck my iPod on and within minutes ended up turning it off so I could talk with a couple of guys that I had been playing leapfrog with.  I know that carrying a big hydration pack is looked down upon by some of the runners, but I was able to help the guys out with lipbalm, salt and ginger.  Items that I might not have been carrying in a handheld.   I had my iPod on for about 15 minutes but was enjoying the sights and sounds around me so much that I ended up turning it off and not using it again for the rest of the race.  For me, this was quite unusual, I like some loud music late at night to wake me up, change my attitude and add some spring in my step... but didn't even consider it this time.

The miles to Foresthill where I would pick up Debbie went surprisingly quick, I was glad I had stashed my headlamp in my drop bag at Michigan Bluff since by the time I pulled into Foresthill it was dark.  I got weighed again... and may I point out that except for the very first weigh in.. I stayed within 1 pound of my starting weight the whole race.  I grabbed a piece of fruit from the aid station, but really just wanted to get to my car and crew.  Debbie guided me down the long, long row of cars... I'm glad she was there since I probably would have gone right past it in my somewhat dazed state.  I sat down and Deb and Debbie immediately started handing me food... I was eating and popping blisters and taping feet and changing socks all at the same time.  Now I think back on how very gross that whole thing was.. pop a blister, wipe off goo.. shove food in my mouth.  Wash hands??  Nahhhh.  What doesn't kill me makes me stronger....

Anyway, this was a very weird stop, it was the longest of the race and I was pretty bamboozled after being fairly alone for the day.  To all of a sudden have a mass of people around me, Greg, Raven, Erin, Deb, Debbie, Danny's parents and a surprise visit from a friend who used to live in KC but moved to Cali and just randomly stopped by the race, was great but I was having a hard time concentrating.  I finally got my feet taken care of, some food in my gut, grabbed a long sleeve shirt just in case, swapped out my headlamp for my good one and grabbed a handheld flashlight.  Debbie and I headed off down the road and after a few minutes I stopped and went... uhhhhh... do you know where the HELL the course is???  Apparently just marching down a random road in the town of Foresthill is not the best way to get to Auburn.  At least not if you want a belt buckle.

Part 3 to come!

Friday, July 1, 2011

This is going to have to be a series of posts on my Western States experience... I cannot possible sum up the fun of the events leading up to the race, the LONG race write up and then afterwards in one blog post. I am just too damn wordy for that. This is the first... and it starts with the start of the race. It's kinda out of order but I wanted to get the race write up down while I still remembered it.

Never thought I'd be writing this race report... Western States 100 is one of those "dream" races.  It's so hard to get into, that even after I received the confirmation emails and booked hotel rooms and trained hundreds of miles and done umpteen hill repeats getting ready for it, I never actually thought the day would get here.  I assumed it was going to be a bad version of the movie Groundhog Day... race day would never actually happen... so when I woke up at 3:30 am on Saturday June 25 and realized that THE day had actually gotten here, I was pretty astounded!  Luckily, I had been preparing all along like it was going to happen so I was good to go.  I crept into the bathroom, trying to let my crew sleep for a few minutes more and relished the last few minutes of quiet.  I took my time getting dressed, lubing, brushing my teeth, and putting in the pigtails.  As soon as I stepped out of the bathroom it seemed like time took a leap forward and moved into triple speed... and I hadn’t even had coffee yet!  I got my coffee made, my fruit smoothie together and then in no time my friend Danny Miller and his crew and family were knocking on the hotel room door.  Danny and I walked the couple yards to the start area and picked up our numbers, timing chips and had one last weigh in.  Somehow I had gained a pound in the 18 hours since I had had my medical bracelet put on... I don’t care if you are about to run 100 miles, no girl wants to hear she gained weight!

We returned to the room, made sure we had everything in our packs, I attempted another bathroom break, gulped some more coffee and then as a large pack with lots of flashing cameras, we all headed off to the start.  A million photos were taken, I hugged my most amazing crew chicks Debbie and Deb and pacer Raven and all of the assorted Kansas folks that had made the long trek to California and Danny and I headed off to find a place in the pack.  I am used to starting in the back but Danny suggested we find a spot in the middle and since we were planning on sticking together for awhile I followed him.  It was a very different view then what I had been used to seeing...the pictures and videos from the start are always from the spectator side of the line.. the runner side looks very different!  All too soon we got the shotgun blast and the pack of runners slowly moved up the mountain.  It was pretty dark still, but not dark enough to require headlights and with 375 starters, you just had to follow the humanity.  The start in Squaw Valley is at  6,229 feet and you immediately head straight uphill to the highest point on the course of 8,713 feet in about 4 miles.  The legs are in for a VERY rude awakening.  My calves had some things to say to me pretty early on.. nothing I care to repeat here.. but let’s just say they were NOT happy with me. Danny and I kept an easy pace, we were able to have a conversation going without gasping for air although I could feel the altitude in the back of my throat.  Danny was wearing his Garmin and so was keeping an eye on our pace and a few times had us back off a bit... blowing up in the first few miles of a 100 would be bad. I am grateful for his restraint.. I was so jacked at the thought of being there that I would have probably gone screaming up the mountain had I been alone.

The first aid station is at 3.5 miles and due to the massive amount of snow and the course changes because of it, the next aid station wasn’t until 15 miles, so people were stopping and filling up.  We were both wearing packs so, with a shouted Thank You, we both kept on going.  After the aid station was the steepest part of the climb which also coincided with the start of the snow.  WS doesn’t allow for yaktraks or screwed shoes so there was much slipping and cursing... which would remain the theme for the next 10 or so miles.  We hit the top of the climb and turned and looked at the AMAZING views around us... it was incredible. I reminded Danny that this particular view was a famous picture... and we were ACTUALLY in it!

 I said a silent goodbye to Squaw as we started to drop down the other side on our way to Auburn.  The snow was icy and slick in most spots with the occasional deep, slushy sections.  I decided early on, that I wasn’t going to fight the snow... there was no way around it, and heaven knows we had run in enough of it this winter so I was going to embrace and enjoy it.  As I took my first fall, my resolve was tested but I laughed instead of cursed and got up and whooped.  I stopped counting my falls after 5 but thanked my lucky stars that none of mine were bad.  There were sections of bloody snow where it was obvious that the ice had torn open more then a few legs and hips.  But I must say that the next time I go running around on that much snow, I will practice the art of self arrests beforehand and I will wear a skirt with longer shorts underneath... 2 words: Snow Enema.  Yeouch!

This section was probably the noisiest of the day... lots of cursing and laughing and screams and yelps. There was also a whole lot of assistance... the part of ultrarunning that I love so very much. When someone slipped and fell there were outstretched hands to help them up, there were many shouted warnings of slick spots and deep holes. People alerted others to the best routes though snow and in general helped each other in every way possible. We may have been racing but it was mostly against the course and our own minds.

It was great to finally it some dry ground and be able to stretch the legs and actually run.. the mincing half run that we were doing on the snow takes a toll on the legs and muscles after awhile. I got off the snow feeling fairly banged up.. I had some funny aches where I don't normally get them during running, especially not that early into the race. We hit a deep stream crossing that luckily had a nice thick cable stretched across for us to hang onto since the water was moving pretty darn fast. The water was breathtakingly cold and it took a few minutes after getting out to be able to feel the legs and feet again. It was like running on pins and needles for a bit. It was shortly after the water crossing that we hit the Talbot aid station... actually I believe there were 2 water crossings first but I may be wrong. 

Talbot was our first introduction to a Western States aid station... and let me tell you there is nothing like it. You run in and are immediately greeted by your own "servant" (for lack of a better non offensive term).. these WONDERFUL folks grab your pack, fill everything up, direct you to the food and in general wait on you hand and foot. The aid station buffets were AMAZING... there was more fruit then you could shake a stick at. The benchmark for me is watermelon... if an aid station has watermelon, that race automatically gets bumped up high on my favorites list. They not only had watermelon, bananas, and oranges but grapes, strawberries and cantaloupe. HOT DAMN! I was in vegan heaven. I assume that had other very tasty stuff too since every time I looked over at Danny he had his cheeks stuffed full of food. I could have stayed there awhile, but we got in and out fairly quickly and since there was no snow and a pretty flat surface we trotted. Danny was wearing the Garmin and kept us taking the odd walk break but I felt like we made up some time on this section. I remember chatting with a few people through here, mostly while we were on our walk breaks but for the most part everyone had their heads down and was going for it.  

The next aid station at Poppy (more amazing fruit!!!) came on fairly quickly and then there was some gorgeous running to Duncan Canyon... it was super soft footing and along a lake and I felt like I could have run all day right there. Danny and I were having a great time yapping on and on about all sorts of random stuff... every once in awhile he would devolve into some esoteric med school speak and I would have to fart to bring the tone back down. I had totally forgotten about a "bear" incident that occurred in this section, but he tells it better in his race report which you can read here. After this beautiful running, the course started climbing upwards where sadly a fire had ripped through this section not too many years before leaving it exposed and barren. It was starting to get pretty hot here too and I think this was the beginning of my stomach's downfall. We were both pretty damn glad to see the Duncan Canyon (23.5) aid station and I was thrilled to eat more FRUIT! We were directed out of the aid station by a very white Mr. T.......

To be continued......

( I can take no responsibility for any of the pictures.. I know a few were taken by my crew and Bob from Drymax socks, but I have no idea where some of the others came from.. I apologize!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day!

I just want to say Happy Fathers Day to my wonderful father who taught me so many, many things.  

Being dragged around the country from race to race while I was little taught me a love for long road trips (although I think being crammed into a Chevrolet Chevette with my brothers instilled in me the knowledge that I didn't want kids).  Thank you for never actually pulling the car over as you threatened to do many times.  I remember the feeling of the open road in the wee hours of the morning, the smells of fields, the stars above and the feeling that our family were the only people left in the world. The smell of McDonald's coffee will forever be associated with those trips.  Thank you for finally buying a van and building the sleeping loft in the back... I genuinely believe that act saved me from fratricide.

Watching you run incredibly long distances taught me stubbornness, fortitude and mental strength.  It also taught me to be kind to those who were slow in the head because obviously you had been dropped as a child.  Seeing the skin peel off your feet, watching you vomit copiously but still stagger off onto the trail in the dark made me realize that there was something wrong with you.  When people asked if I wanted to run long distances "just like daddy", I answered with a vehement "NO!  I HATE running!"  As embarrassing as it was to admit that my dad ran abnormal distances and ate baby food while doing it, I also was proud to have the skinniest, fittest dad on the block... knowing that you could run down and kick ass on any guy that hurt me was a great comfort.

I kicked against the running gene for 34 years... I saw that running made you cry, made you bleed and hurt and made you cranky and tired all the time... it didn't look like a good time to me.  What I didn't see clearly at that age was the peace and joy running also gave you, and I didn't realize what an amazing treasure that your running friends and the whole running community were.  I was learning lessons of patience and selflessness by waiting for hours at aid stations to crew you... it paid off later in college when I became the best bike racer's girlfriend because I didn't bitch, moan and complain about doing exactly what I had grown up doing...albeit with more expensive toys and a lot more shaved legs.  

During a drive across Wisconsin at age 34 when my running genes suddenly woke up and said "it's time to run", I had no choice but to listen.  And then I understood.  Understood you, understood the joy and the peace that is found in the long run.  Understood the mental testing, understood the lessons you were teaching, understood what a lucky childhood that I had.  It comes all back around again next weekend when I will run Western States... the first place where I saw you cry, saw you in pain and laid low but still saw you run down the track at Placer High to finish your first 100 miler.  That was 30 years ago... and I'm just sorry that it took me this long to make it there.  Thank you for everything Dad.  I love you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rockin' K 50 miler

It seems like I start so many of my posts out with the words "I LOVE this race!!" and maybe it's just because I love to run these things... but Rockin' K really is a special race.  I consider it a hometown race even if it is 3 hours away.  Kansas Ultrarunners Society and Stacey and Phil make everyone feel like family.  Stacey has a special knack of knowing names and faces..without ever meeting them before and going out of her way to make sure they are comfortable and taken care of.  I really can't recommend this race enough.  It's one of those races that shouldn't be hard but somehow is and everytime I run it, I think... this shouldn't be this difficult.. there are no mountains, no altitude, no enormous hills, no terrible footing, no rabid beavers to avoid... but somehow it remains a difficult race.

A group of us drove down early on Friday to make sure we made it in time for the pre-race pasta feed... KUS always puts out an amazing spread including handmade meatballs by Stacey.  They make a super yummy veggie sauce and then you can add meatballs for the carnivoursly inclined.  There are always great giveaways and last year I won a free entry to the Heartland 100... I fully admit that I was crossing my fingers that I DIDN'T get it this year... I'll be out there but my ass is volunteering.  I'm not sure my feet are yet totally recovered!  I did however win a free entry to next years Rockin' K!!  YAHOO!!

The next morning started out chilly but not freezing with a forecast of "warm" with the wind picking up in the afternoon (as usual).  We started out with the usual high spirits and joking manner.. much conversation and laughter were traded over the first few miles as groups formed and broke up and formed again.  I found myself running the first 20 miles with Jessica from KC, who I had met when I worked at a gym.  We had been Facebook friends but this was the first chance to run together... Jessica was running the marathon and it was her first trail race.  We had a great time getting to know each other and talking about running and life.  It was a surprise when we hit the first aid station at Gate 6 and all the chaos and attention from all the wonderful volunteers!  We fueled up and Jessica grabbed her dog Jaeda from her boyfriend to try and wear her out on the Big Bluff Loop.

The Big Bluff loop consists of a big bluff... DUH... and some amazing views on top of said big bluff.  It's usually where the wind starts picking up too, and this year was no exception.  We kept a good pace of hiking the uphills...or in Jessica's case, being pulled up the big hills by Jaeda!  As we exited the bluff section of the loop and hit the beaver ponds and grassy section, a whole conga line of runners were coming at us.. from the wrong direction.. lead by Adam, (who has run this race 3 times), they had missed the turn and had to backtrack about a mile.  That sort of situation never makes anyone involved happy, but it was nice to have a new influx of people to run and talk with though.  When Jessica and I got back to the Gate 6 aid station, I told her to take off.. since she was running the marathon she needed to speed up and I would keep on my slow trot.   I walked for a bit while I refueled and then popped on my iPod to get me back to the start/finish.

I had been feeling OK the whole race.. it wasn't one of those magical, everything feels great day like last year, but I wasn't sucking seeds either, so going back out on the second loop wasn't feeling like a chore.  The start/finish area is a dangerous place for 50 milers.. many people walk into the shelter to innocently grab their drop bags and end up getting consumed by the fire, beer and party people inside.  My goal remains to NEVER walk into that shelter until my race is over!  I check in at the line, go to the car and turn and head back out.  I don't care WHAT kind of yummy foods they have in that darn shelter!  Dates and bananas were making me happy so I was sticking with what worked... I did grab a few handfuls of cold watermelon from my cooler before heading back out on loop 2.  It was still early season watermelon so it wasn't very tasty and didn't give me that  magical watermelon high... sadness.

 I ran by myself for a good portion of this loop.  I caught a few guys and ran with them for awhile but went on ahead.... probably should have stuck with them for awhile longer since I missed a well flagged turn while fiddling with my iPod.  The turn I missed just happened to take me to Gate 6.. which is where I was supposed to be heading... but it took me into Gate 6 from the wrong way.  Before the race Phil warns everyone that if you come into Gate 6 from the wrong way on the second loop you will be ridiculed mercilessly.  When I realized what the heck I had done.. I turned and ran back in the opposite direction until I found my missed turn and got on the correct path.  I would have totally gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids... errrr... if it wasn't for the guys I HAD been running with pointing out at the aid station that I had been in front of them and wondering just why I was coming in after them.  Doh! Busted!

I quickly left on the Big Bluff loop to avoid the laughter and derision that was coming my (well-deserved) way.  The course was marked great.. it was my stupid fault I missed the turn!  This loop was pretty slow.. I started feeling pretty crappy and I had been having problems with my shoes from the get-go.  I had bought a new pair of my favorite shoes (La Sportiva Fireblades) before 3 Days of Syllamo and  for whatever reason they just hadn't felt right.  Now I am an expert in these shoes since I have had roughly 13 pairs of them since I found them... when I say something ain't right with them.. something ain't right!  I was irritated with them at 3 Days and (stupidly) decided to give them another try at Rockin' K... yup... still something wrong.  My feet and legs don't usually get sore and achy during 50 milers but these shoes were making me sore and achy less then 20 miles into the races,  the arch felt like it was in the wrong place and even the heels felt wrong.  I don't usually like to play the blame game but these shoes where not helping my race at all.  I ended up walking a whole bunch of the big bluff loop and came into the Gate 6 aid station ready to be done.   Thankfully.. a bit of ice in my pack and another banana perked me up and got me going again.  It's amazing how much just a bit of ice can help when it's hot and humid.

The 6 miles to the finish were a put-the-head-down-turn-up-the-music and try not to think too much slog. It was hot and windy and all I could think about was the special vegan brownies that Stacey had made for me and a beer.  I crossed the finish line in 12:16... a good 30 minutes slower then last year.  But the important thing was that I had fun and it was another 50 mile race closer to Western States.  I ate 2 huge bowls of yummy, yummy bean soup and waited for the last few finishers to cross the line with a cold beer in hand.  Another fantastic race by KUS and the Sheridans at Kanopolis State Park.

Oh yes... it's not every race where the RD not only makes vegan brownies to have at the aid station but also puts aside a special pan just for you! (the whole pan was gone in 2 days.. and I was practicing restraint!)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pi Day River Rotation 1/2 marathon

My friend (and President of the Lawrence Trail Hawks) Laurie is a math nerd.  I mean that in a loving and mostly jealous way since math was always a struggle for me and I remain in awe of those who don't have to use their fingers to add (totally not joking.. watch me add a tip on a bill sometime.. hilarious!)  Anyway... only a math nerd would come up with the idea of hosting a race on Pi day (March 14th = 3.14) and serving pie!  The Trail Hawks ran with the idea (ha!) and since it was Laurie's idea she got the honors of being race director. Jacob Kaplan-Moss volunteered to make pie for the race... as in many, many home-made pies.. YUM!!

 Unfortunately Pi Day actually fell on a Monday this year, so we opted to have the race on March 19...but the spirit of Pi was not diminished in any way by this date change.  (I'm not actually sure what the "spirit of Pi" is.. or if Pi even has a spirit, however I have had some pie that has made me spiritual)  Anyway... the Lawrence River Trails were chosen as the site and Laurie decided that the race would be 3 rotating loops..  hence the name Pi Day River Rotation which is PiR2 (even my computer is math phobic and can't type the Pi symbol!)

My original plan was to run the race with my recently- started- running husband (!), since it was to be his first half marathon... but after marking the course we decided that we really needed another course marshal at the far end of the loop... which meant that I would be doing time at that very spot.  I didn't really mind, I like helping out at races and it meant that I would get to see Erik (and everyone!) twice anyway.  The worst part about volunteering has to be the super early hour of the morning that you have to be there.  Since everything has to be set up before the runners arrive, it was dark, cold and early.... and I have a feeling Erik was having second thoughts.  Warm and still asleep was probably how he would have preferred to be!

Laurie had everything ready to go, so set up was quick and easy and the rest of the time before the race was spent greeting people that I hadn't seen in ages.. I had been doing so many races out of town that I felt like it had been years since I'd seen a bunch of the local runners.

About 15 minutes before the race started, I kissed Erik, gave him a few last pieces of advise and grabbed a few extra "wrong way" signs and Jim B and I headed off to our positions on the course.  Jim was going to be at the "short loop" turn around and I was a the "big loop" turnaround.  Runners would do 1 large loop (5 miles) counter-clockwise, hit the aid station and then do another 5 mile loop but this time clockwise, hit the aid station and then do a small 3 mile loop counter -clockwise.  As Jim and I ran out to our places, we made sure that all the ribbons were still up and signs were pointing the correct direction.  We had marked the course the night before, and since the trails are pretty high traffic we were lucky that nothing had been disturbed.  I placed a few extra "wrong way" signs in a couple of questionable places just to make sure there was no snafus.  Sometimes it can be hard to mark course on trails that you know really well.... a turnoff that seems so obvious to me can be clear as mud to a newbie to the trails. 

I got to my spot in plenty of time... time enough to eat a Honey Stinger Waffle for breakfast (SUPER YUM) and read a few pages in the new Ultrarunning magazine.  Before I could get TOO comfortable, Jim texted me that the lead runners had just come past him and should be arriving shortly.  I barely got a tweet sent out about it before they were flying through the loop... I brought my cowbell and made sure I made plenty of noise for them as I pointed out where they were to go.  After the lead guys came through, there was a lull and then another sizable group and then another lull and another group.... the lulls were just about long enough to let me tweet the goings on.  I had asked Jim to let me know when Erik came through, so while I was anxiously awaiting that text, I was making sure that no one came past me without a word of encouragement and lots of cowbell noise.  When I heard the telltale "ping" from my phone, I got the camera ready and was happy to see Erik was running with a group of Hawks that he had done some group runs with.  He was smiling and seemed to be maintaining a good pace and having a good time.  I snapped a few pictures and yelled my head off... I was about bursting at the seams with happiness!

I had a great time for the rest of the race, ringing the cowbell, talking to people, and giving lots of encouragement, but I was also looking forward to getting back to the finish line before hungry runner ate all the pie!!  After the last runner came through my section I pulled up the signs and hauled ass hoping that I would make it in time to see Erik finish the race.  While trotting down the trail I rounded a curve and there was a gorgeous red fox in front me, also trotting down the trail.  The wind was blowing his scent to me, and he didn't realize that I was back there for quite awhile.  I was quietly trying to find my phone so I could snap a picture, but alas, he heard me and took off into the bushes.  I just LOVE spotting cool wildlife on the trails!  I used my course knowledge to shorten the run back to the finish so I was able to see Erik finish in 2:17:15.  I was SOOO freaking proud of him! Everytime I saw him, he was smiling and looked like he was having fun.  I think the monster piece of vegan apple pie afterwards certainly helped the mood too!

Laurie did a fantastic job of RD'ing and all the volunteers were spectacular.... as far as I know, no one got lost or off course!  WHOOO!!!  I'm looking forward to running this one next year... only so I can justify eating more then 1 piece of pie!!

Photos courtesy of

Girl Gallops

The Lawrence Trail Hawks decided to start a companion Kansas City run to our Thursday night Lawrence girls run this spring. We meet at Shawnee Mission Park at 6 pm on Thursday nights and I'm really pleased with the interest the run has generated.
The first couple weeks we had some threat of bad weather but we still had 6 ladies ignore the weather reports of severe storms and come out and trot anyway on the first week. ( I'm really sad I forgot to take a picture of our first run!!)  The next rainy Thursday we had a bunch of different people out.. I love the rotation!

  This week we finally had a beautiful night... sunny, warm but with a cool wind.  It was the perfect night for running and we had a blast! I miss all my Lawrence girls, but I'm loving running with and getting to know a brand new group of kick-ass chicks!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boston Energy

... Boston Energy was in the air on Monday... I got nothing done at work and if I was to have my internet time audited by IT, I'd probably be fired since I spent the whole day with the BAA. website up, tracking my friends and friends of friends and watching some AMAZING elite performances.  The most important finish to "see" was my friend Kelly... rockin' a chemo induced bald head and a T-shirt that read " Hey Cancer, you picked the wrong bitch to mess with" she finished in 3:45:45.  I don't think I could run a 3:45 marathon right now and she does it 3/4 of the way through chemo for breast cancer.  She is truly BAD-ASS!

I was so hyped up that I destroyed my hill repeats that afternoon.  I've been running repeats on Ogg Rd on and off for a couple of years now and that hill always seems to kick my ass.... except for Monday.  Monday, Ogg was MY bitch.  I'm really hoping that it wasn't just the emotion and energy from the day, but all of my hard work paying off.  I've been running short hill repeats in the mornings a few days a week and then Ogg repeats once a week in the afternoon.  I'm picking up a treadmill tonight that I'm borrowing from a friend so I can spend hours doing walking training on an incline. 66 days to Western States! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ultra love

Before I get to writing up 2 more race reports... yes I am woefully behind... I must give a short shout out of congratulations to my wonderful friend Christy.  She and her most FABULOUS guy got engaged recently... and this makes my heart very happy. 
You might ask what this has to do with running?  Well.... my ultra "career" would not be where it is today if it wasn't for the hard work and dedication of this woman.  Christy has seen me through all of my big ultras.. she has been a training partner, a tireless crew chief, a patient pacer and a rock to lean on... she also has the amazing ability to read my mind and ignore my whining.  She has driven countless hours and eaten crappy food, gone without sleep and put up with hours of bitching and moaning... and for what???  She doesn't get the belt buckle or the medal or the finishers sweatshirt but she deserves all those and more. 

She has put up with the worst of me... Leadville 100 of 09 springs to mind.  We are just a few miles from the finish and the 30 hour mark is closing in fast, I am hurting and more pissed off then I have ever been in my life... helpful people keep telling me "you're almost there" but they've been telling me that for an hour and I'm at the end of my rope.  Christy has been pacing me from Fish Hatchery, got me over SugarLoaf Pass, got me in and out of May Queen before the cutoff and got me to make up time around Turquoise Lake.... and when she gently suggested that we might want to pick up the pace a little bit I turned to her and snarled "f*ck off".  Not a shining moment in my life... instead of punching me in the head like I deserved, she simply kept walking with me and ignored it... and she got me onto that red carpet before the 30 hour cutoff. 

Heartland 100 of 2010 also springs to mind... Christy has not been able to run or even walk or sit or lay comfortably for months.. ever since she fractured her back.  She and her wonderful guy Dave still volunteer to come out and crew for me.. I cannot imagine the amount of pain she was in, but she never complained, never let on that she was hurting.  Dave was there helping out side by side with her... together they got me to yet another 100 mile finish. It was only appropriate that they told me of their engagement the night before an ultra. 
 I owe Christy (and Dave) a debt I can never repay.  I'm not entirely sure how I got so lucky to find such an incredibly caring friend, but I thank my lucky stars that I did.  I wish nothing but a lifetime of love, joy, devotion, health and riches for my incredible friends, you deserve nothing but the best!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

3 Days of Syllamo- Day 3..PHEW!!!

It's a darn good thing that this race was only 3 Days long.. otherwise I may have never finished writing these reports up!

Getting up on Day 3 wasn't actually hard, since everyone had slept like crap and was awake well before the alarm went off anyway.  You would think as exhausted as we all were, sleep would be easy.... nope.. even if you take an Advil before bed, those aches and pains announce themselves every time you move.  We had to pack up the cabin before we left since checkout was at 11 and we wouldn't be able to be back by then.  It's such a shame to rent these beautiful places and not get to enjoy them at all.  I never even stepped foot onto the gorgeous rear deck that overlooked the would have been the perfect place to spend an evening sipping beer and rocking on the porch swing.  (Maybe when I'm 80.)  We spent a few minutes at least taking pictures to document and prove just how pretty our cabin and the surrounding were and off we went.

In my head I was planning on a nice, easy day... a relaxed pace with no time goal in mind.. just a finish.  My legs were feeling tired (DUH!) and I figured there was no way I'd be able to push the pace.  The RD Steve posted some prelim results for the overall which got me fired up since he had listed a certain woman ahead of me, whom I had finished well in front of on Friday and I had dropped in the first few miles on Saturday and had never passed me after that.... I pointed this out to him, and he said they were just prelim results, but it worked to get my competitive juices flowing.  The trick this morning was to stay out of the way of all the fresh, rarin' to go folks that came out just for the 20K race... Get in front of one of them at the start and they just might run over the top of you as you creak and hobble your way to the trails.

The race starts on the pavement before it dumps you onto the single track, so there was plenty of time to get things a bit warmed up before we hit the uphill.  Once we hit the single track, I ended up behind a couple of people that were talking up a storm.  Now, most of the people I have met during trail running are wonderful, enjoyable people whom I love getting to know... but every once in awhile you meet someone that just rubs you the wrong way.  And here I was stuck behind 2 of those people.. and they were talking to each other.. loudly.  I had to get the hell out of there.. uphill or not.  I eased around them and headed uphill at a pretty good clip trying to give myself a little space.  Wonder of wonders... my legs felt fairly fresh and strong, so I went with it!

I ended up behind a woman who I had met the year before.. we were on the same search and rescue crew so we had a bit of a chat about that.  Her birthday was the next day and we chatted about how last year her guy had planned a big surprise party for her, that she ended up being late to since search and rescue ran longer then the race would have! Margaret and I played tag back and forth a few times, but she was on fresh legs so by the time we hit the unmanned station she was ahead of me and would remain so for the rest of the race.   I continued to push as hard as I could, marveling the whole time that my legs were feeling so remarkably good.  Margaret was my rabbit.. as long as I kept her in sight, I was happy.  If she started to get too far ahead of me, I pushed harder... it was a fantastic mental boost.  We passed quite a few guys, and the question of the day from everyone seemed to be, "How much further??".  Stu Johnson and Paul Schoenlaub had run all 3 courses a few weeks before and Stu had warned me that he thought the 13 mile course was actually closer to 14 miles.  I was mentally prepared for it to take longer, but apparently that wasn't the case for quite a few folks.

I admit to being really ready to be done running by the time we started dropping lower and lower and I could hear sounds from the road.  Margaret was still just in front of me, and when we hit the pavement I gave it everything I could...admittedly it wasn't a huge amount... and she held me off to finish 1 second in front of me.  I was darn glad to be done.  Darn glad that no one had gotten hopelessly lost this year, darn glad that I was able to finish all 3 days, darn glad that I have the ability to be able to run in the woods with wonderful people for 3 days.

I love this race.. I love the WONDERFUL volunteers that devote so much time and energy to making sure we remain hydrated and sated, I love the RD for deliberately picking the hardest courses possible, I love the beautiful surroundings and the fantastically cold, leg refreshing river.  Can't wait for next year.... I am determined to have a good 50 mile race next year.. determined.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 Days of Syllamo - Day 2- 50M

Day 2 dawned dark and early.. I think we were up by 4:30.  Thankfully everyone had gotten all their stuff together the night before so it was just a matter of dressing, eating and getting out the door.  It was a fairly restless night for most... lots of getting up and peeing in the middle of the night, or getting up and taking a few Advil or just not being able to find a comfortable position.  The first step out of bed is always a fun one... you put your feet down slowly, stand up, hold your breath and wonder how bad it's going to feel!  Luckily for me, I felt fairly good... little stiff, little sore and a little blister on a toe but mentally feeling pretty happy.  Stage races are certainly about the mental aspect.

It was dark still when we got to the start/finish and there was a whole lot of debate about whether to start with headlamps or not, and which drop bag to put them in.  I hate the panic of not having a light, so I figured I was going to carry mine in my pack no matter what.  After all it only weighs a few ounces and the peace of mind it gives me is invaluable.  It was light enough at 6 am that we didn't actually need them to start with and I hoped that I would finish before dark, but the light was safe in my pack anyway. Just before the start Laurie decided that she was going to sit out today, he IT band was really tight and her Achilles had a huge red bump on it from where her shoe had rubbed the day before.  This was not her A-race so she chose to forgo it so she didn't really injure herself.  This meant that she was going to be out on the course crewing for us, which is always wonderful... she does a fantastic job of it.

The start was slow and easy and there was a lot of low moaning and swearing coming from runners around me at the first few strides.  As every one's muscles loosened up, the swearing turned into light chatter as we settled into a long day.  I felt quite good at the beginning and held myself back, I didn't want to blow it early on.  At first the weather was perfect for running, sunny and still cool, comfortable shorts and short sleeve weather.  There was a group of us running easily together for the first 10 miles, taking it easy on the climbs and faster on the downs and flat.  At one point Sarah, running behind me, tripped and grabbed my skirt to keep herself up, it came down and it was then that I realized there was a guy in our group! Whoops.. Jimmy suggested wearing suspenders next time.... I was just glad that my skirt had kept Sarah from face planting.

We hit the 10 mile unmanned aid station, and Deb filled up while Sarah and I retied our shoelaces.  I was wearing a brand new pair of shoes and the laces kept loosening up on me. The first 16 miles or so were the prettiest part of the course until the very end and I enjoyed this section, the temps were still cool and the scenery was gorgeous.  We came into the 16 mile aid station and Laurie was happy to see us, but also VERY concerned because Nick hadn't come through yet.  We looked at each other and knew that there was no way that he was behind us, which meant he must have gone off course.  Nick isn't stupid though, so we knew that he would backtrack upon realizing that he was lost.  I filled up my pack and looked hopefully for bananas but alas... there was none again.  There were a few oranges but sadly I can't do citrus when I run... the heartburn kills me.

The girls were taking too long at this aid station so I set off on the trail by myself... Deb was just behind me and Sarah right behind her.... luckily they were close enough to point me in the right direction since I promptly lost the trail!  This section is a 4 mile loop that brings you back around to the same aid station and just a few hundred feet down the trail, we see Nick coming at us from the wrong direction.  Turns out he and another guy got uber-lost and added around 5 extra miles, I told Nick that the R.D Steve was at the aid station so he could get things straightened out.  I was glad to see that he wasn't LOST, just misdirected.   This loop was pretty but it was also the only section of the course that I felt could have used a few more markers on it.... but that was probably just my own fears after having seen how bad Nick got off course.  I got back to the aid station and my saviour Jerry gave me a banana from his private stash... Jerry rules!!

I was happily existing on dates and bananas and water which has been my fueling for all these winter 50k's.... it's too early in the year for watermelon yet.  It was starting to heat up and I was super thirsty, but afraid to drink too much for fear off throwing my electrolytes off.  Water didn't seem to be quenching my thirst no matter how much I drank of it and figured I'd end up going overboard.  Coming out of this aid station was a long, gradual downhill and I was loving it, but also way back in the corner of mind I was thinking of the uphill section that was surely to follow.  This was probably the last time that I felt really good the rest of the day.  The heat really started to kick in here and there were more and more exposed sections with not a cloud in the sky to shield us from the sun.  My stomach started to go south... and by south I mean it was busy partying in Tierra del Fuego. I just HATE when my stomach goes on vacation without me.  At the time I was blaming the nausea on the heat, but in retrospect it was probably a combo of heat and not enough calories considering the effort expended the day before and all the hills we were climbing today.

The iPod came out of my pack in hopes that it would work some magic.... if I could lose myself in the music maybe I could avoid dwelling on the at times overwhelming urge to toss my cookies.  I popped a ginger candy and stuck the headphones on and kept trucking along... slowly, but steadily.  At one point, I passed a guy going the opposite direction and at my startled and panicked look, he assured me that I was indeed going the correct direction.  Apparently getting lost was the name of the game today.   I reached a most WONDERFUL river crossing and spent a few minutes just standing in it and dropping my core temp a few degrees.  I dunked my hat and used it to wipe all the salt off my face... sheer heaven.  As I started off again, I encountered yet another person that was off trail and then 2 more guys that were apparently doing circles on this section.  I really can't say too much since I got lost twice last year, but I really thought that the courses were well marked, especially the intersections.  I guess it's all just a matter of what you're used to.  I do appreciate when the course flagging is low to the ground especially on technical courses.. my eyes are usually glued to the ground and if the flagging is up high in the trees, there is a pretty good chance that I will miss a few.

I came into the 25 mile aid station with the pack of "lost" guys feeling much better after the creek dunking.  I filled my pack and spent a few minutes here chatting with Laurie (still no bananas!) and as I was getting ready to leave, Deb came into the aid station so I waited for her and we took off together.  This section had a few more little water crossing that felt heavenly and we agreed that it would be perfect to spread these out every few miles along the course.  As we were leaving the aid station Nick was just coming in, so we expected that he would come past us like a freight train any minute.  Deb and I plugged along and about 30 minutes or so after leaving the aid station, we heard Nick hailing us.  He was with one of the guys he had gotten lost with, way back at the 10 mile aid station.   Apparently they had gone straight by the unmanned aid station instead of turning right, and had gone about 5 miles in the wrong direction, unfortunately they ended up back on the course so they thought they were fine and following course ribbons until they came into an aid station from the wrong direction.  Nick was content to settle into our slow pace for awhile and talk and having conversation around me helped take my mind off my guts, so this section went fairly quickly although it was super exposed to the sun. 

We came into the 32 mile aid station and fueled and filled quickly and headed back out... headlamps were grabbed just in case we didn't make it back around before dark.  Nick and Deb left me fairly soon after exiting this aid station... I was in a bad spot and they were feeling good, so I watched them both trot off into the distance.  I put my iPod on tried to ignore the stomach, but every time I tried to run faster then a shuffle, I got nauseous.  The smart thing probably would have been to run hard until I threw up in hopes that it would make me feel better but making yourself throw up isn't the easiest thing to do even when it probably would be the best.   I worked myself into a real snit and by the time I was approaching the 41 mile aid station I was convinced that I was either going to quit or explain that I wouldn't make the cutoffs so I had to be pulled.  Fortunately for me Laurie came bopping down the trail to find me and wouldn't accept any of my whining or excuses.  She got me some ice in my water, made me laugh and told me that I could walk the remaining 9 miles way under the cutoffs.  I needed her size 7 1/2 shoe up my ass since I was acting like a little bitch. 

The sun started dropping after leaving this aid station and it was enough that I no longer felt the heat on my skin which combined with the ice in my pack and the ginger candies I was sucking on, made me feel much better.  I made it into the 45 mile aid station and grabbed my drop bag where I had stashed an organic energy drink shot (should have grabbed it at mile 32! DUH!).  That thing lit a rocket under my ass... not entirely sure if it was the actual ingredients or the HORRID nasty-ass taste but I got the hell out of the aid station and ran for the finish.  Once I can "smell the barn door" I get a second wind  and the thought of that cold stream to soak my legs and some tasty, tasty rice and beans had me moving much faster.  Soon I was dropping down the hill next to the stream and on my way through the campground to the finish.  I love coming out of the trees and getting cheers and encouragement from fellow runners hanging out in the stream or waiting for the showers... I also love the odd looks the "regular" campers give all of us... and the incredulous, "Now, how many miles did you run today??" comments in the bathrooms.  I crossed the finish line still in the light and faster then last years time by a few hours but still wasn't happy with my performance.  Third times the charm.. right?  Hopefully next year will be the year I can put it all together.

I headed immediately for the stream and spent 20 minutes enjoying the cold and then totally enjoyed the hot shower afterward.  I sat down and got myself a huge helping of rice and beans just as they were starting to raffle off lots of prizes.  There were packs and lights and socks and all sorts of fun goodies to possibly win.... but I won the most non fun prize of the evening.  I just happened to win a free entry into the Ozark 100 ! As someone pointed out... at that moment winning felt an awful lot like a punishment!  At about this time my wonderful friend Sarah came across the finish line... she was the last finisher, but there were a whole lot of people that had dropped out.  That girl has got GUTS.  She'd never done anything like before and her only other ultra was a flat, almost paved 50 miler... she jumped in with both feet to this race and persevered.  She's my hero!

 Sarah looking a little shaky after finishing, but refueling with yummy beans!!

Day 3 to come.......

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3 Days of Syllamo - Day 1- 50K

I love this race, I love this race, I love this race... this race also makes me cry and breaks me down in so many good ways.  Last year, before this race I was scared shitless to do the 50 miler at Rockin' K, (for some reason Rockin' K had really messed with my mind) but after doing the 50 miler at 3 Days I was no longer worried about anything Rockin K could throw at me.  This year, I'm not worried about Rockin' K, but was scared shitless of  Syllamo.. go figure.  This year I felt better going into the weekend, the winter had been a bit more pleasant and I had been able to get 3 50K runs in leading up to the race and lots of snowshoeing.  I was hoping to get through the weekend without crying.... and I did (at least not externally)!

I caught a ride down with Deb and Stu on Thursday night, and we caravaned with Debbie and Julie.  Nick, Sarah and Laurie went down earlier in the day and got the cabin all sussed out for us.  A 5 1/2 hour drive from KC makes for a fairly late arrival but thankfully the race doesn't start until 9 am on Friday, so we were still able to get a good nights sleep in.  Well, kinda.... the beds in the loft left quite a bit to be desired in comfort.   I considered moving to the floor but fell asleep before I could work out the logistics of not getting stepped on while everyone trekked back and forth to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Everyone was up and at 'em at 6 am, making breakfast, getting gear together and happily chattering about what lay in front of us and just how many times we had each gone to the bathroom that morning. (yes, runners are weird).  It was great to have Sarah along since she is another vegan/raw/hippy type so there were 2 of us making green smoothies for breakfast and sharing a kale salad for dinner. We all do this enough that amazingly everyone is ready to go on time... just try getting 8 people out the door on time in a different situation... it's like herding cats.  The cabin was only a 10 minute drive to the start... luckily it's an uphill 10 minute drive, so we all were able to super quick send out texts, make calls and check emails during the drive.  Apparently  AT&T,  T-Mobile and Sprint hate Arkansas.  We got to the start/finish, checked in and got our swag.. great (pink!) shirts (womens' cut = 2 thumbs up), socks, water bottle, lip balm and other assorted goodies.  It was a little chilly but was forecast to warm up to the mid 60's and it was already beautifully sunny out.  It was fantastic to see a ton of familiar faces... Arkansas feels almost like home.. in fact I've done more ultras in Arkansas then any other state. 

After instructions from the RD Steve (follow the BLUE rectangles, turn AROUND if you think you are lost) we were off, but not very fast, since it was a nice mile or so uphill start....Steve is such a sadist.  I started out at a comfortable pace... well,  comfortable breathing pace anyway.  My calves had been giving me fits all week and I was hoping by not running all week and doing lots of foam rolling they would have loosened up by race start, but no such luck.  My calves were tight as drums and in turn they were making my shins yell, but I knew that eventually they would loosen so I ignored them.  I concentrated on the gorgeous views, the people around me and keeping a super easy, steady pace.  Sarah stayed right with me and it was great to be with her on her first 50K and first experiences on the Arkansas trails.  My right foot and lower leg went totally numb after awhile so I had to keep a very careful eye on how I stepped since I couldn't actually feel the trail.  My trail shoes aren't super minimal, but they are light enough that I can feel rocks and sticks and such under my feet so I assumed that running with numb feet must be how running in Hokas must feel.  Thankfully about 5 miles in, everything started to loosen and the feeling came back into my feet and leg. Phew!

Sarah and I rolled through the first aid station with only a quick check in to give our numbers and a thank you for being here to the volunteers.  We both had hydration packs on and were carrying plenty of the foods that work for us during races.  Not to dwell on being vegan, but you have to make sure you have plenty of reliable food with you because you never know if there will be anything you can eat at an aid station.   We kept rolling along at a super comfortable pace, walking the hills that were too steep to comfortably run and enjoying the warm weather.  Had this not been a stage race I was feeling good enough that I would have been able to pick up the pace quite a bit and still feel good.  I picked up a banana at the Barkshed aid station... my friend Jerry from St. Louis brought it out special for me since there wasn't any out.  Stupidly I didn't fill my pack with water at this aid station either, I knew that there was an unmanned one just before the turnaround and I still had plenty of water.  A few miles down the road as the top runners were passing us on their way back we got the news from our friend Brad that the unmanned station was out of water.  We started to conserve, but nothing is worse then knowing there isn't any water up ahead... somehow it makes you more thirsty!  I was hoping that once the news hit one of the manned aid stations that they'd send someone out to refill the jugs. 

Sarah and I didn't bother to stop at the empty jugs, but there were quite a few people milling about with totally empty bottles, wondering what to do.  I know that it would be easier running with just a handheld during shorter distances but having grown up in Colorado, you learn to be prepared when you are hitting the trails, and I almost always run with a pack with water and food and a light long sleeve, even in the summer.  I hit the turnaround, punched my number and headed back... Sarah had dropped back a little bit just before the turnaround.  When I saw her, I gave her some salt pills and told her to hang on behind me as long as she could.  Knowing that I'm on my way back to the "barn" always gives me an energy spurt so I increased the speed just a little bit.  I passed a bunch of people in this section, there were a lot of dehydrated, hurting folks, and I gave a bit of the water I had left to my friend Deb because she was totally dry.  I was kicking myself for not having totally filled up at the last aid station, I could have really helped a bunch of people.  There were some waterfalls that people were filling up at but I'm glad that I didn't have to resort to it... giardia is not on my list of summer plans.  I ran dry about 2 miles before the aid station, but I was much better off then folks who had run dry 7 miles before.  It turns out that the unmanned station was about an hour and 1/2 of back roads driving to access, so there was no way to get the jugs refilled before the race was over.

I hit the Barkshed aid station and gulped a whole ton water, filled up my pack totally, took an S-cap and headed the heck out.  This section was mostly about staying steady and getting re hydrated, re- salted and re-fooded.  I had cut back on eating when I was low on water since it takes a bunch of water to wash down the food when your mouth is dry so I was behind quite a bit.  Didn't bother to stop at the last aid station, just gave them my number and kept going.  I couldn't wait to get to that wonderful mile + downhill section that I had slogged UP that morning.... I had my iPod on and I was cruising, still feeling really strong.  The Replacements "Alex Chilton" came on about the time I hit the long downhill and I'm honestly surprised that they didn't hear me belting out the lyrics at the finish line!  I finished in 7:03 (by my watch).  A full 40 minutes slower then a few weeks ago, but 50 minutes faster then the year before... of course the year before I took a few detours and did some bonus miles, so I can't compare too closely.

Unfortunately, by running faster then my friends it meant that my dry clothes, shower stuff and food were in a locked car.. and I didn't have the key, Doh!  Nick had already finished so he lent me a sweatshirt so I didn't get chilled.  Laurie finished not far behind me, and after she recovered for a few minutes we went and stood in the wonderfully cold and healing river.  Spent a little over 15 minutes in the river talking with Susan Donnelly and ignoring the numb feet and legs.  Laurie was kind enough to lend me a towel and Nick a pair of shorts so I could take a hot shower after the being in the river.  Got back from our water play to see some of our friends finish.  Debbie twisted her ankle pretty darn bad, Laurie was having IT band and Achilles problems and Deb struggled with not having water so it wasn't the best day for most.

We all headed back to the cabin shortly after eating, since there was much to be done before tomorrows stage of  50 miles and it was a 6 am start time......

(photos shamelessly stolen from friends Laurie and Debbie!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

3 Days of Impatience

I HATE the couple of days right before a race... the impatience kills me and I start feeling all sorts of aches and pains and my brain goes into overdrive and I can't sleep.  This weekend is 3 Days of Syllamo, one of the BEST races around.  3 days of running through the gorgeous Arkansas trails... with yummy food, beer and a freezing cold stream afterwards.  Day 1 is a 50K, Day 2 is a 50miler and Day 3 is a 25K, and it totally kicked my ass last year but I've been dreaming about going back.  Last year, one of the runners got lost on Saturday and so the Sunday race was canceled. Almost everyone went out on the trails with search and rescue to look for him, and luckily he was found safe and sound, but I've been looking forward to actually completing all 3 days of the race.  I almost crossed out the 3 Days logo on my (super sweet) shirt and markered in 2 days, but I figured all the hiking we did with search and rescue counted as something.

The secret to being able to run each day is spending time in the frigid cold river after each race.  As you can tell by our faces, it's REALLY freaking cold!   I totally wussed out and was only able to stand about 10 minutes in the river,  everyone else was chatting and relaxing and acting like it was a freaking day spa...uh no.  But this year, I'm totally gonna put my game face on since it will be Sarah's first time at the race... she can be the noob squealing like a little girl and hopping out before everyone else! HA!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring teaser

It was a beautiful day in the mid 60's here in Kansas City... one of those days that makes you want to throw all your sweaters in the trash, give Old Man Winter the finger and run naked through sprinklers... or maybe just run for hours on the trails in shorts and a t-shirt.  Unfortunately, Old Man Winter hasn't quite left the building yet.... we're looking at possible snow flurries on Saturday.  *sigh*

Today is Thursday which = Gal Gallop day.  The official Gal Gallop starts at 6:30, but I  usually meet my ultra buddies Laurie and Sarah early for a quick 5 miles before the run.  Tonight neither of them could run (poor, poor things) so I hit the River Trails by myself.  I started out cranky due to stupid people driving (read: everyone in my way) so I was glad I was by myself.  I was looking forward to some quiet trail time to get my head right, but within 2 minutes I had almost been creamed by 2 kamikazi cyclists.... and then it all came rushing back.  You see, us girls have had the trails ALL to ourselves on Thursday nights for months now.  Apparently most people forget that there is an outdoors when it gets cold.  It's been fantastic, like having our own private trails and I had forgotten what a pain in the ass it can be to share!

Am I the only one who gets cranky seeing all these fair weather worker-outers?  Dammit!  I've been here all winter.. these trails are mine!   These people missed out on the beauty of the icy, still winter nights when the moon is bright off the snow and the only sounds are the crunch of feet.  Seeing all the different animal tracks, and the joy of leaving the first human tracks in the snow.   I love seeing how much the trails change throughout each and every season, not just the warm ones. I feel sorry for those fair-weather folks, but I don't actually want them to "get it"... I like my secret winter trails. 

*I totally stole that picture from Flickr user cirem... gorgeous shot!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hard vs. Easy

It's kinda funny how when you start thinking about something in particular, suddenly you find it/see it/read it/hear it everywhere.  I had started thinking about easy/recovery runs and how everything I read indicated that most people run their easy runs way too hard or fast.  I had that information in the back of my mind, but after taking my coaching classes, it was really in the forefront and I decided that I was going to make a concentrated effort to make my easy runs... well, easy! 

Easier said then done... I am really struggling with the SLOW and SHORT concepts.  I have a terrible tendency to just run... and if I feel good, I run some more!  OK.. actually not a terrible tendency, but not helpful when I'm working towards a goal and adding 10 miles to what is supposed to be a slow, easy 5 is counterproductive.  Don't get me wrong.. I'm not a fast runner, but I like to push the pace a bit and will definitely run longer if given the option.

It's a struggle to rein myself in, but I'm really hoping that by making my recovery runs truly easy and short that I'll be able to handle some more mileage on the hard days.  My body tends to break down in the 65-70 MPW range, but if I can get proper rest and recovery on alternate days, I should be able to bump those figures up.  Here's to hoping the "experts" are right... 'cuz this experiment is already driving me crazy!  If only there really was an "easy button!"

New Beginnings

I started a blog a few years ago when I fell in love with running... and then I abandoned that blog for many reasons (none of which I will list here)..... but we can just say it was time for a fresh start!

I hope to update this blog a whole lot more regularly, and I also hope to be able to censor myself a little bit... I tended to get pretty wordy at times.  The best blogs are short, sweet and to the point... kinda like me, short, sweet and to the point! (HA!)

I recently passed my RRCA running coaching certification, and I really hope to be able to help others fall in love with running, and train intelligently and successfully whether it's for a 5K or a 100 miler.  I am VP of the Lawrence Trail Hawks and lead a Thursday night woman's trail run in Lawrence for them.  I am turning that run over to the fantastic hands (feet?) of President Laurie and Sarah and starting a similar run in Kansas City in April.

I got into Western States 100 this year, so I will be blabbing a whole lot about that over the next few months.  WS is a special race to me since it was my dad's first 100 miler...  and I helped crew for him at the tender age of  7.  I'm super nervous about this race and trying a whole new training plan. I'm just hoping I don't blow it, since it may be 100 years before I could get into the darn race again!

I will also be sprinkling in some tasty recipes and food info.  Gotta have good fuel to make the body go!  So, yeah... here's to hoping I can keep this one going a bit longer then the 2 years the other one lasted!