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!