Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The North Face Endurance Challenge Costa RIcs...Take II

TNF 80k Endurance Challenge Costa Rica…Take two.
Pura Vida!

Sometimes you have to go back to a place you have been, to see how far you have come.  This was my FB/ Instagram post after the race and it is so very true.
My first visit to CR was by invite, a first for me.  I was super excited to visit this country and to run this race.  Sadly, I went out too fast not adjusting for the heat and humidity and ultimately did not take care of the engine that was supposed to get me to the finish line.  I overheated and pulled from the race at 35k.  Just making it to the other side of the hottest part of the course, the canyons.  Lessons were learned that day.

Take II-- Two years later.
Another invite and an opportunity.  Here was my opportunity to take my learning's from my first attempt in Costa Rica and to apply them.  No not to just any hot and humid race but to the same one.   Lucky me :) 
I broke two years ago because I failed to take care of my body under the conditions it was racing.  To the best of my ability I would not be repeating this mistake.
Feeling focused :) P/C Sproston
The weather for Costa Rica, Rincon National Park for race day was calling for overcast skies, thunderclouds, intermittent rain and record high humidity (two years ago it was record high temps).  With all this, I felt ready.  Amy Sproston joined on this trip.  She would be racing the 50k event.  She and I went on a couple shake out runs prior to race day and got a quick introduction on what the humidity would feel like....minus our waterfall dips!
The night before the race, Nick the director of The North Face Endurance Challenges asked me what my goal for the race was.  My response was to have a good race, take care of myself…and make it to the finish line.  He was there two years ago and was excited to see me return.  
Race morning and I am rested, relaxed and feeling ready.  Maybe even getting used to the critters in the jungle.  A flying coach roach landed on my should at breakfast and I calmly flicked it off, a few moments later one dropped down my bra and I did the same...Imagine that!! 
p/c Costa Rica Ecogreen
With a 0530 start I was happy to see the overcast skies and, well, the humidity, it was expected.  The first 4.5k was uphill and I was pleased that I was not completely soaked with sweat by that first aid station as was my previous experience.  And unlike previous in which I flew past the aid, I stopped and drank two cups of Gatorade before taking back off.  At this point I was around top 5 female but was truly unconcerned.  
The course would offer 13 aid stations with the largest gap of 8.5k.  The terrain was a mix of jeep roads, jungle/forest single track and pavement with a total of about 6k of vert.  Per the RD it had been raining in that area for a month and we would see a lot more mud, and water crossings.  My area for concern was the Canyons which would start at 34k and last only 7k.  While not terribly long my previous experience made the 7k feel like a marathon in distance.
Not long after the first aid station was I saturated with sweat and I stayed on my plan.  I was drinking 2-3 cups of fluid at the AS's, refilling my 1liter hydration bag as well as my handheld.  Adding ice down the bra for good measure.  I started with Tailwind in my hydration and was using GU and banana wedges and chips for additional calories.

Little warm in the canyons but not like 2 years ago!
p/c Josue Fernandez
Enjoying the challenge! p/c Costa Rica Ecogreen
Feeling in control and knowing that there was a lot of race still to run I came into AS 3, 19.5k and was told I was the second F and F1 was 5 minutes up on me.  No worries, my body and mind were in sync and I wanted to keep it that way.  My confidence increased a bit when I saw Kaitlyn after only 4k.  My pace was steady and I was feeling good.  Kaitlyn and I chatted prior to the race, both recalling my last attempt and her passing my overheating body in the canyons.  This was not going to happen today.  In and out of AS 4 to AS 5 and into the canyons…same canyon as before 100% different experience.  I came out on the other end of the canyon beaming.  I made it.  May sound silly but I was almost giddy.  I was also a bit hot, but  I was managing it.  More ice, fluid, and calories and away I went.  AS 8, 50k mark I was told I had 10 minutes on Kaitlyn coming out of the canyon. 
Lush green and lots of water.
p/c Josue Fernandez
I was still feeling relatively good…only concern was some calf cramping.  While my legs were feeling strong on the climbs, if I tried to do my signature trot on the hills (using mostly calves) my calves would give me little bee sting like warnings.  And so I changed to hiking the ups, and eating salt, bananas and gatorade…taking more fluid and ice with each AS.  And I was still completely soaked, telling me that I was providing enough fluid for my body to regulate its temperature effectively. YAY!!
AS 13, 4k to the finish, and a spot where Amy and I took a dip in the waterfall the day previous.  So close, perhaps a moment of distraction and that is all it took for my first annnnnd only fall.  While soft enough it didn’t stop both of my calves from seizing up and have me yelling like a wild Howler Monkey.  With the assistance of a couple 50k runners they stretched out my calves and I was on my way to the finish line!
And it was a good day....
Thank you to Federico and Ligia for bringing me back to experience your race as it was meant to be experienced!  
For those of you out there looking for a beautiful challenge and something the entire family can enjoy, this race is for you.  Plus there are multiple races aside from the 80k.   If you decide to throw this vacation/race on your calendar you will find a well organized and supported race and you get to practice your Spanish :) The event is held in at  Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin and has something for every member of the family!  I highly recommend this as a race as well as a vacation destination!
Pura vida!!

Take aways..
While my weekly miles weren't high, they were consistent and supported my overall fitness for the race.

+++ My sponsors have the gear I use dialed!! What I use, I use because it supports the female athlete/ competitor that I am!!
F1 finish and no I did not run a 50 miler in 2 hours :) p/c Costa Rica Ecogreen
Julbo Sunglasses
>>Spry 1 Liter hydration vest
>>Lo waist belt
>>Strider Skirt
>>Trucker Hat
>>Capilene lightweight tank/ Centered bra
Nike Wildhorse
Stance socks
>>Tailwind Nutrition
>>GU...any flavor I had left over from Croatia :)
>>Bananas and chips on the course
Squirrel's Nut Butter
Mental state

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

100 Miles of Istria, no surprise, did not disappoint.  As last year the race committee orchestrated a 170k race that was incredibly well organized, supported and energized by everyone involved with it.  Add to this the beautiful countryside, the sunny skies, the Adriatic Sea, and you have yourself one hell of a race!
As I am knocking on the door of becoming a seasoned mountain 100 runner I feel confident that I know what a great events consists of.  But, if you want to hear it from a newbie just ask James aka “Frenchy” Lambert!
I was happy to be given another opportunity through the Ultra Trail World Tour to return to Croatia for this race.  A podium finish last year earned me with invite this year, thank you UTWT.  I fell in love with the race last year and had no doubt I would become just a bit more smitten.  Plus, this year I would not be solo, I would be sharing this experience with my partner, Frenchy.  And so here we were two runners, with different levels of racing, different experiences to draw upon, and different race goals but the same love and passion for the journey we were embarking upon.

Runners love story!
This year the race was added to the UTWT series and I was excited to race it as such.  Frenchy was looking to finish the race to gain points needed for the lottery for Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc 2018.  
Two kids horsing around ;

I tend to tell more of a story in my blog than just the nitty gritty of the race.  Feel free to scroll to the bottom for the nitty gritty!
With 100 Miles of Istria added to my calendar so began my prep for the race.  Having raced it successfully last year, I felt confident with mimicking the same training plan.  And so I put together a plan with similar weekly mileage, vertical climbing, and strength training.  All necessary elements in preparing for Istria.  Frenchy would have the same training plan.
My gear would be the same, it all worked incredibly well only need was to set Frenchy up with the same. I would be using the Ultraspire Zygos pack with the front water bottles and the Lo waist belt for pinning my bib as well as easy access calories.  The pack would carry the rest of the needed supplies (details to follow). While I would not be using poles, I hooked Frenchy up with some sweet Black Diamond collapsible Carbon Z trekking poles (soon to be his new best friend), 

Does Frenchy looked a bit wide
eyed here?
What a great group!
Training complete, gear assembled and we were off.  We arrived late Wednesday for a 4pm Friday race start.  The day and a half before the race was spent just being lovers walking around the quaint city of Umag  with a little race prep thrown in and the occasional pulling of Frenchy off the ceiling.  This was his first mountain 100 and yes, he was as terrified as he as excited by what he was about to undertake.  But the coast line, the food, the energy of Croatia and maybe a bit of me kept him balanced and excited.
4pm Friday post 100 mile bus ride to the small town of Labin and the race start.  We arrive an hour early and so we hit a restaurant for some pasta and a soda.  Not a bad idea, I eat enough and I’m happy that Frenchy is eating well.  A full belly for a long adventure race was not a bad idea for my Frenchy.   My goals were based off last years 25 hour race.  I was looking for the same, faster or perhaps a  finish.  Frenchy was looking for that finish and an adventure.

Busing it to the start!
Pic of a pic 

A kiss and a hug were exchanged knowing the next time we would see each other would be at the finish line in Umag.  We would both be spending the next unknown number of hours experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  Our feet would be taking different steps but on the same trails and cobble stone roads, our eyes would be seeing different views on the same horizon.  We would meet knew friends and we would learn more about the deep inner recesses of what makes up our mind, body and spirit.  We would be running 100+ Miles of Istria
Amazing country side.
First AS Plomin, 17k into the race and all was well.  I was running comfortably, consuming calories regularly and while a little warm I knew the sun and the temps would be dropping while I was climbing.  My head lamp came out at the 32k 2nd AS and I recalled to last year that I was a bit further before needing the headlamp…I wandered how Frenchy was and what his sunset view looked like.  By the 3rd AS 43K I pulled on my arm sleeves and my gloves not quite needing my windbreaker.  While all systems remained intact, my feet were beginning to feel the technical rocky terrain in a way that I did not expect.  AS 5, 74K I knew I would not be chasing a PR.  While my legs were feeling strength on the uphills, my quads were feeling to much of the downhills and my feet were definitely complaining to me.  This would make the nighttime section just a bit more tough…and then along came Sam.  There were 8 Americans racing and lucky me, he was one of them.  He was from Alaska and this was his first 100 mile race.  Fact... misery loves company.  With company you can “suffer better”.  Chit chat takes your mind off of you, along with giving support to another runner in turn provides you with strength.  Sam and I raced into the night, and into Buzet.  The one AS with our drop bag.  A place to change your shirt, repack your calories and yes change your headlamp batteries.  As well as tend to any ailments IE draining and bandaging blisters.  We had to laugh when as we left Buzet not only was the sun up but we went the wrong way!  Guess we were having to much fun!  Through some highs and lows Sam and I kept company.  We had a Czech fellow with us for a good portion and even though he did not speak English we were still company.  We parted ways around 150k when my stomach insisted I stop and rest.  Sam gave me the phone number of his girlfriend who had raced and Won the 100k event.  I took the number knowing I would not be using it but knowing that as Sam left me, it made him feel better.  Time did not matter as I sat in the shade.  The sun was hot and my stomach was in knots.  My uphill legs were there but my downhill legs forgot to show up for the race.  And my feet were no better and of course I worried for my none mountain runner Frenchy.
Blue all around  but not my smile,
or my spirit!
A few more runners pass (I am mixed in with the 100k runners) and I start moving again.  This is the inner strength ultra runners have, to keep moving even when all the fibers of your being don’t want to.  I started hiking the ups, slow trot on the downs and walking the technical downs.  On the flats I trot.  I had less than a marathon to go and I knew I would be finishing this race.  No PR, no not even close.  Last AS with 13k to the finish, a volunteer I recognize from last year tells me I am 7th female and that if I keep moving I “should” be able to hold it.  I enter the AS and pick up a soda, and a handful of chips.  Even as I am munching on the chips unwanted tears are welling in my eye and rolling down my cheeks.  If you have run 100 miles, you know how this feels.  Your emotions are dripping off your shirtsleeve.  Last year it was a pissed off achilles tendon and then a bee sting that had me sobbing like a baby and this year it was the wear and tear of racing 100 miles and the frustration on not performing to the level of which you are capable of.
I left that AS and after 3k began to see the count down from the 10k to the 1k mark.  It was flat, not technical and so I ran.  My body was no longer feeling increasing levels of pain, it was all generalized.  I passed many runners who had passed me when I was struggling and sitting on the side of the road and words of encouragement were exchanged.
28+ hours F6 and the finish line.
The deeper you dig the deeper you are affected, truth.

Being at the finish line to watch someone you love accomplish something they have only dreamt of!  Super proud of my Frenchy.

Gear-- 5 stars--  all of it was perfect for this race and I would not change a thing!
Zygos Pack
Lo waist belt
Julbo Access shades/ head buff
Strider this skirt!
Capilene lightweight Tank/ Centered bra
Arm Sleeves
R1 gloves
Black Diamond Icon Polar headlamp
Hoka Speedgoat
Stance Run 3/4 socks
Tailwind Nutrition

Take aways—

Mountain races requires training on the trails if you want to be successful at racing competitively.  Most of my training for Croatia occurred on the streets of New York.  3 weeks prior to Croatia I went back to Bend Oregon and logged 100+ miles with 31k of climbing.  One week of trail running while solid is not enough.  My feet were too tender for the rocky terrain and while I had been doing my strength training for my legs, my quads were in no shape for the downhills.  
My love for trail racing has much to do with the lessons I learn with each race. 

Nest up....
The North Face Endurance Challenge 80k Costa Rica May 26

Thursday, February 2, 2017

May have dropped the ball on my blog but not my racing :)

Contrary to what my blog might indicate....I have been racing.
I actually raced a 100 miler between Black Canyon and Run Rabbit Run 100.  No, not Western States.  I understand where you would make that assumption....if you follow my blog....I mean after all I registered for and raced Black Canyon 100k for just that purpose...and was even fortunate to earn a ticket to "The Dance"aka Western States.

Rather, I was offered an opportunity through the Ultra Trail World Tour to race one of their future races; 100 Miles of Istria in Croatia (170K).   This race was April 8th, giving me 11 weeks for a bit of recovery and then prep for Western States.  Or so I thought.  I had a good race in Croatia.  Finished F3 in just over 25 hours and had an amazing time.  As I gain more 100 mile experience and have more races to compare...I would highly recommend this race if you are looking for an international experience.  Add to this a race of which I traveled solo, no crew, no familiar faces for support, I was extremely comfortable navigating this foreign country.  Take a look at the attached video from this years race for a great peek into 100 Miles of Istria.
Achille flare up during Istria
may have created a change in gait
and psoas issue??
While the experience was super positive I unfortunately came away from the race with psoas tendonitis aka deep groin pain.  With continued thoughts of racing Western States,  I bought a new road bike, enlisted in the help of chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, injections (x-ray and MRI to confirm what my issue was) all to no avail.  I would not be racing Western States, 2 weeks prior to the race I withdrew.  I stopped all therapies and my cycling.  Time to let rest do it's thing....and guess what... it worked.
If your wondering what the "Tent"
looks like! Jaz likes it too.
And so began my training for Run Rabbit Run.  After all I was already registered, just a matter of seeing if my groin would tolerate the training.  I increased my mileage slowly and while I could feel my groin off and on it never lasted long.  4 weeks prior to Run Rabbit I threw a race on my calendar as a training run.  Standhope 60k in Ketchum Idaho with 11,000 vertical feet at elevation.  I felt great. My psoas was still there but not painfully so and it would go away most importantly.  The rest of my training consisted of hiking with my 17lb weighted vest as well as "sleeping" in my Hypoxico tent.
And then it was time.
Pre race calories with my crew :)
Carrie traveled with me as crew.  I registered as a need to worry about who might be pacing pacers allowed.  But, having raced in Croatia (no pacers allowed) where I went with no crew, this was something I now had experience with.
The start of the race was a climb up Mt Warner about a 4k climb in 4.4 miles to 10,800 ft elevation. With the field consisting of only Hares... we did not spread out.  The Tortoses started at 7 that same day.   We all formed a lovely chain and climbed the Mnt, I did have thoughts that perhaps we were going just a tad to fast but...what the heck, I was with great company!
1st Climb of the race.
My starting gear was a handheld and a waist pack.  I had originally planned to start with the Spry 1L vest but during the course of my morning nap, changed my mind.  I went cool with the rest of my gear as we had bluebird skies seeing us off for the noon start..  Velocity bun huggers, singlet, trucker had, Julbo Access shades and arm sleeves (tossed as soon as I saw Carrie).  I packed my waist belt with GU and Honey Stingers and put Nuun and Carbo Pro in my handheld.  Hoka Speed Instinct were the shoes I opted for.
I saw Carrie 5 times during the course of the race and had 2 drop bags of which I would visit twice.
First at mile 21.  Leading up to this aid,  a runner from Canada fell into step with me.  We shared miles and swapped stories leading into the Olympian aid station.   Per Adam, he was sticking with me as in his experience women pace themselves better then men :)
At Olympian, Carrie provided me with coconut water, Fritos, a croissant sandwich, refilled my water bottle and I grabbed a few more GU gels and raced away.  I was feeling my psoas and little random quad pain but all was well.  Although I may have raced away without my handheld...oops, short out and back and I was off!
Coming out of AS 21mi  I passed Anita Ortez.  While she and I had been leap frogging, I had not seen any of the other females.
Mile 29.4 would be the next aid and Carrie.  I passed some runners and was passed by some.  But for the most part ran solo through this section and having a blast.  I was singing to my tunes, taking in the sights and thinking of all those out there supporting me during this race.  May have been having too much fun as I kinda forgot to pay attention and caught a toe while taking in the harm, just dirty.  Time to pay attention.
At the next AS I was feeling my quad, my psoas, my achilles...weird.  I got to Carrie, ate a few Advil, more coconut water and Frittos, a small headlamp and was off.  Some runners stay away from Advil and while I would not recommend it throughout a 100 mile race, I will take it if I feel the need.  It was 545pm and I was anticipating seeing Carrie at mile 41 at approx 8pm.  Meaning I would need a headlight but not my full on set up quite yet.
Tons of great support at this race.

This section had some nice runnable trails with a shorter climb.  Here I connected with a few runners off and on.  No women, at this point I was around F5-6.  As predicted I hit AS 41.6 Olympian again at 815.  It was amazing to watch the full moon crest the horizon as I descended into the aid station to Carrie.  When the sun sets and the moon rises and vise versa are special times during the course of a 100 miler.  Here we swapped my single headlamp for my Black Diamond head/ waist set up added my Houdini windbreaker, mittens, long sleeve merino and a head buff.  I was still warm but knew the temps would be dropping soon.  And while this combo worked well I was super happy to have some hand warmers offered up to me at Summit AS mi 57.8 by the eventual 4th place Master Becky.  The temps had dropped and I added to my layers a hat, my Houdini pants, and another mid layer....I had hopes of a sub 24 hour finish and while I had been on track I started dropping off pace the second half of the race.  I saw Carrie along with Bill (who was crewing his wife Ronda) a couple more times with mi 74 being the last I would see of her until the finish.
The night time sections I struggled with a bit, with needing to take a few breaks either on rocks or leaning against a tree as I found myself no longer shuffling but rather moving in a drunken stagger weaving my way up the climbs.   I think fatigue with the cold temps in combination, sapped my energy stores.  Thankfully dawn brought with it renewed energy as well as some female company. One came from behind and one from in front.  This was a good motivator and brought my mind back to the race at hand.  I picked it up and was able to pull away from both runners.  Unfortunately my Garmin lasted only about 17 hours and I did not bring a back up so with no time and no distance to have a point of reference I truly felt like time had stopped.  With 3 aid stations prior to the finish it felt like an eternity between each aid.  At this point our race started co mingling with the 50 mile runners.
And then finally I was at the last 6 mi stretch of downhill...what a bugger of a finish! 24:52 no, not sub 24 but a finish I was certainly happy with.  F5, 2nd Master...
Finish line with my bestie!

As always the learnings:
I have more mid weight layers that one should own...pack layers in all drop bags.
With COLD temp races go with  more rather than less, even if you don't "think" you need it.
I should have brought a pack that was a bit larger which would have afforded me more room to pack more gear.
The essentials!
Istria take away--always pack your race essentials in your carry on, just in case you don't reconnect with your luggage.

Carrie! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Love you lady!
Super well organized race.  Great aid stations as well as marking and support along the way.
Lots of positive energy going into the race kept me supper balanced even when I was struggling.
Tailwind...I ended up consuming only Tailwind calories for the last 15-20  miles and used it throughout the race.  I was impressed with how well it worked for me.
Patagonia-Houdini pants, H20 jacket,
Julbo Access sunglasses
Ultraspire Spry 1L; lo waistbelt; handheld
Picky bars prior to the race

Next up...Wrap up of 2016 and the 1st race of 2017!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Black Canyon 100k..chasing The Golden Ticket!

When in Arizona p/c me!
The starting line is always filled with friends!
Photo credit Keely Henninger
HURT 100 was in the books and I came away feeling pretty good.
It was entertaining to watch the expression on the faces of people who would congratulate me on my HURT100 win and ask, "what's next?".  My sheepish response being, "Black Canyon 100k", 4 weeks later oh and reason being, chasing a "Golden Ticket"...."If you never try, you will never know", reads the sign in the front entry of my home.
What did my training look like during the next 4 week period? I waited a week before going for a 6 mi treadmill run. Almost immediately I felt pain around the outside of my ankle but because I could tolerate it, I did.  Yeah, I know.... Monday morning I consulted one of the sports trauma docs at work and received a "peroneal tendonitis" diagnosis.  Imagine that, an overuse injury!!  Prescription, rest.  And so with that I took two days off, and on the third day trialed a 4 mi treadmill run.  Nope, apparently I needed more time off.  The next three days I rested and tried again on the fourth day (maybe a little stubborn).  All was well.  I ran 13 miles at Smith Rock, no discomfort, and my legs felt nice and strong. Although, I was a bit sad the following day that my quads were more sore than I thought they should/ would be.  With Black Canyon 4 weeks out from HURT, 2 weeks of which were already gone, my plan was to be as recovered and as ready as I could be.  My only focus for the remaining week of training would be leg turnover.  I had the strength and endurance from HURT but was lacking the turnover.  So, I hit the track a couple of times and at Smith I concentrated on running steady and strong.
Just like that it was time to taper for Black Canyon 100k.  Why a 100k, 4 weeks after HURT?  I mentioned the "Golden Ticket"... 2015 I was not fortunate to place top 10 at Western States 100 and I did not get in through the lottery.  That left racing in with one of the Golden Ticket races of which Black Canyon was. As a Golden Ticket race, the top 2, male and female finisher would earn a Western States entry.
Photo credit Scotty Mills
This pic is for you Ken!
As it would turn out, and for my very first time at this distance, I would be traveling solo for this race.  No crew, no pacers.  Now, maybe this is something many other runners are used to....but not this chica.  Of all my Ultrasignup races at the 100k or 100mi distance I have always had crew/ pacer support.  I call my team my little pit crew.  Yes, Ken calls me a diva :)  I call it, being loved! Because I generally have this support, I was looking forward to taking this one solo.  I currently have on my 2016 race calendar, 100 Miles of Istria, in Croatia and Run Rabbit Run 100, both of which I will not have a pacer and potentially no crew.  Good time to familiarize myself with how to do it solo.
As it turned out, I connected with friend and fellow Bend runner Amy Sproston the night prior to the race.  Sharing some great pre race hang time until we toed the line.  Gotta love racing with good friends!
Prepping for my race,  I planned 2 drop bags, 1 at mile 24 and 1 at mi 51.  In the 1st bag I placed GU calories, a can of coconut water, and frittos. The 2nd drop bag was more GU calories, coconut water, frittos, s-caps, a waist pack, a handheld and for worst case scenario a waist lamp.  My goal time was 10-11 hours which would have me finishing in the daylight. never know.
With a 7am start on a completely exposed course and expected high of 85 degrees I started the race with what I would end up finishing the race wearing.  Patagonia race kit, trucker cap, Julbo shades, cooling buff at my neck, and a 1liter hydration pack.
Photo credit Howie Stern; no trees to be seen mi 19!
At the end of the day I would say that I had a great race.  I started out nice and strong, and felt great for the most of the race.  The first 20-30 miles I settled in, holding pace with a group of guys who were great company and helped the miles fly by.  While our group spread out a bit in the middle part of the race, I continued to trade spots with a couple of them.  Amy took the lead from the start and other than on a 1mi long out and back at the 50k mark, I would not see her for the rest of the race.  Early on I passed a couple of gals, and then was passed by Amanda Basham, who ended up behind me on the out and back (I heard she went off course).  While I was concerned about her behind me, she ended up dropping from the race.
Photo credit Howie Stern; mi 38
My main mistake on my solo quest, was with my drop bag at mi 21.  I guzzled the coconut water but then forgot to take my extra GU/ Honeystinger calories from the bag.  While the aid stations had fruit, chips, PB&J, and sweets, they did not have GU or other gel calories.  I paid for this after about mi 40 when I ran out of the calories that I started with.  While GU can be at times hard to eat, it is crazy effective in bang for your buck than the actual food at the aid stations.  With the heat, and the amount of salt I was consuming to keep my leg cramps at bay my gut had no tolerance for solid food.  This would be my low point for the race, mi 42ish to 51 where my next drop bag was.  Here I did get more gel calories, only 2 packs. Not sure what I was thinking....I was able to take one but after that my gut was finished.  Thank you to the nice ATV folks who stopped to check on me as I was loosing my guts on the side of the road.  It's at about this time 92 miles left) that I was so very thankful that I was only running 62 miles and not 100 :)
Last few miles to the finish line, I felt confident there would be no one to challenge my second place finish.  My body was tired, and my feet (still recovering from HURT) were toast.  I was ever so happy and greatful to cross the finish line with my body intact and with a Golden Ticket!!
Happy to cross the line....with a Golden Ticket!
Thank you to Aravaipa for putting on this great event.  The race was incredibly well organized and the aid stations and course markings were top notch!!
There is a reason I am an ambassador for the gear I run in/ race in.  Patagonia, Julbo, Ultraspire, Picky Bars...The gear I wear day in and day out.  Seriously, take a look at my pics, it is the products I love to use and recommend to friends and family.  If my mom were with me here today annnnd if she had the vision of running a trail race, this is the gear I would set her up with!
As always love, hugs and cheers!

Solo quest learning... as I look to 100 Miles of Istria on April 15th...Take advantage of your drop bags, no harm no foul to have one every opportunity the race supports.  Could be a game changer!

In the words of Spro, "finish lines are better with friends"!
In the words of Chris Askew, "we did Willy Wonka proud"!! #goldenticketX2!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

HURT 2016...Redemption

Thanksgiving run!
Thanksgiving day brings a snowy 12 mi run with my spouse, running repeats on Grizzly Mnt. We return home and while I go for a second run to log more miles, Ken cooks dinner.
It's a friends going away party; Mary M thru hiking the triple crown  this calendar year, never done by a female!   As soon as the hugs are exchanged I leave to squeeze in another 10 miles.
Christmas Day and as we make the trek from Bend to Eugene to spend time with family, I'm dropped off 17 miles short of our get my run in.
Selfie, Merry Christmas!
It's 4:30 and I'm off for my 10 mi, 90 minute slog through the snow, followed by a 10+ hour work day with a repeat of the same 10 miles back home.  Ken has cooked me dinner, of which I eat and fall into bed exhausted (typical M-F).
If you are training for a January 100 mile race, these stories I am certain, sound familiar.  These are not complaints but rather what you do to get the miles in.
HURT 2015 was my first 100 mile DNF.  That year I was physically ready to race, but I was not mentally ready.  I took a fall early on and mentally I embraced that fall and used it as a handicap for not finishing rather than as a crutch to finish.
Time and energy was spent, sacrifices were made and...I did not finish.
After 2015's DNF, I knew before I left Hawaii that I would be back.  Added to this was being contacted by the RD, asking if a photo of me from 2015's race could be used on their Ultrasignup web page....
I was determined from the get go that HURT 2016 would be different.
My 6am send off crew! photo c/o Cory Smith!

HURT 2016 once completed would be my 13th 100 miler.   With a DNF as motivation, Ken, family and friends as crew and pacers, how could I fail.  And so I took that attitude and my physical and mental toughness on a 30 + hour trek in the jungles of Hawaii and I came away with the win.  Hell ya!!  But seriously, unless  I had a bone protruding from my body,  I knew I would be finishing this race.  It was a serious added bonus winning it!!
So you know how I finished but how did my race go...
At the pre race briefing we were handed two cards and asked to write down two motivational/ inspirational notes.  I did not write mine down because they were at the forefront of my mind.
My amazing older brother(and yes, 5 sisters)
who has lived with ALS for the past 19 years
1.) Run for those who can't 2.) Redemption run.  Not even for a moment was there a thought of not finishing.  I also committed to myself and my crew that there would be a smile on my face entering and exiting all the aid stations.
I knew about the heat/ humidity, and like last year, started the race with only a UltrAspire Isomeric Race handheld and Quantum 2.0 waist pack stuffed with my calories. I swapped to the Spry hydration pack after about 25 miles.  I stuck with GU and Honeystinger while running and had my crew supplied with coconut water, fritos, fruit cups, applesauce and turkey sandwiches at the aid stations.  This proved to be a great combination for me.  I never had a low point with my calories and for the first time found myself holding down the GU calories all the way through to the end of the race.
Picnic time mi 95 in front of the Bien Bench (which was in the sun :)),
If you can take 1 GU why not take 2!
Photo c/o Ronda Sundermeier.
 Final calorie stop mi 95 in front of the Bien bench, here my pacer Ronda told me, "1 GU was easy enough you might as well take 2", and so I did.  Did I mention the coconut water....for the last 3 years I have taken to drinking coconut water at aid stations with crew access.  I may have gone overboard at HURT.  My crew had to stop and buy more as I drank 9 cans.
More coconut water? :)
This was in additional to the 4 fresh coconuts I had from Michael Arnstein (2015 HURT winner).  He was at a junction on the course serving up fresh coconut's all night long!
Photo c/o Ronda S. Thank you for the coconut Michael!
This is a crazy technical course with slick roots, rocks, mud and so I started the race wearing the Nike Wildhorse. I also brought the HokaOne Speedgoat.  I decided to start with the firmer Nike and move to the softer Hoka later in the race.  While this did prove to be a good plan, shoe change at mi 60, a better plan would have been to race the entire race in the Hoka's.  The softer, tackier tread of the Hoka was a better shoe for the terrain.  The Wildhorse's tread is made of a hard material making it slip on the rocks and roots.
I mentioned the humidity, and for the first time EVER I did get a little backside chaffing, perhaps this is proof that I do have a backside :)
As always, the aid stations at HURT go above and beyond with a wide variety of food to entice runners and amazing volunteers who clearly love doing what they do.  I was super spoiled with my crew of 4-6 off and on.  If there is a course in which crew is not needed, this would be the one.  As was pointed out by my crew, I lost time having them at every aid station and while it was great having them there it was not necessary.
Bend goes M1 and F1! 
HURT family photo c/o Angus To; crew Carrie, Roy and B-Fine  Pacer/Crew Ken, Bill, and Ronda, you all were amazing!!
HURT is a looped course with out and backs taking the guess work out of where you stand in the race.  I enjoyed for the first time in a 100 mile event taking the lead from the start and maintaining and growing that lead through the course of the race.  I got to see fellow Bend runner
Jeff Browning move up into the lead for the men and take the win. As well as Yassine return from last years DNF with a 3rd place finish. What a great day, what a great race!
Thank you to Stan and Cheryl for the Kukui nuts donated for my cause.  Huge shout out to John, Jeff, Stan and PJ for putting on such an incredibly organized and yes, even fun event.
To my crew / pacers, you guys were awesome!
Patagonia, UltrAspire, Julbo, Picky just keeps getting better, thank you for your never ending support and love!
No better time than the present....Next up February 13th Black Canyon 100k...Chasing the Golden Ticket.
Stay tuned!

The kiss! Photo c/0 Angus To
And the finishers ring c/o Angus To

Benefit of racing in Hawaii,,,you got it, beach time! 2017 who's in??


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc: Why 103 miles...because 100 miles won't get you around the mountain!

Time and time again I am reminded as to why I am drawn to trail running and ultra trail racing.

Courmayeur pre-view
 Photo c/o Topher Gaylord
UTMB-- Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc.  This race has been on my radar for a few years and because of the fan fare that follows this race it landed on my wish list of races to run.
What is the UTMB?  It is a 103 mile race that takes place in the Alps across France, Italy and Switzerland.  It boasts 30,000+ feet of climbing and it takes you ALL the way around Mont Blanc. The race accepts through lottery more that 2300 entrants and they are given 46.5 hours to complete the race.  Couple of added twists this race has that I had not experienced before...runners are not allowed pacers during the later stages of the race. The race is in open country, in mountainous terrain with weather conditions that can change very fast.  Due to this each runner has a list of required gear that is to be carried for the entire race (about 8-10 lbs worth). Lastly, and just because they can, the race starts at 6PM!
Feast at Maison Vieille, thanks Toph! 

I had a rough go of it at Western States this year.  Stomach issues during the heat of the day, stomach virus the week previous and a candle that I was burning from both ends had me wanting to call it a day at Michigan Bluff.  But, my steadfast crew along with the help of Jimmy Dean Freeman got me out of a chair and back on the course.   My sub 20 hour goal was back burner-ed and the finish line became my new goal.  I made it to that sometimes elusive line and not long after WS I began looking forward to UTMB.  I took the two following weeks off and with 5 weeks to hone my training I can say that I was truly excited for UTMB.  Excited and terrified that is.  I had yet to run a race with 30+K of climbing and I was unsure on what to do to prep for this.  So, for the next 5 weeks I slept in an altitude tent, trained with a 15lb weighted vest, used poles, carried my pack full of fluid and gear of which I had no need for and I repeatedly climbed buttes and mountains around Bend.  Training complete.
Chamonix, France at the Patagonia Chalet and home for the next 2 weeks!
We arrived in Chamonix, France (race start and finish) 2 weeks prior to the race with plans to preview some of the 10 notable climbs around Mont Blanc.  And while we did eventually preview 5 of the climbs, lack of luggage for the first 3 days delayed our running.  Seriously, I brought a carry on one would think that I would know to pack essential items in it...lesson learned!
Pre-race tour
Col du Bonhomme
We still got in some pretty amazing runs, opening my eyes and my heart to the TMB...I was and am in love with this amazing countryside.
Mountain music...cow bells!
Once in Chamonix my prep for UTMB did not stop.  While physically I was ready, the hay was metaphorically in the barn, my mental prep had just begun.  The power of positive thinking and attitude can create happiness and success.  I believe this, so began my prep.  I committed to myself, my husband and my friends that on race day I would only be expressing positive thoughts. Nope, no complaining, no whining no bitching to my crew or those around me.  To help secure this I would be dedicating the first climb of the race to my mother and the last climb to my brother.  The first taken from my world way to soon and the second who has been living in the shell of his former body and suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's).  They would be with me on all the steep climbs leading to majestic mountain tops as well as the rocky descents leading to the picturesque villages brimming with spectators and volunteers.  I was ready.
1st day--Flash-Sport Photo
I made my way to the start, fortunate to be in the elite corral at the front of the 2500+ runners.  It was 5:30PM, I had just topped my belly off with a Picky Bar adding to the pasta I had eaten at 2:30.  It was 80ish degrees and the forecast was looking excellent for the next few days.  I settled in with a group of familiar peeps from the US to wait for the start and then we were off.  Crazy good energy from the thousands of spectators lining the streets sent us on our way.  I was kinda waiting for the tidal wave of runners to overtake me and was happy when it did not happen.  We were running perhaps faster than one should for a 103 mile race in the alps but over the 10k distance of open road it allowed everyone to settle into place. And so it began.  As we spread out I found myself high fiving children and adults along the route, smiles exchanged with shouts of, "Aller Denise!!" filling the air.  Sharing the trail with a US runner, Jamil Curry and while tapping hands with some youngsters I said to him, it's like they are refilling my energy stores with each high five, the smaller the hand the bigger the boost!
My fella rocked the TDS...
because it's not always about me :)

The 1st climb of the race I had not previewed but I knew what to do.  I took my poles out of my pack and with thoughts of my mom I began to climb.  While not familiar with the 1st descent, the words of Topher rang in my head, warning of length of this descent (2nd longest of the race) and to take it easy...loads of racing ahead.  At about mi 18 and just before the 2nd climb I would see Ken, this was the first crew spot, it was about 10pm.  I stopped long enough to change my socks and eat a few calories.
The technical terrain had me regret starting the day in my thin Patagonia wool socks and while I had hoped to change into the thicker pair, sadly I had not pack them in my bag of goodies.  And so I changed into what was available with Ken making plans to go back to the Chalet to retrieve the thicker pair for later, should I need them. (Fellow crew we had meet at Gorge Waterfalls 100k this year offered her socks, small world!)
With a kiss I was off, leaving that aid station in company with the friendly bearded face of another US runner, Sean Meissner. The 2nd climb was up the Col du Bonhomme, I had seen this climb and was looking forward to passing familiar points (even in the dark).   As promised I saw Topher at the start of the climb, he joined step with me, offering up supportive words and advice from his treasure trove of experience.  Topher was hugely instrumental in UTMB becoming the race that it is today.
1st night, love the bonfires!
FlashSport Photo

Night time pasta feed!
Photo c/o Ken S.
Did I mention an almost full moon??? Dropping down into Les Chapieux the moon was full in the sky. Running along a road leading up to the 3rd and 4th climbs I found myself shutting off my headlamp and running by the light of the moon.  Moments like these are truly lifepoints!  Up the next two climbs I went.  The air was getting chilly, made more so by the howling winds.  As  I climbed, squinting my eyes from the wind, I started to feel tired.  I thought for a moment, perhaps, just perhaps I would need a nap once over this climb.  I credit the thought of a nap to Ken, who had raced the TDS on Wednesday and who during a very low point in the race for him...took a nap.  Lucky for me, once over the climb, thoughts of napping were gone from my mind.   Instead I was energized by the familiarity of Lac Combal (toured this section with Topher) along with the following climb that would take me up and over Arete du Mont-Favre and down into Courmayeur where I would see Ken again.  Mile 47.  As I made my way up the climb, the skyline began to brighten with the rising sun.  I had made it safely through the night intact both physically and mentally.
2nd Day; Flash-Sport Photo
Courmayeur found me with a bowl of pasta and some coconut water, yum.  I was getting hungry and my gut was solid.  My race fueling was working well.  I had started out with Honey Stingers and only just started swapping to GU, taking advantage of coke, soup and sweet bread at the aid stations.  Cheese, salami and chocolate were also offered but I could not bring myself to sampling any.  Another kiss and away I went excited for the daylight and the trails ahead, so far so good.
Flash-Sport Photo
This next section took me by surprise.  I had previewed it but due to the weather, I did not get to experience the beauty of it.  By far my favorite section, Courmayeur up over Refuge Bertone and across to Arnuza.  The breathtaking scenery made me forget all else. I had the permagrin of someone who was punchy drunk by the views, adding fatigue to the equation and I was feeling pretty dang happy, if a bit goofy!
Climbing up and over Grand col Ferret on my way to La Fouly I could see the familiar bouncing ponytail of a friend up ahead and had hopes of sharing the trail with her.  Sadly La Fouly would be the stopping point for her and she would become one of the 600+ runners who would not make it to the finish line.
2nd Day; Photo c/o Davide Verthuy

On I went, into Champex-Lac mi 75.  Along the way I found myself holding pace with a French runner, Emir.  I don't know French and his English was just as limited yet, we held company and enjoyed shared smiles brought on by our attempts to communicate.  At times he would hold up, preferring to wait for me rather than running on alone.  We separated after Champex-Lac crew/aid station as I needed blister attention before I could push on.  The hot spot had reared it's head and so off to the medical tent I went, getting what looked and felt like a cast placed on my big toe, post drainage.  At this point it was clear that I would be running back into the night again.  My fueling continued to be working well.  Outside of smelling like someone who had run 75 miles in the same cloths, sweating periodically off and on throughout the course of the day, the night, the following day, going into the night again...I was doing okay.  Mentally my race strategy was working well, not once had I expressed negative thoughts and for the first time in ALL of my 100 miles races (this being my 12th) negative thoughts were oddly absent.
Blister care and applesauce! Photo c/o Ken S
I left that aid station and a short time later was joined in company with a runner from Canada, Matt...finally, someone to chat with!! Onto climb #8 we went.  Ken would be at the Trient aid station mi 86.   Not spending much time in the aid station, I left Trient with once again my headlamp in place, not quite needing it but knowing I would be flipping it on soon.  Ken had shared that I was 13th or 14th female (I had hopes of breaking the top 10 for women) he said that the female runners in front of me were looking tired and slowing up and to keep pushing but I too was also feeling symptoms of fatigue.
While I was not experiencing negative thoughts, I was getting emotional.  Taking a spill on a soft part of the trail and finding myself in tears, no injury, just tears.  Thoughts of my mom had me crying as well as thoughts of my brother.  I had been up for 32+ hours, racing for 24 of those hours and I still had a good 7 hours ahead of me.  This does a number on any runner and I was no exception.  I found myself grateful to have my Canadian friend holding pace with me.  This was his first UTMB and while he had thoughts of sub 30 hours, he was ultimately looking for a finish.  And so, as my climbing became slower and my descending even slower, I was in good company.  We chatted and joked making our way up Catogne the 9th climb.  He agreed that this climb should be named the stair master climb, we even saw an Ibex, and the moon was full!  I passed a couple of female runners on the climbs up only to be re-passed on the descents.  I saw Ken one last time at mi 92 in Vallorcine, he told me to be strong, one last climb to go...he shared that he had been keeping my brother up to date on my race and that he was sending his love.  What more did I need.
Final miles in great company, thanks Matt! Flash-Sport photo
I traded spots a couple more times with Jen the speedy downhill runner from Australia (she offered to wait up and run in with me, amazing!!) and Nicole Studer what felt like an eternity later, Matthew and I finally dropped into Chamonix, touring our way through the streets of town before making it to that incredibly special sight...the finish line.

31:39:39; 14th Female; 146th overall. While my goal time/ place was not achieved,  I achieved so much more. Thank you to all my sponsors who support me in my passion for trail running.  I am so very fortunate and appreciative that I have the ability to be an ambassador for this amazing sport.

What went well:
  • Pre-race--Pasta, Picky Bars
  • During--GU's, Honey Stingers, CarboPro, soup, coke, applesauce.  I started with the Honey Stingers until they became too sweet then changed to Chocolate GU, tolerated this until mi 95 where I may have vomited.
  • Black Diamond Z Poles-- did I mention that I LOVE my poles, huge value add for me in using them.  Many of the climbs lead you up and then down super technical terrain.
  • Black Diamond Headlamp/ waist pack 
  • Ultraspire Zygos pack--fit everything perfectly, easy in/out access for my poles (20sec to store)
  • Julbo Access sunglasses with the Zebra lens
  • Patagonia Cap 1 sleeveless tank/ skirt during the day, adding rm warmers with mittens at night.
  • Nike Wildhorse shoes--felt good the entire time (socks were the issue).
  • Pre-view of some of the course!! As my first race with 30K of climbing, it set my mind at ease to see some of it.
What I would do different:
  • Thicker Patagonia wool socks.  I went with the thinner pair because of the heat.  Should have remembered I use the thick socks at Western States.
  • More technical downhill training.  My climbing was strong but lost loads of time in my slow descents.
  • Not sure what to do with the evening start to better prepare for to suggestions.
  • Move to the Alps to train :)