Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The North Face Endurance Challenge Costa Rica

TNF Endurance Challenge Costa Rica, truly a great experience! Photo c/o Juan Mata

No, not the outcome I would have liked to have seen with my first international race but it is the races like this one that reminds me of how much of what I do is about being an ambassador of ultra running and not just about running a specific time or even the finish line.
Traveling home from Lake Sonoma 50 miler I received a message from the promoter of The North Face Endurance Challenge Costa Rica.  The message started with an apology for the informality of contacting me via Facebook and went on with an offer for me to travel to Costa Rica to run his race.  I read it twice completely taken by surprise with the offer.  I consider myself a good runner.  I am fortunate with my running ability and typically race toward the front of the pack, with this along with my love for the sport I have gained the sponsorship listed on my blog page.  Yet, this was the first time I had been invited to an international race.  What an honor, what a privileged!  I immediately moved a couple of things on my calendar and responded with a thank you and Yes!
But first a race I had already scheduled and three weeks prior to Costa Rica, Quicksilver 100k.  My training had been solid and I anticipated on having a good race.  QS had 13,000+ vert ft, and was mostly on very runnable packed dirt roads.  I was racing with some speedy ladies and was having a pretty good race up through around mile 40.  At about that point my body started to feel beat up with all the hard packed surfaces (I was racing in the Adidas Adios).  About mi 45 my guts revolted, first experience with ischemic bowel causing me to stop multiple times with abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea....ugh!  At one point I thought about the cougar sightings as I ducked into the bushes to take care of business.  11 hours 8 minutes later I finished the race, F5 with F2-5 all within 15 minutes apart.  Not my best race but not a terrible race either.  Perhaps if I return to QS I will run with shoes with a bit more cushion!
QS100k; Photo c/o Greg Lanctot
With 3 weeks until TNF CR, I recovered a bit, ran a bit and tapered a bit.  As I began my travels to CR I was feeling ready for the 80k I had signed up for.
"Pura Vida", translates to Pure Life.  This is a saying used in Costa Rica as a greeting or a farewell or really anytime.  How beautiful is that.
I landed in CR Thursday afternoon and lucky me, Jorge Maravilla, his girlfriend Ashley and baby "King Joaquin" were on the same shuttle taking us to the race headquarters. Not sure what to expect I was completely wowed by our accommodations as well as the generous hospitality of our host and hostess, Federico and his wife Ligia.  We were staying at the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin.  This hotel had about 12 different adventures you could explore right outside your door.  Our hosts, knowing how busy they would be with the race (TNF Endurance Costa Rica is the largest race in Central America) arranged for an activity planner.  She would help set us up with any of the adventures we wanted to go on and take care of any of our needs while we were there.
First time for everything!! Photo c/o Jorge M.
 Amazing first class service and accommodations!
Sooo serious :)
Our race would start at 0530.  Not bad and considering the heat and the humidity we would be experiencing it was good that it was an early start.  The course touted 7k of climbing and so the challenge for the day would be the weather.  While I had never raced with the kind of heat as well as the humidity we would be seeing I was feeling confident that I would be able to manage it. I have raced hot races and I have raced humid races...and did relatively well with both.
The race started, no need for headlamps as it was already getting light.  I wore my Spry hydration vest with a 1L bladder and a collapse-able bottle in my front pocket for later in the race when I would maybe need additional fluids.  A high-five with Jorge and we were off.  I ran a steady pace for the first 5 miles, although my legs felt like lead and my head was throbbing...not a good sign.  Within a few more miles I started to feel better and was able to enjoy my surrounding a bit more.  The terrain was said to be technical and fast.  An interesting combination that was oddly true.  Roots, rocks, and slick surfaces at times and at other times fast dirt roads.  Technical and fast defined :)
This would be the fast part...Photo c/o Juan Mata
Within 40ish minutes I found myself soaked, the kind of soaking you would get if you were to take a shower...with all your running cloths on.  I wondered about the possibility of chaffing, you see, I have NEVER chaffed before and it was now a serious thought.  I had taken the lead at the start and as I came into the second aid station at mi 10 I found myself being passed by two women.  I took my time refilling my water, filling the collapse-able front bottle and was off.  It was hot and humid, just as we were told it would be and somehow I was already not managing with it. Along one of the roads we were running on there was a truck with a young man standing beside his small red cooler.  I saw him hand something to a runner in front of me and I thought to myself that he must be with that runner, crewing for him.  Only after I saw the runner raise his arms above his head and squeeze water over himself did I get it.  I trotted back to the truck and was rewarded with a chilled baggie of water (Spanish not needed)!  Which I poured over my head, did not drink :)
Fortunate to race with this great group of ambassadors!
Federico and Ligia, Pura Vida!
I came into mi 20 and sat for a bit, using ice to help cool off.  After some time I put some ice in my bra as well as my hydration and reluctantly left the shaded cover. The next aid station was 7 miles away.  At this point we climbed to the top of the canyons. This area had been burned, the landscape was black and the running surface was hard pack white stone.  Eerie and yet beautiful.  As I climbed up the canyon I could feel the moisture evaporating from my cloths, my skin. Within a short time I went from soaking wet to bone dry.  As I trotted and walked I could feel my body temperature rise.  I used my front bottle to pour water over my head.  My head was throbbing and my heart was racing.  THIS was not a good sign.  At about mi 25 I stopped and tried to get my heart rate down.  I laid down in the shade of a burnt out tree.  A couple of runners came by and while they looked concerned our language barrier prevented us from communicating.  With me making fan like motions to indicate the heat I got from them that the aid station was near.  I got up and started walking again.  I would trot a couple of steps but would immediately feel ill.  The aid station turned out to be 2 miles away and it felt like it took an eternity to get to it.  Once there I sat in the shade and began to ice myself down.  I was scared with how my body was behaving (traitor).  My head was killing me and I was burning up.  With broken communication with the aid station volunteers I called it.  I had been invited to Costa Rica to run a race and here I was DNF'ing.  Was I disappointed in myself for not finishing...YES but I also knew something bad would have happened if I had continued on.
I was fortunate that there was crew for a runner who spoke English and was able to get me back to the finish.  This is the part of the ultra running community that is the same regardless of what country you are in.  The unwavering support for the fellow runner.
No, not the race I had anticipated running.  Upon seeing Federico post race, I apologized for not finishing his race, but Federico was more concerned about my health then having me finish his race. He had invited me to CR as an ambassador of the sport and while my ability to race is valued being a true ambassador of the sport is even more valuable.  He complimented me on being that ambassador, it's not about the race it is about the person.
Federico had said the Tico (Costa Ricans) were friendly and handsome people.  This could not be more true as evidenced by he and Ligia as well as the many other people I was fortunate to meet. Thank you for inviting me to your amazing race.  I would absolutely recommend Endurance Challenge Costa Rica to anyone looking for an international race, it is incredibly well organized and supported and it is in a beautiful country with beautiful people.

Post race beach time in Tamarindo!
As always, big shout out to my sponsors, Patagonia, Ultraspire, Julbo, and Picky Bars, thank you for providing me with the best of the best!

Pura Vida!



Monday, April 27, 2015

Lake Sonoma 5...1st race report of 2015!!

Lake Sonoma was not my first race to kick off 2015 but, it was the first race I finished.

HURT100....I will be back to finish what I started.
HURT 100 in January was to be the first race of 2015.  This was a race I was excited to return to.  I had grand plans to erase my 2012, 33 hour finish.  My goal was to replace it with a much faster time and instead I exchanged it for my first 100 mile DNF....In brief, I was fit and ready for a great race....I took a hard fall at mile 20, continued on until mile 47 and had a mental block at the idea of hurting for the next 53 miles.  Just like that I was done.  While I tweeted #noregrets and posted fun pics on the beach with friends I did spend the next 2-3 weeks in a depressed state.  All of the training and sacrifices with no finish line.
Yup that would be our age!
#noregrets...my A@!
The 100 mile DNF is a pill I hope I NEVER have to swallow again and I will forever have this will me at each start line I toe.
It took me a good 4 weeks to allow myself to even think about training again after HURT. Physically I was fine but mentally I was broken.  I work 50ish hours a week in a high stress environment.   Monday-Friday I have to be focused and intentional in order to get my training in and I was not ready to go there yet.  And then like a flip of a switch, mid Feb, I was ready.  Lake Sonoma 50mi was about 7 weeks away and this was something I could wrap my training brain around.
Prior to HURT, I had started Bikram yoga, this is a 90 minute yoga session in a room heated to around 105 degrees.  While not "fun" I figured it would help me train for the humidity of Hawaii, and lucky me... I found the heated yoga helping with my long standing hip issues (piriformus syndrome) that I had been dealing with for the past year.  So even if it is 1 time a week, I have continued with Bikrams.  With my hip feeling better I was able to resume speed workouts in my training up to Sonoma.  I even threw in a 10 mile race the weekend prior to Sonoma, Horse Ridge 10 miler.  I had raced this before and found myself with a 3 minute PR ....good enough for 1st Master! Onto Sonoma!
TJ does an excellent job in recruiting for a stacked field of talented athletes....this year was no different.   I raced Sonoma in 2012 in a time of 8:18 F4, and again in 2013 in 8:52 F9.  2012 was a wet year, lots of mud and while I had a good race, I knew I could run it faster....2013 was a dry year but unfortunately a bit of a shit show for me :) we all have them!  This year, I was feeling fit, the course was dry and there would be plenty of competition to keep me company and help push the pace.
Not exactly floating across the water!
TJ's wife arranged for my accommodations in a beautiful home in Healdsburg and Carrie was my traveling companion.  One of our roomies' in the house is a newbie to the ultra running scene Keely Henninger, all of 22 years old and we picked up on our way to the race another youngster Ashley Erba 18 years, both needed transportation as...get this... they were to young to rent a car!
A beaut of a day!
Just a girl out for a run!
As anticipated the race started out fast, first couple of miles are on the road allowing everyone to find their pace.  I settled into my groove, feeling relaxed and happy to have the race begin.  After a bit of time I found myself in pace with Jimmy Dean and enjoyed his chatter for a handful of miles before his leggie stride loped away from me.  The trail was dry and fast, a few creek crossing that if you placed your feet just right you could avoid getting wet.  It was going to be a warm day and so I tried to embrace the early morning chilly temps. Greetings were exchanged with Meghan , Pam and Kaci as we exchanged spots and then with Keely around the half way point.  I was hoping to stay within the top 10 and at the turnaround mi 25 I was sitting in 8th and in short order 9th as Kaci passed me just outside of the aid station. This is where I would sit for the remainder of the race.  Although I did toy with the 10th place after taking not 1  but 2 solid falls.  The second fall I was a bit slower in collecting my wits about me and was passed by F10.  But was able to chase the F9 spot back down. Having broken my watch with the second fall, I was content to run my race through to the finish.  With 6 miles ish to go, I came upon F8 walking, she had tweaked her calf.
That would be the last female I would see and so with my focus being to stay on my feet and not slow down I finished F8 in 8:24.  Not my fastest Sonoma and not my slowest, and while I had hoped to run it faster, a solid race is always a good day!
I will be back to race Lake Sonoma.  John and Lisa and the rest of their team put on an amazing event from the pre race festivities, the aid/ crew stations to the post race celebration!   I will be hanging around for the wine tasting next time!!
Can I get a.....

What took care of me during my 8+ hours of fun in the sun....
Pre race calories: Picky Bar Smooth Caffienator, coffee, banana, yogurt
Patagonia of course, mesh trucker hat, wool socks, bun huggers,
Julbo's Whoops
UltrAspire Spry
UltrAspire collapsible bottle
Calories:
Picky Bar Blueberry Boomdizzle
Flask w/GU coconut water, Scaps, CarboPro
Coconut water at the aid station...thank you Carrie!






Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer of Grand Slamming....and DONE!

It's hard to believe that it is done...I am done.  On Sept 6th I successfully completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning a mere 10 weeks after I began this amazing adventure. 

Pre race pic with Nan!
My last race report or rather sad story, was truly my lowest point of the Slam.  Yes, I wondered when, where, and how it would feel to hit this low point and I am ecstatic to report that Vermont was it.  Not that I felt that I could go much lower ...you never, ever know.  There are never any guarantees in this sport we call Ultrarunning.  Having said that, put away your tissue, there will be no tears shed in reading the rest of my Slam story!

So yes, Vermont left me battered and bruised.  So, what did I do?  I got down to business, damned if I was going to go through all of "that" in Vermont and not do everything I could to get myself to the Leadville start in a much improved state. I had 4 weeks after all, the longest break between 100's.  And so it began, massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture.  I admit, I was a "bit" freaked out, I was feeling it (strained soleus) ALL THE TIME!  I told myself it was because I was constantly traumatizing the tissue trying to make it better, which was very true but I believed it would help and so I kept with it. (I truly don't know how Ken put up with me during this time....I was completely consumed with this calf thing, thank you baby, you are the best!). I also accepted that I might not be at 100% by LeadvilleLeadville is a very runnable course, lots of packed dirt roads as well as pavement with 3 significant climbs (repeated 2x's).  To tilt the scale in my favor I decided that I needed the added support of trekking poles, courtesy of Roch Horton of Black Diamond as well as fellow Patagonia runner.  I also decided to give my calf issue a name...early on I called it a niggle....now I was calling him Nigel.  Kill em with kindness right, if you can't beat um make friends with them, or something like that...

Keep er rolling!

Thank you for being
there Ken!
With my crew in tow I made it to the starting line, race start 4am August 22nd.  My race strategy would be to go out slow and easy.   Nigel was taped and compressed (couple of Advil for good measure) and we were off.  I saw my crew at May Queen mi 13 and was happy to report that all was good.  Couple scary moments of feeling Nigel as I navigated around the lake in the dark (not to mention going off course, seriously the same spot as last year!)  Big thanks to the runner who realized we were no longer running around the lake!
I began ticking off the miles, not fast but steady.  Each time I saw my crew they would assess me feed me and send me on my way.  Couple of low points with the heat but heck, I new I could do this.


Feeling the love! Photo c/o Tera Dube
Thank you
Gary and Lynn'O for stopping by!



I made it up and over Hope Pass, 12,600 ft with the help of my poles.  I picked up my pacer Johnny'O at the 50 mi turn around and more of the same.  The second time over Hope Pass was a bit of a struggle, not enough O2!  But, unlike last year, I got to the top, had a drink and headed back down the other side with Johnny'O pushing me all the while and with each step I was breathing just a bit easier.




Top of Hope Pass with Johnny'O, Mi 55 Photo c/o Caleb Wilson


And more calories!
Yup that's a hot dog :)
Mile 60 I picked up my second pacer, changed my socks, and yes actually had a couple of bites of a hot dog (same girl that eats Happy Meals!), thanks Nan your the best! Pacer Amy kept me going, taking over where Johnny left off.  Again we were steady to slow and Nigel must have grown bored with me as he appeared to be gone!!!  Last hand off was from Amy to Ken.


There would be no repeat of last year, we stopped assessed our need for clothing, dressed to meet that need and after a bit of time by the fire, we were off.  Somewhere during the course of the race it became clear to me that this race would be one in which I would walk away, healthy and intact.  I was not counting runners or looking at my time.  I started the day not knowing if Nigel would be spending it with me or not and when it became apparent that he was not, I had only enough energy to finish the race.  And so I finished the race, with Ken by my side and the sun was rising.

And done....
Nigel was gone....and I was healthy. 

South Sister Summit pre Wasatch

I had 3 weeks before the final race and I was actually starting to believe that I could race it.  I can't say how excited I was at the idea....I gave myself a week off, and the following weekend found myself hiking Tumalo Mount followed by a Mount Bachelor summit.  I went for a few runs during that week and the weekend prior to Wasatch hiked the South Sister.  To date this was the most activity I had between races if you don't count therapy.  Not that I didn't throw in some PT and MT for good measure :) Life was good!

Woohoo go time (wakey time Johnny'O)! Photo c/o Nan
With me at Wasatch would be Ken as my crew as well as 1 of my 2 pacers BUT we also had the company of fellow Bendites Darla and Chris Askew (Dar was racing, Chris was Pacer/Crew)  as well as Johnny'O and Nan from Boise
(part of my Western States and Leadville Pacer/Crew, Johnny was racing Nan was crew)!  This was going to be a blast!  The last race of the Slam and I would get to spend it with an amazing group of friends.
Rocho of SLC would be my other pacer and aside from the crazy detailed advice (thank you Roch!) he gave for the course, he had a great question for me "what's your goal?"....and so I asked him to send me splits for a sub 24 hour Wasatch run.  In his words, "CHEETAH! sub 24 and a possible win..." With this request Rocho sent splits from his Cheetah year 2007! The course had been altered this year and was reported to be 30-40 minutes faster in the last 17 miles.
5 am start and I can hear the voice of Rocho urging me to get near the front in attempts to be on pace once we began the first 4000 ft climb up to Francis Peak @ 9100 ft.  I joined in step with Jenny Capel (who I would spend the ENTIRE day racing with) and we made the climb up to Chinscraper Summit, where I'm told I am 7th female.  This time I am interested in my place as well as my time...what the heck who the hell was in front of me.  We did not walk the climb, I actually thought we moved up the mountain rather well.  Time to check myself, we were only at mile 13, plenty of race left to move up in ranking.  More important was to watch my splits and stay on, not too fast as to leave it all out on the trail in the early miles.  As I ran into and out of aid stations I was on pace give or take 5-10 ahead and I was having a great time!  The Wasatch Front is an amazing mountain range, at any point I would look up from the trail to some seriously spectacular views.
Just one more bite, thanks Chris!

I would pick Ken up at mile 39 which was also the first point in which I would see him.  Only issue at this point was that I discovered a new pain...in my knee and it would pretty much scream at me on the super steep descents...of which there were a few.  Odd. 
Let's do this! Photo c/o Catherine Horton
Mile 39 and Ken, he crewed me along side Chris and Nan and then he took off with me.  Turns out I was 5th (with Jenny in front of me) at this point.  He ran me to Lamb's aid mile 52 keeping me on pace, I was a lil whiny through the heat of the day but he got me there pretty much on pace and intact.  Next up was Rocho, we left the aid station walking, he wanted me topped off with hydration and calories for the following 17 mi trek to Scott's Tower @ almost 10,000 ft. Once we started moving we fell into a rhythm, hiking with spurts of Rocho calling out, "chop chop" as he patted his leg, meaning it was time to trot.  As we ran, he led the way calling out when it was time for me to take some Honey Stinger chews, "if you can take 1, you can take 2".  As we  ran into and out of aid stations he pushed the calories, first it was 1/2 a grilled cheese and next it was a cup of broth.  Roch new the climbs and when to push the calories to get the most out of them.  Ugh, but because he did it with authority, I let him push me and I took the calories....WHAT! Seriously, Ken is a figure of authority as well as my partner but yet...yes the odd dynamic of husband and wife, pacer and racer...
In route to the Brighton aid station I finally got to see a moose, it was around Dog Lake and fortunately already off  the trail, thank you Jenny!  With Rocho knowing where to look I also got to see and touch the famous carving of the "Boxing Bear", as assured by Rocho to give me strength! Excellent! It was much needed as we powered down the hill to mile 74.63 aid station for the hand off to Ken, still on pace for a sub 24 hour (thank you for your great pacing Roch).  I was warned to stay out of the Brighton Lodge Aid Station...too warm and inviting.  It was 10:15PM and I could see the draw.  I instead climbed into Rocho's van where his wife Catherine, Nan and Ken helped me into warmer clothing.  Roch was off in search of more calories for me to consume.  I then did as I was told and walked into the Lodge was weighed in and said "269 out" and walked back out....yup, it was warm and cozy and FULL of runners!

Don't think about it, just eat it! Photo c/o CH
Time for some layers! Photo c/o CH
Next 3 miles would be straight up Catherine's Pass but before that a bowl of soup (eaten outside of the Brighton Lodge aid station)....Ken would be with me to the finish (as well as Jenny :) and other than Catherine's pass we would have Grunt's Pass, a few other short climbs but essentially a fairly runnable section to the finish....or so we thought.  Holy heck these runnable sections greeted us with ton's of loose rocky descents as well as new cut trails, perhaps we were the 1st?? :) But I was good with it all, my legs felt great (knee issue disappeared shortly after it appeared) I had taken care of them on the early descents and had $$ in the bank for these late mile hard descents. AND I was still on a sub 24 hour pace.  Jenny passed me around mi 95 the final time placing me in 4th, a local runner was in 1st, and Darla was 2nd.  My goal for a sub 24 hour was well within my grasp but a podium finish would elude me.
And just like that (well not really), with Ken's urging me to push a bit more, we were done, 23:37:31 a Crimson Cheetah finish and I was officially a Grand Slammer!

Best pacing crew ever! Photo c/o CH
"Crimson Cheetah's" Photo c/o Chris Askew

1986 was the first year of the Grand Slam and in total it has been completed by 302 runners, 43 of them female. Of the 43 females I now hold the 4th fastest F combined time, the fastest F masters time, and the second fastest F Slammer time on the Wasatch course.  Not so bad considering I came up with an injury before the 2nd race of the Slam.  Ultrarunning is about setting goals and continuously re-evaluating and adjusting those goals and at times "knowing when to hold them, and knowing when to fold them".  I feel so very fortunate to be a part of this beautiful thing we call Ultrarunning.
Grand Slammer 2014! Photo c/o Chris Askew


I can't thank the people in my life enough for their amazing and unwavering energy and support!  Thank you to my sponsors for taking care of me out on the trails in all of those oh so important ways!....Ken, words can't do justice for how much it means to have you as my partner, my crew, my pacer, my support.






Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vermont 100; 2nd race of the Grand Slam



2014 Slammers pre Vermont 100
Vermont 100 and officially halfway through the Grand Slam.
Going into the Slam I spoke of experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows (at some point)…I can only hope (please, please, please) that VT100 was my lowest of lows. My first 100 was in 2011 and I figured out then that I am fairly tough.  Having finished VT100 (my 8th ,100 miler) I have decided that not only am I tough, I am stupid tough!!

What has led me to this conclusion??
03:50AM and feeling good!
I finished WS feeling really good. I came away unscathed outside of some left calf tightness of which I felt for approx the last 25 miles of WS. Post WS I took 5 days off. I purchased a weighted vest and went for a hike on the 6th day, and on the 7th day I went for a run. All was well, I felt an initial twinge in my calf at the start of this run and the tightness released. I continued to workout minimally for the following week with plans to sweep part of the PCT 50 course on the Sat prior to VT100 (VT100 was 3 weeks after WS100). On the advice of Ian Sharman I was only planning on sweeping no more than 12 miles, unless I was hiking. While I was feeling good post WS, he cautioned that come mi 20 of VT100 my legs would likely tell a different story. With intentions of sweeping only a short distance to maintain my recovery plan I ended up not sweeping at all. 2 miles into the run out to where we would begin sweeping, on a slight downhill and with my left leg leading, I landed toes pointed, calf flexed and felt a pull/pinch/niggle….call it what you may and just like that, I was done running. I stopped, called out to Ken while rubbing the source of discomfort but it refused to go away. After a few tears, I hobbled back to the race start and began what I would continue to do for the following week; Ice, compression, Advil, and elevation with a couple of massages thrown in for good measure. Recharge (Athletes recovery lounge in Bend, amazing place!) was kind and sent me to Vermont with a laser stimulator to use as needed. As hoped, my calf felt better with each of the 6 passing days until VT100. I opted to not test my calf prior to race day.
Mi 21, happy to see my crew;
Photo c/o Serena Wilcox
With Advil, Spider Tech tape, and compression sleeves in place I had high hopes come the 4am race start… hopes that were VERY short lived. I made it about a quarter of a mile (yup 400ish yards) when my calf “niggle” reared its ugly head with a pinching/pulling sensation. I moved off to the side of the road and began rubbing it, reassuring the passing runners that all was well when in reality I was freaking out. What the hell was I going to do??? Seriously, not even 1 mile!! I continued to rub my leg; taking a few test steps with the same result as I continued to reassure the steady stream of passing runners that all was well. At 4am it was dark, and with my light at my waist, my tears of frustration were easy to hide. Decision time…my options; quit the race and quit the Slam; continue the race and possibly tear my gastroc and then have to quit the race/Slam; or possibly continue the race without further injury to the muscle and make it to the finish line and stay in the Slam. My logic, I came to Vermont with time goals along with the possibility of a podium finish BUT, the reason I came to Vermont was for the Grand Slam and if I could manage to “finish” VT100 and stay in the Slam then that was what I would do. And so I began my shuffle. "One Step at a Time", just as the temporary tattoo provided by the race stated.  The majority of VT100 is on hard dirt packed roads making my shuffle even more doable. With the ENTIRE field of racers in front of me my shuffle allowed me to gradually rejoin the race.
Amazing countryside;
Photo c/o Serena Wilcox 
I finally saw my crew at mile 21, interesting how it’s the familiar faces that strike straight to the heart of your emotions. While it was easy enough to share with complete strangers my calf “niggle” dilemma in a matter of fact manner, it took only one look from my sister in law for the tears to surface. I think at this point I held it together for the most part, telling both her and Serena (crew and pacer for the last 30 miles as well as local resident) that my calf had flared up and that I was going to give it what I had to get to the finish. They plied me with Advil, bio-freeze, some calories and hydration and watched me shuffle away.
At the pre race briefing the 2014 Slam pack gathered. I picked up a cool bandanna created by Brad Bishop, fellow Slammer. For the race I decided to tie it to my hydration pack. The idea was to help identify fellow Slammers on the trail. It worked and what a nice touch. I passed a runner who saw the Bandanna and he shared his story of having registered for the 2014 Slam but was unable to finish WS which effectively took him out for his quest of the Grand Slam. With his DNF at WS he still planned to show up and race the last 3 races, and try again for the Slam next year.

Just a small smile please asked my crew!
Photo c/o S.W.
Another runner heard I was going for the Slam and shared with me his goal of attempting the same one day. And then there were those who knew of the Slam and were in awe that I was attempting it. These are the stories that feed the soul of us runners and unbeknownst to them they helped to keep me going. And going I did. Each time I saw my crew, they took the absolute best care of me they could. They would later share that they truly felt helpless and had no idea of how to help me. I can only hope that I conveyed to them the value of just having them out there. They helped me change socks, drain blisters, ply me with Advil, bio-freeze and give me a hug when I needed one.

Mi 70 and the beginnings
of my right quad bruise :(

Not a natural gait, but happy that
Serena would be joining me!
Serena finally joined me at mi 70 providing me with some much needed distraction. VT100 is a unique race in which runners are at times sharing the roads with horse and riders running the same race. Due to the hazard of the horses, music was not allowed. This meant I was stuck with only my thoughts…how I would have loved some upbeat tunes to fill my head and drown out my thoughts. My body was a wreck, my hip flexors were killing me as well as my groin from the external rotation of my left hip.  This was due to my inability to push off with my left foot, instead I would approach the hills with the side of my foot, protecting my calf.  My right quad was toast, it was doing all the work my left leg refused to do, all the climbing as well as the impact of the downhills....Finally, when I was close to my breaking point and upon my request, Serena and Carrie helped me onto a cot at Bill’s Cabin aid station mi 88, they removed my socks and shoes, elevated my legs and for a brief 5-6 minutes, I rested. They also consulted with Ken back in Oregon, who told them to let me have my 5 minutes and then get me back out there. Yup tough love from afar is what my fella gave me. And so they got me up after my brief rest, I drank some much needed coffee, took a bite of a grilled cheese sandwich and got back at it. The going was slow as I was only hiking at this point, Serena was a saint and yes, finally, I made it to the finish line. Carrie was there waiting and I walked straight into her arms and let the tears flow, finally letting the physical and mental guard that I had been holding in place for so long drop away.
Right quad post race---

And so yes, I am tough…..stupid tough. With my almost 25 hour VT100, I have had to let go of my time goals for the Grand Slam and you know what, that is okay. The Grand Slam is an amazing feat all on its own, if I can recover from my injury and see this thing through to fruition, I will be damn proud of myself.
Feeling very fortunate to have finished Vermont 100, I am happy to say that I will be toeing the start line for the 3rd 100 of the slam, Leadville 100 Aug 16th!
25 hours later I rested....
I can not tell Carrie and Serena how much it meant to have them out there for me.  They made me smile when I had no reason and helped to relieve some of the weight of my internal struggles when I was at my lowest. Thank you.  Thank you to the race volunteers for taking such great care of me as I came through their aid stations and always with a smile on there face.  For Harvey and Shasta, thank you for remembering me from the registration and giving me that great hug before you sent me on my way to get to that finish line.
As always thank you to my sponsors for providing me with the perfect gear, supporting me as I chase after my crazy running dreams! Patagonia; UltrAspire; Julbo; Honeystinger; Blackdiamond. While physical health is not a guarantee come race day, your gear can be.









Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grand Slam/ Western States 100-- 1 down 3 To Go!!

Yes this is a blog post....not a photo album but what can I say I like pictures!

Grand Slammers 2015
Timeline for publishing this post was 3 weeks....why? Because Western States 100 is the first race of a series of races referred to as the Grand Slam.  You may have read mention of this in my previous posts.  For those who do not know, the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning consists of officially finishing four of the oldest 100 mile trail races in the U.S. all in the same year.  Might as well call it for what it is...all 4 races actually occur with in 10 weeks!!!
So, added to my excitement of running Western States for the 3rd year in a row is the beginning of an epic adventure.  An adventure that will challenge my mind, body and soul in ways I am unable to even imagine.  Some call me crazy and possibly in need of medication, but for me this is living!
Little WS training!
WS prep consisted of  my now traditional Memorial Day training camp, 3-4 days of quad pounding runs on the WS course while spending time with great running peeps!  The training went as anticipated minus 1 digger,  and I even picked up a new nickname...."Funsize" :) thanks Matt Keyes! 
Photo c/o Joe McCladdie
Additional training included Black Butte repeats, Pilot Butte repeats, Aubrey Butte....I think you get the picture.  This year my focus was quad strength, last year I suffered from quad death and lost what felt like an eternity in time due to this, maybe it was my training or perhaps it was the 106+ temps in the canyons.  Either way, my plan was to eliminate the factor I could control.  Physically, I was looking pretty good for WS, no real injury but rather what had become a chronic piriformus issue (self diagnosed of course) which when irritated extended into my hamstring.  This only prevented me from doing speed work or upbeat tempo workouts (ha, while I know these w/o's would be of benefit...my heart was not broken).  Additional focus was on my core, hiking, and going into WS healthy and fit, knowing that after WS I would be recovering and maintaining between the rest of the races.
5 am start and what a day!  The women's field was stacked; I placed 8th last year in a time of 21:44 and my PR was 20:28...my goal for today was sub 20 hours and a top 10 finish.
Let's do this!
Best crew!
I started out easy, hiking and jogging the immediate 3.5 mile climb up the Escarpment before settling into a steady pace.  I spent some great running miles with Meghan Arbosgast, she knows how to run this race well and I decided she would be safe to stay with in the high country.  Unfortunately Meg's was having a rough go of it and I moved ahead at about mi 22...although half expected her to re appear using her speedy downhill legs.  I saw "Team D" at mi 30..."Team D" consisted of my hubby, my sis in law and some friends from Boise.  Ken and John would be my pacing team and Carrie and Nan my crew.  "Team D" looked like a professional pit crew, spraying me with sunblock, feeding me my chocolate milk and fruit bowl, replacing garbage with new stingers, an ice bandanna and new bladder for my hydration bag and then sending me off.  Yes, sent off, Ken pretty much kicked me out of my pit row.
Enjoying the day!
Before long I was enjoying the trail with another friend, Adam from MN along with another fellow Slammer also from MN, Jordan.  What fun! Seriously, things were going well and I was feeling good.  I think at this point I was 8th F but it was early.  The aid stations came and went; the volunteers were as amazing as ever, cheering us runners in and then giving each of us individual attention.  It was great to get a hug from RD Craig Thornley at Last Chance AS mi 43.3.  I left the AS with the words of "you know what's coming next don't cha"....that's right Devil's Thumb!  With the fire of last year, the swinging bridge had yet to be constructed and so lucky us, a cable was placed across the water to aid in the crossing.

Photo c/o Facchino Photography
This provided a well needed cooling prior to the climb to the top of the thumb.  As I was making the climb I passed Emily Harrison and while I was hoping to find some of the speedy chicks in front of me it is always tough to do so when they are struggling...we were not even to the half way point.  Emily ended up dropping at mi 55.  I next saw my crew at Michigan Bluff mi 55.  As always this puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
Pit Row
Great pace Nan!
More of the great crew support and this time Ken trotted with me a bit as I drank my chocolate milk providing me with some updates.  I would see my team again at mi 62 and so I decided to wait on the flask and I took a few gels for my calories.  Oops, wrong choice.  I should have taken the flask or even more Honey Stinger chews.  As I was needing calories on the climb out of Michigan Bluff I took a gel and it triggered the always dependable gag reflex.  I quickly spit it out but it was too late and within moments I lost all that yummy chocolate milk.  So much for more calories.
Refreshing dip in the river!
Next aid was Bath Road and I was happy to see Nancy waiting to make the short trot into Foresthill with me.  She worried that somehow I would drop her in the 1.4 mile trek, fear not Nan, you were solid! More of the same from my crew at Foresthill as well as Johnny'O joining me for the next 18 miles!  All was going super well, passing Emily had moved me up to 7th F and while for a brief stint I had caught up with Nikki Kimball, the call of nature aka bowels, had me tucking into the bushes while she moved ahead.  I was told both Nikki as well as Kaci Lickteig were 5 to 10 minutes up on me.  The downhill run to the river was uneventful for me which at this point of the race is a super positive thing to be experiencing.  Johnny'O kept me going, reminding me of all those things you start to slip on at this point of the race.  To the river we ran where Ken was waiting on the opposite side.  Meet and greet with my fella and up the road we went.  Feeling pretty good we trotted the majority of the road to Green Gate; almost caught you Nan (she was running in front of us to prep what I would need at the crew spot).  One more weigh in, pit crew attention and Ken and I were off falling into step with Adam Condit and his pacer Joe Uhan, who might I add knows pretty much all the words to every Katie Perry song!  I was running well at this point, Ken was pushing and I was responding.  I was over my 20 hour goal by about 25 minutes and while I was running well, a sub 20 did not look likely....and I was okay with it.  I was having a solid race,  nope no complaints from me.  We came into Browns Bar, the Rogue Valley Runners aid station; love these guys, a lil TLC and they too sent me off. Slower pace than before but still feeling relatively good, I was still tolerating nips off my flask.  Hwy 49, one last visit from my crew and on to No Hands Bridge and up to Robie Point.  We followed the freshly painted foot prints to the white bridge where the rest of my crew joined for the final sprint (jog) to the track.  Nope, no sub 20 hour but I had a solid run.  There are always post race reflections on where you can improve and this race is not different....and lucky me, F7 means I get to come back next year!  But for now I will place my focus on my next race, Vermont 100; July 19th!!
Not sub 20hr but moved up a spot to F7 and had a great day!
Always a huge thank you to my crew and pacing team, you guys rock!

Gear Review:

  • Velocity shorts aka bun hugger.....loved them!
  • Fore Runner tank
  • Patagonia wool socks; performed great in the heat as well as the water.
  • Patagonia EVERlong; the toe box with the soft mesh on top was perfect for all the downhills.
  • UltrAspire Spry; lightweight with a 1L reservoir
  • Julbo Access Zibra lens; excellent for the sun and the shade as well as under a visor!
  • Honey Stinger chews: great for about half of the race before they get too sweet.
  • Black Diamond headlamp/ waist pack: I used the light only at my waist and it was perfect.

Best partner ever!
Thank you to my sponsors who help support me in what it is that I love to do!