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 :)


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! 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
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 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 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 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.