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 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 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!