Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Tuesday, May 30, 2017


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

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

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

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

Busing it to the start!
Pic of a pic 

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


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

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

Take aways—

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

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

Thursday, February 2, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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