Wednesday, June 28, 2017

San Diego 100 Endurance Race take 2

A little over 8 years ago I had a friend mention to me that he was considering something called "Ultra running." My immediate response was "Why? I don't get it." Why run more than a traditional marathon distance?  Isn't that challenging enough? Why make your body go LONGER than 26.2 miles? What's your incentive?  Then I found myself toeing the line at a 100 mile race.....
I'm pretty shy. You can never find me in a crowd.

This journey began over 18 months ago, when I registered for the 2016 running of the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance run, and got cut for time last June at mile 71.7. The inability to complete this race fueled my need to make sure I completed it this year. Needless to say, I was glued to every device I had available the 2 weeks prior to the race checking the anticipated  temperature range for the 2 days involved. As things started to get a little more real, race day temps looked ideal. Perfect in fact. 
I came into this race with more mental preparations than last year, but less actual training. I started working last August, which made it harder to get those mid-week runs in (go figure) and the guilt of already hoarding the majority of Saturdays from my husband last year caused me to work my run schedule into more local (not mountain) runs. But, I learned a couple of  important lesson from last year.... ready for this?..... 
1) PAY ATTENTION TO THE CUTOFFS. Whaaaat? Pay attention to the cut offs? I have been a road runner for over 15 years, a trail ultra runner for a mere 3 years. Cutoffs were never a thing for a road race. You just go out and run. There's 1 cut off, the finish, and those times were usually ridiculously generous. 
2) EAT. Seems pretty self explanatory, right? Well, I just finished the PCT 50 mile race in May and I forgot to eat. "Forgot".... I ended up with a great 20 miles, and not so great 10 miles and 20 miles of forceful power hiking and making it the next aid station. Followed by one of my worst finishes and a night of nausea and vomiting (too much?). A seasoned 100 mile friend told me to find a gel that worked for my stomach and eat 1 every hour. That was my plan. And whatever aid station food appealed to me.

Ok, cutoffs and eat. Seems easy enough.  Got my drop bags ready, got my crew ready and I think I got me ready. 
Drops bags, crew bag, misc bag, and binder. All ready to go.

Race morning came way too early. Everyone was jittery and ready to go. This year I had a crew, a plan, and told so many people I was going to do this race that I couldn't NOT finish. 

The amazing Ricky Roane. 

It's just 100 miles Whitney, no worries....

An amazing runner. She does 200 mile races and smokes me in every race
that I have run "with" her.  Also coming into this race injured.... 
As the race started it was easy to get into a nice steady jog. The first mile is pretty much single track through gorgeous tall grass around Lake Cuyamaca. We went slower than last year and had to stop a few times for mud/water crossings. Our first climb started around mile 1.25, it was a nice wide dirt and gravel road. The first section was fairly uneventful, other than a mostly desiccated deer on the road. A nice reminder that there are mountain lions around.  I saw 2 of my runner friends ahead of me that I knew were going to finish ahead of me, and the desire to attempt to catch up was a strong one that I tamped down and just ran at a comfortable pace for me.

Paso Picacho

At the first aid station, the Running Skirts team was there to get everyone set to climb Stone wall Peak. I asked my friend Fern to fill my pack with water, thinking I had consumed enough.  I was informed sternly that my pack was still full, and that it better be empty when I made it to the next aid station. My job was to drink and run. Damn. I needed to listen to him too, because not only was he seeing with outside eyes, but as one of the top ultra runners in the SoCal area, he has "some" experience under his belt. So, I left AS #1 with plans to run and drink. Considering I only had 7.5 miles in me, the first part was harder than I thought it would be. So was the second. But I met a buddy I occasionally run with and chased him down the mountain. And when I made it to the next AS, my pack was empty.

Chambers and Sunrise 1

When I checked my time vs my pace chart, I noticed I had managed to be slow enough in the beginning of the race that I was now officially running my "oh crud" pace. I figured I wouldn't get here until at least after Pine Creek (mile 36). I made it a point to bring myself back into my "realistic" race pace. So I ran more than I felt comfortable with, but then again, there's really nothing comfortable about ultra running.  It started to get hot at this point, and I knew the next two sections were going to be hot, exposed and warm. The extra push got me into the AS within a better buffer of my realistic pace vs oh crud pace. Maybe my crew expected me to stick to the slowing pace I had been displaying and not suck it up and run, but we missed each other at the first crew AS. I had tucked a few extra gels in my pack just in case, and I knew I'd see them at the next aid station. This meet up was important since I would then have to go 20 miles without another crew AS, so I definitely needed to see them.

As I left the  Sunrise 1, I got a cooling buff from the Running Skirts, some hugs from the Trail Crashers working the AS, and some ice and food. I ate a coupe of pickles, and had some soda to wash down my CarboPro and BioTropic.  I took off down the most beautiful section of the race. It's also sneaky hard. Last year it was so hot I felt like I was getting baked here. This year, I turned on my music and had some fun hopscotching and chatting with other runners. It was perfect. I had a great song playing in my ear and one of my training partners in sight. As I worked my way closer, I was so happy I started singing out loud (apologies if you were within hearing, I'm not a good singer.).  I hoped that as I passed my friend he would follow along. I got a smile and a head shake. I wasn't sure if it was a "she's so crazy" head shake or "I'm riding a low point and can't go with you" kind of shake.  Last year my absolute favorite picture was taken in this section. And I didn't buy it because I have a rule about not buying pictures from races I don't finish. So even when I was tired, I ran around every blind corner just in case a photographer was there. Alas I was disappointed, but I finally made it to the next AS, so there was a positive!

Pioneer Mail 1

AS #4, Pioneer Mail 1. I had made a mental note to get a BIG bag of gels, my watch charger, a battery pack, and a spray down with bug spray. I had heard a rumor that the biting flies had been in the area, and I was NOT going to take any chances.  After getting the AS crew to fill my pack with ice and getting a piece of plain bread (yep, already trying to keep my stomach from going south), I met my crew (at this point only Marvin) to grab all the essential gear and a few encouraging words. The next 2 sections always make me work hard. And I'm far enough into the race that stuff is hard, my legs are tired and I'm questioning why I do this.  Maybe this whole "remembering to eat" stuff thing is working for me. I was FAR less grumpy or worn down in this section. I was actually running, go figure. Same hopscotching, different group of runners. One guy swallowed a bee and got stung in the throat. Seriously, stung in the throat. We stopped for a bit to make sure everything was OK and his breathing was good and unchanged. Everything seemed to be fine and he said he was not allergic to bee stings, but we agreed he should take a benadryl just in case. And, I guess he was ok because he made it the the next AS before me!

The road to Pine Creek is another level of hell, I'm sure of it. I forgot what a terrible experience the road to Pine Creek was. First you emerge from the trail to a hard packed dirt road that climbs, and rolls, and climbs. And its hot, and climbs more. Maybe now would have been a good time to take a gel, but it didn't happen. And I slowly made my way forward. Watching all my new friends leave me, even bee sting guy. And when we finally made it to the top, it was a never ending hot road down (I've officially entered the complaining phase of ultra running). Forever. And frickin' ever. You would think downhill would be nice, but it hurt so much. My quads sent out a protest and made sure I knew that they did not like the current situation.  Zip it short stuff, we're "running" here....

Pine Creek

I finally freaking made it. It was about 20° cooler this year than last, and I was totally not hungry. But I made myself eat just a little something (slice of watermelon and pickle spear, no, I'm not pregnant), got my pack filled with water and ice and took an iced coke to go. Oh, and filled my sports bra with a big scoop of ice. It was AMAZING. I highly recommend this move.  As I took off up Noble Canyon I attempted to not let little demons whisper in my ear about being tired, or hot, or how hard the climb was. Sip, eat a gel, climb, get startled by a piece of ice falling out of my sports bra. I was passed by several people having a slightly better point in their race, but as long as I didn't stay in this low, I was Ok with that. Soon I was passing people. I was had some runners envy of people who had poles. I've never trained with them, but I felt like they definitely HAD to help, right? Soon enough (it felt like forever) I made it to Big Tree (is this THE Big Tree or just a rather largish tree?), where the aid station usually is for the Noble Canyon 50k, so I knew the road had to be coming up soon.  Crossing the road was a mental sigh of relief. The AS had to be soon, right? 3 miles now? I was "mostly" done climbing for this section, right? I always forget there's just a little more climb after the road, and some more to get to the AS at Penny Pines 1. Soon another runner passed me on what I think was the last mile before the AS asking if it was close. I told her what I knew, "I've been thinking it's close for about 2 miles now...." I finally made it to Penny 1, so much earlier than last year.

Penny 1

As I sat and had a cup of soup, I thought about this next segment. Runnable. But could I run it? I got my drop bag, retrieved solid food (which I couldn't eat), some gels and a battery charger for my phone. I left feeling tired. So I took a gel and tried to walk fast. Soon I felt it start to revive me and I ran some. I thought about seeing my friends at Meadows (the next AS) and how close I was to the last real challenge, heading down to Cibbits and climbing back up again, a 14.8 round trip, down and up a mountain. But before that, I has to make it to Meadows. So I walked the uphills and ran the flats and downhills. And didn't get passed by a single runner after the gel revived me. I thought that wasn't too shabby considering I had around 45+ miles on my legs.


As I made it to Meadows, I could not see my crew. I could see other people I knew, but none of my guys. Oh well. Good thing I threw a small flashlight in my pack that morning or I would have been totally screwed. At this point my stomach was really starting to turn. More soup and plain bread while I hoped for my crew to show up. They had an extra flashlight I could take with me and a long sleeve shirt (it was starting to cool off). I left Meadows without sighting them and hoped what I had would be enough. The group I was running with had a little pep and we decided to run. I made it about a mile with them before stopping for a little walk break (and decided to free my poor soup and bread from the apparently evil confines of my stomach).  More running, some walking while debating getting the crystallized ginger from my pack. Finally, I stopped, took off my pack and started digging. No ginger. I know I packed it. More looking, no ginger. I forced down another VFuel and hoped it would stay with me. A friend ran Western States last year and ended up vomiting most of the race, a kind older gentleman told her that as soon as she emptied her stomach she needed to put something back in. That was my plan, keep something, anything, in. While I was digging for ginger I took my tiny flashlight out and kept it handy. Soon it would be dark enough to need it. I was envious of the runners who had their headlamps as they passed me moving slowly down the trail. Then my flashlight stopped working. I was literally in the dark. I didn't know how much battery my phone had, but it had been plugged into a charger for a while, so I turned on the phone flashlight. Hallelujah, 95% battery! It wasn't ideal, but it was a light.  I had lost sight of all headlamps of nearby runners and there was a split in the trail. Damn. So I took a chance and headed down a well trampled trail, only to see a couple of frogs about a half mile in. My standard rule of thumb is, if I see wildlife, I'm on the wrong path. Arg, I backtracked to the split and went uphill, eventually finding course markers again. Up, up, up. I had forgotten how much of this section went up to the aid station, and how far the aid station was. I was moving fairly slowly since I really didn't relish the idea of getting lost and adding more miles again. I eventually made it into the aid station and found my crew waiting for me at the very edge as I came in.

Red Tailed Roost

A change of clothes, more gels, another battery pack, a headlamp and a friend. I picked up my pacer here.  She had gotten injured midway through training and kindly offered to help me with my race, it was going to be so nice to run with someone for the next 25 miles. 25 really hard miles. It wasn't cold enough for a jacket, so I tossed it in my pack just in case it cooled down more. As I geared up for the next section, Fern (yep, same Fern who forced me to drink) told me that 4 of the people I started with dropped from the race. Of my friends and training partners, I only had 3 left running. I was really surprised by this news and Neily, my pacer, and I had some material to discuss while we walk/ran to the next aid station. The first little leg from Red Tail Roost to the start of the descent to Cibbits is on a  rough dirt road, the wind started to pick up and as we ran/walked we were blinded a little by dust. But, it was only 1.3 miles, we could handle this. I didn't realize that the aid station was just for runners returning from the climb, and they wouldn't let me grab a ginger ale as we passed thru, ugh. But, we do get to go downhill and see a lot of runners who were climbing. The wind did not settle down and we were often hindered by the dust flying into our eyes. I was really regretting getting rid of my sunglasses and my hat. I made most of the descent with my hand covering my eyes and my mouth firmly closed to prevent getting a mouthful of dirt. My pace going downhill was slower than I would have liked, but we still made it to the next aid station with plenty of time to spare.

Cibbits Flat - The lowest of the low

I hate Cibbits Flat. Hate it. Its a hard, rocky climb down and you know you have to go right back up again. As I got to the bottom we found Marvin waiting for us. I grabbed more gels, ate more soup and tried to take some Carbopro and Biotropic with a coke. Buuuuttttttt...... It didn't stay with me. Super fun. Another friend at the AS told me yet another person from my group dropped, but I didn't believe it, he is a really strong (and smart) runner and came into the race uninjured. I guessed I would find out when I had time to look it up. Neily and I left the AS and started the steep climb up the road and the mountain. I mentioned I HATE this? I'm back to wondering why I do these races. But I was on a mission. I got cut from the race last year at the top. I missed the cut off by 12 minutes. I was determined to get there in time this year. I had a better buffer than last year, but that didn't mean I allowed myself to lollygag. I was seriously starting to be tired. Not sleepy, just tired of running, and walking and being pelted by the wind and dirt. My legs hurt from getting hit from all the shrubs, and I really, really wanted to be done. There was only 1 way to be done, so we kept moving forward.

Dale's Kitchen

We cruised in to Dale's Kitchen at 4:14 am, 46 min ahead of cutoff. Not as much wiggle room as I would like, but still decent. We both had soup (I think we were both trying to save our stomachs) and then headed off to the next AS. Todd's Cabin felt so far away, and we heard some weird noises coming from the mountain, so we were a little freaked out. I took 1 picture during the race.  I couldn't help myself. It was just so amazing to be out there during sunrise. This is my favorite section from PCT 50. You've just finished climbing and can run through beautiful trees and some non-technical trails for a bit. I think we started to slow down after we finished climbing, but we needed to remind ourselves that the race wasn't over yet.

Mountain Sunrise
Todd's Cabin

Mile 75.3. My farthest run to date. We were getting dangerously close to the cutoffs and my throat hurt. I wondered if I was starting to get the cold that's been floating around my kids and my friends for a couple of weeks.  At this AS we only had a 27 minute buffer. So we tried to get in and out as fast as we could and headed to the next aid station. As we shuffled, ran, walked, and everything in between, I really started to sweat the cutoff, I was going to kick myself if I made it past Dale's Kitchen only to get cut at mile 80. As a 73 year old racer hustled past me on a downhill, I really took it to heart that I may really miss the next cut off. It was rocky, but I should be able to run this. I let Neily know my concerns and started running. I ran more than 75% of this section and skated into the aid station with 13 minutes to spare.  Believe me, I was starting to try to figure out who I needed bribe or what names I would have to drop to keep going.

Penny 2

I grabbed what I needed, hugged Neily and thanked her for her tremendous help and hustled out. A couple of guys left a minute after me, but they were running more than I was and soon passed me. I kept looking behind me to make sure I wasn't about to be overtaken again, but everything seemed to be OK. About 2 miles into the leg I saw 2 more runners coming up on me, fast. I couldn't believe how fresh their legs were. So I ran, I finally started walking when we reached an uphill and they were right behind me. They nicely asked me how I was feeling. What was the appropriate response? Beat? Tired? Freaking tired? Ready for a huge glass of sweet tea and my patio? I replied "oh, you know, like I just ran 82 miles. I'm just 82 miles tired." and of course asked about how they were feeling. Please, please, please say "I'm really really tired..." Instead, they let me know they were the sweepers and they were fine since they only had about 7 miles on their legs. MOTHER TRUCKER!!!!! I had the sweepers on my tail. This is very much NO BUENO. I double checked that I still had 45 minutes and it was about 2 miles to the next AS. The let me know my numbers were mostly correct. Hmmm.... I did NOT like them on my tail. So I politely said bye and passed the guys who took off past me out of Penny 2. Letting THEM know those guys were the sweepers. The seemed less alarmed than I was. There's nothing like the sweepers on your tail to make you run out of your comfort zone. I ran the next 2 miles to the AS.

Pioneer Mail 2

Only 1 more aid station after this. Now I'm counting down aid stations. 19 minute buffer, at least it was getting better. I saw my amazing crew waiting for me. And.... my kids. What?  My husband came up and I (rudely I'm sure) that he was at the wrong AS and he wasn't supposed to start pacing until the next one. But they said they had worked it all out and the guys would take the kids and Ryan would run 16 miles with me. So he grabbed his gear and we left.  Coming into Pioneer 1 was great, you have a super half mile downhill. Leaving Pioneer 2 sucked, you have a savage half mile UPHILL. Halfway up I realized I left my sunglasses, I had wanted them for the sun and the still blowing dirt. Oh well, no way I'm going back for them. Then we reached the top and started across the road to the trail, the wind was blowing people around. I watch 2 guys ahead of me get tossed about and even Ryan was having a hard time with it. He offered to take the drop off side, but I just grunted no. We ran and walked (or maybe it was upright crawling. Is there a word for that?) to the next AS and I bitched and moaned about how far away it was.  But Ryan was great, and even said I wasn't as whiny as he anticipated me being. Which made me laugh. We got tossed around a bit, but not off the mountain, so that was good. We were back on the stunning section of the run, so while I was tired and my throat still hurt, at least it was gorgeous out. I had tried a throat lozenge, but it didn't help. So I did what was working, kept my mouth shut and didn't talk. This is probably the quietest I've ever been.

Sunrise 2

Finally! Only 9 more miles left and I had increased my buffer to the cutoff to 45 minutes. This is the first time I actually KNEW that I would finish. It wasn't just a thought. It was going to happen. I had over 3 hours to walk/crawl the 9 miles to the finish. I did a quick change into cooler clothes and ditched my pack (I'd regret this later), and grabbed my last bottle of sparkling water (the only thing that appealed to me).  My crew chief let me know he was in bad shape, he had been sick all night and really needed to get home. I felt so bad that he didn't let me know earlier, we could have made things work and he could have gone home to take care of himself, but I was sad he wasn't going to be at the finish. He started this stupid ultra running thing....He's also probably my best friend. But, we will have HIS first 100 finish to share (right Marvin?????), when I can get him healthy enough to train for 100.

Automatic smile, there's a camera pointed at you!

So Ryan and I took off down the path and worked our way to the finish. Its a good thing he loves me, because I wasn't very good company at this point. And I'm sure I smelled terrible. I really wished I had run more of this section, because its completely runnable, for fresh legs. But we fast walked and I would attempt a run every now and then. Ryan was super sweet and tried to kick rocks out of my way, which only served to stir up dust. I let know know the rocks were ok, since I was a disgusting trail runner.  We soon caught up with a gaggle of other runners making their way to the finish, all chatting and happy. Waaaaaayyyyyy happier than I appeared. Well, at least way more chatty.  But I was happy enough, I was slowly working my way to the longest race I have ever run. Now that I had some space between me and the cutoff, my mind shifted to things other than getting to the next aid station. The sweepers behind me at Penny 2 made me realize that 2 other friends who were behind me must have gotten cut. So at best the Trail Crashers would have would have 2 finishers today. We started with 7 and I had another 3 friends running, we were down to potentially 4 would finish. Bad numbers.  Well, I would find out when I had time to sit down and check.

As we pass the first 1/3 of this section, we spent a short time one a packed dirt road, and a swarm of bees flew past us. One was so intrigued by my awesome scent that it got entangled in my hair. Ah, so I spent a couple of second crouched into as small a shape as I could manage and Ryan found the insect and freed it. Nature, so fun. But, it actually was funny. And it got my heart racing. We set off again at a blistering 16 min mile pace. My watch started beeping and finally shut off. Damn, I did such a good job keeping it charged and when I ditched my pack, I ditched the charger and external battery pack. (Anyone have experience getting a saved run to sync up? I can get every other run that I stop normally to sync, but not the race, it's saved though. I emailed Suunto, but so far no response.)

Same section of the race, different day. Such a pretty run. 

I was mentally drained at this point. I tried running, and it hurt too much to run. I could walk fast, and I tried to keep every mile under a 17 min mile, but when my watch turned off, I could only go by feel. So maybe I did and maybe I didn't push. Soon we were on the last little bit, and I swear the lake was farther away than ever. I could see and hear the finish and the people, but it felt like forever before I could get there. The prideful side of me wanted to finish at a run, the realistic side of me said just get there at a walk.  Because a finish was a finish no matter what.  We finally made it to the same path we ran out on and I could see the orange chute. This was really going to happen, and soon. I saw Daniel, my friend, and my kids, and made myself run the last 1/4 mile. My two boys ran the last bit with me, my daughter took a tumble, and chaos ensued later because she did not get the opportunity to run  across  finish line with me. 

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And.... it was done. I just ran and walked 100 miles. I'm an ultra runner.... right? How do I feel about that?  Tired. Sore. Like I may lose my gels....

But happy. When did I become someone who would be happy being outside, running for 32 hours?

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My friend who I was told dropped at Cibbits finished an hour ahead of me. 

I did it. I managed my stomach, watched my time, and kept myself moving forward. The keys to 100 I guess. Pretty much immediately after finishing my brain asked "huh, wonder if I can do it faster next time...." DUDE, brain, let the body rest bit will ya?

He did finish. My running brother. 

Thank You Daniel!  Next year, you get to run. 
I'm actually afraid to take off my socks because I'm the one who  has to clean out the car. 

All that swag.... Where's the buckle???

Ultra Slam complete. Noble Canyon 50k, POT 50 Miler, Cuyamaca 100k and SD 100..... 
Thank you to my amazing family for the many, many Saturdays and Sundays I was gone nearly all day,  believing in me and cheering me on. A special thank you to  my very fabulous husband for 2 years of craziness and training. Thank you to the Trail Crashers for making me stronger! Thank you Marvin, Neily and Daniel for taking time from your lives to be with me while I spent 32 hours in the mountains and watching my kids. Thank you Tamara, Deb and Gaby for being with me last year when I failed miserably and tracking me endlessly during this attempt.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hello friends, it's been a while.

It's been quite some time since I put fingers to keyboard. But, I haven't had a single ultra race in that time. And now I have one looming in 8 days. 8 days!!!!! So, yeah. I'm freaking out just a teeny tiny bit.

8 days from now I will be running the PCT 50. My first true technical 50 miler. This will be my 4th year running this particular race, wow. I've been an Ultra runner for 4 years. I can't even believe that. I still don't feel like one. I sort of have the feeling that to truly feel like an ultra runner, I have to get the coveted 100 mile race done. And in 35 days I'm going to attempt that again at the San Diego 100 mile Endurance Race .  I mentioned I'm freaking out, right?

I've been keeping healthy this training season with a mixture of BioTropic Labs and recovering with what I think is the yummiest post run drink EVER from The Feed.  Skratch Labs Endurance Recovery Mix-Chocolate-Single Serving-The Feed

Some days I run long just so I can have some of this. I'm terrible at making sure I eat immediately after a run to replenish my body, so this drink is just perfect. I'm attempting to balance the running and my family/work life and I feel really guilty if I take time to do anything after a run because I'm running for 2-3 hours 2 times during the work week and from 4-6 hours on the weekends (not including driving times).  That adds up, and kids need some "mommy time" too. But this drink makes recovery easy. I just pour the powdered mix into a water bottle and drink it as I drive home. It tastes like a deliciously cool latte (because I like the coffee one. My husband likes the chocolate one.). Boom, done.

I also take a daily supplement from BioTropic Labs that I think really helps me recover and maintain endurance during a race, I started taking it late last summer, and feel like its helped my body fight off the normal aches and pains associated with running stupid distances. My usage of Advil the day after running has dramatically decreased and the back to back long runs are completely manageable. (I'm not going to say I'm pumping out FAST next day runs, but I'm getting them done and I've been injury free this whole year! [knock on wood.])  If you would like to try BioTropic, you can use code NartayaM10 to get 10% off! If you aren't sure, there are some pretty good testimonials on the site, you can see how other "athletes" have responded to BioTropic (ugh, I just referred to myself as an athlete, sooooo not true). If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I will get back to you!

I'm both super excited to run PCT 50 and a little nervous. My heart is pounding. And I can't wrap my head around SD100 yet. I'm just going to go into this with an open mind and a smile, keep going forward until I'm done. That's all I can do. The training has been (mostly) solid, and I trust my training plan. I can't say enough about a good training plan and super supportive friends and family getting you to the finishing line of a race. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cuyamaca 100k (very post race) wrap up

*****a month late.....******

Hawaii was awesome! But now it's time to get back to the regular world and to the races I've signed up for. Cuyamaca 100k will be my last big race of the year, I am so excited that I do not have anything left to run this year. Running has taken up a lot of time and energy, and basically, I'm tired. 

Kitchen update, everything is taped up and painting has commenced. Let me repeat, everything is taped up, in the cabinets. EVERYTHING. I keep all my running food and stuff in my kitchen cabinets. I had just purchased nutrition before Noble Canyon to use for both races. So, now I need to go buy more stuff and hunt up things to use for Cuyamaca. Pretty much after my SD100 attempt things ended up in a heap in my bedroom. Unpacked and untouched. Time to start digging through to find stuff you need for a long distance race: head lamps, charging cables, extra battery packs, arm warmers, buffs, gaitors, flashlights, etc. My goofing off trail friend couldn't pace me, so last minute, I asked my former running coach who is currently training for her first 50k. She agreed! I was elated. 

Goodies to hand out race morning and my gear for the race. I'm over packed for sure, but anything can happen over 62 miles.

I'm fairly certain my neighbor has a list of my races and only plan parties for the night before a race. I attempted to get to bed early Friday night, but  loud music was thumping from next door. They really only have 4-5 parties a year, and it wasn't worth the effort to make the call to ask them to turn down the music. I can race on 4 hours of sleep, right? 

My plan was to drive myself to the start and hang out until everyone finished (who knows, maybe I would be the last runner and win the bottle of champagne the RD was offering) and take a nap in my car if necessary before driving home. I didn't really have any expectations for the race, just run. Run as much as I could, walk what I couldn't, and don't get cut from the course due to time. I would like to qualify to enter the lottery to run Western States, but I haven't run a 100 yet, do I dare attempt this one as a first? To be able to enter the lottery, I needed to finish in under 17 hours. This was going to be hard given my complete lack of training. 

 I showed up early, brought my stuff down with me and found some friends to share some pre-race jitters with. After checking in and getting my bib on, I attempted to sort myself out and decide what kind of day it was going to be. Would I coast and just cruise control it? Or was I going to go out and try to run this even though my mileage was minimal? 

She's pretty happy about her YumButter!

It was almost time to start running, and I still had no idea what race I was going to run. I felt good, happy, and not at all stressed. I think going into this with absolutely no expectations was helpful. When the race started, I headed out with some friends at a nice leisurely pace. The RD changed the course from last year, and the first few miles were sort of a fresh view. 

Waiting for the start, you know, back when it seemed like a good idea?
I love the sections of races where you can see other runners. The first aid station was a turn around point, so we made our way in and I had a chance to greet a lot of friends and running acquaintances before heading back out again.  In an effort to get through the aid station as quickly as possible, I took a cup of watermelon to go. Which seemed like a fantastic idea at the time. Until I was 5 min outside of the aid station, with no more watermelon and a hard, inflexible plastic cup to deal with. I was too far away from someone who could help me tuck it in the bungee straps on my pack, and it was too large to fit in my pockets. (And I was too lazy to take off my pack), so I shoved it in the straps crossing the front of the pack. That made for a very loud and somewhat uncomfortable few miles until the next aid station. Leading in to the next aid station was packed dirt road that wasn't a terribly steep downhill, but it was hard enough, and steep enough that my back started to protest in slight pain. After the pain that came from Stairway to Heaven, I was so scared that this race would cause equal pain. In an effort to prevent it, I took a few minutes to stretch my back and try to get things loosened up again. That seemed to work, and I ambled into the aid station. Got more ice in my pack, at a pickle or two and took a cup of potato chips to go. I was then told by a volunteer it was 9 more miles to the next aid station, primarily uphill..... (You read that right, I took a cup of chips to go, in the same cup, d'oh! I never learn). So I finished my chips, and asked someone  running near me to shove that darn cup in the bungee cords on my pack. The next section was challenging and fun all together. The mileage went from 14-23, so it was just far enough into the race to be able to justify the fatigue I was feeling and to try to find that second wind.  As I was dragging myself up yet another hill and feeling like I was 80 years old and not 40, my friends caught up with me. Obviously better trained. Now I had to dig deep and summon the energy to keep up. We slowly started spreading out over the mountainside. And one friend started to pull away, I now had someone to chase.

I did manage to catch her right after passing this amazing looking tree. Its so funny how you can train on the same trails and every time you run you see something new. I was pleasantly surprised that the grassy trails were better this year. There was a definite trail to follow and I wasn't hoping not to step in a hole or on a snake with every step. I could see my feet! I managed to pass quite a few runners in this section (we were all feeling pretty fatigued I guess).And before I knew it, I was climbing the extremely (Ok, it felt extreme) steep road to the top of Cuyamaca and the aid station. Another great opportunity to see all the runners slightly faster than me. I was hungry by now, so I made sure to get some actual food in me. I had watermelon and some quesadillas (even a piece with bacon in it, OMG, it may be a new favorite). I did learn my lesson and left that damn cup in the trash at this aid station. I left flying down the hill with 3 quesadillas in my hand (Ok, 3 may have been 1 too many. The last one went down with some tough talking).
Hmmmm.....quesadillas.... ok, So, maybe 3 pieces may have been too many.
The next leg from the top to Paso is a fabulous downhill, unfortunately its also crazy rocky. So I let every runner pass who came up on me, because I am for too chicken to run down these rocks. I would rather waste a little time picking my way down and save myself from a fall. My friend Neil passed me here, he always gets me on the downhills. He was so fast, that by the next curve, I had lost sight of him.  Before too long I was finishing the hardest of the 3 loops that make up the race. I turned on my phone and texted Katie that I was finishing up the first loop and she was getting her approx 3.5 hour notice.

Yay, Loop 1 done.
The next loop is only 13 miles, but its sneaky hilly. You don't realize it, you just feel defeated. Last year I had a gentleman in his 70's pass me on the first section. It was humbling for sure. All I had to do was make sure I kept going. The climbing and grassy field felt like forever.

Don't think my head wasn't on a swivel in the grassy areas!

There is only 1 aid station in this loop, and it felt like it took me forever to make it there! After several false alarms and some internal grumbling, I finally found the aid station. Only 5 more miles until the end of this loop. I like this aid station, it's the Gator station, and as a Florida girl, its fun to see them. I left there with more liquids and turned on my phone again, this time I wasn't watching where I was going and ended up falling almost on my face because it soon because a sandy ditch and I lost my footing. Time to pay attention! I texted Katie her 1 hour notice while I still had a signal. Next I meandered and ran the tree covered trail until the course made a sharp right straight up a gnarly hill. WTF. I do not recall this at all last year. Not a bit. I ended up climbing a about mile before it flattened out. I was so tired. This was 42 miles into the race, so I guess it was ok to be tired at this point. It would kind of be insane if I wasn't. I was excited to get to the end of the loop to start the last one. The last loop would be 18 miles, but it was the last 18 miles I had to run for a while. I was making myself all kinds of mental promises of how long it would be before I had to run again. I may have promised myself as much as a month off. I don't know, I was kind of punch drunk here.  I finally came into the transition area and prepared for the last loop. 

My first running coach and great friend Katie agreed to go out of her comfort zone and pace me my last 18 miles, and run the trails in the dark. It was amazing. I started this loop in the dark last year, so it was nice to see what I missed.  I immediately let her know my current status as far as my stomach, my legs, and what I would be capable of running and what wasn't going to happen.  My stomach was fine, make sure I keep eating. My legs hurt. Don't let me walk the flats. We are running downhill if its not too rocky. I can't run the uphills. 

So we started the last loop and within a mile of leaving the aid station, I could feel a hot spot. My legs were starting to chafe. So we stopped and grabbed the aquaphore out of my pack (the make little tubes that are amazing and extremely handy to have on hand!) after 2 applications, we slowly made our way onward. I was starting to get a little grumpy and I was tired of eating. And tired of forcing myself to eat. After many stops and starts, and some external grumbling and a whole lot of internal grumbling, we slowly made our way to the aid station. It appears to be in the middle of nowhere and is a shining light in a big dark mountain. It's just gorgeous. if I had more energy I would have taken a picture. More food, some soup, more griping and we left again for the next and last aid station. Headlamps were very important now because this leg was very rocky. But I felt like it was less rocky than last year, it may have just been that my legs were a little less tired. But I was definitely fatigued and had a couple of people pass me up on this section. The competitive side of me wanted to chase them, but I just didn't have it in me. We finally made it to the mostly flat section that lead into the aid station. As we ran in I heard someone yelling "Go Robert!" Oh no!  Robert, who I hadn't really seen in about 20 miles, caught me! Akkkkk, turns out they were  mistaken, but he was super close, so I hustled.  He had been chasing me half the day, As I was getting ready to head out, Robert did show up. I yelled "Akkkk, Katie, we have to leave, Robert is here!" I really didn't care if he caught me or passed me, he is a far better runner. But the levity helped ease some of the fatigue I was feeling. We headed out to the last few miles. So close and yet so far away. 

I kept thinking that I just had to keep going. I was going to shave so much time off of last year's finish, which was frankly amazing, because I hadn't put in the work for this one.  I was basically coasting on grit and determination. And an unwillingness to conceded defeat. I'm kind of stubborn that way. I get that from my mom. 

The last 6 miles or so were runnable, which makes the tiredness and fatigue seem so much more apparent. But, as with the last 12 miles, I ran when I could and walked when I had to. We ran a few miles of packed dirt road, which would seem like a great surface, but it hurt so much. And I was fairly certain at some point there would be a sign that told us how much farther, but the longer we ran without sight of the magical sign, the more I was sure I imagined it last year. 1 mile from the finish we finally saw a sign that told us we were close! I was so happy. I 'happily' (this was a month ago, so I may not have been so happy) ran in to the finish, following Katie, and I was really glad I was behind her. She stopped short of a closed gate that was hard to see in the dark and cautioned me to not run into it. I'm pretty sure I would have run right into it, which would have been a lovely end to a pretty good trail run. 

As we finished I saw all of my Trail Crasher friends waiting and cheering, It was amazing. I was so happy to be done. And, I managed a qualifying time for the Western States lottery! 

This may be the hardest I've worked for a finish in a long time. 

Post race: we sat a while and waited for the rest of the finishers. The RD was offering a trucker hat and a bottle of champagne for the last runner, so there was a lot of joking about waiting at the line just before the finish and being the last one across. There was food at the finish, soup and burritos I heard, but I was too tired to walk over and see what they had. I wasn't hungry yet, mainly just tired. They also had warm showers at the finish, but that would require going to my car to get clothes to change into, and I just couldn't muster up the energy to walk the 1/4 mile to my car. Finally I forced myself to do it, and of course I couldn't get the fob on my car to unlock. After a few very cold minutes fighting with technology, I remembered you CAN get into your car with just the key. It wasn't a stellar mental moment for me. But, I gathered my stuff, managed to drive closer to the finish and made my way into the shower to wash off all of the disgustingness that had accumulated on me. It was magical. I never wanted to leave that shower. When I finally pulled myself away and went back to the finish to cheer more, my stomach was finally ready to take some food in. But I was still too lazy to venture to the food, so I just 'sipped" on some YumButter to get some protein back in my body.  Seemed to work great, because my energy returned and I was able to drive the hour home without my stomach getting queasy from hunger or becoming tired. 

So, yay, another race done. A new PR and a qualifying time for the WS lottery.  This race now has me wondering what kind of finishing time I would have had if I had trained for this race....  If you want to try some Yumbutter, message me for a coupon! I would love for you to try it out, it's amazing and so portable!!! ( for more info)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Stairway to Heaven 15k and Noble Canyon 50k 2016 (2 race reports in 1, aren't you so lucky)

After taking some time to reflect on the big DNF from this summer, I also took some time off of running to spend with my family. I had already registered for Noble Canyon 50k, because THAT was going to be the race where I earned my coveted Ultra Slam jacket. You may be shaking your head and asking "all this for a jacket?" No, its for bragging rights. I sort of still don't feel like a true ultra runner until I get that 100 mile medal. I know, its crazy.

Stairway to Heaven 15k

So, during the summer, I basically lounged and ran when time permitted. Usually not more than 10 miles or so at a time.  My friend passed on a bib to the Stairway To Heaven 15K on to me when his wife was not able to run it. And despite telling myself I wasn't going to run it this year (because it's always hot and it's not an easy course), I really couldn't pass up a free bib! Of course, the weather forecast was that race day would be 90 degrees. Which was better than last year's 97 degrees. Ugh. The 15k started 15 minutes after the half marathon, so I got there early to get a decent parking space and lounged about passing out YumButter coupons and Potion packs until it was time for my race to start. I knew exactly 1 person running this race, and he was expected to place in the top 3, so I had no one to run with. I turned on my music and went and ran my race. I noticed about a mile or so from the start, that my GPS watch was not on. Crud..... Well, there goes tracking my time. And the first mile was the easiest, so that would have been the best place to get some speed logged. Oh well. I turned on my GPS and went about running the rest of the race. 

Way too soon, we started climbing Widow-maker. I passed runner after runner, and even some half marathoners struggling with the monster hill. It was really hard to figure out who the 15k runners were and the half marathoners. When I finished the last major climb, the dreaded South Fortuna Stairs, I saw my friend Daniel.  I immediately worried he was injured, because he is just so fast I never see him during races, just at the beginning and the end. (Yeah, he was running the half and I was just doing the 15k, logic doesn't work well for me during a race).  I kept him in my sights for a few more miles and despite running this course nearly every weekend for months (except the last 2 miles, we always take a different route), I made a wrong turn and ran 1/4 mile up a fire road before some runners behind me got my attention. Well darn! Oh well. I was only 1 mile from the finish (ish) and hustled in. I finished the race, grabbed my medal and jumped in my car to go home to cheer at my son's soccer game.  

Later, during the game I received a text message from a friend who stayed for the awards ceremony. "Hey, you won something. They just called your name." I'm 99% sure my response was "No, I'm certain you misheard." Then another friend who was volunteering sent me a separate message "Hey, they just called your name!" Well poo..... whaaaaatttttt? I'm not a "fast" runner or "elite" by any stretch to the imagination. Turns out I placed 1st in my age group. (I know, right? I'm so cool, aren't you so glad you know me?)  Well, everything has a price. The race has some gnarly uphills and a vicious downhill. I pounded down that hill so fast to get done, I managed to hurt my back. I ended up having back spasms that were reminiscent of labor pains for 3 days. 3 days of labor pains.... OMG. Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant about running the 50k and 100k I had scheduled for the fall. When I could walk comfortably and run with out pain (approx 2 weeks after my race) I started running mid range distances again.

Noble Canyon 50K.

I'm not going to lie and say I went into Noble Canyon thinking it was going to be a breeze and I was going to rock the heck out of this race.  We are in the middle of unplanned remodeling due to water damage in the kitchen and we were leaving for Hawaii the next day (I know, cry me a river, you're going to Hawaii....).  But, more importantly, I had NOT been running my training plan. I had been running barely 30 miles a week. It was pain free, but it was not a distance that was giving me peace of mind that this notoriously difficult race needed to be run. Thankfully this year the expected temperatures were projected to be in the 70's. Completely awesome. 

Noble Canyon Elevation

The race started in the high 30's and the first 12 miles were amazing. Soon enough the runners started spreading out along the trail and the real running began. Those quirky, goofy runners you watched pre-race started fading and walking (yeah, I'm talking about you. I eyeballed you....). This is the same stretch of trail that absolutely KILLED me during SD100. This time, the weather was 30 degrees cooler and there were no biting flies. Hallelujah!  I'm not sure what you do when you run, but pretty much every time I check my GPS, I do the math to figure out how far I need to run. And when the distance gets down to single digits, I get pretty excited. Is that weird? Anyway, up, up, up we climbed. I felt good during this race, tired (which was to be expected due to lack of training) but less than I expected. I made it to Pioneer Mail and the rather silly 1/2 mile climb up to the peak to turn around and then thru the aid station. One thing I always remember about this section, if you at all think you may need to pee in the next 8 miles, you should go now. The next 8 miles are a mix of dense scrub you can't really wiggle into to find a good spot and open exposed areas you don't want to do that kind of thing. The 'real bathroom' at Pioneer Mail is the type of thing you see at most trailheads. A building, with a hole in the ground and a seat. A smelly, smelly, gross situation. I was elated to find a port-o-potty. That's right, I was happy to find a port-o-potty, don't judge.

The next few miles were spent dodging mountain bikers and making my way back to the start. I didn't really have a sense of urgency about finishing the race, so I lollygagged my way thru this section until my friend Spring caught me. So now I have to attempt to actually run. This area is a rocky area that I don't do well on. Most downhill areas are too rocky for me to run (most guys I know just pound down this area with no care in the world. I am far to chicken and worry about turning an ankle or falling over). So we goofed off and ran walked a bit until we met up with another friend I met training for SD100. It was starting to get a little warm, but it was late enough in the race that it wasn't a huge issue.  When we finally made it to Big Tree aid station, my two friends took off! WHATTTT???? Now I have to chase them, man,.. I hate that. Thankfully the hardest part of the race was done, but I was just under trained enough that I could feel some serious fatigue starting to edge up on me. And even though I probably had 10 miles left, I was just tired and ready to be done with this race. This is the point in a race where ugly thoughts creep in. Doubt. "Can I finish the race? How long is this going to take me? How ugly is this going to get?" Several more people passed me, and finally the very last Trail Crasher passed me as well, making me the last one my training group would be waiting for. Booger. Now I had to run, to see if I could at least catch my friend Gloria. Nope, I had dead legs. I ran walked and made my way down rocky areas, a stream crossing and a lovely scenic forested area. On another exposed, rocky ledge, I passed a friend walking, limping actually. He indicated he thought he tore a tendon when he fell, but just hoped to make it to the aid station so he could drop. I had to weigh some things here, would it be more beneficial to try and help him walk it in (I'm must shorter and smaller than him, so would this even be possible) or would it be better to run ahead and get help? I opted for the 'run ahead and send back help' scenario. Thank goodness the aid station was close to a mile away. As I came running in, I let the aid station captain know about my friend and he walked out to help bring him in. 

Because it was warmer out now, I turned my senses to "snake patrol."  I absolutely hate snakes, which makes it really weird that I would enjoy a sport that throws me into areas just covered in snakes.  Thank goodness I saw no snakes today! I received half of a crytpic message on my watch was I was finishing the race, but I was so intent on finishing I didn't check my phone. I passed a group of guys walking down a lovely downhill and shouted out "Come on guys, its downhill, lets run!" Their response "Man, I hate her." Ha ha ha, that's ok. I was under 2 miles from the finish, and what was up next? A week relaxing in Hawaii!  I ran the remaining 2 miles in and finally caught up with my SD100 friend in the last few yards to the finish. So, with minimal training, I managed to cut 20 minutes off of my time from 2 years ago and I didn't feel like I was about to die (That last bit is pretty important, because not all races end up with you feeling good.). Not to shabby, I'll take it.

The obligatory picture kissing the rat.

What I wanted to eat. I didn't though. 

Wondering about that crytic message? What I quickly read was "really? The day before you leave for Hawaii?" The whole message was "Really? A broken arm the day before you leave for Hawaii?" Um, what? I respond the same back, set my phone down and go wash my gross, grubby, dirty hands. Spring, who had abandoned me 10 miles ago to my own race and thoughts, says "Grayson broke his arm?" Um, what????? Why am I finding out this information from my friends who ran a race with me and who are texting me? WHAT???? Of course my husband is not answering his cell phone. I call my mother in law who is headed to Hawaii with us and currently staying with us. She confirms yes, Gray broke his arm and they are trying to get it casted.  WHATTTTTT?????? I'm an hour away and I have no idea what is going on. I drove in with a friend who had yet to finish, but was meeting her husband at the finish line. I ran out to my car to grab her gear, feeling like a heel for abandoning her without telling her I was leaving, even though I know she has a ride home. Get some food at the finish line and drive to the Children's hospital ER to see if that is where they ended up. I caught up to them and sure enough, broken arm. I made it just in time to see my guy get a cast put on his arm. What an adventure. Now, Hawaii.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Well, in my case it was SD73.25. Darn it! Wanna know what happened?  Because you already know what didn't happen, I didn't get that buckle.

I spent the week running around like a maniac getting things ready for the very last week of school for my boys. I would miss the last day of school for them this year for this race. We try very hard to impress upon them that we are always there for them and really want them to succeed and work hard, then I go ahead and register for a race on their last day of school, knowing full darn well what day it is. The best I can do at this point? Make sure they have everything they need and do not leave my husband scrambling to do things I promised. So, after getting permission slips signed, buying sharable store bought treats for the kinder park day, more store bought treats for the kinder graduation, special 'hey, it's your last day of school and your mom missed it' presents, going and making notes for any and everything that can and might pop up during the expected 32 hours I will be MIA.... you get it. I was preparing race clothes, race clothes changes, headlamps, battery replacements, fuel, electrolyte replenishment, papers, etc. And trying to be super mom. It was going to be perfect weather for the race,  temperatures expected in the 70's during the day and possibly 30's and windy at night. Then....(drum roll) boom. San Diego's typical June Gloom to be replaced by 'record setting high temperatures for the weekend forecast. Please reschedule any vigorous outdoor activity....' seriously.  Temperatures were expected to reach the 90's. Holy smokes! 

What to do? Put your head down, hydrate and try to get the darn race done. The pre-race briefing went well. As well as can be expected when your 6yo blows a gasket and has a huge meltdown, making you 30 min late and frazzling your already stretched thin nerves. The one thing I took away from the meeting?  'It's going to be ridiculously hot, finishing rates will be low.' Ouch. 

The next morning my super awesome crew chief chauffeured me to the start line. I mean for real, she picked me up at 330 am....

Some pre-race shenanigans with my fellow runners. 

Check it out, these two studs FINISHED the race. 

Picture with the RD, Scotty Mills. 


Pre-race excitement.
 You get it, I'm excited, so happy race day is finally here. I've been training since January and frankly I'm tired of training. I'm tired of looking at my calendar and trying to figure out what family activity I will not be doing that weekend. I'm tired of waking up in the dark to kiss my kids goodbye for 8 hours. I'm tired of being fuzzy brained and tired.

Finally we get the all clear to go. I cannot event recall if it was just Scotty telling us to go or if there was more fanfare. I just remember going. Running, feeling amazing and so happy. The first 2 miles were so incredibly dusty, but the weather was fabulous. I wanted it to stay that way all day. At the first hill I started power hiking, I'm not proud. I have all day (and night, and day) to be out there, I'm saving energy where I can. My friend had told me about  this crazy purple flowered bush that causes extreme itching that was blooming. So I made myself a mental note, stay away from purple flowers. What did I do in the first field? I saw purple flowers, attempted to make sure I stayed away, ended up turning my ankle (shouted 'I'm ok!' out of sheer habit, because I doubt anyone running near me cared), and nearly fell straight into a purple flowered bush. Lovely. Now my ankle hurts, my leg is itchy and I'm paranoid. I'm fairly certain I just fell into stinging nettle plant. But I'm not going back to investigate.

Aid station 1 was at mile 7.5, the lovely Running Skirts group was there to give all the runners ice cold buffs to help combat the heat of the day, then they sent us up Stonewall. I ate 2 pieces of watermelon and 1 small of piece of potato before leaving. I definitely took this segment a little easier than I probably should have. I wasn't aggressive if someone was slower than me and walked some of the sections I usually run here. I was telling myself I was conserving energy. Well, that'll come back to bite me later. During the fantastic run down Stonewall I started to get a hot spot on my foot. What the heck, I'm barely 13 miles into the day and my toes feel like they need more lubrication. This does not bode well.  As I follow a fairly spaced out line of runners through a tall grass field where I can only occasionally see my feet, I'm constantly thinking 'Oh, please don't let me step on a snake!!!!'

Can you see the wild turkeys?

The line of runners got slightly harder to see as the trees get a little more dense, but there was a runner directly ahead of me. And with him in my periphery, I was concentrating on not falling on my face. When he stopped to fix his shoe, I ran past him. A quarter mile, and I see runners next to me.... on the other flipping side of the fence. Darn it! I made a wrong turn and now have to backtrack and get on the right path. Ugh, it was only 1/4 mile each way, but still!  Me and the other guy get on the right trail and make it to the second aid station. I'm ashamed I got lost and grumpy. And my foot hurts, so  I have to take some time to fix the foot thing. I can only hope I don't get lost again. I see so many of my friends at this aid station, one who politely, yet firmly tells me to slow the heck down.  Got it, slowing down.  I left after getting some ice (they were already running low) a slice of watermelon and put some Run Goo on my foot. The next section was exposed and warm, and it was only 9am.  At my next aid station I would see my amazing crew, I couldn't wait! I knew I needed to eat more, but it was so hot I didn't feel like eating, but I was able to drink. I had trained with Vitalyte and had planned on using that to get some electrolytes and calories, and frankly, it was yummy. I did choke down a Gu and got a little more spunk, but I was really trying to not burn myself out as the temps were rising. In hindsight, I should have run more.  I made it to Sunrise 1 (mile 21) and saw so many friendly faces. Grabbed more Vitalyte, got ice, ate something small and took it with me. I had sent a message to my friends to get my handheld filled with ice water, grabbed that and out I went. I planned on using this to douse myself and try to keep cool. 

The next section was even freaking more exposed and hot! Omg. One of my friends was running with 7 water bottles. I'm not even sure how he accomplished that. We kept snaking around and winding our way along the mountainside. I would love to go back and run this in the fall, because it was breathtakingly beautiful. But all I could think was 'I'm not on Noble Canyon yet to climb and I'm climbing. This sucks. I'm hot.' My friend who cautioned me to slow down had caught up to me and we chatted for a bit. He was also feeling wiped out from the heat. We complained a bit to one another and he abruptly said he was dropping back a bit. Since this section rolled a little, I tried running flats and downhill and walking the uphill. I started chatting with a lady from Florida. And I had noticed on the list of entrants that someone was from my home town of Niceville Florida. Imagine what a town called Niceville looks like. You're probably right. And 300 people register for a race and 2 are from Niceville? Sure enough, I found Dee, from Niceville! (PS, Dee finished and did great!) So we ran into Pioneer Mail together (mile 28). I ate a couple more pieces of watermelon, grabbed a salt tablet and got some ice and water. I couldn't remember if this was a crew station or not. I saw my crew there, but I couldn't recall if they were allowed to help me. I dropped an ear bud cover, and spent a few minutes looking for it because I knew the next few hours were going to be a slog, and I really needed to distraction of my book or some music. Because I didn't know if I was allowed crew help, I didn't know if I could get my replacements or not. Turns out this IS a crew station, so I could have saved my time looking for the cover and just refilled and left. Leaving the aid station I felt good. But, like all things in ultra running, that would change. 

One of my husband's co-workers has a wife running the same race. She's amazing, I looked up her stats and she does 200 and 250 mile races. He had let me know that she metioned to her husband she was very concerned with the heat that was expected this weekend. And when a veteran with that much experience has concern, I have lots of concern. Around mile 32 a woman came bounding towards me. I heard her tell me 'Hey! My husband works for your husband!' Of course I immediately knew who she was. We chatted for a few minutes while running and she let me know she had just spent 40 minutes (40!) in the last aid station and they almost didn't let her go because she looked so bad. Apparently she recovered well. As she left, I continuted my hot, boring slog to the next aid station. My foot was starting to get irritated again, which meant I was going to spend more time slapping foot lubricant on it. My book was enjoyable but it was so hot! The heat was really starting to take a toll on me, I had the most cramping I had ever had during a race in this section. The muscles on the inner side of my knees cramped, my hamstrings cramped, my shins cramped. It was so crazy. I drank more Vitalyte and just tried to keep moving.  We crested a hill and I really wanted to spend just a minute talking to a friend I saw there and catch my breath, but the biting flies had just started to appear. Any time you stopped moving, they started biting! Omg, incentive to get my butt in gear. My friend Spring caught up to me, we groaned and griped about how miserable we were and how awful our feet felt. Sometimes it's nice to complain to someone who feels your pain. We jogged into the aid station together, and it looked like a triage center. Runners were sitting in any available chair or surface and shoulders were slumped in defeat. It was hot and oppressive. One of my friends who I hadn't seen in a while was trying to regroup and gather enough energy to tackle one of the hardest climbs of the race. Of course, Spring left a minute before me and I couldn't catch her. Darn it.

I left the aid station after getting some more ice water in my pack and my bottle. It was just as miserable as I had been expecting. Someone told me later that the temperature in this canyon was 108°. Looking back, I can see why it was miserable. But I didn't have that information then. I was chugging along and came it a blissfully shaded spot, I attempted to sit down for a second and almost immediately jumped up because the biting flies were now out in full force. Arggggg!  Every freaking time I attempted to stop, more biting flies. My friend Neil passed me and I was hoping the flies would be attracted to the fresh meat, I mean, guys are tougher about being bit by bugs, right? No reprieve. Still biting me.  Every person that I came up to or who passed me was expressing similar thoughts to what I was feeling 'I want to drop at the next aid station.' I saw two guys who were headed back down to the previous aid station to drop, not wanting to make the climb in the heat. (Everything written about dropping says drop at an aid station. If you think about dropping in between, drop at the next one.) But honestly, heading downhill as opposed to up sounded good. Dropping sounded good. I caught up to a veteran running friend, she's tough as nails and she was walking and debating dropping. What in the world?  The flies were ridiculous. You know those funny videos of someone swatting away at an unseen fly or bee, who looks crazy because you can't see what they are swatting at? I looked like that. My friend directly ahead of me looked like that. Any exposed surface was a potential target. They swarmed our hats, our shoulders, our backs and our legs. My death toll count for flies was 15, I got 15 of those suckers and didn't even get close to the number of bites that were inflicted on me.  I have never seen anything like this before. Prior to leaving the last aid station (Pine Creek) I saw a bottle of something on the table that I think was bug repellant, but it was probably just rub-on sunscreen.  I was death marching, swatting, swearing and day dreaming of that bug repellant. I've never day dreamed about wanting something so much. Our conga line of misery continued on. 'I just need to make it to night fall.'  That's all that was going through my mind. But making it there felt impossible right now. I couldn't even make it to the next aid station for heavens sake.  I felt like we walked forever, everyone was in terrible shape and 80% of the people capable of talking kept talking about dropping. We finally made it to the Penny Pines 1 aid station, and if possible it was even worse than Pine Creek. People were laying on the ground, slumped in chairs, or handing over bibs... I told myself I had some time to spare. I'll give myself a few minutes, let my crew know I was taking some extra time at the aid station and see how I felt. Because right now I felt defeated and beaten down.

My main concern was light. I was hours behind schedule and had no headlamp. I did however have my phone and a small amount of charge left on it, it was time to stop listening to my book and save the battery. The two guys laying on the ground next to my chair said that last year at that time they were at mile 57 (where I had anticipated being at this time) and they were dropping. One of the guys under the shade of the tent had been anticipated to finish in 21 hours (He would finish in 29:45). Needless to say, I was concerned. After what felt like 20 minutes, but was probably 30, I pried myself out of the chair and got moving. While at the aid station I had 2 cups of soup, a coke and had taken time to put more foot lubricant on. I couldn't wait for a new pair of shoes. I sent a text to my crew to ask for my mile 56 bag (which contained my change of clothes, headlamp, flashlights and new shoes) at the mile 48.8 aid station, and to see if my crew chief felt up for running 7 miles with me. I really felt like staying at this aid station, but I had told myself that only serious injury or the race people making me stop would make me drop. Neither of those things were imminent. So I gathered my fellow crazy fly swatting friend and we left. I had no cellular service at the aid station, so I wasn't sure if my crew was getting info or if I would reach them before the info did. I ran on in blind faith that they were smart folks and would anticipate my needs. And I did, I ran. It felt so great to finally be able to run again after having to walk up the mountain. If the ground was flat, I ran. If it was downhill and not rocky, I ran. After a while I took my phone out of my vest and used it as a flashlight and kept running. My battery was at 15%, and because of my wrong turn, I wasn't sure exactly how far I had until my aid station. So I stuck with a runner who was running/walking a little slower than I would prefer, but I didn't know how much longer my light would last.  I finally saw the aid station, knew I could get a long sleeve, headlamp, and some new shoes. Hallelujah! 

I was so far behind my projected pace, but I had finally made it to night fall and the temperatures went down slightly. But at least there was no more sun. It was a shame I had this portion at night, because it is a beautiful section of the mountain. I picked up my crew chief/pacer and headed back into the Meadows, this time equiped with a headlamp! Again, I ran the flats and downhill as long as they weren't too rocky and fast walked the uphills. Before long we made it to mile 56 and my planned pacer. A short 1.3 miles before the true aid station and a steep and steady downhill. It was amazing to see all the runners headed back up. I wished I was one of them at this point, because the hardest section of the race was ahead of me. I crossed paths with two of my running friends and they looked so strong coming up. The worst part about going down, was knowing I had to make the same climb up again. 2,000 feet of climbing, and I kept going down, and down and down... I made it to the aid station (finally) and out again with about 30 min to spare. They didn't have anything that looked appetizing, so I had 2 sips of soup. I was slowly getting closer and closer to getting cut. My pacer was doing a great job trying to get me motivated to move faster, but I was tired and cranky. We did make forward progress. I was staring enviously at the trekking poles that several of the people passing is were using. Were they worth the effort? Were these people as tired as me? If not, why not?????? Ugh, I was sooooooooooo slow.  We attempted to run flat parts, but this segment did not have an excess of flat areas. I tried fast hiking, but that wasn't working well for me. I knew I just had to get to the top in time. Then it would be runnable. And my legs didn't hurt to run flat, just the lifting required for climbing hurt. When we finally made it into the flat portion that signalled we were close to the aid station we started running. Too little, too late. Unfortunately we were 12 minutes past the cut off for this aid station. I may have been more heart broken if we missed it by 1 minute, but getting cut was painful. Many of the people who had passed me climbing the mountain were still in the aid station, waiting for a ride to the start/finish. Part of me was so happy to no longer have to run, but most of me was so sad that I didn't make it and would no longer have the opportunity to run more. 

This guy said I could blame him and call him the jerk who wouldn't let me go on.  That was awful nice of him, because it wasn't him. I'm well aware of that. It was me. It all comes down on me and wasted time in certain areas and lack of aggression in others. And, inexperience. It was my first 100 attempt. I had really hoped to make it. I've never dealt with a DNF before.  It's now 4 days later, absolutely nothing hurts except my pride. I want to run that race right now. 

Will I try again, absolutely. My family gave the ok to try it again. 

Am I looking forward to the mega miles involved in training? No. 

Will I do them? Of course.

Will I run smarter? Absofrickin'lutely. 

What did I learn? I need to eat more. Plan for the unexpected. Eat more. Use sunscreen. Eat more. Use bug spray. Eat more....

What do I regret? I regret asking so much of my friends and family for this race. My friends and husband missed work so I could do this race. My crew took the day off. They drove an hour to come out and see me for maybe 5 minutes. Spent lots of time standing around and waiting, time better spent doing other things. I love that they love me enough to do it though. I have amazing friends and family. After my drop, I found out so many people had been following my progress online. 

I can't believe I have to wait a full year to try again.