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!!! (Yumbutter.com 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

SD100

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. 


Sunrise.


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. 


Monday, May 16, 2016

PCT 50 2016 race recap

Another year rolled around and another chance to run the PCT 50. Last year we had a freak snow storm in the mountains the day before the race, which made everything a little more interesting. This year I felt like it was the opposite. The weather report indicated that it would be dry, warm and windy.

In the mountains, windy can be dangerous. During one of our practice runs, it was so windy that we had to occasionally stop running during gusts to make sure we weren't blown off the edge. There are several sections of completely exposed areas that can make running in true high winds challenging. And winds really make the hardest part of getting ready for a race harder, what am I going to wear? (Yeah, I know, I'm such a girl sometimes.)  After much debating with my fellow sister runners, we decided tank tops and shorts with sleeves and gloves. Well, after the first 2 miles we didn't need the gloves or the sleeves.

But enough about the high fashion of ultra running, what actually happened? Were there any snakes? Did you fall down? Did you crash and burn horribly? I know you have sooooooo many questions!

Race morning started out early, as they all do. My friend M drove me to the start (same as last year) and my family would come and get me afterwards. I know, I'm pampered. I'm Asian and a woman, so apparently my day driving skills are already marginal at best, so my husband thought it best to drive me home. The last two years it was very much needed because I was a wreck, better safe than sorry.

Pre-race silliness.


As the race director started the race, and everyone was jockeying for position, I eased into an opening to make my way down the terribly uncerimonious start. The race starts you out in a ditch, literally. We slowly wound our way under the interstate and began our meandering climb. The first 13 miles of this race are a slow and sometimes arduous climb over occasionally rocky ground. It was an absolutely beautiful morning! I felt like Goldilocks, it wasn't too hot or too cold, my arm warmers were rolled down around mile 2 and I was so excited to M at 3.7 miles so I could hand off my very unnecessary gloves. The next 2 miles or so follow a ridge line that makes passing a little risky, so anyone unhappy with their position in the conga line of runners sprinted for a better position. But, really? It's 3.7 miles into a 50 mile race. There is sooooooooooo much more running to do.

Coming into the first aid station I was greeted by one of my favorite trail runners Jeff (the one who first started getting the ultra bug in M's head). I grabbed some snacks (orange slices and the world's driest pretzel), had a friendly volunteer tie my arm warmers to my pack in case I needed them later and I headed out of the aid station to start the real climb. This section will also be in SD100, so I'm making myself LOVE it, every single rock. This is the section where I noticed the most people start to fade. People who were previously snarky and not overly pleasant to run with were suddenly falling farther and farther behind. I tried to implement a fast walk over sections that were not very runnable and run any section I was able.

Before long the next aid station came along! My very fast friend, Ricky and M were there to cheer us and offer lots of words of encouragement. I noshed on more oranges, refilled my pack with water (added some citrus Vitalyte powder) and headed out.  This aid station is one of my favorite sights, because now the course levels out and the scenery changes. And after a hard 7 miles of climbing, it is finally nice to be able to run. It was fun to keep swapping spots with the same few people for this segment until the next aid station came into sight. I always worry I will miss this aid station because it is down the hill from the actual trail, and you need to check in and out of each aid station. It's always so well marked, and they usually have a volunteer telling you about the turn, but I still worry about it. This aid station, Todd's Cabin, is 17 miles into the race, so ONLY 8 more miles until the turn around! Whoohoo!

Leaving the aid station the course rolls a little more until you break free of the tree line and get exposed to the sun again. On the plus side, you start a gradual downhill run until the next aid station at Penny Pines. On the negative side, it's an out and back course, and what goes down must go back up. I finally saw some of the front runners around mile 20/21. It was so nice to see how strong they all looked! As I made my way down, and down, and down the mountainside, I took an aggressive turn and nearly ended up on my face when I planted my foot in a pile of loose sand as opposed to hard rock. I couldn't decide whether to laugh hysterically or just keep running. I decided to keep running. The course came upon another beautiful ridge line, this one overlooking the Anza Borrego Desert. So amazing, usually we stop and take a moment to admire the view, but not today! And boom, suddenly I was at Penny Pines and so many friendly faces came in view. Everyone was so happy and cheerful, and you know what? It was a great time to be cheerful! 22 miles in the bag and only 3 to the turn around.

My pacer, Neily, was waiting for me as well, she will get to run the final 22 miles with me to the finish. I gave away free sweaty hugs to all my friends, ate some salty watermelon chunks and potatoes, and left to go to the turn around. I love this segment because I get to see so many of my friends. And I got to see every single one of them, except Scooby,  who I saw earlier because he is crazy fast. I managed to get a picture of everyone smiling and happy. At the turn I was greeted by 2 amazing ultra runners, Ang and Scotty. It was so nice to see them. Partially because now I can turn around, but also because they are genuinely fun people and so happy to see how you are doing during the race. A little joking around and some shenanigans and off to run back to the start.


Beer with Scotty

Ang mugging for the camera with me.


Back to Penny Pines and pick up Neily for the final 22 miles. In addition to Neily, I added Dave to my posse. So we spent 22 lovely miles getting to know about one another. I've been trying to work out my nutrition lately, usually any runs longer than 45 miles I end up a nauseous mess. So I wanted salty, calorie dense food. I packed prosciutto in my drop bag, it was so delicious! Yes, I was eating prosciutto on the trail (we already verified I'm a little spoiled, right?). 

My 'posse': Neily, me and Dave. 



The return from Penny Pines to Todd's Cabin is a grind. The fun, easy, gradual downhill is now a slog back uphill. And it's exposed and pretty warm. This is also the where your stomach can start to go south. So, more fast walking and trying to eat and drink. My first PCT, this section killed me. My second I expected it and tried to not meander, I felt like this year I did better on it. It was so hot, and so very dry. My lips kept drying out and my cough was worse than normal. I really wanted an ice cold coke at Todd's Cabin, that is a thought that took root and settled in my mind. I finally caught my friend Spring at mile 28 and we spent a few miles toggling for the lead.


When we finally saw the turn to Todd's Cabin, I saw 2 little boys sitting just off the course with their grandfather, I starred hard and thought they looked an awful lot like Spring's boys, but I've never met them. I came awfully close to asking, but decided against it. As we got to the aid station, and had a cup of Shasta cola with a single ice cube (as close to a cold coke and I could get), Spring came into the aid station and asked if I saw her boys up top. Lol, it was them! I munched on some watermelon to go with my cola and headed out of the aid station with my little posse. 17 more miles to go. I can't recall too much of this portion, I just recall being warm, wanting something ice cold to drink, and to be done. But when the trees started to thin out and we came within view of Dale's, my spirits picked up.

Dale's means 13 miles left, overall downhill. Rocky, hard to find your footing downhill. The second leg (or in this direction, the next to last leg) is always so incredibly slow. I never feel like it's going to end and I will get to see the aid station in the helicopter landing area (I don't know if it really is a helicopter landing area, but that's what it looks like to me). We slogged on, nothing hurt like crazy, but I was just tired. As we made our way slowly to the end, we saw another runner ahead of us on the trail, and suddenly she came running back towards us. Yikes! Snake! We grabbed some rocks to try and scare it off the trail so we could run past, and after a few tense minutes, we finally saw him leave. We did not waste any time running past.  Well, that bit of excitement got us moving until the last aid station! I was so glad to see it, I had to pee pretty bad and after the whole snake debacle I was not prepared to venture off into the shrubs. I asked one of the volunteers which bush made the best coverage and he directed me behind a car, good enough for me.



I had more watermelon, some orange slices and got ice water dumped on me (surprise!). Then my posse and I headed out for the final 6 miles. Whoohoo! Last year I felt like the walking dead leaving the aid station, this year I was practically dancing to get done. I probably should have turned on some music, I really would have been dancing.  We made the slow trek to the start line, and about 4 miles out I could feel my stomach start to make a turn south. Instead of just ignoring it because it was only 4 more miles, I forced myself to eat a gel. After another mile I felt better. The last bit looks all the same, so it's hard to judge how far until the finish, so you kind of have a rollercoaster of emotion for being done. At the next to last gate you get giddy, almost done! Voices start filtering through from people waiting at the finish area and you are just so happy to be done.

This year I ran PCT in 11:48. I'll take that time! I approached this race as a training run for SD100 in 3 weeks, feel out the nutrition and don't overdo it, and save my legs for the big race.  It was so great to see so many friends out cheering, volunteering, pacing, snapping pictures and just plain being awesome!


My hubs. He had kids soccer, a birthday party that kept getting extended, carting around our brood and some other kids and making the drive out to get me! Such a rock star today, and my biggest supporter. 

Robert, me, Spring, Becca and Mark

The whole gang! Louka, Natalie, Robert, Ricky, Becca, Mark, Scooby, me, Sal, David,
(circling back to the front) Gloria, Neily and Steve. Awesome group of runners! 

Monday, February 8, 2016

What to do, what to do?

I can't decide if Facebook and Pinterest are making me a better person or just driving me insane. 

Thanks to Pinterest I have completed 6 scarves in the last 2.5 months and I'm now working on what will become the most expensive throw in my purchasing history. Seriously, I could have bought a designer one for what the yarn is going to end up costing.  And sleep is a distant memory. 


Facebook is great at reconnecting me with old friends and their lives and all, but when I see a post about the amazing (hard as hell) run my friends did that day, it kind of makes me feel inferior. You know what I mean? So now I have it fixated on my head I NEED to go run hills. How am I going to keep up with them in the mountains if I'm not putting in my time? If all my runs are flat and easy, my legs are going to cry when I drag them up a mountain. 


So I went scouting nearby places to run. I recall a route I have only run twice since moving here 6 years ago. It's a hill that is 1.5 miles long. Yuck. But, since the PCT 50 is basically 13 miles straight uphill, under better pull up my big girl underroos and get running. 



On my enjoyable way down the hill, I spot this cute little grassy hill and wonder if the city will get mad at me for doing repeats on it. Or maybe I can just roll down it, that would be fun. 





Do a little house shopping. I'd like to live here I think. 






And boom, now I'm at the bottom and have to run back up. Gulp...yeah, I know what you are thinking. It doesn't look intimidating does it? It doesn't feel that bad when I drive it either. 





At nearly the top I spy a 1/4 mile little hill. Repeats? Why yeah, sure! (Maybe next time I bring more water, gasp!). 


But the view was worth it. A little glimpse of Point Loma and the Pacific Ocean. 



And the next day? Still feeling inferior, find another hill!!!!  (Yeah, that's not a picture of a hill.)




There's the hill. 



And there...




And here.




And a stop to admire another great view (ok, to pant and gasp for air and swear at myself!).



Before starting that trek back. 



And just when I thought I was done. Damn it. One more hill. 



But, my mountain run Saturday was far less painful than I figured it to be. And for my first run back in the mountains since November, I think I did ok. I'll get you those pictures tomorrow. It was a great day out there! 

But I still don't know if I like or hate Pinterest and Facebook.