Monday, November 9, 2015

Mount Laguna Marathon 11/8/15

Don't let people fool you, don't listen when they say 'ultra runners are the best, they are so nice and welcoming...'.     Ultra runners suck. They con you into all sorts of races. Sweet talkers, every single damn one.  Why? Why? Why did I sign up for this race????? Why?????

I really should have called it a day after Cuyamaca. Boom, first 100k done, it's now fall and 'racing season' is over.  Sleep in, gain weight, rest. Sounds good right?   'It's a great race, it's only 26 miles, you'll love it.'  No, I hated miles 4-26. Hated it. Bleh. Ok, I'm done whining, I just really needed to say it. 

Mount Laguna marathon was a very well put on race. Small and intimate with amazing volunteers. Volunteers are the heart and soul of a race, really. They see you at your most tired and challenged and find ways to help you, they push you out of the aid station, they take time out of their day to feed you, they go out early and mark the course, and then clean up after you run by taking down all the flags that kept you on course. 

Two of my road racing friends like to get a little dusty on occasion and joined me on the trails today. It was a nice and balmy 35 degrees when we arrived at the start, but quickly warmed up to perfect running weather. We really lucked out on the weather today! No rain and no wind. 

The race started out on softly undulating packed dirt roads before hopping in the Pacific Coast Trail. The route joins the PCT at one of my favorite segments of the trail; it's flat, soft ground with great tree coverage. The beginning of the race is a mixture of very runnable hills, with a couple of great drops around mile  6, and again at 17 before a steady climb  from18-20. 

Fall happens in SoCal, you just need to keep your eyes open and visit higher altitudes than the beach.  The views were amazing during the race. It almost made up for how beat down I felt.  I started that morning with an icky stomach, barely managing to eat a slice of bread and a banana.  I also had a whopper of a headache.  Water didn't sound like something I really wanted, so I waited until the first aid station to take some Advil with some Coke. I'll count not drinking anything until mile 5 as dumb move number one. 

I've been running races for about 13 years, primarily half and full marathons, and only recently moved on to the trails. And I've noticed that I need to eat  more when running trails. But my icky stomach kept me from eating. I felt my energy levels drop and my legs getting heavy. So....not eating = dumb move number 2. 

This old rusted out car is a fabulous marker for a popular aid station location up in the mountains. When I see this car, I always know that I'm within 1/4 mile of the aid station at Penny Pines, which really helped today. 

After Penny Pines, I plodded along. Walking, grumbling, occasionally running and just having a grand old pity party. I'm so glad I was not running with anyone for the rest of the race, because it was ugly. Whine, whine, whine. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Ugh. 

 A small 2 miles of climbing before a great downhill run at mile 17, unfortunately my nutrition and hydration had been so bad that by this time I was a wreck. I got to Noble Canyon Trail, but instead of heading downhill (glorious, glorious downhill) the route had us head back up the mountain. Really, it wasn't super steep, but I didn't like it. Not one bit. 

Coming in to the last aid station I told myself I would eat something. Anything! So far that day I had a piece of bread, a banana, 1/4 blueberry muffin, 1/2 a Coke,  3 slices of orange, and 3/4 a packet of very stale Probar chews. Probably not enough to push me through 20+ miles in the mountains. Food, I needed food. Browsing the food available, I saw they had a beautiful, scrumptious, mouthwatering Julian Apple Pie! Hmmmm, I had a half a slice of pie and had a volunteer help me retrieve my bag of roasted cashews from my pack.  I ate half a slice of pie and 6 cashews, it was amazing what some food will do. I felt slightly better. And with only 6 more miles it felt doable. Then they threw in this gem (log below). Ack, climbing that was no fun. I honestly stood back and contemplated first going around (but both ends were in brambles) or going under.  Really, going under. Finally sanity prevailed and I found a way to clamber over. It was ugly and it hurt, but I got over and went on my merry way (can you feel the sarcasm?). 

The portion of the race that shall be referred to as 'that damn log.'

Don't get me wrong, I was still pretty wrecked, and I stopped at every opportunity to take a pictures (photos below!). But, I was determined to not let anyone pass me. No one had done so for a few miles now, and that's really all I had left mentally. 'Don't let anyone pass you.' 

The Meadows aka The Biggest F'ing Field in the World.

A reminder that this is the great outdoors and predators are all around us.

Finally, an indicator to the finish! 

We were told that the last few miles would be gently rolling with a climb at the end. I enjoyed the gently rolling portion a lot. I didn't enjoy the sadistic climb at the end. 

A cruel cruel climb to the end. 

Whoop whoop, coming in with a smile.

Ah, sweet sweet finish.

So happy to be done. 

I can say, in all honesty, that I got my butt handed to me in this race. I didn't train adequately, I didn't hydrate, and I certainly didn't eat well the day of the race. What did I learn? Don't freaking take a marathon for granted. 26 miles is a long way to run, and you (I) really need to prepare, get your (my) head on right and eat something.  And that pie is good. If they have pie at an aid station, have some.  Pie is so very good during a race. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cuyamaca 100k Oct. 3, 2015

Races seem like a much better idea when you are in the comfort of your own home, cozy, sated, hydrated and NOT running. 

Last weekend I participated in the Cuyamaca 100k Endurance Run. My best description of this race would be: the slowest and hardest 50k I've ever run ... followed by another 50k.  You can read more, but that's the bare bones of the race. 

I registered for this race late and was waitlisted for over a month. In the meantime I ran a timed 24 hour race (Julian Station  Full Moon Ultra). After completing 64.8 miles, in 0.57 mile loops, I settled in my car to drive home. Imagine my surprise when I randomly checked the waitlist and saw that I was the pending applicant for the Cuyamaca 100k. 

After a one month taper/recovery from  Julian Station, the morning of the race arrived. The race starts at 630 sharp, and is located approximately an hour drive away. M actually volunteered to drive me to the start, and my family would pick me up. Having been told by the race director that parking could be challenging, we planned in arriving at 5am, giving us plenty of wiggle room the morning of the race.

We were fairly surprised that after several weeks of scorching weather, we exited our car to temps in the high 30's. We were unprepared for this little development. But thankfully the main hub to check in and gather was indoors, and so much more comfortable. I picked up my bib and race goodies and met up with friends. Now the wait....

Ready to run!

The race started off with gentle rolling hills and scrub allowing the pack spread out. I tried not to get sucked up to the front of the pack at the start, knowing my speed limitations. Primarily, I do not have much speed!  I'd love to say 'I felt great! Everything was going according to plan!' But frankly, my hamstrings hurt and my Achilles was annoying me. Attempting to settle into a nice easy run, I had a chance to chat with lots of other runners.

The race is broken up into 3 loops (32, 12 and 18 miles) and each loop is assigned a color. Each runner is given a bracelet at the start to designate what color markers you should be following and exchanged for a different color bracelet when each loop is completed. This really came in helpful later, when the paths intersect and you are very tired. 

The first aid station came around mile 8, and to tell the truth, I had no idea where the aid stations were located. You know that friend that never knows the route or how to get there? Today that was me. Some runners come with a plan, course/nutrition planned out, etc. I arrived with stuff I think I might need and stuff I hope I won't need and just ran. At the aid station I asked my helpful volunteers 'soooooo....... how many miles to the next aid station?' Or just look for the signs they had posted. 

Loop 1 is definitely the most challenging, not only is it the longest, but you have the biggest and longest vertical climb contained in it.  You are still trying to pass slower runners, and making way for faster runners.

I spent most of the first 50k playing leap frog with my friend G. She would have a good stretch, leave me behind, then I'd play catch up and vice versa. Where the first 8 miles were lovely and undulating, the next 14 were (what felt like) an unrelenting straight uphill march, in the sun. Perfectly beautiful and absolutely treacherous if you choose to simultaneously admire the view and attempt to make forward progress. Sticks, stones, and uneven paths made it difficult to look around. 

Mixed in with the climb, you also have the opportunity to run through tall grass and hope your foot isn't going to step on something slithery or a hole. Always exciting.

The volunteers at the Peak were amazing. They ran out to relieve you of your pack to get anything you might need or want started before you get there. I met my pacer (if i decided I wanted one) and the top and she showered me with attention. She also made me take 3 salt pills, something I had never taken before, but I'm fairly certain saved me during the run.

A short stop to admire the view that my hard work earned me before heading downhill to the campgrounds.  That's when the real fatigue started in. I was certain I started feeling tired just after mile 28. And I still hadn't completed the first loop, and still had more than half the race left. I was also SUPER hungry! Real food hungry. I didn't want my gels, or chomps, or water. I wanted a pizza. A whole pizza. 

I settled for a dry turkey sandwich after I made it back to the campground and started out on loop 2. I think by far, loop 2 was my favorite. It was beautiful and peaceful. And short. I couldn't help but take the time for a picture of the lovely tall grass. 

Some runners I was trying to catch in the distance. Little black specks.... see them?

Looking decent, if not feeling if not

About 2 miles before G got a good radio station and ditched me.

Gators, gators everywhere!!!

This aid station was a sight for sore eyes, and arms. I started feeling a hot spot on the backs of both arms about 1-2 miles out from this aid station. So I spent a good portion of that time running with my arms out to my sides. Backs of my arms, how completely random and weird. But the 'Gator Pond' had a hugetub of Vaseline to help, and some great spirits to boost my tired spirits. 

Never a good thing to be warned of, but always good to know! 

I finished loop 2 just as the sun was setting, so the final 18 miles would be in the dark. Thank goodness a friend told me that it would be windy at Sunrise highway, because I just wanted to be done, and may not have taken the time to change if she didn't mention it. I switched over to a longsleeve, downed some soup and grabbed my headlamp.

Back up the hill, this time following the yellow tape flags marking the course. I ran by myself, chasing G who left the campgrounds as I was came in. Running in the dark was surreal. I don't know if it was the excitement of this being the final loop, the cooling temperature or just having some food in my stomach, but I ran a fair portion of the flat grassy section. I kept an eye out for the mountain lions because I kept smelling what I thought was mountain lion urine (that, and I remembered that sign earlier). I was sure there was a pissed off feline hiding in the grass just waiting to pounce. It picked up my pace a bit.   No mountain lions sighted.

I finally caught up to some headlamps in the distance. I did a nice fast hikes up the hills, ran on the flats, and ran runnable portions of the downhill. The headlamps (and the fatigue) made finding my footing a little tricky on the rocky downhills. 

I was so menally drained, that at one point I kept thinking that the mist/fog patches that we kept going thru were the result the cold air condensing my breath. It wasn't until a fellow runner mentioned the fog that it even occurred to me that there was any! 

I finally caught up with G at Sunrise highway, mile 51. Only 11 more miles to go!!! I had been worrying about at what point in the race my stomach was going to turn on me, and so far it was cooperating. I left Sunrise in good spirits and excited about being SO close to the finish. Five miles to the next aid station. Five rocky miles. 

At the final aid station I was still feeling ok and planned to run as much of the remaining 6 miles as I could. I should have been prepared for the wheels to fall off...  The first 2 miles were great. Excitement for nearly finishing and non dead legs propelled me. Until my stomach said 'Ok, enough. I'm tired of bouncing. I want to be done.' Then every time I attempted to run nausea flooded through me. I could walk, and I could hike fast, but I could not run. And I didn't think it was bad enough to take the time to remove my pack and get my crystalized ginger to nibble on. But it was time. I did 2 more miles at a fast walk. Watching my estimated finishing time slip by, then the estimated finishing hour slip by. I was demoralized. This sucked. 

Time to stop being a baby and suck it up and go. I tried to run, made it 20 yards before my stomach really let me know it didn't appreciate my efforts. Tried again, made it 10 feet, same results. But, now I felt so much better! And it was downhill,  time to run. 

I was able to run more than I walked the remaining 2 miles and finally finish. 17:32. Not stellar, but given it was my first 100k on a true trail, I'll take it. 

I came into the race without the proper respect to the distance. It was only 12 miles more than a 50 miler, right? I forgot that 50 miles was damn tough, and I still needed to get there before getting to the additional 12. Live and learn. I'm so glad I had my family at the end to bring me home and my great running friends waiting to cheer me into the finish. I know that if I had never started running with the Trail Crashers, I would not have even signed up for, or finished this race. Thanks guys! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Missing my mojo

I can exactly remember my last enjoyable run, April 11, 2015. Oriflamme 50k. I don't know why ever run has stunk since that one. But every day that I head out for a run I find myself hoping that 'today will be the day I get my mojo back.'

Slumps happen to everyone. No matter how enjoyable something can be, one day it just doesn't give you that same spark. I'm trying different things to push myself in the right direction. Running old routes that bring me peace. Running with someone I enjoy being around. Taking some time to do running related volunteering. But so far, zip. Zilch. Bumpkuss.

Getting aid station gear ready for SD 100.

It happened last year about this same time. I couldn't get it my enthusiasm to run back after PCT. It's an enjoyable race, so why does my soul feel like it was sucked from my body (ok, I exaggerate, but you get the idea.)?

In 4 days, a person that I immensely admire for his strength and tenacity, the person who put the initial kernel of ultra in my brain, and just one of the most freaking nice guys I know, will be running in San Diego's premiere running event. The San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Actually, a crazy handful of my friends will be running this event, but this guy asked me to pace him for a small portion of his race. So I will be out there with people running a distance my mind can't even contemplate running, for more consecutive hours than I've been awake since college. Mind boggling.

I'm so excited for his race. This has to be my tipping point. I can't be out there with so many people who enjoy running this much and not have that joy rub off on me. How do you break the slump?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Finding that balance

Finding balance in life is hard. Finding balance in life while running is harder. I'm immensely fortunate that I'm not throwing a job in the mix. I stay at home with our youngest and act as a chauffeur/cook/alarm clock/drill sergeant/cheer leader/craft leader/dictionary/swear word monitor/playmate/housekeeper. But in reality, you can take housekeeper off the list, because I'll admit I'm the worst housekeeper. Ugh.

I'm sitting at basketball practice for my oldest, after arguing with him to get dressed to come, and he's completely not interested. All I can think is 'this is 75 minutes long. I could be getting a great run right now....' but my 'mommy' mode is in gear. Not 'runner' mode. I know that he won't remember this practice. This day. But I'm hoping, that in the future, as we laugh about what a horrendous basketball player he was, he will remember that Mom or Dad was always present for him.

It's hard though. There's always a race I want to run, or some training I'd like to squeeze in, or practice to watch, homework to monitor, dinner to cook, tears to wipe, or scolding to be done. How do you do it?

While training for my last 50 mile race, I had to 'sacrifice' a couple of weeks of long runs when my husband went out of town for a few boys trips and a trip back east for his grandmother's 90th birthday (no way he can miss something so awesome!). I don't have a triple stroller, and to tell you the truth, as big as the boys are, I don't think I would want to push them for 20+ miles. Solution? Middle of the night treadmill runs. H.O.L.Y.   C.O.W. Talk about mind numbing.

But I'm not the only one making sacrifices for running. My husband plays basketball on Saturdays. He has played with the same group of guys for 13 years. During high mileage weeks, I often have a long run on both Saturday AND Sunday. So he misses out on basketball to stay home with the little crazies while I head to the mountains to enjoy the best of nature. We try to work in alternate Saturdays so any one person isn't missing their work/life balance time.

The most recent bargain is that he gets every Saturday until the training really starts piling on the mega miles. Which is perfect, because it should get us right to the start of college football. Maybe I can convince him he's not really sacrificing? What kind of bargaining do you do to train for your races?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Let's talk about feet for a few minutes.  Runners have ugly feet. There, I said it.

As a girl who grew up in Florida and now lives in la-la land, I've seen plenty of feet in sandals and flip flops. Of the feet I've seen, runners have the worst. (Yeah, if you wore open toe shoes around me, I checked out your feet.) For a sport that spends all of its time on their feet, we really don't take that great care of our feet. You'd think our feet would be pampered and cared for daily. But I guess tough feet are resilient feet.

In the world of ultra running, I am incredibly green. I've only been doing this for two years (this July 20!!!), I haven't run 100k or 100 miles and I've never, ever lost a toe nail. (And I just jinxed myself didn't I?) Plenty of blisters, discoloration, and bruised feet; but all my toe nails are the originals. Why don't we take better care of our feet?

I know many runners never take a pumice stone to their feet or get pedicures. Just build callus upon callus.  Toughly removing toenails as casually as most people would trim their nails. Toughening up their feet for the races ahead. And then on the flip side I have a running friend who makes time to get pedicures as often as she can (ok, she's going to kill me, but mainly in the spring or summer. Open shoe season of course!) and I'm so jealous of how cute her toes look. I walk the middle grey area. A pumice is my friend, my toes are usually naked but if I need to go somewhere special in open toe shoes, I'll slap on some polish. 

Are you a tough guy or are pedicures your friend? What's your worst foot story?  Best foot advice?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Out of the frying pan and straight into the fire

It happened again... maybe. I am officially waitlisted for Cuyamaca 100k. After moaning and groaning (bitching) about my 50 mile race, I damn well went and tried to get into a 100k race. So I guess after a boring 3 weeks of not running due to recovering from PCT and then a cold, I'm back in the swing of things.  I just need to remember where all my running gear was ditched.  I think this time, I should train properly and not half ass this race. Remind me of that when I start griping about running. I can't decide if I do or don't want a chance to run this race.

Last year I drove out with the kids to cheer on a friend running Cuyamaca.  I remember this being an incredibly beautiful portion of the race and started itching to run this race. Unfortunately in order to be able to see the true beauty of this segment, I would have to get so much faster than I am. This is approx mile 55 of the race, it'll be dark when I run this! I really hope I'm still running at this point in the race and not reduced to constantly walking. Yikes!  I'll have to imagine the flowing golden grass in my mind.

100k is a new distance for me. To date, 50 miles has been the farthest distance I've run. I'm not really sure how I talked the hubs into letting me do this race. But, I'm just going with it and signed up for the waitlist before he could change his mind.

And on that note, I ran a lovely and leisurely 5 miles this morning with M who is recovering from a knee injury. He kicked my butt, so it was pretty sad. But it was still great to run after so much time off. To reinforce the need to find my running gear, I couldn't find my inhaler or Garmin....?  Wonder where they wandered off to.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dealing with sickness and injury

Injury and a cold/flu are two completely different entities and should be treated as such.


Address what kind of injury it is.  Ask yourself, can you run without further injury? If yes, then run. Are you telling yourself 'it shouldn't hurt much...' yeah, you're trying to talk yourself into believing a falsehood. Rest. I know it's hard, and frankly I rarely listen to this advice, which makes it so much harder for me to advocate rest. But you are the only one who can decide if it is really worth causing more harm to your body. Rest today, run more later. Run today and get more injured....

Some injuries can be helped by support. I know lots of runners who use KT (kinesiology therapeutic) tape to help support knees, ankles, Achilles, calf strains, hamstring issues, quads, IT bands, sore backs, etc. (Advice from a frequent KT user, if you are male,  shave the hair off your knees/legs or use Nair. The tape will stick longer. Clean with rubbing alcohol, spray with Cramer Tuf Skin, then apply KT tape.) There are also ankle and knee braces that you can buy to provide reusable support to your limbs.

KT tape lasting thru 50 miles!

KT tape supporting knees and shins. A little support to S's knee via patellar tendon strap.  

Getting injured during a race is something I rarely think about. This is another judgement call, you have to assess if it is going to cause you additional harm. I've sprained my ankle at mile 7 of a marathon and still finished (because I'm stubborn) and also fallen an scraped myself up at mile 8 of a 50k.  The scrape wasn't particularly bothersome if I kept the fabric of my shorts from sticking to it.

    I think, in hindsight,  that I should have stopped running that particular marathon and saved my ankle.  
I am allergic to latex and Neosporin, which causes all kinds of issues when trying to patch yourself up after a fall. In this particular instance I used an antibiotic ointment which may have been Neosporin under a different guise. This scrape didn't hurt all that much at first, but it was about 2 weeks (and a visit to the doctors office for some prescription ointment) before it was better. I run with a small Ziploc bag of latex free items for bumps and scrapes like this, and after this incident, I replaced that antibiotic ointment! If you have special needs, make sure you are properly prepared!

Fun times.

Getting sick

You've put in all your training and are now in taper mode. BAM.... you get a cold. What now? (As I type this up I am sitting on my couch with a full body ache, cough, and fever. It's really, really fun... especially since I am currently being subjected to Team Umizoomi. Just shoot me now.) I generally run if it is above the chest. A head cold or just headache don't deter me from lacing up. If it is a chest cold or flu, I will reluctantly rest. Bitterly disappointed in what I consider my body's failure to stay healthy.  The week before my 50 mile race I was coughing an excessive amount. I had the internal debate of whether or not this was something that might sideline my race. (My son was also coughing more than normal, and of course I took HIM to his doctor. Concerned with some wheezing she heard in his lungs, she prescribed an inhaler and a schedule for treatment. So...... because I already have an inhaler for my exercise induced asthma, I started myself on the same routine. I don't recommend doing this is you don't already have an inhaler prescribed to you!) After about 5 days my coughing was greatly reduced (so was my son's).  I really should have taken myself to the doctor, but I really don't like wasting their time with something as trivial as a cough, for me.

Injury and illness happen, it's up to you to know your body well enough to see if you can run through it or if your body needs to rest up.  Visit your doctor if you need more information, but my doctor doesn't run.... so I can't believe a word he says about training. Stay healthy and keep running!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Eating on the run

I had someone (M) ask me recently what I ate while training and preparing to race. (I'll say race even though I am a completely middle of the pack runner with no hopes of achieving podium status. Honestly, I'm just happy to finish.) I am completely open to food ideas for running and eating. I try to listen to my body and adjust accordingly.

(If you are reading this blog, then you probably already run and you know what I'm about to tell you. In fact, you probably know more than me! )

There are so many choices for running food.

Electrolyte drink
Whole foods

Some of the most popular fuel for a long run include gels (you can buy them at running, biking,  hiking  or sporting stores), bars (these are more widely available. I've seen them at Target, grocery stores, and the stores listed for gels), blocks (a gummy textured almost candy like food found in the same locations as gels. Honestly, I have to fight to keep my kids from eating all mine.) even sport beans (think Jelly Belly's with a kick).

Before a race or a long run I usually stick to foods my body is used to. I ate oatmeal without any ill effects for years, but I switched over to a pb&j about an hour before and a banana about 15 min before. I most likely made the switch one morning when I wasn't prepared and didn't have any oatmeal in the house. I can't recall. I know that I have been using pb&j's as a pre-run fueling source for many years.

(M grabs a cliff bar on his way out the door and eats that before a run. Or whatever extra bar I happen to have available.)


I'm really bad at remembering to eat early in a race. I'm usually too caught up on making sure I don't fall on my face, or miss a turn, to remember to eat. In trail running I find that eating early and often is the key to not hitting an unfortunate low. You can dig your way out of a low, but it's usually a long hard battle. It's better to nip it in the bud before you get there.  Most runners call that low 'hitting the wall.'  Depending on your training, the wall is a variable you can work to avoid with proper fueling.  But, the longer you run, the more likely you are to hit your wall.

When to eat

Lots of watches now a days have fancy alarms that you can set to go off at different internals.  M has an alarm that goes off every 15 minutes to remind him to drink. I'm more old school (insert  phrase 'too lazy to set an alarm') and I try to eat something after an hour and depending on the distance every 45 min or so. If I'm only running a short distance (half marathon) I might use just a sport drink anything under an hour and I stick to plain water. 

Most recently, during a 50 mile race I consumed dates, watermelon slices, boiled potatoes (occasionally dipped in salt), a Pro Meal snack bar, 2 double espresso shot gels, a cup of soup, a particularly delicious mini candy bar, coke and lots and lots of water. I often carry bacon (yes, you read that right, bacon) for a race (and loads of other runners usually ask for some!). During a 22 mile training run up in the mountains we talked a hiker into passing off her canister of chips, and everyone dove straight into them! If you find yourself craving salt, have something on hand to satisfy the craving. I usually tailor my food for my training runs on what I find appealing during a race or whatever I'm currently craving. One training run I craved a slice of Costco pizza the entire run. I couldn't figure out a way to have it on hand though, so l learned to live without it. (I was honestly trying to figure out if it was feasible to have a frozen slice in my drop bag for the aid station at mile 22.)


I'm really bad at remembering to fuel my body after a run. I'm usually in my car and off to relieve my husband from kid duty. I recommend sticking something  in your car you think you will be able to tolerate after running. Lots of friends drink chocolate milk, an easy and yummy source of protein. If you have the luxury, go out for breakfast and eat something with protein. If you think to can eat another one after your run, have a protein bar. (There's a trend.... protein!) Protein helps speed muscle repair and aids in recovery. Try it. You will probably feel better after a hard run! 

Race aid stations

Ultra aid stations are amazing. They are run by ultra runners who are giving back to their friends and fellow trail mates. They usually ask runners they know running in the race what kinds of treats they might like to have on hand. Mainstays of an aid station include water (duh), electrolyte drink, potatoes, chips, pretzels, m&m's, mini candy bars, orange slices, pb&j sandwiches, coke, ginger ale.... you get the idea, you won't starve. But if you don't see something you had your mind set on, ask, you never know.


If you feel like playing around and experimenting, I suggest making your own running food.
One of my particularly favorite books is The Feedzone Portables ( The food it's delicious and wholesome. Unfortunately it's time-consuming to make and the portions are large. The few that I have tried were easy on my stomach and provided long lasting energy. More experimentation will have to be done with this book in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let's start at the beginning.

I know, I know. I started a blog about becoming an accidental ultra runner with freaking ultra race. Do you want to know how the madness started?

I hated running as a kid. Just hated it. Phys. ed. running, is there anything more awful? I ran my first 5k on the campus of University of Knoxville as part of a summer trip for the Junior classical League Latin program. Yep, I was a bit geeky in high school. Hey, geeky is cool, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  My first 5k was hilly, green, beautiful and hot (um, summer in Knoxville....). I thought I was going to die. Die!  I didn't, but that didn't kick start a love of running either.

My 'running' started in my 20's. I was working 65-80 hours a week as a norm and trying to go out drinking and partying with friends. The freshman 15 didn't have anything on this weight gain. Not that I ever lost the freshman 15. So, now I'm a pudgy and busy 'business professional.' Lovely. I worked 3/4 of a mile away from Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Ga. The park had jogging paths ranging in distances of 0.70 mile to 1.68 miles and a 0.52  mile jogging track nestled in the center. Perfect for a lunch break run.

And that's all I ran, because I still didn't like running. Running sucked. You get all sweaty, it's hot, it's hard and you can't breath. For the love of Pete, why do people run for fun. They must be cracked in the head. 

Then my fiance was offered a job in San Diego. Holy cow California. What a change.  California is a place where people are meant to be outdoors. There isn't a green haze of pollen that lasts from late February to August. You can walk outside without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. It's not 95 degrees with 99% humidity. 

Hello beautiful.

But even with the ideal climate and abundance of time on my hands after moving west (I was unemployed, oh the fun times...)  I did not enjoy running. That change came after my first marathon (yes, that is correct, I don't like running and I ran a marathon. It was a bucket list thing I guess.). It was awful. I trained with a local running group and made lots of friends. I felt ready. Hell, I was ready for all 26.2 miles. Everything was perfect until mile 15, then stuff started to hurt. I mean, ouch. I finished and swore I would never run again. But..... I had invested money in running attire, and as long as I wasn't running 26 miles, it was doable. 

It helps that I totally made the spectator guide! 

Next year rolled around and I decided I was not running Rock 'n Roll. I was getting married a few weeks before and just couldn't commit to the training. So that was the plan. And I'm not really sure what happened. I went to the expo (because expos are awesome and I apparently didn't have anything better to do on a Friday night) and I freaking signed up for the marathon. Two days before a marathon, I signed up. It wasn't sold out or obscenely priced. I ran the race, shaved 15 minutes off my previous time and it didn't kill me. Something clicked and I was hooked. I think the thought process went something like this: 

Me: Wow, I took 15 minutes off my time from last year. That's pretty cool.
Evil me: Oooohhhh, I wonder how much you could take off if you actually trained for it. 
Dumb me: Hmmmmm, I do wonder.
Me: I'm in!

For the next 8-9 years I ran half marathons and the occasional full. They were my mini vacations. I ran Nike, NYC, Marine Corps, Chicago, RnR, and Carlsbad.  

On New Years day, 2013 I talked M (remember M from the PCT post? He's a frequent participant in crazy, so don't forget him.) into a new challenge. I decided that it would be kind of neat to run 2013 miles in 2013. That's cool, right? (I did mention I'm math challenged. And impulsive? Definitely a leap before I look kind of person.) So, M agreed, and then told me that 2013 miles breaks down to 5.53 miles a day. Every day. Every bleeping day. Pushing either a single or double jog stroller 5 days a week. Gack. That got old real fast. Skip a day and now I'm trying to do 11 miles, heaven help me if we want to take a family vacation or two.  Forget about getting sick, just run through it. 

In the midst of crazy #1 challenge for 2013, M had a wild hair idea. A race director he knew was planning a timed race around a 5k course. You could do 6, 12, or 24 hours. Sure, why not. I'm in for 6 hours.  M got sick the week before, and I'm far too cheap to not run this thing.  This will literally be the longest I have ever run. 6 hours of running. I've been running nearly every day for half a year, but no long miles. Definitely nothing longer than a half marathon. But in for a penny.... 

My first 50k. The seed has been planted.

And boom, there you go. From occasional marathoner to ultra runner. Simply because I can't say no to a friend. Therefore, I am an accidental ultra runner. I'm a firm believer that if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra. But the fact that I keep doing them is something completely different.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PCT 50 2015 .... the long report

May 9, 2015

Do you run? If you do, then you know about how to read your pre-race body. Mine is always a mess of miscellaneous aches and pains that usually miraculously disappear on race day. Often as the first step past the start line is taken. I was hoping it would be the same this race morning.

A little background:

I ran this race last year as my first trail 50. I had completed an easy trail/dirt path 50 a couple of months prior to see if I could achieve the distance, kind of a mental boost for this race.

PCT is an extremely technical course of primarily single track, uphill climbing for the first 13 miles. Then it gets fun. So you just have to wrap your mind around the fact that for 13 miles, you are not really having any fun. The return has a deceptive and more gentle incline as well. So when you are really tired from just having run 13 miles straight uphill and 12 undulating miles, you get to climb more. Last year I ran this race with my training partner and friend M. I convinced him to walk nearly the entire section from 27 to 34. That's a lot of time walking. My primary goal this year was to spend less time walking this section and shave off some time from my overall race time.

Leading up to the race:

Oh so many things! Do I drive myself and finish recovering after at my own pace or ride in with M and ask the hubs to wrangle the kids and pick me up at the finish? I love having my family at the finish, but my kids are at the crazy run around everywhere and and complain when they have to wait for you stage of life. I call it childhood. This decision will keep until the night before.

My calves hurt. I mean hurt. I really should get a massage, but at this point, do I really have time to recover from someone breaking down all the yucky tissue in there? Besides, it's all in my head, right? I did self massage on my calves. They felt so incredibly tight and rock hard (not in a 'I'm a great athlete and have legs of steel' kind of way). It'll work itself out, usually does.

Race day:

M and I made it to the start just in time to see the early start runners take off.  Time to get my bib and figure out where the race was going to take me. Just waiting for the pre-race excitement to kick in. So far, I was just happy to see some friends and for it to finally be race day. I set a goal of 12 races this year, but only 2 had to be ultras. This is the last long one I have scheduled for the year. I'll see where the rest of the year takes me.

Gearing up brought to my attention that I forgot my small bottle of Vitalyte. Not the end of the world, but I was bummed. I had planned on getting some of my calories and electrolytes from the drink. But, I had all the essentials.

I carried 2 double expresso shot Gu packets, a baggie of 4 dates, a baggie of dried figs, a Pro Meal snack bar and a power bagel bar with some butter. I had planned to bring a baggie of cooked bacon too, but it got left in my fridge. I would get potatoes at the aid stations and anything else that wasn't too far from my normal realm of diet. 


The race:

I started the race with a training partner who was sweet enough to be 1) concerned about me finishing high enough to place for my age group and 2) think I was in her age group! The first segment has some lovely climbs, and when others walk, you walk. Walking was was nice. But my calves hurt and now my hamstrings hurt. Great. Ok, first 13 miles suck, I just had to remember that. And I'll see M at 17 or 22 and hitch a ride home. No worries.

I wanted to quit at aid station 1. I had a friend working there who greeted me with a huge smile and shoved me up the mountain. Damn. Another 6 miles before the next aid station, uphill. And my running partner left before I did. Double damn. 

So I just kept running. Nothing else to do. It had snowed in the mountains the day before and there was still a good deal of it left on the ground. This was something new and beautiful. It was so interesting to run in the snow on trails that I had run so often before in sweltering heat. 

When I finally made it to the second aid station I was surprised to see a much faster running partner still at this aid station.  He had slipped in the muddy yuck and heard a 'pop' near his Achilles. Not good. I hugged him, let him know it was a smart decision and left the aid station, all while debating quitting at this aid station. 

I followed a PCT and 50 mile virgin up the snowy trails. I should have listened and absorbed the wonder in his voice at his joy in running 50 miles for the first time. But I was stuck in my own mental cage of utter blah. Slipping and sliding in the mud, downhill for a few miles.  I enjoyed it greatly, but could only think that it was going to pretty miserable coming back uphill if it was still as wet. This section of the course is normally my favorite. I love the tree coverage, the wide winding path and the lack of mega hills to climb. All I could think of was making it the next aid station, preferably before the front runners were headed back. I was looking forward to seeing M at this aid station. When I pulled in I couldn't find him, so I just assumed he went ahead to the next one. This aid station surprised me. Two guys I had run with from the first aid station until now decided to drop. Ugh, further making my decision to keep going or drop harder. One dropped because he thought he might be damaging his kidneys as his urine was brown. Crap, I hadn't even given that a thought! I hadn't peed yet and someone was judging their ability to run based on urine. So, like every other crazy thought that invaded my brain, I couldn't stop thinking about how my kidneys were doing. I'm 17 miles into this, shouldn't I have peed yet?

As I left, I saw one of my other training partners, G. I debated staying and running with her, but left since she was just arriving and I didn't need anything more. The next aid station is a mere 2-3 miles from the turn around and since I've made it this far, I should just go to the turn. The sun finally made an appearance and I saw the front runners. One of my friends was in second place. His appearance added a spark to my run, and now I was determined to see more friends. By now my brain was telling my legs to stop complaining and just keeping moving. Because everything hurt; calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, my back.... I was a sorry excuse for a runner. I just needed to make it to the turn. 

The fourth aid station is always amazing. It's next to the main road, so it is easily accessible to cars. In every race that I have run in the area this aid station has always been a great place to get some positive vibes and much needed cheering. A few friends were there to cheer and help with any of our needs. The volunteers were amazing and one was a friend that I used to run with. It's so easy to get sucked into an aid station and just stay too long. Grab and go! 

It was so tempting to just start running back where you came from instead of heading for the out and back to the halfway point. Especially when you round the bend and see that it is an uphill climb .... again. I saw so many familiar faces while I was heading for the turn. Many I met while training for this race the previous year. So many people coming from the turn around had words of encouragement and lots of high fives. 

When I finally spotted the small group of people situated where the turn had to be, I was so happy. I made it halfway. And I was tired. And sore. And a little nauseous. Scott Mills, race director extraordinaire of the SD100 (a race my mind can't even wrap itself around) was working the turn with Paul Jesse, the race director of my first trail ultra. Scott said something that gave me the kick in the butt I needed to keep going. As I thanked them for being out there, he said 'you can always tell the ultra veterans from the new runners, they always thank you.' What the heck? Did he just call me a veteran? Well, crap, now I have to keep running.  So I headed back the way I came. This time running with G. She was as challenged at running math as I was, so it was amusing for us to calculate if we were on track or not. 

We ran together for approximately 9 miles, making it thru a particularly hard section of the race. All I could think about at this point was food. My body was letting me know that it wasn't happy with what it was receiving and it wanted some fatty food, stat. She was in the same boat, so at this point we just started talking about food. I was ravenous. The third aid station, which would also be the sixth, had hot chicken soup. I used the thought of soup to propel me to that aid station. After that station, it would be one more solid run and then  only a half marathon to go. But the legs didn't want to work. Walking was fine, but the running wasn't going so well. Downhill was doable. Flat was workable. Uphill was impossible. My slow gap on last years time was slowly being chipped away, and G found inner reserves and bounded ahead of me.

Finally pulling into the next to last aid station 30 min  ahead of the cutoff. My math skills were nil by then, my legs didn't want to move and I was starting to see things a little funny. My head was getting a little dizzy and my eyes would occasionally tunnel. This was new to me.  I only had 13 miles left. I had to pull it together to get my sorry ass down the freaking mountain.  Only 6 more miles until a friendly face. This next to last section seemed to take the longest. Between my inability to run up any hills and my increasing tiredness and irritability and myself, time seemed to crawl.

I kept a slowly counting down mileage chart in my head. 'X more miles until you see a friendly face. If you can't go on, just ask them to take you someplace your family can get you so they don't have to drive all the way out here.' 'X more miles, home stretch, can't quit now.'  So very, very slow. Downhill running, feeling like I was moving at a good clip, only to look down and see my pace was 17 min mile. WHAT the WHAT???? Mentally screaming at my legs to move faster didn't work. They pretty much laughed in my face (as much as tired, under trained legs can laugh).  Discouraging. I finally saw the downhill stretch that led to smiling faces, a potential ride and JUST 6 more miles. An easy light run. Just 6 miles.....  I saw not one, but three familiar smiling and encouraging friends. All of them made me leave. 

Final stretch, 'all downhill'.... at this point I was playing hopscotch with two other runners. Each of us taking turns being ahead and then fizzing out and walking. One of the things that kept me moving was the fact that I was fairly certain my middle child was going to give me crap if he had to wait around for me. Last year the kids had a 30 min wait while I finished. His first words to me were 'mom, what took you so long! We've been waiting forever.' Tired, cold and nauseous.... it was all I could do to be civil to him.  So I was hoping they planned on the longer time I had given them. I couldn't propel my legs to do anything the resembled running for longer than a few minutes at a time. The final road crossing was in sight, then the gate that signaled 3.7 miles to go. Slow, slow progress. But it was progress. Merely 2 miles left, surely I can run the whole way, right? It's downhill.... nope. Walk.... run... find a good song on the iPod, run. Get tired and walk. Familiar sights let me know I was so close. I just wanted to run this last bit. Finally one of my new running friends left, he had more gas in his legs than me. Or just more willpower. But this was ok, because all of the sudden (47 miles of running and this is all of the sudden) there were signs of the end. I managed to get the legs moving long enough to run in the last mile. The feeling of seeing the finish line and the smiling faces of friends who stayed to see me finish. I was so glad to be done running. Finally stretching tired leg muscles and taking off my damn pack. 

Next year, I recommend proper training.... might make a difference!  But I shaved 59 min off my time from last year, and finished despite wanting to quit. I'm really hoping my kids learn persistence from me.