Monday, October 31, 2016

Cuyamaca 100k (very post race) wrap up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She's pretty happy about her YumButter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

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

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

Stairway to Heaven 15k

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

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

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

Noble Canyon 50K.

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

Noble Canyon Elevation

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

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

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

The obligatory picture kissing the rat.

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

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