Thursday, December 10, 2015

Third Time's a Charm - Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run

My 12th Ultramarathon, 3rd 100 mile race
27:01, 17th place overall, 2nd female
70 starters, 53 finishers, 76% finish rate
Lows in the mid 20s and a high of 60 degrees

The road leading up to this race was difficult. Sciatica issues from a herniated lumbar disk plagued my life for most of the summer. It even got to the point where I scheduled back surgery in case the cortisone injections didn't relieve the numbness, tingling, and pain in my left leg. I'm happy to say that I got to cancel that surgery and pick up running again. 

I chose Ozark Trail because it was the first 100 that I had ever been a part of 2 years ago when I paced my friend Danny for 25 miles of his first 100 miler. I only saw the trail in the dark, but it made a lasting impression on me. The small race feel and the awesome single track course as well as it being point-to-point were all big selling points. I was also ready for a 100 miler with cool weather. The Bear and Bighorn were both hotter than my body could handle which slowed my pace and made the days much longer than needed. I also lost most of the skin on my feet during Bighorn because of the constant sweating and swelling from the heat. Don't Google "trenchfoot" unless you want to lose your appetite.

1/2 of the Crew with me at the start - Brittany and Janeé
A cold dark start warmed to a crisp, clear fall day. The weather was great and the sun was shining, but I just couldn't get into a rhythm. I had to force myself to stay on my eating plan and wait for my body to cooperate. The leaves had fallen and most of the trail was covered in a fresh foot of uncrushed leaves. There were a few miles scattered near trailheads that some amazing person(s) had leaf-blown. The contrast of these areas and how quiet they were compared to the rest of the course made hitting the leaves again that much harder.

First Crew spot  Mile 14 - I felt dead

There were wonderful leaf-blown sections
In the areas were the leaves were deepest, the number of hidden rocks and roots were highest of course. That meant I was altering my stride and lifting my toes higher than normal to execute "the leaf shuffle" technique.

Mile 19.3 - Starting to feel a little more alive
Justin and Joell and their girls were working the mile 19 aid station and the greeting was uplifting. Since I was going to be a responsible foot-owner during this race, mile 19 was my first scheduled sock change. 

I was sitting somewhere near 10th place for most of the morning, but early foot maintenance was not something I was going to skip this time.

Mile 31.3 - Finally feeling warmed-up (FC: Adam)
I knew my coworkers from KC, Adam and Rebecca, would be running the aid station at mile 31 and I was excited to get there to see them. I was greeted with a hug so big that Adam picked me up and spun me 360 before putting me down and getting down to official aid station business. They had a beard and flannel theme at the aid station and they even had a photo booth with felt beards. I left there in a great mood and would stay in that mental place for the rest of the race. People never believe me when I say it takes me a marathon to get warmed-up, but it really did.

Mile 40 - PACER TIME!! Picking up Danny

I was in a really good groove coming into mile 40 with a good bit of daylight left and I had been picking off runners in the last section. Danny and I ran this 25 mile section together during his race. We relived the memories of that day when places seemed familiar. We also played the OT game. The trail blazes are the OT and we spent hours coming up with possible meanings for OT. "Oversized Tuba", "Occupational Therapy", "Obtuse Triangle."

"Ouch Tendons" topped the list because of the ankle tendon issues Danny still has from his race here. I didn't know at the time, but my tendons were going to be revolting very soon as well.

Mile 65.4 - My Crew had the stops down
to a science (FC: Adam)

At either mile 47 or 55 AS I was getting a bunch of food things and joking with the AS workers. I told them my trade secret about storing spare quesadillas in paper towels close to the skin for optimal temperature during cold nights. One of their daughters put a colorful woven rubberband bracelet on my wrist and a high 5.  

One guy asked me how I was feeling (not a question you typically want to ask runners at this time of night, but I guess I was lively enough that the answer wouldn't be too bad). I responded with "magical" and then every one working the AS got really excited like I had said the word of the day. And apparently "magical" WAS the word of the day. I asked what I had won and I was gifted my choice of Halloween candy for saying the word.

Terri joined me next for a 29 mile overnight stretch. 10:30pm until 7:30am. I think Terri was just as excited about this race as I was and it was great to share so many miles with her. At most aid stations I saw the women's leader on her way out as I was coming in. By "on her way out" I mean she yelled at her pacer that she had to leave now as soon as she saw me. She never replied to my "you're looking great" and "good job" comments. Oh well. My pace was steady and I didn't think bursts of faster running to chase her seemed like a good idea given my lack of training over the summer.

All the dry socks, please! (FC: Adam)
Mile 94.4 - Just after sunrise and moving well

Iced tea, ramen, quesadillas, dry socks. I could survive for a really long time on those things. I chose the smaller amount of caffeine that tea gave me because I wasn't having any trouble staying alert. Until about 3:45am. I had a zombie moment and an emergency caffeinated Huma gel to get me to wake up. 13 hours of dark was a big mental obstacle and it was nice having pacers through it all.

At mile 87 AS (I think) Deb Johnson served her most amazing homemade chicken noodle soup. It was rocket fuel.

At some point during the fuzzy-math hours of the early morning, I figured that every minute I ran the miles faster than 18min/mile, I'd be inching closer to a 28 hour finish. That was somewhat right until the last half marathon of the race where I ran way more than I walked  and was now inching closer to a 27 hour finish. The sunrise and the end of the nearly eternal darkness was a great boost. It was pretty cold in that part of the course and I had motivation to get moving and stay warm.

As I ran into the last aid station, Danny tells me that the leader just left 3 minutes ago, walking. I told him some choice words about really not wanting to race the last 10K of a 100 miler. I threw back a shot of noodles, didn't mess with anything else and took off. I didn't know if I could catch her, but I would keep running the pace that I was and see what it gets me. My real thought was maybe that 27-hour mark was a possibility. I picked up Janeé here and got going. The leaves were deafening and we didn't say much. I was pushing myself to the max of where my lungs and ankle could sustain.

I caught the leader in about 20 minutes. She was stopped behind a tree taking a bathroom break. She didn't see me until I was almost even with the part of the trail that she stepped off of and she quickly grabbed her poles, jumped back on the trail (cutting me off and without responding to my greeting) and took off. I didn't envy how scared she looked and I kept on with the pace I had been going. 

The sweet, sweet finish line
I never saw her again and can say that I ran my own race from start to finish.  I ran this race 4 hours faster than my first two 100 milers and that was my main goal. Danny's Video of the Finish The whole crew - Danny, Brittany, and Terri joined me and Janeé with 1/2 a mile to go and we ran it in together.

Look, Ma! No Trenchfoot!!!
I stuck to the plan of dry socks at miles 20, 40, 65 and dry socks and shoes at 78 after the water crossing were finished. There were a few blisters between toes and one on my heel, but nothing bigger than a nickel. I'm really pleased with the results after the disaster at Bighorn.

About 30 seconds of horizontal

I think my only complaint while running with was that I wanted to be horizontal for a little bit. I finally got some horizontal.

One very large and pretty buckle
The red and bruising from an angry tendon

That tired foot-lifting tendon? Yep, it was tired, red, and bruised after the run.

Ouch Tendons.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Big Horn 100

GangGreen before the Start
Wait until the hottest part of the day to start the race
My 10th ultramarathon, 2nd 100 mile race
30:59:17, 93rd place overall, 19th female
279 Starters, 167 finishers, 55% men finished, 77% women finished

Yes to Wildflowers

The Only Shade in the First Canyon

Touchy Feely stuff:
I was reading a book on the way to Wyoming that was written by a lady who had lived and studied with Buddhist monks. A few thoughts were stuck in my head from that book.

Things are either coming together or they are falling apart. Nothing is ever resolved. Nothing is bad, nothing is good. You should try to acknowledge all emotions with a loving and open heart and ride the waves. 

Being present and in the moment was a new challenge for me. Zoning out on a run and ignoring my surroundings is easy to do. By staying in the moment I ran the risk of experiencing pain. A risk worth taking to explore a different mental state during 100 miles.

Running into Mile 17 Aid

Gorgeous. Hot. Gorgeous. Death by dirt road the last 5 miles. Yep.

Held together perfectly. No bonk and no 
pain (no pain that was noticeable over the feet. RE: next section)

Hats are Just for Holding Ice
All the Ice in Place Pose
My feet feel apart. Mile 30ish I felt the whole ball of my left foot shift funny and the callus now had a blister under it. By mile 75 all hell had broken loose. Trench foot and large areas of blister on both balls and both heels. 3 toenails went on strike with blood blisters under them. (See the end of this post for the detailed foot pictures)

Trenchfoot examination immediately after finishing

Finally a Break from the Sun
The heat and foot pain did a number on my asthma. The more tense I became from taking careful, painful steps, the more restricted my airways became. The last 10 miles I was fighting off an asthma attack and stupidly didn't stop to use my inhaler. So...the finish line included a combo asthma attack/balling like a baby event. It was ugly.

The Sun Setting Somewhere in Wyoming
Only got UCAN and fruit down during the heat of the first day. Finally started working on solid food at mile 30 and then ate well the rest of the race.
I ate a quesadilla at the turn around. I put the one I didn't eat in a paper towel and into sports bra storage. I remembered it 20 miles later. Retrieved it. It was delightfully warm and soft still. Ate it. Don't regret that.

5 Miles of Gravel Left
The biggest highlight was the amazing people. I feel like every other face I saw on the course was a familiar one. Sharing the course with all those green shirts was a great motivation. Aid stations were a party (of course). As I made my way up the large climb to the turnaround, each and every RMR said hi or gave me a hug as they were descending (even when they are winning the race....thanks Silke). Doug paced me overnight and was more delusional than me by the time he was finished. Quite entertaining, so thanks for that. Matt kept me and the blisters company for the last (very long) 18 miles. I brought up the rear, but I finished that beast of a course and that is always goal #1.

Typical RMR Armpit Tunnel

Doug kept his distance because I smelled bad
And Time for the Asthma Attack

Blister Exorcism
The Hardware:
This race had a 53% finish rate. Lucky for me, everyone in the 20-29 age group DNFd except for me. So they have me a sweet rock.
Prize Rocks
'Merica Belt for my Buckle

The Feet - Aftermath:
Sweet mother of blisters. 
Took several days to drain this one and keep it from filling up again
Buh-bye calluses
Blisters Everywhere
Sausage toes

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bear 100: Come hell and high water

My 5th ultramarathon, 1st 100 mile race
31:17:24, 93rd place overall, 19th female
279 Starters, 167 finishers, 55% men finished, 77% women finished

The Taper:
Seven days before the Bear, as I was flossing my teeth, I bent toward the mirror in the bathroom and BAM!!. My lower back went out and was shooting pain all through my pelvis and I was frozen. This was not good. I woke up Friday morning in worse shape because all surrounding muscles were compensating and protecting. I called my chiropractor and she could see me in 3 hours. Ugh. I could hardly focus on my work just watching the clock waiting for some relief. I couldn't lift my legs, couldn't sit straight, couldn't put on shoes. But for some reason was not worried about this race. I knew this would resolve itself.

Saturday I hiked and did a little too much activity and then on Sunday, could barely walk again. Chiro, massage, chiro...waiting and waiting. Then I tried running when I got to Salt Lake on Wednesday. It didn't feel great, but I knew that I'd
have kinks to work out from not running for a week and having an altered gait. A good friend heard of my injury and questioned me about my mental Plan B for when this perfect excuse to quit enters my thoughts - what would I do?

Fast forward to 6am Friday at the start line in Logan, UT and my back felt completely normal. As I lined up with the field of nearly 300 runners we knew the day would be hot and there is a 100% chance of storms with a cold front that was blowing in.

The Bear:
This is it - the big one - my longest race by 38 miles. The 3rd anniversary of starting running. My first time training with a running coach, Ryan. I had to put so much trust in the training that I've accumulated this year - 1400 miles this year and tons of climbing since moving to Colorado 3 months ago. The Bear and I would have a different battle than I had imagined due to my now conservative approach to the day and keeping my back operational.

I was trying to smile

 Loved having the Elevation Tat

The Bear was no longer my enemy to conquer, she was my ally in this journey and I had to be open to everything that would be thrown at me. The song "Shut up and Dance" by Walk the Moon was in my head for the whole race and it seemed to match the conversation that I would have with the Bear at many points throughout:

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you're holding back,
She said shut up and dance with me!


The Hot Friday:

The plan was to take the first 3500' climb easy, don't redline, and start fueling early. I was not hungry, but tried to force it before I got too warm.

Near the Top of the First Climb

10mile AS I didn't grab much more than grapes. I heard Coleen behind me and we chatted for a while. Her downhills were leaving me in the dust, so we yo-yo'd a bit. Once we dropped into an awesome singletrack descent I met Dale from Texas who I would see MANY more times throughout the day and evening.

A Trail

Met my crew at the 20mile AS and was ahead of my goal pace by 30 minutes. I think I mentioned a "hot spot" on my right pinky toe that I was debating weather I take my shoe off to address. I didn't touch it. I threw ice in my hat and tried to find something that I could eat. I grabbed 2 more liters of water and left. There was a 3-mile uphill dirt road to the next aid station. The heat started to get me worried about the quantity of calories that I was getting in. I drank what calories I could with UCAN and ate fruit and choked dry food down with tons of water and S-Caps. The handful of Pringles took all of my energy to eat as I hiked most of this section.

 She took my arm,
I don't know how it happened.
We took the floor and she said

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you're holding back,
She said shut up and dance with me!
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance with me

Heading out of 22.5mile AS, with homemade banana bread in hand (I was WAY too excited about this - this is my favorite food!!!), more ice in my hat, I finally grabbed my trekking poles out of my pack for the next climb. Before I was done climbing, my ice melted and it got very warm. I was loving the rhythm that the poles gave me and I was passing many people on the climbs. Some would pass me back on the downhill because I was cautiously descending to protect my back.

So Warm

30mile AS - don't remember any of it. Slammed some applesauce and sweet tea. I was 10 minutes ahead of my goal pace. Grabbed PB&J to suffer through and 2 more liters. I got my special cooling bandana (thanks Erin!) soaked in ice water. I met up with Hillary Johnson, a friend of Coleen's, and we talked for quite a while along with this weird dude. It really made the time pass in this hot, exposed valley. There were cows sitting 15' from the trail telling us to moove it. I left them on the next climb and was a new person - in a great mood and moving well.

37mile AS I was apparently a hot mess - my conversations with my crew were less than intelligible. Slammed more applesauce and sweet tea. Re-soaked the bandana, more fruit, 2 more liters, S-Caps and fresh UCAN. Matt was a little worried about my lack of complete thoughts so we decided that maybe Bryan be ready to jump in to start pacing at mile 45 instead of 51. I met Tandi from AZ during this stretch and we talked and also enjoyed each other's silent company as the clouds rolled in and cooled things down.

The Clouds are Coming

45mile AS I was in much better shape. I was getting more food in me since it was cooler. I picked up Bryan and new food and water. Bryan and I chatted on this long climb and passed Dale in his usual form - cursing the uphills. We finished the climb with Tandi and heard a hoot and holler from Dale as he reached the false summit. And then we heard him cursing the damn false summit. We kept our headlamps off as long as possible because it was going to be a long, dark night with no moon.

The Stormy night:

 We were victims of the night,
The chemical, physical, kryptonite
Helpless to the bass and faded light
Oh we were born to get together,
Born to get together.

She took my arm,
I don't know how it happened.
We took the floor and she said

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you're holding back,
She said shut up and dance with me!
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance with me

51mile AS Matt informed us that the rain was forecasted to start between 1 and 3am. Bryan and I both grabbed our ponchos just in case because we wouldn't see Matt again for 10 miles. In that last second decision, somehow I missed grabbing my PB&J refill. This made sad and I tried to fill the void with other food. Cows mooed near the trail in the dark and the evening light show lit up the mountains around us. 

62mile AS I didn't forget my PB&J this time! I sang the peanut butter jelly time song to the runners that passed us while I ate. On the descent down to the next AS, it started sprinkling a little heavier. Was it worth poncho-ing up? Before we could answer, the skies opened up for the first downpour of the race around 1am. The road down into the next un-crewed aid station took forever and ever and ever as we got more and more wet.

68.8mile AS Logan Creek was full of zombies around a fire pit. Probably 20 runners that weren't prepared for the start of the rain. So many people dropped here. Bryan was grabbing me soups and coffee while I was putting on layers and grabbing the hand warmers from my drop bag. But wait - there was no coffee. Just Coke, so I had no caffeine (this is the start of a theme for the night). I felt so bad because Bryan was shaking cold. I put on the longsleeve Breath Thermo shirt that I had around my waist and some arm warmers. My arms would end up soaked from sticking out of the poncho, but I thought clothing would be better than exposed skin. I opened the pack of handwarmers that I had in the drop bag and put them in my pocket with my warm grilled cheese sandwiches. 

This next segment of trail took FOREVER, but Sophia had warned me of that ahead of time. The last hour or so of this segment, I was feeling bad because I needed to go to the bathroom and I stopped eating on my normal schedule. I got a tad bit hangry (sorry Bryan!). Matt must have warned him about this tendency of mine because he quickly asked if I had eaten recently. I snapped back "NO" and then ate my stinkin sandwich. 

We were running through an area that was muddy where the trail was exposed and then dry under the trees. I fell flat on my side after tripping over a root on a dusty part of the trail. No damage, just filthy.

76mile AS I HAD to go to the bathroom. This aid station is a little Ski lodge with running water and 1 bathroom. The line for the bathroom had 4 people - some of which were not even runners (this was BS) and this building was so warm that I was feeling strange. I was told to avoid being in this building because it lures DNF's in with its warmth. There were dead people sprawled out on stretchers and cots and chairs. 

Dead People in the Lodge

I check in and out in one breath and got a cup a coffee (finally!!) and went to the crew car. I pooped in the wooded island next to the parking lot. If any one of the 7 cars facing me had turned on its headlights...well it would have been a full moon.

It was 4:30am and I picked up Matt. This was 1 Aid Station earlier than planned since I picked up Bryan earlier in the day. The 5 miles to the next AS was all uphill on an ATV road. Then it started raining more - back to ponchos. The more we climbed in the rain, the more the trail became a river. I stopped dead in my tracks because there was a large cow just sitting on the road. No, wait, it was a camel. Yep definitely a camel. Or a puddle that looked like a camel. Matt agreed that the puddle at our perspective was perfectly camel-like.

81mile AS was in a flat meadow on top of this mountain. This was a sad and lonely place. No crew, no drop bags, just puddles, mud, pouring rain, wind, 40 degrees or less in an exposed meadow. The aid station workers were trying to keep their food and supplies dry, but there wasn't any hope. To get to the tent for rain protection you walk through a foot-deep puddle lake. We were entertained by the communications volunteer stepping behind his check-in tent to puke(?) dry-heave(?) something. WTF so weird. Their broth tasted like rain, I ate black bean soup, no coffee of course, and we got out of there in record time. Leaving this AS we had a mile of running on mud road in the wind before ducking into the trees. This was the first time I'd been cold all night. Just as the sun came up and we're moving fast out of necessity to not freeze to death, Matt tells me, "there is no one else in the world that I would be willing to do this for." This was the most ridiculous point of the day. All we could do is laugh at the adversity.

Chocolate Milk Anyone?

85.2mile AS - We see Bryan and tell him of our adventures running up the river. I finally go GoreTex with a layer of dry icebreaker underneath. Soup, no coffee, and more PB&J. We debate keeping the poncho's with us in case the rain really picks up again. A great decision we'd soon find out.

Coordinated Ponchos

92mile AS Ranger Dip. One word - breakfast burritos. Amazing. And zucchini bread. I knew I'd need the energy for the steepest climb and descent of the entire race - all covered in 6" of mud.

The trekking poles provided so much on this climb. About a dozen or so steps were made useless by the mud where my foot slid down more than I had gone up. How did people get up this without poles?!?

This was the mud captured by some guy on the course (turn up the volume for the whole shoe-sucking effect)

The final section Gates of Paradise:

Deep in her eyes,
I think I see the future.
I realize this is my last chance.

She took my arm,
I don't know how it happened.
We took the floor and she said

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you're holding back,
She said shut up and dance with me!
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance!

We reach the top of this demoralizing climb where normally you'd have a breathtaking view of the bright blue Bear Lake to validate the hard work. I'd envisioned this peak dozens of times all day - how it would look, how great it would feel, how overwhelming it would be. This was the end, the last monumental climb, the homestretch. We were in a cloud and couldn't even see the valley below. It didn't matter at all. I stopped and held Matt tight and cried. I couldn't contain all of the emotion of getting to this point and how perfect it was even without a view.

Enough of that mushy stuff, it was time to dance. 2 miles of moderate descent, 2 miles of steeper descent, and then 2 miles of gravel road to the finish. Oh, but the trail is a river...

I let go of my body and let it run and ski down this mountain. I was outside, just watching and trashing my legs on a downhill for a first time all day. I kept asking Matt what the time of day was, what was my pace, how many miles left. I knew I'd finish in under 32 hours, but I wanted to see how close to 31 I could get. A friend's advice to me was to run like hell for the last 5 miles and I repeated that to myself over and over. 

I'd leap from one river bank to the over to get the best footing, but sometime just right down the middle of the river was the best. I fell on to my shin and knee a couple of times when my foot slipped out from under me. 16 min/mi, 15, 14, 13 I kept pushing. I passed a dozen people on that descent that were gingerly tip-toeing down the slip-n-slide or bushwacking in waist-high brush next to the trail. Suckers. My adrenaline was pumping because this was so sketchy but so fun.

Finally reached the gravel road and then then the pavement and then the finish. I was glad to be there, but there were no emotions. Every emotion was on the trail where it was supposed to be and all there was left to do was smile.

My Amazing Team

Remember that "hot spot" on my pinky toe at mile 20?? Well I scalped my toe...

You're welcome

Cankles are Hot