Thursday, December 31, 2009

Everybody Else Is Doing It


This year, I feel like I can legitimately say I became an Ultrarunner, and with that comes a very different (and highly warped) way of looking at things. Prior to this year, I thought of 100 miles as the farthest distance I would drive to a race on the morning of the race itself. Now 100 miles is a distance for race lotteries, where the WINNERS are the ones who GET to run. And they jump for joy, knowing full well that at some point during that 100 miles they will feel like sh*t, that their muscles will become non-contractile hamburger meat, and that the likelihood of puking is very high. Maybe it is because of all that, that 100 miles is the running accomplishment of which I am the most proud.

I have never thought about looking at my year in running based on the number of miles I ran. Instead, I have always focused on race performances, the experiences, and how I felt while running, both emotionally and physically. But it seems like everyone knows their 2009 mileage. Heck, even my runner partner knew hers and she doesn't even run ultras, just these sissy-little multi-sport races called Ironman Triathlons.

I am a follower, so WTH, might as well play along. Last night I sat down with my training log and a calculator and after adding in this morning's 12 miler, I came to the grand total of 2,432 miles - easily my highest yearly mileage ever. And just think how much higher that could have been if this had been a leap year!

At midnight the tally flips back to zero and we all start on the same page. (Well, except for those frickin' over-achievers who do one of those mid-night fun runs). So, what are you going to put in your training log for 2010??


(photo credit: this photo was shamelessly stolen from the internet.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

'Twas The Run Before Christmas

My family moved to Arcadia, a suburb of L.A., before I turned five, early enough that I think of Southern California as the place where I grew up. But I always hated L.A. I started telling my parents before I was twelve that I was going FAR away for college. They said How about Puget Sound? I said "No, Farther." In my mind I didn't even want to be on the same coast.

My husband's family still lives in Arcadia, so we journey to the City of Angels a couple of times a year. Absence has certainly not made the heart grow fonder; despite my familiarity with the area, I still feel like an outsider. L.A. just doesn't feel like it is a part of me.

Except the mountains. The mountains here are part of my soul; something about the foothill chaparral just feels like home. It is not lush and verdant like the Pacific Northwest, but I love shuffling through the year-round thick oak duff with the dappled light filtering through their canopy above. And the the smell of the bay laurel brings back nostalgic memories of my youth.

Thursday I got to have my fun frolic, getting dropped off at Chantry Flats (elev 2,100 ft), running up to Sturtevant Camp and then going up to the summit of Mt. Wilson (5,700 ft). (I was planning to go up to Newcomb's Pass following the AC100 course, but that part of the trail was still closed from the Station fire. After summiting, I had 7.5 miles of quad searing descent down the old Mt. Wilson trail and two miles of road back to my in-laws house. 16.5 miles in about 3:25.

The dusting of snow on Mt. Wilson filled me with warmth and holiday cheer...or maybe that was the three Jagerbombs I did with my sister-in-law afterward. ;) Either way, it was a great last long run before Bandera in two weeks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Susie Home Maker

I've been playing stay-at-home Mom this week while Mac is off displaying his manliness by shooting water fowl. Mostly it has been pretty fun and I haven't visited the liquor cabinet at all!

Solo parenting does require some alterations in training, though. You see, if you put the kids to bed and then go out for a run, child protective services will be all over you. But if you put your kids to bed and then go run on the treadmill downstairs, you are Super Mom. It is a subtle - but very important- difference. So I've put in WAY too many TM miles this week, but it is not so bad since we are having highs in the 20's all week. Plus , the even surface is good for my ankle. The only real downside is that I couldn't get my long run above 13 miles. Complete insanity was starting to set in after watching my third episode of Cash Cab while toiling on the belt (no cable, so daytime TV options are limited). I guess I failed the mental toughness challenge presented by the "dread mill." But I did learn that the Beastie Boys hit "Brass Monkey" is about an alcoholic beverage made from orange juice and malt liquor, so I am much smarter for my efforts.

Cold enough that the pond and waterfall are still frozen in mid-afternoon.

My kids did a much better job than me at making the treadmill fun. However, I don't think you can count this as "time on your feet" training.

video

This was at 1.6 mph; when they got the speed up to 3.4 mph, I had to pull the plug (literally) for fear that they would launch themselves through the wall!

Mac got home tonight, so it is back outside tomorrow morning, but with a forecast for 18 degrees at 5 am, I may be thinking about the treadmill just a bit more fondly.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Win-Win Saturday

Today was the BIG DAY: the lottery for Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. But instead of sitting in front of my computer waiting for the next name to be drawn (which I admit, DID sound appealing, no that's not facetious), I headed out with some friends to the Shellburg Falls 10k (ish), a new trail run put on by runners from Salem. That's right, Salem - the armpit of Oregon's running scene, now has people putting on trail races! This was something I definitely wanted to support!



This morning was freezing, but the day was sunny and the trail was gorgeous. Just as the Shellburg Falls website says, this place was a hidden gem! Check-in was so much fun; I can't believe how many people I know when I go to these things now. Heck, it was better than a Holiday party. Plus we got to go for an awesome run afterwards.

This was a casual winter run and most people were taking it pretty easy. I wanted to run hard, but comfortable and just enjoy the day. Running behind a waterfall
makes it pretty easy to enjoy! I was able to run strong up the hill which made me feel good, because I don't always think I am a good hill runner, but I seem to be getting better. And the last couple of miles going back down just felt smooth like butter.

As soon as I crossed the finish, one of the Corvallis Trail Runners came up to me and told me I had gotten in to Western States. I immediately started jumping around and screaming and I had this irresistible need to hug the news-bearer, even though I really don't know him all that well. I was just so excited: I AM GOING TO WESTERN STATES! Most of the crowd looked at me funny, thinking I was a bit too exuberant for my finish in a low-key race.

I just kept telling anybody within earshot I got in, but as the lottery proceeded, the chances for the other Corvallis runners got worse and worse, and I had to reign in my emotions; somehow my excitement felt like bragging at that point and it no longer seemed appropriate.

My hubby sent me a super cute text, pretending like I had just gotten drafted:
"And for our 13th pick, the WS lottery chooses the reigning Oregon Trail Series Champion, from Salem, OR...Pam Smith!" So at least I got to gush profusely to him in my excitement.

But more surprising was a congratulatory call from my Mom before the lottery was even over. This is shocking because a) My mom believes long distance running is bad for you, and b) My mom sent her first e-mail this year, so following an on-line lottery is really pushing the limits of her technological skills. (yes, those are both true). Even though I know this is not her thing, it felt great to have her behind me.

All in all it was a great day for me: I got a nice plaque, a million dollar bill (the race prizes), and a spot to Western States!!!
I definitely feel badly for those who did not get in, because I know how crushed I would have been. I would be delighted to have anybody who had their heart set on running join me for the last part of the race. Let me know if you are interested in pacing - the job is currently vacant!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Big Pain In My ... Ankle

Ok, there's been way too much pablum about running sleeves on this blog lately. Time to get back to more important topics, like ME! ;)

I have been dealing with foot pain since Hundred in the Hood in late September. For the first few days, I believe it was my right peronus brevis giving me woe. In fact the pain at the base 5th metatarsal was so bad, I wondered if I had actually fractured it. But five days later, it was good as new. And when I started running again it didn't hurt at all. What did hurt was the inside of my right ankle. But I just kept running and it too went away only to be replaced by a mirrored injury on the left. Same injury, same treatment, right? So I just kept running, thinking it would go away in time, but it didn't. Once warmed up the pain subsides, so I could run on it okay, but after the run, it would hurt a lot.

Finally, I admitted it was time to do something different. So in the beginning of November I took eight days off - really OFF - no running or even cross training. But at the end of eight days, things didn't seem much better, so I did what any ultra-runner would do: I said, "Screw it!" and started running hard again. But I am certainly not ignoring the injury. This is my Plan of Attack:

1)Web-Based Learning: The first course in medical school is anatomy; it makes up the bulk of the first semester. The concepts involved are ridiculously simple, but the volume of info is over whelming as the student is challenged to learn all the muscles, origins, insertions, innervation, and blood supply along with all the other organs, bones and ligaments in the body. By the time we got to the last section - the lower leg - my brain was saturated. Plus, it never had its own exam, just 10% of the final, so I crammed just enough to get by. So my foot anatomy was tenuous to begin with and 15 years of disuse didn't help, so it was time to turn to the source of Knowledge of all things good and evil: the Internet! I've been brushing up on my anatomy these past few weeks.

2) Special Exercises: From the internet I got some special strengthening exercises. They hurt like Hell, so I figured they must be working. By the third day, I couldn't take it anymore so I went back to the internet. I think my original diagnosis of posterior tibialis tendonitis was wrong; now I think it is the anterior tibialis tendon. As much as I hate being wrong, this made me happy as PTT sounds catastrophic leading to foot collapse and tendon rupture, but ATT is basically just the tendon version of shin splints. This makes more sense, too, as I had those big goose eggs on my shins after HH. So I am walking on my heels some, but mostly I stooped the special exercises.

3) Shoe Inserts: A lot of the web stuff talks about orthotics for ankle tendonitis. I had orthotics made in the spring but never used them because my issue was drug related and not due to bad biomechanics. So I got out my orthotics. They blistered the arches of my feet so badly my skin looked like bubble wrap. I let them heal, taped my arches and tried again - more bubble wrap. So I put the othotics in my slippers for walking around the house and taped little foam arch support "cookies" in my shoes. Seems to help a bit.

4) No Cute Shoes: High heels are a no-no, so my cute shoes are all hibernating for the winter. Just flats and old lady clogs (Dansko's) for the time being. Oh the sacrifices for running!

5) Barefoot Running: It's not like I was looking to let out a primal scream as I tossed away my shoes to run like my Neanderthal predecessors, but it did seem pretty obvious that my foot tendons were my "weakest link. " So I was ready to buy into the hype and give it a go. The first day a half mile felt pretty good and I was encouraged. The second day a mile didn't seem all that wonderful. My third try was after some intense intervals. My ankle hurt like crazy when I took off my shoes to run. So I gave that up.

6) Seek Professional Help: Obviously, I have no idea what I am doing (see #1-5 above!), so at long last I have admitted defeat and called the physical therapist. I have an appointment Thursday.

Despite the pain (again, mostly after a run), I am running pretty well these days and even hit 70 mpw last week and am aiming for the same this week. So if the PT doesn't have the answer, I'll just continue with my awesome home remedies. ;) Also, let me know if you know the "cure" for anterior tibialis tendonitis, as I am obviously open to trying many different things.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Blog Angel Answers My Prayers - Sort Of

Monday I went running in my Moeben sleeves. That's right, I said Moeben, as in honest-to-God name brand technology (with a trademarked logo!).

You see, after my post last week, a munificent reader felt sorry for me and my pathetic sock-sleeves and sent me this overly kind e-mail:

Hi, Pam

Read your funny and useful blog post. I have 2 extra pairs of Moeben sleeves (plus six others) and I'd like you to have either one, I really do. One is a plain navy-blue, and one is white with HR100 logo. neither have been worn. It looks like white is a small size (what you might prefer) and blue is medium. Your pick. Shoot me your address - I can not possibly wear all of them in my life, and you deserve to look fast and furious, because you are!

Based on the final line, I could tell my blog angel had to be extremely hypoglycemic and not thinking straight, but I wasn't about to argue with an offer for free sleeves! This weekend my glorious nylon arm-tubes arrived.

Monday we had a beautiful sunny day here in Salem, but with a crisp chill in the air. It was pretty standard long-sleeve shirt running weather, but why would I wear a long sleeved shirt when I could sport my new ultra-cool accessories instead?? So I set off in a cute pink short-sleeved and the Moeben's for an easy 5 miler.

I wanted to love my new sleeves, but the thing is, I didn't. Mostly, I don't think the size was right rather than there being a fault with the product. The sleeves are a size small (what I would consider myself), but they seemed way too big. As I ran they would slink downward and bunch right above my elbow. Not only was it awkward but it tragically left my upper arm exposed to the cold, wind and mutilating winter UV-rays! Moeben does make extra-smalls, which would likely be a better fit for my extra-puny arms. But now I am back to wondering if it is really worth thirty-two dollars to find out...

***
I made my sock sleeves (the Benmo'es) last winter in all seriousness, but I knew they were crappy and lame at the time - that was the point. They were an invention of necessity for racing on a frigid day: how does one stay warm up to the start but shed the extra layers without worry when the gun goes off? By wearing worthless and ratty clothing that one can toss without thought onto the side of the road. That was the intended fate for the Benmo'es, but at the last minute, I decided it was TOO cold and I changed into a long-sleeve to wear the whole race. And so the Benmo'es survived.

Because they were small, I carried them in my pack as back up on a couple of cold spring runs and then I discovered they could be useful in conjunction with my work clothes. But my Benmoes didn't get any real face time, er um, arm time until this fall. I took them with me after twilight at Hundred in the Hood, but only wore them for a few miles because I was too hot. And then they had their real coming out on Halloween. But even that was more of a joke than seriousness.

But for joke or for serious, I am not alone. My running partner confessed to racing a half-marathon with sock sleeves, and I was passed at MacDonald Forest 50k by a chick wearing socks on her arms! So I am not the only one who has thought up the idea of home-made sleeves. The Moebens win the fashion prize hands down (arms down??), but in terms of functionality, the reality is the sock-sleeves and the Moebens are pretty much the same (in my experience; though, the sock sleeves would not be good for a hot day). And the sock sleeves are as budget friendly as you can get. And I still can't understand why it is such a big deal to take a long-sleeved shirt on and off.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving. May you be thankful for the things you have. Even a crappy pair of socks on your arms is better than nothing (on second thought, maybe not, but you get the idea.)

(A BIG THANK YOU to my "blog angel." I am grateful for your generosity. I think the Moeben sleeves will be perfect after a few thousand bicep curls.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Heart On My Sleeve

(Author's notes:I wrote this in March, with the intention of posting on April 1, but I didn't complete the "photo-journalism" part in time. Though tongue in cheek, there is really no "fooling", as this is all true. I post it for today because this gloomy Monday needs a little levity.)

The Sleeve Story
I have been running for 20 years or so, but as a recent convert to the world of ultra-running, I've been introduced to a whole new arena of running gear. There are hydration systems, electrolyte products, trail shoes, gaiters, GPS watches, and compression socks. But the product that fascinates me the most are Moeben Running Sleeves.

Leg warmers are a fashion relic of the 80's, and a complete faux-pas in the modern era. But arm warmers... well, arm warmers are sky-rocketing in popularity; they are all the rage. Racing in a sports bra (or singlet) and tiny shorts used to be the way to announce yourself as hard core, but these days you'd better be donning sleeves, too, if you want people to take notice. Stud Vibes just ooze from those nylon tubes. The sleeves shout: "I am hip! I am fast! and I am cool! - at least in my own mind!"

But beyond fashion, these sleeves are functional. One no longer has to make gut-wrenching critical decisions like "Should I wear a short sleeve shirt or a long sleeve shirt on my run today?" Nope, just take off in the short sleeve shirt - with your running sleeves, of course - and adjust as necessary! Save your brain power for other pressing dilemmas, like 'How will my training log be complete if my GPS loses signal?' or 'What should I use to wipe if nature calls in the woods?' Plus, each sleeve is equipped with a micro-pocket, which gives the ultra-runner a chance to employ those under-utilized bicept muscles for carrying extra gear. You could even stuff toilet paper in the pockets and you've just solved one of the above conundrums!

I would love to have a pair of sleeves, but with a price tag in excess of $30, it is an expense that is hard to justify. I mean, none of my running shirts cost that much and that was for the whole shirt, not just the sleeves. And there are already some pretty big expenses associated with running ultras, like buying shoes every 6 weeks, paying for entries, traveling to races, and getting marriage counseling.

So, like the well known Screw Shoes, I have come up with a budget friendly home solution. All you need is a pair of knee high socks and some scissors. Cut off each foot, and voila! - You have sleeves! If you are feeling especially wild, use argyle socks! I like to call the ensuing creation the Ben-mo'e Sleeves, because they've "been mo'e" than just sleeves, indeed, mine were my soccer socks for two seasons in the Portland adult league! Sadly, my soccer career had to end (due to complete lack of talent), but my socks have risen to new glory!
Everything you need for a budget friendly pair of arm warmers.

And my Ben-mo'e Sleeves aren't just reserved for running. They've helped me out of a pickle at work, too. You see, every day I have to look professional in a 65 degree environment. This seems to be a comfortable temperature for men with their high metabolic rates and middle aged women with their doughy insulation and hot-flashes, but for a skinny ultra-chick, these conditions are downright arctic! By wearing the sleeves as an extra layer, I can stay warm and look professional, too - a win/win situation!
Looking professional...
...while staying warm!

And so I encourage you to go out and get some sleeves. And if you can't afford the real ones, make your own!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Race And An Accidental 60 Miles

Last Sunday I did the McDonald Forest 15k. When I got home after the race, I sat down to blog but I just didn't have a Race Report in me. It was a 15k, not an ultra; I barely felt like I had even raced, it was so short! And even with a serious climb covering over two and a half miles, it seems pretty lame to claim, "I ran the entire thing." By virtue of turning 35 a few weeks ago and cushy 5-year age groups, I came home with a nice blue ceramic mug for my 71 minutes of effort, while the 3rd and 4th place ladies went home empty handed. Sorry ladies, but you've gotta respect your elders! I am happy to report that I did NOT get beaten by a 13 year old, as I had Bend phenom Piper McDonald hot on my heels in 6th place. I was also comfortably ahead of my hubby's 15k road PR (1:19). Hey, a girl has gotta have goals, you know! But most importantly, the race swept all of those cobwebs from my muscles, the ones that have been growing over the last month while "recovery" has kept me from dusting off my sinews. After the race I felt GOOD, which set me up nicely for an "accidental" 60 miles this week.

I arbitrarily set Nov. 15th as the date to get back into "training;" until then I am only running "socially." But this week I was quite a social butterfly! I ran with my peeps on Tuesday and Thursday morning (10 miles each morning), did Wednesday night with the running store crowd, and kept a friend from blowing off her run Friday night. But the real fun came on the weekend. On Saturday, I donned my Halloween finest for a fast 16 miles through Minto-Brown. A couple of other runners were wearing orange, but overall everyone was dressed like it was just another day in the park. What the hell, people? Why would you not want to run around Salem dressed as a fairy princess?? I am utterly baffled!

"Halloween finest" = clothing scavenged from my 4 year old's dress-up box!

And then today I joined the Corvallis trail runners on a glorious fall day for some leaf-kicking and mud-stomping back in McDonald Forest.
Who could pass up a run on a day like today??

So the cobwebs may be gone, but they've been replaced by general achiness. Mostly to be expected after four weeks all below 40 mpw, but my ankles (now both, not just the right) are still bugging me some. I am hoping that it is nothing a few 75 mile weeks won't cure. ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Honest Ultra Runner Mistake

Thursday I was taking a running survey and one of the questions was "In the distances you race, what are your most recent times?" The question was followed by a long list of race distances. Can you imagine my surprise when the one hundred mile race was right at the top?! Obviously, the surveyors wanted to honor the monumental feat of this race by placing it in the preeminent lead-off position on the list. How nice to finally give some well deserved recognition to the ultra crowd!

I quickly checked the top box and typed in "19:07" with pride swelling in my chest. But the feeling only lasted a nanosecond as the computer quickly rejected my accomplishment: "Invalid time".

INVALID TIME? Invalid time?!? Do you know how hard I worked for that time? But before I could give the hard drive a good smack, I re-scanned the race possibilities:

100m
200m
400m
800m

The list kept going, with a nearly exhaustive list of race possibilities, covering everything from 100 meters(!) to the marathon. There were no ultra-distances to be found. I had to chuckle, particularly given the computer's response to my entry. Was my time "invalid" or was it the time of an invalid at the 100 meter distance??

Ah, yes. I've got ultra-running on the brain and obviously saw what I wanted to see, but in reality ultra-running wasn't even on the survey's radar!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nike Let Down

Today is the Nike Women's Marathon, but don't try to find out what is happening, because their website is the WORST marathon website I have even seen. In fact, there doesn't even seem to be a page that is actually dedicated to the marathon itself. I can't find live following and their Twitter hasn't been updated since before the marathon started. And last year after the Who-Actually-Won? snafu it was near impossible to find the race results on their site (but maybe that was on purpose!).

Isn't Nike supposed to specialize in running technology??

The Aftermath Of One Hundred Miles

Two weeks of sloth and recovery just flew by. And now another has passed, too, making three weeks since I finished Hundred in the Hood

After the race I couldn't sleep at all. I was exhausted but wired at the same time. I painfully tossed and turned all night. As morning broke, I was finally getting sleepy...just as everyone else was getting up to start the day! I ended up sleeping most of the afternoon which threw my circadian rhythm and sleep cycles WAY off for the next few days. It didn't help that my body seemed to be begging for lots of extra unconscious hours either. And with my two favorite germ vectors back in school, I found myself battling a bad cold.

Fortunately, the dreadful muscle burning was noticeably better every day. During the latter stages of the race, my right knee bothered me on the uphills, and my shins, especially my left, throbbed on the downs. Not sure what the shin issue was, but I had two lovely goose eggs the next day!Two purple bumps and bruises on my shins, but they resolved quickly.

Mostly, though, I have recovered pretty well and I am getting back into running some again (I did 35 miles this week with four days of running). Oddly, my left knee has been kind of sore, but that is a minor issue. My big problem is my right foot: it is a mass of riotous and inflamed tendons. It started with a very sore peroneus brevis tendon, but the irritation seems to be contagious and now just about everything in my foot is sore. After a "long" run yesterday (just over 12 miles), it has been killing me. I will have to research rehab possibilities, plus I plan to order some new shoes, but I am fairly discouraged. I don't have anything planned for the rest of 2009, but I would certainly like to maintain good fitness going into 2010.

Ok, off to consult Dr. Google!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hundred in the Hood

Hundred in the Hood was the obvious and most convenient substitute for AC100, being just a week later and only a couple hours from home. As an added bonus, I was already familiar with about 50 miles of the course from the PCT50.

Packing lightly for the race. ;)
Before getting to the actual report, I have to first give a HUMONGOUS thanks to Dan and his wife Carol, who were there for me to crew and pace, but also for pampering me and taking care of so many of the details. They did all the shopping and meal prep, plus they brought a trailer so I had an awesome bed right at the starting line! And Dan kept me on track (and on trail) for the last 28 miles or so in the dark of the night, not only pacing me to a great finish, but completing his first ultra-marathon distance run as well!

The Report (which is almost as long as the race itself!):
My alarm at 3:45 didn't seem to be early enough; I was so anxious that I was up before it ever went off. I ate and drank, got dressed and headed to the start where there were some words in memory of Dave Terry before we headed off into the dark.

The only other time I have done much trail running in the dark was at Where's Waldo. Like a foreshadowing of everything else that would go wrong that day, I had tons of trouble with my light. I couldn't get it to stay at the angle that I wanted, and every few steps it would be illuminating my crotch instead of the trail ahead. So this time around I rigged my light with duct tape and a spool of thread. Not only did this work great, but I was immensely pleased with my MacGyver-like genius.;)
Just a mullet away from being MacGyver

The first part of the trail is extremely dusty. I did some minor panicking about asthma resurfacing, but I had been taking my heavy-duty inhaler prophylactically for the last seven days and I knew there was nothing else I could do about it at this point, so I just let it go and settled in behind Floren Ansley, who had a very comfortable pace going. I passed Floren after about an hour and then I just stayed smooth up to the turnaround at Frog Lake (14.2 miles), trying to just be slow and steady. I walked a few little uphills and tried to stay very slow on the downhills. I got to Frog Lake in about 20th place, first woman, but Shauna Wilskey was only seconds back and Floren was close, too.

After Frog Lake, the trail goes mostly down back to the start. About half-way between Frog Lake and Hwy 58 (mile 19.2) I got stung on the butt, through my shorts, by some greedy insect trying to get at the empty gel wrappers in my back pocket. Fortunately, I am not allergic so this was just a pain in the ass (haha) and nothing more. The rest of the return trip was pretty uneventful. With her superior downhill speed, Shauna passed me right after Hwy 58, when the trail really starts to descend.

When I got to Horse Camp (mile 28.2), I tried to give Dan my head light, but Olga was telling me I had to keep it on. I assured her I had another one on the course and tried to leave, but she stopped me and made me take my light. I wasn't aware of this rule and was a little peeved at the time. It wasn't even 9:45am yet and I was damn certain I could make it to mile 55 before dark. If I couldn't, I figured I didn't want to be on the course anyway! But I put my light back on and headed out.
Olga guards the PCT to keep light-less runners from passing

Shauna and I see-sawed a lot for the next 12 miles. She has more speed on the flats and the downhills, but I am just a little more tenacious on the climbs.

At Red Wolf Pass (mile 33) I caught up to my good friend Geoff Donovan and his bud Andre, who were both desperately searching for an Aid Station. Instead, there were just two very apologetic HAM radio operators who said the Aid Station crew hadn't shown up yet. They let us have at their case of bottled water, which held us over until Warm Springs (mile 38.5).

After mile 40, the trail heads down for several miles and Shauna put a gap on me that I couldn't close on the next climb. Plus after 40 miles my climbing tenacity had waned significantly and so I think I lost my uphill advantage. But I was still feeling pretty good and having a good time with Geoff and Andre, and even got a little trail time with Mark Tanaka over the next section.

Our merry group of four arrived all together at Pin Heads (44.4) around 12:30 to find Craig Thornley and his crew frantically setting up. They had been told to be there at 1:00 and so were not really expecting us yet, not to mention the ten or so runners who were there ahead of us! Craig Tells us to eat up, because the next aid is ten and a half miles away. (There was supposed to be water only midway at Lemiti, but for some reason they decided not to set that up).

We set off together, but after a few miles I somehow get a bit ahead. One other guy passes me, but mostly I am by myself. Nearing two hours since the last aid, I see a trail junction. The aid station at Olallie Meadows is the only place the course leaves the PCT. We were told this would be excessively marked, but there wasn't a course marking to be found. I even stopped to read the sign ("Judd Lake 1/4 mile") but we were looking for Olallie Lake Trail. I was really suspicious, but figured I must not quite be there yet. Thinking I was close to aid, it didn't bother me that I had just finished off both of my bottles.

I ran for another ten minutes and then started to worry. Even with conservative 5 mph estimates, I should have been there by now. Ten more minutes and I started to feel a little demoralized. I was by myself and without water, plus I was confused: Did I miss the aid station? have I not gotten there yet? Am I going to be disqualified?? (We were warned at the start that the 3/8ths mile out and back to the aid was required and we could not chose to bypass the aid station).

Finally, I decided I had to have missed the Olallie Meadows aid station. Not more than 5 minutes later my suspicions were confirmed when an Aid Station appeared with a sign stuck in the ground reading "Olallie Lake."

"What aid station is this?" I ask. Apparently, their sign was not serving its purpose. ;)
"This is Olallie lake, mile 58.6," one of the guys tells.
I am frantic: "I missed Olallie Meadows! Am I going to be disqualified?"
But they are reassuring me before I can even get the words out. "Don't worry, everyone has missed it so far. You won't be disqualified."
A gorgeous day at Olallie Lake

The trail out of Olallie Meadows Aid Station crosses one other trail before hitting the PCT. Apparently, the trail was excessively marked at this junction; however, being as it was in the wrong place, the trail marking didn't help us one bit with our navigation! Some of the front runners' crews finally figured out there was a problem and got things all fixed up. But it was too little, too late for the first 10 runners.

After eating and drinking for a few minutes to try to catch up, I head off on the last leg before the turn around. This section is the most different from anything else on the course. The trail is very rocky with big uneven boulder steps. It climbs and climbs until it crosses a very exposed, rocky mountain face with just a couple of scraggly trees trying to push the timberline boundary upward. My legs felt pretty good going up, but I was getting some complaints on the rough downhill sections. I got to Breitenbush Lake, mile 65, in 11:17 - two hours and 24 minutes faster than my Where's Waldo 100k time! Just goes to show you how important oxygen is to running!

At the out and back, I saw that Shauna was about 30 minutes ahead of me. When we passed each other it was pretty obvious we both knew I wouldn't be tracking her down, especially with the big net downhill on the way back. Likewise, Floren was at least 42 minutes behind me, and it was kind of a relief to know there wasn't going to be any racing for place. I didn't think I was doing too badly on the way back, but Geoff and Andre made up a seven minute deficit and were right back with me at Olallie Lake aid station, so I guess I really was struggling with that rocky downhill stuff.

The trail to Olallie Meadows (mile 75) was well marked this time, just where I thought it should have been. I struggled to eat some food there - no real GI issues, but nothing sounded good - and then Dan joined me for the last leg. Except for aid stations, we didn't see anybody else on the trail for the next 20 miles and I was super appreciative that I wasn't alone out there in the dark!
Olallie Meadows Aid Station - finally! (BTW - you know you dig my socks!)

We get to the base of the last climb, back up to Red Wolf, just before 17 hours and I start scheming: "Dan, if we can do this three mile climb in an hour, then we have one hour to do the last 4.9 miles to the finish to break 19 hours and finish before mid-night!" I start getting really excited by this prospect. "That'd be really good," I joked, "because I turn into a pumpkin at midnight." I knew the last 4.9 miles (at least that is what the website said) were the perfect runnable downhill grade, and that even after 95 miles, I could do it in a hour.

So we start huffing up the hill, mostly power hiking, but running any little bit possible, even if it is only a few steps. About 45 minutes later we see lights up ahead, and I think we must be approaching the last aid station. I have total focus on the new goal and my game face is on. I tell Dan: "I have enough gel to last to the finish and I can't really eat anyway. Take my water bottle, get it filled. I am going to run through without stopping and you can catch up." So Dan runs up to the lights, but I can see they are moving funny, and then Dan confirms with a yell: "Pam, its runners. We aren't there yet." When I catch up, I see it is Geoff and his pacer. Geoff doesn't exactly look like he is loving this climb, but he still sees the bright side, "Pam, we're going to break 20 hours!" I share the joy for a minute before moving on; I purposely don't tell him that I am now planning to break 19.

Ten minutes later we see the glow sticks heralding the approaching aid station. Dan and I execute our time saving plan and I run in with a little bit of attitude, yelling,"172, in and out!" I slow just enough to confirm the mileage: "4.9 miles to the finish?"

"No, only 4.5." My watch says 17:54. Sub-19 is in the bag!

We run and run and even though it is downhill I can't believe how well or how much we are running. Dan's Garmin says we are doing around 10 minute miles, but I have taken a few 30 second walk breaks, so I am still using 12 minute miles to make estimates in my head. 36 minutes later we see two glow sticks and a huge wave of emotion just hits me. Up until now the glow sticks mean you are close - real close - to the next stop, but this time we see they are just marking the trail after it crosses a road. We go 10 more minutes, 18:45, and we finally see another glow stick. But then that one is just hanging there with no real purpose. On it goes, with a tease of a glow stick every 1 or 2 minutes. WTF??! Where is the finish and why are there so many f*&@ing glow sticks?

I am getting frustrated, even with my most conservative estimates and using 4.9 miles, we should have been there by now. And to make matters worse, I fall twice in the span of about two minutes. "Dan, I am pushing too hard and I am not watching what I am doing because I keep looking for glow sticks. I have to take a break." Fortunately, Dan's thinking is not clouded by exhaustion and he very calmly says,"Keep going for the next few minutes. Don't give up until you pass 19 hours." It was 18:56, four minutes to go. He was right; I could keep pushing for four more minutes. It was one of the moments that stands out the best for me in the race, the point where I was reminded of my goal, and my focus and drive were totally centered.

It'd make for a nice Hollywood ending to say I crossed the line in 18:59, with only three seconds to spare, but that's not what happened. 19 hours came and went and the finish still wasn't in sight. I certainly gave it my all, but at that point, it was time for a new plan. I figured there wasn't much difference between 19:01 and 19:12 and so I decided it was time to just walk it in. Only when we turned 100 yards from the finish did I run again, and even that was more like the waddle of a crippled penguin. 19:07:21 -second female, 8th overall.

I got a few hugs and high fives, and a big squeeze from Olga. It felt great to be done and I was so proud. "Olga, you underestimated me!" was all I could say, as she had predicted a 21 hour finish for me. Certainly, I had underestimated myself as well!

After the the mini celebration was over, I had to get to the burning question: "How far was that last leg? Certainly not 4.5 miles!" No, 6.5 was more like it, straight from the RD's mouth! If I had known I wouldn't have pushed so hard, but then again, I feel pretty good about finding the strength for that effort, sub-19 or not!
A big smile at the finish line!

Despite the kinks, this was a great race and a great experience for my first 100 miler! Thank you Olga and Mike and all of the volunteers!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mission Accomplished

I finished my first 100 miler (or was that 102 miles?) this weekend, the Hundred in the Hood. I exceeded all of my hopes, finishing in 19:07, 2nd female and 8th overall. Full report to follow after I get some sleep...if I can make it up the stairs, that is.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FREAKIN' OUT!

OMG, OMG, OMG! 33 hours left to plan, pack, and PANIC!

After that, there is just a long, long way to run!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Six Days and Counting

Today should have been the finish of the AC100. Instead, I went for a six mile hilly run. At 8 o'clock in the morning I had a nice semi-circle of sweat soaking through my bra and I was thinking,"Man, it is hot already!" Yesterday would have been a long HOT day out there.

Today I got word that Angeles Crest was rescheduled for August 28th, 2010 and all of this year's entrants are in for next year. I can't say that I love that the race has been moved a month earlier - that should guarantee scorching heat for race day. How about moving the race a month later, huh? Why didn't anybody think of that?!? Personally, I think it is because Western States has had a couple of really hot years lately and the race directors want to make sure AC100 maintains its "Tougher Course" status. But if I was looking for an oven run, I'd sign up for Badwater - no, thank you!

My original goal for AC100 was "26 to 28 hours, but hopefully closer to the former." When I mentioned this to one of the AC100 race directors (hoping he could hook me up with a pacer), he was super polite, but he told me not to be "overly ambitious" or "set myself up for failure." The funny thing is, I thought that was a well-thought out and very conservative time. My formula included walking all 39 miles of uphill (3 mph = 13hrs, to me this was the most ambitious part), and running the rest (25,000' cumulative downhill in 62 miles!) at a mere 5 mph (12.4 hours), plus 30 minutes of stoppage/leeway = 25:50. (for a 28 hour finish the downhill running would be at 4.3 mph and still have a 30 minute "buffer").

So now I am left trying to figure out paces for Hundred in the Hood. The flatter and more runnable course actually scares me a bit more because it feels like it doesn't have the same built- in walk breaks. Hood100 just doesn't seem to lend itself as much to math formulas. And I feel like I have more uncertainty: How often will I need to walk? What running pace can I maintain for 100 miles? How detrimental will it be to not have a dedicated crew (like I would at AC100)? I would very much like to get under the 24 hour mark, but mostly, I feel like I am guessing. So I am planning for 22 hours, but saying "plus or minus two hours" in my mind - not exactly precise! Mostly, if I make it to the finish I'll be psyched.

Six days and counting...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taper Time in L.A.

AC100 was supposed to start at 5 am tomorrow morning. The forecast for the San Gabriel area on Saturday includes a high of 105! Sure, I was doing some heat training, but that still sounds WAY too hot to be a pleasant run in the mountains. That helps to dissipate my disappointment over the race's cancellation.

Even though the race isn't happening, we have still been in L.A. all week. I am not sure why, but for some reason vacations seem to be detrimental to my running. It should be the opposite; with nothing to do all day but run, it seems like I should have no problem getting my workouts done. But I am a girl of habit: I need schedules and order! So I had a few extra days off for things like my sister-in-laws wedding, Disneyland, and a long day with relatives. All in all, the cut backs probably are keeping in line with tapering, but I am glad I didn't have to do any major workouts this week.

Additionally, I am less inspired to run here because all of the great trails that are just minutes from my in-laws' house are all closed because of the fire (including Chantry Flats (mile 75ish of AC100), Mount Wilson trail, and Bailey Canyon). No use driving either - everything in the nearby towns are all closed, too. There's been a lot of speculation that the fire damage will be severe enough to keep the Angeles Crest Endurance Run from happening next year as well. It is so sad that somebody started the fire on purpose.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bouncing Back

I had a really tough time bouncing back from Where's Waldo. In fact, I don't think I bounced at all; more like I landed with a big squishy THUD. I was CRAZY sore - more sore than I think I have ever been. Usually, I say running an ultra leaves me less sore than a marathon. Even the PCT50 was a pretty easy recovery. But not Where's Waldo. I am not sure if it was the extra distance, the big climbs and descents, or the funny downhill shuffle-walk I adopted when I was having so much trouble running. Whatever it was, I hurt...badly.

Then my chest was still tight and I was coughing quite a bit. And I was pretty bummed out about my crappy race and new asthma diagnosis. Plus we headed to Iowa right after WW was over. For some reason I always have a harder time running when I am on vacation than when I am working and have a strict schedule. All this equates to a "Toilet Week" last week, where all the days were just flushed away! I had a lot of walking/time on my feet during that week, but my actual running mileage didn't even cross into the double digits!!
Feeling like Hell at the end of WW
(photo by Richard Bolt)

This week, I feel like I finally turned the corner and my sore, dead legs are finally coming around. I did 76 miles this week, which is a high mileage week for me, especially without a race. The mileage included a slow 17 mile trail run on Monday (3:01), a fast road 18 miles on Saturday in the pouring rain (2:22), and a strong follow-up effort Sunday (13 miles with 2x4 miles @ 6:58 pace (4 min rest), treadmill @ 1% incline - I had had enough rain on Saturday!).

Last Monday, I saw my allergy doc and got some new heavy duty inhalers and I haven't had any issues with breathing all week. Friday, I signed up for Hundred in the Hood (Sept. 26), so I have something concrete to focus on and I think that helps my mental state. And my awesome training partners volunteered to help out for the race and it so great to have their support (especially, because I know they think I am crazy!).

It's been slow, but finally, I feel like I am starting to BOUNCE.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Down In Flames

On Monday, my uncle (aka PCT77) sent me this picture taken from downtown Pasadena, the finish of the Angeles Crest 100 mile Endurance Run.

"Can they get it all cleaned up in 19 days?" was my response. My uncle wrote back all the reasons he thought AC100 would have to be canceled. About two hours later, I got word that Angeles Crest was indeed canceled for this year.

While the race had me scared out of my mind, I was also pretty excited for it. I was crushed when I found out the race was canceled. My cousin, who is not a runner (nor a particularly religious guy), had a different take: He thought this was a great example of devine intervention because I just got saved from Hell!

I am now left scrambling, trying to figure out what to do. I am not ready to call it quits for the season - I definitely don't want to end this year with the bitter taste of Where's Waldo still in my mouth. And I am still interested in trying my hand at the 100 mile distance. Hundred in the Hood seems like the most obvious choice (I'll have to resign from my volunteer post!), but I'm also going to look into options for October and November. I need to find something soon to replace my focus!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Choking Under Pressure - Literally!

Because of strong finishes at Peterson Ridge, MacDonald Forest, and especially the PCT50, I knew just about ANY finish time at Where's Waldo would cement the Oregon Trail Series victory for me. But winning the Oregon Trail Series is like being the biggest kid at the children's table. I was kind of hoping to have a good race and show that I was ready to move up to the adult table.

I started the race conservatively, walking almost all of the first climb and all of the steeper stuff on the way up Fuji. By the time I got to the first climb up twins, I was feeling pretty good and the grade wasn't too bad so I was able to run pretty much all of it. I caught up to Shauna Wilskey at the Twins Aid Station, but she put a little distance on me during the downhill.

I left the Charlton Lake Aid Station (mile 32.0, with more than half the race climbing already done) at 5:50, ten minutes ahead of what I had been hoping for. In my mind I budgeted 3:36 (including AS stops) to go the 17.4 miles to the base of Maiden Peak, 1 hour to climb Maiden, and around 90 minutes for the 9.4 downhill miles to the finish. I thought those were all reasonable, and so I figured if I held it together, I could sneak in right under 12:00. Of course, 100k is 25% longer than anything else I have ever run, so I decided I would consider anything under 12:15 a good effort. HA! I finally crossed the line in 13:41; I would have been ecstatic to have a 12:15!

Everything blew up about a mile before Road4920 Aid Station (Mile 37.2), around 6:30 in the race. Running through the sunny, exposed section, a feeling of complete exhaustion came over me. My heart rate went up; my breathing became more labored. I thought maybe I had pushed Twins too hard since I ran almost the whole thing, though it didn't seem like I was pushing too hard at the time. Or maybe the sun made me hot? I sponged down at the AS and put ice in my hat and started the run up the back side of Twins. The back side was just as runnable as the front, only this time I was walking all of the ups. I just felt so TIRED, like the effort was tremendous. I had a sense of I-don't-want-to-run beyond anything I have ever felt before.

At the Twins Aid Station I got lots of individual attention from a volunteer. We decided maybe I needed more electrolytes, since I hadn't taken any in over an hour, and my fingers were a bit puffy. I also thought maybe my normal fueling wasn't enough since this course was more physically demanding. Yes, we were definitely grabbing at straws, but I was just looking for something to perk me up! So I chowed a cup of salty Ramen, a pancake, some M&M's, 2 S-caps! and took a frozen juice bar for the road. It is all downhill leaving the Twins AS, but I walked while eating my juice bar, because I still just didn't feel like I had the energy to run, even downhill. Finally, my bar is gone and I have no excuses so I do my best at running. Soon the trail heads up to the base of Maiden Peak - all very runnable grade - but I use the uphill as an excuse to walk again.

I am actually relieved to have to climb Maiden Peak, because even when I was feeling good I knew I'd be walking almost this whole thing, so I didn't feel guilty to be walking it at that point. But, man, was I walking slow! And the effort feels like it is killing me. I actually stop to rest THREE times on the way up! The first rule of Ultra-running is: Always keep moving. What kind of runner just stands on the side of the trail?? But my heart rate was through the roof! I thought I was going to have a heart attack. And I just couldn't seem to catch my breath even though I was panting like crazy. I must have gotten passed by about five people going up this thing, and even though they commented about the steep climb, they were all motoring right up. I decided I must be one of those people who are very sensitive to altitude and I was having altitude sickness. It was supposed to be a one hour climb; it took me 1:19:45.

On the way down, I couldn't run at first, but that was because the trail was so rocky. Once I got to the dirt, though, I still couldn't run. Even though gravity should have been doing most of the work, my heart was still racing and my breathing was so hard. Well, I was still at altitude, I reasoned, so I must still be feeling the effects.

At the last Aid Station, I literally collapsed onto the table. Everyone there was great and so positive. They sponged me down, put icy spray on my legs, dug trash out of all my pockets, told me horrendous lies about looking good, and even poured me a frappuccino, but it did nothing to help my physical or mental state. I had 7.5 miles to go, nearly all downhill - which should have made for some very nice running even at the end of a 100k, but I couldn't get anything going. And I was so miserable and drained, I was suppressing tears the whole way. I would try to run, and make it about 50 seconds before I'd get so tired that I would start to feel unwell. And then I'd walk for about 5 minutes, before trying to run another 50 seconds. My goal was always to count to 100 (one one thousand...) while running. In that whole seven and a half miles, I never once made it to 100. Even when I was walking in and I could see the finish line, I was worried about how far out I could start picking it up in order to cross the finish line running and not have to stop before I actually got to the line.

After I finish, I still was just numb with exhaustion and a sense of malaise. And I was still breathing so hard. I changed my clothes and went to lay down in my car. I just didn't feel good at all. I stayed in the car for about 20 minutes, but my breathing was actually getting worse. I started coughing and then I developed audible wheezing - so at that point I reported to the medical tent.

Monica, one of the ski patrol medical team, got me all settled in and listened to my lungs. Her verdict: "They sound horrible!" My resting heart rate was still 100 (normally low 50's) an hour after finishing the race! If it was that high just laying in my car, you can image how high it was going up Maiden! And my pulse-ox (the percentage of your blood that is oxygenated) was down to 92% (normally 99%). 7% drop may not sound like much, but people usually need supplemental oxygen when it gets around 90%. 92% would definitely make me feel severely short of breath. Plus who knows if it was even lower while running.

"You're having a bad asthma attack," Monica tells me.
"But I don't have asthma," I argue. She wants to know if I have had anything like this before. Well, oh yeah, one of the bad things about my PCT race was that I developed a hacking cough, like an asthmatic would have (see "the bad#3). But that was after the race, it didn't affect my run. In retrospect, I spend the day after most ultras breathing pretty heavy, but I always thought that was because my body was tired and I needed extra oxygen to recover. (This post makes me think my reasoning isn't always so good, I mean, extra oxygen, altitude sickness, electrolyte imbalance??).

So just when I was starting to feel so great after solving the Claritin mystery, my running takes another medical hit.

I was a wreck when I got home, once again suppressing tears, babbling on about having such a horrible race; about feeling completely miserable and hating running for about 7 hours that day; about having a new chronic disease and who knows what that means; about being completely freaked out now about Angeles Crest because if I have an asthma attack there I know I am done; by how disappointed I was to not be a part of the race at the top (4th place was probably out of reach, but 5th place was 12:00 and 6th was 12:05. Even with a good day, there is still a good chance those two would have been ahead of me, but I like to think I would have at least been in the mix).

Leaving Waldo with my disappointing 9th place medal weighing heavily in my pocket (9th place ribbon color = black, so appropriate!), I was in such a foul mood, thinking I would never go back to that horrible race. But today my hysteria has abated some, and I can appreciate the race and the beauty of the course a bit more. Rather than running away, redemption seems a better option. Where's Waldo?? Well, next time I find him, I am planning to kick his ass, just like he kicked mine!

Until then, I'll still be sitting at the children's table.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is Trespassing OK For The Sake OF A Good Run

Okay, the obvious answer is NO, and I know that. But aren't there shades of trespassing, and maybe some aren't so bad?

For example, the city of Salem owns a dirt road that parallels the railroad track and one of the busiest streets in town. The road goes just under a mile and a half from downtown to Minto Brown Park, which is by far the best place in Salem to run. The first time I ran with the Governor's Cup group, I just blindly followed the guys onto this road and was delighted. This is pretty much part of the standard Saturday route. We aren't the only ones using it, as we usually see several other groups of runners on that stretch each weekend.

But if you were to pause for a minute as you run around the car barrier, you'd notice a posted sign: No Trespassing. I guess all the runners choose not to notice. The word around town is "The city doesn't care," which I take to mean "People don't ever get busted for being here." But really, what harm are we doing?? This is municipal property and we are citizens. We aren't tromping through somebody's private holdings. And we are otherwise a very law abiding group: we don't cause trouble, we don't litter, we don't even impact the flora and fauna!

With the attitude of "I am not hurting anything" I have added other trespasses to my running repertoire. One is another city dirt road, which is only about 200 yards long, by the city water station. Likely the No Trespassing edict is there to keep people away from the water supply, but I am not there to contaminate any water. That little stretch is the only way to get from the east side of Croissan Mountain to the west, which is good for making a long loop.

Another place I regularly go is a little trail, maybe only 3/8ths of a mile, that travels down a steep hill and also leads to Minto Brown. This doesn't exactly say No Trespassing, in fact, it used to be a public trail, but now a sign a both ends says "Trail Closed. Trecherous conditions." At the bottom there is a little part of the trail that has eroded and so is quite narrow, but I think it is a little bit over-dramatic to call it "trecherous." I have certainly never feared for my safety while running here.

And then there is the City View Cemetery. The cemetery is open to the public starting at 6am (summer) or 7am (winter), even on holidays. But sometimes (especially in the winter) our pre-dawn Tuesday/Thursday group gets there before the automobile gate is officially open. Of course, we stay on the roads. And so far, we haven't gotten any complaints from the residents. ;)

And what about private roads?? I've been wondering if those are okay to run on. If there are multiple houses on the road, how private is it really? Wouldn't it be ok to run on them?

As I said, I respect an individual's property. My trespasses seem so justifiable. I am just a harrier looking for a good run within the city; I am not a hooligan or a scofflaw...except...today I got busted on private property!

We live in a housing devolpment on the top of a hill. The south side of the hill is almost all forest. My neighbor owns many acres (25? 30? more?- not really sure) and has said we can walk on it. More than 100 acres is owned by a guy a couple of blocks away, who was the selling agent for our house, and who we know fairly well. Last weekend I got bold and jumped a gate into the forest. Right there - a quarter mile from my house! - was one of the best places to run in this city. The forest opens onto a poorly tended Christmas tree farm, with a road around the perimeter. The scenery is nice, it is very isolated, and there are fantastic views to the valley below (sadly it's just over a mile, but that is a lot of trail for Salem). That run was so nice, I went for a repeat today. Only this time I ran into a guy about my age in a truck. So I put on a cute smile, innocent look and dumbly say,"Hi. Is this your property?"


It was (well, actually his dad's, the real estate agent). I apologize, say I was looking for my neighbor's property because I had permission to be there. Well, he knows my neighbors and then we get to chatting for like 15 minutes because we have all these small world connections (because, duh, this is Salem) and everything ends fine and he says go ahead and run here today.

I plan to contact his dad and get official permission before heading out there again. And if he really says no, I won't do any more trespassing. Well, except for all the other places I need to trespass for good runs. ;)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Casualties of the PCT


The toenail casualty count was much higher than expected after the PCT50: 5 toes now sport gruesome empty beds (first two each foot, plus right 4th). I was thinking it was only going to be three. Longer race, bigger price, I guess. I am a bit disappointed because it is the first time I have lost toenails since getting a half size bigger shoe and wearing Drymax socks last December and I was kind of getting used to having ten toenails for once. I am in two weddings in the next month (with open toe shoes) and it is not going to be pretty! The girls' day pedicure appointment with my sister-in-law should be interesting, though.

On the bright side, my chances of losing toenails at Where's Waldo this weekend just went down fifty percent!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why I Am Not A Dog Person

I don't really like dogs, but I spend most of my time pretending I do. It's a Dog World out there and people who don't like dogs are viewed as strange, unloving or uptight, so I try to fake it, mostly in a way that requires me to have as little contact with dogs as possible. I am not really afraid of dogs, they just seem big and hairy and smelly and messy and way too much work. Frankly, I just don't see the point.

And then there are days like today, when dogs become more than just a nuisance but a major pain in the neck.

Last week when my parents came to visit, my mom brought a map of Salem. The map seemed to have a lot of errors; namely, the map had country roads where I am pretty sure none exist. It was like the map tried to anticipate future roads, but many of them never came to fruition - like the housing development down the street that got denied, but still made it on to the map. So when the map showed a little country road by our house (which I assumed was a dead end) going through to the main road, I was skeptical. But I figured it didn't hurt to check it out.

The road did dead end at a very nice house with two HUGE yellow labs sitting on the grass. They looked friendly enough, but I made an about face as soon as I spied them. Well, they come tearing after me and start jumping all over me. I drop my water bottle and one of them grabs it and runs off. I keep walking slowly down the road and the other dog falls along beside me, no longer "attacking" me with his "friendly" nature. So I walk back up to the house and the first dog is having a great time with my water bottle. I get the attention of the owner in the living room, who gets the bottle back and assures me the dogs are "very friendly." Fantastic, Buddy, but they still scared the crap out of me and ruined my water bottle.

Nice try Friendly Dogs, but you failed to win me over.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My First 50 Miler

The Good:
1. The Race Plan: I just felt like I ran a good, smart race. I had a very conservative start, and still felt relatively strong at the end. I definitely slowed down some in the last 22 miles, but I think I did so well because I was able to keep running for almost the entire way, with the exception of about one steep mile.

2. Troubleshooting: My stomach felt off from very early on. I just remember reading one of the signs of hyponatremia is a stomach that won't empty. I wouldn't have thought it'd be a problem that early since I was drinking sports beverage, eating solids and gels and it was still relatively cool. But I couldn't think why else my stomach would feel so full. So I took 2 S-caps! 45 minutes later, I had emptied my water bottle, but I still felt the same so I took 2 more S-caps! This felt a lot like disobeying the warning on the Ibuprofen bottle, you know the one that says,"Do not take more than six tablets in a 24 hour period without consulting a doctor." I also didn't drink much over the next section, but by the next AS, it seemed like all was good and I even chugged a big cup of ginger ale before heading out.

3. My Loving Husband: I gotta give him big thanks for putting up with my running neurosis. This time was especially hard because he had to take care of the kids in a campground. He's a pretty supportive guy, even though he does a lot of eye rolling when I talk about ultras and despite admitting that when he saw me and Erin (who ended up second), he thought she was definitely going to pass me back and win the race!

4. Camping Before the Race: Several people warned me that this was a bad idea, but I thought it was fun. It was a little challenging with the kids, but I still got a good night's sleep and it felt like the race was more of a weekend get away than just the usual show up, run, and leave routine.

5. Heed: Despite my salt issues, I really liked this beverage, mostly because it wasn't very sweet but it still had more flavor than water.

The Bad:
1. "Wonky" Stomach: I pride myself on an iron stomach so I really didn't like that I had some issues. Fortunately, I was keeping everything down and the problem seemed to resolve after a little intervention.

2. Camping after an Ultra: As much as I liked camping before the ultra, I wasn't so fond of it the second night. There were no showers and a washrag and soap only goes so far! Plus I wanted a soft bed and more milk (we ran out after my second glass - who knew I'd be craving milk?). And dealing with the kids at the campground took a bit more energy than I had after 50 miles.

3. Hacky Cough: I had a dry cough for a few days that felt like what I would imagine asthma to feel like. Too much dust inhalation?? I don't know, but I didn't like it.

4. Nuun: The fizz in this was just all wrong. I am not a fan.

5. Left Shoulder: This was actually my biggest pain after the race; it felt like I had some bursitis or something. I am feeling a lot more comfortable carrying a water bottle, but I am sure I tense up that shoulder too much.

6. Men's Shorts: One of the prizes for the ladies race was a pair of men's shorts!! I hate to be critical of free stuff and I am super grateful to the race directors for putting on such a great race, but this prize is a bit odd!

The Ugly: Unfortunately, it looks like three of my toenails are going to be casualties of this race. My feet are not going to be pretty when they fall off!



Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Stage Victory for Lance

Holy Effin' Crap! My head is spinning from this weekend's race, The Pacific Crest 50 miler! (The video has nothing to do with running; it is just a special bonus!) Things have certainly been up and down for me over the last couple of months, but Saturday ended up on a very high note, with a victory in the women's race (7:42) and 4th place overall.

We headed out to Clackamas Lake campground very early on Friday because we had failed to secure a reservation and so we were vying for one of the first come first serve spots, which definitely added a layer of stress to the trip. Fortunately, we had no problems getting a site.

The kids took to camp activities readily, which meant they were filthy in about five minutes! We spent the day hanging out at Timothy Lake. Megan did some serious splashing/swimming, but I just put my big toe in and hoped that neither of my kids fell in because I did not want to jump into that icy water! We also walked around the campground a bit and did lots of snacking and eating of camp food. I did get a big plate of spaghetti for dinner, but my pre-race carbo loading also included a Pop-tart and two s'mores (Liam didn't like his and I couldn't let it go to waste!) Not exactly the best diet plan!

By bedtime we had about four days' worth of caked on dirt, sunscreen, bug spray and general filth, though we had only been there about ten hours! I did get to bed super early since the kids were exhausted. Good thing, too, because both kids woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to sleep with us; I sent them to cuddle with Daddy!

Saturday was race day and my plan was simple: Take the northbound 28 mile out-and-back as easy as possible and the 22 mile southbound out-and-back as hard as possible and hope they were about the same pace. So I started slow and didn't worry about who was in front of me, though I won't say I didn't notice that there were three ladies on the trail ahead of me. ;) Things were very dusty but otherwise pretty easy into the first AS at 6.1 miles, where the lead girls were two minutes out in front.

The next section I ran mostly with Mike from Portland. We talked quite a bit and I always enjoy that, especially early in the race. Mike is an Ironman triathlete, hoping to run a 2:50 marathon this fall and his goal for the day was 9-9:30. Hmmm...I am only a 3:10 marathoner and I was hoping to run sub 8:00 for the day. The math seemed so far off, I didn't even admit my goal for the day to Mike! He told me I should go get the ladies ahead of me because they were only a couple of minutes up. I made a big joke comparing the Oregon Trail Series to the Tour de France, saying that my main goal for the year was to win the OTS, and to do that I just need to have four solid races, I don't need to win any of the "stages" outright. So I stayed behind him easy up the hills, but when he stumbled, I took the lead and picked it up just a bit on the flat. We came upon the third place girl at the base of the steepest hill on the north section. She asked if I wanted to pass, but I said no. She slowed down a lot on the uphill to the point that I could keep up with her by walking. Either it got too steep or she noticed me walking, so she started to walk, too. Well at that point, I felt I needed to pass, but I think she was a little put off that I told her I wasn't going to pass and then sixty seconds later, I was asking to go by!

I was running pretty well at this point, but starting pretty early in the day my stomach just felt slosh-y and overly full. I was eating fine and I didn't fell nauseated, but it still just didn't feel right.

At the turn around (mile 14.2) the two lead ladies were right together and still just two minutes ahead. After the next AS (19.2 miles), I caught up with Denise and one other guy she was running with and I hung with them for the next 2+ miles or so till we got to the next AS (mile 22.4) . I filled my bottle, grabbed some cookies and then turned to Denise and said, "Are you ready? Let's go!" I took off running, but I guess she wasn't ready because almost immediately, I noticed that she wasn't behind me. That was the last time I ran with anybody all day.

During the next section, my stomach was so full, I just did not want to drink anymore. I still didn't really feel bad and I could run OK, but I just felt my stomach was stretched to its max. I ended up taking 4 S-caps! in this section over a span of 45 minutes. Egads! But with the heat I knew I was done if I couldn't keep hydrated. It was a gamble to take a salt O.D. but it seemed to work out and my stomach gradually got better.

With a mile or so of trail left till we got back to the start, I spied the first place girl. When I caught up to her, I hung back about 50 yards and just stuck to her pace, till we hit the road and then I finally passed her for the lead coming into AS6 right at the start/finish (28.4 miles = 4:11).

This AS threw me for a bit of a loop, because it was right on the road and I was expecting it to be up the driveway another 200 yards or so where the start finish was and where I had left my BAG! This was a bit of a problem because there were no gels on the course and I only had one left on me, but at that point I wasn't going out of my way to get the ones from my bag either!

I was in and out of there fast and then down the trail. When the trail crossed the campground road, so did I. I mean, this is a trail race, right? I head down the trail but after a couple of minutes I realize the trail is heading into the campground and away from where I think the PCT should be, so I asked some campers if they had seen any runners and they looked at me as if I had asked them if they had seen any dancing green leprechauns, so I quickly make a 180 and head back the other way. I later learned all of the top 8 or so runners made this little detour. By the time I got back to the road (where I was supposed to turn), it looks like people have started to figure out there is a problem and they are adding more course markings. So I head up the road and have to pass the same girl again, and I had already exhausted all my pleasantries! I asked her how she was doing, she said she was good except "her ass was a little sore." I told her I felt good except that my stomach was "a little wonky". WONKY?!? Who talks like that? Obviously, my brain was a little wonky!

The next 10.5 miles were pretty much equal thirds (or so it felt) of up, down, and up (with down, up, down on the way back). I was running kind of scared because I had just given up a four minute lead, so I pretty much kept running the whole first up until getting to Red Wolf AS (mile 32.5). Caroline Klug was manning the station, and I think she's got to be my favorite cheerleader. She gets all excited and tells me, "John Ticer just came through here a couple minutes ago! He's the course record holder! You could chick Ticer!!" I tell her I don't care about chicking Ticer, I am just trying to make sure nobody chicks me!

The next section is awesome, with lots of "groping" ferns and then the last part is a decent climb to the turn around. I get there and the ladies tell me I am in 4th. I am practically arguing with them telling them they are wrong, even though I have only seen 3 guys go back the other way. But there are two other guys I KNOW were ahead of me and I haven't seen them. I later learned they took a detour also, only it took them a bit longer to get turned around, so I got ahead of them without ever actually passing them. On the way back I see the second place woman and she is 13 minutes back and all the sudden it hits me: OH MY GOD! I am going to win this thing!

The way back was fun because I got to see all the people coming the other way. After a couple of miles somebody yells to me, "Go Chick Ticer. He's just up ahead." Apparently, people would really like to see Ticer get chicked! I caught a glimpse of him on the steep uphill section - the only real walking I did all day (Ticer was walking, too!), but once it leveled off, Ticer was out of there and I never saw him again, till the food line after the race, where he was once again just a little bit ahead of me!

Also, on the way back I saw Mike, who yells at me, "Hey Lance, it looks like you are going to get the stage win after all!" That was very sweet and it made me smile. When I crossed the line I got to celebrate with a big hug from Olga and then a few more hugs from the family. What a day!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

These Are Your Legs...And These Are Your Legs On Drugs

I had a horrible June, particularly when it comes to running. After Western States Camp, I just didn't seem to be able to run. I wasn't really sore, it was just that my legs seemed to not want to go. There was no power there at all. Even climbing stairs made my legs quiver. And once, I tried to go up stairs carrying my 25 pound son and I nearly fell over at the top. When I did try to run, an easy pace felt monumental; a hard pace made me light headed a gave me a general sense of unease. I would get dizzy and my heart would be racing. Hills were out of the question. I was also pretty crabby and depressed, which was probably harder on my hubby than on me!

The first week and then even the second, I just accepted this as fatigue. At the end of two weeks I still couldn't run any better - not even the tiniest improvement. So I took three days off. That turned into a week when I still couldn't seem to climb a flight of stairs normally. Finally, I went to the doctor.

My doctor is a marathoner, who even did Boston a few years back, and I was happy to be seeing someone who could relate to a runner. But she was definitely of the marathon mentality and not in sync with the ultra-runner mindset. When I told her I did a 55k on April 5th, another April 25th, then a tough 50k on May 9th, followed by a one hour track race and then 74 miles in 3 days, she was floored. She couldn't believe someone would run that much. But it didn't seem like that much to me. In fact, I still have that lingering wimp feeling for not doing the 50 miler. She was certain I was just tired and that I had a lot of microfiber damage in my legs. She did a bunch of lab work and an EKG, which all showed me to be in good shape, so she was sure she was right. She had me convinced, too. And so I followed her advice: no more than 3 miles per day for a week and then go see a physical therapist.

The physical therapist had me do all kinds of things: walking across the room, leg strength testing, core strength testing, and flexibility testing. Her diagnosis: Extremely tight and shortened iliopsoas muscles coupled with under developed inner quads. She gave me a couple of stretches for my iliopsoas and some exercises for my inner quads. But the best part was she told me I could run whatever I wanted, including speed work and distance.

I went straight to the gym, did my stretches and got on the treadmill. I felt great! I ran 6 miles including a 7:30 mile, a 7:00 mile, and a 3:15 half just to test myself. Easy-peasy-Japaneesy, this was a snap. I thought the PT was a genius if she could fix me with 5 minutes of stretching.

I had two more good days and then, Wham! back to dead legs. I didn't get it. I was doing my stretching religiously and the quad work, too. Had I just tired myself from running fairly hard the last two days? It just didn't seem right.

To make matters worse, my head felt off most of the month. I have severe seasonal allegies to grass and June is grass season in Oregon! I was pretty sure it was Claritin that made me feel off and so I stopped taking it at the end of June, but somebody at work commented that I seemed rather sniffle-ly, so I started it up again.

When I had been complaining about my problem to a friend, he asked if I was on any beta-blockers or cholesterol drugs. "Those can really affect exercise," he told me. I knew that, but I wasn't on those drugs. But then it clicked: I started taking Claritin right around the time of Western States Camp. The days I felt good, I hadn't been taking it for a while. The days I felt like crap, I had taken Claritin.

So I did some research. Muscle weakness (and dizzyness!) is one of the top three side effects. Additionally, Claritin is supposed to be an anti-histamine, but it can have anti-cholinergic effects as well. That means it can block the neurotransmitters that cause your muscles to fire.

I have been off Claritin for about ten days and I have been feeling great. It wasn't a gradual recovery; it was as if someone flipped a switch. I truly believe my woes were Claritin related, but I almost need to believe it, too, because it gives me a concrete reason for my bad month. Plus, I really hated feeling like I had done this to myself or that my body couldn't handle what I put it through or that my training wasn't good enough. Blaming Claritin restores my confidence and I like that.

Unfortunately, this whole thing kind of ruined my plan of training hard in June. My build up to PCT50 boils down to four weeks. Well, it is what it is. Also, I have a referral to an allergist, and I am hoping to get the desensitizing shots to make my allegies (and the meds!) a thing of the past!

Monday, June 22, 2009

What I Really Learnded at Western States Camp


The last three weeks have been awful for me. The week after WS, my legs were like Jell-O. I told myself that was to be expected. But a week later, things weren't better. My quads had no power, I couldn't do speed, and my thighs would be quivering blobs after about 40 minutes. So I took a few days off, then did 8.5 miles with my brother-in-law on a fairly flat paved road and my leg were stiff and leaden the last 2.5 miles. It was so bad, I actually made a doctor's appointment. Excluding OB stuff, that is my first one this century! The good news is that I am healthy as a horse. My hematocrit, iron and protein levels are all about as good as it gets, which is encouraging as a vegetarian - at least I am getting my diet right! And I had a moment of pride when the EKG flagged my test as "sinus bradycardia" (slow heart rate). The downside to being healthy is there is nothing to blame, and no quick fix.

After talking with my doc (herself a BQ marathoner), we came to the conclusion that I just "trashed my quads" - really ripped up the muscle fibers big time with a lot of lingering muscle injury. Hmmm - it seems like a pretty bone-headed thing to do, especially when I was running so well. I don't think the mileage was really the problem at camp, but all the altitude, especially those quad trashing descents - not to mention I probably pushed myself a bit too hard all three days and my downhill technique could use a lot of work!

So what I really learned:
1) Train on the downhills: I have been doing "hill work" the last couple of months, some of it running and some of it hiking, but it is always UP! A lot of the workouts I do on the treadmill, so I never have to go back down. Time to reverse that and get these quads in shape!

2) Take it easy: I did the 74 miles at WS camp at a pretty good pace (14:08 total time, including all stops except the river dip), faster than I would ever expect to race that course. I am sure I could have gone slower and gotten the same value out of the training (maybe even more if I had spared my muscles!). Also, my recovery runs probably need to slow down a bit, too, after talking to a few people about this.

3) Mental energy is everything: Not going to lie, I've been pretty bummed out. I thought I had a pretty good plan for the year: Do 50k's and other short stuff early on, train hard and ramp up the miles in May, June and July to be ready for the long stuff at the end of the year (PCT50, WW100K, and AC100) and then recover/reassess through the winter. At one point in the last week, I was ready to cancel all three of those races! But I finally sat down and thought about what I could be doing. It seemed like there was still plenty of things I could do to help my fitness, plus it was good to remind myself that there are still five weeks till PCT50 and 3 months to AC100.

4) Running Slow is Hard!: Accolades always go to the fast guys and girls, but I think the slow runners deserve a lot more credit! Running at a slow pace adds a lot more time to my workouts. Being stuck at 10min/mile pace on the treadmill has certainly got me thinking about what changes I would have to make if I end up needing to run races slower than expected. In a nutshell: more time, more food, more water, more planning! Just think: if you run a 100 miler in 18 hours, you still have time to get in a hot shower, a good meal and a nice nap before the day is over. No such luxury for the 30 hour runners! Hats off to those at the back of the pack!

So this week has been a lot of very slow three mile runs, some light lifting and lots of stretching. I am hoping by this weekend, I can go "long" which by that I mean something like 8 or 10 miles. That's the distance that used to be my easy Tuesday and Thursday runs with the girls! After that those little muscle fibers will have had 4 weeks to regrow and I'll have four more weeks to get them in shape for PCT50. I'll admit I was hoping for a top 3 finish, but at this point I'll be pretty happy just to finish...and still have working quads at the end!