Monday, December 31, 2012

Two Week Training Plan

Lots of people like to post their training logs on-line. So in that vein, here are my two weeks following Desert Solstice:

Sunday, Dec. 16- Drove through McDonald's for two hash browns, which I ate during the final hour of Desert Solstice, watching the hard core 24 hour runners. Then I laid in bed watching Crossfit game reruns for the next 12 hours.

Monday, Dec. 17- walked 25 minutes through the rental car lot and airport. Almost got shoved down the back stairs of a plane by a septuagenarian couple annoyed by my slowness.

Tuesday, Dec 18 - I took the stairs up to the second floor at work. It felt like a Herculean accomplishment. I took the elevator back down in the evening, because I could not face the stairs again.

Wednesday, Dec 19- I concentrated on nutrition by drinking two big glasses of eggnog. Have you ever looked at the nutritional info for that stuff? It is like liquid obesity! Mmmm, perfect for calorie replacement.

Thursday, Dec 20- Bike 12 miles. Our 5 am run group likes to play Santa's Helpers around Christmas, delivering goodies to all the good little runner girls and boys in Salem. I wasn't up for the run, but didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I biked along. This was pretty much the worst rain storm we have ever been out in. (We are pretty tough, but if it is totally pouring we bail. But we didn't have a back up delivery plan, so we headed out). Dennis and Steph were two tough little elves, covering 17+ miles, but I bailed early because I was frozen solid and water was sloshing in my shoes. I took a 30 minute hot bath when I got home and then was worthless the rest of the day.

Friday, Dec 21- Rollerskating 2 hours with the kids, while Mac was at the Crossfit Christmas party with another woman. Hmmm, does that sound weird?? At the skating rink, I was checking out the other moms, and I have to say, I may have some talent for gliding around on wheeled shoes!

Sat, Dec 22- I went to a Christmas party WITH my husband. Crazy stuff, I know. I ate way too much, but didn't drink much - didn't want to exacerbate any dehydration!

Sun, Dec 23- More airport walking; feeling pretty spritely on the jetway!

Mon, Dec 24- Christmas Eve with Mac's family, so I drank A LOT. One of the best Christmas Eve's with his family that I can remember. (I think there is only one I don't really remember and that was in my much younger days!)

Tue, Dec 25- Christmas. Worked up a sweat crumpling up all the used wrapping paper.

Wed, Dec 26 - Kicked butt at Ticket To Ride and Qwirkle. You think I am competitive when I run?? You should see me playing games with my family!

Thursday, Dec. 27 - More food, more games!

Fri, Dec 28 - 3 mile hike in the Glendora foothills with the family. This took us about an hour an a half but still nice to get out, especially because it was so nice out. Only Mac and Megan actually summited above Alosta canyon, because Liam had a major meltdown with about 200 yards to go.

Sat, Dec 29 - 16 miles. Two weeks later, I finally got out for a run. But this one was worth waiting for. I joined the So Cal Coyote Running Group on the Ray Miller trail for some great views of the Pacific. My quads felt great, but I was disappointed in how stiff and tight I was in my hips, hamstrings and ankles.

Ok, obviously, this is not a training log. The last two weeks were all about recovery and much needed time off, as promised. I have some tightness, but otherwise things are coming along well and I am ready to jump into the new year. However, I am just stunned by how many competitors from Desert Solstice are back just two weeks later tackling Across the Years. WTH are these people made of?? And more importantly, how the heck do they recover so fast? I am lucky that I haven't had any major injuries (knock on wood!), but I do seem to be slow to recover. I realize sitting on my butt for two weeks is not the optimal recovery strategy, but it was nice to have some down time and to be able to enjoy the holidays without worrying about getting runs in. But if you have any recovery secrets, please share!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post Race Highs and Lows

Following Desert Solstice I was physically wrecked. But the "runner's high" after a hundred miler is intense. For three days, I was on top the world; I was in Happy Land. It was more than just the good results; it was the endorphins coursing through my veins. The only thing keeping me from dancing Gangnam style in my kitchen was the muscle soreness.

Early in the week I felt like this
By Thursday, the soreness had abated. But so too had the adrenaline, and fatigue set in. Climbing stairs felt like I had cinderblocks dragging me down. Staying awake at work became a task in and of itself. And why do you have to lift your arms so high to wash your hair??

By Thursday, I felt more like this

In those days, the true run addiction rears its head. Certainly, that is no surprise to anyone - we all know those crazy ultrarunners are addicts anyway. It is not actually the high I was seeking to get back to, but just a way to get past the low. And so Friday, I was all over the internet. "Hey, I never considered Rocky Raccoon." "Hmmm, I wonder if I could get in to American River?" And, "Did you know there is another 24 hour track race in April?"

But time off is doing me well, and slowly plans for 2013 are starting to take shape.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tramp Stamps and Bongs - My Run at Desert Solstice 24 Hr

Before this weekend I had completed four 100 milers, and while the times may have gotten better, I would have to say the execution and overall performance was worse with each year, culminating in this year's 28:58 grand fiasco at Western States. I feel like I should be good at 100 miles, as I generally get better as the distance goes up, I think strategy is one of my strengths, and I do pretty well eating on the run (ie. I am not a puker). But obviously, I still had a lot to learn. So I decided I needed an "easy" 100 miler to practice. I considered Javelina, but ultimately, I decided to run the Desert Solstice 24 hour race in Phoenix, AZ. I know even most of the passionate ultra-runners would view this as complete insanity, but to me, it was running at it's purest form - just me, the distance and the clock. No mountains, no technical footwork, no headlights, no altitude, no limits on food and water access...and no excuses! The track had the added bonus of being eligible for some non-standard distance records and I will admit my original goal was actually to go after the 200km American record.

One challenge that I was not anticipating was the weather. I would estimate it was wet for at least half the time I was running and some of it was serious down pours. At one point I had to change my (waterproof Gortex) rain jacket because I had water sloshing inside of the sleeves. And while I may not be the first to figure out the problem, I do learn from my mistakes. After my hypothermia at WS this year, I was super diligent about adding layers and keeping a jacket on. It may have taken a few extra seconds, but I know it was crucial, particularly after watching Ian Sharman struggle mightily with the cold and ultimately drop.

Desert Solstice is an "elite" invitational, with qualifying standards to get in. I got in with my 100k time, but everyone else qualified with a 100 mile or 24 hour result - I definitely felt like the only kid on the short bus on the starting line of this race. The gun went off and I quickly settled into 8:10-8:15 pace, despite a race plan that said I would NOT run any mile faster than 8:28. I kept trying to run behind some of the more practiced runners to keep my pace down, but invariably they would stop to use the bathroom or get something to eat, and then I'd be off on my own, cranking off laps too fast again. After 50 miles (6:59:17), I figured it was time to scrap my pre-race plans. So I concocted a new plan: Hold on as much as possible for 100 miles to aim for a sub-15, then drop down to a casual walk-jog 14 minute/mile pace for 24.5 miles, for a sub-21 hour 200k time, easily under the 21:07 record. Two birds, one stone - the plan was brilliant! Well, at least to my 200 lap dizzy and rain soaked brain, it was.

I was super fortunate to have my awesome sister-in-law Alessandra with me for this race. She is fun, a passionate sports fan, and in the service industry, so I knew she had lots of experience dealing with demanding and cranky customers. She and I worked out a great system where I would tell her what I would need on one lap and then get it from her on the next. Everyone else kept stopping at the food tables, but I never even broke stride. This definitely helped with my efficiency and I am so grateful to her for being there. Aside from port-a-pottie visits (3), I only stopped once the whole run. Unfortunately, that was a costly stop. Right after the 100k mark (8:44), I knew I had a bad hot spot on my left foot, not surprising since one of the curves was a sloppy mess when it was raining and my feet were soaked. So I told Al to get a bandage and a chair ready, I was coming in next lap.

She was all set up for me, and I started to take off my shoe and sock. But to get my ankle length sock off, I had to take off my timing chip, which I set next to me. Three types of bandages later, I had struck out trying to get anything to stick to my damp, raisinoid foot. A guy gave me some cream, but by that time my sock was practically off and I decided to change it to a dry one, so Alessandra got me a new one from my bag. Sock on, shoe on, ready to go, I just need my timing chip. Where the eff is my timing chip??

We start moving everything in the tent and we canot find it. We dump the food bags, look in every pocket - it is gone. WTF?? I tried to stay calm but I was internally freaking out, and I started saying things like, "I have to get out of here. I need to start running again. What am I going to do?", the pitch in my voice continually getting higher. Thankfully, Nick Coury's dad was there crewing for him and knowledgable enough to say they could manually record my laps or get me a new chip, so finally, I got out of there again. Lap split- 10:25! Ugg- are you kidding me?? (to be fair, 2:20 of that was run time and probably 3 minutes for the sock change, but that is still 5 minutes of waste, plus without the weather, no way would I be taking off my shoes!). The next lap, they got me a new chip. Five laps later, Alessandra found my original (black) chip, inside my clothing bag velcro-ed to a black hat that must have gotten tossed around when we looked for new socks. I switched back to my original chip so I could get TV screen updates on my laps again, and then just started ticking off the laps again, though noticeably slowing as time wore on.

People continually talk about hardening your quads for the mountain races. Why don't people say this for the road(track) races? I couldn't believe how sore my quads were getting, plus hamstring, hip, and IT band tightness - things that don't usually bother me too much in a trail race. No doubt about it, those hard surfaces are tough on the body and after 75 miles it added up, but I was still in the 9:30-9:40 range for almost all my miles and I was just counting down laps. If I stayed under 10 minute pace, I'd be under 14:54. I had this! 20 laps to go, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15. It was going so well! 14 laps to go...

"Pam, you need to pick it up a little bit if you want to break 15 hours," the timing tent informed me. "You need to be around 2:20 per lap." (9:20 pace)

WHAT!!?? I had 39 minutes to do 14 laps, and I hadn't run a single mile slower than 10 minutes yet. What kind of whacked out math was he doing?? This led to a very brief second stop to inquire (very politely, despite what was going on in my head) what he was talking about. "You have 17 laps left, so you need to average about 2:20's."

"But the screen says 14," I whined. He tried to explain something to me about changing chips adding laps but I took off running and sent Al up to work it out. The next lap she was still talking, and I kept running. The following lap she was waiting for me. I had to hear what was going on so I walked 300 meters with her while she explained, "When they logged the new chip in and out it crossed over the timing mat and registered three false laps. They went through all the split times and they are sure they got it right. You have to do three more laps." I shouldn't have been concerned with the problem, I shouldn't have walked that 300. I think I snapped back and finished my 4 miles fairly well, but I definitely had a mental break in there and that cost me, too -all going back to that stupid sock change.

Ultimately, I fully accept all responsibility for this. I took off the chip, it was my responsibility, and the timers did what they could to help me out. If they knew I had three extra laps, I do wonder why they waited 30 miles to tell me, but I know they had a lot going on and a lot of other runners to take care of, too.

There was a lot of cheering the last 5 laps, but ultimately I came up short on the 15 hour split, clocking 15:01:40 for the 100 mile distance. I completed the lap and stopped to talk a bit to Al again, get some more clothes on, regroup, and get going again. I walked a mile, but just got colder and stiffer and I was feeling pretty sick to my stomach. I got Mac on the phone, walked another mile. I tried to jog a couple steps and it was the most painful thing I have ever done. Maybe if I had just sucked it up for ten minutes or so to warm up again, I could have got going again. Even if I had walked the whole hour, I would only need something like 5.3 mph to get the record, but I couldn't fathom running at all. By that point I just think my body and my mind were done. 102.6 miles before the stroke of midnight - the longest distance I have ever covered, but quite short of my original goal.

Still, I am quite happy with the day. My running and fueling went really well and I feel like I learned a lot to make me a better 100 mile runner (too long to share here, but I hope to do so in the next couple days). I didn't go sub-15, but 15:01 is still not too shabby - a 4+ hour PR and almost 14 hours better than my last 100 miler! And given the chip snafu, I certainly believe I have a sub-15 in me (not sure if I'll ever try to prove that, for now, the belief is enough). I also believe I can run 200km faster than the current American record of 21:07, and that goal I do plan to go after, either next year at Desert Solstice or possibly a race earlier in the year if I can find a suitable track ultra.

Running on the track for that long was much better than I expected and much of it very enjoyable. Large chunks of time passed in the race without even noticing, so it wasn't like I was counting laps in my head all day long. Most runners would give at least a mini-greeting when I would pass or be passed and I felt connected to the other racers in a way I never have before. Jennifer Arati and I even had a little game going where we would give an "award" every time I saw her on the track: Best dressed, best hair, best legs, best shoulders, best matching outfit, etc. I had 8 hours of music loaded on my iPod and I never even though to get it out (maybe I should have for those last miles!). Plus there was lots of inspiration out there with Jon Olsen, Michael Arnstein, and Jay Smithberger running super fast 100 times and six bad-ass runners out for the whole 24 hours!

All in all it was good for me to do something different and I really enjoyed it. I am however, quite sore. As in more sore than I have ever been, period. And thanks to being sopping wet for 70 miles or so I have the worst chafing ever. Fortunately, I had the good sense to take a spoonful of Vaseline into the port-a-pottie with me early on and get my bra and "panty line", but everywhere else I had on clothes was raw. Just a heads up, I will NOT be wearing deodorant this week while my armpits heal, so don't get too close. And as I told my husband, "I got a Desert Solstice tramp stamp." He gave me a very concerned look, before I showed off my lovely back.

I also got this skull "trophy" with a hollow tube hat. Several people commented it looked like you could smoke something out of it. Maybe that'd make my aching body feel better! Is it terrible that I want to take a Sharpie and cross out the "16" in the date??

Thanks Nick and Jamil, for putting this on and for letting a "short bus" girl in to the race. It was a great way to end the season, plus now I can board the regular bus with my 100 mile time. The next few weeks will just be rest, recuperation, and figuring out how to get up from the toilet without pushing off with my hands!
Happy Holidays!
If you need me, I'll be watching food network and drinking eggnog!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Run'ucopia = Puke'ucopia (or Our Thanksgiving Weekend)

The Smith family had great intentions to take on the 2nd annual Run'ucopia on Thanksgiving morning. I got an early start, logging 12 miles, before meeting Mac and the kids at Riverfront Park. Megan was pumped up for her second shot at the 5k distance after last year’s Turkey Stuffer, but as the 1k start approached, Liam was increasingly obstinate and fussy about not wanting to run. 

Mac let me know he had done some dry heaving earlier in the morning. Hmmm - maybe better to sit this one out! So Liam and I headed off to the car, planning to drive to McDonalds which was on the course for the 5k. Just as he was getting into my car, Liam asked if I had a bucket he could hold. Uh oh. Fortunately, there was no mess in my car, but I cannot say the same for the parking lot! So we just sat in the car, because there was no way McDonald’s could help the situation in anyway.

When we saw Megan and Mac coming back through the park, she was running strong. I told Liam we had to get out and cheer. He didn’t like that idea, but he agreed to go on piggy back. “Liam, there is just one rule,” I told him,”No puking on Mommy!”

“Quick, put me down!” was his response before I deftly maneuvered him into a position where he could discretely fertilize the rhodies. I cheered for Megan while Liam huddled on the damp pavement in a lifeless ball. I then picked him up and we high-tailed it to the finish to see Megan finish in 33:42, even sprinting at the end to pass a boy that she knows from school. That’s 15 minutes faster than last year and Mac says she ran almost the whole thing. So proud of Megan! 

Megan finishing strong, while Mac checks out the competition

However, race organization pleased me somewhere about as much as all of Liam’s puking. Actually, he actually puked every time he said he would, so he did a much better job at sticking to his word! The race just could not manage the number of finishers and people had to wait in line for a very long time to turn in popscicle sticks. Plus, the race said every finisher gets a cup and hot beverage to fill it. At the end they had about 100 paper cups of hot chocolate, which were quickly consumed by the 400 or so people there (and not by us!).
No silly kids 1k for these three tough ladies! They rocked the 5k!
As we headed home, Megan quickly deteriorated. She was fine for 30 or so minutes after the race, so I don’t think it was run related, just that little bug finally catching up to her. Both kids crashed as soon as we got home (but not before one more round of throw-up). We cancelled our Thanksgiving plans and just ate stuffing and pumpkin pie together in our pajamas that evening (the two things we were supposed to contribute to dinner). While maybe not the best way to spend Thanksgiving, it served a good purpose. Huddling together under blankets on the couch certainly made me thankful that my kids are happy and healthy most of the time. And it was kind of nice just to be together as a family. As an added bonus, our good friends delayed their Thanksgiving celebration by a day for us, so we still got to stuff ourselves silly on Friday!

Sick and tired kiddos. :(

I spent a lot of the rest of the weekend sorting through the house. Not only did I not make a single purchase on black Friday, local Saturday, or cyber Monday, but I actually ended the weekend with fewer possessions than I started with! Mac makes fun of me because we have cupboards in our house that are completely empty, but in my dream world, all of the cupboards would be empty. Well, except the ones that hold running gear and food! Don’t worry, we won’t be free of our worldly possessions anytime soon, especially if that means cleaning out the garage!
Pile of junk off to Goodwill!
And Saturday, I got in one last long run. Yes, I have one more race on my calendar for 2012: Desert Solstice 24 hour run. You could say this is my punishment for doing so poorly at Western States this year - ha! Actually, I feel like I have never really “nailed” a hundred miler and in fact, the better shape I have been in, the worse I have done. So I am going to try to teach myself a few lessons about running past 100k in a very controlled environment. Just me versus the distance. I’ll let you know how bad an idea this was in three weeks. Until then, I am tapering and trying not to eat to many holiday cookies!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Camp Eagle

One of the benefits of blogs is the availability of personal insight with a rapid turnaround. But the window of opportunity of a salient blog post closes as time passes, kind of like if CNN were to report on the election news now. I have been wanting to write something about my Veteran's Day weekend at Camp Eagle with Team Red, White and Blue, but my life doesn’t always lend itself to timely reporting. I was on call the week after getting back (about 12 extra hours of work for me) and needed to get in some make-up quality time with the kids. Plus, I got to spend some of my free time getting my hand x-rayed. So 10 days later, I am getting around to this post. 

Team Red, White and Blue is an organization that strives to integrate returning combat soldiers into the community. They emphasize physical fitness as a way for vets to improve their life. This weekend was the largest event the organization has hosted, with the focus on trail running. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Team RWB before this, but I got contacted because they needed more female group leaders. Lucky for me! When Liza Howard sent out a massive outline about all the things we were supposed to teach, I originally panicked, “Oh my god, I don’t know how to teach people to run on trails!” But as I thought about it I realized I did have a lot of tips to share and hopefully I gave Group C some good pointers. But information flows both ways, and at many times I played the role of the student. Here are some of the things I learned at Camp:

Nothing broken!
1) I need a new head light. The first night out we went for a night run. I have a fairly standard headlight that seemed comparable to those around me, until all of the sudden the trail became bright as day and there behind me was a human spotlight. It was made for adventure racing. Now that I have seen the light (ha,ha), I am not satisfied with my lights. Just as I was about to hear some adventure racing stories, I learned another lesson: Running should not be a contact sport! A dramatic collision ended my run early (but no broken bones!).

2) I need more carbs and more calories in the morning. Yeah, I love to hear I get to eat more. I was so fortunate to have Sunny Blende as my roommate. Not only does she have a disposition to match her name, but she is a wealth of sports nutrition information. It was better than having my own sports nutrition consultation. While I learned a lot about metabolic efficiency and new hydration guidelines over the weekend, what really hit home was the need to eat more immediately before and after a workout.

Me and My Awesome roomie, Sunny Blende
3) Liza Howard is on speed. Ok, I made that up.  But Liza is always on the go with lots of animation and gesticulations to compliment all of her positive energy. The first night she was so involved with all the camp business that she didn’t sleep at all, but the next morning she was still the perkiest and most upbeat person there.  There’s a reason she is one of the fastest 100 milers in the country: she’s organized, has a great attitude, and has an unending supply of energy. She used all of her talents to create an amazing weekend with the help of Joe and Joyce Prusaitis and Jason and Alison Bryant. Nevertheless, if I ever race her again, I am going to insist on drug testing. That level of perkiness is usually only obtained with a strong dose of uppers!

4) My Ab routine is for sissies. On Saturday evening Alison and Jason Bryant led a core workout that makes Abs of Steel look like a joke.  More like Abs of Titanium at their workout! It was not only a great challenge for my core but fun to learn exercises I had never seen before.

Jason and Alison show us how to be "hard-core" 

5) Porcupines are funny looking. We were doing some downhill drills on Saturday when a porcupine lumbered across the trail and up a tree. So cool! I don’ t think I’d ever seen a real live one before.

6) I need to sign up for an obstacle run. Sunday evening the "campers" ran a 5k obstacle course that just looked like so much fun. We didn't get to run the course, but we had a great time playing around and a lot of fun watching everyone else do it. I think it'd be a hoot to climb ladders, run through mud, swing on rings, and crawl though tunnels all in the middle of a run.

"The Old Mine"(it was fake) - part of the obstacle course

7) Last, and most importantly, I learned just how amazing our Veterans and active duty military personnel are. On a basic level I already knew this, but interacting on a personal level with so many of them really bolstered my appreciation. The stories were jaw dropping: a dad missing the birth of his child, a woman being hit on the head with a hatch and being in a coma for three months, a man who lost his leg in an explosion, a woman in my group who had schrapnel removed from her leg, a guy with a "ticking" chest after major heart surgery from being attacked. The stories made it "real" how much of a sacrifice these men and women gave to defend our country and the bravery they exhibited. And seeing them now out running trails was so inspirational, knowing how strong they had to be in both mind and body. It was truly an honor to be out there running with theses heroes. A huge Thank You to all of our service men and women!
Leading the group (and showing my authority by giving my best super hero pose)

Group C!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off To Camp

I am honored and excited to get the opportunity to help out at Team Red, White and Blue's biggest event ever this weekend at Camp Eagle, TX. I am not excited to get up at 2:30 tomorrow morning to catch my plane. Team RWB aims to re-integrate combat veterans into civilian life, using physical fitness as a way to help them connect with civilians and stay healthy. How awesome is that?

I am going as one of the trail running "experts" to teach about off road running. Topics for discussion include downhill techniques, uphill techniques, and technical trail techniques. I envision myself amongst a bunch of studly vets, modeling wildly out of control arm flailing while saying things like, "the best advice for running downhill is 'Don't fall.'"

Seriously though, I am excited to spend a whole weekend talking about what I love and sharing that with people new to the sport. If TransRockies is 'summer camp for adults' then this feels like Fall Camp. Er, um, let's call that Autumn Camp. ;)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Suck-It Sandy Marathon and Half

My good friends Gloria (of toenail surgical fame) and Terra were well trained and full of excitement for the New York Marathon.  They were crushed when it was cancelled. So yesterday morning we threw our own little event to celebrate their training and fitness: The Suck-It Sandy Marathon and Half.

"We feel for the victims of Sandy and know that canceling the NY city marathon was the right thing to do. But we want to honor the hard work Gloria and Terra put in to train for the last several months. Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy) may have caused devastation and cancellation of one of the biggest marathons, but it can't crush our spirit and it can't stop us from running!

The gun goes off at 5am and we will do a 13 mile loop at whatever pace Gloria deems right for a fake marathon. A second wave of starters will be there at 7am to finish out the run with Gloria. Partial distance runners welcome, too.

Due to the late notice we weren't able to get any T-shirts printed or secure any sponsors; However, there will be scones for all at the "finish line!" Hope to see you there."

The Nerf dart gun quietly sounded a little after 5am for all the participants: 11 in all. Not too shabby for a Tuesday morning! Due to work constraints, most people opted for a 10k or 15k version, Dan and I did the half, Steph used a little medical leave time to get in 18 or so, and Gloria was the "winner" of the "marathon" division, with a rumored 22 miles. Now if we could only get that many people out every Tuesday morning! Hope all other Non-New York runners got a way to burn off all that nervous energy of a well tapered body!

Chocolate is good for the heart; cherries are anti-inflammatory; and carbs are good for recovery. So these are practically health food items, right?

No marathon is complete without prizes!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Run An Ultra in Costume

Many October races encourage participants to run in costume. And while most of the mid-autumn 5k's  and 10k’s are packed with freakishly dressed loonies displaying their Halloween spirit, the Autumn Leaves ultramarathons have had a dreadfully disappointing costume turnout the last three years, despite impressive prize basket incentives put together by Gail.

As I see it, there are three main reasons people don’t don the crazy clothes and wacky wigs at a race.

#1) People who don’t ever like costumes. You know the people who won’t even get dressed up for a costume party, people who show up in sweats and then make up a lame story instead of wearing a costume (“I’m Lady Gaga on her day off.”).  I think a lot of perfectionist types may fall into this category, too afraid to let loose and make a fool of themselves. Ok, people, sure it is nice to have an alphabetized spice rack, but not everything has to be so serious! Lots of costumes don’t require you to be all out zany (cowboy, doctor, fireman, etc.). So let loose for one day and have a little fun. The world won’t end if you put the Cinnamon in the Cumin spot!

Do you need to let loose a little bit??
#2) People who don’t mind the costume, but don’t like the effort of putting a costume together. My husband fits in this category. He’s not super creative and so the idea of getting a costume together stresses him out. But he has no problem wearing a costume if I put it together for him. Oh, who are we kidding? Mac’s favorite movie is Mulan Rouge! Mac might actually prefer costumes to regular clothes…as long as I pick it out for him. So if you fall into this category, get a friend or your significant other to help you out. Or just go buy a prepackaged costume at a party shop – no creative effort required!

Even Mac likes a good long as someone else puts it together
#3) People who will rock a costume for a party, but who don’t want to run in one. This can go one of two ways: either you are worried that you can't run fast in a costume or you are worried it will be too annoying to run in. Adam Campbell ran a marathon in a suit in 2:35; Mike Wardian finished a marathon in full Spiderman gear in 2:34; and Ian Sharman has a 2:40 marathon dressed as Elvis. So yeah, plenty of fast running can be done in a costume! The annoyance factor can be minimized by picking the right costume. Helpful hints:

- Find something that isn't restrictive. I find skirts (even denim once as Annie Oakley) to be very easy to run in. Spandex or other tight pants work well, too.
- Go for a test run. I usually do this on the treadmill in the privacy of my own home. Because running a race in costume is good for a lot of laughs. Running by yourself in costume is good for a lot bizarre stares. You can also test a piece at a time or wear a jacket over (if cold weather) to camouflage your costume on a regular day.
- Use a lot of lube. Most costumes really aren't that irritating, but they weren't made for running either. A little extra Vaseline will save you some unnecessary pain.
- Forget that whole "Cotton is Rotten" Mantra. Yeah, cotton is no good in extreme conditions, but on your typical day, it does just fine. I started running in 1989 and didn't own my first tech shirt (excluding polyester racing singlets) till 2008. Yes, really. So as long as you aren't running through the mountains or in the snow, don't be afraid to wear cotton for a day.
- Avoid "bouncy" objects. I have run with plastic snakes in my hair and on my clothes, in fairy wings, with a belt and (fake) holsters, and in a pillow case. I find things don't really bother me as long as I make sure they don't bounce around. Safety pins of a few quick stitches with a needle and thread can be helpful here.
- Work it! The best part of running in a costume is having fun with the people around you. And other runners are always looking for a distraction.

You've got almost a whole year to plan next Halloween's running costume. If you act quickly, you could probably still find some great discounts on this year's costumes. Autumn Leaves is right after the 100k Worlds next year, and there is a good chance I won't be running it, so the costume contest (with its massive prize basket) could be wide open!

So who's run a big race in a costume? And who still thinks racing in costume is the stupidest thing ever (actually, my husband is in this category, too)? 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Paul Ryan Moment

...Or How To Improve Your Time Without Actually Running Faster

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was lambasted by runners across the country when he presented himself as a sub-three hour marathoner, when in fact, the actual time from his one and only marathon was 4:01.  Ryan maintained this was an honest mistake, but most runners felt that times from major running events stay etched in your memory and that this error could only be a purposeful fabrication.

A 50 mile race would seemingly qualify as a  major running event. And yet it appears that my memory has failed me on this one. I reported my time as a “hair under 6:32” and even texted a friend 20 minutes after finishing that I ran a "6:31:5x." But when yesterday’s official results were posted, I was credited with a 6:30:44. All I have to corroborate my side of the story is a Garmin that died after five and a half laps and my memory, while they had electronic clocks, chip timing and dry brains. It really could go either way, but in an act of generosity on my part, I’ll concede the point and accept that I officially ran a minute faster than I remembered.

Sadly, I fear this incident will prevent me from running for Vice-president. Having this blemish in running recollection would just be fodder for too much bad press. However, I am happy to say that I did not use any asthma meds before, during, or after the race, so I should at least be able to avoid a scandalous Lance Armstrong-esque future title stripping. :)

Autumn Leaves 50 mile results/splits here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Run Like An Egyptian

...Or How Turn a 99 Cent Value Village Pillow Case into a 75 Dollar Gift Basket.

So what idea do you get when you see a pillow case, table fabric from my sister-in-law's wedding, calf sleeves, the bow from a birthday gift, spray paint and a bag of beads??

Ok, that is a silly question. Because the answer is so obvious: run 50 miles dressed as Cleopatra!!

For the last three years, I have been on the starting line for the Autumn Leaves Ultramarathon, telling myself it is an excellent "training race" for other races later in the season, but really I'll take any excuse to run in a costume!

Costumes bring a whole 'nuther layer of excitement to an event. Like last week when Mr. Mike told a room full of six year old boys that they could wear costumes to karate class on Tuesday. My son Liam was literally jumping for joy. Because already the kid knows there is something inherently awesome about doing side blade kicks while dressed as Darth Vader. And what could be more exciting than doing loops around the Willamette River Valley channeling the spirit of the last Pharaoh of Egypt!? Sure she slept with her brother and was a little slutty with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, but isn't that part of her allure?

So I gathered up all the necessary objects from around the house and came up with this:

Ok, I actually got the pillow case from Value Village (for the stated 99cents) because I couldn't bring myself to cut up one of my own, but I am sure it was fine Egyptian cotton to keep with the theme. :) Everything else was from around the house. (Well, not the eyeliner either. That was a massive $7.99 investment at K-mart, but now I can finally check "Use liquid eye liner" off of my bucket list!).
Don't you wish that you had a laundry room "craft cupboard" that looked like this so that you too could create your own rocking free costumes??

The liquid eyeliner- All I had to do was trace one of the "crow's feet."

I was pretty pleased with the result. 
When my mom saw it, she asked, "Did Cleopatra wear sequins??" 
"No, Mom, but she had lots of jewels."
"Well, why don't you wear a bunch of necklaces?"
"Mom! I have to run 50 miles in this thing!"
So no, it is not an exact replica of Caesar-era Egyptian garb, but it's not bad for 99 cents! 

Goals for the race were:
1) Defend my costume title
2) Get in a good training run for a mid-December long race (I guess that is confessing my true insanity)
3) Win the Lululemon gift certificate. Because making sure your ass looks good is one of the more important things in life.

On a 6.25 mile loop course, I wouldn't have thought one of my goals would be "Don't get lapped." But as the race unfolded, this became a serious concern. Olive Oil Joe was just cranking in the 50k, such that lap 4 was my fastest lap all day because I had to get it done before he finished his lap five. But even more concerning was Zach Gingerich, who was unreal in the 50 miler, practically keeping pace with Joe in the 50k and breaking 6 hours for the 50 mile!

Overall, I had a great day and accomplished all goals, including not getting lapped (barely!). It poured buckets for all but about 90 minutes, but I ran pretty steady all day and snuck in a hair under 6:32 for almost a 15 minute CR. I passed last year's winner around mile 49 for second place overall, but like I said, Zach practically lapped me! And while that Cleopatra get-up might work in the arid Nile delta, it was a clinging cotton rag by the end of 50 rain-drenched miles! But a basket full of candy and beer made it all worthwhile. Oh, who am I kidding? I would've done it for nothing!

Who would've thought a pillow case could look so good??
All that for merely running 50 miles in a pillow case!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Condor 25K

Well, you write one little “down in the dumps” blog post and then even your closest friends start betting against you!

 I got an e-mail from my friend Dennis two days before the Condor 25k: “BTW there is betting going on about the Condor race and your name is featured prominently.” The Corvallis running group loves to speculate and bet on ultras, and I have heard they even used to draft Fantasy Western States teams. So it didn’t surprise me that they’d try to get a little extra fun out of a hometown race with two “locals”- Alinna and me- as the favorites. But it looked like my previous blog post swayed a few betters– those who read bet against me! What I forgot to mention is that my competitive drive doesn’t tire nearly as easily as my body and I love Scott shoes (particularly the T2C’s!), the prize for the race. :)

I really wasn’t trying to sandbag in that post. I only logged 45 miles in the three weeks before Condor (yeah, that’s total!) and I really had no idea where I stood going in. I did not feel great on the warm-up so I decided to run a strategic race rather than an all-out race from the gun, and the decision paid off. Alinna is a very strong hill climber, and I just dogged her the first 9 miles, which were mostly uphill. After the Saddle at mile 9.5, the course was mostly downhill, and mostly non-technical. I eat that up so at that point it was time to boogie to the finish and claim my new dancing shoes! However, I wasn’t able to catch my Salem training partners, Dan and Shawn, who bested me by 15 seconds or so. Dan obviously didn’t want to get chicked as he tried to push me off the trail when I wanted to pass! (Well, at least that’s how I’m interpreting his errant elbow jab) Nice job guys, but watch out for next time! My friend Gloria picked up the master’s win, so Salem was well represented!
Fast Salem Women!
However, the real focus of the day was not racing or even free shoes, but instead honoring the memory of a dear friend, Dave “Condor” Bateham. Dave’s death hit me pretty hard, both because he was a healthy ultra-running cohort and because he was a father-figure type who succumbed to infection when my own father has also been plagued by post-surgical infections. But also because I feel like I owe a lot of my success in ultra-running to him. He was a fixture at the Saturday runs and he was always incredibly welcoming. The first time I ran with him, he was training for the McDonald Forest 50k with his son Eric and I remember thinking how awesome that was. Dave gave me advice when I first started running ultras and was a big fan when I started doing well. But really that had nothing to do with my running performance; Dave was the kind of guy that would make you feel awesome about yourself no matter how you did. Out on the course on Saturday when I closed the gap between me and Alinna the first time, I thought to myself, “Dave would be cheering for me to win.” But really Dave would be cheering for everyone equally, and he’d give not only his support, but his time to help others reach their goals.

The Condor 25k was a fitting memorial for Dave with local runners coming together to share the trails and do what he loved. Big thanks to Tia and Clem for putting together a great race in Dave’s honor. And thanks Dennis, Lobo, and Maistro for believing in me! Be sure to make Tia and Osito buy you the good stuff (and save some for me!) ;)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Elite" Training

It’s been a rough week for running in the Smith household. I think we logged the lowest cumulative mileage in a couple of years. Mac’s toe is healing, but it's still bothering him too much to run (because he is a wimp) and I ended up with a monster cold and I only got out on Saturday for run on Mary’s Peak (because I am a wimp, too). I did manage to keep up with Dennis for a 2:33 loop, but I felt terrible on the way down and took a nice crash in some rocks and bruised up my wrist and hip. Combined total for the last 7 days – 14 pathetic miles! We are both supposed to be running the Condor 25k on Saturday. Mac is pretty sure he isn’t running. I am either in for a rough day or I will be the most tapered that I have ever been for a 15 mile run!
This is a terrible photo, but that purple grey square covering the lower left of my
palm is some nice post wipeout bruising.
 Mac reports laundry demands are WAY down. This is good for him, but a pity that we have not
gotten to test out our deluxe new laundry sorting system. Mac says he needs to sort the laundry in the laundry room; I say: no piles of dirty clothes on the floor. But we are looking to find marital bliss in a new ten dollar dorm room grade laundry hamper. Yep, living the life of luxury!
Our New Laundry System: much cheaper than marital counseling
 So tonight we sought solace in frozen yogurt. We’ve done a pretty good job avoiding the Limeberry store and their dairy cocaine this summer, but we lost our resolve tonight. If we are going to be out of shape, we might as well get fat, too. It is the American way.
Frozen Yogurt is basically health food, right?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Toeing the Line

Ultra runners are masters of the extreme, pushing themselves to the very edge of their limits and sometimes even beyond. In it there is great satisfaction in accomplishing something that may not have even seemed possible. Emotions bubble to the surface and there is a great sense of pride and fulfillment. But this comes with a price. To achieve your best requires sacrifice: sacrifice of sleep, lazy Saturday mornings, social obligations, family ties, a healthy sex life, and most of all, a sacrifice of one's toenails.

For years, my husband has made fun of my "nasty" feet. But I think he has found one area of ultra-running where he clearly takes the prize in our family. You see, in early September, Mac ran the McKenzie River Trail Run 50k, finishing 39th out of 171 runners, which Mac will proudly tell you is the top quartile of all finishers. And it once again places him in his age group...for women, since the RD of MRTR initially sexed Mac as a female again this year. (His real name is Mackenzie, so you can hardly blame the RD. I mean, it is a girl's name! Forest Park 50k had the same problem. I keep telling Mac to embrace it; it would help his Ultrasignup score a lot!).

Anyway, Mac had a good day on the trail and felt good all day, but there was a price: a big blister under the left toenail. He drained it and went on with life. Until this week, when the thing became a nasty, festering mess and his foot became some Fred-Flintstone-with-elephantiasis swollen mess.
Mac's nasty toe. Compare the size to his other foot.
Sunday he was limping around, complaining about how bad it hurt. "Worse than when I broke my arm," he told me. 

I told him to stay away from me, and yeah, he should probably get some antibiotics.

After two days of antibiotics, the thing was still a big throbbing mess and fluid was actually draining through the skin. Our friend Gloria, the fastest (marathon runner) surgeon in Salem, came to the rescue! (Dr. Nair - if that hurts, you better run faster in Victoria!). She met Mac outside of the Kaiser offices, gave him a prescription for Vicodin, and told Mac to meet her at her house all drugged up at 5:30 pm.

Well because of patient labels, Gloria is not used to writing names on prescriptions, so Mac showed up at Walgreen's with a prescription that didn't have his name on it. The pharmacist was skeptical (because a guy in sweats who is not at work in the middle of the day is obviously a drug addict). So Mac put his toe on the counter to convince her he was not faking. To her credit, she did not vomit. "Well, where were you seen?"

And get this. Mr. Clueless answers, "In the parking lot," before realizing this does not help his case of being mistaken for a drug seeker. But a phone call to Gloria, and Mac got his drugs.

Later that evening, I met Mac at Gloria's. We banished all the kids from the kitchen and turned their dining surface into the operating table. I got to play nurse in the operation. Gloria asked me if I knew how to open items in sterile fashion. Just like a surgeon to think the pathologist is incapable of even the most basic floor skills! Geez, I mean we aren't total losers; we get out of our lab cave every once in a while! (And when we get back, we talk about how scary it was!). Plus, I was like,"Umm, hello? The toe is already infected. How sterile do we need to be? Just save yourself!" But I didn't say that.

Gloria numbed Mac up, ripped out the nail, and all was good. Or so you would think. Just as Mac is getting bandaged up he starts sweating like it is mile 90 of Badwater and his face has the same shade of green as after his first ultra. He throws open the door, puts his head back and is fighting to stay with it. Gloria gets him a cold towel for his head and I get him some water. Gloria is a concerned a caring doctor to her patient. And me? Well, there is a reason I am in pathology - I was laughing at him! Don't get me wrong, I was the concerned wife while the procedure was going on, but this was after it was over! It wasn't the pain, it was a vasovagal response, and yes, I am a terrible person, but I didn't have much sympathy. But this isn't the first time I've seen Mac deal with this: About ten years ago, Mac fainted in periodontist office after a gum graft - only I was the one who had had the procedure, not him. The man is kind, and loving, and a great dad, but let's face it, he's a bit of a wimp.
Still feeling good
Getting numb!
Now that's pretty!
"Be strong, Honey, you can do it!"
Kidding aside (who was kidding?), Gloria was a super-friend, because how many people do you know that would touch that nasty toe? I gave her some new shoes as a barter; she twisted her ankle on the first run in them (they weren't La Sportivas!), so she clearly got a bum deal! Mac says he is feeling much better (but the toe still looks nasty). Let's hope it heals fast because Mac has a race scheduled in ten days.

Thank you, Gloria! You rock!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Little Bunny Foo Foo...

Western States terminated with one of my worst results ever, but perhaps because of that my desire to go back was very strong.  But I didn’t plan to dedicate my entire racing season trying to get back in. Run Rabbit Run fit well with my schedule and it is an early qualifier, so if I got a spot, I wouldn’t have to worry about qualifying for the rest of the year.

The only problem: by July, the 50 mile race was already full. The 100 was still open and offered WS spots, but with the large prize purse, I expected it to be very competitive, and therefore less likely to get the coveted WS ticket. So I e-mailed Fred, The RD, to ask if there were any special considerations for entry for competitive athletes. He responded, “Well, send me your resume and we’ll see.” The next morning I got another e-mail from him, “Are you the Pam Smith on the 100k team? If so, you’re in!”

While many other race directors have been nice to me, this is only the second time that I have asked to get in to a full or otherwise closed race, the other time being Miwok 2011. I am thinking I am going to have to do this more, as I won both of those races. I guess I feel like I have something to prove for being granted the opportunity.

So yes, while I did win, it was NOT an easy race! Joelle Vaught had the course record at an astounding 8:08 and no other woman had broken 9 hours (2nd all time F= 9:04). Based on the course and my fitness, I thought I could do 8:20. I finished 6th overall in 8:40,  39 minutes slower than any other 50 miler I have done.  But I didn’t actually miss my goal time by as bad as it looks at face value. This year to accommodate the 100 mile runners, the 50 mile course was lengthened by 1+ miles with 600’ of gain and loss over very rocky and technical terrain, which added at least ten minutes and probably more like 12(+). Speaking to Fred after the race, I heard people disliked this so much that he is already thinking he will change it back next year!

I started the race at the back of the lead pack in third for the women, telling myself not to pass 2nd place F Silke Koester the whole way up Mt. Werner to make sure I stayed in control at the start. I continued to tail her for several miles over the back side. For a few minutes I contemplated playing a strategic game to guarantee the WS spot.  I knew I was faster, so I wondered about tailing her for a long time and then just passing her in the end to get second and the WS spot. But around mile 11, a guy named Ken jumps out of the bushes behind us, says we are looking good and that Kerrie (Bruxvoort) is less than 5 minutes ahead. Oh, and by the way, could he please pass?

Well, I just found a new train to ride! Yes, I wanted the Western States spot, but I also wanted to race!  So I passed with Ken and told him to take me up to Kerrie. “You’re going to have to do that yourself, I’ve got post-Leadville legs.” But I stayed with him and got to chat for a few miles about Leadville and his training with Anita Ortiz. When we hit a flat gravel road, I didn’t think I picked up the pace, but soon I was dropping him. Same thing through the next 8 miles of rolling grassy trails and roads. I tried to find people to run behind but whenever things leveled out, I’d end up in front. I ended up passing about 6 guys through here and when I rolled into Dumont AS for the first time (22.3 miles), I practically ran into Kerrie as I was on my way in and she was on her way out.

About a half mile down the road, I caught Kerrie and said hi. She gave a lackluster response. I kept moving as the terrain to the Rabbit Ears rock formation and turnaround got steeper and steeper. I counted 8 guys coming down by the time I got to the top. The two volunteers at the top cheered for me and said, “As the first female, I think you are required to kiss the volunteers!” I told him if it means I get to go downhill, then you got it. So with a quick peck on the cheek for both volunteers (how’s that for showing my thanks!), I rounded the cairn and finally got to head back down the 2.7 mile hot road back to Dumont AS.
Rabbit Ears- Mile 25 turnaround was right at the base.
Kerrie hadn’t looked very good when I passed her, so I was surprised to see she was only a couple minutes back at the turnaround. But I made good time back through the rollers. A couple of times, I looked back across the plains and couldn’t see anyone, so I knew I had at least a half mile on Kerrie.

Everything seemed to be going well until getting to Long Lake at mile 37. From there it is uphill back to the top of Mt. Werner. It is not very steep, only 1,200 feet of gain in 6.8 miles, but it was as if my body were screaming, “Whoa, wait a minute! I put up with all this running for 37 miles but if you aren’t going to give me any oxygen, I quit!”

I was huffing and puffing, but it wasn’t asthma at all this time, just fatigue and the cumulative lack of oxygen. Every little ascent felt monumental and I walked WAY too much. I told myself if I got to the top in the lead, NO WAY was I going to lose. One thing I still had confidence in was my leg speed and I knew I’d be good on the gravel road downhill.

I did get to the top in the lead, but OMG! There was Kerrie on the way up not more than a minute after I left the AS! Holy Crap – time to fly! After the rocky section at the top, I averaged right around 7 minute pace for the final 6 miles. Pretty slow, given that it was all downhill, but after 45 miles, I certainly felt like I was flying! The best part was zooming by all the quad-weary 100 milers, who were all very positive when I passed.

I looked back on a couple of long switchbacks and no one was there. I just needed to pass the time and get to the finish. And that’s when "99 Bottles of Beer" popped into my head. Are you kidding me?? But pass the time it did, and by the end of the song, 26 minutes had gone by. Ok, hold it together, just two miles to the finish. The ground flattened a bit, running took more effort, but I didn’t let up and managed to put a few more minutes on Kerrie before finishing.  My 8:40 was the second fastest women’s time on the course, Kerrie’s 8:47 ranked 3rd over all and Silke stayed very steady for a 9:09 and 5th fastest course time – all with the harder course and a hot day. The men’s winner, Cameron Clayton, wasn’t hampered by the heat or course changes either, throwing down a blistering 7:09, to break Geoff Roes course record!

My prize for winning the 50 mile. The winner of the 100 mile got $10,000. Yeah, that seems equitable!
I was proud to race hard and take the win, but it was definitely one of those races where you are completely spent at the end. I had a little sunburn, plenty of chaffing (from my pack and putting ice in my bra), enough dehydration to warrant 82 ounces of fluid in the 90 minutes following the race (including 36 oz of chocolate milk….mmm), some post race GI “distress” and even a little blood in my urine (don’t worry, it cleared fast). And my mom thinks ultra-running probably isn’t good for you – ha! All that just to double my pain and suffering at Western States!

A big shout out goes to all the 100 milers- this is a super tough venue and many are speculating that the course was closer to 110 miles. This course decimated the field, with only 15 of 52 elite finishers! So kudos to all those who attempted the run and bigger kudos to those who finished. As always, thanks to the volunteers. And huge thanks to Fred Abramowitz. This was a massive undertaking, essentially staging three separate ultras over the course of the same weekend. While there were glitches with runners getting off course, this guy truly has his heart in the right place and the runner's interests as his top priority. By the time the award ceremony came around he was already working on a list of improvements. I think RRR has the potential to become THE big fall ultra. I wouldn't let this year's mishaps dissuade you if you are considering running. Just beware, you need to be one tough bunny to tackle this one!