Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Frozen Trail Run Fest 50k

What better way to prepare for the holidays than a 5 hour mudfest in nearby Eugene? Last Saturday, December 18th, was the inaugural Frozen Trail Runfest down in the Mt. Pisgah arboretum. Nothing frozen about the trails, though, just some serious puddles, bogs and mud!

26 brave runners opted for the 50k, while over 125 others chose from five non-ultra distances. The morning was cold and the sky looked ominous as the 50k started at a very casual pace. I ran the first mile or so with Dan Olmstead at the back of the lead pack. We both were there with the same idea: to get in a good long run with a little technical before heading to the Bandera 100k in three weeks.
Having fun in the mud (all photos by Long Run Photography)

The course was four slightly varied laps around or over Mt. Pisgah and the course map looked more like a child's scribbles than a helpful guide. The instructions to the map read something like: White loop, start white, then purple, then white, then white loop, then white trail to green loop back to white to the finish. But the course was exceptionally marked such that what was incomprehensible on paper became an easy to follow route on foot. Well, that is to say the directions were easy to follow; the running was not so easy. Much of the trail was unavoidable thick mud and there were many ankle deep "lakes" to splash across. With a dose of optimism, these vast puddles became an opportunity to wash some of the mud off ones shoes. All of the mud plus 3970' of climbing (and much of it quite slick) made for a fun, albeit slow, day. The rain held off for most of the day and I even got a sunbreak as I summited Mt. Pisgah at mile 28.

At 42 degrees and sunny, it was practically balmy on the summit! I even had to unzip my jacket!
Doesn't it look like I had fun? Check out the thigh-high mud! I did that all without falling.
Every runner dreams of being crowned champ with a plastic pine bough.
Dan and I say,"Bring it, Texas!" ;)

I came home just a wee bit muddy!

That reminds me - I still have a lot of muddy clothes in the laundry room sink to attend to!

This was a fun event that definitely upstages Hagg Lake for Oregon's muddiest ultra! Eclectic Edge events did a great job this year filling voids in March and December, by offering two new 50k's. While the Frozen Trail Runfest was a small event, it was challenging and unique. I could see this becoming a perennial pre-holiday event.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Epic Battle At JFK

I signed up for the JFK 5o miler last July, while I was still in a post-Western States stupor. Somehow, I got this silly idea that JFK would make the perfect race trifecta along with American River 50 and Western States - the two biggest ultras in the country and the most prestigious - which is how I found myself on the Maryland starting line last weekend.

Last minute entrants Jill Perry and Amy Sproston beefed up the competition on the women's side, but I didn't think that they would detract from my main goals, which were 1) PR at 50 miles (AR50 = 7:14); 2) get a 100k World Championship qualifier (sub- 7:15); and 3) place top 5 ("in the money"). I didn't really expect to be in the hunt for the win.

It was a bit chilly at the start, but on the whole it was perfect weather for an ultra. The course starts with 2.5 miles of uphill road before hitting the Appalacian Trail. I started nice and slow and could see Jill, Amy, USA 24 hour team member Ana Piskorska, and several other women out ahead of me. I passed Ana before hitting the trail, but anther woman in a shimmel and spanks moved ahead of me.

I caught up with Jill right before the first aid station and stayed to chat with her a bit before moving on. At the aid station (mile 4) I hit the port-a-potties, so had to repass Jill a short bit later.

The AT was everything everyone promised: leaves, roots and LOTS of rocks! It made for some awkward footing at times, but I just tried to stay as smooth as possible. Around mile 7 somebody yelled at me,"7th Woman." Within the next mile I passed Spanks-girl on a rocky uphill section and fell in with a couple of guys for the rest of the AT.
The Appalacian Trail (Brightroom, Inc. photo)

I was using Greg Crowther's split's from 2009 (plus 1.5 minutes/mile) for an estimated finish of 7:06. I came off the AT at 2:24, 3 minutes ahead of schedule.
The splits (in case I was too boneheaded to remember three numbers!)

Next was the 26.3 mile long tow path section. I was expecting this to suck, because everybody said it was flat and boring. Somehow, I assumed this meant "straight" and I just envisioned running down a dirt road where you could see for miles. But the path had a thick layer of leaves and lots of curves. It wasn't exactly a surprise around every bend, but it was enough to keep it from being boring.

I immediately joined up with Doug, a member of the Air Force from DC who was running his first 50 miler. We ran together for the first 10 miles and I really enjoyed his company, maybe a bit too much as we were doing 7:20's (Garmin pace) and I didn't think I should be going faster than 7:30's. But I was feeling great at that point and my handsome military companion kept giving me compliments, so why would I want to part from him?? You gotta love a guy who thinks I look too young to have a six year old. Also, you gotta think he needs glasses!

I told Doug I thought I was in 6th and he was surprised as he didn't think that many women were ahead of me. Our clip kept us moving past people and he was always pointing out the women ahead and trying to guess which ones were early starters before we caught up to them. But in addition to the early starters, we passed three of the front running women and I knew none of them would be giving chase.

Doug left me at mile 25 to change his shoes and so I finally slowed it down into the high 7:30's. That's probably where I should have been from the beginning but it is so easy to get pulled along when you are feeling good. I was still feeling pretty good, but I noticed that after mile 28 I was watching for the mile markers and counting down how many miles left on the tow path. That's always one of the first signs of tiredness for me when I start thinking about what I have left instead of just running or staying focused in the now. But my pace didn't really falter and by mile 34 I realized I only had to do 8:30 miles for the rest of the race to come in under 7:15 and that made me feel pretty confident. Also, several people were telling me I was second female, one place higher than I thought, so that was a nice boost, too.

Cruising the Tow Path (Brightroom, Inc. photo)

Between mile 34 and mile 38, David Horton came riding by on bike. He introduced himself and gave me an update on the race. Basically, he told me I was all by myself in second, several minutes behind Amy and almost ten minutes up on third. Around that time I noticed my pace slipping into the 7:40's and I pretty much resigned myself to second. You can't make up time if you are slowing down now, can you?

At mile 38, I was sad to see Jill on the sidelines from a foot injury, but it was nice to have her energy. She was cheering and screaming for me and told me I was just a few minutes behind Amy. I figured she was exaggerating to keep my motivation up and I didn't really take her seriously. I just kept on at my pace, still figuring second place was my lot for the day. But when I turned off the AT two guys were cheering and saying that I was only one minute behind, that I could catch her. And on the turn ahead I could see Amy so I know that they weren't lying! Oh, man, time to dig deep!

The road section seemed a lot hillier than I am sure it actually was and we had a pretty good headwind, plus I was tired, so these miles were slower than the tow path miles, but I was closing on Amy, ever so gradually, just as you are supposed to do.

I came into the mile 46 aid station just as she was getting ready to leave. In terms of race strategy and tactical maneuvering, this is where I made my fatal error. In retrospect, I should have skipped the Aid Station and left in step with her, but I am not good with fast decisions and I am not used to thinking about "going for the kill." Mostly, I just run and if I am running faster than someone I pass them without thinking about it. I was filled with uncertainty and doubt and my energy was flagging big time. At the time I felt like it would be a good idea to get in a few more calories to keep my energy up till the finish, so I stopped. But realistically, how much good did 3 ounces of Coke do me??

When I came in I also said something to Amy about being so tired...What was I thinking?!? I watched the World Series of Poker, so I should know - YOU ALWAYS BLUFF! Make 'em think you've got the nuts even when you've got rags! I've got to learn to play some mental games!

Amy immediately took off. She had been told she had a good lead and I am pretty sure my presence gave her a good boost of adrenaline and gave her some extra motivation. She opened up about a 20 second lead right out of the aid station. I kept telling myself only four more miles, push the uphills, work the downs, but Amy seemed to be doing the same. She looked back a couple of times, so I know she was worried, but it didn't matter, I seemed to stay the exact same distance behind the whole time.

Several people have said to me that they wish they could have seen the finish of our race, but the finish wasn't exciting... The race was over at mile 46. Amy crossed the line in 6:57:16; I finished in 6:57:37. (Doug finished his first 50 in 7:06!)

Finally-the finish! (Brightroom, Inc. photo)

Amy looked totally dazed at the end. I didn't think I was doing too badly, until I walked over to the medal table to ask for my finisher's reward. The lady very kindly pointed out that I was already wearing one. Not only was I oblivious to the huge hunk of metal hanging from my neck, but I somehow didn't even notice that somebody had slipped this thing over my head! The lady then left her post, saying "why don't I walk you into the gym?" I guess I was looking pretty toasted!

Admittedly, I was kind of disappointed after the race and kind of pissed at myself. I felt like I had her and she got away. I made up at least a seven minute gap and then fell 21 seconds short. 21 SECONDS AFTER 50 MILES!! Come on!

But JFK has a wonderful race director in Mike Spinnler. At the awards ceremony, he really put things in perspective. Not only did he emphasize how fortunate we were to be there running in a free country thanks to the sacrifices of our military, but he also had an emotionally stirring account about the race between me and Amy: (to paraphrase)

"This was the closest race in the history of JFK, not the closest women's race, but the closest race ever. These two women pushed each other so much and to see them finish was truly inspiring because they were both totally and completely spent. It was obvious they had given it their all and raced their guts out. This was like a prize fight between Mohammed Ali and Evander Holyfield, only these two went at it for 50 rounds, completely beating each other up.

In these duals somebody has to come out the champion, but these ladies are both winners. In the end they finished only 21 seconds apart and both broke the 7 hour mark, something only 5 other women have done here."

I was practically in tears by the end of that! It certainly helped me to see the day for the great race that it was. I may have made a mistake or two on the course, but I really did give it my all and I never gave up. I didn't get the win but I PR'd by 17 minutes, I ran the 9th fastest women's time ever at JFK, I broke 7 hours and I got a qualifier for the 100k World Championships in Holland next year! As the saying goes, winning isn't everything, right?

Congrats to all the finishers and especially to Amy, because I know I made her earn it!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ready For Varsity

Autumn Leaves is a low key event in nearby Champoeg State Park. New Race Director Bret Henry and his wife Gail did the local ultra community a great service by resurrecting this race after a one year hiatus in 2009 and some problems in 2008. The course is a very flat, 6.25 mile loop mostly on paved bike path, but with about 1.5 miles of gentle trail each loop. The 50 mile runners, 50k runners, early starters, and (at 10am) 10k runners in combination with an out and back section made for a run where there were always people around, but not so much as to feel crowded. The course is billed as perfect "for your first ultra event or for the experienced ultra-runner to get that PR you always wanted." I fit a little into both categories as this was my first ultra after taking most of September off, but because it was the "easiest" course I have ever run, I also wanted a PR.
The RD's: "The beautiful Mrs. Henry and that guy" (those are Bret's words, not mine!)

I think in a race with two or more ultra distances, the "main event" is always the longest one. Ultra runners operate on a "more is better" mentality, so I think the competition/participation tends to center around the long event, but for me, the 50k was the right option. I joked all week that I was only running the JV event. That was not to belittle the 50k, but I just wanted to keep the race a light-hearted affair and not make too much out of it in my head. Also to keep things light hearted I decided to play along with the "costumes encouraged" aspect of this pre-Halloween race. So I broke out the costume box (doesn't everybody have one of these?) and found an old dress from a 60's party. My pre-race activities included finding all the right accessories to complete the look. I even spray painted my shoes white! Unfortunately, the shoe tech materials don't take paint well so the shoes turned out more "Nurse Ratched" than pseudo-white vinyl awesomeness, but A for effort, right? ;)
Go Go Girl! Get it? Cause I go, go! I know, genius, right? ;)

The first lap needed a headlamp for navigation and served as a warm-up. I was in 5th or 6th place behind a handful of guys, at least two of which were 50 milers. My second lap was significantly faster and I worried that I would pay for it later, but I managed to stay pretty consistent for the rest of the day. I moved up steadily throughout the day and finally caught the second place guy on lap four. The last lap was fun because all the 10kers started about 5 minutes before I completed my 4th lap, so there was a lot of new energy on the course for my final loop. Plus, the 10k back of the packers were really displaying their Halloween spirit and I traded a few laughs with several other decked out ladies when I passed by. Now why weren't there any guys or more ultra runners in costume??
Who hired these clowns?? Just kidding, Geof and Larry!

The first place guy in the 50k was a 2:20 marathoner from Eugene (a town that seems to be over-flowing with 2:20 marathoners!) who was running his first 50k and didn't have any problems going 5 miles beyond his usual distance. He was definitely out of my league and kept me from enjoying an overall victory by pummeling me with a 3:21 finish. But I surprised myself with my pace and even ran my second fastest marathon ever (3:13) en route to a 3:51 finish time. My time was 8 minutes ahead of third and it broke the women's course record by 31 minutes. Mostly though, I am just psyched to feel like I am running well and enjoying it again!

For you gear and equipment types out there, here is a list of the high tech stuff that I wore to achieve my 50k PR:
- The Original Inc, 100% polyester dress in fluorescent orange. Surprisingly comfortable, though I'd recommend this for cold weather only as polyester doesn't "breathe" very well. However, when I run in tech fabric I usually smell like a homeless person by the end of the race (TMI??), but the polyester was stink free! I was pretty shocked by the washing directions: "dry clean only." Seriously, who dry cleans polyester?? Fortunately, it has withstood multiple machine washings with no ill-effects.
- A new pair of sock sleeves (aka Benmoes), K-mart, $2.00, some assembly required. I needed to combat the cold but not detract from the over look. I think the words "war is pointless" and the peace symbols on the converted socks added a special touch, tough it may be a bit of a faux pas to mix the iconic 60's styles of the go go girl and the hippie. But I figured I had a little bit more leeway since I was born in the 70's.
- Joe Boxer hot pink gloves (K-mart, $1.00). Classic ladies magic stretch gloves in a bright new shade!
-Hot pink hair band (K-mart, 3/$2.00), to match the hot pink gloves!
-Injinji knee high compression socks (Free Western States schwag)
- Spray painted (white) Brooks Adrenaline Shoes. As mentioned, this didn't exactly achieve the effect that I was hoping for, but even more disappointing was that nobody seemed to appreciate that I had sprayed my shoes. C'mon people, where is the love??
My post race attire still needs some work.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rest And Renewal

As a pathologist, the cornerstone of my job is the diagnosis and evaluation of cancer. But the reality is that over 90% of the specimens I see are benign. A good portion of my work day is spent evaluating acute (inflammation, ulceration, necrosis) and chronic (scarring, healing, hypertrophy) reactive processes in tissue. But it was only in the last couple of months that I have come to appreciate the differences between acute and chronic fatigue.

Western States was a bit of a Pyrrhic Victory for me: I won the battle (or at least got F10 in the battle!), but my body was ravaged by the effort. The nine weeks between Western States and Angeles Crest weren't fun. Running was a chore and mechanically, things just didn't seem to be working right. Somewhere around mile 37 of Angeles Crest, the full weight of my ongoing exhaustion hit me and by mile 50, I was ready to surrender. It wasn't a good outcome, but it forced me to accept how tired and beat up I really was.

All I can say is that I was in a pit of deep, chronic fatigue. I don't mean that in "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" kind of way, but rather an on-going cycle of physical exhaustion.

A couple people said, "You probably have endocrine fatigue." It is a term I have seen on irunfar.com before, too. I don't know what endocrine fatigue means; it is certainly not something that was covered in medical school. Frankly, I don't buy into it at all. For starters, I had my endocrine levels tested, and they were all fine. I've had several other friends with fatigue issues at one point in their lives, and (with the exception of one person with post-partum hypo-thyroidism, not running related) none of them have ever had out of whack endocrine levels. I also talked with an endocrinologist colleague of mine about the possibility of adrenal malfunction secondary to intense physical activity and he looked at me like I was from Mars before he politely said,"I have never heard of such a thing." However, I do believe there was some physiologic alteration that was underlying this and that it wasn't just "burn-out" or "all in my head" (That's what all the crazies say, right?). Seriously, though, my resting heart rate was constantly elevated, but even more noticeable was my elevated breathing rate, even at rest. And things just got worse with physical activity. I wonder if this was some sort of alteration in autonomic nervous system functioning, but I don't really have any proof of that either.

Whatever the underlying mechanism, low mileage for nine weeks hadn't helped. Taking day or two off didn't really help, and so the only option I could see was to take time off - completely off, not even any cross training - and truly just REST. (Ryan Hall sounds like he has recently had similar problems and came to the same conclusion, not that I am trying to compare myself to Ryan Hall!)

Three and a half weeks of nothing. People asked me if it was hard to give up running for that long, but really it was easy. Who wants to run when each step hurts, your legs ache for hours after a run, and even the easiest of paces feels like a monumental effort?

My 36th birthday marked my return to running. It seemed symbolic, to start on my new year, but really that was not my intention. The real reason I started running again that day was because a friend called me up and said, "Hey, let's go for a run and then let's get a group together to go out for a beer for your birthday." What can I say, not all decisions are based on profound reasoning. ;)

So I have been back for one month and I feel great. I was definitely out of shape when I started back, but I didn't even care. It was just so nice to have my legs moving in a fluid motion again and no aching afterwards. It is amazing how fast the body progresses and remembers, too. In just 4 weeks my 1000m repeat times have dropped 30 seconds (mostly that reflects how out of shape I was the first week).

During the past month, I have done four runs of 20+ miles. I have felt good on every one, but I am always dead the rest of the day. That is nothing new; I experienced that way before I was an ultra-runner as I remember how much I cherished a nap after my marathon long training runs (in the pre-kid era). Yet the first couple of times, it put me in a panic: "OMG, did I just do too much? Am I headed back to that awful place?!?" But I now see this as acute fatigue, something that is essential in training to signal adaptation in the body and improve fitness. It is tiredness, but is something the body can bounce back from in a day or two. The key, of course, is allowing your body that time to recover, to keep those incidents of acute fatigue from piling up and morphing into something worse, such as an injury or chronic fatigue.

Live and learn. And get plenty of rest.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ultra Husband and The Free Bottle of Wine

I consider the 2008 McKenzie River Trail Run was my first official ultra and I LOVED it. The course is beautiful and very runner friendly with 3,000 feet of elevation loss, but enough technical footing to make you feel like you worked hard for your finish. I was excited to go back this year, but I was even more excited for my husband who was running his first ultra!!

After AC, though, I knew racing was out of the question. I just don’t seem to have my “race legs” under me right now and I knew I didn’t want to just try to survive another race. I considered running with my husband Mackenzie (aka Mac, but I am using his full name in honor of the race!), but in the end I decided a complete break from running was in my best interest.

So last week I e-mailed the race director telling him that I wouldn’t be running, but that I’d still like my goodie bag.

OK, normally I wouldn’t care about picking up a cotton T-shirt, but this year MRTR was giving out Free Bottles of Wine! Now, I am not even that much of a wine drinker. But this was a Free Bottle of Wine, so I wanted it very badly. Plus, I felt like it would be super sneaky to get a Free Bottle of Wine from a race where I had Free Entry; I’d be achieving a Free Double Whammy! (Did I mention I am cheap??).

My parents graciously agreed to babysit the offspring, so Mac and I set off Friday night for McKenzie Bridge, two care-free cool cats, looking stylin' as we cruised down the highway in our mini-van.

We stopped at check-in, where I reminded them that I wouldn't be running, but still they just handed me my Free Bottle of Wine without any hesitation. They didn't even card me!

The exalted Free Bottle of Wine

After dinner, we headed to our cabin at Cedarwood Inn. We had a king sized bed and no kids, so you know what that means. That's right, we went straight to sleep without even reading any bedtime stories! Good thing, too, cause Mr. Nervous got up super early to pin his number on four different ways, fidget with his Garmin, and tape his nipples. It took me back to 2008, when the night before McKenzie River, I tried on four different sports bras and made swinging arm running movements in front of the mirror trying to decide which one to wear in the race, even though I had logged hundreds of miles in each of them.

On our drive up to the start, there were several insane people hitchhiking on the highway, but they were holding up race numbers, so we could identify their psychosis as masochism and not serial killer-ism, so we picked up our first hitch-hiker!! Woo-hoo - a lot of firsts going on this weekend!

We hung out with a lot of the Corvallis crew until the start. After the runners were off, I helped a friend shuttle cars to the finish. We got done just in time to make it to AS#1. We got to see the fast guys on their way back from the 1.5 mile out and back and everyone from about 10th place down going both directions, so we did lots of cheering. Unfortunately, when it was time to leave, my mini-van had become a medi-van as two runners had taken nasty tumbles in the lava rock sections and were out for the day. One of the casualties was my friend April who was keeping Mac company on the course when she rolled her ankle and ended up with a bad sprain (Mac was obviously charming the ladies right off of their feet). I hated to see her day end like that, especially since she was one of only three people (and the only woman) on track to finish all seven of the Oregon Trail Series Races, but I did really enjoy her company for the rest of the day as I crewed Mac, helped a few Salem friends, and cheered for runners.

We were befuddled by construction and running late from the injuries, so we didn't make it to AS#2, but got to AS#3 early enough to see all but the first six guys. Mac looked good, but was pissed about the five yellow-jacket stings he had taken in the last section.

On to AS#4. Mac still looked good, but he had lost his appetite. He kept staring at the AS food, but couldn't find anything to eat.

We skipped AS#5 and went straight to the finish to see many of the people we knew finish it up. Mac finished his first ultra in 5:49!! I can't exactly say his face was glowing with pride as he crossed the line; it was more like a pale green tinge with vacant eyes. But he did it and I am super-proud of him! You can read his account here.

Mac's efforts to become a ultrarunner kind of made my quest for a Free Bottle of Wine seem just a tad bit shallow and trivial. So when I got home, I gave my* Free Bottle of Wine to my parents as a Thank You for watching the kids.

(* - By "my" I really mean Mac's because we are married and what's his is mine. It may be shallow and trivial, but it is still a Free Bottle of Wine and I am not giving it up that easily! Besides, Mac has pride and self-satisfaction from MRTR, all I have is the Free Bottle of Wine!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Angeles Crest

I was compelled to sign up for Angeles Crest after a "DNF" in my first 50 mile attempt at Capitol Peak in 2009 (not an official DNF, since I finished the 55k, but still a DNF in my mind). I am not sure if that makes it fitting or ironic that Angeles Crest ended with a DNF.

My day did not get off to an auspicious start. Putting my first contact in at 3:30 am resulted in searing pain, like the surface of my eye was being burned off. After getting the contact out and letting it tear for 40 minutes, I was able to put in a brand new pair without any problem. Turns out the contact solution I borrowed from my mother-in-law was a 3% hydrogen peroxide contact disinfectant - the surface of my eye was being burned off!

But everything at the start of the race seemed to be going well. I felt the altitude a bit when we got up to 8,000 feet, but I was making a conscious effort to run as slow as possible. The most notable thing in the early miles was the wind. It was howling, and not just gusts! A constant blast assaulted the runners anytime we were on the ridge or the south facing trails, making for an unexpectedly cold first few miles.

I stayed consistent and very conservative early on, third female, near four other guys who became familiar as we jockeyed back and forth. I hiked everything up and over Mt. Baden-Powell (9,400) and then started back down. Near the base, there were lots of hikers and they started telling me, "First Woman" even though I hadn't passed anybody. I was actually thinking that meant the first two ladies must have been so far ahead, that hikers starting from the parking lot wouldn't have seen them, but when I got to the aid station, there were a lot of worried people wondering where the other two ladies were. Flagging on the course was a bit sparse, but I thought it was adequate with two flags at every intersection. One of the ladies off course was a local who had trained specifically in this area of the course, which was made it more perplexing that she had detoured, but things happen, and there I was - first female!

I ran well to the next aid station, but the following section did me in. It was one of those sections that would look completely mundane on paper, but totally sucked in reality. There was 1.5 miles on the very sun exposed Highway 2, with a grade that doesn't justify walking but still sucks the life out of you. Then .5 miles on boring campground roads, a short and beautiful downhill mile to Cooper Creek, and then another very hot grind up to mile 37. By the time I got there I was bonking hard and I could feel my legs tightening up. I was ready to be done. Eight and a half hours to go 37 miles (and that was 19th place overall!)!! But they fed me and pushed me out.

The next mile, I was still in "Bonk Phase" and I really lost it on the trail by myself. My left knee was starting to hurt and I was miserable. Finally, the calories started to kick in and I could tell my spirits were turning around, but my knee wasn't. This was an easy downhill section, but the downhill was really hurting my knee and I walked nearly everything. I knew I wasn't bonking anymore and was thinking rationally, and I still felt like I did not want to finish the race in this state.

When I got to Three Points, Mac and his new aid station friend Jimmy, were not listening to my pleas. They got a medic to work on my knee, but it didn't seem to get better. They told me to leave, "just see if it gets better." But it didn't. In fact, it was worse as I got started, probably from sitting around so long. The next four miles were pretty easy terrain, but I must have run less than 1% of it. Droves of people passed me by, and when I got to the uphill, I still wasn't doing any better. In fact, only nine people on the day had a slower split from Three Points to Mt. Hillyer. I got to Mt. Hillyer and had them cut my bracelet. My race was done.

My knee was a big problem, but the truth of the matter is that my knee was only a symptom of a much bigger issue. I have been on a downslide since Western States, but I thought I could push through White River and Angeles Crest.

If I include my taper for WS, my last 12 weeks of training looks like this:
6/7- 45 miles (easy, one speed workout)
6/14-30 miles (easy, one speed workout)
6/20- 6 miles + Western States
6/27- 0 miles
7/5 - 17 miles
7/12- 50 miles
7/19- 56 miles
7/26- 4 miles + White River
8/2- 10 miles
8/9- 14 miles
8/16-25 miles
8/23-5 miles (AC100)

That is NOT a training plan for running 100 miles. Actually, that is not a training plan at all. It is more of an embarrassment than anything!

My left knee started bothering me after White River (but I can't blame it for my race, it didn't hurt till after), which is why the subsequent weeks have such low mileage. The lack of training and disappointing performance at White River slashed my confidence and I wasn't in a good headspace going into this race. Mac says I psyched myself out weeks before arriving in Wrightwood, and he is right.

In retrospect, I shouldn't have been on the starting line for either White River or Angeles Crest. A 50 mile race, and certainly 100 miles, are not things you can fake. Physically and mentally I was not ready to race and so I shouldn't have. The physical part was a big issue, but the mental aspect was the bigger problem. Even though I could still walk reasonably well, my heart and my head weren't in it to walk and suffer and worry about injury for another 18 hours.

When they cut my bracelet, all I felt was relief. I was so glad to be done; I wasn't upset at all. In fact, I don't think I had a bit of remorse until my five year old daughter looked up at me with big adoring eyes and asked, "Mommy! Why did you drop?"

Because Mommy isn't Superwoman. Sometimes she makes mistakes and bad decisions. Because sometimes the body is weak and the mind is weaker. Because even when I wanted to do it for you, it seemed too hard. Because you can't always be at your best; sometimes there are setbacks. But setbacks are okay, too, if you use them to learn, to grow, and to come back even better.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Breathing Easy At Where's Waldo

Where's Waldo Ski Run with a view to Waldo Lake

Last year, Where's Waldo 100k was a disaster for me. This year it was one big party. While I would have liked to get my redemption on the course, it'll have to wait till next year, as the race conflicted with Angeles Crest this year. Instead, our family camped out at Charlton Lake and worked the Aid Station there (mile 32) on race day.
Early Morning at Charlton Lake

We camped right on the lake and woke to serene beauty. The quiet was especially appreciated since the campers next door were partying late into the night. The silence was quickly broken by my two kids who provided a little early morning payback noise for our hung-over noisy neighbors!

Not long after daybreak, we were setting up our surf station for the runners. Tim Olson came flying through just after 9:30. He dropped his bottles, grabbed two new ones from his wife, and was out of there in a flash, leaving all of us standing around idle with our jaws hanging open. But soon enough, we had a steady stream of runners looking for food and a fluid refill.
Surf's up at Charlton Lake!

The family cheers on the runners

Liam with very fashionable and eclectic accessories: A Cowbell, a Lei, and a Machine Gun

Our aid station had a cutoff at 1 pm, so we had time to clean up and get to the finish line. But why would the kids want to watch tired, dirty runners stumble across a line of chalk when there was a huge gondola sprouting from the finish line??
So we went for a ride up the mountain, hiked around, and rode back down. After enjoying the BBQ, we rode up for a second time, because who can get enough gondola? Ok, well maybe Mac and I had our fills, but the kids thought the second ride was just as exciting as the first.

The Charlton Lake Crew all camped out by the lake again Saturday night along with Corvallis Waldo finisher, Mikio, who was moving around remarkably well. We enjoyed a big bonfire but nothing to rival the debauchery of our fellow campers, who were at it again late into the night (and early morning!).

The next morning Mac got in a nice three hour run on the trails (with a Twins summit!) before we packed it up.
Yeah, that face is filthy. Don't judge; we are camping!

On the way home, stopped at the Willamette Fish Hatchery, which was the coolest fish hatchery ever, and I am qualified to say this because I have been to a lot of fish hatcheries for some unexplainable reason!
The breeder sturgeon and trout
Free food! Fish food, that is.

A round of "educational fish golf" to wrap up the weekend

It was a great race weekend with none of the pre-race jitters!

Full results here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Being Realistic at White River

This weekend the 50 mile National Trail Championships were held at White River in the shadows of Mt. Rainier. There are only two climbs on this course, but they are 11 miles and 8 miles long, each followed by jarring downhill sections of similar length. After the 3.7 mile gentle start to the first aid station, the only other flat section is the final 6.2 miles on the rolling Skookum Flats trail, which comes at a time when you are too tired to really appreciate it. This made for an incredibly challenging course, but the beauty was stunning. There were great views of Mt. Rainier looming above, dense coniferous forests, and nearly 20 different kinds of wildflowers in bloom, all on a perfect 75 degree sunny day.

White River has been on my radar all year, but I didn't sign up until the last minute. I have been feeling so blah and tired since Western States, that it just didn't seem like a good idea to run another major race so soon. But somehow over the course of two weeks, my mind transformed this bad idea into a good idea and so I signed up. I knew I wouldn't be at my best, but I knew the course would be beautiful, I thought it might bolster my waning motivation, and I knew it would probably be the only major run between Western States and Angeles Crest. But in the days leading up to the race, I was still kind of dreading my decision - 50 miles is a LONG way to run when you are already tired! In fact, I was really looking forward to the trip more than the actual race, as I was carpooling up with Amy Sproston and Yassine Diboun, two awesome runners I was excited to get to know better.

Before the day started I told a few people that I would like to be around 8:30 on this course, but 9 hours was probably more realistic in my current state. Reality slapped me in the face as I finished in 9:00:47!

I had a few estimated splits in my head for 8:30 pace, but from the get go, I wasn't hitting them. Nothing ever went terribly wrong on the day, in fact, a lot went really well: my food and fluid intake was really good, I stayed pretty consistent, I only took six S!-caps (heat training kicking in!) and I moved up as the day went on. In fact, I started in 55th/7thF and moved up to 35th/5thF by the finish.

There was only one minor disaster and it didn't cost me too much time: With about three miles to go, I caught a toe on the very technical Skookum trail and I came down flat on my chest, knocking the wind out of me completely. Isn't a reflex to put your hands in front of you when you fall?? Was I really so tired that I couldn't even move my arms into a position to protect myself? Well, hey, at least I didn't break a nail. I came up moaning with every breath and had to walk for a bit (at least enough to add 48 seconds to my time, I am sure ;) ). As an added bonus, a mountain biker saw the whole thing and made a point of telling me how bad the fall looked. What a helpful guy!

Even with the fall, there still wasn't one thing or one section that went particularly wrong. I was just running about 3 minutes per section slower than I had hoped and those minutes add up after 50 miles!

Though my time wasn't as good as I would have liked, I still am really glad I went. It was easily the most beautiful course I have been on. I had a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones, and after two years of ultra-running I finally crossed paths with my college classmate, Greg Crowther. But what helped me the most was talking to people about recovering from a 100 miler. It was nice to hear that it was normal to still be tired and flat five weeks after putting yourself through the ringer! Even Meghan and Anton admitted that they had a hard time recovering after their first 100 and that the recovery has gotten faster with experience. Sometimes you know those things deep down, but still need the reassurance anyway.

Top 10 women (photo courtesy of the random guy I forced to take pictures of me)

Williams '95ers bring home hardware (even better, Greg got cash for his sub-7 hour third place finish). Go Ephs!

My awesome carpool: Amy (2nd), Yassine (5th) and me (5th)

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Since Western States, I have been trying to locate the Reset button, the one that clears the slate and makes way for the new. But I am having trouble finding it. I was so focused on Western States and so excited for that race. But when it was over, I got pulled into the post-race vortex, the one that sucks you in and then spits you out four weeks later with your head still spinning. After Western States, I think I just got lost with no direction for my running.

The big problem is Angeles Crest on August 28th, which I am in by virtue of last year's race cancellation. I was so excited for this race last year, but this year, not so much. I know lots of people run back-to-back hundreds, but for me, doing another mountainous 100 nine weeks after WS seems inhumane and insane. My heart is just not in it right now. I am not sure my body is on board either. Maybe other people bounce right back, but I still feel tired and stiff! And my left knee still isn't 100%.

My training plan for WS wasn't perfect, but I had a definite plan and I knew what I wanted to do at the time. Now I feel torn between the need to recover and the need to train. I don't have a Jerry Seinfeld inspired wall calendar for Angeles Crest; I don't even have a plan in my head!

Probably I should just bag AC, but for some reason, I feel committed and I am stubborn like that! Usually in ultras that stubbornness is an asset; now maybe I am just being an ass!

This week a friend of mine asked if I wanted to "cherry pick a trail marathon" on the 31st. There's a new race in Forest Park and at the time there weren't many entrants and he was convinced I could win the women's race easily. And instantly, I was turned off by the idea. I am very competitive, but competitive for the sake of competition and to have a good fight. I want the competition to elevate me, to push me to someplace that I wouldn't normally push myself. I'd much rather get my ass kicked but personally have a strong race than have a mediocre run and "cherry pick" a victory. So that night, I signed up for White River. I was hoping it would give me a kick in the pants- light a new spark within- but I don't think it has. It is just making me worry that I am going to get that ass kicking that I was bargaining for, and I am not even talking about the other runners! The race itself has me worried!

How strange that a month ago I was completely confident in my ability to run 100 miles and now a mere 50 scares me! But in the previous four weeks I have not run on a trail, I have not run more than an 18 miler, and until today, I had not carried even carried a water bottle or any food. Not exactly ultra-caliber training!

Basically, there are only 2-3 weeks left to train for AC. I know I can do that, but I am already looking forward to the taper and I haven't even been training! Yikes!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trying to DNS at Western States

Ready to Run (and run and run and...)

To most runners, DNS is the abbreviation for 'Did Not Start.' But as I settled into to the climb up to Escarpment and all the anxiety, jitters, and hype melted away, I realized I would be fine and that things would go my way; all I had to do was Do Nothing Stupid. And so that became my mantra for the day. Unfortunately, I can't say I was completely successful on that attempt, but overall I feel pretty good about my first go at Western States.

At 5 am the masses took off from the start, ascending the slopes leading out of Squaw Valley, rising in elevation as the sun rose to greet the new day. Tiers of icy steps carved into the persistent deep snow assisted the runners in the final climb to the top. At the very summit, Chris Thornley was melodically banging his gong in the early morning light. He was offering passing runners a chance to strike the gong, but most declined, opting not to break stride. I thought to myself, "This is Western States, and I am going to bang the gong!" but the stick wasn't offered as I passed by and so I seamlessly shifted onto the downhill single track.
Summiting Escarpment, not banging the gong (photo by Olga V.)

The next section was a lot of fun, though as one person put it, it was immediately obvious who had no snow running experience. Yeah, that would be me! I was fumbling all over the place slipping and sliding. I fell four times in this short section! Mostly it was just my downhill foot slipping out from under me on sections where the trail went straight across a slope, but once both feet went sliding down the hill, dropping me squarely on my butt. But the snow was light and slushy so there was no damage. It was early and I was in good spirits, so I just found my ineptitude comical.

Though there was a lot of snow, there had also been a lot of melt in the last couple of weeks and in some areas, the trail was more like a stream with ankle deep run off flowing over it. Other parts were a boggy mess from all the water. Well, I may not be able to do snow, but this Oregon girl can handle some mud! So overall, I moved through this section well.

Nine miles in, the route diverted from the original course onto this year's snow route for the next 13 miles. This started with 5 miles of rutted jeep road with a few snow patches and mud puddles thrown in. Then came a 2 mile paved section of gradual downhill. This was a fast section and very easy to get moving. Several people estimate that this substitution made the course about 20 minutes faster than the normal years. I had the pleasure of running most of this with Jill Perry. We were talking and laughing and the pace seemed pretty relaxed.

The way I typically pace ultras is by judging my effort level as I run. This is similar to heart rate monitoring (I think), but I just use my own sense of effort, mostly based on my breathing rate and depth. However, I think this was a mistake in Western States, particularly in this section, since WS is notorious for "blown quads." I also know from American River that my quads aren't toughened for road running these days. So in retrospect, I should have been monitoring and buffering against quad pounding and not just judging by my effort level.

Finally, the road came out on the Poppy Trail, which was a sweet waterside single track with very gentle rolling. To get back to the regular route, the course made a mile climb up this clear cut scar on a brushy hill-side. This was not a trail, but an artificial route that was recently created to link the two courses. And by recently, I am talking within the last week or so! This was stubby little plants and stumps cut within an inch or two of the ground and lots of loose brush all around. About half way up, I caught a toe and went down HARD, but when I looked at my leg there was barely even a mark and nothing seemed out of place. That made five falls in 22 miles!

I got up to Duncan Canyon and was energized by all the cheering, everyone was so supportive. A volunteer wiped a bunch of dirt off my leg and commented that it looked like my fall was "mostly dirt, little damage," and when I looked down there were just two teensy little scratches on my leg. And with that I was off.

The river at Duncan Canyon was freezing. Halfway across the knee deep river, I was pretty sure I was going to have to have my legs amputated from frost bite! Tamsin Antsey and I leaped frogged up to Robinson Flat and then left there together agreeing that we should run together for a while, which was nice because I not only had company, but this was my favorite section of the course.

By Last Chance I had pulled ahead of Tamsin, but Annette Bednosky was into the AS right behind me. She pulled away when the downhill became steep, but I was able to catch up with her again on the power hike to Devil's Thumb.

At Devil's Thumb, my weight was still nearly identical to the start. The day was really starting to heat up. I doused myself, got ice in my cap and left with a popsicle. Annette was right with me as I was walking with my popsicle and even enjoying the popsicle stick humor (Why did the mother clam scold her children? Because they were being shellfish!). But she again left me in the dust on the downhill to El Dorado Creek. I tried to run as best as I could but all of the sudden I was getting sharp stabbing pains in the side of my knee. This slowed me even more than my usual slow descent.

Hiking up to Michigan Bluff, I really started to feel the heat of the day not to mention the accumulating fatigue. About a third of the way up I came across Devon Crosby-Helms and I expressed my surprise at seeing her. Unfortunately, she had been having a rough day and was planning to drop at Michigan Bluff. Though I was feeling better than Devon, I could tell I was wilting a bit in this section, too, and when I came into Michigan Bluff I was at a pretty low point.

My weight again was right on, but food was quickly losing its appeal. I hadn't been planning to sit, but my feet had been soaking wet for the last eight hours and I had a hot spot on my heel that I knew needed some attention. While I was sitting the PT came over and started asking about my knee (I had mentioned it hurt when I first came in) and then she went to work taping it to lessen the symptoms of runner's knee. She also tried to show me some maneuvers I could do on my own on the trail, but I couldn't concentrate.

While I was sitting there, Mac gave me a hand held full of ice and Starbucks frappuccino, and I downed it as it was the most delicious thing I have ever had! But then it was time to leave, and I was full of dread: 45 miles left to go and I was SO tired.
Me, at Michigan Bluff, feeling crummy, but looking sexy in my Sultan of the Sahara hat. Mac convinced me to wear it: "Anita Ortiz and Meghan wear than kind of hat." Thank heavens he didn't tell me that Anita and Meghan ran in chicken suits or that's what I'd be wearing in this photo! My knee is taped, but those crutches aren't mine! (photo by Olga)

Olga had an awesome pep talk for me: "You're fine. You are supposed to feel like shit at Michigan Bluff!" Fantastic, I guess everything was just peachy keen, then!

Sean could also sense I was dragging. As I left he says,"Do you know Bowhunter Cam from Eugene?" Kind of, I tell him. I don't really know him, but I have heard about our local ultra runner who is also a prize winning bow-hunter (and all around bad-ass). So Sean yells, "that's him right in front of you. You get up there and run with him!"

So I run up to him and say,"Bowhunter Cam? Hi, I am Pam from Salem." He is "Bowhunter Cam" and I am just "Pam from Salem"?? How lame is that? Anyway, we run down to Volcano Creek together and I am really just struggling, but I recognize it as the same drained and over heated feeling that I had at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. And then it hits me that I didn't take any ice or dunk my hat at the last two aid stations. STUPID! But it is not too long before we get to the creek. Cam starts to splash water on his arms and legs and I full on jump in! I sit down, lay back, and am completely submerged except for the little circle of my face, and I lay there until I start to get goosebumps. I come out completely refreshed, plus I think maybe the caffeine is starting to kick in. Anyway, I am ready to move on the way up Volcano Canyon!

My second pacer, Anne, met me at Bath Road with her husband and I made my way to Forest Hill in good spirits and feeling pretty good. I had another handheld full of frappuccino and I made sure to get really wet (hence my video at Forest Hill in the previous post). I took off with my first pacer Mo and had a great first hour with her. After that my stomach started to get queasy and I wasn't able to eat much at Peachstone or Ford's Bar. Mo was encouraging me to drink soda to get some energy in and I probably got in a bottle and a half or so. But my stomach just keep getting worse. I took two salt tabs and another about 30 minutes later, but nothing was changing. Then a nurse at one of the aid stations thought I had probably taken too much salt, so in addition to not doing well with food, I got all confused about electrolytes.

This year racers crossed the American River in boats due to the high water level. I thought this meant I would get to rest a bit, but our rower got us across in about ten seconds flat! Then it was a slog up to Green Gate. And by that time I was feeling pretty sick. I couldn't take any food, but I drank another bottle of frappuccino.

Pretty much every part of me was ready to be done at this point. I was tired, my tank was completely empty, I was queasy and solid food made me dry heave, and I had the classic "blown quads" of Western States, despite training to avoid this. Also, my left knee started bothering me. By the finish, my left knee was about 50% bigger than my right and it was all bruised up - maybe not such a harmless little fall earlier after all!

Updates on the course were really spotty and Mac had NO reception on his iPhone to get information, so I didn't really know exactly where the competition was. I knew I had been in 9th since the canyons, but we weren't sure what the lead over 10th was. My crew thought it was a decent lead because they had hung out at Forest Hill for about 15 minutes after I left and didn't see any other women. I like to finish strong and come from behind, but that wasn't going to happen. Unfortunately, I knew I was in survival mode and just trying to hang on for dear life.

I tried to run as much as I could, but sadly that was very little. Poor Anne didn't even get a workout pacing me. Mostly I was just powerhiking. When I got to Hwy 49, I was in bad shape. Mac said my breathing was out of control. It wasn't asthma, it was just exhaustion. The cooler still had two unopened bottles of frappuccino (we started with four) so I got the impression that the hand held bottles Mac had been giving me before were very watered down with a lot of ice and that I hadn't really had more than two regular bottles. So I downed another bottle because these were the only things I could get down. Well, it turns out Mac was so worried about me that he went to a store in Cool and bought more. What an All-Star! However, I normally lead a decaffeinated life and am very sensitive to caffeine. I often use caffeine in races as a little pick me up, but between the 5 frappuccinos and the 40 or so ounces of soda, I had about three and a half times the amount of caffeine I have ever had on a single day in my entire life! I truly believe that is what caused my stomach to rebel. This was such a stupid mistake because the nausea made it hard to run and it kept me from eating properly and even messed with my electrolyte plan.

Right as we were leaving Hwy 49 Angela Shartel comes in. I cuss under my breath at first, but then I notice she looks really dazed and I can't really begrudge her for moving better than me, especially when I am moving so poorly. So right as we leave I tell her, "Hey, you and I are number 9 and 10. Keep it together for just a little bit longer and we'll get those last top spots."

Time to heed my own advice! I could give up one spot, but how many other women were closing in?? So I ran almost everything to No Hands, pushing as much as I could through the meadow and down the hill which probably means we weren't running faster than 13 minute miles, but it felt insanely hard. We got to No Hands and didn't see Angela. We blew through the Aid Station and started the very gentle uphill to Robie, but nothing uphill felt gentle to me and I had nothing more to give. I had to throw in walk breaks and as we went the breaks got longer and more frequent. About a mile in, Angela and her pacer come jogging by. My pacer starts to run. I jog for two steps, but I know it is futile. "Let her go," I say, "I can't do that pace." A half mile more and we get to the steep uphill. This is the only stuff I like at this point because Western States taught me I am not such a bad power hiker. And so over the last 3/4 mile climb we are gaining on Angela.

Mac met us at Robie Point and he is ready to run and chase down Angela. We are still gaining on the power hike section, but as it flattens she is able to run much more and faster than I am. I just can NOT run anything uphill at this point. I know I am in tenth, with no insurance policy anymore. I just have to get to the finish line. When the road flattens, I tell myself there are no excuses, you have to run everything the last half mile, and even though it is a dreadfully slow shuffle, I do. As I run I am constantly checking my back. At one point two lights come behind us and I freak out a bit. "You're both guys, right?" I ask them. One of them jokes in a fake high voice, "No, we are just masculine women." They say the next woman is close, but probably three or four minutes back. "You've got this," they tell me and I knew they were right. I knew I could run it in to the finish. Of course, that didn't stop me from looking over my shoulder another ten times!

I completed 100 grueling miles in 21:36, for the fastest 10th place time ever (by 31 minutes!). Say what you will about a faster course or moderate temps, but I am choosing to believe this shows the strength of the women's field this year. I am honored and inspired that I got to spend the day running with such amazing ladies and I am super excited that I get to do it again next year!
Pacer Anne, "Pam from Salem," and stud crew Mac
Corvallis trail runners: F2(Meghan Arbogast) and F10! Go Oregon!

I am very pleased with my first running at Western States. I know I made some mistakes and I feel like I gave 9th place away (I had a 22 minute lead at the river), but I did accomplish my two main goals for this year: I went under 21:42 and I got a top 10 spot (skin of my teeth, huh?). I did what I set out to do, but I know there is room for improvement, too.
Montrail Ultra Cup winners (r-l): Meghan Arbogast (1st), Annette Bednosky (2nd), me, Jill Perry (4th, not pictured) and Joelle Vaught (5th)

Another great "prize" - the sign on the door from my 5 year old daughter when I got to my parents'.

Lastly, there are lots of thank you's to give out: to my hubby Mac who was an awesome crew and who put up with my WS insanity for the last 6 months; to my pacers for keeping me moving; to my parents for keeping my kids over the weekend without resorting to TV or junk food - I don't even manage that!; to everyone who offered up kind words and gave me encouragement leading up to the race; to all of the amazing volunteers who completely pampered the runners; and to all the competitors for making this all happen and providing so much inspiration.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I have to sleep before I can write a full race report, but I am pleased that I accomplished my two major goals of gettig a top ten spot (barely!) and breaking 22 hours. I even beat my "private" goal of 21:42.

The day had its ups and downs, but here is what UltraLiveNet choose as the highlight.
See, Hal and Anton weren't the only ones the media was following around. ;)

(update- hopefully that video works now)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Zero: Go!

Race day! You can get updates here.

I am #117. I started dating my husband on January 17th and I am running my 17th ultra, so hopefully that number has lots of good karma behind it!

Next stop: Auburn, CA - Endurance Capitol of the World!

Friday, June 25, 2010

One: Check-In and Final Prep

We got to Squaw Valley today for mandatory runner medical check and race briefing. The day was cool and overcast, and I was freezing. But forecasts are still for the 90's tomorrow despite being in the 70's today.

Many marathons have big pre-race festivities, but all the ultras I have done (including AR50) have been devoid of all fanfare. This was a bit of a mini-circus with all the people, booths, and assembly line the runners had to go through.

At medical check I weighed in at 125! I know I have been running heavy this year, but yikes! I tried to blame it on my running shoes and being hydrated. My pacer Mo was working another runner check so when I went down to say "hi" to her, I casually stepped onto her scale...115. Ok, ten pounds is a big difference, so I had a little internal freak-out and then went to talk to the head doc to try to get her to change my recorded weight since they can pull you for 7% weight loss, but she assured me if I looked fine and not dehydrated they would never pull me, so I am officially running at 125, meaning that after 22 weeks of the hardest training of my life I am now heavier than I have ever been (non-pregnant)! Ha.

Meanwhile, Hal Koerner comes in and there is a guy with a TV camera filming him get weighed in! And one of the ladies at my tables is wondering if she might take a picture with him. What is going on here? Is this an ultra-marathon or the Oscars?? It was a little crazy but the excitement was palpable and it was fun to soak in all that energy.

At race briefing, I met up with Jill Perry and we shared a little about being moms and running ultras. We like to think being a mom makes us mentally tough!
Two Hot Mommas! ;)

Listening intently to all of the race instructions with my "crew."

The race briefing concluded with an introduction of all the people that "raced" their way into Western States. I originally got in through the lottery, but also got a spot at AR50, so I got included...that felt pretty awkward!

Joelle Vaught, Meghan Arbogast, Nikki Kimball, Caren Spore, ?, Tamsin Antsy, Devon Crosby-Helms, Nicola Gildersleeve, Jenny Capel, Connie Gardner, Annette Bednosky, Jill Perry and me. I kind of felt like I was the answer to the Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things does not belong."

After the race, I went all anal laying everything out, labeling bags for the aid stations, and packing bags for after the race. All that is left to do is sleep...and run 100.2 miles!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Two: Reflect

With only two days to go, the on-line hype for Western States is reaching it's crescendo, with on-line polls, WS odds, and even a Western States fantasy league!

The hype is fun, but I also think it is good to step away from all that and remember the big picture.

In running, I have been so excited with my progress this year and the journey has been great. I had some low moments when maybe I went a little too hard, but mostly I am just so amazed at what the body and the mind can adapt to. For me both are stronger than ever. I hope to do well at WS, but a single day cannot erase a good season or the 1,473 miles I ran in the last 22 weeks to get here. Western States is just the party to celebrate what has already been accomplished this year.

Of course, I am hoping it is a really good party!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three: Travel

We drove down to my parents today. My husband tried to sabotage all of my heat training by blasting the AC the whole trip. I did keep the seat heater on the whole way! It got in the 90's today and it didn't seem all that bad, of course I wasn't running either.

Today had to be considered a mental warm-up for the race. Eleven hours in a car with a three year old who started asking, "Are we there yet?" thirty-five minutes into the drive is enough to test anyone's patience and mental fortitude!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Four: Sharpen

I love the running term "sharpen." It makes me picture my legs like knives, cutting through the air as they run. This morning I did my last run of any significance: 5 miles with 6 x 1 minute fast to sharpen my knives, er, legs. My legs are now so sharp it hurts to run my hands over them. Oh, wait, I think that just means I need to shave. ;)