Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kudos All Around!

A couple of nice year end recognitions came out recently. First, USA's 100km World Championship team's were given the number eight spot on the list of 10 Best Moments for U.S. Distance Running in 2011. Sure they lumped all the great performances from Worlds together, but still, a shout out to ultrarunning! Trail running got a little love, too, with Max King and Kasie Enman's performances at the World Mountain Running Championships tying for tenth.

Ultrarunner of the Year results are old news by now. Congrats to Dave Mackey and Ellie Greenwood for their incredible seasons. I am totally psyched to be #8 on the list. My motivation for running certainly isn't prizes or external validation, but it is nice to be recognized for a good year and a lot of hard work. And it is an honor to be included with so many amazing women. Many of the other women on the list are my heroes. And I love that my #8 match up on the men's list was Hal Koerner, my inspiration at Bandera. 

The Cascade Half Marathon in nearby Turner, OR was featured on USAToday in Sports. Nice PR for a small town country bumpkin kind of race. Mac braved the snow and wind to set a new PR of 1:42! Nice work, sweetie!
On your mark, get set...SNOW!

Next, a big shout out to my friend and pacer from Western States, Denise Bourassa, who is a total bad ass! This weekend she finished the grueling HURT 100 despite course vandalism that cost her 40 minutes and some serious foot/blister issues. Despite all that she perservered and came in 3rd female. Forget Hal... that's inspiration!
Done HURTing!

And last, but certainly not least...My daughter Megan got her shirt for the 100 Mile Club today. Mac started a chapter of the 100 Mile Club at Rosedale Elementary this year and has 23 kids signed up. Six of them are over 25 miles for the year and got their shirt today. Megan is actually at 37 miles so she should be checking off the 50 mile box soon. She is more stubborn and determined than me, so I have a lot of faith in her than she will make it to 100 miles and get her gold medal. Then we'll have two hundred milers in the family! ;)

Proud 100-miler-to-be!
Mac checks off the 25 mile box!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Unbroken In Bandera

For Christmas, Mac got me the Unbreakable DVD. It was an awesome gift and very thoughtful, but I was kind of nonplussed at the time. I mean, how exciting could the movie be when I already knew how it ended and what would I do with the movie after I watched it once? But the movie was great and we both agreed we'd love to watch it again, especially right before Western States. Little did I know I'd be watching the movie again four days later and then replaying scenes in my head to keep me motivated during the Bandera 100k.

I had the pleasure of once again traveling down to Texas with an awesome crew of Oregonians including Meghan Arbogast, Craig Thornley and his wife Laurie, their good friend Hannah, Joe Uhan and his girlfriend Brittany, and Yassine Diboun, plus we were joined at our lovely accommodations in the Kingfisher Ranch by Mr. iRunfar himself, Bryon Powell. Shortly after arriving, Joe had Unbreakable in the DVD player for another screening.
Oregonians travel to Texas...and bring their belt buckles!
The race got off to a fast start - crazy fast! I was out of the first Aid Station at 49:30 and I was in 5th place for ladies. For perspective, I don't think any woman has ever gotten to the first aid station under 50 minutes in the race (except possibly Liza last year??) and this year there were five! Knowing my splits from the past years, the tireless grind of the course, and the forecast of 70 degree highs, I knew right then there'd be some carnage on the day, but I sure as heck didn't think it'd be me just two miles later!

I climbed the early steep stuff pretty well, but after Nachos I couldn't get moving up those gradual inclines. Normally, I really excel at the "cruiser" grade stuff: gentle uphill, flats and gentle downs. A lot of people don't like that stuff because they think it is boring, doesn't have enough variability or just isn't hard core enough, but I love getting into autopilot and just cruising. That's when I can get into that zen of running where there seems to be both a million thoughts and nothing at all in your mind at the same time. But it just wasn't happening for me, I couldn't get into the right rhythm or a place where my body could just run on instinct. I got into to Chapas at mile 11, and immediately told Meghan not to bother giving me any splits for the other women, it wasn't going to be that kind of day for me. "But you are only three minutes behind," she responded, but I still left the Aid Station feeling like my competitive day was done.

The middle section takes a serpentine route around and through some big grass meadows. Even I will admit it is kind of a boring section, yet I always run it well, again just getting into autopilot. But I struggled and the extra half mile added here only made matters worse. I came into Crossroads 1 nearly in tears. Meghan asked what was going on and my first response was my pelvis hurt. I have been dealing with an abdominal strain and pain in my lower abs and groin area since the marathon, and I had some discomfort. But the truth was, the discomfort was pretty minimal and was better than any long run I have done since the marathon. So then I said my quads, but that wasn't quite right either... How do you explain to your crew that someone has voodoo doll of you with the legs of your effigy stuck in bubble gum? So finally I told her, "Mostly, I think it is my head." And at that point I knew I was going on, because really I had no good excuse not to.

"Just do whatever you can and enjoy the day," Meghan said to me as I set off on a weak trot for a loop over the three sisters, shoving Jelly bellies, Ibuprofen, 2 S-caps and a caffeinated gel into my system in quick succession. I got to the first gully and just walked down it. Whatever.

But soon I had the clarity I needed (and I swear this is actually what came to me): "If Hal Koerner can put his testicles in a zip-lock and hike around Mount Blanc, I can finish this damn race!" So thank you Hal Koerner and thank you Glad sandwich bags; I owe you one!

At the base of the first climb, I leaned into it and started hike up, hands on quads style. "Just like Killian!" I thought to myself. When I passed the photographer, I thought of all the shots of Killian's butt in the movie and chuckled about my own butt, which Craig had told me "really is huge" the day prior.  I continued to channel my inner Spanish super star all the way to the top, still not moving very fast but resolved to just enjoy the day. When I got to the top, I started to run, but this time my legs didn't feel so bad, not great, but not so "flat" or awkward anymore. And I remembered Geoff Roes coming back from the dead at Western States, not that I was expecting to set any course records, but figured I could have a second life in me, too.

I got back to the aid station (Crossroads 2) at 22 miles with a smile on my face, ready to run. I didn't have the miraculous turn around like Geoff, but I felt okay and stayed fairly consistent for the rest of the race. It helped that I nailed my nutrition/electrolytes all day (even early on when I felt bad - I actually ate more trying to "perk" up). I passed Kara Henry around mile 24 (she later dropped) and at the 50k turn around Bryon informed me that Darcy was dropping, and just like that, I was in third place.

I never really could find my "autopilot mode" but I substituted with good co-pilots instead. I caught up with Steve my second time in the grassy section and he led me every step of the way. And I ran most of the last nine miles with Neal, a 21 year old local speedster in his first 100k. Both Steve and Neal seemed to pick up the pace and run a bit better with me behind them, and I know I got a mantal boost running with them, so I think we helped each other. Mostly, I was just trying to survive and stay positive, so I was shocked when I came into Crossroads 1 again, just 4 minutes behind Liza! And though she is much more skilled than me on the rocky terrain, I got back to Crossroads still just 4 minutes back! At Last Chance, Olga excitedly told me I was only two minutes back.

I hiked the next section as hard as I could and got a boost from seeing Meghan out on her run who informed me of the men's results and of Joe's third place finish to grab the coveted Western States entry. But when I didn't see Liza on the ridge, I knew it was over. I was giving it my best at that point, but Liza dances over rocks and I stumble like a drunk elephant! Near the finish, I turned to look for Neal, thinking it'd be nice to finish together after all his help, but he was nowhere to be seen and I was ready to be done!
photo: Bryon Powell
10:04, 3rd female and just edged out of the top ten for 11th overall. It was 18 minutes slower than last year, but with the extra mile and the bad start, I really felt pretty good about the day's performance. Liza gained 6 minutes in the last 5 miles (sheesh! do you have to rub it in like that, Liza? ;) to break 10 hours (9:56) and Cassie Scallon proved JFK was no fluke with her incredible 9:40 to take home the title of 100k National Champion (and even better, a thousand bucks!).

I am not sure why I had such a bad start or why it turned around. I am wondering if it has to do with my complete lack of hill training over the last four months and pushing the first section pretty hard. Maybe I just over taxed myself early but I had enough fitness to recover after a few slow miles?? Or maybe, somebody just got bored playing with my voodoo doll! Either way it was a really great lesson for me to never give up. Pushing myself to the extreme has never been hard when things are going my way, but I now see that I really lose my motivation and mental toughness when things aren't going my way. Ultimately, I think that is what did me in at Angeles Crest in 2010. But Saturday, I think I slew that demon - hopefully, once and for all. Not every run is perfect, but it is good to know that inspiration can be found in a bad day...even if you have to put the family jewels in a baggie and walk it to the finish!

Thank you, Joe P for another great year at Bandera and a day full of great lessons and personal growth. There are a lot of other thanks to go around, as I feel like I relied on the help, inspiration and comaraderie of other people more than I ever have in an ultra, with special thanks to Meghan for being my crew and helping me out of a low point.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Texas Fun

Just got home from the 100km National Championships in Bandera, TX. Good thing because I wouldn't want to overdose on sunny, near 70 degree days in January. I think my body might go into some sort of Vitamin D toxic state, so good thing I am back to 39 degrees and heavy wet fog!

I got of to a bad start yesterday in the race, but through perseverance (and attrition) I nabbed the last podium spot. More details to follow, but I seriously need some sleep right now as I was up all last night reading Ultrarunner magazines fully clothed in an empty bathtub waiting for the caffeinated gels to wear off (they didn't).

G'night y'all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bandera Overview

Karl Meltzer and iRunFar already did a run down of the field. Karl even did a pretty good job with the ladies this time around, so I'll just preview the weather and the course.

The forecast is for partly sunny skies with a low of 35 and a high of 65 - perfect running weather!

As for the course, well, it is kind of like this:
Only in Bandera all that rubble is covered in cactus! Yeehaw!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Looking Ahead: Plans for 2012

When I was 12, I started telling my parents I'd be going to college on the East Coast. By 14, I was already planning to go to medical school. I don't do a lot of last minute decision making! So, it should come as no surprise that I already have a good idea about my racing plans for 2012! Hey, I warned you yesterday that I was anal retentive!

Plans for 2012:
January: I am headed back to Bandera. I must really have a fondness for those rocks, as I keep going back!

Feb: Orcas Island 50k (Feb 4) and Hagg Lake (Feb. 18). I told myself I'd do fewer 50k's in I signed up for two in February - haha! February is actually supposed to be my "down" month since I didn't take any time off this fall/winter. I'll definitely be doing Orcas as a "fun run". If it continues to be a dry year, I may have to get serious at Hagg as I'd like to see how close I can get to Joelle Vaught's CR. 

March: I am toying with the idea of doing a marathon, but I am kind of hesitant with worlds in April. It doesn't hep that Napa is already sold out, so likely I'll just be doing lots of hard road running.

April: 100k World Championships in Seregno, Italy. The team isn't announced until January 22, but my Mad City time should keep me on the team for another year.

May: Time to switch it up and get some trail miles in for Western States! I am hoping to go on another running adventure like the R2R2R and Zion trips we did the last two years. I did sign up for the McDonald Forest 50k in memory of Dave Bateham, who passed away last month. I expect to see his smiling face on the label of my post-race beer!

June: Western States!! People are already predicting that we'll be going back to the slower "regular" course. That means I just have to work harder to get my sub-20 finish!

July: I was originally thinking I'd do the PCT50 to scoop up Oregon Trail Series Points, but I just found out Pine to Palm 100 miler got added to the series. With so many points available in a hundred miler, you really can't be competitive in the series unless you do it. If I am feeling good after WS, I may head to White River instead, as my first time there was a not so stellar day for me.

August: This is my year for redemption at Waldo! Aside from my DNF at Angeles Crest, Waldo 2009 was my worst race ever! Heck, it'll be an improvement just to finish in the top half of the field!

September: This is the really hard month for me to decide on. Why are there so many great races in September?? MacKenzie River, UROC, Flagline, Tahoe Triple Marathon, the new Run Rabbit Run hundred miler, Pine to hard to choose, but I think I am probably leaning toward UROC. I love the 100k distance and I enjoy having a lot of good runners to compete against.

Oct/Nov: I do want to do another 100 miler this year. I definitely need the practice as I still have some things to figure out once things get past 100k. Pinhoti tops my list, only because my sister lives in Alabama and it'd be great to tie in a race with a visit to see her (and I may need more than one reason to go to Alabama!). Javelina is also on my radar.

December: Down time! No matter what the outcome of this year's race, I don't think I'll be headed back to Bandera next year. That'll allow me to take it pretty easy next December and get fat over the holidays without feeling guilty!

Ok, time to start planning for 2013! ;)

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I think most ultra runners are obsessive-compulsive. Or at least that is what I tell myself to make it feel like my own OCD is totally in line with my cohorts. So imagine my horror when I discovered my yearly mileage total was 2959!

Now in my training circles we would strongly frown upon ending a run with 19.85 miles or some other "partial mileage" distance. Yes, we are those anal retentive weirdos who run around the block one more time after getting back to our car just because we need our GPS to end in a whole number. I was totally against this practice when we started. I mean, come on, why should we let a piece of electronic equipment dictate the end of our run? But now it is such part of our thinking that I, too, am a slave to my Garmin.

So you can see my distress in missing the 3,000 mile mark by a mere 41 miles! Alas, I was not OCD enough to check the total until the waning days of 2011, when it was too late to rectify this tragedy! Still, this works out to an average of 57 miles per week. That is not exactly high mileage (and I don't claim to be a high mileage kind of gal, as ultrarunning goes) but given the amount of racing I did (with tapers and recovery) my actual training weeks registered a lot higher than the average. And the total is 500 miles higher than 2009, my first full year of ultrarunning. But next year, I'll be checking my totals on December 1st and so I can plan accordingly to get above 3,000 miles!

So who else wants to fess up to being a mileage slave? Did anybody cram in the miles last week to hit some arbitrary yearly total? How OCD are distance runners really???

2011- The Year In Review

2010 was the year of the 50 miler for me: American River, Capitol Peak, White River, and JFK. In 2011, my focus shifted to the 100k. The highlight of the year was definitely the 100k World Championships in the Netherlands. Even though I didn't score for the team, it was an honor to represent the US and to call so many great runners my teammates. And I got a lot of great experience on a big stage; I can't wait to put it all to use in Italy this April!

Here's my quick race summary for the year:

Jan 8: USATF National Trail Championships in Bandera, TX, 2nd place. For the second year in a row, I went under the previous course record (10:33)but didn't win. Liza Howard was just too nimble on her rocky hometown course, running 9:35 for the win. My 9:46 was a 50 minute improvement over 2010 and a sign of good things to come.

Feb 19: Hagg Lake 50k, 4:22, 1st. Had a great run and became the first repeat winner for the 50k on the women's side. This was definitely a MUD year and it slowed the course down quite a bit. I was 4 minutes slower than 2010 and a far cry from Joelle Vaught's stout 4:10 CR.

March 12: Gorge Waterfalls 50k in the Columbia River Gorge, 4:49, 1st female. This inaugural race was tougher than I expected with some good rocky footing and a few good long climbs. The website currently lists the course with 6700' gain but that was definitely NOT advertised ahead of time! Special bonus for winning a first time event: automatic course record - woohoo!

April 9: USATF 100k National Road Championships at Mad City, Madison, WI. 7:53:17, 2nd place. Again under the previous course record (8:00:52) but no win. But it still felt like a HUGE victory as I earned my spot on the US team with this one! This was my number one goal for 2011 and I was psyched to accomplish it!

May 7: Miwok 100k, 9:39:57, 1st. I was a little skeptical about this one, coming just four weeks after Mad City and with almost NO trail time on my feet for training, but race day, I just felt good and ran particularly well from about mile 25-50. I still had a huge grin at mile 54, but the last 6 were run on pure determination and fumes!

June 25: Western States 100, 20:40, 10th. Eked out another top 10, but I was really hoping to go sub-20 on this one. I know I am a "slow" learner - one of those people who have to chew things over before it sinks in, and well, I guess I still have some mental masticating to do at this distance. On the bright side, I was 50 minutes faster than 2010 and nowhere near as physically destroyed.

September 10: Run Winschoten 100k World Championships, 8:16:45, 16th. I struggled with GI issues and just didn't have the race I wanted to have. But the experience was incredible! So much support and energy for ultra runners - what a different scene than any ultra in the US. I absolutely loved sharing the roads with people from all over the world with ultra-running as our common bond. The women's team took home the silver and we celebrated the US men's gold medal efforts! Way to go Team USA!

September 24: USATF 50k National Trail Championships, 4:41:15, 3rd. I entered this on a total lark because I was enticed by the idea of running near Mt. Bachelor on a beautiful sunny day. The weather and the course did not disappoint, but I just wasn't recovered enough from the world championships and I felt like I was missing a gear on the climbs. Still the $200 prize money covered the cost of the trip and it was a great day on the trails.

October 10: The Good Life Victoria Half Marathon, 1:25:06. The only goal was to meet the 1:26 "elite" standard for CIM. Mission accomplished.

October 29: Autumn Leaves 50k, 3:46, 1st, CR. This run was more about rocking a costume and winning a friendly bet with my husband, but I felt great all day and surprised myself by running that fast on untapered legs.

November 20: EWEB Run to Stay Warm 10k, 37:20, 1st. Who says ultra runners can't be fast? This was a tune-up for the marathon and a confidence booster that all the tempo and track miles were paying off.

November 24: Springfield Turkey Trot, 41:52. Ok, this wasn't really a race for me, but still another huge running highlight for 2011. My six year old daughter Megan rocked her first 5k and some awesome Christmas socks and the whole family was there to share it with her.

December 3: California International Marathon, 2:55:48. This race was far from perfect, but still cleared the 3 hour barrier by a comfortable margin. I stand by my claim that marathons are way harder than 50k's. But despite my best efforts to spread the word, Salem runners aren't giving up the marathon for ultras. I guess they are tougher than I am! Well, they still make for great training partners. I am super thankful for the three awesome ladies who were training alongside me day in and day out for this one, and for so many other runners that I was able to share some miles with during the year.

Well, that's a wrap for 2011 and my 518 miles of racing. Besides the racing, I worked aid stations at two ultras, went on an epic running trip to Bryce/Zion and paced Aliza Lapierre as she threw down a smoking fast 10:33 at the Waldo 100k. All in all a great year and a lot of fun times.

In addition to my training partners, I owe a lot to family for these accomplishments. Mac puts up with more insanity than he should have to bear. He is super supportive and has really learned how to control his eye rolling when I add new races to the schedule. ;) My parents were a huge help at Western States and CIM, and Mac's mom parented our kids for twelve days when we were in Holland. She did such a good job, Liam now repeatedly tells me that Mamaw is his favorite parent!

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to many more miles in 2012!