Monday, December 23, 2013

Desert Solstice Teaser

It's been a while since I have posted anything. I think the early darkness gives me writer's block! Well, mostly it just makes me want to go to bed early and it is very hard to blog in your sleep!

After running the 8th fastest North American 50 mile at Autumn Leaves, I spent the last 7 weeks trying to get comfortable running 8:45 pace. Basically, I failed! But I got so comfortable running 8:30 pace I was able to do it for 100 miles to break the world track record by 14 minutes and Ann Trason's US track record by 18 minutes. Race report is up now at iRunFar.

This was a great way to cap off my season and I have a lot of confidence going in to 2014. But the race was supposed to "cure" me of the desire to run loops and instead it has only gotten me more fired up. The overall 100 mile world record (13:47) is still a long way off from my 14:11, but I still feel like I have a better 100 mile time in me. With training more specific to 8:16 pace, a more aggressive start (I spent the first 5 hours thinking I was running all 24 hours), better race nutrition and a lighter pair or shoes, I think I can run sub-14. Can I break 13:47? I have no idea! Maybe not, but I want to try.

On the other side of the spectrum, I still really want to finish a 24 hour run. I am so in awe of those athletes. Seeing them pushing on through the night and keep going the next morning is so inspiring. But I keep getting distracted by the 100 mile distance! With four 100 milers scheduled for next year, plus two (I hope) road 100k's if I make the US team, I am not sure it'll be something I get to in 2014, but it is on my bucket list for sure!
Hope you had a "thumbs up" year!

Monday, October 28, 2013

More F's at Autumn Leaves

Last week I wrote about the Four F's of Poor Running. After taking last weekend off to remediate a few of the F's that I was suffering from, I was feeling pretty good going into Autumn Leaves and that let me experience some F's of good running: Fun, Fast times and Friends! Plus, there was lots of great Fall Foliage to boot.

Autumn Leaves 50k/50M is a low key local ultra that tacks place on a 6.25M loop in Champoeg State Park, a mere 40 minutes from home. The loop is 80% paved bike path and 20% trail/grass. It's pretty flat, but with a couple little rolls each loop, such that my Garmin 910XT recorded just shy of 2,000' gain for the 50M. One nice feature is that the loop contains an out and back section so you see everyone on course multiple times. The autumn colors have been splendid this year with our dry weather plus there were lots of crunchy leaves under foot, so the race definitely lived up to its name! But maybe the best part of this race are the RD's - Bret and Gail Henry are wonderful people and such a cute couple. They travel around the country running marathons (and formerly ultras) together. I want to be like them when I grow up!

Last year, I had a good run, but with pouring rain all day and slick conditions I just missed my goal of sub-6:30. I was certainly looking to go under 6:30 this year, but I have been feeling pretty strong all year and though sub-6:20 would be doable. And then right before the race, I learned about the lists for fastest times of the year and saw the leading female 50 mile time for 2013 was 6:19:44, so that was the goal! I am well aware that fastest time does not equal best time since most of the big 50 mile races take place on difficult courses, but if you are running on a fast course, why not try to run a fast time?!

However, my most important goal of the day was to win the costume contest! My costume win streak at this event is almost as good as my race win streak. I didn't win my first year because the RD's thought I looked so good in my orange dress that it couldn't be a costume (I don't know, I guess they are getting old and their vision isn't so good anymore). But Medusa and Cleopatra brought home the big basket of goodies! This year I didn't really have a vision, but perusing the racks at Goodwill, I had a instant connection to a metallic purple and silver swirl shirt. Add three dollars worth of silver polyester from Jo-Ann crafts and a pair of $1.25 sock sleeves from Walmart and Space Girl was born! Woohoo - let's go rock 50 miles!

My Autumn Leaves history 2010-12

Ready for take off, er, race day, complete with matching purple Injinji socks (I've been upgraded by Injinji from coupon-only status since WS! Thanks, Injinji.)

Nothing says "Ready to Race" better than caked on lilac eye shadow and a little bedazzling!

We started at 7am with headlights for the first lap. 200 meters in I was leading the race with no one around. Umm, hello?? But Jeremy Tolman and Ian Little soon caught up and we ticked off two laps together, with Jeremy and I chatting it up and Ian interjecting some commentary on Comrades in his gentile British accent. We joked he could be mistaken for Ian Sharman! Ian was running the 50k so he picked up the pace after two laps, while Jeremy and I hung back. Jeremy told me he had posted on Facebook the day before that his goals were to 1) finish his first 50 miler and 2) not get beat by Pam Smith! Haha. So I guess it was no surprise when he pulled ahead in lap 4. We were already a good bit under the 7:35 pace needed to hit 6:19, so I let him go, but at the start/finish he hit the port-a-potties and I got ahead and managed to stay ahead for the loop as Jeremy was starting to struggle with some nagging injuries.

Ian won the 50k in 3:43, I came through next in 3:49, and Jeremy called it a day when he hit 50k, picking up 4th amongst the 50k finishers. I was a little jealous that my companions were done, but fortunately, I had an awesome running buddy who had agreed to do his long marathon training run as my pacer. I like road running, and I don't want to say it is boring (especially after Killian got lambasted) but after 5 loops of the same thing, let's just say it's nice to have a diversion. So thank you, Grant, for keeping me company. Besides accompanying me, Grant's main assignment was to be "my voice". It's nice to see so many people on course and I really want to give out encouragement, like they were giving to me, but late in the race it is just hard to find the energy, but Grant was awesome giving everybody props. He's such a social guy!

The end of loop 6 was where that cement-in-the-legs feeling started to set in and I stole another F phrase from Amy Rusieki: "Finish this F*cker!" and so we did without the pace slipping too much. 50 miles in 6:11:40, first overall and breaking the course record by 19 minutes (previously held by some lame chick from Salem, OR)! And more importantly, costume contest victory! (which is really all my kids care about since that means a basket of candy for them).

Splits (6.25M):
1- 46:48
2- 45:57
3- 45:48
4- 45:53
5- 45:52 (marathon 3:12; 50k = 3:49)
6- 47:05
7- 47:27 (includes my only stop (~15-20 sec) to drink a 6 oz can of Sunkist before my final loop)
8- 45:52

My kids were pretty happy with the prize basket. Liam said, "Mom can you do this race again next year and win the costume prize?" I told him I had already done this race four times and maybe I should do something else next year. And he fired back,"Well, how many times have you done Western States?" Touche, little man. Good point. :)
The real reason I run this race!

I celebrated with a hot bath, a bag of candy corn and a Jello No-bake cheesecake - because even low carb eating needs a day off sometimes! And being a doctor does not put me above enjoying white trash desserts!
Prize basket goodies that I shared with my own two little boogers.
I am very happy with my race and the way I am running right now, but I am bummed that I wasn't at the 100km World Championships instead of Autumn Leaves on Saturday. One of my New Year's resolutions was to help team USA repeat as gold medalists, but we didn't get the chance. Even though Autumn Leaves has been wheeled and GPS measured multiple times, it is not certified, so I still have to qualify for the 2014 US team. It is in the plan for 2014 (probably Mad City). But the current focus is still on Desert Solstice. This weekend proved I am fit and fast, but now I have to practice getting slow! As silly as this sounds, I had a hard time with this last year and I need to do better in training at hitting paces that are a minute per mile slower than my typical run pace. I know I need that kind of discipline and comfort with that speed in order to be able to keep moving for 24 hours. On the bright side, I can't move anything but SLOW today. :)

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Four F's of Poor Running

As I was finishing up my fellowship and beginning my job hunt, my mentor told me that when evaluating an employment opportunity, one must consider the four F’s. As it applied to the job market, these stood for: Fame, Fortune, Fun, and Flexibility, with fame not really referring to actual fame, but more the prestige of the position, respect from peers, ability to help you move up, etc.

Along these lines I have come up with the four F’s of poor running: things to consider if your running is not going the way you feel it should be. They are: Fitness, Fatigue, Function and Frazzled.

Fitness- I think as athletes, when things aren’t going well, fitness is the first thing we question. Yet in my experience, this is rarely the cause of a stretch of poor running. I routinely take two weeks off or very easy after big races with no major impact on my overall fitness. Missing a workout or two (or even a week or two) is unlikely to have a major impact on your fitness. I think fitness may impact your hard workout times by a few seconds per interval or mile, but if you aren’t feeling good on your easy runs and you have been pretty consistent with your training, it is likely not fitness. However, if you are new to running, are running significantly harder/longer, or have taken an extended time off, a lack of fitness may be leaving you a little low on your runs.

Fatigue- I think this is a major cause of feeling “blah” while running, especially amongst ultrarunners, particularly because ultrarunners aren’t good at taking recovery. Heck, we celebrate runners who pack races close together with little recovery! Think of revered feats like the Western States/Badwater Double or the Grand Slam. We hold these types of runners as exemplary “Badass” individuals (indeed they are!), but it does propagate the notion that a quick turn-around is not only possible, but something we should strive for if we want to be “badass”, too. I am not necessarily chasing a “badass” image, but rather I am excited by so many events and I definitely suffer from a bad case of FOMO, which can cause me to pack races closer together than would be advisable. Fortunately, the cure for this is straightforward: take time off. But for neurotic ultrarunners with training logs to fill in, this is often easier said than done! (trust me, I know!).

Function- If you feel “off” when you run, maybe you are having functional issues, either injury or a biomechanical issue that needs to be tweaked (I am sure that is the official PT term!). This is especially true if you are having pain, your gait feels sloppy or unnatural, or your issues seem to be asymmetric, with one side bothering you more than the other. My primary strategy for dealing with injury is ignore it and keep running. ;) That is certainly NOT what I recommend, though! Figure out what is wrong, which may include internet searching or a trip to your favorite diagnostician, and then come up with a plan to address the issue. On the occasions when I can't keep ignoring an injury, I am always surprised by how much just a few days of focused therapy will improve the situation.

Frazzled - Life happens and sometimes it happens even when you are supposed to be doing peak mileage. Don't discount how much the non-running stressors in your life can impact your training. A friend of mine is in the process of moving and remodeling a new house and she said was surprised how much those things were impacting her training. But mental stress takes a toll on your body and leaves you with less energy to put toward physical endeavors. Other things may make it harder for you to find time for training, such as a tough work schedule or children's schedules. And of course, illness can sap your energy and leave you feeling drained when it comes to running. It is important to accept these life stressors and modify training as necessary to accommodate for these events.

Nine days ago, I found myself contemplating something along the lines of the Four F's above, as I struggled through a Saturday morning workout. My friend Mike was doing a 13 mile marathon pace run (6:45) and I agreed to tag along for 8 as part of my planned 22 miler. I met Mike after 7 miles and joined him for part of his workout. 6.5 miles into the tempo portion, I was dying! I managed to finish my 8 (and marveled at Mike for doing all 13) but I felt like I had nothing left to complete my planned run. I walk/jogged 2 miles back to the car and was done at 17 miles. My first thought, of course, was "Oh my god, I am not in shape for marathon pace. I have gotten too slow from running ultras." Fortunately, I was able to do a bit of a reality check: I had a 6 minute PR at the Condor 25k the weekend before, so I knew my fitness was good. But, oh yeah, I had pushed myself hard at that race, not to mention my workout with Mike was only four weeks after Run Rabbit Run - maybe a couple of tiny reasons I was still feeling fatigued. Plus, the workout was the end of my call week - something that leaves me frazzled. 

The week following the bad workout there were two more issues to compound the problem. First, last Tuesday we had another "Life Event", or more specifically, a lice event! Liam's itchy head turned out to be a critter infestation and Megan had a rare bug, too. YUCK! But beyond the yuck, lice is a huge pain in the ass (or should I say neck??). We spent hours shampooing, cleaning, laundering and putting toys and blankies through the dryer on high heat. By the end of the night, we were worked! 
Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just Mac shaving my naked son's bug infested head on our front porch at 9pm.
Then Thursday I fell on a very easy five mile run. Even though the pace was easy, the impact was not and I banged my knee up good. Friday, it was completely swollen adding an improper function to my list of F's. And so last weekend, I did not run a single step despite a training plan that called for 40 miles in those three days. And this week I felt great! I feel like all my "F's" are back in line, and to that I say "F-yeah!" :)

I am hoping this pans out well for a good race this weekend. I am headed to the nearby Autumn Leaves 50 miler. While this race is primarily for training and having fun (I'll be in a costume again), I am hoping for a fast time, especially since the weather should be ideal instead of the usual dreadful rain. While the race doesn't boast of a highly competitive field, I often think the clock is the stiffest competition a runner can have. Last time, I'd say it got the best of me as I ran 6:30:44 to my goal of sub-6:30! I am hoping the good weather and well rested legs are worth at least 45 seconds!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ghost Hunting and Condors

Wednesday night, the our family took a Haunted History walking tour of downtown Salem. With the Groupon it was six dollars a person and it came with a free cupcake and drink. I figured it was an easy way to entertain the kids for a couple hours, or at least give them a supervised way to burn off their sugar fix in downtown Salem. The tour was really more of a description of Salem's sordid past including the underground city and the masonic influences. It was really quite interesting. Maybe it got a little hoaky when we got to "communicate with the spirits" but the tour was actually a lot of fun. My ghost "told" me that she was female, that Liam would lose his second tooth this month, but not this week, that I would live past 90, that Liam would outlive us all and that I would break the 200km American record (yes, I asked!). But I didn't ask how this weekend's Condor 25k would turn out. I wish I had because even at mile 13, I still had no idea and if I had put my money down at that point, I would have been wrong!
Megan making contact. Are you scared, yet?

The Condor 25k is in its second year of tribute to Dave "Condor" Bateham, a guy that really encouraged me and gave me lots of advice when I was first getting started in the crazy sport of ultra-running. As much as I wanted to honor his memory, I would have been happy helping on the sidelines of this one as there is still some fatigue in the legs from Run Rabbit Run. But last year's victory came with a comp entry for this year and I am a sucker for free things. And so, I found myself on the starting line feeling completely blah. A friend pointed out a young girl on the front of the line doing strides before the race and noted, "She looks serious."

Well, she was serious and she took off fast. She was strong up the first hill and was even stronger on the single track downhill. At the first aid station (6.5M), Meghan and Dennis told me she was 40 seconds up. The next three miles were gradual uphill logging road- my strength- so that right as we were about to hit the turn to go back down, I came up on her shoulder. She took one look at me and found a new gear! And when we jumped back onto single track she opened up a gap. There were a couple more miles of dirt road and I was closing but I couldn't close the gap. Up Powder House, I could tell she was hurting on the climb, but so was I! Then on the short little bit of trail to the third AS, she looked great. I was impressed with her fight and figured it was game over for me, even though I was only 10 seconds back because it was all downhill to the finish.

Fortunately (or not) for me, I have this inner race gremlin that comes out when I have a number pinned on and I am in the hunt. Also fortunate for me, my competitor was a 5k/10k specialist and the distance was starting to take it's toll. Yes, it was downhill to the finish, but it was basically all road, so I was comfortable. Well, comfortable isn't the right word. I was working hard enough to make audible sighs with each breath, but I wasn't being a downhill chicken like I usually am on steep downhill trail. I passed her shortly after the aid station kicked in for the win in time of 1:55:56, a huge improvement over last year's 2:02:02. It's good to know there is still some good fitness there as I start ramping up training for Desert Solstice. But mostly, I am just happy that I won't have to put up with another year of RD Tia telling me how lame I am for not breaking 2 hours on her course! ;)

With all that, I am pretty motivated to get back into training (and eating right after a day of gluttony today!). However, I haven't been really motivated for my Halloween costume this year. Some of this week's "training" time will have to involve hitting up Goodwill to find something that speaks to me (besides the ghosts of Salem). Any good suggestions??

Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Cooked Bunny

Soooo, I meant to write a race report for Run Rabbit Run this past weekend, but it was my birthday and since this is the last time I'll (truthfully) be able to celebrate turning 30-something, I decided to go a little wild instead. I started my morning with a pumpkin pie latte, and I don't mean a little one, I mean the full 20 ouncer, which in Starbucks lingo is a "venti" because "large" is too vulgar of a word for snobby rich folks. I also just learned there is now a "trenta" option, which I am pretty sure is Italian for "I wish I could mainline caffeine." Anyway, while sipping my latte, I defeated evil, not just once but twice! The evil sudoku, that is. Then I killed a few zombies on the iPad. That evening a few of my running friends came over (because I don't have any other kind of friends) and we had soup, salad and cake. There was also baba ghanoush! Crazy, huh? And all of the partiers stayed past 7pm, on a weeknight and before a morning track workout noless! Move over Jenn Shelton, there's a new party girl in ultrarunning!

Right. So on to Run Rabbit Run...

With 100k Worlds finally getting cancelled once and for all, it seemed like I had a big hole in my schedule, especially after taking a lot of down time this summer. So what the heck, let's go to Colorado and run 100 miles in the mountains!

I think a lot of people expected more than I expected for myself after Western States, but mostly I was just hoping to have a solid run in the mountains and at least finish in the top 5 to be "in the money." But ten minutes into the race I was already hurting!

The race begins with 2,000 feet of steep climbing and I seemed to be working a lot harder than everyone else. As the huffing and puffing escalated, I snuck a peek at my Garmin: .76 miles. Are you kidding!?! F--- me!!

"Confidence, Atreyu. Be confident." I recently shared one of my favorite childhood movies with my kids and a (misquoted) line from the movie jumped into my head and stayed with me all day. No matter what, I was confident I could make it to the finish. Though I can't say it helped my confidence when I got to the top around 9th or 10th female and a cheering Dakota Jones saw me struggling and yelled, "Welcome to Colorado, Pam!" I do love that guy's humor, though.

Fish Creek (all photos from iRunFar)
On the downhill to Fish Creek, I felt like I found my groove and was running well enough to chase down a bright orange tank top ahead of me. I thought it might be Nikki Kimball, but it was a guy. I tried to stay ahead on the technical downhill, but literally took a face plant and banged up my chin and knee. I got up super quick, so the guy wouldn't think I was too lame and then immediately followed a drainage ditch into the bushes. So much for being cool. I let the guy pass me back and stayed behind the rest of the way down. At the AS, Bryon Powell told me I was supposed to keep the rubber side down on my La Sportivas, but I told him I was just trying to be like Lizzy Hawker, who also took a nasty fall on this section last year and almost dropped (before going on to win). I was 7th, but 2-8 were all pretty close and I felt like I was in the mix and was feeling good.

That lasted till we got past Olympian Hall and started heading up again. And that was kind of the story for the whole day. For all the climbing, there is a lot of very runnable uphill on this course, the so-called "douche grade." Normally douche grade is my best friend (does that make me a douche??), but not on this day. The altitude just took everything out of me and I could not get the air or the energy I needed to run uphill. Three times after big downhills I heard "You made up time" or "you are gaining on the girls ahead" only to lose it again on the uphills. Until the 12 miles of uphill from mile 70-82 just did me in completely. 
Sucking wind and "breathing like a porn star!"

Mmmm, Sprite. Not as good as Sunkist, but it'll do
I also had more issues with my stomach than I have ever had (with lots of super fun dry-heaving!) but it was very predictable and came on when I was red-lining it on the uphills . My stomach was the worst the two times I came through Summit Lake at 10,500 - the high point on the course (headaches, too, so classic altitude stuff). But at most of the aid stations I was able to get some food in (yay soda and Red Vines!) and so I don't think it was lack of calories too much that held me back. I just kept chugging to the finish, which never seemed to come! 105 Garmin miles after the start, I finally got there, feeling pretty worked over.
Oh my God, look how bad off I was at the finish!
I had a summer of fun without serious training and I don't regret it. Honestly, I don't think my fitness was an issue here at all. What I do regret is not putting more effort into the altitude acclimatization. Yes, I have a tent, but I only used it for ten nights total with a three day weekend off in the middle. I realize it seems stupid not to use it fully, but it is not as much fun sleeping in a claustrophobic humid plastic bubble as you might think. Plus Mac has this crazy romantic idea that married couples are supposed to sleep together, so it is not his favorite thing when I use the tent. Family and job make it near impossible to get out to the race a couple weeks early (at least more than once a year or so). But now I know: I am very affected by the altitude. I can probably get away with a little less training, but I can't slack in the acclimatization if I still hope to be in the mix.

Nonetheless 22:38 for a 105 (officially 103) mile course with nearly 20,000' of gain is not such a terrible result and I am really not that upset with it. Heck it's still more than seven hours faster than my 2012 Western States! I was frustrated that I couldn't use my uphill strength and I know I could do much better on this course, but overall I think I did a good job of managing the problems I had and running as smart as possible on that given day. I had actually predicted I would be 5th going into the race knowing that I wasn't as focused as many of the other ladies in the field and I live at least 4,000' lower than most of those same ladies. It is hard to be too disappointed when the winnings more than cover the costs for a beautiful weekend in Colorado. And fortunately for me, there will be no altitude to deal with on the track in Arizona!

A big thanks goes out to Fred and his amazing team for all their efforts. Fred really has a vision of making this a race about the runners, putting on a high level events for the elites but making the finish goals of the non-elites just as important, if not more so, especially for the first timers. I think the staggered start is an awesome idea because it really allows you to interact with a lot more runners on the course. So much so, that I didn't miss having a pacer one bit. This is a challenging course (did I mention the altitude?) but it has great scenery and it seemed fairly easy to crew. Speaking of crew, I have to give a big shout out to Tom, who detoured around the floods of Boulder to come out and crew for me. He did an awesome job even when I wasn't the most cooperative eater. Thanks, Tom!

If you are looking for a fall 50 or 100 miler, this one is a good one. Happy trails, little bunnies!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Unbreakable Abs

Liam was playing with Mac's stretchy band when he declared, "This is my karate belt, and I call it Unbreakable!" Then after a brief pause he added, "well, I know Unbreakable is really a running movie about abs, but I call this karate belt 'Unbreakable,' too."

Running movie about abs??? Actually, probably not too far off.

Liam is venturing to the top bunk for the first time tonight. I will be only half sleeping, listening for loud thuds from his room. I hope his head is unbreakable.

As for Run Rabbit Run, I was definitely not unbreakable. The altitude did me in. And while this was not a focus race for me, I certainly was hoping to do better. Or at least feel better. I hope to get a race report up soon.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ultra-Running Anniversary!

This weekend marks my 5 year anniversary since entering the sport of ultrarunning at the 2008 McKenzie River Trail Run 50km. Ultrarunning is such a major part of my life now, sometimes it is hard to think it has only been five years. At the same time, I still consider myself a student of the sport and there is still so much I want to do that I feel like am still a newbie! To date I have 48 "official" ultra finishes, but I have been out for a >26.2 mile run almost 150 times! It's funny that I spent most of my life thinking a marathon was a LONG way to run and now I am signing up for five 100 milers in the next twelve months.

To celebrate my anniversary today I went for a 10 mile run around Salem with a good friend at a very mundane 8:35 pace. And then I ate a lot of jelly beans, and I mean A LOT. Not such a great day from a nutrition standpoint, but otherwise a pretty good day.

One thing that made it so nice was the weather. After two days of storms, we got the sun back. I told my kids to go play outside, but they weren't in to it. "Can't we just go run on the treadmill instead?" they begged. Seriously?? Whose kids are these anyway?!? I used to train on the treadmill all the time; now I dread it. But both kids ticked off a mile.

This weekend is also Mac's 3 year ultrarunning anniversary as he too was initiated at the McKenzie River Trail Run 50k, but in 2010. His weekend activities were a bit more appropriate for an ultrarunning anniversary as he was off competing at the Volcano 50 - a rugged 50k around Mt. St. Helens with 8,000' gain traversing lava fields, major landslides, and a blast zone. The winner didn't even break six hours! Mac ran a 8:43 for a solid mid-pack finish. Today he says he is ready to retire from ultrarunning!

Redefining technical trail (photo FB steal from AJ Klausen)

While I doubt this'll be his last ultra, Mac is standing firm that he'll never do a hundred miler.

"You know why I don't want to do a hundred miler? Because I don't ever need to run for more than eight hours."

"Well, nobody needs to run for more than eight hours."

"Yeah, but I am smart enough to know that."

Well, at least we have one smart one in the family!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

End Of Summer

Labor Day passed, so I guess that's the unofficial end of summer. Guess the weather gods were paying attention because we had a monsoon on Thursday. Driving into the garage was like being on some Disneyland ride...or the carwash, depending on how imaginative you are.

Our new water feature!

Well, while Mac was on a mini-vacation shooting dove in the sweltering Arizona heat, I paid homage to Labor Day by laboring away in the sweltering heat of my own kitchen.

Tomato sauce, Pear/shipova sauce, basil pesto, canned corn and homemade mayo. 50 bonus points to anyone who knows what a shipova is (see below for the answer).
To balance out all those healthy vegetables, I also made some marshmallows because last Friday was National Toasted Marshmallow Day, and it seemed like it would be a shame to let that one go by without celebration
 Before we said goodbye to summer, we had a few last adventures - a trip to the zoo, a trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and for me, a fun weekend hanging out at Cascade Crest.
Meadow Mountain (mile 42) at Cascade Crest
I spent the day crewing for Amy Rusiecki with her death metal rock star tattoo artist cat blogging ultra-running friend. It was awesome! Come nightfall, I was lacing up my C-lites for a 47 mile pacing gig. Cascade Crest is probably the most beautiful course I have been on. Unfortunately, we missed some of the striking scenery because of the darkness, but sunrise on the cardiac needles was amazing.

Instilling my nerdiness in the kids at OMSI
But now it is back to school and back to the packed schedule: music, soccer, karate, 100 mile club, and maybe even Cub Scouts. The funny thing is, I actually train better with all of that going on and I am looking forward to getting back to a very disciplined routine after a fairly laid back summer. 100k Worlds are now cancelled once and for all (actually thrice and for all, but who's counting how many times we got jerked around this year??), so this fall I'll be focusing on getting back to top shape and getting in big miles for Desert Solstice in December. I am going the full 24 hours and if things go as planned that could mean as much as 35 miles farther than I have ever gone before - yikes! That's scary territory!
Back to school. If only they got along like this all the time!
But before getting "serious" about training, I have one more "fun run" in the mountains, as hinted to last post: I am headed off to Run Rabbit Run 100 next weekend. Steamboat is beautiful this time of the year and I want to support Fred and his efforts to put together a competitive, high quality race that still feels like  home-grown event. There's still time to sign up for anyone who is interested!

**BTW- Shipova is a cross between a mountain ash and a pear with firm, ping-pong ball sized fruits. I think they are a little mealy for raw eating (my kids like them, though), but the flavor is richer and deeper than a pear so they make a great sauce.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Fun

My friend Debbie says discipline is like a muscle: some people are naturally stronger than others but you can work on it to get stronger. But like a muscle, if you overload it, it will fatigue.

After Western States, the physical pain was gone in a couple days. The full body lethargy took a couple of weeks to pass. But what lingered long after that was a lot of fatigue in my discipline.

Perhaps you are thinking of the term "burnout," but I don't think it was burnout in the classic sense of the word, because I was totally pumped up to go running. I just wasn't excited to get up at 4:30 every morning (and go to bed at 8:30 every night on these Pac NW glorious summer nights). I couldn't get excited about setting out three sets of clothes every night or cooking my week's food for three hours every Sunday night. And on my day off work, I just wanted a day off, not a day to squeeze in a run, a lifting session and a yoga class. I think I could have gotten psyched up if I had a race on the horizon, but I felt like the IAU and the local organizing committee was jerking us around so much about the 100K Worlds, that I couldn't get my head into training until we knew it was a definite go. And then Worlds got cancelled and I still didn't have an impetus to shift back into high gear. In the six weeks after Western States, I only did speed work twice, I never went to the gym, I did yoga only once, and I did not do a single air squat! But I had loads of fun running!

In July, Mac and I paced Dennis at TRT during his 6th place finish.

The blushing bride-to-be!
No male strippers, but we had this
hottie BBQ'ing for us!
Then I spent a weekend in Sunriver with a bunch of Salem women for a weekend of running and bachelorette celebration for my running partner Stephanie's upcoming wedding. We had a nice long run around Sunriver on Saturday morning. And then Sunday morning, a few dedicated partiers got up for a run to Benham
Falls. Speaking of falls, guess who completely wiped out on the smoothest, most non-technical piece of trail? Yeah, me, the trail runner! All of the road runners I was with though that was pretty funny.

Next it was down to California to pace Tia at AC for 48 miles. I was kind of bummed in the morning when the four Oregon runners were getting ready, because I was wishing I could be racing, too. But I got to have a great day sharing Tia's awesome run. During WS when I was doing so well, Dennis told me he'd take a bear for me to keep me in the lead. When I told Tia that she was doing so well that I guess I'd have to take a bear for her, too, she just joked back, "Don't worry, Ardilla (her nickname for me), if there's a bear, I know I am totally on my own!" The funny thing is there was a bear on the trail at mile 84 that the Idle Hour aid station warned us about. Fortunately, a group of volunteers were successful in scaring it off ahead of us so I didn't have to prove what a chicken I am be a hero.

The only other crazy incident came at mile 96 when we got to Millard and a volunteer asks if we know the course because it had been vandalized and flags removed. When we told him no, he frantically got ready to run with us with marking ribbon in hand. Being an older gentleman, he wasn't particularly speedy, but he was fresh and could run ahead of Tia, except he kept stopping to tie ribbons. I knew Tia was anxious to get to the finish, so I ended up taking the ribbon and marking the last three miles of trail. Most of the course had some residual markings but two critical turns had no markings at all. I doubt many people have paced and marked the course at the same time. But I think disaster was averted!

Tia came in 6th place overall, 2nd female, first master, and 9th best female time ever! She won a cougar for her effort, so now we are practically twins!! I am excited to go back next year and avenge my only ultra DNF.
Tia is ready to rock!

Then a week with my extended family back in Sunriver, where we got to finally meet Cousin Tessa (my niece). My brother decided to enter his first ever running race by doing the Haulin' Aspen trail half marathon. Yeah, distance crazy runs in the family! Mac and I joined the fun by running the full marathon and I even managed to win! But, Oh my god, it was so ugly at the end! My hamstrings were seizing up and I was dying!! Hundred mile running might leave the hamstrings a wee bit deficient!

Cousins Megan, Liam, Brooke, Luke, and Tessa

Smith women at Smith Rock!
Smith rock?
Two Monkey Faces!
Holy Cow - They match and they look like they are getting along! at Lava Butte
Paulina Creek Falls

This past weekend, I finally got the opportunity to do the Mt. St. Helens circumnavigation on the Loowit trail. And I had a front row seat for Mac's first "ultra-barf." He didn't think it was as awesome as I made it out to be at Western States. But he agreed the whole trail was pretty awesome. Though, he's a little more freaked out about the Volcanic 50k in three weeks on the same course.

Masters of sterility on the Toutle River! ;) 

And this weekend, I have another summer "play date": 47 miles of pacing with Amy Rusiecki at Cascade Crest!

But all this play has revived my discipline and I am ready to jump back into training. Yesterday I fired up the quads with 100 air squats and I even cooked vegetables for two hours last night! My next major Big Goal was supposed to be Desert Solstice in December, but now it looks like the 100km World Championships are back on in Dubai on December 20th. But I've got one last little mountain "fun run" in the works before switching back to road running gear...

Friday, July 26, 2013

TRT: Exploration, Inspiration and Information

Things have been pretty low key since Western States. I took the first ten days off and have been getting back into running slowly. My legs had minimal soreness, but I was just really tired and I think my head needed a bit of a break, too. Aside from a trail marathon mid-August, I don't have any races on my schedule for the summer. That's 'cause I am trading in my racing bibs for pacing bibs! I am excited to explore some new trails, help friends, and have "relaxing" days hanging out at some big races.

First up: Tahoe Rim Trail 100 this past weekend, where I got to return the favor to my Western States pacer Dennis by crewing and pacing him with Mac. I had really been looking forward to this until we drove from Reno to Carson City. One side of the highways was a rocky embankment dotted with tumbleweeds and the other side was sun-baked rolling hills with a pathetic carpet of dead grass, and the thermometer was creeping up to 100. I remember thinking, "Thank god I am going to be running at night, because this is a hell-hole!"
Is this what TRT means when they say a taste of Hell?

Well, how quickly things change! As we approached Tahoe the mountains sprouted trees which were finally offset by the gorgeous turquoise water of the lake. "This place is awesome!," I gushed on my first view of the lake. So much for being a Hell-hole!
Ah, here is our glimpse of Heaven!

The only Hellish condition at all was the weather. In what seems to be the trend for summer races this year, TRT was threatening all time heat records with race day highs around 95 degrees (with the course almost all above 7000'). The combination of heat and altitude proved to be a major challenge for the racers, with a lot of "carnage" and slow times amongst the runners.

Oregonians Larry Stephens, Josh Marks, and Dennis Gamroth ready to run! 100% finish rate from these studs compared to the 59% overall finish rate

Unfortunately, Dennis was not immune to these obstacles and suffered from some pretty bad GI cramps. He came into mile 80 looking pretty forlorn and desperately searching for some stomach remedies. Mac was looking really beat up after just doing 30 miles! Dennis lost his top ten position and even watched the first lady go by while suffering with literal gut-wrenching pain. He stayed calm and took ten minutes or so in the aid station trying to get things back on track, before he and I took off for the last 20 miles to the finish in what was one of the most incredible displays of toughness that I have ever seen. He was power hiking like a champ, picking off three people including "unchicking" himself, and then absolutely crushed the last seven miles despite being in obvious severe pain. He finished in 22:27 for 6th place - nice work, Dennis!

Mac and Dennis take off after mile 50. Mac, the "safety runner," clearly staying behind Dennis. Nice cotton T-shirt, Dennis! :)

Notes, observations, and musings from the weekend:
- TRT had nearly the same elevation gain as WS, but stays above 6,500 the entire time and has a lot of hot, exposed sections, making it a tougher course that WS. The views are a lot nicer too, making this a great summer race for anyone disappointed by the December lottery gods.

- In the 20 mile section I paced, eight of those miles overlapped with runners going the other direction so I got to see a lot of the field. The race rules very clearly stated that pacers must run behind the runner at all times and are to serve only as "safety runners" and not true pacers. However, I would say nearly a third of the runners had their pacers in front of them and a couple more people just told me after the race they had their pacer run in front of them. There's even FB picture proof in a couple of cases. Am I just being a goody-two shoes, or is this an issue?? Most races don't make any distinction where your pacer can run, but to me it seems like if there is a rule about this, we should all be following it, be it front of the pack, mid-pack, or back of the pack. 

- People don't get wet enough. I said this about Western States and I noticed the same at TRT. The Spooner Summit AS had a sponge bucket and I personally spent close to an hour sitting next to it and making sure runners knew it was there before they left on one of the longest and hottest sections of the day. Almost all runners perked up when they heard this was available, but a good portion of them just put one sponge over their head before they left. (Happy to see a lot of people did put ice in their hats). At Diamond Peak, they had a sprayer hose, but many runners ran through it the same way I run through the backyard sprinklers with my kids, which is to say, they were quite timid of the spray. On a hot day, one of the most important things is keeping body temperature down, and that means getting completely soaked!

Dennis takes full advantage of the spray. I think my favorite example, though, was Larry, who grabbed the hose from the volunteer and sprayed himself down.

- And lastly we come to my real pet peeve: Salt tablet dosing! While waiting for Dennis at Spooner Summit, Mac and I eavesdropped on a conversation four ladies were having next to us. They sat around talking about how many salt pills they take an hour, how many they take per hour when it is hot, how one likes one product better because she only has to take one every 90 minutes.  Later a runner came in to the AS with a wonky stomach and he assured his crew that he didn't need any electrolytes because he had been taking two capsules per hour.

So if you want to play along, think in your head right now what your guideline is for salt dosing. Ok, do you have it?

I have talked to a lot of people (or read blogs, heard people talk) and their general guideline is almost always something like, "I take one or two salt pills per hour, depending on how hot it is." Here is my issue: salt tablet dosing should have nothing to do with how long you have been running and it is only indirectly related to how hot it is!

Don't believe me? Before going on, here's another little game for you:
1) You plan for a medium run without any water, but end up staying out three hours without drinking anything. How much salt should you take?

2) You go for a three hour run on a cool day, but because you are training for a hundred miler, you make sure you drink three liters of water during the run. How much salt should you take?

3) You go for a three hour run on a very hot day, and end up drinking 5 liters of water. How much salt should you take?

So in each of these examples the time is the same, but I would argue the amount of salt you take is very different. In the first example, if you don't drink water, you shouldn't take salt. The amount in the next two examples are dependent on a lot of personal variables, but I would think most people would take 0-3 salt tabs in #2. And for #3 you would need more than whatever you took for #2. So the amount of salt is not correlated with the amount of time running, it is correlated with how much water you drink! Yet, I think I have only talked to one other person who dosed salt based on how much they drank and that was Jon Olsen, a guy who is now a WORLD CHAMPION!

Every one has different salt needs, but I would like to see ultra-runners as a group talking about dosing salt tabs per bottle and not per hour. If it is hot, you drink more, which is why you need more salt on a hot day. If you stomach goes south and you can't drink much, you need to cut your salt back to match (even if it is hot!), so taking 2 salt pills per hour may be overkill and may be making your stomach issues worse. If your stomach is sloshy, it is because you haven't taken enough salt to match your fluid intake. 

Ok, so that's my speech on electrolytes. You can take it with a grain of salt. ;)

Me and my Trans-Rockies Teammate, Jenny Capel, out for a run on Friday. Ooo la La Sportiva!

Sunday I made Dennis walk the 2.1 miles around Spooner Lake with us because 100.4 miles really isn't enough. ;) There's a reason he calls me "the Ogress!" We walked slow and it was nice to be able to cheer for some of the final finishers.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Trail Stories From Western States

My race report is up at iRunFar (link), but I had a few stories from WS left to share.

At Dusty Corners there was a lot of shock when I came in leading the women's race as I was most certainly not one of the favorites. Craig Thornley was there joking around with me and giving me good advice. But after the race, my crew told me he asked them, "Does she really think she can win?". I guess he was a little shocked, too!

At the bottom of El Dorado canyon, I asked if there was any ice and a nice volunteer said yes, he had some and where would I like it. I held open my bra for him and he sheepishly threw in a few pieces. "Oh, you gotta do better than that," I told him, "Come on now, get friendly!" I left with a bra full of ice. ;)

At Michigan Bluff Mac was there to crew me alone because he left Dennis at Bath Road to make sure he was there ready to pace when I got there. No matter as so many great people stepped in to help Mac including Jimmy Dean Freeman, a couple of volunteers and Ken Sinclair. Mac expressed it best on Facebook, to say how amazing the ultra-community and how much they were like family, as Ken's wife Denise was running for a top 10 spot, and I was her competitor. When I thanked Ken, he said he was just there to give me a rub-down. Awesome sportsmanship, Ken, and the best rub-down on the course by far!

I mentioned my encounter with Karl Meltzer in my report and how he said to me, "Hey, Pam. You're gonna take my M9." What I didn't say is that I got a little cheeky with Karl and fired back, "Well, I just had to prove to you that I should have been on your odds list." I am pretty sure the Speedgoat can handle a little sass. But then I thanked him for leaving me off his list, because I've had three great races that way and the only one he ranked me well, I completely bombed. I told him I was ok if he wanted to leave me off all the rest of his lists, too. We did ask him if he wanted to run with us, but I don't think I made a good enough first impression for him to break his no pacer rule!

Running up Robie Point there was a rustle in the bushes just off the trail and I had a flashback to the stories of 2011 when several of the lead ladies got stopped by a bear. I told Dennis I couldn't handle it if a bear jumped out onto the trail and that that would be a sucky way to lose the race. Dennis told me not to worry because he would chase any bear that got in my way! The bears must've heard that because they didn't give us any trouble!

When I came onto the Placer High School track my daughter Megan was waiting to finish with me. When I got on the track, she took off running madly until Mac yelled at her, "Megan, run next to your Mom. Don't try to beat her!"

At the finish I finally met Gary Gellin, someone I had had an online debate with over the importance of speedwork in training. I think it is an important part of training but he is not a big fan. After I won, he congratulated me and said, "Well, I guess you can keep the speedwork."

At the award ceremony when Tim and I went to pick up the cougar trophies he very kindly warned me,"Careful, that thing is heavy. I nearly dropped it on my toe last year!"

And the funniest story: JB Benna and his crew were out filming again at this year's Western States, this time with more emphasis on the women's race. They had done a lot interviews with the top women before the race. But since I was not I favorite, I was not included in those interviews, so after the race, I had to do a fake pre-race interview. It was hilarious. He was asking me how I thought my training went and what my goals were for the race and did I think I'd be up at the front of the pack. And in my head I was thinking about saying, "I am feeling so confident in my training that I can guarantee a victory!" but even after winning I knew I couldn't pull that off, so I answered with these vague silly responses, and the whole time I had the dorkiest grin on my face because it just seemed so ridiculous. Can't wait to see the movie!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Wow! What a day at Western States. My head is still spinning on just how perfectly the day went. Since crossing the line, I have just been overwhelmed by the support and attention that I have been getting. Thank you so much. Every comment has meant so much and I apologize that I just haven't had the time to respond to each one individually. Race report is in the works and will be up at soon!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Everything's Super!

Well, while my Western States crew and pacer were off playing over Memorial Day weekend, I was at home being Suzie Homemaker with the kids, even going so far to use a sewing machine. In case you are as unfamiliar with this device as I am, there are these mechanical contraptions that stitch cloth together with the press of a foot lever. Amazing stuff! My kids were THRILLED (seriously - we sewed every material scrap in the house together). But there was serious business, too. Specifically, I needed to turn a $2.99 Goodwill camisole, a pair of Dollar Store trouser socks, and some painted fabric (leftover from Megan's curtains, installed in 2005, which may have been the last time I used the machine) into something SUPER.


What started as a bunch of junk and a little 6 year old boy was soon transformed into The Green Lantern, complete with power ring!!

Liam was thrilled. But he did tell me, "Mom, I need to buffen up my muscles to be more like a superhero." Yeah, you think, my little 6-week preemie runt who just barely cracked the 10th percentile for weight this year??

And I also made a little something for myself so were all prepared for this weekend, which was full of SUPER!

First off, Liam was SUPER! We ran the Superhero Dash together, Liam's first 5K. Liam runs more for the experience and definitely stayed in character.

Blasting bad guys.
Liam's idea of racing
Some people hit the wall when they run. Liam made a point of hitting every pole and touching every tree..."for energy". He would've needed a lot less energy if he just ran in a straight line! Nonetheless, he got it done - 49:18 and third place in his age group (woohoo!)

These kids were SUPER!
Mac runs the 100 Mile Club at Sumpter Elementary and he's got 36 people getting gold medals for hitting 100 miles this school year. Several of them came out to run on Saturday.

Our friends are SUPER!
 We had a good time hanging out with some of our fellow Superhero buddies.

And I was a SUPERMOM! (I told you I made something for myself!)
I ran a double Mary's Peak long run on Friday so that I could have the opportunity to wear my underwear on the outside run a 5k with Liam on Saturday.
Mary's Peak
Shout out to these SUPER guys on Mary's Peak. My first trip up I had to scramble over a lot of big blowdowns. By my second trip most of them had been cleared away.
All clear! This helped with my negative split effort tremendously, but I just happened to omit that detail when I told people about this run.

Ok, back to Saturday. The post race festivities were SUPER! Liam ate at least ten girl scout cookies, learned how to fence, got a free ride on the carousel, hung out with the Home Depot crew, and got his body painted...twice. Plus, my lucky little guy won in the raffle again this year (we did the 1k last year). Only last year, he was pretty psyched to get a free cupcake gift certificate. This year he won a yoga mat. It is a much nicer prize, but not to Liam. As he ungratefully told the lady,"The Green Lantern doesn't do yoga!"

SUPER painted!

Don't we look SUPER?
Afterwards, Meg-o and I had a SUPER time at the Salem Garden Tour (and possibly a trip to frozen yogurt) while the boys went to see Ironman. 

Sunday, I swept the Run For the Hills 30k course and got behind an injured runner who was determined to limp to the finish line instead of getting a ride back. That was not so super, but the course was beautiful and so was the weather, so it was still a super day to be outside.

A SUPER weekend, that kind of made up for last weekend at home. Though, I am still jealous! Hope you had a SUPER weekend, too!