Monday, May 11, 2015

Fast twitch Slow twitch

Recovery post Buffalo 100 took a while. Yes I should have expected it to take longer than my other 100's, because I ran so much more of Buffalo than Bryce or Run Rabbit. Thankfully I didn't deal with any injuries post race, but I did have to work with those sore feet of mine. Wondered if it was plantar fasciitis but I don't think it was. I really think it was taking 5 weeks off of long runs (longest run between Black Canyon and Buffalo was 13 I think?) left my feet weaker and then asking them to run for almost 20 hours was a lot. Lesson learned. I won't go crazy on the miles or anything, I'm still a more minimal trainer, quality over quantity for the most part, but long runs must be incorporated occasionally to keep the feet happy. 

The taking 2 weeks off post race thing I've been doing the past 2 races I probably won't do again either.  I definitely believe in taking it easy and letting the body heal which takes a long time, but not running at all for 2 weeks has really just kept me stiff and heavy I think.  Very short shakeout runs are the trick I think.
 About 4-5 weeks after Buffalo I was still feeling heavy and slow while running.  More than I thought I should. I did a mild speed workout and it just felt way harder than it should have. At the end of that week I ran a local 5k and to my surprise, felt great!  Felt fast and light, won on a somewhat tight turn course with a 20:09, and then ran 15 more miles total before and after awards each having a tempo, each feeling great!
Friends Jen and Ari each ran super strong races in the half marathon and took 3rd and 2nd. Friend Kendall is the RD and did a great job, it's a great race!


The following week I headed up to Park City to run with friends Pete and Jen and new friend Dom, and man did I bonk. Or something. My lungs felt tired the entire time and my heart rate went up so quickly all the time. A very rough 18 miles. Maybe heat, possibly altitude, who knows. 

I was signed up to run a local trail 10k a few days later and was pretty nervous surprisingly. Yes it doesn't involve nutrition and gear packing and night running and such, but racing a 10k on hilly trail was going to hurt. Sure I could take it easy (not sure I know how to race easy actually) but this was a great chance to get another tempo run in. The race was tough but I'm happy with how I felt and did. Was fun to run trails so fast again. Pulled off another win which was good for the confidence. 

While trying to do some shorter, faster running to give myself some time off from the long ultra stuff before Wasatch training commences, my husband got me into trouble. He's been skiing this year and living in Utah you probably think it's funny I don't. I Nordic/skate ski somewhat, but I've never wanted to downhill alpine ski or snowboard. I borrowed a set of skis and skins from a friend though, and off the husband and I went on a ski touring date. I love it!  Such a great combination of hiking/snowshoeing to see what you want on the way up, going up on your own power, followed by downhill that didn't freak me out too bad and left me with both ACL's. The slushier spring snow was good to learn on.  It was great to discover another activity that we're evenly matched in since we don't run together. I definitely see more of this in my future!

Even snuck a second day in in the rajn. 

So my next stop is the Ogden Marathon on Saturday. I last ran it 6 years ago and ran a 3:34 or so and bonked hard hard hard the last 6 miles. I've had several successful speed work sessions in the last few weeks including a set of Yasso 10x 800's at the same pace I did in 2013 before my PR marathon. The workout felt harder than it did then, but doable. My PR from TriStates Marathon Dec 2013 is 3:10. I was in great shape, ran hard and gutsy and am very happy with it. I do think that Ogden is a faster course so I'm curious to see what I can do. I don't feel like I'm in as fast a shape as the last marathon, but I'm strong. Feeling good and looking forward to it. I'd like to be under 3:19 for sure and am going to try hard for a 3:0something. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Buffalo Run 100 - Raced to my Potential

So I'd been pondering doing the Buffalo Run 100 on Antelope Island here in Utah for about a month. I signed up for the 25k, and would wait till the week of to feel my body out. You'll recall I took a bit of an off season after Black Canyon in February, and I really did. No running for 2 weeks, then 20 mile, 25 mile, 30 mile weeks. Nothing says smart like doing a 100 at the beginning of the end of the off season eh?
But I wanted a learning experience so I can be better prepared for Wasatch. The only way I know how to practice and perfect those last 30 miles I just don't feel like I've done well with, is by running 70 miles first. This is an easier course than I've done, I know the course, it is a great atmosphere with lots of friends, the weather looked good and I put together a great team of crew and for the first time, pacers. 
I would love to do Bryce in June again and better my course record there, but it's too much interruption of Wasatch training. I have 2 very long runs (Bandera and Black Canyon) under my belt and recently read a blog post from Pam Smith, legendary ultra runner, who had her best 100 mile race up to that point, after about a month off. Like I just took. So I felt good about things. 

That is until I woke up the day before with a left foot that felt like it was bruised and didn't feel good to step on. Great. Then my 3 year didn't feel good night before the race, pretty much kicked me out of my own bed (because I'm a softy with her) and I woke up with a really sore neck.

Got a ride onto the island with sweet friend Janice and her family and per my usual, spent till the very last second prepping my gear. I ran to the start, they said go, well actually I believe "run you fools!" were the parting words. 
Run you fools!  Janice in the cute pink shorts next to me and Marlin to our right.  Melissa behind him

Short version: Ran a great first half in about 9:15, dealt with the heat just fine, feet started to get sore, real sore.  Dealt with 3 buffalo herds.  Picked up first pacer, had a great time, slower 20 mile loop than the first though.  Picked up second pacer, was scared of the coming sleepy hours.  Got pushed and pulled and fought through extremely hurting feet, and you'll have to scroll to the bottom for the result.

Long version, as usual.  I was honestly a little nervous in the hour before the race about whether this really was a good idea or not and if I was up for the nights that can be rough on me. 
Miles 0-20 Upon starting though I was relieved to not feel that foot and settled into a good, relaxed pace. Probably 10 min mile pace, no GPS so never kept track.  Heard a gal behind me for a while so turned around to say hi.  Her name is Melissa Soper and she is a great runner.  She was looking for her first 100 finish after a scary go at it last fall.  


Around mile 7 we headed out to Elephant Head and the trail can be steep and rocky and what did I behold?  A very old man hunched over, trekking poles in hand, making his way up the same trail I was hiking up.  I'm a sucker for old people, I stopped, patted him on the back and told him how awesome it was he was out here.  He had an early start and I'm pretty sure he said something about not being very fast.  Bless his heart! 

Melissa and I carried on around the point to get our sticker and see the best view on the island.  I fully expected us to spend much of the race side by side so felt bad when I saw her drop off at only 12ish miles in (she had some rough stomach issues that day but went on to get that finish she wanted so bad!!).  It did allow me to focus on me and how I was feeling though and not worry about where I was in the mix.  I focused on keeping my breathing silent and legs not burning.  I was really pleased with the pace I was keeping while perfectly comfortably being able to also accomplish those other two parameters.  I mean it wasn't hips open long strong strides or anything, but it felt good and efficient and I wasn't pushing at all.  
All these amazing photos above courtesy of Lori Burlison
Completed that first 20 mile loop in 3:20ish I think?  Stopped only long enough at start/finish aid to grab a small pain cream container as my hamstring/glute attachments had been tight for a bit.   Helped some I think, although to anyone behind me, sorry you had to watch me basically rubbing my butt.

Miles 20-50 As I headed out onto the now much flatter 30 mile out and back section of the course I felt good.  Did encounter an hour maybe of horrible gnat swarms to run through, but thankfully that was the only time they were there.  There are lots of buffalo roaming the island and they're generally not a problem, but I do prefer to keep creatures that weigh 10x my weight a comfortable distance away. The guy next to me however, preferred to attempt to coax them closer to us.  Ugh.  He was trying to be funny, but I didn't love it so much.
As I furthered on I started passing a fair number of men that reported suffering from the heat.  I knew it was warm out, but it really wasn't bothering me at all.  I have to suspect maybe I gained some heat tolerance from last month's Black Canyon.  Yes that was a long time ago, but you never know.  I had a half buff (cut a regular length in half) with me that I'd soak in cold water at aid stations, put it around my neck and then when I didn't notice any effect there anymore, I'd put it on my head spread out like a buff.  Worked really well!
Ran into a heard of buffalo planted squarely on the trail so ran off trail to the road where there was a heard on that side too.  At least the several cars there watching them could peel me off the ground if the bison got excited.  Ran the road for probably 1/2 mile before getting back on the trail.  Not too long after had to go way around a big heard of grumpy bison near the out and back turnaround, the ranch.  Was nice to have someone with me that time, kind of a team effort, and we did the same on the way back.  Marlin I believe was this friend's name.  From up high away from the trail we watched another runner who decided to use the trail have several small herds run at him and I prayed out loud he'd be ok.  Thankfully he was.  The off trail we had to do definitely added time and distance, but something I was entirely ok to do.  They are big beautiful beasts, from a distance.

Around mile 36 now I was concerned after the turnaround that I hadn't seen Melissa.  I didn't think I missed her but you never know.  I saw who I figured was the third place woman an estimated 40 min behind me.  And then maybe 20 minutes later Melissa.  What??  I asked her what was going on and she said something about having a hard time but she was running and smiling so I hoped she'd be ok.  Also saw friend Janice who giddily told me they pulled her from the race.  Wait what?  They had pulled her due to breathing difficulty but were now letting her continue.  And she was so excited about it.  I love this sport - that you could have a perfectly good reason to call it a day, but not, and be excited to continue for hours and hours on end.
Now onto the third herd to go around I ran into a new friend, Jim from Ohio.  We'd run the next 15 or so miles together.  Love meeting someone new on the trail, lots to talk about and keep each other entertained with.  I was pleased to be a good 40 minutes ahead of the average I needed to hit for my goal of 20 hours.
The sun was finally going down, farther into the race than I expected which is always nice, although it meant I carried my headlamp in hand for a while.  When it was finally headlamp time, Jim was in front and I told him he could turn his on whenever he wanted.  He replied that his was already on :)  Oops.  Thankfully I had the car headlight Petzel Nao with me and lit the way for both of us through the field and around the NW point of the island under beautiful stars and great temperatures.  My feet were really sore at this point, not blistered or toe nail issues at all, just sore and my right arch really painful.
L to R: Canice, my sweet Ella, Jeremy, Jim in the corner 
Mile 50  New friend Jim and I pulled into the halfway start/finish aid tent and while I didn't want a long stop, I did sit down when I saw my sweet baby sitting in the corner waiting for me.  "I missed you on your run mama!"  Melt my heart.  My great team got me in and out quick, Canice timing, Ella comforting, Jeremy taking my orders, neighbor, friend and pacer Jim ready to head out with me.  And off we went for miles 50-70.  I was pleased with a 45 minute cushion on my goal pace, really glad I listened to Canice the day before and didn't try to run even splits.  9:15 for 50 miles was a comfortable effort and gave me positivity.
Miles 50-70, 9:15pm  We left the tent perfectly willingly and had a great time!  Fun conversation and easy going, pretty quickly passing miles.  I did struggle with temperature regulation a little, jacket on, jacket off.  Arm warmers would have been perfect but I forgot them at an earlier drop bag.  Didn't get to be real jacket cold till 2am or so.  I didn't give Jim too many jobs to do, but just having someone to share the trail with was nice.  This was his first real night run and definitely his longest and most technical trail, I was impressed he never fell :)  I was getting a little weary of the gel I'd had all day and knew friend Jennilyn had made some famous cinnamon rolls so on our last stop through the Wasatch Mountain Wrangler (local trail group) aid stop, I sat down for a couple minutes to nibble on one.  Cinnamon roll, ramen broth, a chair and friends, oh yeah :)
We were definitely making slower time than the first time around and I picked the pace up a little the last 5 miles as a result.

Mile 70, 1:30am We came into mile 70 with only 20 or so minute cushion on our average pace goal.  Made me nervous, but I still felt like I could run those 12's and as long as I didn't slow from that we could do it.  Aid stops however would cut into that cushion and leave no room for error.  Feet were still hurting so much so I walked right into the tent and sat on a cot and made Jeremy rub them with that pain cream.  He was not so thrilled with the task.  Big baby ;)  They were really trying to rush me out, but this was my planned longer stop and while I didn't want to eat into my cushion any more, I did want a second.  Had my feet rubbed which felt so amazing, ate a cup of Ramen, and closed my eyes for 60 seconds.  It felt really good and I was nervous now about the sleepy hours to come.  I voiced it in the tent and I voiced it when Canice and I left.  I was afraid of the coming hours.

Miles 70-100  After a 10 minute stop Jeremy and Canice pushed me out of the tent.  This time I was far less willing to leave vs 4 hours ago.  But I was ok.  Canice got me quickly shuffling into a run and off we went.  He took good care of me at aid stations doing everything for me (which was really just filling my flasks and sometimes getting into drop bags, simple is best), and often I'd continue right through them and he'd catch up.  From the second we started running together he was telling me how we were going to work to break 20:00.  I told him I truly didn't care about that goal or passing any men, another goal he had for me.  I only wanted to run until 20:17.  There was very little communication between us.  He would talk, but it wasn't small talk at all like Jim and I had, it was all about fueling and telling me to go faster and some 'good pace' every so often.  I rarely answered back.  My feet hurt really badly, and I wasn't crazy bored or anything like I've been before at night, I wasn't actually sleepy either, I was just focused.  All I could do was think about not thinking and moving forward with as much running as I could do.  Truth be told it felt a little less painful to run than to walk fast.  So I'd push myself into a shuffle, then a run and carry on.
One job I told him I really needed him to do was to run in front of me and be my eyes for buffalo.  I did not want to have to scan around us and keep an eye out for them.  He said he would, but I'm not sure he did except for once when he pointed to our right and 10 feet from us was a big black buffalo with glowing green eyes.  That was at like mile 75 too.  After that, I honestly didn't even think about them.  Again, my brain needed to only focus on forward movement.
My nutrition plan didn't necessarily go out the window, but I wasn't sticking to the normal 1 gel every 30 minutes, pills on certain interval schedule.  I didn't want to interrupt my mind and didn't really feel like i needed as much at night.  Canice was good to hold my flask of gel out as I'd run by, make me take several sips, and then I'd hand it back.  Then I'd hope I could block him from running in front of me so I could set the pace, not one like he was, running away from me. That never lasted, he always sprinted in front of me.  But it was what I needed, to be pulled along like that.  And sometimes, I'd catch right up to him and he'd tell me we didn't need to push that hard if I didn't want to.  The thing was, I wasn't pushing per say, I was just going with what my body would give me that mile.  Trying very hard to not put us in jeopardy of not getting that course record.
I'm going a little out of order here, but at mile 77 aid station, Lower Frary, I decided I'd try a new pair of shoes in my drop bag.  Couldn't make it any worse, and it meant I could sit down, mwahaha!  I really did try to be fast while doing it though.  They felt ok, but were less cushion than the Altra Paradigm I'd been in all day and just didn't quite feel right so when we returned to Lower Frary after the turnaround (which section seemed to take forever), I changed back into the Paradigms.  At that point I don't think there was any fixing how sore my feet were, I'd just have to deal with it as I had for hours already.

At mile 88 we were 15-20 minutes ahead of schedule.  We were loosing that cushion.  We'd gotten as close to only 10 minutes ahead, and that made me nervous.  But now with less than 13 to go, I was feeling good about my goal.  We should for sure be able to make it under 20:17.  I kept looking behind us, waiting for the mountains across the Great Salt Lake to illuminate.  Not because I was tired, because thankfully, I really wasn't too sleepy, but just because it meant we were closer, the headlamp could come off, just another milestone toward the end.  When I saw the second to last aid station at mile 94 off in the distance, and looked at my watch and did the math, I got excited.  Canice really was right, we really could go under 20:00.  Under 20:00?!  That honestly was never in my mind before or during the race up to this point.  Jeremy and Canice had the goal for me and Canice reminded me of it often (and I'd complain at him that it was his goal not mine) but I never entertained it.  All I cared about was finishing between 20:00 and 20:16.59.  Now that 19:something seemed possible, we had to try!  We is really funny here too, since I was the only one that didn't think I could do it.   It takes a lot of time and work in the 18 hours before to be in this position of a sub 20 finish, and by golly I didn't want to have to try for it again :) 
I put my head down and as much as I wanted to cheer people who were passing us, just starting that long out and back, I let Canice.  I just kept my head down and ran.  Ok, there was that one time fellow runner Phil said "25k sounds nice now eh?" to which I called back too late for him to hear "Not as nice as a 100 mile course record will!".  Then I put my head back down.  I had my ipod in now and while I thought it a little impolite while I was running with a pacer, Canice suggested it, and it was a good thing.  We got to that mile 94 aid station and I never stopped, I power hiked right up that hill letting Canice stop for the both of us, reporting my name.  It was twilight now I think and I felt like the finish was close.  Then we got to all of mile 95.5 and I was pooped.  So drained.  Walking wobbly, feet so so sore.  Just a little bonked.  I had Canice tell our last aid station, mile 96 to radio the finish to let my husband know we were headed in soon.  I was nervous he wouldn't be awake yet and I really wanted my kids there to watch mama finish.
Mile 96, 6:50somethingAM  Again, I didn't stop at this aid station and the finish felt fairly close.  For only being 4 miles to the finish, going around this point of the island sure can feel long.  And while not hilly, it's easily the rockiest most technical part of the course.  Hard to keep a running rhythm going on tired legs.  But I sure tried as Canice would pull farther and farther ahead.  I knew even with a walk though, I could power 15 min miles, and that would sneak us just under 20:00.
And then we finally rounded the corner to be able to see the finish about 2 miles in front of us, and it felt SO VERY FAR AWAY!  I was panicking now, it was like 7:30am, we had to finish by 8am to go sub 20.  I asked over and over if Canice was sure we could even make it under 20 at all.  It was so close, I couldn't not, but oh how I feared we wouldn't make it.  I ran my best but wasn't going very fast.  We were about 3/4 of a mile away and what did we see?  Buffalo on our trail. Ugh.  Canice tried to get me to follow him and run fast, but I yelled at him to come back, and to go around them with me.  So in my freaking out, emotional, physically hurting state, I held his arm and we skirted around our last herd.  Finally to the road, a short but steep hill ahead, and I ran it, and it felt good to run it.  It looked so long, but was probably only 1/2 mile now of running straight toward the finish line with a quick 1/10 of a mile left turn to actually finish.
We ran it SO fast!  I was running my best, with all I could, to put down the best time I could and feel 100% good about the effort I put forth in this race.  Hips were open, strides were long and strong, and I don't really remember my feet hurting that last 1/2 mile.  Canice said his GPS showed us under 5:00 mile pace.  Woah.  Neither of us said a word.  We just powered forward looking forward to the glorious finish line reception we'd get from my family and the hundreds of 50k runners getting ready to start their race at the same place.  I'd envisioned my finish for hours, fist pumps up, maybe hands down and eyes to the sky smiling, but something awesome and victorious.  Canice wanted me to feel the energy from all those people.  We rounded the corner, I searched for where the finish line actually was, and I ran over the timing strip in the dirt to pretty much silence.  I remember a couple cheers in those last couple seconds and race director Jim (lots of Jim's in this race) staring at me as I finished, but that was it.  No flags set up yet, no finish chute, no one ready to cheer us in.  No glorious finish line pose or photo.
My glorious finish line photo.  Such is ultra running I guess.  I won't lie though, kind of a let down.
But I freaking did it!!!  I ran more of a 100 than I ever have.  I ran a 100 like I knew they could be run.  I defeated those sleep demons.  I broke the course record by 32 minutes and ran an incredible 19:45.  19:45!!  Now this isn't the same kind of vert course like Bryce or Run Rabbit Run, but it certainly isn't flat.  Comparable to the other courses, at least a 2 hour PR for me.  Most importantly, I finally felt like I ran a 100 to my potential.  It could even be my best ultra performance to date.  I cannot look back and say I could have run it faster.  Sure there might have been places to cut off a few minutes, but truly, honestly, I ran the very best I could have out there and I am 100% happy with it!!



Trying to make a 19 in my depleted but blissful state.  L to R: Canice, Jeremy, Jim
None of it would have been possible without this amazing team of mine!  WE did it!  My Jeremy listens to me talk endlessly about my thoughts and goals and blabbering about ultra running All. The. Time.  He isn't always perfect, but is very often a super supportive spouse and father to allow me the time I need to train when I can fit it in.  And he is the thick skin I need him to be during a race.  I'm not always nice while racing. I can be short and whiney and impatient to him, but I hope he understands, and knows that he is my best crew chief and I look forward to seeing him every chance I get.  Jim was such great entertainment.  Both Jim's actually, but pacer Jim most specifically.  Those 4 dark hours we ran together were entertaining and fun and I needed that.  I knew the hardest work would come at 70 and I was grateful that he made the 20 miles before that be chill and calm.  And Canice.  He made me run like a work horse, was true to his military background and kept me in line.  He wasn't mean, but he wasn't soft.  He was there to get a job done.  And he always believed in me.  I knew going into this race that he was exactly who I wanted to get me through the hardest part of the night and he was perfect.  I apologized after the race for being mean and ornery a few times but he reassured me he wasn't listening anyway :)

Things to work on: I felt some abdominal strain during the race.  I have been a huge core work slacker and with an abdominal separation from my ginormous 9.5-10lb babies, and yeah, my youngest is 3 (hanging my head in shame), my core is weaker than average.  I have several custom plans I can use, but I'm lazy and never stick to them.  I will get a grip on it and get my core in shape this summer so it's at it's best for Wasatch.
Got to figure these feet out.  I don't remember this pain at Bryce 100, but I do remember it the last 30 of RRR (had me in tears the last 6).  Again, it's not a blister or toe nail issue at all, I have zero blisters post race.  The bottom of my feet were just tender and sore, my right arch was very very painful, from far too early in this race.  I love the shoes I was in, the Paradigm, but I may need to experiment with a different model in some long training runs or races this summer, or maybe a different insole.

Gear I used: Altra Paradigm - Really love it's light weight, max cushion for the legs, perfectly suitable traction for me. I go half a size up from my regular Altra size in this shoe, especially for ultras.
Injinji socks - 1 pair the whole race, the thicker wool-ish ones.  Zero blisters.  Didn't use to like things between my toes, but really like racing in them.
Party shorts, no name brand, probably from Ross, Gore tank, Handful bra - my second ultra in it and I am very happy with it.  No rubbing or adjusting all day, no cleavage sweat that I've felt with other bras,  Believe it or not I do posses a tiny amount of cleavage, or at least space where that would be. Note that this bra for running is most suitable for A or B cup ladies, a great non-running bra for C and up ladies.  Pearl jacket, Gore jacket.
Petzel Nao and Tika headlamps.  Love em both.  The Nao, seriously is like a car headlight, and that's on low.  Neither of them died on me, just changed half way just in case.  Each went 4-5 hours.
Ultraspire Spry pack - shied away from it for Black Canyon which was smart because it wouldn't have held enough water, and I did run out once at this race, but it was the heat of the day and I skipped the aid station I was going to fill up at.  I love this little pack.  Holds everything I could need with drop bags around a course and doesn't bounce.  Would be a great first pack for someone getting into longer running.
Ultraspire Quantum belt - my favorite belt ever.  Wore it the last 30 miles, held 10oz of water at a time which I never drained - it was night time.  If you have a course with aid stations around an hour apart of less it is a perfect choice. I can hold a ton in the front pocket too (like 6-7 gels) and no bouncing!
Vfuel gel - served me perfect again.  No stomach troubles, the new cut on the tabs always came off perfectly, better than before, and although I did say I grew weary of gel eventually, it wasn't the gels fault, more my mind.  I took Vfuel with me for all 100 miles.  It was definitely my main source of nutrition.  Love the thinner consistency and energy level it gives.  I cycled between flasks of it I had prepared and packets depending on how drop bags worked.
Elete Electrolytes Add In - I recall having the my first hydration bladder dosed with the drops and how good it tasted to me.  Definitely got me off to a great start!
Pill wise I used 8 Hammer Tissue Rejuvenator pills which are a natural anti-inflammatory.  I don't notice a huge effect, but enough that I keep bringing them along.  I use 4 immediately post race and then over the weekend recovering too.  I used 2 doses of First Endurance Pre-Race, a stimulant and mental focus pill and don't remember the pick up I've felt in other races, but again, I do think they help.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A student of the sport

It's my spring break from nursing school this week.  But I've still got class this weekend, a long one.  I am very excited for the Wasatch 100 later this year and want to be better prepared for it, so I'm going to be a student of the sport and learn more about those last 30 miles, the only way I know how - run the first 70 first.  Buffalo Run Adventures​ 100 on Antelope Island, Friday at noon!

I've run 2 great 100 mile races.  The courses were amazing, challenging, and my results good, especially at Bryce where I won and set a course record, that was so exciting!  But coming off Run Rabbit Run I still don't feel like I've got a good grip on how to race the 100, best handle the night, although RRR did go better after more experience, and not sure I know how to get myself through the last 30 miles best.  And I think the only way for me to do that, is to experience the last 30 miles, after 70 miles.  Running a 30 mile training run is nothing like running likes the last 30 miles of a 100 in my opinion and experience.  

I want to do really well at Wasatch, and also feel really good during it (as good as a 100 can feel), more in control of me in it.  Funny, I just had the thought that this is just like my births.  My 4th birth I was most prepared and in control and most pleased how it went.  Maybe Wasatch being my 4th 100 will turn out the same way ;)

Antelope Island about an hour north of Salt Lake City is a neat place.  Seems like the moon on the west side and is a great flat runnable trail I like a lot on the east side.  It is definitely an easier course than I've ever done, in virtually any ultra probably.  So that will be nice to feel an easier 100.  The race doesn't start till noon so of course I still get to run through the whole night which honestly I'd love to get out of, but I likely won't at Wasatch so through the night it is.  My family is going to come up and camp at the start/finish, so that will be fun to see them.  All my kids still haven't seen me run a 100.

When I ran with my great friend Carol at Black Canyon one piece of wisdom I remember gaining from her was don't be a slave to your goals.  I really like that.  Have those goals, make them big if you want, work toward them, but don't let them rule you.  Don't let them take the enjoyment out of the experience.  
So I'm going to have pacers the last 50 miles through almost all of the night.  I thought since I've already done my first 2 100's solo, maybe I should keep the "streak" going and be a female Karl Meltzer.  But with Carol's wise advice, I'm not going to worry about that.  I know a pacer makes things easier, and I feel good about using pacers this time and at Wasatch.

So off for another crazy adventure!  I feel like this is plenty early in training to recover from, probably do a little shorter road racing in the next few months, then buckle down come June and saddle up for the big dance for me this year, at home in my own mountains.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Off season goodness

Life since Black Canyon has been busy. Crazy busy. But not with running. I took 2 solid weeks off running. Zero miles. Didn't mind, barely noticed with all that was going on with school. 2 weeks out a friend advertised a run and I hadn't been with her for a while and we had a free weekend. What I didn't consider was how 20 miles would feel after zero miles of running post furnace 100k. My legs did not feel good. I worried how this would effect recovery and getting going again but thankfully a short run a few days later and then every run since have felt great!  I think that 20 was just rough because everything wasn't as supple. 

Anyway, as much as I love to run and train and race, I've been fine this last month not doing much. It's nice to focus my attention on my family and school more. I had a free Saturday morning last week and we'd recently had some snow. I have been wanting to get up to the high country and be in the snow for months. Training for my 100k's didn't allow for that do this was a treat. No pace, no time, no structure worries. 
And it was SO Wonderful!!  I walked, hiked, and ran when I felt like it. Saw some beautiful sights, some so great I just stopped and smiled. Even laying in the snow once when a great song came on amidst one of those sunshine warming your face awesome views. I usually save music for the second half of races and not training, so put in some mellow but upbeat stuff just for fun, not to motivate me to push the pace. 

Took a million pics, played like an out of control child on the miles downhill. Oh it was great!  

I've taken more time to hike with my kids and feel like a kid the couple times a week I've gotten out. I feel refreshed. Yay for off seasons!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Black Canyon 100k

Life has been non stop crazy since Black Canyon 10 days ago.  Just packed full of family, school, and zero running.  Somedays I have zero idea how I manage to fit 2 or even 3 of those things in (note shower and clean my house was not a part of that list, those are bonus activities).  I want to keep this short, we'll see how that goes.

Felt like a big girl flying to a race and renting a car myself for the first time.  I had a 12 hour clinical Thursday, and didn't fly out till Friday afternoon.  In retrospect arriving around 4:00pm the day before the race was too late.  I got through packet pickup having a nice conversation with RD Jamil Coury, then interview with Ultrasportslive TV.  I felt like a nerd being interviewed but it didn't go as bad as I thought, I just never looked at the camera.  Robert who interviewed me is a great guy.  I feel good about how it turned out too!

There was a bit of driving between everything and after a nice dinner with photographer extrodinaire and friend Paul Nelson who was also racing I got checked into my hotel...and realized I had forgotten a watch.  Decided I'd run out to walmart for a $10 one (I don't run with GPS anyway, but I like to know time for nutrition).  Two were less than 10 minutes from me so I chose one.  Well apparently Walmarts down there that have clothes, food, tools and anything else a super walmart would here, don't have jewelry.  Seriously, THE ONLY thing they didn't have.  How weird is that??  So I ran over to the other one, spent too long deciding on $10 watches and got back into the car.  To find my phone had died.  And I wasn't entirely sure how to get myself back to the hotel.  A few wrong turns later I made it though, but later than I wanted.  I do not like settling down to pack drop bags at 10pm, and unfortunately was up past midnight packing them.  Grrr!  One of these days I really am going to pack them before I leave.  3-4 hours of sleep later I was up to eat and leave.  SO tired though, the hour drive up to Jake and Jen Puzey's truck for a ride the rest of the way was tough.  Was a nice drive up chatting with them and Paul again though.  Then I decided to take my time getting ready including filling 40oz of water into my pack from a drinking fountain....and long story short, lost my race bib (which should have been put on hours earlier) and ran at top speed to the start line where they had it (thanks for coming to get me Jeff!).  I pinned it on half hazardly as they counted down from 10.  Ugh.  I was smiling and excited and felt good though.  7am and off we went!
Yes, a pre race bathroom selfie...with a tampon machine in back of me
I ran along side teammate Angela for the first few miles chatting a little till she was ready to get into race mode.  We also ran with super star cool ladies Kaci Lickteig, Katie Desplinter, and Gina Lucrezi.  It was really fun to run amongst them, great conversations, and it was easy and fun chatter.  The pace too was totally doable!  I had to tell myself a few times to hold back because an easier start is smart, and these girls were smart and if they were going to run a very doable pace I had no reason not to run it with them (vs going ahead).  I did lead our little pack much of the first 16 miles, and I felt so capable and good!  I remember us running along windy single track wondering where our first giant cactus would be and how fun it was to all see it together.  When we rolled through the first 2 aid stations I started to see how valuable a crew is since they could blast through them and I was left to my own devices to rummage through my simple drop bag and fill up on water.  I'd run and catch up, but it was tough.  *Thanks to Caitlin Marion for helping me a couple times along the way!*

The temps started out cool, I even had arm warmers on, but by 9am, it was really warming up.  After
the second aid station I think it was, I left last having to go through a drop bag and saw some spectacular female peeing abilities.  I won't mention who, but they had skill :)  They also influenced me to finally stop and squat myself.  I ran to almost catch up and could really feel them picking up the pace.  I wasn't super comfortable with it, but wanted to hang.  It was now around 10am though, the sun easily in the 80's overhead, no shade, and my day of nausea began.  I watched them slowly run away out of sight, saw women start to appear behind me, and yeah, I got discouraged.  I knew it was early in the race though and it was fine to have a down spell and it was important I run my own race.  All the advice I'd heard about this course was to not run too fast the first half.  Now however, it wasn't my legs or lungs slowing me down, it was my stomach.  Anything I took in made me so nauseous.  I stopped a few times and hunched over, trying to relieve it.  I had a headache now too and sometimes had stars in my vision and feared how my body was handling the heat.  I was smart about hydration and electrolytes, took my pepto and tums, but nothing was helping. I seriously rolled into the 3rd aid station truly ready to pull out.  Those ladies were gone, I felt awful, but mostly, I was fearing how I was going to deal with this heat only a few hours into it.  Finishing a race with heat stroke did not sound exciting or smart.  Local and friend Carol Manwaring rolled into the aid station after I did and I told her I wanted to quit.  She didn't look happy either, but she also didn't coddle my idea of quitting.  As much as I wanted to, I couldn't yet and reluctantly dragged my feet out of there and back onto the trail. Why I wasn't sure.

We would share the next several hours together and it was so nice to have each other!  I shared some pain relief cream for her aching foot and she shared a Zoran (didn't work, it's actually a drug I'm learning about right now, and apparently it works best preventive, not once nausea has set in.  I was certainly grateful to try it though!).  We had lots of birth discussion.  We are both very natural minded birthers.  We were so hot and almost delirious a few times it was funny.  We were expecting to finally come to some water to cross for the first time on the course, around 28 miles and 85 degrees into the race.  I though I saw it down below us and thought I saw green bushes too.  I told her I bet that was it.  No she firmly responded, but a minute later when we realized it was it oh how our shuffle picked up.  It was literally like in the movies, running for water.  We tromped right in and laid down.  It felt SO great!  We totally weren't in a hurry, probably spent 10 minutes there?  It was funny to watch the two guys also there and the two of us all get leg cramps of one kind of another when we tried to get up.  We all laughed about it.  
Carol and I were quite the team trudging on, working together, sharing water, running out of water, feeling yucky, but rocking our shorts and sports bras with a collective 10 children between us.  Carol has a better body than I do, and she's going to be a grandma soon.  She has a mind and willpower of steel too, she inspires me to be better.  I hope I can be like her the rest of my running life!  I wish we had a picture of our time together.

I can't remember everything in great detail despite my novel length report so far, but we did a whole lot of walking, mostly on my account, it was just so hard to move at all feeling so sick.  The heat was killing my stomach.  She pulled ahead a few times, we'd meet up, I pulled ahead once simply trying to move as fast as I could as my body would let me.  We got to the bottom of a whole bunch of switch backs around mile 30 maybe?  And I was happy to run every step of them.  I just got into a great groove and ran on up to the top.  I was excited, maybe I was turning a corner now and could get through this darn thing after all!  I had been way ahead of schedule up to this point (i.e.:I went out too fast probably) and was hoping I could still hold on.  I rolled into the big Black Canyon City aid station where my pacer would meet me, and wasn't feeling as hot anymore.  Wrong choice of words, I was very hot, just not feeling good again.  I saw a lot of people quitting there, including friend Zac who was having some issues.  It was hard to not join him.  I basically begged for permission to stop, this wasn't fun, I was embarrassing myself out there, and I was grumpy.  He would have supported me in either decision, but mainly, my pacer was there and I felt really bad asking her to drive 90 minutes, and then quit there having never taken her out on her first pacing duty.  So again, I drug my feet walking out of the aid station.  

I was so unsure how I was going to continue on through the next 26 miles.  Less than half a mile from the aid station I stopped, sat down on a rock, and felt the sickest I had yet I think.  What was I doing? Leaving that aid station for a 8 mile stretch felt so completely scary and dumb.  I was truly sure we should turn around now.   She'd understand.  And then it came to me.  "Oh crap!" I said.  Cari probably worried, asked me what was wrong.  It dawned on me right then, that if I DNF'd, if I didn't finish the race, I would not be eligible for the Western States last chance lottery.  Knowing that a lot of people were dropping made me think my chances were pretty reasonable, and in the end probably were 1 in 17.  I'm someone who dwells on things, doesn't let them go.  I just couldn't wrap my brain around how I was going to deal with the 'what if's' if I didn't finish and enter the lottery.  That would be my very last chance to try for a spot, the other races were full and my life too busy anyway.  I stood up feeling so defeated knowing my mind was forcing me to continue, but on we went.  
All of a mile from the aid station we met up at and yeah, I felt about as dead as I look.
Cari probably wondered if she'd ever get me out of there.
It's amazing that as shallow as the stream was it felt so good.  Not so cold it stung either.
We did SO MUCH walking and a bit more rock sitting in the next hours and I felt really bad for Cari. Here she was thinking she was going to help pull me to a top finish, and we were walking.  A lot.  I've been in the position of pacer where my runner was not feeling well or moving fast and it can be difficult for the pacer too.  Once the sun finally went behind the mountains around 6:00 though, it was pleasant out!  She works in environmental something or other so I played "what's that cactus" for a few hours and we trotted along.  My stomach finally felt better, 8-9 hours later and I could run slowly, sometimes run normally.  I knew there was no way at this point I could earn a spot, and i've kind of wanted to experience an ultra from a non-competitive standpoint, so we stopped at a few aid stations and I actually looked around for food, beyond soda.  I never really ate anything besides a few potatoes, but it was nice to sit down and take my time.  At this point the only thing to do was to keep moving. Up to this aid station I was still considering quitting, but knowing we only had 3 shorter sections left now was helpful.
Trudging on
We rolled into the second to last aid station just in time to grab my head lamp.  I thanked Cari for coming with me for so many more hours than she planned on.  She'd done her 14 miles and this is where she was planning to stop but I offered her the option of coming with me all the way if she wanted.  We had 10 or so miles to go.  I would have been fine but she obliged.  And it was great having her!  We shared my headlamp for a few hours and I can't believe she didn't trip.  We shared some great conversation.  It's kind of nice having someone who is patient and flexible who you've never met to pace you, lots to talk about!  We played leap frog with a lady who was very consistent.  I don't at all mean to sound prideful here, but I was surprised I was having to really work to get and stay ahead of her for good.  It was a good humbling.  The middle pack is tough!  And smart.  

Waiting on the last aid station was a little frustrating.  We expected it a mile or two earlier than it was and despite telling myself that it will come when it comes, I still questioned if they moved it or if we missed it.  It was great getting past it, but I think I took in too much soda because the nausea came back a bit which was frustrating.  Finally finally finally though, we saw the lights of the finish line and it was time to be done.  I was so grateful to be done running, but very disappointed with my day, and frankly, I was embarrassed.  I was planning on top 5, was interviewed as an elite, ran in 3rd place for most of the first 16 miles, and then dropped off the face of the elite race and rolled in in 11th place and 14:20something, 4 hours behind the winner, and at least 2 behind the ladies I'd run the morning with.
Here's me being a bad sport with the thumbs down.  It was hard facing the great people at USL TV after a race like that after having talked like I was there to compete (which I was, and they were nothing but gracious BTW)
I was very grateful to Cari for her help in getting me to the finish line at all though.  What a woman to go 10 miles and probably 6 hours farther than she was expecting!

So, that's kind of how it all went down.  I felt great and strong and happy the first 3 hours, then was sick from the heat despite all my efforts to cool and hydrate and fuel and medicate and electrolyte up for the next 9 hours, then pretty ok for the next 2.5.  But I finished frustrated and embarrassed.  This was easily my worst ultra finish to date.  I know, I know, everyone has off days, but I can still be disappointed.  The other women handled the heat just fine, including most who do not come from warm climates (1 and 2 did).  2 of the elites did drop, but for injury reasons.  Looking at the results, had my day continued on without nausea and like it had that morning, I really do think I would have been in the top 5, and considering the  WS spot rolled down the 3rd, that's pretty frustrating.  It was within my reach.

I came away from the race with a nightmare sunburn on my chest and belly that would hurt me a lot for the next week.  Sorry body.  I can look back on the day with a few fond memories of the first 16 miles with great ladies, river crossings, my time with Carol, and good chats and cooler temps in the evening with Cari.  My legs felt great all day, better than Bandera despite being almost 3 hours slower.  I'm really not sure I could have done anything differently to improve my day.  Maybe go out slower, but I needed the time with and confidence from those lead ladies.  
Despite me truly being unsure if I would, I did learn a few lessons.
  • I hate heat and don't adore the desert scene.  It's its own beauty, but just doesn't do it for me like pine trees and mountains.  I will probably avoid truly hot weather winter races in the future.  It is just so hard to acclimate the body to it December-February.  I think when I said I was a weather tolerant go with the flow running, I forgot I was standing in an air conditioned building.
  • I'm grateful for the kind words about me being tough to finish, but honestly, it is an interesting line and dilemma to me to determine if it was really wise or smart.  For my mental well being I'm glad I finished, I didn't get into the lottery, but I'm glad to know I did everything I could with what I was given.  But I don't have anything to prove about finishing a distance, I've done it.  I was having a miserable time out there from hour 3 and it didn't give in for almost 9 hours, that's a heckuva long low  Risking my health with the heat and the way my body was handling it, I don't know.  Strong, stubborn, or stupid?  Still debating that lesson.
  • I have improved my downhill and technical skills.  I never once felt myself pulling back on a downhill or rocky section out of fear or losing control.  I also did not find the course technically challenging.  Now maybe that's because I moved slower most of the race, but reading others reports about how technical and rocky this was, one even 'fearing for her life' (in jest I'm sure), I never felt that.  It was totally doable.  That is definitely an improvement for me.  I worked on it a lot before this race and even that little amount of time helped.  I plan to keep it up.
  • I felt good with those lead ladies, and while it is embarrassing to me to look like I was being  a poser or groupie hanging out with them then dropping off so badly, I know I could have run with them.  And that makes me happy.  

Black Canyon 100k was well organized, well stocked aid stations, marked just great and I would recommend any of their races.  Thank you to Jamil and Aravaipa Running, my great pacer Cari, Altra Running (my feet were happy in the Paradigm all day long), Vfuel gel (I don't blame the gel, I blame the heat, I still plan to use Vfuel for every race in the future), and Elete Electrolytes (was crucial to keep my electrolytes happy and with the drops and pills I did).  I enjoyed a Handful bra all day with zero issues, walmart shorts (they were cute, comfortable and matched my bra), Injinji socks, and my Nathan pack for 50 miles (a dependable no bounce vest and yeah it was heavy, but I needed a ton of water out there), then Ultraspire Quantum which I love but just didn't hold enough water until the last 12 miles.  Also carried a soft flask most of the way which almost always carried water from the 3 rivers or aid stations to get wet with.  Amazing how quickly that water heated up though.
Thank you for all the support and kind words before and after.  Thanks to Carol's husband Jeff for helping me and being so wonderful to Carol whom I'm afraid may have suffered more than even I did.  I'm doing ok now, heart hurts a little, legs felt better than I would have hoped had I run like I wanted.  I'm just so busy with school that hopefully I'll nail down a schedule for the rest of the year soon so I can have some structure and get moving again.  Thanks for reading!

Congrats to everyone out there who endured and many who did well.  
Biggest congrats to teammate Angela Shartel who is tough as nails 
and finished a solid 2nd place in the day!!

And I can't forget to add this last photo. When I don't have good races it's hard on my family too. My husband couldn't track me all day and was left wondering how I was doing with the heat, especially once my goal time had come and gone, by hours. I typically do not feel well at all for about 24 hours after a 100k or longer race. I flew home after 3 hours of sleep (won't be making that flight choice again) and crashed in my bed so I could be home with my 3yr old birthday girl. She brought a bag of frozen beans for my burnt belly, a cold water bottle for my chest, a flower of course and her sweet little self to sit beside me and "take care of mama". I am a very lucky woman to have what I have and do what I do. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bandera post race

I'm not really sure where to go from here.  I have ideas, but not much direction.  I'm not depressed about the race, but dissapointed yes.  I'm handling it better than I thought, but I'm a little lost as to the future.  Do I want to keep competing in national level, more competitve races and try to make a name for myself, or race whatever sounds fun?  The second choice sounds like the obvious one, but I feel a level of obligation to my sponsors to represent on a bigger field and I do love to compete.  Really, I think competing at big races but not having the pressure of a top 1 or 2 finish would still be fun.

Update 1-30-14
My mind was all kinds of scrambled and stressed in the weeks after Bandera. School had started and like I said above, I just had no direction racing wise. That makes it sound like running is my whole life, but it's not. I wouldn't be surprised if I deal with some form of ADD, so to not have any idea what was next on my schedule running wise whether it be a race or rest, to know how to plan my time, was eating at me. 
I spewed my confusion on several friends and a whole lot on my husband. Last Saturday I ran with a Ari and while she certainly didn't make my decision, she was a great sounding board and offered good feedback. My legs felt better then than they had earlier in the week. After Bamdera I had doubts that my training was actually as good as I thought it was. But you know what?  It was great.  I had some really great long (25-31) mile runs. And I got a really long run in at Bandera ;) I won't lie and call it a training run, but in the end I don't feel like I was able to push 100%, just an off day. But I came away healthy. I wasn't ready to let that fitness go. Enter Black Canyon 100k. 

I figured since I scored Montrail Ultra Cup points at Bandera, I might as well try to race another of the 5 or so races to be eligible to be ranked with them. I really debated going out to Gorge Waterfalls 100k late March, the only other race I could do schedule wise, but that meant almost 2 more months of training, and school is kicking my butt (and I found out the kids have something important that weekend too). BC was only 3 weeks away at this point and I figured   Staying in shape, finishing recovering my legs and just keeping them fresh, then taking 4-6 weeks off as a short off season sounded most doable and 'smart'. 

I've not put the pressure of Bandera on this race and it feels good. I am definitely going to give it my all, but not have expectations of top 2. I just want to have a race that feels strong to me that I'm more satisfied with, score some MUC points, hopefully come in somewhere around 6th (my favorite number and a bonus point with the cup) and then give my body a short off season. And survive nursing school. Speaking of which, I'm on the train almost to the children's hospital for a 12 hour clinical. 

Stick with your goal whatever it may be. Do something toward it every day if you can, even something small. I don't run every day, and when I don't, that something toward my goal may be 10-20 min of body weight strength training or core work. 10-20 min. We've all got 10-20 minutes. A lot of why I decided to do this race was some really great and influential quotes.
The first actually made me a little mad. Altra posted this the day before Bamdera and I was and am flattered!  But it also gave me a little of a sinking feeling reading it before Bandera, like premonition/superstition I wouldn't get my goal there. 
Well, this is a different path and I'm willing to go down it and give it a shot. The other quote that got me was on a friend Dana's photo. It said something to the effect of
Giving up on your goal after one setback is like slashing the other three tires on your car when one gets a flat
They say you usually only regret the things you don't do right?  I don't want to regret not giving it another go right now so BC it is in warm sunny Arizona in 2 weeks! ☀️

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bandera 100k

As you can read from my prerace post, I had high goals going into Bandera. My next 4 months is about to get very busy with the busiest semester of nursing school and I wanted to make a go at a Western States spot. You have to try right?
I have been so mentally strong and excited and motivated for so long toward this race, but by race week I was in a different place. I was busy getting the house and kids ready to leave yes, but I think my mind was just tired of holding me up. I was still looking forward to it, but I wasn't super excited and it was hard not to be overwhelmed by my goal. I ran Wednesday with my good friend who ran on the same dirt road with me on my last run before my PR marathon. I thought it was nice superstition satisfaction. 
As I've prayed for mental strength to continue until race day when I felt like it was waining, I came away with the true, less overwhelming goals of run my best race and come away happy. Well this friend asked if I really wouldn't come away happy if I was 3rd (1st and 2nd earn the Western State spot). I honestly couldn't answer her that I would come away happy with 3rd. That stunned me a little. Praying that night before bed I had some peace come. Bandera is not to destroy me, it is to build and excite me. Every opportunity is a growing opportunity. Too much pressure is a bad thing, it messes with my brain too much. I am going to Bandera to have MY best race and if for some reason my best race does not put me in a position to take home a slot, the effort of Bandera will be excellent in the strength bank toward any future race, including Western. I signed as an Altra athlete and have travel help now, I can afford to go to another race to chase western if needed but the plan is to do it at Bandera.
That's what I needed, seems simple and silly to some that I couldn't just tell myself that all along, but it helped me a lot then and the rest of the week. 

On the flight to San Antonio I sat next to a woman looking over the course map and elevation profile for the race. My new friend Shannon was connecting from Portland to go out to the race and had done it several times. Was nice to talk to someone with course experience and to make a new friend of course. Kind of ironic she happened to be on the same plane and right next to me. 
Jeremy and I walked along the Riverwalk that evening and enjoyed a dinner out with friends we haven't seen in a long time. Was really nice having that day, Thursday, to not worry about the race, just enjoy the trip. 
Along the River Walk in San Antonio feeling ready to run
Friday we made the hour drive over to Badera and while I watched the terrain become more rolling, even at the state park the hills we would run tomorrow were hidden. I wasn't cocky, but wasn't that worried. There was no mud that evening either.  After we got upgraded to a wonderful condo instead of the 1 room cabin I booked (heater broken and in this weather we needed a heater) so my personal chef made me an awesome dinner while I sat on the floor scattering and organizing all the gear I brought for drop bags. Was such a nice relaxing night. 

Lots of stuff it appears for 2 drop bags (dry bags rock as drop bags), I probably only pulled out 10% of this.
Bags would have been even smaller had it not been for the threatening weather
After dreaming several times I'd slept in I finally woke up to the real alarm and enjoyed a peaceful morning in the living room finishing drop bags and gear while my better half slept in darkness and quiet. He went out to warm the car up and warned me sternly to be very  slow and careful going down the stairs as they were covered in ice. Awesome. I really wasn't too worried though. Jer pumped me up with all my favorite pre race songs as we followed many tail lights down the dark road ahead. I was excited!  Dropped my bags off, found the weather not as cold as I thought, and ran over to the starting line about 10 seconds before they said go. 
Traci, Me, Kelsie, Melanie at like mile 1 probably
The pace was fast but I was in the mix of top 5 women...for a few miles anyway :) I did great up the first climb but was learning just how "fun" ice covered rocks are, and some sections of Bandera that's all there is to run on, ice covered rocks. As we started down the first big downhill from Sky Island I lost that lead pack. They were far more daring on the icy rocky downhill. So, my new friend Traci (Traci Falbo, an amazing runner) and I along with some ladies named Ashley and Kelsie would be around each other for the next several hours. Was nice to chat. Traci and I talked about how fast the women's pace was so far and how we were wanted to run our own races right now and I was able to settle into my own by about mile 16. Up until 16 it felt like I was really working hard, harder than I wanted to (and yet I told myself I'd probably need to work harder than usual to have better than usual results, maybe harder wasn't the answer, maybe smarter was). Up to 16 I was on 10:15-10:30 pace. By the end of the little 5 mile loop back to Crossroads aid station at 21, I was closer to 10:45. Darn. 

Welcome to the mudfest
Now we were experiencing the crazy heavy mud. Mud unlike I'd run in. Mud so heavy each foot really did feel at least 5 pounds heavier and the mud didn't just cake under foot but around it too, I told one guy we looked like we had mud snowshoes on. And there's no kicking it off, or scraping it off. It would just pile right back on. It required so much more and zapped so much more muscle and energy and strength. I knew everyone else was dealing with it, but for my own body, I had a few moments of concern. Twinges of pain or strain in my ankle or quad or calf made me a little nervous. We probably had a 10 mile and 5 mile stretch of mud like that. Each of the 2 loops.  I knew it would slow me down, but I was more concerned about how much energy it would take out of me so early in the race. When we would go down these steep ledgy downhills I had that fear confirmed with shaky, tired legs. 

The shoes and legs post race.  There are yellow shoes under there.
And then there was the razor sharp sotol plants lining the trail on both sides in places where there was no where to go but through. It hurt really badly several times and was annoying most of the other times. Was grateful for capris so I at least only ripped up my shins. There were places the sotol was way closer together and thicker than in this photo below. 

Photo from runforpain.wordpress.com
I rolled into 50k at 5:25 (although I think my husband has me down at 5:15).  Made quick time in the aid station only changing out of my noisy rain coat (which did serve me well during 1 rain storm) and into a softer quiet jacket.  I also had changed from my Ultraspire Astral vest hours ago at Crossroads into my Ultraspire Quantum belt.  LOVE that belt!  I didn't start with it because I didn't want to stop at every aid station to fill my 2 5-oz flasks for time and because I didn't want to get gloves wet, but it turned out totally worth it.  Love not having weight on my shoulders but still don't like a handheld. 
Anyway, left halfway positive.  I kind of resigned myself to not coming in top 2 anymore, but I wanted to hold on and 'race my best race' in case someone ahead faded.  I wanted to have more to push with, but it never really came.  It was nice to see a lady in front of me and I got within a minute a few times, but she held strong and pulled away each time.  Time passed pretty well, I was looking forward to seeing my husband again at Crossroads again.  I was walking a little more than before maybe, but I powered up every hill even if it was a power hike, trying to make up any time I could.  On the downhills that thankfully weren't as slick anymore, I kept mantras in my head like "pick your feet up, pick a line, pick your feet up, pick a line" or "feet up, knees up, feet up, knees up".  I kept to my schedule for Ibuprofin and PreRace and did well with my calories and hydration.  Enjoyed a small cup of yummy mashed potatoes and then a few hours later had mashed potatoes inside a quesadilla in one hand, and a cup of jelly beans in the other :)  There was only 1 aid station to go now till the finish, 2 sections, and I was motivated by a new time goal, to go sub 12, preferably in the 11:40something.  I knew my splits from earlier and was still feeling reasonable GI and leg wise and the mud was slightly better, so I gave it my best.  I left Crossroads with my headlamp which I was hoping to not have to need, but it's a good thing I had it.
My game face
By the time I got to that last aid station, and I'd made good time to it, I was happy about that, it was time for a headlamp.  The last section of the course included 2 big climbs and 2 big descents.  They were long both ways.  When I left that aid station it was about the time I had wanted to finish and I could hear the finish line a bit.  That was a bummer.  It was really misty out now, maybe light rain, but more just misty.  However, it made it impossible to see with the headlamp on your head. I had to hold it in my hand with arm down.  I'd have to raise it up to see the reflective markers tied to trees.  Definitely slowed things down to not be able to see where I was going very well.  After finally getting to the start of last long climb (which would have a long descent afterwards), I knew I'd be close once I got the switchbacks.  So, I started singing a song about the switchback.  It was totally weird but kept my mind busy and motivated.  Shining the light on cactus nearby that looked  like giant rabbit ears was fun too.  My pace had really slowed running in the dark and I really wanted to accomplish at least one goal that day.  Finally found that switchback, thanked it for being there and ran as fast as I could to the end of the trail that lets out on a dirt road that's probably a mile or less from the finish.  I ran into a man probably in his 70's in the 50k probably, who wondered if he was going the right way.  I assured him he was and continued on, in awe of him out here and wanting to be out here.  What was his motivation I wondered?  I admired him and hope I'll still love it at his age.  
The finish came and I snuck in at 11:49.  Barely got it, but got one goal that day.  6th place, 5th USATF.  As for my 'run my best race' and 'come away happy', I didn't have the competitive edge I wanted that day and probably didn't push myself to 100% so I didn't meet that goal completely, but I kept on and finished strong-ish and healthy.  I never got passed in the second half, that's good.  As for the 'come away happy', I laughed at myself at thinking "well, I'm happy to be done" :)  
See, I do smile, this was even the second half of the race, mile 35 or so
I'm disappointed but not depressed.  No, I didn't have a miserable day, but I was bummed at how much I had underestimated the course and competition.  I was trained well, but not specific enough for this course.  I ran too much flat, too little technical (not that I have ice covered rocks to train in, snow would have been easier).  Knowing the course would help I think, being able to train on some of those rocky downhills.  Home court advantage would rule on those.  I lost most ground there I think.

I posted a picture of a humble pie on my Instagram mostly as a joke.  The night before I posted a picture in my Wasatch Mountain Wrangler shirt in front of a big Texas clock saying "we'll see how 'technical' and 'hilly' this course really is, or I'll eat humble pie".  I posted a picture after the race of humble pie on Instagram mostly as a joke, it made me laugh at least.  But a lot of people didn't understand.  I got the "well you still ran way faster than I ever could" or "6th place isn't bad" or "don't be so hard on yourself, you did amazing!".  All well meaning thoughts and I appreciate every thought or like!!  I do!  But I wish people understood that faster than someone, doesn't mean easy, it doesn't mean I have to be happy with it because it was faster.  I had my own personal goals, big goals for this race (read the post before this if you haven't).  So while 6th place is great at a competitive race like this, it is!  It wasn't what I wanted.  Mostly, I didn't feel the way I wanted that day.  I felt flat.  
I'll learn from this, train more specifically for the next one, whatever the next one is, and be grateful for my strong, able, healthy body, and the wonderful opportunities I have to run and race.

Strong scratched sore legs heading home
along with buttered popcorn jelly belly's from my mom
________________________________________________________________________________
Wow that turned out to be a really long post with lots of honest verbal vomit (it just keeps coming in my mind and out my mouth sometimes as my running friends will tell you, this is my journal though, public as it may be).  Here is a simple list of the equipment I used
Altra Lone Peak 2.5 - yep, got to run in a shoe not out yet and I loved it!  Good ol Lone Peak bottom (great tread, sandwiched stone guard) and an upper that feels like an improved return to the original Lone Peak.  Beautiful roomy round toe box and tough mesh.  I dare say a little lighter than the current Lone Peak.  Happy feet the entire day!
Altra Gaiters - I'll let the picture speak for itself.  They do their job well. 

Smartwool socks and long sleeve 1/4 zip - I apologize not having the model name, but they are a great thicker but not bulky wool and kept my feet warm in the wet conditions all day.  Never changed socks, never noticed my feet.  As for the shirt, it is so soft and thin, but warm too.  Love having a zipper to regulate temperature.  Considered changing it halfway through as it was damp from sweat, but didn't, and never got cold or bothered.  Expensive for a shirt, but worth the investment, especially for winter.
Icebreaker wool bra - don't picture an itchy bra.  That would be stupid.  This feels like any other sports bra but breaths better.  I don't have a whole lot to put in the bra after nursing 4 kids, but a comfortable core is important for everyone.  Did I mention I came away with zero rub spots or blisters?  Zero, anywhere.
Misc - Wore fancy ol Old Navy capri tights, comfortable, stayed in place, protected me from the sotol (on my quads anyway).  Wore a running rain jacket the first half and a light Pearl jacket the second half.  Wore a buff around my neck the whole time and a visor the last couple hours to  keep rain out of my eyes.  Some basic Polartec gloves came along for the ride too.
Ultraspire Quantum belt - I've said it before I'll say it again, I LOVE THIS BELT!  No bouncing, holds plenty in front and enough water to get me aid station to aid station in a race like this with reasonable close aid stations (I usually carried a 3rd flask in my hand I'd drink first then tuck in my bra).  I started with the new Ultraspire Astral pack, a pack I recently wore on a 31 and another 25 mile training run, both with good results, but for whatever reason, it bothered my this time and by 20 miles I had it off and I liked the shoulders free feeling (I do love the Spry pack though) so the Quantum came on for the next 42 miles.  The Astral bounced more than I liked which I don't know if it was due to only having the bladder 1/2 full, or the pack being over my rain coat, but as much as I like having my chest unstrapped, I think it helps keep it bounce free.  I'll have to keep playing with it more to love it more.
Vfuel gel - used 1 every 30 minutes the whole darn day and had zero stomach complaints and good energy.  Love how thin it is, and loved having 5-gel flasks in drop bags to carry around rather than deal with wrappers.
Elete Electrolytes - used the liquid additive in my pack initially and then was concerned about not having it in my flasks I switched to, so when I pulled one out my husband had filled and tasted the tapwater goodness it made me smile, I love that taste, really!  When I had plain water I'd use the electrolyte pills, even shared one with a downed fellow runner.  Hope it helped him as much as they help me!
First Endurance Pre Race - Bought these pills to experiment with and mostly to use at night in 100 milers, but turns out they provide great energy boosts for several hours in the day too!  I took 2 doses 4 hours apart and then half a dose 90 minutes before finishing and was pleased with the results.  I don't feel high or jittery or crazy energy, but I feel a boost and feel steady and I like that.  I save them for racing or really desperate training runs.  I also took Optygen HP for a bit over a month which I like too.