Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lake Sonoma 50!

Long post here, lots of details, pics, and thoughts.  The actual race report starts halfway down. 
My kids had spring break the week of Sonoma but weren't coming out with my husband and I, so my mom guilt had me pack a whole bunch of fun into the two days before we left including a trip to the zoo.
Love these monkeys
Dropped the youngest three off with Grandma and headed to the airport with our oldest child who saved the money to buy a plane ticket to fly alone to Michigan to see my twin sister and husband and their 5 month old baby.  She saved for a year and I'm really proud of her!  I have been excited for her for weeks and not nervous at all, but man did I cry when she boarded the plane! We stuck around her gate until I couldn't see the plane any longer then headed to our own gate.  Uneventful flight to San Francisco until the end when a woman sitting behind us asked if I was Leslie.  It was Meghan Hicks from I Run Far, a big ultrarunning website.  I was flattered she knew who I was.  I enjoyed our conversation as we walked through the airport and was a little giddy for a while.  It got the race excitement going a bit :)
Surprised, I replied yes and she explained she turned her phone on at landing and Facebook suggested we be friends.  That along with my husband and I both wearing Altra's, she put it together - small world eh?  She also remembered my cute purple butterfly compression socks from Katchina. Love those socks
Jeremy and I spent the rest of the day walking around San Francisco and stayed in a great hotel with a wonderful view of the Bay Bridge I woke up several times to look at, despite the wonderful bed.  The next day we both happened to wake up early so headed out on a run to explore more of the city.  Enjoyed the trolley and cable cars some and ran some, keeping my taper happy.  We saw all the classic sights, it was great!  Jeremy travels a lot for work with Altra so he's a good travel companion to have.
Later that day we picked up the rental car and I realized I was going to be out of Elete soon, the electrolyte additive I use religiously Wed, Thur, Fri before a race, in everything I drink.  I don't carbo-load, but I do basically water load, being sure I'm always drinking, and this Elete helps the water absorb well and prime my body to race.  It was a big deal to me, we really needed to find some.  I was expecting a package before we left, but turns out it showed up after we left for the airport.  After making a million phone calls and throwing a bit of a tantrum to my poor husband, I found some - at a women's fertility acupuncturist office of all places, Wu's Healing Center.  The woman there was so kind and had a great spirit about her.  I have a passion for fertility and women's health too and consider it a pleasure to have made this connection. 
Let the pre-race Zen resume
Anyway, moving on up the coast, we stopped and said hi at San Francisco Running Company, a great store.  Then headed up to the Muir Woods and camped overnight below Mt Tam.  I loved it, I love camping, and it's easy when there aren't babies with you to keep quiet and warm :)  Jeremy headed out on a 15 mile run through the forest and down to Stinson Beach while I packed up and made the drive down.  What a drive it was!  I was so jealous of his run.  I LOVE forests and green and ferns and fog.

Thursday evening drive to the top of Mt Tam.  Fog over the ocean and beautiful green grass and flower covered hills.  Even saw 3 turkeys on this hill, a tom all feathered up to impress the hens. They're the dark spot on the center hill.  A trail ran across the hillside too, took serious self restraint to not jump out of the car.
The beautiful 4 mile road down to Stinson Beach Friday morning.  I love fog and ferns
 So lovely.  Drove up the Hwy 1 another hour or two enjoying the sights and smells (seals, sea air, BBQ oysters) until finally getting into Healdsburg.  Checked into the host hotel (beautiful rooms and wine country design, so beautiful that from the pictures on their website I was totally shocked the hotel was right off the freeway on a busy street, not in a vineyard) and we drove up to Lake Sonoma to check the trails out.  I brought 3 pair of shoes with me to decide between (new One^2, Lone Peak 2.0, Torin 1.5) and I really needed to see the trails for myself to decide.  Really any of the 3 would have been fine, but I went with the Torin 1.5 for it's lighter weight and added cushion that would hopefully cushion the quads a little.  The road sole would do fine since the trails weren't rocky or technical except in a few sections.  Back for dinner and off to bed before I even did any gear packing.

Woke up at the abnormal hour of 3:30am to eat.  It's crazy to get up that early, but I
wanted to get my gut moving before the race, not during.  It was nice though, to sit in the quiet on the floor sorting through my nutrition and gear and packing my drop bags.  I felt peaceful.  I brought only enough nutrition for what I knew I'd need so I could pack light, I like that plan.  Usually I bring 7 of everything, nutrition, gear and clothing :)  I was going to be using 3 drop bags on this out and back course and don't use GPS but did calculate what time I would be to each drop bag aid station based on my goal time of 8:15, and then packed exactly what gels and any pills I would need to pick up at that aid station for the next segment in a ziplock bag inside the drop bag that also had a few extra pair of socks.  But I really liked having the labeled zip lock bags that I didn't have to think what to take out of it, Jeremy and I knew that whatever was in those bags I would take, no questions.  Planned for my typical mainly Vfuel gel diet with a few caffeinated Gu's sprinkled in too.  And of course Coke at aid stations, love coke in racing.  Also decided to go with the UltrAspire Quantum belt with two 5oz water flasks (great deal on it at TAUR) and would hold a collapsible 8oz soft flask, also with water.  I showered, got dressed, and off we went.
The Actual Race Report
Only arrived 15 minutes before the start but it was enough.  Ditched the ironically-at-a-trail-race long potty line and ran off to the bushes, pinned the number on, tied the shoes again and we were off!  The first several miles are on a rolling paved road.  Was fun to see cars pass us and cheer including Jeremy.  The mood was light, the fog was heavy and lovely and this day was starting!  I hung back away from the lead ladies, probably in about 15th place.  No big deal, we had ALL day.  Got onto the trail and got to work.  My body felt a little like we were working a little harder than we should have and I was conscious not to push too much, but it took at least an hour or so to really get into a groove where my breathing was finally quiet, a big indicator I use to tell me if I'm being conservative.  It was all very rolling and I power hiked a lot, even if the hills weren't long, and that took patience, but I believed it would pay off.  I also didn't feel great on the first few hours of downhill for some reason and tried to hold those back a little too while others around me were audibly slamming down them.  Patience.  Had to exercise patience.  And while there were lots of hills, there were a few flat-ish sections that were easy to run too.  Made a quick potty stop behind a tree, the only one of the day thankfully.  Crossed our first water crossing I was looking forward to, a beautiful almost knee deep pool of water below a moss and fern covered black rock waterfall.  And with the foggy misty morning under a canopy of green?  So picturesque.  I just smiled and laughed as a I jumped right in with a lady next to me gingerly stepped in.  The shoes were soggy for a few minutes but I didn't notice them after that.  One more small crossing after that.  Crossed the big river I'd seen pictures of and just smiled.  It was fun!  My husband was on the other side waiting to bring me into that 11.6 Warm Springs aid station.  He got a picture then sprinted up the hill to be ready to help me.  We got me in and out of there quick.  Came into that first drop bag aid at mile 11.6 at 1:47, the fastest split I'd written (I wrote splits for a 4:00, 4:10, and 4:15 25.2 turnaround, 4:10 was an even split 8:15).  I was on 4:00 pace.  This was at least comforting knowing if it felt like I was working hard at least I was ahead of schedule.  Didn't want to go too hard though, it was time to quiet the breathing.
From there we stayed in shady forest, I got a little confused which way to go at a fork and stopped for 30 seconds or so before thankfully choosing the right way.  Crossed another wider river and started more climbing.  I never thought the climbing that bad really.  There were 1 or 2 climbs the first half that were leg burners when hiking, but not horrible.  The forest opened up more into exposed grassy trails.  Came up to an aid station I wasn't planning on stopping at and stopped for whatever reason, Coke probably.  They had jelly beans so I looked real quick for a buttered popcorn flavor, no go, so I grabbed just one and left, and they laughed at me and my 1 jelly bean.  Saw Bryon from IRF at the top of  a hill and teased him about doing interviews up there, he hollered back asking how I liked zero drop shoes.  He got me.
I had been running in 13th place most of the race and staying right at those faster 4:00 split goals.  About mile 23 or so I started coming up on another lady, Caroline. The first time all day. She wasn't keen to let me go but was friendly.  This really was the first time I'd talked to another racer all day.  Not that they weren't friendly (I'd spend the next hour saying hi and good job while facing runners heading toward the turnaround), I was just mostly in my own head and on my own. She would pull ahead on the downs pounding them harder than I was willing to but I'd catch her while power hiking back up another.  Meghan from IRF told us we were in 11th and 12th.  I did eventually pull clear ahead about half a mile from the aid station and that's when I started running faster.  I was proud of my body for feeling this way 25 miles into a faster and hilly race and I told it that.  I told my legs and stomach and feet and head each how well we were all doing.  May sound cooky but I believe strongly in positive thinking.  My body and mind and heart were working together well and they deserved praise.  I ran into the aid station happy and feeling good and left quickly.  Was going to go from my Quantum belt to the Spry pack, but was perfectly content with what I had so I stayed with it.  Came into No Name Flat, mile 25.2 at 4:01 and left at 4:03.  Perfect.  I was happy that if I did fade I had some wiggle room to work with to get to 8:15.
Caroline and I after No Name AS I believe
Leaving the aid station I saw Caroline back in front of me.  I think I said "Crap!" out loud.  I complemented her on fast aid station and wished her a good race.  She said something about not letting me go just yet, but I pulled ahead for the last time.  Got to go down the big long dirt road we'd been up recently and I was feeling great.  That downhill was awesome and my legs really let me run it fast.  Approached the next aid station and yelled out "1 jelly bean please" and again they laughed :) I didn't stop this time but told them I'd love a buttered popcorn.  Rounded a corner and switchback onto the trail running past and under the aid station to a volunteer that had scrambled down the side of the hill with - you guessed it - 1 buttered popcorn jelly bean!  I gave her a hug and thanked her very much.  That was neat service.  Thank you Madrone Point Aid Station volunteers!
 This was about mile 30.  Pretty sure I PR'd my 50k time.  I put my music on at this point and ran fast and feeling great but not feeling like I was pushing too hard for the next 8 miles.  During those next 8 I would spot a lady or two ahead of me and get excited.  I wanted to be conservative the first half, but I did have my doubts about anyone in this very talented field tiring out for me to catch.  It was definitely a confidence booster when I did catch them.  I ran into that Warm Springs aid station again at mile 38 in 8th place.  I was a bit more tired but still felt good.  Ran across that river happy and motivated, still on track to run 8:15. I only had 12 miles left! In fact, I was still under pace.  I wondered if I could get under 8:15 and maybe even catch a girl or two.  6 is my favourite number, maybe I could get there.
Feeling good and strong
I ran across the river again and things started getting hard.  The sun was out, the fog and mist gone, and my effortless pace from 22-38 wasn't there.  It was time to work.  I knew I was slowing down so I focused on keeping up on nutrition.  I told myself I would take a gel 10 minutes before finishing if I had to, none of this "I'm almost there I'll be fine" business.  It seemed all the landmarks I was looking for that I had placed in my head from the morning were taking much longer to get to me.  The two small crossings, wider trail, bridge, where were they?  I wasn't stopping, but I was walking a lot more.  Ironically the downhill was fine, my legs felt heavy enough that nothing hurt and at least I could let gravity help me there.  But my head was starting to feel like it was full of pressure, I was just waiting to see spots, there were times a hiker would pass me and I thought maybe I should ask them to walk beside me for a minute.  It was kind of scary.  I knew it was going to take longer to get to the last aid station at 45 but I hoped I'd be reasonably within my splits, simply for water reasons.  I am confident in the 18oz at a time I chose to carry, but this one 7 mile stretch I could have used a little more.  We were 2.3 miles from that last aid station and I was about to go through the last water crossing.  Moving behind schedule I had just finished off the last of my water so decided to fill that flask in the stream.  Don't like doing that but I would surely drink it before passing out.  I knew my other flask was empty so don't know why I even thought to check it, but right before drinking the stream water I did check it - and it was full.  A true heaven sent blessing.  I thanked the Lord and drank it and poured the stream water on my head and chest.
Not sure where this is, it wasn't in the current suffer zone of 40-50,
but my face reflects the harder work there - the running legs, not so much ;)
 We did eventually get to the turnoff for the 1/4 mile down to the 45 mile aid station and it was such a sense of relief.  I should have gotten there 7:20-7:25 based on my mile 38 split (and every one before that) but arrived 10 minutes late at 7:35.  Doesn't sound that bad in retrospect, but in that heat and where I really haven't run in any heat this year, it was quite the delay.  I saw the gal in yellow that had been ahead of me and in sight and at one point as close as 30 seconds away.  She looked good and now had several minutes on me.  The volunteers asked what they could get me and I replied "a finish line".  Filled all my water, downed a cup of coke, cooled off with their water and left.  The sooner I got moving again the sooner I could be done and deal with this heat exhaustion I knew was an issue for me and could get worse.  I saw 9th and 10th place 1/2 mile behind me as I got back on the trail.  They were moving well and I was sure it was a matter of time before they caught me. 
I maybe felt a little better knowing the volunteers said I had 4.7 left.  I was going to walk the whole darn thing if I had to, I just had to keep moving.  I used more motivating self talk than I probably ever have.  My legs didn't particularly hurt, they were tired and heavy and my energy levels were ok, but the heat was brutal for me.  When I walked I walked as quickly as I could but walked fairly slow up hills and I really tried to run if it was flat and made myself run if it was downhill.  As much as I wanted to keep my position in the top 10, I mostly just wanted to be done.  Those last 5 are brutal.  You know you have to finish up high, on top of all the other hills, so when you head down a hill after going up one, it's tough.  That happened several times.  We'd head up for almost a mile only to plunge back down and you knew you'd simply have to go right back up.  A few hikers were out and one said I had 3 mile to go. I thought surely he doesn't know what he's talking about.  I did the math for my 4.7 left and figured I'd be in by 8:25, and yet I was still going with no end in sight.  Later on someone else said just under 2 miles and I don't even think I was relieved, more like "crap, that first hiker was right".  I ran as much as I could and knew it had to end sometime and reached my neck around every corner hoping that was it and boy does this course lead you on.  You truly can't see the finish until 49.5 and then you still don't go directly there :)  I was finally running down the chute and was so happy I'd hung on to 8th, even thought I'd gotten under 8:30 as the
clock said 8:28 (turned out the clock had frozen there I guess, what luck), and I was even more happy to be done, not have to run any more, and to be able to cool down.  My finish picture from IRF reflects that, blah.  I really should have put on my happy face and smiled, and next time I will.
8:34, 8th place woman, 50th place overall out of 300 finishers.   I did what I wanted, came in ranked 24th, ran 13th most of the day, and finished top 10! I really am ok with my time too.  It was only 19 minutes slower than I planned, and I know I could have run that had I run more hills and dealt with the heat better. I think I could have moved up a spot or two as well but am going to own my results and be very happy with how I did, it's just nice knowing I can do better in the future.  And I'm pleased that my first and second half splits are pretty much the same difference in time as the top ladies.  That said, don't let me fool you and sound like it was no big deal.  I think Lake Sonoma 50 was probably one of the two or three hardest races I've ever done.  Oh, and I AM SMASHED today.  More than either of my 100k's.  I wanted to leave it all out there and have to recover and boy did I and am I.  I seriously got pity looks in the airport as I looked crippled and after we picked my daughter up from her flight she asked what was wrong with me, why did I have to hold onto her to walk :)  I had to have 2 different neighbours run after my 2 year old who was taking off for the park as I knew there was no way I could catch her.  I had a massage from Heber at Body Worx and I hope things will start improving soon, but I am really hammered.  And I am so glad!
What a pleasure to race on such a beautiful course. 
I just loved the fog and mist of the first hours of the race. I believe this is the men's leader
I Run Far wrote a summary article about the race that I saw after someone else pointed it out.  I am more than flattered to have a paragraph written about me including "She’s the biggest breakout story in the women’s race, for certain."  Wow.  I am so happy with this race and my body and family and friends and support system.  It's good to be alive!

Here is a video another athlete made that shows pretty much the whole course including 1 of 2 dogs I stopped to pet at 8:45 and myself around 10:15. Good hilly times http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=TiMh8xM3810 

What I can improve:
Be willing to switch to a vest or do whatever necessary to carry more water as it heats up.  You never know if you'll slow down.
Run more hills within reason.  I wanted to be conservative but I probably could have run a few more than I did
Don't stop at the aid stations I wasn't planning on.  If I have enough fluid and calories on me, no stopping. 
Stick around after the race and socialize a little longer if not feeling like death.
Smile at the end - I do this because it's fun.  Even when it hurts it's a privilege

What I did well:
Hydration system worked well, had just enough water except 1 section.  Soft flask was easier to carry than a hand-held and was nice to collapse and store in the front pocket when empty.
Ziplock food packing was perfect, no wondering what I should grab
Gel every 30 min.  Could have maybe even moved it up to every 25 minutes in the last two hours.  Maybe.
Didn't mess with the ipod.  Let the music shuffle and had Yurbud cord behind me rather than in front and had it in place before the race started even though I didn't turn it on till hour 5.
Ran my own race.  Power hiked a lot more than others, didn't slam the downs, but it aided me in the end.


Sarah Jarvis said...

Love it! Congrats on an amazing and gutsy race! So excited for you! I read that about the biggest breakout performance! HOW COOL IS THAT!!! And there is much more to come for you!

Jo W. said...

Congrats on the great race!! Hope you have a speedy recovery lol. That's nice that you got a massage ;) how wonderful does that feel after running 50 miles!

Jen said...

I do love a detailed and honest report, which you do so well. What a great race for you. That was a great shout-out on iRunFar. The soreness will pass but what you did out there on the course won't. :-)

Stephanie said...

Wow is right! Great post and I had another proud momma moment when I read that article that you were featured in! Wish I could have been there to see you race.

carolineboller said...

Hi Leslie, Caroline from the race here! Thanks for mentioning me in your race report. You looked super strong and it was a pleasure to run with you for a short while there. I wish I had something left to make the race interesting at the Island View out-and-back, you were so close and looked like you were struggling, but then again so was I! I should be posting my race report today if you want to check it out: ultraRunnerMama.com

Hope to see you again soon. Congrats on your awesome finish!

Kori said...

I'm impressed Leslie. You are an amazing athlete and am curious how you find the time to train and compete with four kids. I love seeing moms who are athletes and don't let it slow them down.

jun said...

I finally got around to reading this. Fantastic report.
I've learned, twice now, that Spring races that end up being hot are very hard to deal with because we never get to train in those temps over the winter. Great job managing through that.
You have an exciting year ahead of you. Good luck in all of your races, it will be fun following you.

Stan (9run.ca) said...

Wow, excellent race report and even better race! I knew you could do it! Good luck in all your future races. Awesome action pics btw.