Thursday, July 28, 2016

Never Summer Part 2

Tiptoeing over scree at the beginning of the
race..The lakes in this race and the backdrops
were amazing..PC Erin Bibeau
I feel like a young John Cusack, like making big mistakes
I feel like for the first time in a long time I am not afraid
I feel like a kid, never thought it'd feel like this

Like when I close my eyes and don't even care if anyone sees me dancing
Like I can fly, and don't even think of touching the ground
Like a heartbeat skip, like an open page
Like a one way trip on an aeroplane
It's the way that I feel when I'm with you, brand new

This was the song I was singing the entire time up to mile 56.  It’s fitting actually – I did feel like a kid, I did feel like I was dancing, ultimately I ended up like John Cusack – so yeah, go me with the song choice!

Clear Lake to the Finish

The guy had said it was like the other straight up climb, so I kept waiting for it to happen and with every section the distance I had to go got less and less, so I kept expecting a steeper pitch.  I’d look at the mountains trying to find the trail of ants, but I could never locate them.  My right quad started cramping and I cussed to myself – shoved something in my mouth and drank some water and eventually it went away, but it wasn’t a good sign.  We kept climbing and then all of the sudden we were at the top – getting our bibs marked and back on our way down.  I was in race mode now, so I looked at my watch and noted the time until I saw the next female come up the hill.  One minute – that means however long it takes her to climb and then turn around – I figured two minutes tops, the next woman, four minutes tops.  I tried to move as quickly as possible downhill, but between the course which was rocky and sketchy and the people coming from the other direction – I wasn’t moving so well. 

I finally made it back to the aid station, tried to grab something to eat, and grabbed my other watch and my shell and headlamp from the drop bag because when packing that thing I was being over-cautious.  When I was leaving I saw the 3rd place female.  I took off down the road and ran as much as I could between mile 45 and 50. 

Still so happy at mile 50, although the salt on my shirt
was probably pretty foretelling of what was to come.
PC - Kurt Hardester
I got to the next aid station, still in great spirits, I was chafing horribly and so I took the time to try and get that taken care of – I ate as much as I could and as I was leaving saw the woman who had originally been in fourth had passed the other and was coming into the aid station.  I was with a guy who asked what place I was in and I told him and he took it upon himself to start to pace me – ok let’s run for a minute, ok feel like running again?  We chatted and I followed his lead, but I was getting tired.  I was officially past 50 miles and past the longest I’d run so far this season, and my body was starting to get worn down from the mental battle that was going on in my head regarding what was going on behind me.  I could hear the other woman – she was very loud, I wasn’t surprised – it was part of her tactic it seemed. 

By the time I reached the aid station at 56.8 miles where E, Hoyt, my sister and her fiancé were waiting, she was right behind me – and I was desperate to find a solution.  E came up to me and asked how I was and I believe my response was, ‘she’s on my ass’. He told me I couldn’t worry about it, and tried to get me settled into eating something and preparing myself for the final 9 miles.  My sister was ready to pace, and he asked if I wanted her to accompany me and I said yes.  I was done – I was frantic, I had nine more miles to the finish and I knew that mentally I had unraveled myself, and physically I hadn’t done myself any favors either.

I got more food and grabbed my poles because my quads had once again started cramping, only now it was both of them.  I needed something to alleviate the pain and I also needed something to hold me up.  I was getting very, very tired.  By that time the 4th place female had come in and I knew it was only a matter of time.  I said to E that I was going to have to let them go – and he just said it didn’t matter. My sister and I took off and we attempted to run, but my quads were not willing.  I told her I needed to walk, so we resorted to as fast a walk as I could manage, but within a few minutes the next female was right behind me, and had passed me.  I was cooked.

I’d like to say that the final miles weren’t so bad, but once again we were on road and I was pissed, eventually we got off that road but we were then on an old logging road that was overgrown with newly sprouting trees, and with remnants of tree trunks about five inches high that would reach out and grab your foot no matter how hard you tried to avoid them, it was also dark now, so trying to locate those as well as keep any sort of trail marker in your sight was a challenge.  At one point I said out loud, ‘really Nick Clark, really? This is what you put at the end of the race when it gets dark?’ and cussed and kept moving.  There was also swamp mud and grass everywhere, my sister tried to help me pick my way through it, but I had been going through it all day, so I just walked right down the middle of it.  My race was done, I didn’t care. 

She did everything she could to try and get me to eat, secretly I was chucking the food off to the side of the trail – I was so nauseous I just wanted to lie down.  All I wanted was my bed.  I tried to have conversations but I couldn’t.  I had no idea where we were, I had no idea really what mile we were in.  I started to get cold and she tried to help me put something on but when I stopped everything cramped and when I say everything I mean quads, inner thighs, hamstrings, everything.  I had to keep moving.  So we continued our slow trek through the last miles of the race to the finish.

We finally got to Ranger Lakes, went across the road and I knew there were only two miles left of the race, but no, I wasn’t even going to jog it – it was flat I didn’t care.  Walking, I was walking.  Another friend who was there pacing another girl met us with less than a mile to go and she and my sister struck up a conversation and I tried to sleep walk with my eyes open. 

And then it happened, with about a half mile to go another girl came and passed me.  I didn’t care.  My sister and Laurie asked if I wanted to try and catch her….nope.  No thank you – I’ll be back here – you guys just keep talking and I’ll move in the direction of your voice, and that’s how it happened.  I looked down at my watch when I saw the finish line lights and realized I could make it to the finish under 17 hours and so I told them that was my goal – and so we ran towards the finish, which in reality was really just a shuffle.

I finished in 16:56 I think, fifth female – 2nd masters, dead on my feet.  I couldn’t really stand up straight – I made my way to a chair and E and my sister covered me with coats and a blanket and a nice volunteer handed me broth and E handed me a jug to puke into if it happened – luckily it did not.  I drank that broth and then just begged to leave.  So we did.

I didn’t sleep so well that night, at 3:45 I got up to go to the bathroom and looked over and saw headlamps making their way down the hill and thought – oh god people are still out there – and was just thankful I wasn’t.  We got up the next day, went to the awards, and then made our way home.  Never Summer was done in the books.

On the way home we stopped at McDonalds because the awards food wasn’t going down very well.  Something happens with the roof of my mouth after races and sometimes I can’t eat anything solid for a few days without pain.  I was so desperately hungry and so we stopped and I got a chocolate shake, a Big Mac and fries, determined to get it down, because I knew regardless of whether it was the most nutritious choice I had to get something in my body or my body would just continue to consume itself. (Let’s not talk about the nutrition factor – I eat what I want to eat, and yes, there are better choices, but for me it’s in the amount of what I eat more so than it is the nutritional value – I know people will argue that all day, but my furnace is hot, it’s burning – leave it alone.  I make halfway decent choices 80% of the time – I’m not worried about my choices post-race for at least a week, at that point it’s all about the re-feed.)    I managed to eat the majority of it and a bag of Funyons and some mini donuts, so things were starting to turn themselves around, however when I got home I weighed myself and I came in at 107 when I’m typically around 110, so I’m pretty sure however well I thought I was doing with fueling and hydrating, I wasn’t doing it well enough.  I prefer real food at aid stations, like sandwiches and things, I saw quesadillas, but they did not look like something I wanted to try – and pretzels and chips weren’t hitting the spot either, so it’s something I have to keep in mind for Bear as well.  Regardless of all of that the days since the race have been wonderful in regards to putting that weight back on – eating with abandon I’d like to call it.  I’m not a fan of losing weight during a training season, it means something is off – too many calories are being expended vs. what I’m putting into my body and that means performance at some point will most likely suffer.  So I’ll continue to go through burgers and Thai food and Fettucini Alfredo until my weight is back to where it should be, and then I’ll return to eating with more thought. 
After about four days I returned to eating things that had more
nutritional value.

Lessons Learned

Obviously the results of this race are overshadowed by what it’s taught me about who I am and what works for me.  While I’m not pleased with how it ended, I do believe had it gone flawlessly I would have wandered out to the Bear with this idea that everything was going to go perfectly and that I was unstoppable – and I’m pretty happy this smacked me in the face hard enough that I have both eyes open again when it comes to racing.  I got caught up in it all and it hurt, and I don’t want to do that again.  No.way.

I said in the previous post that the results weren’t a failure and they weren’t.  What I did was not in line with what I should do and I said to my sister I would have much rather gone from 7th to 5th than 2nd to 5th – had it happened that way – I would have considered my race a success, but it didn’t.  I also mentioned that I’m full of cliché’s and they say there is more learning in failures than there is in successes and I’m going to have to agree with that one wholeheartedly.  Never Summer was chock full of nuggets for me to take away – and so I’m putting those into my folder of learning and moving on to the Bear.

Overall this season has gone well for me.  I’ve got three 5th places – I don’t know what’s up with that, but I’m not going to question it because the first two races I had personal goals and achieved them and just ended up in fifth place.  The third race, well that’s where I ended up, even if it was out of stupidity. 

There are now around nine weeks until Bear.  I have strongly spoken to myself, as has E, and I have resigned myself to doing nothing but walking/hiking for this first week after Never Summer.  Next week I’ll step out for a jog and see how it goes, and if it doesn’t feel right I’ll take another week and then resume with five weeks and a taper.  There’s a slight chance I didn’t fully recover from San Juan – that can’t happen for Bear. I’ll do my best to abide by what I’ve decided.

A Questionable Realization         

Through this I have realized that I am more comfortable with this type of result than I am with the more successful ones.  QR I was hesitant, SJS there was a sense of being sad afterwards – whether that was a hormonal thing or the fact that I knew I wasn’t coming back for a while it’s anyone’s guess, but this time there was none of that.  I had returned to what I would consider normal – I had no reason to come up with reasons why I did well, like there weren’t a lot of competitive women in the race, it was luck, I didn’t have to do that because the performance wasn’t stellar – and I’m not typically full of stellar results.  This more than anything made me sad.  Who does that to themselves? 

I just read something amazing – a thought from Lauren Fleshman who has now retired from competitive racing, I’m no Lauren Fleshman, but what I am is getting older, just like her, and in her comments about her retirement she said:

I want to race until I’m 80 if my body lets me. I’m not afraid of getting slower; I can always get better. Better at being in the moment. Better at getting the most out of myself on the day. Better at pushing the middle miles; at predicting my fitness; at respecting myself; at jumping in unprepared and rolling with it; at having fun; at learning from mistakes; at letting go of stuff that doesn’t matter.

All of that happened at Never Summer – as my friend Kate said it was a sort of experiment – of finding the line, of knowing where it is and what happens when I cross it and she's right.  It is the journey, not the destination, and for now I choose to focus on the steps that got me there rather than where I landed when it was all was said and done.

I have worn this shirt and shorts for every race this season.
This is how superstitions get started.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Never summer 100k Race report

The range we'd eventually be running to..
I love my family.  E has so patiently gone to these races, watched Hoyt, crewed for me, driven (and hiked) into aid stations, forced me to focus, reminded me to run my own race (this time I didn’t listen), gotten me in and out of there and then turns around and does it all over again miles and races later.  What I have come to realize in all of this is that I need my family.  I have always been one to remove the word ‘need’ from my vocabulary – it represents weakness, it exposes something that is vulnerable and if taken away it can alter your life immensely.  What I realized between mile 30 and mile 56 of this race is that word no longer frightens me and it’s silly to be that way.  While San Juan has almost the same amount of distance between the aid stations where you can see your crew – it became very obvious that for me and this race, the distance was too far to be able to keep it together.  I hide behind a lot of things a lot of the time, but these races have a way of exposing those parts of you no matter what, and when I saw him and Hoyt and my sister and her fiancé at mile 58 – I remember this utter feeling of a desperate ‘help me’ that I knew none of them could really answer – I was on my own.  Honestly a turkey sandwich probably could have solved some of it – but what I really needed was them.  They all answered my call and my sister paced me to the end (however horribly long and slow and dark and muddy it was) but I guess I’m getting ahead of myself…

This is the first time I’ve done this race – I was excited for new scenery, the first two races of the season were repeats and so it was just a ‘put your head down and go’ sort of thing.  There was a sense of comfortability in those races, I knew what I could do in them, and probably my first error with this one was knowing what I was capable of, but not knowing the course.  In retrospect the not knowing hindered me a lot.

I had stiff goals for this race, last years’ was won in 16 hours flat – I knew this race could be done faster than that – not necessarily by me, but with the knowledge I had my assumption was the fastest time of last year would be beat in this race and I was correct.  I told E my goal was 15:30 to 16 hours.  Again, for not knowing the course it was a huge goal – but I’m full of cliché’s these days and if it doesn’t scare you a little then your goal isn’t big enough – said someone, somewhere who is right, but I feel like there should be an asterisk next to it with something like ‘if you start to hyperventilate 10 days before doing the race, you might have overshot.’

If I’m honest (which I try to always be in this) those two weeks before this race were not good.  I had two great races so far this season, I had met my goals, was I going to go three for three, which would hopefully lead to four for four, or was I going to fall flat on my face on this one and fail miserably and realize again I’m just a weekend warrior like 99.9% of the rest of the people out there and this was once again just running?

I’ve mentioned it before but I track HRV which can tell you what is going on with your body even if you think you are fine.  I’m not going to go into all the detail of what and where and how, but it sees anxiety when you might not.  I knew what was going on because there was a proverbial elephant on my chest for a good five or six days and no matter what I did, even if it went away for a bit, it would always return.  I found myself being short of breath and uncomfortable and nervous, scared, you name it.  I was unraveling. I thought a few times, am I over-trained, overreaching, thinking too much? So I read about things that could be done to counteract the overreaching thing, because I’m not running enough at a hard enough level to even be remotely close to over-trained.  Interestingly enough doing those things were working and my HRV went back to normal and then shot up higher than it typically is – so I was very hopeful, but two days before the race that elephant returned and I was doing anything I could to hold it together. 

Those little orange and red dots were a week of no Bueno…


We took Friday off and drove to Gould, which according to Nick the RD, has a population of 8.  Something to keep in mind when you do this race, you aren’t going to find a pasta dinner anywhere, but we somewhat knew this and so I made my own.

We were camping at Ranger Lakes which was two miles from the start/finish, and we’d be running through there at mile 62.2, which I thought initially was a horrible idea because who wants to run those last two (unnecessary miles) when you can just stop off and go to bed, but whatever.  We did all the pre-race mumbo jumbo and settled in – oh there’s no cell phone service there at all – keep that in mind – if you don’t have a solid plan with people before you get there – you might as well just give up because you can’t call them, or email, or anything.  A friend had one bar and I managed to call my sister who managed to hear some of what I was saying, but you’re on your own for that one.  Preplan the plan – FYI…

Friday night was horrible – I could not settle, at one time I leaned against Eric and he said he could feel how fast my heart was beating.  He rubbed my head which always helps, but I think maybe I got an hour or two of sleep – it’s not uncommon for people, but typically I can get at least four hours, it wasn’t happening with this one.

We got up we headed to the start and off we go…

The Course
The moon over Nokhu Crags - I filtered the crap out of this photo
in Instagram to try and make it look like it did but
it didn't work.  Just imagine, bigger, and greener, and prettier..

This course has 14k of climbing – over 64.2 miles – I was in awe of some of the stuff we ran through – so much that I stopped to take a picture of the moon setting over the Nokhu Crags – it was the only photo I got but I took like eight of them so I’ll just randomly plant them all in this race report.  I was so enamored with that sight I yelled at the guy in front of me to look at it – I don’t think he was that excited about it, at least not as much as I was. 

In all the race reports for this race there was a common theme – getting lost or off course.  I was freaked out about this, I did not want to get lost – I did not want to get lost in the moose capital of the US – so I knew that it was going to be 64 miles of staying present, which I’m not a huge fan of when running – I prefer to zone out a bit.  But there I was for 64 miles, constantly aware of the flags, except twice in the beginning of the race I led two others that were behind me off course but we quickly corrected ourselves, and then only a few minutes later a group of about ten of us stood there wondering ‘up or down?’, it was comical in a way because no one wanted to go the wrong way, but someone had to in order to figure it out, eventually after some climbing up what was the wrong trail, we righted ourselves and got to where we needed to be.  You HAVE to pay attention in this race, heads up, look for the markers, because you will go the wrong way if you don’t. 

I made the assumptions the climbs would be similar to San Juan.  You’re up higher at SJS, Never Summer has about 2k more climbing which would make sense with the additional 14 miles.  The first climb is not like the first climb at SJS – it was milder overall, there were some steep pitches, but really it was nice – and very pretty.  We rolled past the first lake where there were spectators, across and down some short scree field which I’m not good at and then down to the Michigan Ditch road. 

This race had A LOT more road then I was expecting.  I do not like road, it hurts me – the monotony of the steps on road, the feeling you need to run because it’s fairly flat, all the road portions were exposed and it was hot out there.  All of the scenery between those sections removes the dislike for the roads, but I found myself saying, ‘ugh another road’, at least four times. 

Honestly I remember nothing of the second climb.  I think I’m intermingling things in with the first one – what I think is that you’re still up high for the most part so it didn’t really register with me.  We hit another dirt road and then to the first aid station where I would see my family. 

I was having such a good time – I joked with them, we refilled everything, E told me to focus and then he told me if it mattered I was fourth female at that point.  It didn’t matter – none of that matters until mile 64, but I heard it.  He also said they were really far ahead of me – so I was glad.  No point in racing at mile 18 and no point in chasing something down.

I moved through that aid station as happy as a clam, the third climb was coming up – this one was the tough one, but I was right where I figured I’d be at this point.  I started up the logging road, which was a run/jog mix depending.  It was getting hot, but there were some trees, I could hear the drummer on the top of the mountain and I looked over and saw this line of people moving straight up this grassy mountain and thought to myself ‘oh shit’..

*side note* because of my fear of getting lost, potentially at night, I went and got an eye exam and a prescription for contacts, because I’m blind.  I am very happy for the most part I did that, because I was able to see far ahead of me and stay in contact with the flags, but seeing those people going up that mountain and having a small case of vertigo when I was running along a mountain high up was not the best experience, that little ants marching sight was the worst..

I got to that hill and looked up – no trail, seriously no trail – that grade had to be an 85% grade.  I was scrambling – it became obvious that putting my hands down was taking a load off my legs and it was helping climb that SOB.  I started doing the ‘take 20 steps and then rest’ thing, and when I would rest I’d pretty much just lay my chest against the mountain so as to keep from falling backwards.  There were about three false summits too – and I joked to the guy next to me about it.  He wasn’t thrilled.  There was a drummer up there who I really wished was keeping a beat that I could keep up with, but it was way too fast.  When I got to the top of that thing it was like the biggest accomplishment ever, then you look over and there’s the real top of the mountain, and then the realization sets in that more than likely the backside of that mountain is going to be just as steep, and you have to go DOWN.  The guy at the top took my number and asked if I had anything to say to the RD about it.  I mentioned something and then said where do I go and he said ‘you have to touch the pole – everyone has to touch the pole’ to which I responded ‘that’s what she said’.  The group up there laughed and said ‘best response ever’, and then I looked over the hill to the proverbial cliff I was going to have to get down.  Let’s just say that for me it was a butt scoocher for the majority of it.  I was in front of the guy who won the race at the breakfast line the next morning and I asked him how he got down and even he agreed it was a doozy but his response was ‘small steps and lean forward’…Lean forward my ass, granted I would have gotten down faster, but I would have been rolling down, so I’ll stick with my method. 

I finally got to the saddle and was running across the mountain and it was windy but it felt good and I was just happy I was maintaining a good pace up that high on that type of terrain and there was a road that went directly up the next mountain but I was so happy to see we were actually heading down onto another road.  I also caught a glimpse of a woman – but it was downhill so I was pretty confident I wouldn’t see her and I was right, it wasn’t until later I caught another glimpse of her.

I was running towards the 30 mile aid station and was talking to a fellow runner and right around the corner was the aid station where someone said, ‘third female and second is right in front of you’.  I cussed under my breath, and the guy, whose name I forget, but we’ll just call him chops because he had big ones, said to me ‘just run your race’.  Life always knows when to present me with a message – and I took a deep breath and got into the aid station. 

It Was Hot

Another photo of the moon, because who wants a picture of the heat?
My word it was hot, but I was holding it together.  I felt like I was eating well, drinking well, I was ignoring the other woman and eating watermelon, as much as I could; my sister filled my collapsible bottle with ginger ale – because if it worked at SJS it should work here too right?  It kind of did, kind of…

I left that aid station but not without first hearing another woman coming in – I looked at my sister and E who looked back at me and gave me that look – that DON’T DO IT look.  I kept my composure and left the aid station. 

There was some up, there was some down, there was some road, there was some heat.  This section again was a blur. It wasn’t that long to get to the out and back climb up to Clear Lake – in a conversation with the two around me, one of the guys mentioned it was almost as bad as the third climb so I was worried, but I kept moving. 

I got into the aid station, refilled, refueled and was making my way up to the trail when a different woman came in – so now I knew there were two on my tail – and at mile 40 this is where my race took a turn….This is where it was no longer ‘your race your race your race’ and became an actual race (for me) where the number two spot meant more to me than I did.  Where my goals became something outside of myself, rather than internal – and for the next 24 miles I would learn a HUGE lesson – one that can’t be learned in success – but can only be learned in the stupidity of caring about outside things, and at a certain level –  in failure…

**another side note**

After sitting on this overnight and rereading my last paragraph I do want to make one thing clear – as far as results go – I don’t consider this a ‘failure’ but I want to be true to my thoughts.  Fifth place female and 2nd masters is not a failure to me.  I really hope I’m not that egotistical – but what FEELS like a failure is my inability to cut myself off from what was going on around me – something that I’ve worked so hard on this season and have for the most part been successful. 

I’ll be back with the 2nd half of the race in a few days…


Monday, July 11, 2016

Taper Again? Mt Evans Wilderness Lake Tour and a Night Run at Meyer Ranch

My 'second hobby' is starting to pay off...
Well I had one week of training between SJS and Never Summer – I mean really there are four weeks but with recovery and taper it meant I had one week for significant mileage.  Seems kind of silly, but I’m the one that chose the races so I can’t really say much about it.

Last week I ran 60 miles with 12k in elevation gain, and by the end of the week my body was like ‘woo hoo!  Here we go again!’ so now I’m going to cut back and it’s probably going to wonder what the heck is going on.  I have and still am toying with the idea of a smaller cutback this week in order to tire myself out so I’m ready for the race, but we’ll see how things feel as the week gets going.

I told myself at the beginning of this season that once we got out of the time period where running on the front range trails made sense because of snow, I would do everything I could to go west instead of east and I’ve done a good job of doing just that.  I know that there is a good chance I’m going to need some heat training for Bear, but right now because of the races I’m doing I prefer to get higher.  There’s also some kind of snake epidemic going on at lower elevations and I’d like to avoid those as well – not that the odds of running into moose or some other large wildlife animal is a better trade off, but at least I can somewhat see those things coming – snakes are sneaky….So I’m avoiding the lower elevation trails – besides higher elevation can do nothing but assist anyway, so this week I managed to keep every mile except the lower few at LOB at 7500 feet or higher, and I’m satisfied with that.

Top of Tanglewood looking south....
Saturday’s run I went on trails I’ve not been on before through the Mount Evans Wilderness – the majority of them are at 10k feet or higher – I think I dropped down into the 9000’s twice on the excursion and while some of those trails aren’t used a lot and it meant some way finding and backtracking – I’m happy with how I felt at that elevation – with what occurred at SJS and not feeling like I could eat, I was concerned it was being high, but I think there was something else going on that day rather than the elevation, so for NS I think I’ll be fine.

Bear Track Lakes I think -
A small waterfall near the Resthouse Trail junction.
I ran from the Tanglewood Trail at the south end of the Mount Evans Wilderness to Echo Lake at the north end where E and Hoyt picked me up.  The intent was to do two out and backs to Summit and Lincoln Lake in addition to seeing Bear Tracks Lake and Roosevelt Lake but because of the route finding and the trail conditions themselves – I cut out the two of those in order to make it to Echo Lake in time to meet E.  I still ended up seeing five lakes, maybe two of them were ponds – I just didn’t expect them because they were either not named or not on the map.  Either way it was an amazing day – I went through a huge blow down area and another burn area that if you squinted you’d think you were in Buffalo Creek, but instead you were at 10k feet and feeling the sun just the same.  I saw just enough people here and there to feel ok about being out there alone, but not so many that you felt like you were out with the masses.

this is what I like to call a 'felfie' to Roosevelt Lakes.
It’s so pretty back there – I really do want to do more of that before Bear than the typical trails – I love the Jeffco trail system, but I’m getting a little tired of doing the same ones over and over – and while I know there are trails in Boulder – I’d rather spend the time driving to higher trails then driving to lower ones.

Not so glamorous night photos..
Since the odds are fairly good that I’ll be running alone at NS (because I always end up alone even in a race) and in the dark at least for a little while, Sunday I went to a local trail to run in the dark and remind myself of how that works.  Overall it went well – I PR’ed up to the top of the mountain – whether that’s a sign of improvement on fitness or just the adrenaline of running at night who knows, but either way it was a PR so I’ll take it.  I don’t think I’m going to have any real issue with running alone at night, except figuring out how to keep the headlamp from bobbling around – I had that thing tight, but maybe your head loses circumference as you sweat because it was still 75 degrees when I was running…Either way I believe I have a solution – so now after keeping my composure when I got off trail on my run on Saturday and running alone on Sunday I’m all set for the race. 
This pretty much sums up what I can see...

They'll put a cairn pretty much anywhere these days.
I’ve got this week and then some miles next week and we’ll see how things go.  This season has gone really well so I’m excited, but this season also has been races that I’ve done before and I’ve not seen any of the trails at NS.  I’ve read the reports and I know I have to keep my head up – so I’ll do that.  I think this week will be the deciding week on what I think I might be able to do there.  You start to see good results and I think there starts to be this expectation of always doing well, but chasing those expectations is never good – at some point we all reach the pinnacle of improvement and my sister and I had this conversation – it can be like a drug if you let it, that pushing to improve every time you go out.  I don’t want to be that person, so there’s a part of me that knows I’m going out to run this race at what I can do – because that’s all anyone can do – and I know that I get to see new scenery so it might become taking that all in and nothing else.  Either way – I’ve got six weeks or so between it and Bear and those six weeks will look a lot different than this season has so far, so I have to prepare myself for that as well.  This season isn’t over yet, I’ve done well keeping it all in perspective.  I don’t want to lose that now…

Perspective sometimes means turning around and recognizing where
you've been...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

San Juan Solstice Race Report - 2016

I would be heading in that general direction (up) on Saturday..

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a volatile relationship with anything, as much as I have with this race.  There is no other way to say it.  It brings me immense joy and suffering all in the same step as well as the same breath. Writing a race report about it is almost as difficult – I want to express how strongly I feel for it in a positive sense, but I also know that there are many, many moments where I absolutely abhor this race for the pain it causes me – or for the pain I allow it to cause me because of some arbitrary goal I have when I reach the finish line.  

No race report, just like a photo, could ever do this race – or my race – justice.  But there are so many reasons why I want to write this one down – mostly because it ends my streak of racing San Juan – at least for a while.  I don’t want to say never again, because I do love this race, but I did what I set out to do, and so I am going to take a break from it for a while.  Maybe I’ll find another June race, maybe I won’t race in June at all.  I wanted to have the race result I knew I could have on this course before I decided to leave it – and I did that on Saturday and so I’m going to give myself a break next year – take a vacation from it because that’s what I said I would do.

I have run this race now four times – each year improving on my time, but this last weekend I had one goal in mind.  I wanted to go sub 12.  They give out finishers hats and anything 12-16 hours gets the ‘survivor’ designation.  Anyone going sub 12 to sub 10 I think gets a ‘cannibal’ title.  Beyond that I think its freak of nature and some other unworldly title.  I have three white hats – the survivor hat.  This year I wanted to move up and get a different color hat.  I was over just surviving the race.  It would mean I would have to cut 46 minutes off my previous time – which is almost a minute per mile and isn’t easy on this course, at least for me and the type of runner I am – but it’s what I wanted to do before I literally hung up my hat for this race. 

I finished the race in 11:54:06 – a PR of 51 minutes – a minute per mile faster for 50 miles.  I would say it felt good, but it didn’t, I worked for this one, every step of the way.  It only felt good when I crossed that finish line, seeing E and Hoyt and my parents, and knowing I had again conquered something I set out to do..

The two most important things in my life.

The race in General

He sure loves his grandpa...
We drove up on Friday to Lake City and my parents met us at the cabin we had rented.  The internet was down for the entire town because someone cut a line, and then our cabin had no television because the cable company left Lake City – at least that’s what we were told, so it was an interesting weekend, but a great one – we had no choice but to interact with each other and because my parents are getting older and because I can no longer really be in denial about that and the fact they won’t be around forever, when they are in my midst I tend to want to soak everything in.  This is the only race my parents have gone to – my mom has come to a few others, but this one they both attend, and the added bonus of seeing them at the two allowable aid stations is one of the best pick me ups.  Seeing E and Hoyt and then them reminds me that I’m safe – and loved – and there are people out there invested in what I am doing that day.  For this reason, it makes me the most sad to not run this race for a while.  But I’m hoping I can find a way to get my parents to another race.  I know they probably think what I do is weird, but they are supportive and that’s all that matters. 

We did the typical race stuff, check in, briefing, I set things out for E and then for the race in general.  I had two times for him – the times I estimated I would be at the two aid stations where I would see them.  The 16 mile aid station at three and a half hours, and the aid station at mile 40 where I would hope to see them at 9 hours.  My math is always sketchy on these things and in retrospect those were pretty aggressive goals – but what’s a goal if it doesn’t scare the crap out of you.  I was nervous for this one – so nervous that I think it was making my stomach turn, and that’s all it did all day.

This again was another ‘my race, my race, my race’ moment.  I had to forget about everyone around me and just do my thing – it can be hard, it is hard, but I’m learning how to do that this season.  I know this race like the back of my hand now, I know every climb, every descent, every turn, every false summit – so when they said go – it was nothing new.  We made our way out to the first climb and across the creek crossings, which were lower than they were in the last two years, but were still high, and I joined hands with a woman through the first two crossings and then would wait for her at almost every crossing after that – it was as much to help her as it was for my feeling of safety and probably more so on my side.  I did see her after the race and she said thanks, and apologized for falling back a few times, but I told her it didn’t matter at all and it didn’t.  It was nice to have another short person cross those things up to your waist and get through them safely – I might have had a goal, but I knew those creeks and doing them safely wasn’t going to cost me my goal. 

It was very early, about mile six, where I started feeling off – my stomach was bloated, I didn’t feel good, and I was already in the ‘you don’t have to ever do this race again mode’.  That typically doesn’t hit until mile 35 or so – but on this day it was almost from the first step that I felt that way.  The climb, the first aid station, the subsequent climb above tree line – all so familiar – and they seemed to come up quickly this year – everything was happening so fast, but it seemed to go on forever.  I got to the top of the climb and looked around and remembered, this is why I’m here.  Again I took no pictures, yes I had a time goal, but taking pictures takes nothing – but no photo of a mountain in a frame will ever fully express what it is like up there – what it took to get there, the fact that you’re taking a photo of a mountain that is 13k feet high, but you yourself are on a 13k foot mountain a half a mile away, and in between you and that mountain in the photo is a huge expanse of either high elevation tundra, or one large hole you’d have to cross to get to that other mountain.  Every time I’m up there the only thing I can think of is how I can get every person I love up to that spot to look out and appreciate and marvel at what I have gotten to experience for the past four years.  The mountains are carpeted with flowers who have looked at logic in the face and said ‘wrong, we can grow here, and we will grow here, and we may be short, but we will cover the ground with every color we can manage like its carpet, and you will be amazed’ – and that’s what I was, for the entire day.

I got to the 16 mile aid station at 3:36 – a few minutes off my goal.  I told everyone my stomach felt off, the woman who refilled my pack said I hadn’t drank hardly enough – and wanted to know if there was something she could get me.  I wandered over to the aid station table and asked if I could remove the turkey and cheese from the sandwich, knowing processed meat is laden with salt and that’s what I would need for the next section.  They said of course and then handed me two full slices of turkey meat that I took along with me in the next section.  I am almost positive that is all I ate until the next aid station at mile 21.5.

When I got to the Carson aid station they handed me my drop bag and I handed them my hydration pack and then sat down in a daze.  Should I drop, how could I drop?  Why was I holding this bag, and what was I going to do to pull myself together.  I walked over to the aid station table and took a cup of ginger ale and it immediately made me feel better, so I emptied my collapsible bottle of Osmo out and filled it with ginger ale – took a slice of orange and left the aid station.  I was in for the long haul now – 10 more miles until the next aid station, all at 12k or higher – I had to pull myself together.

In reality I didn’t really pull myself together, I mean I must have, but I felt loopy the entire stretch.  I just hiked without stopping, up to the highest point – tried to shake out my legs and run when we’d reached the top across the uneven tundra and to just work on making my way down to the Divide aid station.  The clouds were grey and scary and every now and then you could hear thunder and I thought to myself I was so out of it if it did get dangerous out there I probably had nothing in me to get myself to where I needed to be. 

We started down the two miles to the aid station and I was looking at my overall pace and just thinking there was no way I was going to make it to Slumgullion at nine hours and that a sub 12 was probably not going to happen – but I continued to run and got into the aid station and sat down again.  I still had not eaten much but was living off the ginger ale and then ate four more pieces of watermelon before I got off the chair and left for the next nine miles before I would see my family.

Those nine miles have some climbing but are a net downhill, and that’s what I told myself and forced myself to run almost the entire distance.  When I looked behind me I saw no one, when I looked ahead of me, again, no one.  If it wasn’t for the flags I was sure I was not going the right way. 

My watch clicked past nine hours and by then I was on the downhill to the aid station – big rocks, uneven downhill, nothing I’ve ever been excellent at traversing, but I needed to get to the aid station as quickly as possible – I had told E nine hours and I was already late.   In doing the math in my head on the way down I realized I should have told him 9:20 and that gave me some hope I wasn’t too far off my goals for doing a sub 12 – but I was still late. 

I rolled into Slumgullion at 9:33 I believe – way off what I wanted.  I sat down, had them refill my pack, the woman gave me two bowls of watermelon and I explained to E and my parents that’s all I’d been able to manage since I saw them last.  I told them it was going to be tight, with the thought in my mind I would probably not make it – or I would be battling the last few seconds in order to get there.

I left them and started the last ten miles of the race.  Every year prior to this I have done this section in no less than two hours and forty minutes.  The climb out of the aid station is a soul crusher and the subsequent downhill is torture for me.  This year the weather gods granted me with a  bit of cloud cover so it didn’t feel as scorching, but I took off and just put my head down and climbed that godforsaken hill. 

I was watching the time on my watch, seeing people in front of me and knowing where I had to go, and how much uphill there still was.  I was sipping on ginger ale and water and trying to eat some electrolyte chews.  I made it to the top of that climb and started through the flatter marshy area and had this Groundhog Day feeling.  How many freaking marshes did I have to go through to get to the aid station?  Hadn’t I done them all?  I finally gave in and peed and looked over and saw the aid station truck – it was right around the corner. 

I got to the Vickers aid station at 11 hours.  They tell you it’s only 3.5 miles to the finish, I still think that’s a lie, and I reminded myself of that.  I had an hour to go about five miles – one shorter climb and then the downhill to the finish.  12 minute miles seems doable, but I know that downhill, and I know myself, and I was doubtful it was possible.  They filled my bottle with ginger ale, I ate two pieces of banana, and I was off.  Glancing at my watch, trying to keep on running, willing myself to get to the finish and wishing it was really only 3.5 miles.

The downhill came and for the first time ever I ran those last miles without the overwhelming fear and nerves of what I was doing.  I just kept running.  Down the multiple switchbacks and the gully with the leaves that makes you wonder what’s underneath them.  I passed one guy on the way down and kept going – through the scree portion just looking for the roof of the house that signified the end of the trail and the beginning of the road. 

When I hit the road I looked down at my watch and it had died – again – happened at QR as well and I had no idea what time it was, so I ran – ran like it was the first miles of a road race, ran like I was running from a bear.  I got to the downhill, made a turn, saw a guy watering his lawn and begged him to spray me – and he did – and it felt great and then immediately painful when all the salt accumulation rolled down into my eyes, but I kept running.  I made the right turn, crossed a dirt road, got to the main paved road crossing where the guy called in my number on the walkie-talkie and I asked him what time it was – he didn’t have a watch.  ‘Three more blocks to go!’ he said.  I ran.  I ran by an older woman cheering for me and asked her what time it was, no watch.  I turned left onto the road where the park meets you at the end and saw a girl with a fitbit and yelled at her as I passed her ‘WHAT TIME IS IT?’ “4:53.” She told me, and in front of me were the flags to the finish line.  I saw E and Hoyt and my mom and dad out of the corner of my eye and I ran down that chute wondering when they were going to stop the clock – could I stop running now, what about now, what about now?  I just kept going, and I made it – with six minutes to spare.  My mom came around and gave me a hug, I hugged and kissed everyone and that was it – San Juan – sub 12, in the books.  No one thought it was possible when they saw me at Slumgullion – least of all me – but regardless of the inability to stomach anything substantial and a sub-par ability to run downhill I pulled out what will go down as one of the best finishes I’ve ever had.  I won’t ever forget this race and the significance it holds for me – things that are well outside of just the race itself, but with life in general. 

I have tried to always remember, that this is my journey, and no one else’s.  What works for me, most likely will not work for someone else.  I hesitate in giving anyone advice on their running – I’ve tried to just do what I need to do for me to be successful and so far this season it has worked for me.

I have changed nothing this season in the way of how I run during training.  Not a single thing.  I do have one more seasons’ worth of base, and that’s nothing to discount, but what I HAVE changed is how I eat – not necessarily what I eat, but how MUCH I eat.  Again it’s a blog post for another day – one that I’ll make an attempt to write probably at the end of the season, but a few people have asked what the biggest difference is, and until now I didn’t feel I could really pinpoint it to one thing, but now I feel like I can. 

I have for at least 40 years been a ‘restrictor’ when it comes to food – bad things, good things, things I should or can’t eat.  I no longer do that.  I worked with someone in the off season that helped me figure it out – and I now eat anywhere from 1000 to 1800 calories MORE A DAY then I did previously.  I don’t skip dinner, I eat whatever I want; keeping certain things in mind, and it has singlehandedly been the thing that has helped me the most.  E has always said ‘if you changed the way you ate, I bet you’d see amazing results,’ and I have.  In eating more I lost five pounds and most of that was body fat.  I rarely have a ‘bad run’ – my body is fueled all the time, and can be the only answer as to how I was able to run a PR at SJS existing on watermelon and ginger ale.  My body has what it needs – I give it what it needs, every day.  That’s all I’m really going to get into at this point – because it deserves its own post, but so many people, women in general, believe lower calories is what they need to be successful – I felt the same way – but I’ve found what works for me – and it’s not lower calories.  Again I’m not in the business of giving advice – I just know there are a lot of women out there who have tortured themselves for years with food issues – and it's taken me 40 years to learn it doesn’t have to be that way. 

I'm not really into the trucker hat thing - but red sure looks good.
This one is going in the mail to my dad - he asked for it,
and for some reason it makes perfect sense that I give it to him.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fits and Starts

San Juan Solstice is this weekend – after one week recovery and three weeks of training between QR and this race, it feels a bit odd to have another race already.  Admittedly how I set up this race season seems like I’ll be doing a lot of this, and maybe it will be a good thing because it removes the ability to train so long I get burnt out, but it sure does seem like a lot of STOP-GO-STOP and getting a rhythm has been hard.

After QR I got a cold which wasn’t surprising since the house had it and the race conditions were cold and wet – so my recovery week was a full on recovery week.  The next three weeks I managed to average 60 miles again – but the long runs were 21, 19 and 20 miles.  I would have liked to get 25 or so, but I’ve told myself I ran a 50 miler so I can bank those miles and trust I’m not losing fitness. 
Two of the long runs were at 10-11k feet as well so I reminded myself what that feels like – although for the most part they were missing the magnitude of climbing that SJS has – so really I don’t know if that tells me anything at all.

One Saturday I ran with two friends from the Ben Tyler trail over to Kenosha.  I tried to do the math in my head of what I think might be possible for the race, but this one has always perplexed me – I don’t know if I can figure out a strategy for this race as easily as I did for QR.  On top of not really knowing what the snowmelt situation is in that area, or whether the creek crossings will be small rivers – it’s going to be a case of doing what I can in the moment – and hope it’s good enough.  If I can continue to just race myself, it could turn out well – or it couldn’t.

The plants are coming in..

Taper is always this moment of relaxation followed by mentally creating the list of all the things I want to get done while I’m not running so much.  So I planted more flower containers, got another Peony for my plant garden, made zucchini bread, went through Hoyt’s clothes, cleaned parts of the house that really needed it and just moved around like a whirling dervish for three or four hours.  I then reminded myself I had 13 more days so I should save some of my list for when I really do a mileage drop, but there always seems to be plenty to do around here so there’s never going to be a shortage.

Looking at the weather and seeing the most recent update from the RD, it’s going to be a hot race.  I’m not really surprised because it’s been like that for the past few weeks.  I’m assuming the snow will be melted and the creek crossings lower by the time we get to Saturday.  It could make it an easier trek up high – which is where any planning on my part typically goes down the tubes.  This is my fourth time doing this race – outside of the “uncontrollables” like weather and conditions – I know what I’m in for. 
I refuse to fight the heat anymore - comfort wins!

I can’t complain about training at this point – it’s gone really well.  All of the weird tweaks I had at the beginning of the season have gone away and now it’s just paying attention to recovery and fueling and all of that other stuff I tended to ignore back in the good old days – when I was younger – and felt like I didn’t need it…
zucchini banana bread - YUM!

Never Summer happens pretty quickly after San Juan – there won’t be much training in between the two which I’m fine with since we’ll be in Steamboat for a few days for E’s birthday and Fourth of July. 

The Greenhouse is finished - now the veggies just have to grow...
I haven’t even really started thinking about the Bear – their website was down for the longest time and just barely came back up – we’ve got to figure out lodging and then I should probably get to know the elevation profile.  I’ve got a good number of weeks between NS and Bear so there’s plenty of time I’ve just always been more ‘forward thinking’ so this is kind of foreign to me.

Let’s just get through SJS and then see where I land…