Sunday, February 15, 2015

Arrowhead 135 2015

I don't even know where to begin. I haven't written a blog since the ugly (yet successful) Badwater of 2013.  I haven't raced since then either. Honestly, I haven't even run since then. But I need to get this down so I can remember my experiences for next time.

THE SICKNESS(es)  I have been trying to get back into running. Trying to get my fitness back. Trying to get my health back. And it has been one of those journeys of 2 steps forward, 3 steps back, 11 steps forward, 7 steps back and if you plug all of this into a magical metric the net result was yes, I improved my fitness, health and running ability but not very much. It has been a VERY slow process and has tested my patience.

Ultimately, for whatever reason, I decided that the Arrowhead 135 would be a perfect "come-back event". After my failed attempt in 2012 I have still dreamed of one day earning a coveted Arrowhead trophy. So I put in my application with a "veteran" status and hoped for the best. I got in and then realized..."Oh shit. Now everything has to come together."

So I started training, realizing that I had to train differently to accommodate my sluggish adrenals and lack of a fitness base. I started wearing a weighted back-pack for all runs with the cross country team and runs I did on my own.  I had to be careful though and not do too much too soon or too much to stress the adrenals.  I gradually increased my long runs to not really long enough until I realized that I needed to start focusing my "long" efforts to long walks while pulling the tire. So I did, gradually working that up to a 5 hour tire pull while maintaining a 15 minute mile or faster pace.

And that was my training. I got sick on Christmas day.  In an attempt to make a long sickness story short: I needed to get well fast so I could continue to train so I did everything, I mean everything, I needed to do to get better. I was in the middle of winter break, and being a teacher it meant I had no work obligations to deal with. So I rested and rested and rested. I did not run. I did not do anything but rest.  And still I got sicker. From Christmas day to the start of of Arrowhead on January 26th I developed pneumonia, the flu and a cold. I missed 10 days of work.  I did not run. I walked the dogs only twice.

THE GOALS  BUT because I didn't buy trip insurance on the the airline tickets I made the decision to go to Arrowhead anyway and just see what I could do.

I knew I wouldn't be running (my lungs couldn't handle it) so I would be walking as quickly as I could. I changed my goals from "earning the trophy" to "doing nothing fatal" and "being smart about my body".  I had no idea what I would be able to do but every single possibility was clearly visible in mind and I could feel in my heart.  I could see myself crossing the finish line, exhausted but elated, I could see myself dropping at the road crossing at mile 15 because my lungs wouldn't work, I could see making it to the first and even second check points but my lack of fitness forcing me to stop. I could see it all. So I changed my goals: I wanted to go as far as my body would allow. If I had to DNF it would be because of my body, not because of my mind.
Gear photo showing mandatory gear. Looking at my face though I can see how tired I felt. The pneumonia takes it all out of you. For my spare calories I took a bag of walnuts. Fuel this year was esbit tabs.
THE DECISIONS  The weather this year was predicted to be fairly mild, some snow in the forecast and mild temperatures, getting to above freezing during the day. Knowing I would be out there for a fair amount of time, and not moving very fast, I over-packed my sled with food and clothing. I thought that with the warm temperatures there was a greater possibility of sweating and moving slowly meant I would need more calories and warmer clothes. As my sled got heavier with gear I thought that I just didn't want to DNF because I needed something. I only wanted to DNF because of my body, not my mind or gear.

This time around I opted to use ropes instead of poles for my sled hook up. I managed to make it up to the snow one time to test this out and I was happy enough with the results. Honestly, I believe there are advantages and disadvantages to poles and ropes and it really just depends on what you want to deal with. I opted for ropes because they are much lighter and with my sickness and lack of fitness I needed the weight advantage.
This was the weather the weekend before the start. This would have "perfect" for race day. But really, anything is perfect. Just being there makes it perfect.
We woke up in International Falls on Monday at 5 a.m. with about 2 to 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground, more falling, and a slight breeze. The temperature was around 15 degrees F and it was getting warmer. I wore my warm running tights, a light weight, long sleeved smart wool layer, with a long sleeved biking jersey and my fleece jacket. I also started with a light weight beanie and a neck gator because of the wind. I wore my tall gore-tex gators because of the fresh snowfall and I am glad I did. The fresh snow which was melting a couple of hours into the race made these gators a smart choice.

For shoes I opted to wear my gore-tex trail runners (some sort of Salamon shoe), the same shoe I wore in 2012 (which I swore not to wear gore-tex shoes at Arrowhead as it was my biggest mistake in 2012). I hesitated wearing them because gore-tex is not breathable enough. However with the fresh snow and warming temperatures I felt it was my best choice. I wore only 1 pair of wool ski socks so there was a bit of space left in the shoe. My feet stayed dry from the outside and the inside this time whereas last time I wore two pairs of socks and my feet got damp.  I'm wondering if having more space made the shoes more breathable? Or it could just have been my slower pace this year. Either way, for the conditions this year I made a good shoe choice.

I again wore my insulated 3L camelbak, filled with hot water, tube down the sleeve. I carried no additional water on my sled. My strategy was to start the race very hydrated, drink my water quickly as needed (not to ration it) and fill up my body and camelbak at the checkpoints.  I knew this risked leaving me thirsty but it was a gamble I was willing to take. Given my effort level and time "out there" I felt this wasn't a big risk.

Learning from last time, I carried enough calories on my body to get me to the first checkpoint. I rigged an old "fanny pack" to be worn on my front but connected to the straps of my camelbak. In it I carried a few bars, several different flavors of trail mix, a large baggie of Fuel 100 Electrobites, my inhaler (for the pneumonia) and antibiotics. I also carried some foods in the back pockets of the biking jersey.

A belly full of breakfast and we headed to the start.

MOTION  And so we started on Monday morning at 7:04 a.m. sharp. I didn't run. I couldn't. There really isn't much to tell here. I was walking at a pretty solid clip, my sled had a lot of resistance. The problem with the warmer temperatures is that it makes the snow more difficult to pull a sled on. This happened in 2012 as well and was a big reason for my DNF.  This year it was ok. I was in a better place mentally and just thought I would take whatever nature had to give me. I would control what I could and enjoy what I couldn't.

At some point in the day I ended up walking a fair amount with Barb Owen. This was a super awesome experience for me as she had finished Arrowhead in 2011 (after finishing Brazil 135 two weeks prior and going on to finish Badwater 135 that summer) and I had read "all about her" as I was researching Arrowhead for my 2012 attempt. In that research I had elevated her to "super star" status so to be able to walk and talk with her was something I will cherish always. She was using Arrowhead as a training event for the 350 mile Iditarod in March and she pretty much has me convinced that someday I would like to attempt it. Some day.
At the 1st road crossing. Lungs feeling good. Sled is hard to pull. The sky was gray the entire time. Except at night when it was too dark to see. It was above freezing by this point. 
You get yourself all amped up for an event like Arrowhead. You want it to be cold. And arduous. And an adventure. But ultimately, it is an experience. No matter what happens or how it ends, it is your event, your day and your memories. I believe it is how you choose to experience it that determines how you experience it.

Barb and I eventually separated before Gateway (checkpoint 1, mile 35) and we each got to have some hours alone. I was feeling great, and moving consistently and knew I would be able to go on past Gateway as long as I made the time cut-off. I got there at 7 p.m. and spent 44 minutes taking care of business, including eating some good chili, drinking a Pepsi and filling up with water. John, Elena and our good friend Dave (from Ely, MN) were there and it was great to see them and get some hugs and some nasty humor directed at me.

Barb came in after me and spent about 2 minutes there and then left about 9 minutes before I did. I was hoping I would be able to catch her which I eventually did. We hiked together again for several hours but we had different plans and goals for the first night. She knew she would be chasing cut-offs and wanted to get in and out of Melgeorges as quickly as possible. I wanted to bivy the first night because I had no idea what my body had would be able to do and I wanted to experience a night in my bag on the side of the trail in the cold of northern Minnesota.

At 3 a.m. we went our separate ways. I decided to bivy and Barb kept moving on. I got out my sleeping pad, emergency blanket and sleeping bags and set everything up. My strategy for bivying was clear: pee before getting into the bag, eat and drink a ton before sleeping and then sleep. I peed 15 minutes before deciding to bivy so I made the mistake of thinking I didn't need to. As soon as I lay down, I could feel my chest/lungs start to get uncomfortable.  Then as I lay in my bag trying to cram a bunch of maple bacon jerky down my throat I had visions of choking to death so I had to stop eating. By 3:09 I set my alarm and closed my eyes. I didn't think I was tired but I was out like trout. Next thing I knew, I heard someone go by me on the trail and I could feel I needed to pee. I tried to forget about it and sleep more. Like that works. A bit later (minutes? seconds?) I heard someone else go by. Then I really had to pee. I tried to forget about it, but then I heard someone else go by. Then I had visions of peeing in my bag and having a mess to deal with. I looked at my phone and my alarm was set to go off in 3 minutes (at 4:23) so I called it a bivy and raced out of my bag so I could pee.

After getting up, my legs felt fresh, my head felt great but my chest was not so good. I used my inhaler and started down the trail.  There are some hills in this section so I got some really good down hill sledding in which was beyond fun and way easier to do with ropes compared to poles. (However, I wasn't exactly graceful or efficient at it. It takes some skill but worth the effort.)

And this was pretty much the end. I monitored my lungs and they never improved. To be true to my goal of being smart I had to honestly evaluate my health and the condition of my body. It was not an easy call. I would tell myself I was done and would stop at the next shelter but then as I looked at the snow in front of me I would remember that trophy and how much I wanted it and I would push harder. Then I would feel my lungs and remember my health, my shoulders would slump and I would know what the smart decision was. These two thoughts cycled back and forth as dawn brightened the gray sky.

And so at mile 59 (Black Dog Shelter) at about 6:30 a.m. I climbed back into my bivy and rested and waited for a ride to Melgeorges.  At 11:30 a.m. me and 3 other guys who dropped at the same spot headed out on a snowmobile rescue which was WAY FUN. I knew I accomplished my goals and the rest was about enjoying the experience: I listened to my body (I did no harm) and my mind was strong the entire time. It wasn't my "come back event" but it was a hell of a time and my soul was so happy to be out moving in beautiful country with wonderful people.  Simplicity.

MEMORIES  At some point before Gateway my hands were VERY swollen. Scary swollen.  I took my gloves off to show Barb and my fingertips were getting black. In an event like this, when you are hyper vigilant about everything going on with your body so you can fix it, Barb and I were both shocked to see my blackened finger tips and our minds raced with how we might fix the problem (which didn't make sense to be getting frost bite when the temperature was above freezing). After a processing delay we realized my fingers were stained black from the fabric of the gloves I was wearing.

Upon leaving Gateway it was around 8 p.m. and I suddenly felt like I was going the wrong way. I turned my phone on for the first time to check the GAIA gps. A text came through from my friend Linda, saying she was sending me all her love and energy. I texted her back, asking for her knees and legs instead. Then she called.  I got to talk to one of my best friends who was far away but felt so close at heart.

Elena, 14 years old, decided to experience the great white north this time around. She hung out with John and Dave and got to experience the ice highway, the cold (although it wasn't too bad) and the snow. She had more experiences than I will ever know about but she also hung out with two adult males and managed to keep herself entertained and sane without one of her trusted parents there. If you knew the type of humor that Dave has, you would understand how this impresses me. He is sort of a mix of sarcasm, bull shit, kindness and honesty. All the best types. Then throw John into the mix and it gets all kinds of not normal.
My girl. I'm so proud of her. She never once complained or gave me a reason to drop because of her. I was worried going into Arrowhead that I might use her presence as an excuse to drop ("Elena might be bored or uncomfortable without me.") I never once went there in my mind because she gave me no reason too. 
The email I got from Greg 10 days before the start. It was understanding, supportive and just what I needed to hear from someone who has "been there, done that". Thank you.

The support of John and my family and my friends. This was a tough thing to do, going into it as sick as I was. But there was never a doubt that there was a whole village of people who had my back and would support me no matter what but some who would hold me accountable to my decisions. My sister, Trenna, my friend, Janice. So many times during those 23.5 hours of being in the event I kept thinking of how lucky I am, how fortunate, to have such wonderful, caring and supportive people in my life. I didn't want to disappoint anyone but I knew that I couldn't really. This was only an event and a DNF wouldn't make me any less loved or cared about.

Almost not getting to go because the race fell on the first day of the semester. With special permission I was able to get the time off of work but I'm sure they will NEVER do that again. So my next Arrowhead attempt will be after I accrue 4 more personal leave days and the race falls on the last week of the semester OR I have quit teaching due to retirement or quitting teaching. Would I quit teaching to do an event? Anyone want to dare me?

So that was my event. It is February 15th and I'm still not fully healthy. There is some inflammation in my lungs but the fluid is gone. I can feel it on occasion. I haven't run yet but I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to get out there and feel that freedom. And I got into Cascade Crest 100 which was my very first 100 mile finish. I'm really looking forward to the training and experiences I get to have on that journey.

(All pictures are from John Pearch. I didn't take any.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

something was falling apart. Badwater 2013

It has been 3+ weeks since I crossed the finish line at Badwater 2013- my second time at the start line and the second time I made it to the finish line. This year was different though, and it has taken me awhile to process what this experience was for me.

I don't even know how to begin, as I am still struggling with my disappointment. I am disappointed with my body, my performance and my behavior. Compared to last year...yeah, shouldn't do that I suppose.

I know, I know. What do I have to complain about, right? I was invited back for a second time and I managed to make it the finish line in 44:19. How many people ever get the chance to start this thing, let alone get to choose which Badwater belt buckle they want to wear? I'm a very fortunate person.

But really, this year, I did not achieve my Badwater goal. I said to Team High Voltage that I didn't really care how long it took to get to the finish line, as long as we had as much fun this year as last year, that was all that mattered. I anticipated that my time would be slower as my fitness wasn't as good and I still had a nagging achilles issue. And, the forecast was for "Hot" this year, unlike the mild 113 degrees of last year. Not to make excuses, but the goal was get to the finish and have a good time doing it. And I got so surly and cranky and tired that I don't know if I had much fun towards the end (and in the middle...more on why in a bit).

Now that I write this, I feel like a big baby. Which is, in part, why I am disappointed with myself. My crew, Crew Chief & Elixir Enforcer John Pearch, Picture Taker & Road Side Dancer Nick Harvey, Problem Solver & Salt Pusher Kris Ryding, Always Ready & Lone Pine Pacer Cyndie Merten, Rookie, Nick's B*%$# & Spiritual Advisor Patrick Ackley and Energizer Bunny & Exorcist Linda, worked their arses off to get us to the finish line. They suffered through the heat (125 degrees this year) as much as I did, they kept me spot on with my water and electrolytes and calories. Most importantly, they kept me cool. Seriously, as hot as it was, I never really felt it. I mean, I never really felt too hot, or so hot that I was too hot. I mean, yeah, I was hot, but my crew kept it all very manageable. They rocked. And now, here I whine about "fun". I really need to get over myself.

Crew Care. I love my crew.
Nick Harvey Photo

The start was great.

I was in the 10 a.m. wave (which was scary) and for the first 10 miles or so a few of us were racing to see who could be DFL in the 10 a.m. wave moving into Furnace Creek (mile 17). Unfortunately, it was not me, but I did run a conservative 3:25 to get there. I was really happy with that as it was 20 minutes slower than last year and I thought that made up for it being hotter and my fitness being not as good. Crew 1 (Nick, Pat & Linda) were awesome as they immediately started changing out my ice bandannas, got me drinking my elixir and eating some fresh fruits (this year: blueberries and whole apples. Yum.).

Looking good so far! And look at that coordinated ensemble!
AdventureCorps photo

We passed Furnace Creek quickly and I took my phone to call my daughter as I knew that would be the last time I would hear her sweet voice until the road into Lone Pine. She made me smile. I felt good and I was having fun but talking was a bit hard.

Linda, Cyndie & Kris at Furnace Creek. Quick Stop and on the go!
John's photo

Getting to Stovepipe Wells.

I was really looking forward to the stretch into Stovepipe Wells (mile 17 to 42) because there are some nice flatish runnable sections but some nice climbs that are just best if someone like me power hikes them. It was hot though, and I know that it was because the crew kept changing my towels and bandanna every stop, maybe every 1/2 mile? I kept eating and drinking and taking my salt, things were going o.k.

But it was lonely. Being at the back of the 10 a.m. wave and not so fast I was going to catch a bunch of people in front of me made it more difficult to keep pushing and have those fun conversations with other runners or get cheered on by other crews. Eventually I caught up to Amy Costa from Florida and we played back and forth a little bit. Her crew sprayed me down and my crew took care of her too. It was a good time. (She passed me at Stovepipe Wells and I never saw her again. She finished well ahead of me in a very nice time.)

I think I had Linda running with me and she told me stories about her trip to Ireland. Pat (desert virgin that he was) looked hot and I worried about him. Nick was running around in his flip flops like it was a day at the beach.
With Linda, I think this was day 2.
Pat's photo

But really, while everything was going smoothly, something was falling apart. Inside of me. And I had no idea.

A couple of miles before Stovepipe Wells the winds started. Now, the head wind going up Townes Pass is to be expected at Badwater. But this year, it started several miles earlier than it normally does. And this year, the whole bloody wind was HOT. Yeah, I know desert hot wind; I like it. I was disappointed that the 30 mph sustained head wind of 2012 was so mild (as in, not at all hot). I felt like the desert was playing mild with me. This year, it started earlier and it embraced me like an old friend. It didn't scare me or surprise me but it did, alas, wear me out.

9:40 from the start I made it to Stovepipe Wells. I stopped for a bit to rinse the sand off of my feet and change my socks (the wind had blown the sand into my shoes). Pat sacrificed and gave me a quick foot rub. In hindsight, I wasn't exactly feeling good.

And then, we started to climb up Towne's Pass.

This year was brutal. The wind, the heat, my slow forward progress all conspired to beat up my psyche and make me feel like crap about myself. And whatever it was inside me that was falling apart, reared its ugly head in all of its glory and I would not be able to tame it until, well, I haven't yet.

There really isn't much more to tell. The crew took care of everything related to me and they took care of themselves. But still, I got queasy and dizzy (and cranky and surly) and it became very difficult to move forward or to eat. The sun went down and I started peeing every 15 minutes or so (which I expected to happen because that is how my body rolls). Kris was pacing me up Townes Pass and we were trying to figure out what was wrong. I sat and ate some soup and I felt better for about 15 minutes, then the queasy/dizzy started again and it was all I could do to keep moving.

At some point, we made it to the top of Townes Pass, I'm not even sure who was crewing me then but I remember Cyndie came out with me for a bit during the crew transition. I felt so out of the race because I was so in my misery. I could not escape it. I ran, I walked, I stopped, I drank, I ate protein, I ate fat, I ate sugar, I took more salt, I took less salt, I drank less. It didn't matter. The queasy/dizzy would not go away and it was in it's own way, debilitating.
Pat telling me about chakras, or something.
Nick Harvey Photo

More of the same & trying to find a solution.

Even the "fun" downhill going into Panamint Springs was a slog. Nick ran with me and we hit a couple of 10 min/miles on his watch (for a brief time, not sustained I'm sure) but then I would just have to put my hands on my knees until the dizziness passed.

It took me 11:15 to go 30 miles. Granted, over 1/2 of that was climbing Townes Pass into a desert hot, sustained 30 mph, morale sucking headwind but still I might have dropped if I would have been at all aware of my slow progress at the time. All I knew was that the sun had come up as we were heading into the Panamint Valley. Which meant I got to do the Panamint climb in the daylight this year (last year, I did in the late night).

Usually for me, when the sun comes up in a run, I stop peeing as often. It's my bodies natural cycle: don't pee much during the day, pee A LOT at night. And the first day and night at Badwater predictably followed this schedule. However, this year the sun came up and I kept on peeing. I mean REALLY peeing-every 10 to 20 minutes, a copious amount and it was clear. It definitely concerned me but the crew and other people kept telling me it was a good sign as it meant I was well hydrated. But it wasn't right. This, along with the queasy/dizzy, told me that something wasn't right. But other than that stuff, I felt great so I tried to keep moving forward.

Kris got me up most of this climb but the story was the same. More queasy/dizzy. More surly and grumpy. More peeing. I stopped at Father Crowley to check on a blister (every little physical discomfort became huge because I could at least "fix" that, unlike whatever was going on with the queasy/dizzy stuff). As we were leaving I tried to cry. I really did. I felt so weak for letting something so small like a little queasiness get to me in such a big way. I told Kris "It's so frustrating because if if weren't for the fact that I feel like shit, I actually feel really good." And then I hiked.

I did manage to catch some folks from earlier starting waves. I played back and forth with Chris Frost for many many miles. He kept asking what wave I was in so I had to give him a hard time about that. Every time I was with another runner I would forget about how I felt and be positive and upbeat and try to pull them along. That was good for me and I hope for them.

Kris kept suggesting that I make myself vomit to "hit the reset button" but I really felt like that wasn't my issue. My gut felt fine. It felt great, actually. I was just queasy and dizzy. In retrospect, the feeling was very much like when I was pregnant. I was queasy all of the time but I never got physically ill. The only thing that made me feel better was eating...all the time. Needless to say, I gained 50 pounds when I was pregnant.

At some point before Darwin (mile 90) it hit me that maybe I needed to sit down and eat and let my body process the food; that maybe my problem was with food. I was eating still, and feeling better for a bit, but those icky feelings kept coming back.

I spent at least 30 minutes on the side of the road eating and drinking mostly complex carbs and fats & proteins. Then I waited. John and Kris used the roller on me, Kris rubbed my back. It was very productive. And as good as it felt, I wanted to keep moving. I didn't want to quit. I didn't want to be stopped on the side of the road. I knew that many people's race had already ended and I had no real excuse for not moving on. So I did.

And, it worked! I felt a lot better. Not 100% but a lot better.

I was low on energy. I was low on positive feelings. But I was moving forward. The crew was doing an awesome job. They kept me eating, they walked and ran with me, they advised me spiritually, they let me do what I said I needed to do. I don't think they knew what was going on in my head though; how negative I felt about myself, about my body and about how I was acting. I wanted to embrace the moment, live the dream, "be here, now", be high voltage-but I just didn't have it in me at this point.

Road to Lone Pine and the Portal Road.

On the positive side, my pace picked up a bit as I was running a bit more. I also was running "with" more people too which was motivating. I was sitting on the side of the road, eating blueberries and spinning my possessed head (think The Exorcist) around when Chris Frost hiked by and asked if everything was OK. I said "I'm just tired." His response was spot on: "Yeah." As if to say, "And? So? Duh." I felt like a baby and his voice stayed in my head the rest of the race.

Time for confession. I wasn't a very nice runner this year. Yeah, I know there were reasons or excuses but I really hope that Badwater didn't bring out the 'real me'. I accused Linda of lying to me about the car. The sun had just set on the second night and I thought the car had not gone passed by us although we had been hiking for quite awhile (I thought).
  • Me: "Where's the car? Why hasn't it passed?"
  • Linda: "I don't know. I think they were going to arrange it a bit."
  • Me (said with a snide voice): "Why would they do that?"
  • Linda: "I don't know. It is getting disorganized."
  • Me: "Well that doesn't make sense."
  • Linda (exasperated): "I don't know Heidi. They wanted to clean up the coolers."
  • Me: "You're lying to me. Are you lying to me? The car battery went dead (again) and you aren't telling me."
  • Linda (more exasperated): "No Heidi, I'm not lying. The car is fine. I don't know where they are."
  • Me: "You better not be lying to me to protect me. I want to hear...wait. They did pass us a little bit ago. They dropped you off with me. I remember seeing Nick in the car as they drove by. I think."
  • Linda (extra exasperated and confused): "I don't know Heidi. Yes, maybe, I can't remember."

By this time I was tired from being up and moving for so long (30+ hours), dealing with two days worth of desert heat (125 degrees day one, 103 degrees day two), covering over 100 miles, fighting my failing body, dealing with my weak psyche.

I did get to talk to my mom and daughter on the road into Lone Pine. When I got my phone out of the car I noticed that the screen was dirty, so without a thought, I licked it clean. The crew was happy I got a few extra calories and some salt.

After talking to Elena, I cried. I didn't want to quit. I just wanted to be done. As in, at the finish line done.

The crew became worried that I might not make the 48 hour cut off at the pace I was moving. I tried to figure it out myself but I realized I was trying to be to "in charge" and I was in no state to make any sort of decision. Their worries put the fear of a DNF into me and I got moving a bit more. They played music, they danced, I tried to smile. Their efforts were phenomenal and I wanted to respond but it was so hard.

Eventually, with some very patient pacing by Cyndie during the 2nd night, I made it into Lone Pine. I used the restroom in at the Dow Villa check point and I got to wash my hands with soap. SOAP!! Oh, glorious soap!

Kris then kicked my butt up the portal road. As in, she kept kicking my butt to get me to move. It was very clear though after 20 or so minutes of solid hiking my pace would slow dramatically. We got into the habit of moving strong when I could, then sitting and resting for 5 minutes in the car. This seemed to help my overall pace. The crew would talk about me thinking I couldn't hear them, but I could. They conspired on ways to get me to eat and drink, Kris told John "She has to drink the elixir. You can't let her say no." I felt so bad for John. He knew I was suffering and he didn't want to force anything on me. For him, I took that elixir without argument. Until I said "This is my last one. Just Mt. Dew after this."

Crew 2 was with me up the portal road and I was so worried about Crew 1 not making it in time for the finish. I really wanted everyone there and I found myself getting upset that they weren't there yet I didn't have the guts to vocalize what I wanted. Instead I just got more frustrated and worried. It wasn't a happy climb for me. But, Kris stuck with me. She reminded me to drink, she kept me moving.

The final slog with Kris, trying to get over being angry and angry that I am angry.
Nick Harvey Photo.
Crew 1 did finally show up (it was all as the team had planned, I just wasn't aware of the plan) for the final mile or so to the finish. At this point, the sun was coming up AGAIN and I was still moving. I was hiking near Karla Kent and her husband, in fact she had passed me a few miles back but I was hanging on.

After Crew 1 joined us I was angry. I had mentally worked myself up about them not making it to the finish, about my slow ass not moving fast enough and about how now I felt like a jerk for ever doubting them and for how I had been behaving. I had to finish. I had to move. I had to run. So, on about the the steepest grade of that climb I ran. I got on my toes and I ran. My lungs burned but my legs felt good, the pain in back went away. I felt punishment and relief and that was what I needed.

I passed Karla and felt like a jerk again. Because we were in different starting waves we weren't racing. I didn't want her to think that I needed to be in front of her. I just need to run. As I passed her I explained this to her. She understood and said to go. So I did. For a few more strides. And when I stopped I felt better. Not good, but better. Amazing what running can do for you!
John, Kris, me, Nick, Cyndie, Linda, Pat
Nick Harvey photo

Finally, after not drinking or eating for I don't know how long, all the crew joined me and I knew we were almost there. As soon as that finish line came into view, I ran. I just wanted to be done. I was so tired. And I just wanted to be done. Unfortunately, I lost my crew in that final sprint. We got spread out and so we did not cross the finish at one time. I had a vague awareness that not everyone could keep up but I just couldn't stop because I had to stop. I felt like a jerk (again) but we did all make it.

What a complainy face. Gheesh.
Adventurcorps photo

And still they support me. Check out that whiny face.
Adventurecorps Photo

Adventurecorps Photo

I can't say what my crew meant to me this year. I treated them worse than last year but I needed them more this year. They were High Voltage and I was just hanging on for the ride.

Cyndie, Kris, John, me, Nick, Linda, Patrick
AdventureCorps photo by Chris Kostman

And now, what was falling apart?

To make a long story short for now, I do believe my adrenals were failing at Badwater. I have seen two medical practitioners, blood work results are pending but all the symptoms and the causes fit. It was not Badwater that did this to me; this has been progressing for a couple of years (or more?) and I see that now.

I believe that Badwater 2012 was meant to be my race. I peaked and I had the time of my life. I also believe that Badwater 2013 was meant to be my race. It was the smoke alarm finally going off, forcing me to find out what has been wrong with my body for sometime now.

Soon I will find out just how much damage has been done, just how much recovery I need and how soon I can get back out there. But for now I rest and heal and try to accept that this was my race this year; it was exactly what I needed.

I really love my crew.
Pat, Linda, Kris, me, John, Nick, Cyndie

Friday, January 18, 2013

Metabolic Efficiency Training: An Experiment of One

You know how sometimes, things in life (events, experiences, people, books, thoughts, dreams) just sort of swirl around the top of your head, like a vortex of the all the answers to any question you may ever think of, but you just can't quite get to it? It is like that word on the tip of your tongue: its there, you know it is but you just have to quit thinking about it so you can get it.

Well, my ultra running nutrition has been like that for me.

Then in December I finally got around to reading the October issue of UltraRunning and low and behold, the vortex reached down and touched my brain. There was an article by Sunny Blende in which she writes about Metabolic Efficiency and how to eat and run to train your body to more efficiently burn FAT. The beauty of this idea is you don't have to focus as much on carbohydrates while running long (or short) which can really save your race if you end up with any sort of stomach or intestinal distress.

Now, I've been pretty lucky. My gut is either pretty hardy or I treat it right and we work well together. I don't usually bonk, unless I do something stupid like not eat enough (Pigtail's Challenge 2012). But still, I'm always looking for a little edge, a little way to improve myself as an athlete. And, to be honest, I've put on a few pounds since I started running ultras. And while I would like to think it is all muscle, unlike some disgraced former winner of a little bike ride in France, I must be honest with myself. I am not rock hard.

To make a long story short, I did some additional quick research about this idea and it makes sense to me. I know it has critics but with my limited knowledge of cells and human biochemistry and energy pathways PLUS what I have experienced with myself and that whole vortex of experience swirling above my head thing I had to give it a try.

I listened to this informative podcast on Trail Runner Nation with Sunny Blende and Tim Flemming. Ok, I listened to it like two or three times because I kept falling asleep. Admittedly I listened while in bed with the electric blanket set to high. But I digress.

I bought the book "Metabolic Efficiency Training" by Bob Seebohar and "Nutrition Periodization for Athletes" also by Bob Seebohar. Oh, and then I read them. Twice. Each.

Then I jumped in. Well, after Christmas I jumped in to metabolic efficiency training (MET) because John get me a heart rate monitor/GPS watch which is a handy tool to use to keep your training honest. Which I like to be honest, unlike some people in the professional biking world. Can you tell I'm a bit miffed about Lance? I digress again.

After more research and calculations I decided my heart rate should be no higher than 145 and hopefully closer to 135 for all of my runs for 2 solid weeks. For my diet I chose to ELIMINATE grains, most excess sugar (very hard to do) and alcohol for those weeks as well. I chose two weeks just as a starting point.

I found that my diet drastically improved. I ate WAY more veggies and fruits. I ate MORE fat and protein. I felt good. Running felt SLOW but it was. I wanted to run faster but I didn't. I tried to be honest.

After 1.5 weeks of this MET running and eating I ran the Bridle Trails 50k. Now, I'm not really fit for a 50k right now. This was a training run. I planned on doing my MET through the whole 6 long hours of it.

And guess what?

It worked!

A couple of days prior to the run I did add a slice or two of yummy bread to my diet. Maybe I even had some hot chocolate one night. The day of the race I did not "carbo load" with grains. I ate a piece of toast for breakfast, some cottage cheese, fresh salsa and an avocado for lunch and then I ran (it was an afternoon/evening race).

For the first 3 hours I ate NOTHING. No gel, no bars, no potatoes. I ran through the aid stations and I followed the beeps of the heart rate monitor.

For the second 1/2 of the run (3 hours) I did eat (not bonking was a big goal) but not much. In total I had 1 Larabar, 1 orange slice, 1 potato chunk, 1 handful of chips, 1 cup of chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of noodles. And never once did I feel like I needed it. I know I did but not so badly I could feel it.

In fact, when I got finished, I could have kept going. It was a beautiful night and there really was no need to stop.

I guess, I was amazed at all this. Now, perhaps I was/am pretty efficient already so maybe I am just fine tuning my diet. But so far it is going well. I will try it again at the Capitol Peak MegaFatass tomorrow and see how it goes, although I have been eating more grains this past week (recovery and another big run).

According to my at home scale, my weight and body fat percent have dropped but I'm not convinced that my scale is perfectly accurate for body fat and I only have two data points so far. However, running today I was able to keep a faster pace with a lower heart rate (which is also an affect of MET).

So, this is my experiment of one. It is not something I will do 365 if you know what I mean. But right now I am really appreciating how it is refocusing my eating onto real, fresh foods instead of processed grains and carbs.

If you have any questions I'd love to share my experience while we're out running!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

what I did during my Badwater run.

How do you begin telling the story of how your dream came true? Maybe you start with the how the dream was born?

10th grade

I heard about Badwater 135 back when I was in high school (like, in the late 80's, dude). I was not an athlete. I was not a runner. I was on the debate team and was taking college prep classes so I could get into college with scholarships so I could get out of the small town I grew up in. But something about this event stuck in my brain.

Fast forward to July 2008 when I ran my first ultra, the White River 50 miler and then on to August 2010 when I finished my first 100 at the Cascade Crest Classic. Somewhere in the midst of all this running (and reading about ultra running) I realized that I could run the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon. What was born in high school as a little dream turned into the raging flame of a goal. And, like most ultrarunners, I am very goal oriented. Once I set my mind on accomplishing something, I tend to get a tad bit focused on it.
First 100 mile finish. So sweet! Kris paced me here, John crewed.

I decided to apply to run the 2011 race. However, the standards were changed and I was no longer qualified to run. I thought about applying anyway but didn't want to irritate the race director. I looked at this one year delay as an opportunity to get stronger and smarter and better prepared for Badwater. But at that point, every step, every run, every race became part of the journey that would successfully get me to Badwater.
My good friend, Dory, at Arrowhead.
She kept following me!

Even the "bad" runs helped me get ready for Badwater. The painfully slow miles of Arrowhead 135 taught me patience. The last 40 miles of Javelina Jundred taught me how to walk/power hike with purpose. The endless one mile loops at Pac Rim 24 Hour taught me how to focus on the joy that is there somewhere in every step. The ridiculous mud at Lumberjack 100 taught me how to laugh at  such silly endeavors that we pay actual money to be a part of. All the while I learned about my strengths, my weaknesses, my nutritional needs and what it really means to be an ultrarunner on the mental and spiritual level.

Linda & I roadtrippin' after BW 2011

My good friend, Linda, and I crewed Terry Sentinella at Badwater in 2011. We learned a lot. I took what I knew would work for me and changed what I knew wouldn't. I got to see Badwater in action which brought to life all I had read and heard about it (which was a lot). I had a plan. Then I just had to get in. Which, obviously, I did.


What can I say, my race was actually really quite boring. I had a super awesome team (name: High Voltage) consisting of John Pearch, Kris Ryding, Sean Sexton, Linda Huyck, Cyndie Merten and Nick Harvey who all did such a great job of taking care of me that I had no major issues. No blood blisters (just 3 small regular toe blisters), no vomiting (just some queasiness), no heat stroke, no med tent, no tears. Nothing. Just perpetual forward motion. I didn't even change my clothes. Well, my socks and shoes once, but that was planned ahead of time.

My goal was to finish in 40 hours. I managed a finish time of 35:49:58. BAM! Finished before the sun set! 5th place woman and 35th overall.

The temperature was pretty mild this year at Badwater. The high reached 113 and stayed there for a few hours (average is 117). However, what we did have this year was a 40 mph sustained head wind while climbing Towne's Pass. The gusts were stronger; much stronger. The wind wasn't as hot as it "could" have been but it was definitely a force to be dealt with.

At this point I could tell you what my splits were, what my pace was, how many times (and when, thank to my crew writing it all down) I had a bodily function, who passed me, who I passed, how much salt I took in, how much ice we went through...or what not. But really, I didn't do anything special. Maybe I'll save those logistics for a different blog post.

What you can't discern from any of the the results is what was going on in my mind.


Before the start

Goofy tears & emotions at Furnace Creek on Saturday before the race.

Loading up on salt.

High Voltage Feet!
  • I AM AT BADWATER 2012! This is my race number! They are taking my picture for the website! I'm finally here!!!
  • I AM AT FURNACE CREEK!! As a runner! I am here! Oh my gosh! I am right here right now!!
  • I hope I hit that sweet spot that you sometimes hit when you run. You know, THAT spot where nothing hurts, not even pain, when you feel like you could go forever? I want that here at Badwater. I hope I get that spot and not that other one.

Start to Furnace Creek (mile 0 to mile 17):

Kris & Nick on the way to the start!
Me, Kris, Nick & John taking the traditional picture at the start.

Standing at the back of the 8 a.m. start wave w/Karla Kent.

Chris Kostman does the countdown and yells "GO!"
  • Why aren't I crying? I always get a little emotional in the first 1/2 mile or so. I'm just too friggin' happy! I'm finally here, doing THIS! Badwater 2012!
Almost all the 8 a.m. starters are WAY in front of me
  • Why is everyone so far ahead? Gheesz. I am s l o w. Wow. This sucks. I'm pretty much alone and everyone is getting smaller and smaller. Oh hey! There's HIGH VOLTAGE!
Crew 1 starts offering me ice bandannas very early on
  • Really? Why are they doing that? It isn't even hot. Seriously. It takes energy to say "No thank you" so why even offer it so soon?
  • OK, fine. If they are going to keep offering it (3 times total) then I should take it just to make them happy but not because I need it yet.
Largish hill up ahead
  • I should hike this but I'm so far back and running feels so good. And this hill isn't that big, just big relative to the flat stuff.
  • Drat. Crew 1 just yelled at me to slow down. Guess I'll hike this hill. And that next one. But not because I need to but because I trust my crew to tell me what to do.
More cool stuff to see all around
  • Wow. This is so cool. I'm running in Death Valley at Badwater 2012! Look at those cool mountains! Look at how the sun is hitting the rocks. Feel how the temperature changes in the sun versus in the shadows. OMG!! I am right here right now!!!
Furnace Creek Check Point
  • Yeah! All the crew is here! They are so excited and are asking me so many questions. I don't know. Just whatever! I'm on the grass at the Furnace Creek Check Point and I just checked in at Badwater 2012!! Hey I need to stretch here. John, not so much sunscreen. Just a mist please!
  • All right, let's go! Sure, Cyndie can pace! I'm doing fine on my own but this is just so much fun!
Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells (mile 17 to mile 42):

Hey, were starting to see more cars and some of the same cars! That must mean I'm catching up to the 6 a.m. wave and the 8 a.m. wave that was so far ahead of me at the start.
  • Just keep running, this feels so good! Oh, there's a hill. I will walk that. I don't want to but I will.
  • WOW! The lead guy, Mike Morton, just passed me. Wish I could run like that but at least I get to see it!
  • It's getting hotter and the sun beating on my left ear and the wind hitting it too, think I'll get an ice towel and make myself a little cave.
  • Man, that wind feels cool now! This towel rocks! How come no one else is using a towel?
  • Hey, there's Jarom Thurston! Yeah I get a hug and lots more positive energy! What do you mean "Slow Down", Jarom? I'm just running happy stupid!
  • There's Marshall Ulrich! He said I ought to be able to run up a lot of Towne's Pass. Ha ha! Hope I didn't make a fool of myself visiting with him. His crew actually reached down and removed a rock from his path. And I thought High Voltage was an awesome crew!
  • Hey, there's Stovepipe Wells already! Time to sit, change my socks and shoes, eat and start the climb.
John asks if I want to jump in the pool
  • It's not that hot. I am raring to go! I'm here at Badwater 2012!
Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs (mile 42 to mile 72):

At this point in the race the wind really picked up (to about 40 mph). I was planning on running some of less steep stuff.
  • Man, this wind is intense! Makes no sense to run in it. Physics and energy conservation baby!
  • "Hey Linda, this wind is just stupid! It's funny!" Let's hike, laugh, dive through the wind and enjoy the ridiculousness of it all.
  • Wow, people are running and passing me in this wind. Maybe I should be running? No, be patient. You know what is best. Have discipline to do what you know is best. Yes, this race is about discipline. The work leading up to it and having a smart strategy when you are in it.
  • More laughter and smiles. The crew cars all have their windows up and hardly anyone is out of their cars.
The top of the pass, a wide pull out in the road
  • So many people sleeping and resting on cots and on the ground. I thought this was were it was supposed to get fun?
  • Down hill, let's go! But, be disciplined. Is this too hard? Yes, slow down; no, just flow!
The lights of Panamint Springs
  • YEE HAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWW! I'm at Badwater 2012 checking in at Panamint Springs! Oh yeah!
  • Now, I am really sleepy. Why am I so sleepy. Body feels good (slight swelling of hands, headache is gone after caffeine consumption, some queasiness) but I am just sleepy. My eyes don't want to stay open. Seriously? I want to have fun! To have energy! And to have a nap! You can't have it all! No nap for you!
Panamint Springs to Darwin (mile 72 to mile 90):
  • Kris says "Take this" I say "Ok".
  • The only thing I remember thinking here for sure (other than being frustrated at being sleepy, realizing it is my latte Perpetum elixir that is making me feel queasy and that I need a 5 hour energy) is: OMG!!! That is the Darwin Check Point! I'm right here right now at Badwater! I'm running this race! This is so freakin' awesome!! I think I might have done a little dance here too. I was pretty excited.
  • Linda keeps asking "What do you need?". I don't know!! You tell me! You guys tell me what to do and I do it. I tell you how my body is performing and we adjust.
  • Sean isn't getting out of the car. He must be tired from his Seattle to Portland bike ride he did. I worry about him and watch what he does.
Darwin to Lone Pine (mile 90 to mile 122):

 Mt. Whitney came into view
Mt. Whitney! with Cyndie
  • That's where I am going. That is my finish line. That is where I get my belt buckle. That is where I get to be the person, get to be on a team that has worked together to get to the finish. After years of watching others have it, now I get it. This is my year! Right here right now!
  • At this point I just kept my eye on that mountain and I just kept reeling it in. That it was so many miles off didn't even phase me. I could actually finally see it. After so many years I could see it and it was so close. It had never been closer.
Long stretches into Lone Pine

I'm on the road to Lone Pine, with Kris
  • Run from that pole to that car up there.
  • Run from that car to that bush. Ah, heck, go up to that next bush.
  • Stay cool. Keep eating. Keep doing what the crew tells you to do. They say eat, I say ok. They say take this I say ok. Well, mostly. Sometimes I say "no" and so they offer me something else, which I take because I have to.
  • Run up to the crew car.
  • Run to that little hill.
  • Run to the turn into Lone Pine.
  • OMG. You are running into Lone Pine. Right here right now. Run into Lone Pine. All the way. No walking, this is it. The last stretch to that 13 mile finish line.

At the Dow Villa
Where's my f'in soup?!
  • Cyndie is leading me one way. Nick is quietly telling me to do something. What am I supposed to do? I just want to head up the road! That is the finish line!
  • I'm sitting. I guess someone has food for me to eat? Where's my f*^&in soup? If there is no food then I want to get going up the road! I don't want to sit here doing nothing. I want to finish! It's right there!
  • Spicy chicken sandwich hurts my mouth. Sweet tea from McD's (aka crack tea b/c it is so addictive) tastes good. Takin' the tea up the road!
Lone Pine to Finish (mile 122 to mile 135):
With John, just staring the portal road
(pic fromYolanda Holder)
In retrospect, this 13 mile segment was just one finish line. I knew I had to keep tending to the machine by eating and drinking but that entire trip was just a 13 mile celebration. I could not go fast enough. In fact, sometimes my pacers were slower than me and I felt like I needed to slow down for them.
With Kris, Going Up and Smiling! (pic from Ben Jones)

 It's all good! I'm right here right now and my buckle is just right up there! Come on guys! Let's go get it!
Going up there! Let's Go!
And we did. And we were High Voltage right up to the end.
Dancing on the Portal Road

Linda said to me that the race was so smooth that it seemed like a formality; like I already knew I would get there but I had to go through the motions to prove it. I agree. Mostly because I never once doubted that we would finish. What I didn't know was that the race would be so ideal, so much fun or so empowering. I was hoping it would be.

Other people talk and write about wanting to have a transcendent experience at Badwater, wanting to experience that life-changing event. I think for me I got that out of the training, the sacrifices and the attempts to balance regular life while trying to achieve such a world class dream. The Badwater Ultramarathon was the celebration of getting there and getting there prepared and ready to run. I could not have asked for a better experience or a better crew. Thank you so much John, Kris, Cyndie, Sean, Linda and Nick! You were all completely priceless!

I was at The Badwater Ultramarathon 2012, and I ran it, and I smiled through most of it, and I finished it!

Right here right now!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

just 3 things

Badwater is coming up. I'm afraid to count the days. I feel like a kid at Christmas. Mom used to put a candy ribbon up for us kids as a countdown to Christmas eve. Eating that candy every night made the build up to Christmas that much more exciting. I think the candy tasted sweeter too. Only now, with Badwater, I have a to-do list a mile long and it isn't sweetness I taste but anxiety I feel. But every time I cross something off that list...I do feel like that kid again. That is sweet.

The way I see it, I have just three things left to do before the big day: maintain fitness, get heat acclimated and do logistical stuff (shopping, packing, final crew organization, getting the house ready).
This would be a passive heat training temperature. Just sit and sweat baby!

Last time I wrote about life getting in the way of training. Well, things finally clicked and I got 2 solid weeks of decent workouts making a solid 5 week cycle of running:
  • week 1: Pigtails Challenge 1/2 (100 miles)
  • week 2 & 3: recovery
  • week 4: 100 miles (!!! 1st time ever !!!)
  • week 5: 70 miles
That left me 3 weeks to recover, taper and maintain.  I was elated that my running finally came together and I could hit some volume that I had so been wanting to do. Also, during this time I began fake tanning and doing some gentle (but active) heat training. Life was consumed by running. My 11 year old daughter took it all in stride. She is so supportive and patient.

But, it can't ever be that simple. During week 4 my mom discovered a lump in her breast. She is already a breast cancer survivor and she has chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Running took on a new meaning as I processed what this could mean for my small family. She got a positive (or would it be negative?) diagnosis. We have another battle to fight, another challenge to face.
Family love!

I don't know how to say what this means to me. I get my strength in running from my mom. She is the strongest and bravest person I know and running, while it brings me joy, is also a way I can honor my mom and all she has done for me. I try to be my best for her.

Needless to say, my stress quotient is very high. My running is blech. Heat training is going pretty good. I'm getting things crossed off that to-do list with the massive help of friends like John and Linda and an incredible amount of understanding from my daughter. Getting ready for an event like this with a family "crisis" going on has really brought out the best in my friends and daughter. Elena might be "just 11" but she is more mature than most 30 year olds. I would like to think she gets that from me...but who are we kidding?

I did manage to use the warmer temperatures of eastern Washington to get in some active heat training. I layered up and walked/ran for an hour a couple of times in temperatures in the low 80's (20 degrees warmer than western Washington!). I discovered my feet are VERY good at sweating. My socks and shoes got completely soaked (so much so that I left partial wet footprints behind me). In an attempt to balance running and single-momness I took Elena to the aquatic center so she could swim while I layered up and walked the perimeter for an hour. I took a few breaks to visit with Elena and watch her go down the slide. And she wasn't even embarrassed by this! No one at the water park asked me what I was doing but I did get tons of strange looks and people that quickly looked away, not wanting to make eye contact.

Heat training and swimming at the aquatic center

I have to get back those 3 things. Keeping a balance in life, uncovering the strength my mom has bestowed upon me and being so excited about my life I can hardly contain it!

I can't wait!

I am living this dream in support of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Please support this great organization, my mom and my run by making a small donation. I get a lot of strength from those of you that do and have. Thanks! 

Leukemia Lymphoma Society Fund Raiser Page

Saturday, June 16, 2012

are you experienced?

Training for Badwater 2012 is going O.K. I'm not injured. I'm not sick of running. But, I'm just not running the amount of mileage I would like to be. Every time I make BIG plans, something, like life, gets in the way. I'm not complaining, I am glad I have a life, a daughter, a job. I just wish I could be independently wealthy and that all of my wonderful friends were too so I could run more and they could help me out with know, it takes a village! Anyway...

I opted to run the Pigtail's Challenge 1/2 (that is 100 miles) on Memorial Day weekend as my final big run for Badwater. The problem was I didn't know how to approach it. My options were to run it easy and put in designated walking breaks (to practice walking for Badwater) or to just run it and go by feel. I really couldn't make up my mind and just decided what to do once I got running.

Ultimately, it turned into a run. I wasn't running hard, I walked when I needed. I visited with people (runners and regular citizens). I met a really neat horse (oh, his owner was nice too). I wrote songs (Sorry, Allen) and sang them. I gagged on a cracker and almost choked to death! You know, fun ultra stuff!

The course consisted of a 6 miles worth of out and back, followed by 10 loops of 9.4 miles each. There was the main aid station at each loop end and another basic aid station about 1/2 way around. The course was mostly a gravel surface, nice to run on really, with a few rollers, but nothing too extreme. For the really awesome people, totally runnable. For the rest of us, the hills were good enough to walk without guilt! And we did! The loops were run washing machine style (reversing direction each time) so you really got to see everyone who was out there, including the people who were already many many miles into their 150 and 200 mile adventures. Amazing.

The problem was I was feeling TOO good. How can that be a problem? Well, the sun was out, the run was going great and so I ran and ran. Oh, and ran. This was supposed to be a training run. And then I realized (thank you loops!) that I was running as 1st woman and wouldn't that be cool to win and get a free pair of shoes!? But I'm not racing. I'm training. This run needed to be easy so I could recover quickly and get back out there training for Badwater. It's all about Badwater.

So while I didn't really TRY to win (I walked with a lot of different people and got to visit with them) it did feel neat to be running in first and to be feeling sooo good!  And watching other people's races and runs unfold was inspiring. I sort of new who was running their first hundred, who was going for the 150 and the 200 and it made me feel like an ultra-running virgin seeing and being a part of their experiences.

I had no crew or pacer for this run and the volunteers were super awesome helping to take care of me. I had a plan that was pretty straightforward and I can be (can be, not that I am) pretty low maintenance so I wasn't too worried about not having the personal support. I would come in, put Perpetum in my bottle, a volunteer would squeeze a gel in it, and voila! Good to go! But then, just as I get done writing, singing and sharing my blues song about not having a pacer or crew (and about some things Allen was doing...), Kris Ryding, a super awesome friend, runner and TEAM HIGH VOLTAGE crew member, shows up! Surprise! She ran two loops with me, sometime in the late afternoon, and then got some gear from the car for me before she left. It was such a gift to have her there!

A big purpose of this run was to again test some nutritional strategies for Badwater. I learned at Arrowhead that I need more sugar than Perpetum so tried adding a gel to a 1 hour bottle of it at the Pac Rim 24 hour race and found it worked well. I wanted to try this again at the Pigtail's Challenge 1/2. So, my plan was to leave the main aid station with the elixir mix as a one hour bottle, finish it by the other aid station, get some water there and some snacks, finish the loop, re-fill with elixir and eat some solid food, repeat.

Do you see anything wrong with this plan? There is something, really really not right. I'll wait while you try and figure it out...

Think you got it?

I had no plan for any real calories (aka ENERGY) for the 2nd 1/2 of each loop! The problem with that is when I make a plan, I'm pretty good at following it! On one loop I was feeling a bit poopy so I had a gu but otherwise I took in NO calories for the 2nd 1/2 of each loop. Can you say "rooky mistake"? Actually, I think a rooky would be too smart to do something like this.

Amazingly, I ran pretty consistent loops until loop 9. That is when it all caught up to me. Unfortunately, Jess Mullen decided to run a loop with me for that loop. It turned into a death march (I'm still sorry, Jess). The loop started great (talking about Badwater, how we got into running ultras and ultimately caught the Badwater bug) and I really enjoyed the running and visiting. But sometime after the aid station I became nauseous, dizzy and icky. Jess tried to make me eat (she knew right away what my problem was) but I wasn't super cooperative. Finally, realizing she was so RIGHT and I had made a huge mistake, I agreed to eat IF I could lay down. On the trail. With my feet up on that post. Oh yeah. But I did get 100 calories in!

Then, shortly into the final loop (after spending some time eating at the aid station), the 2nd place woman passed me looking very very strong. I already knew I wasn't going to race. This wasn't about racing, it was about training (and I had decided that earlier in the day; my one compromise for not doing any walking training).  But I also wasn't going to let her just pass me that easily! Nope, I had enough juice in me to keep running up the hills (which felt really good) and pass her back. And that is how it went for awhile. But then, the drama never ends! I was too cheap to change the batteries in my head lamp before the start (they seemed good...) and my lamp started flickering! So I had to turn it off to save juice where I knew the trail was pretty smooth. I hoped Kimberly wasn't thinking I was trying to hide from her!

I reached the aid station (sans light), had some gel (trying to make Jess proud!) and got some batteries from a volunteer. Kimberly went right through and I stayed and visited a bit with Kristen (who ran a great first 100 miler, even if she didn't look too spunky at this point in the night~nobody did) so that Kimberly and her pacer would be out of sight and out of mind.

They were and I did a lot of walking at that point. My energy was a bit low (although I was guing!) from my previous mistake so I just enjoyed the night.

And for the first time ever in a 100 I beat the sun to the finish line! I ran it in 22:10, a new PR and 2nd place woman! And I learned. I learned that sometimes I have stupid plans, always I have great friends, and ultra runners are the kind of people I like to be around.

SPLITS: Somewhere I wrote them down and now can't find them but they were pretty consistent in just over 2 hours for each loop. Except loop 9 was around 3.5 hours and loop 10 was around closer to 2.5 hours. So now, I want to try for a 20 hour 100 miler! My 100k time was just over 12 hours which is pretty good for me.

RECOVERY: My recovery from this was different from any other I have experienced. I ended up with some pretty bad chest pain for about 4 days. It hurt to breathe, to lay on my side, etc. Also, my heart would race, thump and about fall out of the bottom of chest. My massage therapist suggested that my cortisol levels were high b/c of A) all the running and B) the lack of calories (and she supports my running as she used to run ultras). She suggested I needed more protein and fat so to try whey protein supplement. I did and it worked! Well, that and time. But the need for additional protein after a big effort like this makes sense, and I don't think I typically get much protein.

So after that I decided NOT to enter any more races before Badwater. You pin a number on me and while I may not be a top contender, I get racing in my mind and I run harder than I do just training. Big Surprise there, eh?

I spent two weeks recovering (the first week not running, just healing) and the second week I slowly got back into it (I did do hill repeats). This weekend I'm running big, on my own, mostly on roads. Next week will be the final BIG week for me and I will probably have to get most of my mid week runs done on the treadmill. No biggie, I'll just watch T.V.!

Then to taper, which I don't really know how to do so maybe I better research that? Hmmm, and make a plan!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just doing some maintenance.

24 hours to go. Once you start, you can finish.

Well, maybe not quite that simply. I guess it depends on your goals and objectives. My objective for this run was to move for 24 hours and in the processes hopefully meet my 3 goals:
  1. To place higher than I placed last year (which was 4th place)
  2. To cover more miles than last year (which was 93 miles)
  3. To cover over 100 miles
  4. To fine tune and nail down some nutritional strategies (this is always a work in progress) especially some way to stay positive during the doldrum hours of 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
This then could maybe lead to my own personal redemption after my incomplete Arrowhead adventure.

The Pacific Rim 24 Hour Run in Longview, Washington is a really neat event. The volunteers are super, the race director is a hoot and the other runners are as inspiring as any ultra endurance athlete can be. I knew this much going in after doing this race last year (I was 39 at the start of the race and turned 40 during the run...I got to run into my 40's!). I looked forward to doing this event again with a clear set of goals and an achievable objective.
Awesom Volunteers & RD (Pic from Tim Englund)

This year the weather forecast was wet and cold (thank you, La Nina). I don't like wet and cold is even worse. I packed about every piece of running gear imaginable from the cold weather section of my closet (yes I even got into my Arrowhead supplies, fearing the worst).

And then, we got to the starting line and I went out like a streak of lightening and didn't eat...

Smart Start (Picture from Sarah Duncan)

No wait, that isn't what I did. I took it "easy", I paced myself, I visited with some runners (Eb, Seth...) that I hadn't seen in a long time. I walked a little. Mostly I ran. Then my feet started hurting. I mean HURTING. Seriously, we weren't even 5 hours into this thing and the bottoms of my feet were crying for some serious drugs. My left hip starting hurting. My right butt got in the act and felt quirky too. Really? 24 hours of this? I mean I know I am not built to be a runner but after only 5 hours??? At least the sun was shining (sort of...). I stretched ("Just doing some maintenance"), I rubbed my feet (WOW! That felt good), I kept moving. I changed my shoes and my feet felt better at least. The stretching helped.

Early on, Pain starting (from Sarah Duncan)
From Sarah Duncan

I think the sun set but who knows. 1 mile loops never really get boring because each loop looks different (different dogs, different walkers, different crows) and I have a simple mind that is easily entertained. I decided that at midnight (or 15 hours) I would take some ibuprofen and rub my feet. I was looking forward to midnight!
Crow Friend (from Sarah Duncan)
After my foot rubbing-ibuprofen stop, John went to bed and I continued to run in circles. After about a loop and a half the ibuprofen kicked in and I learned something: When I don't hurt I can actually run! I don't know exactly how fast I was going but I felt like I was flying! I was passing people that had been passing me, I was feeling good and going for my goals. I put my music on and just ran. At  around 3 a.m. I realized I was feeling negative because I wasn't telling people "Good job" when I saw them nor was I thanking the volunteers. For the first time ever I used a 5 Hour Energy and WOW! I won't say it gave me more energy but my mood improved noticeably. It may have helped my energy as usually from about 4 a.m. to well after sunrise I usually feel really tired and sort of let down. That never happened at Pac Rim this year.

Have you ever had one of those runs or moments or experiences when you feel STRONG and INVINCIBLE and almost like a MACHINE? The last 7 or so hours of Pac Rim were like that for me. I don't know how fast I was running, but I felt FAST, I felt STRONG, I felt UNSTOPPABLE. I wish I could bottle that feeling up and drink it whenever I wanted. I get all tingly just thinking about it now.

On my final running loops around that 1 mile "track" I was thinking about the distance kids I have coached in track and how they can fly down the back side of the track on the last lap. Then I began to channel Steve Prefontaine and visualized myself racing down the backside of the track. I wonder what I really looked like? In my minds eye I was smooth and graceful. HA!
Channeling better runners than myself
(from John Pearch)
In the end I achieved my objectives and I met all of my goals. Mentally I was on it and I really believe it was because I had those very measurable goals at the front of my brain at all times. Physically I paced myself, I pushed myself when I was able and I managed my food and water spot on. It was a great 24 hours.
Done running 100. Me eating, John messing with his phone.
(From Tim Englund)

What did I do right?
  1. The forecast was cold and wet. I started in tights and stayed in tights. Can't say that I ever really got too cold as I constantly adjusted my layers as needed and changed only once after I did get rained on pretty good.
  2. I think I got my energy figured out! I drank Perpetum from the beginning (mixed as a 1 hour bottle) with one gel pack mixed in. I snacked at the aid table. I took a gel whenever I got "behind" on my one hour bottle. This really worked! I will try it in the heat and hopefully I have something for Badwater!
  3. I had the tunes to run to. I noticed my pacing was in line with whatever song was playing.
  4. I ended up using two 5 Hour Energy bottles (4 hours apart). They certainly made me feel more positive during the doldrum hours.
  5. I kept my goals and objectives at the forefront of my mind. I set little goals based on the clock as I went (like trying to get in 3 more loops before the next hour ticked onto the clock).
  6. I rubbed my feet 3 times. Totally worth the time it took as I have really messed up feet with arthritis in my right foot.
  7. Ibuprofen is my really really really good friend. So is caffeine. Better running through chemistry!
  8. Constantly monitored and fixed any mental and physical problems as they came up, before they got to big too big handle.
What did I do wrong?  Well, not much really....
  1. I took bad shoes. I mean, I didn't know they were bad, but they were. I should have changed them sooner.
  2. I didn't keep track of my laps and I think one might have been missed in the afternoon. Oh well.
Objectives complete, goals achieved.

100 MILES! (Pic from John Pearch)
2nd Place and 103 miles (Pic from Tim Englund)