Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Santa Monica Mountains 50K Race Report

PCTR puts on the best trail races and this year's Santa Monica Mountains race was no exception.  This race is a sentimental favorite for me because the 2008 version was the first time I met Billy and Lori in-person; we did the 30k together and I had a blast.  That was only my second trail run and it got me hooked on trails and led to my path of insanity ultra running.  Sarah and Michael put on another fantastic event this year and it made me so happy to be out there; they even brought in good weather to make conditions perfect for running.

Saturday was non-stop rain where I live and the forecast called for rainy and windy conditions for Sunday.  My boyfriend had decided against the 50K (okay, I told him no because I knew he was not trained for it and I didn't want him getting hurt) but was contemplating the 30K or 18K.  Unfortunately, the potential for rain caused him to back out and I definitely missed having him at the race.  The drive to Point Mugu made me worry about trail conditions and being out there for 7 hours but thankfully the skies cleared as I neared the race site.  Seeing how beautiful of a day it was made me wish I had tried to convince Alan to run and that hung over my head off and on during the day.  My heart and mind were not totally into running and I knew that my legs were not prepared for the distance.  However, seeing my running buddies before the start cheered me up and I knew that I would have fun out there.

Good looking bunch of fun people!

The course consists of 3 "loops" (with a section that is the same on out/back) and then a 9k out/back for a total of 5 significant climbs.  My plan was to take it very slowly and walk all the ups (ie. energy conservation, saving my legs) since I was very unprepared for the distance.  The first loop I ran with Stuart and, since we started very far back, we were bottlenecked at times and then behind a slower group for the first few miles.  We finally passed them after the first big climb and I just enjoyed taking in the phenomenal views.  I did not carry my camera since there was a chance of rain but Stuart got some great pics. :)  I was glad that it had rained because it made my least favorite section (meadow area with trail in a "v" making running hard) softer and easier to run without hurting my ankles.

Coming back through the "boulder" section, I was super cautious and Stuart ran ahead.  I took a moment at the first aid station to grab a Shot Block and a sip of electrolyte drink.  As I started the next climb at the start of the second loop, my coworker caught back up to me; he was going for his first ultra so I told him to walk the uphills and save his energy for the latter miles.  I powerhiked the up section and caught back up to Stuart; as we ran towards the aid station/turnaround, I felt good but realized my legs were already dead.  Running the fire road out was torture and I wanted to walk...not exactly the best feeling before hitting a seemingly endless technical climb. 

I pushed to the top and was very happy when I finally reached the downhill and entered the aid station after completing the 30K part.  Seeing Billy taking pics and having Sarah's friendly face asking if I was having fun motivated me to continue on to complete the 50K.

I filled up my water and was happy to see that I had done a better than normal job of hydrating.  I grabbed a couple of Shot Blocks, hit the restroom, and started back out on the 3 loop, which is the same as the 1st loop.  This time, I walked the entire first part as it's miniscule incline and my legs did not agree.  It was then that I realized I had not been eating (3 shot blocks over 19 miles); this is the first PCTR event where I did not grab candy, potatoes, etc. from the aid stations and from miles 18 to the end, I felt that mistake.  In the "boulder" section, I got very disoriented and started going the wrong way; thankfully, a fellow runner (Mike, a guy who ran Los Pinos 50K the day before...super awesome, tough guy!) yelled out and got me back on track.  However, with him ahead of me, I managed to do the same thing less than 0.25 mile later; I stood there wondering where on earth to go before climbing up on a big rock and seeing the right way and having to climb down and find my way to the next ribbon.  I felt pretty dizzy and unstable on the entire uphill section and even struggled on the flat meadow part, walking most of it and telling several runners to go ahead of me.

The fakest smile ever. 

I was very happy to get back to the aid station, see my friends, and head back out for the last 9K.  While I know others ran the gradual uphill, I again walked all of it.  I ended up with another runner as we were both just trying to get through the race; I hated letting other runners pass me but I knew that my objective was to finish, not to race, and so I didn't even try to push harder.  When we hit the turnaround, I was so happy to have less than 3 miles to go; I walked any of the uphills on the return but cautiously flew on the downhill...I had my doc's voice in my head reminding me to take it easy on the downhills and I obeyed.  The wind gusts slowed me down at times but I realized I had a chance of finishing around 6:30 and I cautiously pushed the pace to make that happen.  About 0.15 from the finish, I lost my concentration (I was irritated with a runner who stood in the middle of the trail seeing me coming but not moving until the absoulte last second); I took a very hard fall, slamming my face, hands, elbow, knees into the ground but jumped up so as to not lose any time.  I crossed the fnish line in pain, quickly said hi to Billy, Lori, and Emil and walked to the bathroom to assess the damage and clean up. 

I felt very dizzy and out of it and Emil commented on the amount of salt on my clothing.  It was then I realized another mistake; somewhere around mile 18, I stopped taking salt capsules.  By now, I should have learned how to eat, drink, and replenish electrolytes but yet I made the same mistake I've made other times.  In retrospect, I wonder if my crappy feeling for the last 12 miles was due to nutrition and not a lack of endurance/traning.  I guess I'll get a chance to figure that out soon when I run another 50K. :)

Final results- 6:30, good enough for 6th female and 29th OA (out of 70 finishers).  It's not my personal worst (what I anticipated) but it's far from my personal best.  However, I had a lot of fun out there, had a wonderful time during and after with my old running buddies, made some new running buddies along the way, and enjoyed gorgeous weather in one of the prettiest parts of the country. 

(all pics courtesy of Billy and Stuart)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

PCT at San Gorgonio- Hello, altitude!

On Veteran's Day, I had the pleasure of exploring new trails and getting in some altitude training.  A fellow SocalTrailHeadz member posted for doing a longish (up to 20 miles) run along the PCT near San Grogonio and I jumped at the chance to head to the mountains.  LT is a speedy ultra runner who has completed races I dream about and he's one who always supports his fellow runners.  I made sure he would be okay with running slowly and that he knew I'd never run at altitude (SD 100 is highest altitude I've run at and that was only up to about 6200 ft).  Thankfully, he was more than willing to take a newb on those gorgeous trails.

Normally I look forward to sleeping in on my days off work but I was so excited to explore that area that I had no problem waking up at 5am to prepare to drive to Riverside.  The weather forecast called for strong winds and temps in the 30s in the San Bernadino mountains so I dressed and packed accordingly.  The initial part of my 50 mile drive made me realize that the winds would make the run potentially way more challenging, but I did not wake up to bail because of some little bitty winds. :)  LT texted me while I was driving to make sure I was okay with running in those conditions and I told him I could handle the challenge (no texting while driving...pulled to the side of the freeway) as long as it was safe; I had no idea how exposed the trail was but I figured it would be good training for races when you run regardless of the weather.

We carpooled from Riverside to Hwy 38 and parked within a mile of where the PCT runs parallel to the highway.  It was clear that the temps were cool but I didn't worry because I was wearing more layers than I've worn when running in cold temps in Memphis.  LT recommended we walk the first half mile or so for me to acclimate to the altitude; I felt totally fine and didn't notice any problems (momentarily)....we were running at a comfortable pace for me (slow for him) and stopped when we came to a wildlife refuge area.  I've never been so thankful for metal fences and cages!  There was a lioness that became agitated(?!) and started roaring and pacing back and forth...that scared the life out of me as I've never heard something like that before.  The tiger and bear seemed more mellow but I was still pretty freaked out by seeing creatures like that so close...especially before running on a very remote section of trail!

I'm not getting any closer- the lioness and tiger are hard to see and that was fine with me!

The section of the PCT we planned on running was one with no major climbs, just rolling hills (800 feet or less for each climb).  I was already wondering if I'd be able to run all the hills since lately I tend to fast hike up hills but I also know that I can push myself more than I do if running with others.  However, as soon as we started running up the first hills, I felt a tightening in my chest.  I couldn't take any deep breaths and started to feel a little dizzy.  I pushed through at first but finally told LT how I was feeling.  He gave me one of his tricks of the trail and it helped momentarily.  But as soon as we started to climb again, I was having such a hard time breathing that I told him I needed to walk.  I admitted that the altitude was kicking my butt and we decided to take it very easy and just enjoy the run.  And that we did...that area is stunningly beautiful!

Incredible backdrop...loving the mountains and being on a "real" trail

Steep drop!

Conquering the rocks and the PCT (yeah, right!)

LT running ahead to show how small we are compared to our surroundings...neat perspective!~

 The fireroad below, thank goodness for switchbacks!

We ended up missing the PCT trailhead around mile 5 or 6 and instead ran on fireroad; since it was so pretty running by the campsites, we decided to keep to that path instead of turning back to look for the PCT.  Unfortunately, running down the fireroad meant we had to run back up it but challenge is what ultra runners seek, right?!  We decided to turn around when we hit mile 8.  Thanks to my difficulty breathing, we did a walk/run approach for making the climb back up.  LT figured out where we missed the PCT, the place where we were more focused on the scenery (seeing the steep dropoff) than the trail.  Getting back to the vehicle meant more running/hiking and just taking in the beauty of the area.  It was a perfect day for being out there and the scenery made me long to stay out there for days...maybe some day I can do that. :)

In the end, it was about 16 miles and over 3 hours of altitude training...a fantastic fun run with great conversations during and after the run....well, more talking after the run because talking and running at altitude are not easy for me!  I can't wait to go back to that area as it's just the challenge that I need and it's such a gorgeous area that any run is destined to be a wonderful one.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sometimes you just have to get it done...

This week felt like a "just get it done" one as I battled being sick, hot temperatures, and a work deadline that left little time for running.  Wednesday and  Thursday I hit the roads and a dirt path for a couple of easy hilly 8 milers; considering the weather and my lingering fever and icky feeling, I was happy to get in decent runs.  Saturday I finally broke away from grading (and watching football) to hit the trails for 10 miles; I knew that I had to get in some miles to up my weekly mileage.  I took it easy and was happy with how I felt on the hills, though I still have a long way to go to being able to run up the steeper sections.

With the Santa Monica Mountains 50K only two weeks away, I felt that I needed to put in 18-20 miles today.  It looks as though Alan will not be running the race so I procrastinated heading out for a solo run.  I watched the NYC marathon and graded all morning and then found the energy to hit the trails.  This was one of those days when I was very happy that I live a mile from the trailhead as not having to drive to run helped me get out the door.  From the first step, I could tell that the run would not be a great one but knew that I could battle through it and just get it done.  I took it very easy, walking the uphills (even little ones) and was glad I saved energy as it was a rough one; I discovered I did not have any salt pills so my body was craving salt from about mile 9 to the end.  I underestimated my caloric needs and only took one shot block so I ended the run needing sugar and electrolytes.  All in all, 18.35 miles with less than 3,000 feet of climb. It wasn't pretty but I got in the miles and I am hoping that the back-to-back trail runs will help the race not hurt toooo much! 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trails and mud- where to run?!

The past few weeks have been crazy during the week but I've kept with the mantra that some miles are better than no miles; I've been getting 3-4 5 milers in during the week and making each run hilly.  I'm running Garmin-less on most runs and loving the freedom of just enjoying running.  I planned on getting in long trail runs (making up miles) on the weekends and, for multiple reasons, things have not gone according to plan. 

A couple of weeks ago, Alan and I headed out for a 20 miler, his distance PR, in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and El Moro Canyon.  I had 3 climbs planned for it, attempting to prepare us for the climbs we will do in less than a month.  However, Alan had not run much for two weeks and his legs tightened up after the second climb.  He decided to tough it out and finish the distance as long as I made it a little easier; we ended up walking much of the last 8 miles but finished in about 4 hours and 45 minutes, which was pretty good considering how much we walked and how little he ran the previous two weeks.  I figured that we would get in a good 22 miler last weekend to make up for it....

However, the misty ran began Friday night and made the trails increasing muddy Saturday morning.  While I found conditions good- slightly muddy but still runnable- Alan did not agree.  After 4 miles of a predominately downhill run into El Moro, he said he couldn't do the distance on trails because it was too slippery.  I thought through the options and, since I did not have road shoes in the car and running in Cascadias on pavement/concrete makes my calf and knee injury worse, went with the idea Alan liked best...so we ran down PCH and walked up Newport Coast Drive and Ridge Park (a good 1000 foot climb) to the car.  Less than 10 miles total and definitely not what we needed to prepare for a 50K.  But a happy Alan makes for a happy Rachel and I hoped for better weather for this weekend.  Sometimes, I a little too optimistic. :)

This week of rain makes this weekend's run hard to plan.  I know that we need to get in 20+ miles on trails (not roads)- partially because the race is less than a month away and we are running out time and partially because I know that 20 miles on pavement is harder on the body and we haven't been running long distances on pavement.  The trails I know best will be muddy this weekend so I'm considering taking Alan up the Harding Truck Trail.  It would be my first time running it but I've heard it holds up well in rainy conditions and I'm hoping it's not too muddy.  Instead of climbing all the way up, a 9 mile uphill that I doubt I can handle, I would have us walk/jog up about 3.5 miles and then run down and repeat 2 times.  Fingers crossed this plan works. If all goes well, I'll post some pics. :) 
-Any ideas for trails that are not too muddy are VERY welcome!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training Times

It's been awhile since I've posted but that does not mean I've taken a complete break from running.  Instead, I have been trying to adjust to a very crazy teaching assignment, my commute (50 miles each way in "lovely" southern Cal traffic), and the ensuing tiredness I feel all the time.  My calf issue is still there and standing on concrete all day has cause the plantar fasciitis to flare up in both feet; however, I'm keeping it from getting worse and am trying to determine what shoes are best for wearing to work.  Overall, I know that my body can handle ramping up training and I'm excited to feel like I'm on the mend.

Despite being tired after work, I have getting out for runs during the week, even if it's only 4-6 miles; sometimes I run without a Garmin as I don't want to know exactly how fast/slow I'm running that day and I find it freeing to just run and enjoy that feeling.  I've been including as many hills during those short runs as I can in my area and I feel my legs getting stronger.  One road this week surprised me as I wanted to run slowly (upper 8s) but I'd catch myself in the low 8s and it was a constant effort to slow down the entire run.

Today's trail run was one of my best in recent memory (11.26 miles, avg pace of 9:28, about 1,300 feet of climb).  I finally pushed myself to run most of the uphills, except for a couple of steep stretches, and found myself running more of the route than ever before.  I was sucking air countless times on the rolling hills but forced myself to keep at it, knowing that it's good for my aerobic fitness.  Crazy how I spend almost all of my runs breathing easily and how few times I push myself anymore...hmm...gives me something to think about for future runs.

              Today's run- happy with this one, finally!

My weekly mileage is low but I'm focusing on building my weekend long runs.....because I am running a 50K November 21st.  I love PCTR events and their Santa Monica Mountains run was my second ever trail run and first trail race; it's what got me hooked and I'm so happy to return there this year.  What will make it more special is that my boyfriend is running the 50K with me or, more appropriately, I'm running the 50K with him as his pacer and kick in the pants when he wants to quit.  He has been a casual runner typically running less than 20mpw since we started dating so I'm being careful in our training.  We will go 2-3 weeks building mileage and then have a cutback week.

Last weekend we hit Laguna Woods/El Moro Canyon for 15 miles and I was very happy with how he did, especially since our 12 the week before tested my patience.  I'm not the most patient with certain types of whining/complaining so I'm having to learn to think back to when I started running and how hard certain distances/routes were.  Since his longest race was a 12K last year, jumping to a 50K is a huge thing and I want him to enjoy the training and have fun during the race...or at least survive and feel good the next day!

For the 15, we ran from the Ridgepark parking area down No Name to the El Moro ranger station and then back up; we then headed out along Bommer Ridge, down Willow, and then up Laurel Canyon Trail and back along Bommer to the car.  It was my first time to run Laurel Canyon and I realized enjoyed the trail because it was such a runnable singletrack with some rocky sections.

     Starting up Laurel Canyon

  It's so green!!!  Rare in this desert area

        I've learned pics taken during a run may wind up in a blog....not sure if Alan knows that;)

                Trying to make it manageable climbs as we build distance...not bad for 15 miles

This weekend was a short run of between 6-8; there was a trail that I wanted to take him on but the mileage would be closer to 9 roundtrip and I loved that Alan said he would be good with that.  Again we started at Ridgepark and did a very easy 4 miles down Bommer Ridge, Willow, along Laguna Ridge Rd (name?) on our way to Big Bend.  I pushed the pace a little because I wanted to get Alan to run all of it since I knew the climb would slow us down and he had an overall pace goal.  Before hitting Big Bend, we say a group of 3 deer...soooo cool!  It was the first time I've seen deer on a trail and it was bizarre seeing them in an area less than 12 feet from a busy road!

                 Can you find the Big Bend climb?  Steep, sandy...a good butt-firming workout!

Climbing Big Bend was tough and Alan struggled so I would go ahead of him a little bit and then wait for him; I was very happy to that he was able to run the flat parts and that his legs were still good enough to run most of the miles back along Bommer Ridge to the car.  In all, 9.25 miles and he's gaining confidence on trails.  I'm getting more and more optimistic about how the remainder of training will be.  We have 18 planned for next weekend and I'm trying to determine where I want to run; I can always plan something for Laguna/El Moro but am considering somewhere different...suggestions?!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trying to get motivated

With my summer vacation winding down, I would expect to be using all this free time to run as much as possible.  But instead, I find myself barely putting in miles, bailing on runs, shortening runs, taking walk breaks during runs because I'm "over it."  Most days I wake up and can't get myself out the door for a run; I end up reading, running errands, watching tv (something I never do during school year), going for A.R.T., all while thinking I should head out for a run...by the time I get my butt out the door, it's the warmest part of the day and I use that as an excuse to cut the miles or have a bad run (ie. took a walk break yesterday).

But maybe this is my subconscious way of seeing if rest plus A.R.T. will make running enjoyable (ie. painless with a spring in my step) again.  My knee pain is gradually subsiding and my calf is starting to feel like a muscle instead of a rock.  I've been getting A.R.T. 2-3 times per week since the MRI and it's very helpful.  However, it has caused my calf to feel sore, as though I'm doing hard workouts daily.  I'm not sure if that's contributing to my feeling of fatigue during every run but it's possible.  Apparently, frequent A.R.T. sessions break down muscular strength (makes sense) and a lack of strength in the calf means running hills is harder and the hills are where I feel myself fatiguing quickly.  This week or next will be my last of frequent A.R.T. torture sessions so it will be interesting to see if I regain the spring in my step post-treatment.

I'm heading to Vegas for a few days of "relaxation" and doubt I will do any running while I'm there; I'm taking my running clothes but will be with a huge group of girls and see little time in our schedule for "me time."  I will be slammed with work starting next week but I'm hoping I will be able to relax each evening with a long run.  I'm looking forward to a race in November and will put myself on a mileage ramp up plan next week.  I'm assuming that will help with the motivation factor as I miss having a race on the horizon.  Since I've been working on correcting my running biomechanics, I've been running 1-2 miles/4x a week in my Vibram KSOs and I want to continue to increase my mileage in them; the short runs I do in them make me feel like a little kid and I long to get to where I can run 10+ miles in them.  I feel I have ideas for regaining motivation/joy in running but am open to suggestions....

Monday, August 9, 2010

MRI results

Thanks to the best chiropractor (A.R.T. specialist, sports injury guru) ever, I got the world's fastest turnaround on a MRI.  Dr. Scott wrote the MRI prescription, faxed it to imaging place he recommends, called my insurance and convinced them I needed it, and helped me get a same-day MRI....all in the span of an hour!  So, if you are in Orange County and need to see someone, I beyond highly recommend him.  The next day, he called them because he expected a report by that morning and it was not ready; he worked some magic and had my results by that afternoon...whew, I did not have to spend the weekend wondering what the MRI showed.

I'm glad I stayed optimistic because the MRI turned out in the best possible way- it was positive but for something that is relatively minor.  I have a lot of swelling in a specific location and a possibly inflamed bursa; the location of the swelling indicates that it is caused by something that has plagued me for years, a huge knot in my calf muscle.  The knot was there during last year's Boston marathon and reduced me to walking (okay, dragging that leg behind me as I could not even walk) and it has been so bad that a previous chiro feared I was developing compartment syndrome.  Apparently I must have torn (microtears) my calf muscle or damaged it at some point causing collagen to form and fill in the gaps; the mast of collagen is the worst my chiro has ever witnessed and he said it's very rare for someone my age to have.  sigh. 

Hopefully frequent ART sessions between now and the start of the school year will go a long way in breaking up that scar tissue.  After school starts, I will be on my own using the stick, a lacrosse ball, and anything else I can do to break it up (ie. hopefully killer massages from my BF).  Outlook is that it will take about 6 months of "beating" it to death to break up the collagen mast.  I have to be very careful running downhill since this makes me more likely to injury my knee.  He told me I can't be the typical ultra runner who blasts down the downhill sections. 

I'm okay with giving up speed work, flying on the downhills as long as I can do what I love- run.  I have to work on my running gait since I swing my left leg out in a weird way and it's related to my calf injury/knot; I basically have to retrain myself to move in just one plane of motion when running.  It may mean running with short, slow steps but I'll deal with that.  I've been working on engaging my left big toe more when pushing off and I've been doing that on a treadmill (not turned on) wearing Vibrams; I intend on doing some short runs in Vibrams in hopes that it helps me focus on my toe-off, gait.  On tap for tomorrow, more PT exercises and a run!!!  I'm learning to cherish my runs even more since I had the fear of not running for 6+months hanging over my head last week.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

MRI time

I've been running very limited the miles the past few weeks.  In fact, every run has been a struggle and I've had the worst runs of my short running career recently.  I've tried to figure out why and several things have become apparent...a lack of motivation since I'm not committed to any races, a lack of running with other people, not being able to run at my "old" paces.  Since all three of those are connected by a sense of dread of running, I decided it's time to tackle that issue.  I've dreaded running because I wonder if I'll feel that catching in my knee, if I'll be able to run the distance I desire, if the run will cause my knee to hurt...ie. I need the knee pain to go away!

I've had a few ART sessions with Dr.Scott and he has done a fantastic job of noticing issues with my gait and working to correct those.  The lingering thing is the medial knee pain that I've dealt with off/on for a year; it's the pain that has prevented my doing any speedwork as I feel a catching in my left knee and cannot fully extend my knee during the running cycle.  I've hoped that it's just a muscular issue- really tight, knotted muscles pulling on my knee.  But the huge possibility of a torn meniscus or torn cartilage has been hanging over my head.  I've put of getting a MRI because I hate spending money on it with the chance that it will come back negative (a good thing) and I'll still be left with knee pain.  After feeling the shooting pain when wearing my Strassburg sock the past two nights, walking around the neighborhood, and doing yoga this morning, I finally broke down and am taking doctor's recommendation of getting MRI.  Hopefully I can get in today or tomorrow and know something early next week.  

Until then, it's pool time...with a buoy between my legs to prevent kicking as I'm not allowed to pool run or swim unless it's painfree.   My doctor's reached the pessimistic point about this but I'm staying optimistic...it's all I can do!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running, hiking, dying in the desert

As a child I did not do well in the extreme heat plus humidity of Memphis, TN.  I recall getting very hot playing on the playground and spewing my lunch all over the playground.  I eventually learned to deal with it well enough to run and be active outside while living there and Tampa but never as well as others.  Fast forward to now when I live in Southern California near the ocean and 80s and 90s are considered extreme temperatures.  It makes running conditions optimal but does not prepare us for racing in warmer environments...unless we venture into the inland areas and do what others avoid- run during the heat of the day.  Over the weekend, I unknowingly ventured into the extremely warm and dry conditions of the Anza-Borrego desert and experienced one of my worst "runs" ever.  It proved to be a learning experience and, as always, a good time with friends, despite our suffering.

One of my running buddies, Shacky, notified me of a training run for the Lost Boys 50, an event that will be held October 23rd in the southern San Diego county portion of the desert.  It's one that's on my radar as a potential race and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to check out a portion of the course.  The run would start at about mile 18 of the race course and go out 11 miles and come back; for some reason, I did not realize exactly where we would be running and how brutal it could be during the summer.  Shacky and I easily convinced Billy to drive down and do the run with us.  22 miles...how hard can that be?! 

Saturday morning I woke up at 2:30am and questioned my sanity for getting up so early to drive to S.D. and then the middle of nowhere for a 22 mile run.  Nevertheless, I crawled out of bed, prepped, and got on the road by 3:15 for the drive to San Diego.  Our little group met at Shacky's house and then drove to the San Diego Running Institute so that we could meet up with others doing the training run; that was perfect since we had no clue how to get to the starting point.  I figured it was somewhere near part of the SD 100 course because there is a small section of Lost Boys that appears to be part of the SD course.....well, the desert is bigger than I realized!  Thankfully we were following others because finding Great Overland Stage Route of 1849 (no, I'm not making that up...that's the road name!) was trickier and farther than I could have imagined.  About 90 minutes after leaving SD, we arrived at the starting point just in time to do last minute running preps and get briefed on the run by the race directors.  They had marked the course with ribbon and would have water and ice at miles 5.5, 11, and 16.5; they warned us that temps reached well into the 100s the day before and for us to take care of ourselves.  GULP.  It already felt warm and I started to question being out there for hours....

 Kilted Shacky, me, Billy ("before")

Start of the trail/and, later, the end of my misery

We took off and I immediately realized how hard running through sand can be.  I didn't want to hold up the group so I was running a comfortable pace but not one I could have sustained through the sand and heat so I took a walk break a couple of miles in, much to the relief of Shacky.  Billy, Shacky, and I muttered complaints about the sand and how it would be harder on the return trip.  Paul, one of the RDs, passed us in his truck on the way to mile 5.5 and I thought nothing of it...trucks can drive through sand easily, right?  Well, we ran/walked into deeper and deeper sand and I wiped all desire to run Javelina Jundred out of my mind.  My shoes were full of sand and I could feel hot spots developing.  Well, the sand was so deep that we came upon Paul's truck stuck in the sand.   The rest of the group caught up to us as we tried to dig the truck out...after building and using cardboard ramps, the truck was eventually unstuck and Paul continued on his way to the aid location. 

 And it got worse...

We got there and topped off water and grabbed ice.  It was already brutally hot and we had only just begun!  Shacky said he could not go any farther...the sand had killed his legs and his back was hurting.  Billy and I convinced him to venture on by hiking the remaining section.  The next section was a long, very rocky climb and we eventually decided that Billy and I would go to the 7.5 mile point and then turn around and get Shacky on the return.  I trudged up the hill as Billy ran sections; I was horrified that I could not even run the very baby uphill sections and was so relieved to get to our new turnaround.  I was dizzy and nauseous and just wanted to be done.  Even running dowhill was hard as the rocks and my dizziness made each footstep challenging. 

Starting to climb Oriflamme (Shacky's pic)

Rock to the head

I could have taken a long, hot nap there

We loaded back up on water/ice at the truck (aid) and I dreaded the remaining 5.5 miles since it would be through sand.  We tried to run/walk but eventually the heat got the best of me and I told Billy to run ahead, while Shacky and I would take our time back to the car.  Shacky and I ended up splitting up as I tried to move when I could and find shade (VERY hard in the desert) as much as possible.  In the final 3 miles, I sat under 4 different bushes trying to get my heart rate down enough to continue on; running was out of the question as even walking wiped me out.

Still smiling with less than 4 miles to go...think this is when the smiling ended

Canyon area (Shacky's pic)

When I eventually got back to the car and chugged some ice-cold recovery drink and diet coke (thanks to other runners), I started to feel human again, though I would feel dehydrated until the following day.  The car thermostat read 109 degrees and I can bet it was at least that hot.  I drank plenty of water during the run- about 120oz- but dehydration still occurred.  I tried to problem solve and determine why I struggled so much and came up with a few things: I did not eat breakfast, yet consumed caffeine prior to the run; I should have sipped water every few minutes from the start instead of waiting until later; I need to try wearing a white long-sleeve top instead of the brightly-colored tight Moeben sleeves for sun protection.

After taking the long, less-windy road to the 8, we eventually made our way to Alpine for the best part of running- the eating and chatting afterwards.  We stuffed our tummys with delish food at Ramon's smokehouse BBQ and eventually I made my way home.  What an adventure!!!

During the run, I swore that I would not run Lost Boys or Javelina (they are on same day so would have been choosing) but, by that night, I was trying to figure out how I could become better at running in those conditions and how I could train for either event.  Runner's amnesia strikes again. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Next BIG race?!

I'm trying to pick my next 100 miler and it's very hard when there are so many very cool races out there.   I've narrowed it down to Javelina Jundred and HURT 100.  Javelina still has plenty of open spots so I have time to register for it.  HURT, on the other hand, is doing a lottery this year for just 100 spots.  If I put my name in the lottery for HURT (lottery open July 31st until August 5th) and get selected, then I have to do it.  If I put my name in and don't get selected, I'll go with Javelina.  Thus, the big question is whether or not to enter the lottery.

HURT is one of the toughest 100 milers and I have no idea if I could actually manage the endless climbs, roots, and heat/humidity to earn the buckle.  I hate the idea of spending money on traveling there when I know the course would chew me up and spit me out....but it's Hawaii and, even with the brutality of the race, I'd be in a gorgeous area and would have an unbelievable experience.  Working HURT into my budget is very iffy at this point and makes deciding whether or not to enter the lottery harder, as does knowing my BF (crew/lifesaver) would not be able to accompany me.  Eeeekkk.what's a crazy girl to do?!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Need to get my butt in shape

This week I've been careful with my mileage and paces and I've been enjoying how much better my knee is feeling.  Sunday I did my first double-digit run since SD; it was an out/back along Quail Trail and Serrano Ridge and I took it VERY easy since I was running with my boyfriend.  I still feel so weak on hills and I've resolved to make as many runs include hills as possible.  I'm also using this week to rack up the cross-training.

Monday- 5 miles on Shady Canyon trail - nice and easy with baby rolling hills. 30 min pool running, 35 min bike ride
Tuesday- 5 miles on treadmill with some faster intervals; I felt the nagging inner knee pain during last interval so I'll continue to be careful about starting speedwork. 30 min pool run with intervals, 30 min bike ride, 30 min yoga
Wednesday- 6 miles on Shady Canyon trail- heat killed me and I struggled on back portion. 30 min pool run.
Today - 5.25 miles along Turtle Rock Drive and Newport Coast Drive- baby rolling hills- was in the 80s and sunny and it killed me so I had to walk portion of uphill...then did short uphill repeats. 30 min pool run. 30 min bike ride. 30 min strengthening/stretching exercises.

I had another ART appointment yesterday and Dr.Scott continued to work on my trouble areas and tried to figure out why my left leg swings outward after toe-off.  One possible cause- very weak left butt muscles.  Awesome.  I have a weak butt...so it's time for me to get my butt into shape!  He gave me strengthening exercises and I'll be using this as motivation for running up more hills to correct my butt issue. On tap for the remainder of the week- 1 or 2 trail runs and more cross-training. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Enjoying summer and an ART session

It's been almost 4 weeks since SD 100 and my body is not recovered.  I've developed on/off crepitus in my left achilles tendon and the knee issue is lingering.  I tried picking up the pace at the end of a run last week and felt the same issue that plagued me off/on over the past year- a feeling of pulling inside my knee that prevents me from straightening my knee when I try to run faster...arg.  I've been resting and stretching with less pool running this week and more time relaxing and enjoying my summer.  I attended a wedding Monday and subjected myself to wearing heels; thankfully, my knee and achilles survived and I was able to walk around and enjoy a day at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  As we jogged back to the car, I longingly eyed the trails around Balboa Park and Alan said we could change clothes and go for a run.  Feeling I was already pushing my luck, I decided to drive back and indulge in Taco Tuesday at On the Border..ah, a long weekend of gluttony.

I'm okay with mountain lions...as long as they are stuffed and behind glass

I admit that I shivered when seeing this rattler behind glass...never want to see one closer!

The "creature" I would not be afraid of seeing during a trail run...

Wednesday I ventured out for a run to burn off the excess food and drinks with the goal of 6-10 miles; I stuck to the flat bike paths/gravel areas near my apartment and thankfully turned around early.  My knee started hurting and I had zero endurance...running at a slow pace didn't seem to help much.  The run made me decide to seek out a chiropractor/person who does ART (Active Release Technique); I've had it before with success and decided to find someone closer to my apartment.  Thankfully, I recalled a doctor responding to an email on the Orange County Trail Runners site and that he seemed very runner-friendly.  I called Dr.Scott Neubauer this morning and got his only appointment for today.

I seem to have excellent success in finding great doctors lately and Dr.Scott is no exception.  He's a talented athlete with tons of experience in treating crazies like myself and he has enough of a crazy streak to "get it."  He did a very thorough examination and gave me two options...either get a MRI to check for possible torn meniscus (booo....I have enough of the symptoms to make it possible) or do the conservative approach of treating it with ART, stretches and seeing if that offers a cure.  I have so many little muscular issues that it's hard for him to pinpoint what causes what...huge areas of concern are my left psoas, quads, and gastrocnemius (he had lots to say about how bad it is...).  He did lots of work on those areas and commented that the way my left leg turns out/lands/turns makes it amazing that I can run as much as I do...guess I'm a walking freak of nature. :)  He used Rocktape to tape my knee and told me I could go for a run today or whenever I wanted.  If my knee started hurting, he wanted me stop and stretch the psoas and then run more...if it still hurt, stretch psoas and quad and run more...still hurting, stretch previous ones plus gastro....still hurting, stop running.  All this to see if we can pinpoint the cause of my knee issue.  Fingers crossed big time that this works!

After a run and a shower...coming off one one edge but better than KT brand that I tried

I went for a little over 4 miles and it took getting used to the tape around my knee.  I stopped after the first mile to stretch the psoas and then finished the run; by the end, my knee was starting to hurt but very minimal...not sure if it was the tape or the ART or the stretching or all of the above. I stretched tons post-run and even gave my gastro a long session with The Stick.  Tomorrow I'll go for a longer run and see how everything fares.  I've dealt with enough injuries where I'm optimistic and think ART plus tons of stretching will get me back to running a 100 miler by January.  Worst case, I get a MRI and spend tons of time sitting by the pool being lazy over the next month...lol!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's next?

The most common question has been what race is next on my running/racing agenda.  Short answer- No race.  I knew SD would take a lot of my body and that I might end up nursing a niggle, so I've been exercising restraint in only looking at other races and not actually forking over the dough.  My knee is still bothering me; it's getting better but definitely not 100%.

Prior to SD, I visited Kathy at Dynamic Touch Massage and she worked out my calf knots so I took her advice and went back for a massage this week.  Gillian, the other massage therapist, had an opening at the Lake Forest office Friday and I jumped for it as I wanted to get back on the trails ASAP.  She noticed that my left quad was tight, especially around the knee and focused on it; I noticed a difference by Saturday. Yay! So, again I highly recommend checking them out for a massage.

I've been hitting the pool for some easy swimming and have attempted a few short pool run sessions.  I'm a really bad swimmer thanks to not growing up around water and never swimming enough to get good, so I'm considering taking swim lessons in July.  I need to do something with all this extra energy from not running and I can only pool run so much without losing it.

Today was the new member meeting for the So Cal Trail Headz and I was hesitant about going since I find it hard to go to the trails and not run.  I woke up a little late thanks to waking up so many times during the night (and checking on Western States runners) but decided to go to the meeting point and then walk a couple of miles and finish in time to join the group for the social time.  My knee felt better this morning (yay!) but my left achilles was really tight (?!) but I managed to jog 2.5 miles with a couple of walk sessions.  That made me so happy as I've missed running!!!  I enjoyed getting to chat with other members and was very happy I went since I met someone (gentleman whose name starts with "M" and I can't attempt to spell...btw, I'm horrible with remembering names so I apologize) who found out about the group thanks to my blog and again got to chat with Dave (another member who reads my ramblings)...so cool!  I'm a little shy in person so I can't wait until I am back to running so I can do more group runs and get to chat with other people; running together makes talking easier for me.

The knee held up "ok" but the achilles is very tight so I'll probably take at least a couple of days off before another test run.  No sense in pushing it and winding up hurting for months!  The faster I recover, the faster I can choose a race and sign up.

Not running has left plenty of time for me to look at other races and I'm still on enough of a crazy streak where I've made a list of 100s to consider for my next.  I've made pros/cons list in my head for each one and who knows if my body will be ready in time for another one this year but I can dream, right?  A few on the short list- Javelina Jundred, Chimera, HURT.  "Watching" such an exciting Western States, plus my boyfriend asking me if I wanted to do it, made me decide to enter the lottery for 2011 and I will enter every year until I get selected and finish it.

Congrats to all the Western States runners!!! Truly incredible!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

San Diego 100- Race Report Part 2...the big day

Warning...this is VERY long.  I included many details because people asked what I thought about while running for so long without any music and I want to remember as much as possible forever. :)

Race morning
I stumbled out of bed and started getting ready.  Thankfully, I had packed my Ultimate Direction Wink pack days before with Gus (mostly non-caffeinated as I wanted to take as little caffeine as possible until night), ShotBloks, a small baggie with SaltStick capsules, chapstick, the pacing plan and topo maps, a baggie with advil/tylenol/Immodium, a baggie with toiled paper and wet ones.  I planned on filling the Camelback bladder with water and my Nathan handheld with Gatorade once we got to the start. 

So, I just had to focus on dressing and taping.  I downed a small cup of coffee and a bagel and then taped my left foot (low-dye method to prevent PF flareups) and had Alan use KT tape on my right ankle.  I then dressed and Body Glided tons...there can never be enough Body Glide on all parts of the lower body (lube everything is what I was told) and even on the upper body since the pack and shirt can chafe. 

What did I wear?  Skins compression shorts (men's XS), Skins compression calf stirups (with stirup part not being used), old running shorts, sports bra, wicking shirt that's slightly large (more sun protection), Moeben sleeves, Injinji socks, Brooks Cascadias and a neoprene brace on each ankle (nixed AirCast during drive to site thanks to wise advice from Alan).  The plan was to change shoes, socks, sports bra, top, shorts for overnight/daytime. 

We arrived at the Al Bahr site and had no problems parking.  I took the time to say hi to runners I know from RWOL, races, and the Socaltrailheadz and filled up hydration pack and bottle with water plus Nuun (no Gatorade at start).  Loaded up on Neutrogena's spray SPF100 sunscreen and said goodbye to Alan with tears in my eyes.  I had no idea how the day would turn out but I love him so much for being there for me and believing in me.  I kept thinking of how many injuries I endured during the past four months, how I was on crutches 6 weeks ago, and how I was starting a 100 miler with the determination to finish it. 

A few minutes we assembled outside at the start line.  Ryan and I gathered with someone he knew from Hawaii (Jan) and Tracey, someone I know from RWOL.  Our little group would stick together for the first part of the race, the most crucial.

                    Tracey, me, Ryan getting ready

                  Why am I doing this?!?!?!?!?!

Scott had said during the pre-race meeting that the race could not be won in the first 20 miles but that it could be lost during that time, so I knew how important it would be to start slowly and save our energy for later...not only would the course get tougher after mile 30, but that's when I would hit my unknown...I had never run more than 32 miles on trails and had zero clue if/how my body would handle it.  But for now, my focus was on getting to the first aid station and I know I can go 7ish miles easily!  Since my ankles are my weakness (literally), I was focused on carefully running...going slowly on rocky sections, picking up my feet instead of allowing them to drag when I get tired, and being aware of where my feet were landing.  Our team felt that if I avoided injury, I had a fighting chance of seeing that finish line.

The first 23.6 miles
The RD gave a very low-key start signal and I almost laughed at how slowly we took off...I'm not used to being at the back of the pack and it was weird to be running so slowly.  I knew that Ryan would make sure we paced it perfectly so I shuffled along.  Ryan, Jan, Tracey and I ran together and I focused on trying to get in rhythm and on holding back.  The first 7 miles we alternated walking with running and I had Ryan take the lead so that I wouldn't go too fast.  We loved climbing over downed trees and marveling in the beauty of the trail; it was lush and green, especially since this area had burned a few years prior.  Ryan snapped some pics as we trotted along.  I kept feeling a shooting pain from my left hip to knee and I got slightly concerned.  My right achilles was tight but felt better by the aid station.  The weather was perfect (cool, overcast) and I hoped it would stay that way.  We entered the first aid station a few minutes behind schedule but it was not a big deal as there were no cutoffs until later.  Alan topped off my handheld and I realized I should get some calories so I ate a piece of PopTart.  I had not been fueling and that I needed to get on top of nutrition fast.  Ryan had been reminding me to drink so I was okay with fluid consumption.

                   Minutes before the start

       Beautiful way to start...at 6000 ft

     The baby climbs

The next 6 miles were more the same and I enjoyed the ease of the trail but knew it would get harder.  I took a salt capsule about 90 minutes into the run and planned on taking one every 1-2 hours depending on temperature and how much I was sweating.  Ryan and I settled into a run 4 minutes, walk 2 minutes rhythm on the flats and it worked to keep us at a good pace, while saving energy.  Running 100 miles is all about energy conservation.  At the second aid station, I grabbed a few bites, got more sunscreen applied, topped off the handheld and said hi to Lorraine from the TrailHeadz; Alan and Jan's crew/pacer had joined forces so it made the stop easy as we were ahead of Jan at that point and they only had two of us to take care of.  I knew I would not see Alan at the next aid station so I snagged a quick kiss and had him take some pics before we ran off. 

  I "love" rocks, especially red ones

                  It's early:)

The next few miles were more of the same and we kept our average pace around 13-14 min/mile, slightly faster than what we planned but I felt like we were barely moving.  We continued walking anything remotely "up" and slowly running the flats and downhills.  The weird pain in my left leg continued and I developed a slight ache in my knee.  We enjoyed the beautiful scenery, including the foliage and streams...stunning and surprisingly green for a dry region.  The next aid station stop was more of taking in some calories to supplement the shotbloks I was consuming every 30 minutes.  I sucked down  my first Gu about 4 hours into the race and was feeling decently. I glanced at my watch when we hit 20 miles and noticed we did it in about 4 hours and 50 minutes, slightly ahead of schedule but not so much as to ruin our race.

       See why I love this?!

The aid station at 23.6 was a huge one since it would the last one where our crew would have access for about 21 miles.  I had told Alan how important it was that he be there; unfortunately, it was also the one where we had been warned that parking was difficult and our crews had been asked to get there as close to our ETAs as possible.  We arrived at the aid station a few minutes early and kept looking for Alan.  Ryan had planned on drinking his shake there and I was to get in about 200 calories with the Lite Muscle Milk.  Needless to say, I was irritated not to see the crew at such an important stop...and probably also irritable because I needed some sugar.  The aid station volunteers noticed my frustration and were beyond nice; they filled my hydration pack and bottle and kept offering me assistance as I griped to Ryan about wondering where Alan and Julie were.  People asked if we wanted to have a seat and wait but I knew that was the worst idea as I wanted to avoid the chair unless I was changing clothes. I grabbed a baby wipe, cleaned my face and applied sunscreen, ate some fruit and got some gels since I knew I needed those for the upcoming sections and I had only carried enough for the first 30 miles in my pack.

I took off for the porta potty to reapply BodyGlide and noticed what appeared to be my car parking down the road; Ryan ran to it and they pulled up as I exited the porta potty.  I, unfortunately, snapped at my boyfriend asking where they were and why they didn't get there early since I had mentioned we might be 15 minutes early.  Alan explained and, as he took care of Ryan and me, I realized how harsh I was being (and I think the sugary fruit kicked in and I felt better) and started apologizing...thankfully, before the race I had warned him that I might snap at him and he knew it was more my being nervous than really being mad.  I tried to drink the prepackaged Lite Muscle Milk to get in some calories and try out getting some protein; I could not finish it but did my best.  Alan dipped my bandana in ice water and I relished the refreshing feeling as I wrapped it around my neck...ah, the little things make such a difference.  Alan asked how I was feeling and I shot him the look of "don't ask" but he did and I had to whisper that my knee was hurting; I didn't want Ryan to know I was in pain so early.  Since we had spent longer there than desired, I finished up my needs and Ryan told me to go ahead and that he'd catch up.  I said good-bye and snagged another kiss and again apologized to Alan (and Julie), sad that I wouldn't see him for several hours and took off walking. 

Miles 23.6 to 51.3
Ryan quickly caught up to me, right after we passed the sign indicating we were entering Noble Canyon.  I had been warned by a course marker that Noble Canyon would be a brutal section.  I had taken in sufficient calories to feel a slight increase in my energy level but my stomach started hurting a little and I began questioning taking in more than 200 calories (and protein) at one stop.  The sugaryness of the Gatorade starting bugging me so I began drinking more water.  Sometime during the stretch I felt my legs getting tight and tired; I asked Ryan if he felt the same and he was feeling better than I was.  I tried not to let that get to me and just focused on power hiking the ups and running the downs without making stupid mistakes. I've never been so focused on making sure my feet land in "good" (non-rocky) spots and it demanded more concentration that typical.  The miles to the next aid station were pretty uneventful; Ryan listened to music off/on and at times I wished I had my ipod as the quietness alternated between pleasant and unpleasant.  I started to feel more fatigued as the sun popped out of the clouds and it got warmer but I knew we had lucked out with fantastic weather.  We enjoyed running by streams and the occassional, easy-to-naviate crossing.

    One of many stream crossings

     One of many GTTH moments

I was so happy to see the aid station around mile 31 and I devoured some watermelon and pb&j and pretzels, toweled off my face (loved the wet paper towel), dipped my bandana in ice water, and got ready for the 5 mile loop.  I saw a few familiar faces at the aid station, including Jeri who was rocking the course.  During the next section, we encountered a nice stream crossing and took advantage of dipping our hats in the cold water...we would do the same during several other stream crossings during the day section.  I started to struggle on the climb and Ryan recommended I suck on a Jolly Rancher to take my mind off it; it helped as I just watched the ground and power hiked.  We recommended we take it slowly since the next section had a big climb...the climb that I would later kept thinking was overnight.  We finished the loop and entered the same aid station as our last visit and I again sucked down watermelon, commenting how it was the best food imaginable.  I repeated the same routine of prepping for the next section, including getting a couple sips of soda. 

We were warned that a climb awaited us and, as soon as we left the aid station, we began what would be the hardest section.  I kept thinking what Billy, my pacer, had said...that if I could make it to mile 51, they would get me to the finish line.  So as we did an endless climb up a long, road I kept reminding myself to HTFU and just get to the top.  I focused on one foot in front of the other and somehow found myself ahead of Ryan who was wisely taking it very easy and I passed a few guys...one guy said I was making it look easy and I retorted that it was not easy!  I got to the end of the paved road and what I thought was the end of the climb...I stretched my hip flexors and chatted briefly with a guy who made it to the top and sat down.  I joined back up with Ryan and wondered where the downhill was...I asked Ryan if we could run and he said for us to keep walking and after a moment I knew why. I had not checked the pacing/race plan since the previous night and did not remember how long and tough the climb was for this stretch.

(You know it's tough when we didn't take any pics)  We soon began a seemingly endless, very technical climb.  I kept reminding myself of the need to be careful, to prevent stupid mistakes that could take me out with a sprained ankle or worse.  We passed several people on the climb and stuck with others who were also expressing their distaste in the section.  Even on the downhills we could barely run because of the rocks; I kept slamming my foot into rocks, even while trying to be careful about picking up my feet.  I knew I'd probably wind up with some mad blisters but it was better than falling.  I kept hoping not to die and even wondered how Alan would feel if I died by slipping on the rocks and falling off the mountain...even being extra careful did not make that possibility go away.  I continued perfecting almost falling..I'd trip on something and then catch my balance; that was something I did so many times during the race that if I had a dollar for each almost-bust-my-butt, I'd be off to an exotic country with plenty of cash.  By the time I knew we were close to the aid station, I could not wait to see our crew, including Billy and Lori. 

When I saw the AS, I took off running as fast as I could...Rob saw us coming and was there snapping pics of my pissed-off self.  I flew into the area cursing mad about that stretch; Ryan ambled in a few moments later in a much jollier mood....must be that laid-back Hawaiian spirit.:)  I gulped down a few sips of the Lite Muscle Milk, said hi to the crew, and griped about that section to no-end.  I grabbed a different Garmin, tied a jacket around my waist, stuck my backup headlamp in my pack, and hit the aid station table to get some more fuel.  Somehow the cheeseburger Billy offered sounded like the last thing I could imagine eating.  I got a laugh when the volunteer asked Ryan if he need anything and Ryan asked for a gun...lol!  I wanted to get back out there because that last section had taken longer than anticipated and I questioned how fast I could do the next section...the fear of the cutoff pushed me out of the aid station; Ryan ran back for a long-sleeve shirt and I started walking.

    Note the look on my face....

The next section was beautiful but had us on the edge of a cliff and I again hoped my legs were strong enough to stay on the trail and I focused on not tripping and dying.  I could not gaze at the gorgeous scenery much as I didn't want to make any stupid errors.  45 miles of technical trails is MUCH harder than a 65 miler on pavement and my legs were feeling like they did near the end of that run.  We caught up to a lady whose voice I recognized from PCT50 and we exchanged race stories; she was also concerned about the cutoffs so we pushed ahead.  Ryan was having some chafing issues and I felt badly moving ahead of him but I know how fast and superb of a trail runner he is and that he'd catch up to me.  That lady and I caught up to a guy (Art?) who was also doing his first 100; he had trained on all of the course and he gave me insight into the night sections...advice that I would share with the others and use to gauge when/how to push through those stretches.  I was following Art's run/walk plan and then Ryan came racing up; I think he knew how close to our ETA we were and he had huge burst of energy...he flew past me and I struggled to run fast enough on the downhill to keep him in sight.  We killed the last few miles of that section, which was good since it was almost nighttime.  I was so happy to see my crew and get ready for the night.  My stomach was starting to hurt and I decided to avoid the Muscle Milk and to limit my protein intake.

     Another stunning climb

       Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous way to see the sunset

       wow!  Can I go back?!

Lori and Billy took care of getting us food from the aid station, helping us change, and getting us pumped up for the night section.  Alan and Rob took care of getting us ready.  I yanked off the KT tape from my right ankle (guess it can last for days but not for 50 miles on trails) and was very pleased the tape was still good on my left foot (duct tape rocks).  Alan helped clean my dirty feet and even offered to pop the huge blister on my right big toe; I opted against it as I didn't want to risk infection and the blister was not affecting my running.  I was in a hurry to change so I quickly yanked off my top and sports bra much to the surprise of my crew...I threw on my next one, had Alan help body glide my back and pulled capris over my compression shorts; I hoped that I'd be able to wear that combination of clothes since I never tested my night clothing!  I slipped on clean Injinis after Alan applied a ton of Body Glide and put on what would become my favorite shoes, my Inov8 Roclites.  I kept on my Moeben sleeves because it seemed very cold.  I cracked up when I said I needed Body Glide and Billy, not knowing where I meant, offered to help...gotta love the helpfulness of my awesome pacer but thankful I could take care of that job myself.  Pacers and crew don't have to help runners with everything.  Our team almost pushed us out of the aid station and I appreciated their drill sargeant attitude as we didn't have time to waste.

      It's like NASCAR pit stop for runners


Miles 51 to 80
We raced out of there with time now on our minds (or at least on my mind).  Ryan and I had entered the aid station about 50 minutes ahead of the cutoff and we left there around 8:30pm.  We had decided on a "conga line" order- Billy, me, Ryan, Lori.  Since I had almost zero night running experience, Billy would help light the course for me and would point out things like rocks so that I could just run.  Lori would be our safeguard against mountain lions as we figured she would be most likely to survive an attack (j/k).  We we running faster than I expected and I smartly didn't try to keep at that pace; I told Billy what I needed...walk ups and slowly run downs.  He got us in a great rhythm and I got comfortable with night running over the next several miles; Art had said this night section was the easiest and that the following two would be harder.  So we cruised along, with Ryan and Lori providing comedic relief.  My knee was bugging me but I mentally resolved to wait until at least mile 60 to take ibuprofen.  Billy and I chatted and I enjoyed having his guiding me...I kept hitting rocks with my feet and he reminded me to lift my feet.  It was warmer than we expected and I ended up taking off my jacket and pushing down my sleeves.  We took a few pictures and I loved being with my friends on the trails on a gorgeous night.  It was a new moon so it was dark but the sky was dotted with stars, making for a perfect evening.  My fingers were swelling slightly so I started to monitor my salt intake and Billy did an excellent job of staying on top of me about nutrition, etc., as did Ryan and Lori.

              Clowning around in the dark and it's not even a full moon!

We ran into the next aid station at mile 58.9 and Alan was not there.  Billy called him and found out he was at the next aid station as he had taken a wrong turn; I was just relieved that he was okay since I was afraid of his being tired and driving during the night.  We got some fuel and I wanted to get out as soon as possible since I was still worried about the mile 87.5 cutoff and was hoping to put time in the bank.  The aid station had a selection of warm food but I chose pb&j, what had worked for me well during the race.  We got out of there after saying hi to Rachel Spatz, who was there to pace.

                Look at the spread....love aid stations at ultras

The next stretch (miles 59 to 64.2) was very rough for me.  My knee pain was getting worse and the forever, steep climb on rocky terrain made it very painful.  I started to get dizzy and Billy got even stricter about monitoring my caloric intake.  Somewhere in the early 60s, I finally broke down and took 200mg of ibuprofen.  Ryan and Lori were joking around and it helped to get my mind off the climb and the excruciating pain I felt with every step; I felt badly for not being able to talk much but knew they'd understand.  We caught up to Tracey and others who were also hating that climb.  At times I had to ask Billy to slow down and he did a fantastic job of making sure I was okay; the downhill into the next aid station was very hard on my knee but I managed to run off/on down it as the ibuprofen kicked in and made things bearable.  Ryan and Lori hung with us, even though I know they could have raced ahead...I felt like I was slowing Ryan down but I enjoyed the time our team was running together.

At the Paso Picacho aid station (mile 64.2), I was so happy to see Alan; I went to the car and he applied Salonpas patches to my knees and I said I had no idea how I could last 36 more miles with the pain I was having; he reassured me that I looked great and that we had plenty of time to make cutoffs and could slow down if necessary.  We had arrived about 20 minutes ahead of our pacing plan and that meant we were still okay for the upcoming cutoffs, though I questioned if I could manage to keep up pace with the knee pain.  Billy made me drink a little soup broth since my fingers had swelled.  I quickly drank it and then told Billy that I wanted to get out of the aid station quickly and that I knew Ryan and Lori could catch up; I was worried about having a bad stretch, slowing down, and missing cutoffs.

The next section was also tough but I felt relief in my knees thanks to the Salonpas and my legs felt stronger than they did during the previous section.  Ryan and Lori caught up and we enjoyed more time together, which was captured in one of the few videos Billy shot.  I was happy to be doing well running at night and decided to risk motion sickness by using my flashlight the whole time; it helped my running ability and Billy and I picked up speed.  At some point we were separated from Ryan and Lori and it bugged me but I knew that they are such strong runners that it was only temporary.  The miles ticked by quickly and I enjoyed not seeing how far climbs were, the sense of being in nature and just running...it was an incredible feeling.  I was climbing faster on this stretch and decided to go with how my body felt, taking advantage of less pain to gain some time.

I continued what had become a routine to maintain my sanity and ensure that I did everything I needed at an aid station; about a mile before an aid station, I would mentally and verbally run through what I needed during the stop.  I was on a mission not to lose any time in the aid stations as that would give me more time on the trail.  My flashlight died right as we were entering the aid station at mile 72.3; I ran in yelling for Alan, as I had taken to doing so that he would know it was us coming (all you could see of other runners was a light).  He quickly changed the battery while I downed a sip of soda, two bites of a Cliff bar and a mini-bagel; I kept thinking we had big climb during the next stretch so we got in and out of there quickly after Alan used duct tape to secure Salonpas to my knee.  We checked in with Ryan and Lori who came in minutes after us; they understood my desire to gain some time and I appreciated that.  I snagged another mini-bagel to chow on during the next section and off into the dark we went.

             " Can we take pics in the dark?" test photo

We walked/ran with two other guys for awhile and Billy and I later remarked how it's hard to talk to people in the dark since you couldn't see who they were...at least I got to figure out who they were later but was so out of it at the finish that I didn't get to chat.  We powerwalked for awhile and Billy consulted the elevation profile to determine when the climb would start; we got sick of waiting for the climb and began doing walk/run.  My knee pain didn't subside like it did before so every step became painful but the thought of being so close to the finish line propelled me forward (lol...never did I think I'd consider less than 30 miles short!).  The extra calories or adrenaline gave me a huge boost and, when we hit the long, gradual climb, I began powerwalking up it faster than I knew I could so late into a race; we passed so many people and Billy asked a couple of times if I really wanted to go so fast.  I wanted to take advantage of my energy and feeling strong and so we surged ahead.  I even went straight through a muddy area because I didn't take the time to slow down and find a way around it! 

As daylight approached and we got closer to mile 80, I felt so giddy. Billy said he hoped we'd be somewhere pretty for sunrise and I responded that it wouldn't matter where we were; we'd be on the trails rocking the final stretch of the race...not what he meant, but to me the world was amazingly beautiful.  As I saw the 80.3 aid station, I tried to run and managed to walk/run despite increasing knee pain.  I started fighting back tears because I knew I was entering the last phase of the race and I was so happy to see my crew, especially my boyfriend.

We entered the Sunrise (how appropriate!) station around 5:20, 70 minutes ahead of my projected time and 100 minutes before cutoff.  Alan went to work helping me take off my night gear, cleaning my feet, applying more Body Glide, putting on clean socks/clean shirt.  I opted not to brush my teeth as I wanted out of there and it took me forever to put on the socks/ankle braces and favorite shoes.  Rob helped us finish getting ready for the day section and the guys were ready for Lori and Ryan who entered within minutes of our leaving.

            Look like crap but stoked 4/5 done with race and no sprained ankle! Alan all business:)

Miles 80.4-FINISH!
The next stretch included a little downhill, which we ran, and then had a technical climb.  My knee had not responded to the second 200mg ibuprofen pill and I hated telling Billy that it looked like we'd be speedwalking the last 20 miles.  Every ounce of me wanted to run and I had the energy but my knee hurt with every step and attempting to run made the pain unbearable, plus I was worried that running could cause worse problems and I didn't want a DNF so late in the race. During the climb, we had the pleasure of running (powerwalking) with Monica Scholz, who was doing her 99th 100 miler!  The scenery was incredible and, despite my pain, I loved being out there...the best sunrise and morning ever!  When we hit the downhill, I again loathed having to walk but knew I could walk fast and that walking and finishing was better than quitting.  Quitting was not an option.

     Cheering for an incredible sunrise

            You can't help but smile looking at the scenery

It was growing warm and I was very happy to near the 87.5 mile aid station.  Billy ran ahead so that he could tell Alan and Rob what I'd need.  I hobbled in, rubbed some Icy Hot on my ice (didn't help), while Alan filled my handheld with Nuun/water.  It was a pleasure seeing Jimmy Freeman out there; he filled my hydration pack with tons of ice and gave me advice on how to protect my knee and speed walk.  He reminded me it was less than a half marathon to go and Rob and Alan encouraged me with how far ahead we were and how good we looked (yeah, right).  We had entered the station 90 minutes ahead of projected and 2 hours ahead of cutoff.  Jimmy told us about the remainder of the course, which helped prepare me for the last "bad" climb.

                   Billy running ahead

The next stretch had some uphill but nothing too brutal...on a normal day with no knee pain.  I wanted to make it until late in the race to take another ibuprofen but I couldn't handle the pain and I took one during the stretch; unfortunately, it didn't help.:(  I was now beyond the point where finishing the race was predominately mental.  I wanted that belt buckle; I wanted to succeed and I could deal with the pain to get there.  I longed for music and Billy must have read my mind because he put on some Journey and then played other tunes I loved (in between tweets, of course).  Thankfully, we have similar taste in music...something I discovered during the last 12 miles.

The aid station at mile 91.5 was the one hosted by Steve and Ann Harvey and I giggled seeing Steve running towards us not far from it; I figured he couldn't resist hitting the trails for some running!  I was sooooo happy to see my friend Deirdre who was volunteering at the station and to see Alan and Rob.  They commented that we were making good time and, looking back, we were 100 minutes faster than expected and had made the cutoff by over 2 hours.  We made it a quick stop, just getting an ice cold bandana and topping off fluids and snagging some quick fuel.  With less than 10 miles to go, I wanted the race done.  I knew I could finish but I had heard so many stories about people DNFing in the final miles that I continued to be careful.

The next miles were very painful and I was dying inside as I HATED not being able to run because of my knee. My legs and body had the energy so I moved as fast as I could.  Walking at that pace can be harder than running and I felt badly for Billy.  We had a climb, which, as Jimmy had warned, felt very tough.  I didn't look up and just kept my head down, putting one foot in front of the other.  I was getting sleepy at this point thanks to very little caffeine and no sleep; I accidentally took non-caffeinated Gu and had forgotten to drink any Red Bull.  I told Billy I was tired and he cracked me up when he told me to stop whining!  That's what I needed to hear at that point.  Ryan and Lori flew past us during this stretch and I was in awe of their running the uphills so late in the race; those two rock!  Hearing their shouts of encouragement gave me a mental boost.  The last aid station was nice break from climbing and powerwalking; the volunteer filled my hat with ice, drenched my bandana in cold water and off we went.

The next 3.9 miles were relatively flat and I knew that if I could walk fast, I'd finish under 29 hours.  Previously Billy had commented he wanted to get me in under 30 hours and I didn't tell him that we were an hour ahead of that.  We walked as fast as we could (about 16 min miles...fast so late in a race) and I mentally counted down the miles, while enjoying the scenery.  We were back where I had started the day before and I felt like that was very appropriate way to end this journey.  Billy ran ahead of me when we entered the camp area and I kept trying to run but it wasn't worth it.  When I could hear people yelling my name, I found that extra gear and pushed through the pain to sprint to the end.  I couldn't believe the clock...28:24!  I had been fighting back tears off/on for the last few hours and I continued doing that...I was so happy and so appreciative of everyone who made it happen.  My BF and friends are the best!  Finishing the race was incredible...finishing over 2.5 hours ahead of the time limit was the icing on the cake.

        The "sprint" to the finish

    I had to look twice to believe my eyes

          A congrats from Billy...fighting back tears and wanting a hug/kiss from Alan:)

Minutes after finishing...
Alan was taking video and it captured how delirious I was...I somehow thought I finished in 28:34.  I thanked the incredible race director and told him how awesome the volunteers were and how well marked the course was.  I was in a daze but managed to get my buckle and shirt and chill with Billy, Lori, Ryan, and Rob, while Alan got my stuff from the car.  I made my way to the foot care guy (another awesome volunteer) to get the huge, enormous, disgusting blister popped...it was the one that developed before mile 30 and just got worse over 70 miles.  The pain of his popping it, combined with a lack of blood sugar and exhaustion, caused me to black out and become very nauseous.  That nausea lasted until an hour later when we got back to the hotel and I ate a piece of pizza. Alan, of course, continued to take care of me by getting ice for my ice bath and getting us food and drinks. He crashed but I couldn't sleep thanks to the adrenaline rush and my aching knee. 

Ending thoughts...
  •  100 miles with 16,000 feet of climb on technical terrain is hard!!!  It was way more mental than physical for me; I lacked the training, especially night and technical training, but had the determination to finish.  But my team (Team Sanchez) was instrumental in keeping me focused on finishing and reminding me that I COULD do it and in helping me get there and 2 hours faster than I thought possible...that's just crazy!
  • Alan is beyond amazing.  I can't express how much he helped me out during the race; even just knowing I'd see him at the aid stations gave me such a boost.  He took care of me and all of us so well and deserves major props for that.  See why I love him so much?!  (I'd say more but then it'd get cheesy and make everyone want to barf)
  • Rob was so awesome in driving down and taking care of all the stuff that came up during the race; I loved having him as my crew and his being there helped me gain precious minutes and some sanity.
  • Billy did a perfect job of pacing me.  Having a pacer who knows when to push you and how to deal with you is crucial and he nailed all of that.  I talk at times and,  many times, don't feel like talking as I need to focus on running/making sure my feet land in the best spots; he didn't talk too much or too little...it was just right.  Without his reminders about nutrition, I would have crashed.
  • Without Ryan, I would have DNFed.  He made us set up a smart race plan, guided me through all my nerves for months leading up to it, and paced us perfectly to ensure that we did the first 50 miles exactly as planned.   He reassured me when I was struggling and made sure I made it.  I know he could have run the course so much faster without me, so I'm so happy that he did as we planned and stuck with me, helping me realize my goal.  
  • Lori's so sweet and I almost cried just from hearing her say how proud of me she was.  Seeing her experienced, calm, smiling self starting at mile 44 gave me a huge boost.  Her jokes during the race and her caring, bedside manner after the race got me through some of the roughest times...it was exactly what I needed to get back on track both times.
  • The course was the best marked course EVER
  • The volunteers were beyond incredible.
  • The race director is a class act.
  • My body does not like consuming too much protein during a race.  I was able to listen to my body, balance my water/electrolyte and food needs better than expected and that was key....my team did an excellent job of helping me figure that out along the way.
  • Special thanks to Jonathan Gunderson for advice and tips (some individual, some in his RRs).  And thanks to other ultra runners from whom I've learned so much!!!
  • The race was the best 28 hours and 24 minutes of my life...I got to spend time with my friends and boyfriend in a gorgeous area doing what I'm passionate about...pure joy!!!