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) 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 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 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!  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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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!!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day and one reason why I run

I'm still working on my San Diego 100 race report; the writing is almost complete and I'll add pics and video over the next couple of days.  Work is really busy right now as I'm trying to grade students' final projects and balancing that with watching the NBA finals last week and apartment hunting this weekend left little time to work on the RR...but it's coming. 

With today being Father's Day, I felt I should post something.  My boyfriend's friend asked me last night what I'm running from...I laughed and joked that I'm not running from anything, though running to escape the stress of work is something that happens at times.  But there was a huge reason why running became a higher priority in my life a couple of years ago. 

Rewind to 2007 when I decided to train for the Nike Women's Marathon with Team in Training; my best friend's mother who I was going to raise money in honor of passed away the day after I committed to being with, my training and fundraising were in her memory and I did it because it meant something to my best friend and anything that could help her cope with the loss of her mother was the least I could do.  My parents, especially my dad who was more into sports than my mom, were very proud of my fundraising and finishing the marathon.  I decided to attempt to qualify for Boston and ran another marathon a few months later to improve my time and inch closer to a BQ...again, my parents were very proud of me.  When I toed the line at my third marathon, San Diego RNR, a few months later in early June of 2008, I did so with a very heavy heart as my dad was in the hospital and not doing well...needless to say, seeing people collapse around me in the heat of the day got to me as I did not want to wind up in the hospital and make my family worry and I did not have the day I hoped, finishing at 3:47, 7 minutes away from a BQ.

Father's day 2008 was a few weeks later and it happened to fall on my parents' 45th anniversay.  My parents had many ups and downs in their marriage and,  being the youngest, I saw much of the rough times.  However, when my father got sick (variety of things...asbestosis, chronic lung infections, Lyme disease, West Nile disease, Wegner's, kidney failure), their love became more and more obvious.  My parents were side-by-side almost every day during their marriage and loved each other with a love that few couples have after so many years together.  My father was in the hospital on Father's Day and I'll never forget my phone conversation with him.  I told him happy Father's Day and he said thanks and then went on and on about how it was their my mom was so wonderful of a wife and his "nurse", how much he loved her, how he didn't want to celebrate their 45th anniversary in the hospital.  I kept trying to say happy Father's Day and tell him how much I love him but he continually brought it back to it being their anniversary and how much he loved my mom.  I was laughing on the inside as it made me so happy to hear him saying those things and I know my mom had to love hearing him say that also. 

A few days later, my dad took a turn for the worse as his lungs failed and he asked to be put on a ventilator.  I flew home to see him in the Intensive Care Unit and, because he was on a vent, he could only mouth our conversation Father's Day two years ago was the last time I heard his voice.   I spent as much time in that ICU room as the nurses would allow and it was so hard...I'd talk to him and pray.  I told him about my life and my dreams and promised him that I would run the Boston marathon the next year; Boston would be the day before his birthday, very fitting.  My way of dealing with his being in ICU was to run; I stayed in Memphis a few days and then returned to CA; I'd go for a run during visiting hours so that I could handle hearing my sister on the phone tell me how he was doing.  I had returned to CA thinking he was improving, but that quickly changed.  I know my dad gave every ounce of his strength to have those days with me and my family as, once my brother and I returned to our respective homes, his condition worsened rapily.  He died in the early hours July 4th while I was on a plane trying to get home before he died.  Running in Memphis, TN during the summer is brutal but I had to do that to cope with his losss...I knew running was better than drinking or other negative ways of coping. 

I accomplished my goal of qualifying for Boston in my best marathon ever, the Santa Clarita race I ran a few months after his passing.  Before Boston, I started trail running and was hooked.  Early last year I was wondering how to deal with July 4th; I didn't want to be miserable that day so I decided to celebrate my father's life in the only way I knew would give me time to reflect on everything he did as a father, running 65 miles since he was 65 when he passed away.  I planned on doing it solo and mapped out a route and my awesome friends and boyfriend were so supportive of my memorial run plans.  I did a couple of trail ultras before Boston in preparation for it and then wound up battling injuries until a month before my memorial run; it was hard but that run was everything I needed and wanted it to be.  Billy asked to run with me for part of it, as did Sam, and Alan served as my crew....didn't know that Billy and Alan were learning the ropes for future endeavors but that's how it's worked out. 

I guess I can say that my dad is why I started running ultras.  Finishing that 65 mile run was tough but nothing compared to what my dad went through during his last years.  Anytime I'm struggling during a run, I think of my dad and draw on the fortitude that he gave me.  Running trails has been my therapy and continues to be how I remember and commemorate my dad's life.  I like to imagine that my dad is looking down on me and I know he'd be proud of me, including for last weekend's run.  I love and miss you so much dad....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SD 100 Race Report Part 1- Pre race

The week of the San Diego 100 Endurance Run was one of the best, if not the best, of my life and I have so much to say that I decided I need to write my race report in sections. I want to remember as many details as possible so that I can use what I learned for future races, allow others to learn from my mistakes and successes, and relive the epic adventure for years to come.  This installment is just the days leading up to the race, how I prepared,

The days leading up to the race became like a party as my friend Ryan, the one who did HURT 100 in January as his first and suckered me into attempting my first this year, flew in from Hawaii and our team took advantage of what might be our last race together for many months. Tuesday I picked him up from the airport and we met up with Billy for a short 7 mile trail run. It was my chance to test out briefly my headlamp, flashlight, and shoes (Inov8 Roclite 315's) as the run took us through sunset and for a little bit of evening. We took it very easy and, despite my slowly running the first mile uphill, I seriously doubted being able to do longer, more technical climbs over 100 miles. I did remark to Billy that maybe I was underestimating my climbing ability, a statement that I would consider during the wee hours of the race.

Wednesday I hit Target for last minute things and started packing...getting stuff organized was a priority because I needed to feel in control of something! I also used Ryan's goal times to create a pacing plan for us and so that our crew would know when to expect us. Ryan had the smart idea of aiming for 5 hours for the first 20 miles, between 5:15 and 5:45 for the second 20, and 6:30 for both night segments, with the remaining time for the last 20 miles; I tweaked it slightly to make sure we would make cutoffs. Missing cutoffs was my major concern, especially since there was a tough one overnight (1.5 hours for a 7.1 mile stretch...huh?!) Thursday we met up with Danica for some chow at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in Long Beach; since getting fatter before the race was a must, I gobbled up some fried chicken and a waffle....ah, the advantages of running for hours- eating whatever I want with no regrets!

Race weekend officially began Friday morning after Ryan, Alan (boyfriend and crew), and I slept in knowing that it would be our last real night to rest.  Ryan and I began our final packing preparations, including comparing our pacing plan/aid station spreadsheet with what we might need to determine how many drop bags to pack. We decided on having 2, one for each of the aid stations where crew did not have access. We only included essentials- bandages, tape, scissors, wet ones wipes, alcohol wipes, Gu...we would revisit the drop bags after the runner meeting and add long sleeve shirts to the one for mile 36 in case temperatures dropped early in the day.

And this is only part of the stuff I would pack for my main crew bag!

Before driving down to San Diego, we hit Denny's for some carb-loading and I attempted to eat as much as possible with mostly carbs and little protein.  No way I could finish it all, but I gave it my best!

Ryan and I went to the runner meeting and I kept fighting back tears of joy and utter disbelief.  The meeting got me pumped up and hearing the race director, Scott Mills, thank everyone for their help, made me so appreciative of how many people gave of their time and energy.  Scott gave the advice of thinking of the race in terms of aid station to aid station (as in, the next AS is 7 miles away...I can run 7 miles) instead of how many miles to the finish line.  I took that in and decided that would be my mini-strategy.  We were warned that it might get very cold and we made sure we (and our crew) prepared for that.  I left the meeting anxious to finalize drop bags, go over crew/pacing instructions, eat, and attempt to sleep.

Ryan and I near the start/finish

That evening we ran through crew instructions with Alan and Rob (friend who was coming down to crew from Sat afternoon until Sunday) and crew/pacing instructions with Billy and Lori.  I kept emphasizing the need to hit cutoffs and, knowing Ryan is a much stronger runner, we reminded them that if I started to lag behind that Ryan would go ahead of me.  Billy had asked me to come up with a solid nutrition plan and I decided I would rely on Clif ShotBloks and Shots, Gu, pb&j sandwiches, aid station food; since every 20 miles Ryan was using a drink with protein to aid in recovery, I decided to try Lite Muscle Milk every 20 miles.  I knew nutrition would be key to my making it and that I had to be diligent about consuming enough calories every hour, something I'm notoriously bad at doing.  We loaded up on pasta at restaurant in Alpine and I was so stuffed I wondered if I'd fit into my shorts!!! 

With the game plan set, I attempted to get some rest before the 4:15am alarm...yeah, that didn't happen very well!

Next post will be a race was a long race so I can guarantee a long report:)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Final thoughts before SD 100

With less than 48 hours away from the start of my first 100 miler, the San Diego Endurance Run, I am very nervous and excited. I know that I am severely undertrained and unprepared but hope that the saying that it's more mental than physical holds true. I have a wonderful team and I have the determination to finish; I know my crew/pacers/running buddy will help me through the rough times and I hope my ankles and body hold up.

I have lots of fears and, since blogging is also venting, here are many of my fears/things that I think could kick me in the butt.
  • Technical, rocky trails...used to love them but ankle sprains caused me to loathe them...only trained on wide, well-groomed fire roads.
  • The endless longest climbs in my 3 training runs were less than 1000 feet...yeah, going to be doing double that numerous times over 100 miles.
  • Endurance...two 30 milers on "easy" trails did not give me the time on feet practice.
  • Almost zero night running experience....only longer-than-a-few-miles night run was when I sprained my ankle badly. 'nuff said.
  • Lack of being able to try out equipment...not used to carrying handheld, never tried out night running clothes.
  • My ankles...both are now chronic sprain-type. See above about rocky trails.
  • Lack of training and so much time off due to injuries means I'm slow like a tortoise...I'm very slow on climbs and legs are not used to climbs...double whammy
  • No opportunities to test out nutrition needs, how to fuel. Going to be trying that out during the race.

What do I have going in my favor?

  • my running partner- Ryan did HURT100 as his first earliler this year and is one kick butt runner (trails and roads)
  • my crew- my boyfriend is awesome and, though he's never crewed for an event like this, he rocks and will help us out!!!! He'll be joined by another experienced runner-friend, Shacky, so that should help when time cutoffs become tighter.
  • my pacers- Billy and Lori are very experienced runners who know how to HTFU and make me HTFU
  • I've packed my bags and have them organized. Not sure how that helps but it helps my mental state.

I have no idea what will happen this weekend. I'm going to the start line determined to finish...too many people are investing their time in my endeavor to quit. But the reality is that anything can happen to anyone during a 100 miler; even the most experienced and well-trained can have issues arise and have to drop (DNF). So, I know that if anything happens and I have to accept those 3 letters, I gave it my all. During the past 2.5 months, I've dealt with plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, a severely sprained ankle and, despite all that, I'm heading to the start with a shot at seeing it from the other side 100 miles and less than 31 hours later.