Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crewing the 2015 LOViT 100 Miler

My friend Jeremy Day was signed up to run the LOViT 100 Miler, named for the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail outside Mt Ida, Arkansas, on February 20, 2015. So I came along to drive him home after the race and to crew him during the race, helping out however I could so he could finish and collect another 100 mile belt buckle.

I’m going to post in this blog entry about crewing the race, and I’ll follow up in a couple days with a blog post about pacing the race. My hope is that (1) this helps those who crew, pace, or run LOViT 100 Miler in the future, and (2) more people learn that crewing is one tough job! I hear so many jumping and frothing at the mouth to crew and pace strangers without realizing the time and energy involved.

The Set-up and Getting to the Race

This race was unusual with its 6 pm start on Friday. That would mean about 19 hours of the 30 hours to cutoff would be in the dark. Unfortunately, it was also going to be cold and wet.

Jeremy and I had discussed that I would not pace him at this race. Besides the logistics of getting a ride to an aid station, neither of us were crazy about the possibility I could roll an ankle on the slick technical terrain. But Friday morning, after he had been up with his 7 week old son off and on during the night, Jeremy was worried about getting sleepy during the race and warned me he might end up wanting pacing. Luckily, I had brought running clothes (thinking I would get out for a run nearby between crewing moments) and then he brought one of his extra hydration packs that I could use just in case.

I arrived Thursday to spend some extra time with the Day family and love on baby Oscar.
He is such a cutie!
On Friday afternoon, we traveled the 3 hours to the host hotel just a mile from the start/finish line, and Jeremy was able to get a short nap on the drive and again when we arrived, before the 6 pm start. There were 13 starters in the 100 mile. I said hi to my friends Lalita, Dat, and Chris. The 100K (which Dat and Chris were running) would start at 6:00 the next morning and have 23 starters. It was a small event with a personal feel  - depending on your pace, this can be lonely, but the individual attention by volunteers and the race director is pretty special.

Race Start, a Surprise Visit, and a Restless Night (for me!)

When race directors Dustin and Rachel sent the runners off to start the race, it was 34 degrees and raining. It was forecast to rain all night until midway into the next day. Jeremy doesn’t require a lot of crewing help usually so, with the unusual timing of this race start, I had told him I wouldn’t see him again until mile 47 because I planned to get a full night’s sleep until 5:30 am.

I went to dinner at the resort restaurant and, while looking over the crew document, I realized the aid station for mile 9 was only a few minutes’ drive away. I thought that with an entire night ahead of rain and darkness, it would be a nice surprise to see a friendly face when he wasn’t expecting it, and it could be a chance to fix anything (like deciding he wanted different layers once he was out there running) or get something from his supplies that he had forgotten. So I bundled up and grabbed Jeremy’s supply bag and drove out there. I was walking up to the aid station just as he arrived! He was good with what he had but seemed happy with the surprise visit, and I headed back to the hotel.

The rain was pouring down when I returned to the cottage and I felt bad that I wasn’t helping through the night hours. It’s hard to accept responsibility for helping someone for just part of the race, especially the later parts, where things not taken care of early in a race can start to go downhill fast. Not that he isn’t perfectly capable, but a crew member can just be that extra little objective voice to keep things on target, especially speed, hydration, nutrition, and temperature regulation. So I set an alarm for 1:30 am, thinking that if his pace was slowing, I would run out to the aid station (the same one I had been to for mile 9). I then proceeded to wake up every hour. L I would check the online live tracking (which was phenomenal and timely). At 1:30 am, he was still running on the pretty fast side of the time range we had discussed, so I hemmed and hawed but assumed I would miss him by the time I drove out there (turns out I was right). I went back to sleep and tossed and turned more. At 4 am, after more bad dreams and waking up every hour the whole night, I got up for good.

Miles 42 and 47 - In Good Spirits

Now I had time to go to Charlton aid station at mile 42 when he wasn’t expecting to see me until mile 47. Driving to the aid station, I went through rain and also experienced the worst fog I’ve driven in in years. And I made a bonehead move of passing the mile 42 aid station, driving all the way out to mile 47 because I was sleepy and groggy, and then having to hurry back in the fog to the mile 42 aid station.

My friend Lalita (who was crewing friend Elizabeth who is a similar pace as Jeremy) was there when I arrived. It seemed like she managed to be at all the aid stations all the time! Magic? While waiting, Lalita squealed as a field mouse ran through the pavilion, and I was told I had missed the big campground rat who had gotten curious about the aid station before I arrived!

Jeremy was in great spirits at mile 42 and seemed surprised to see me already. He definitely didn’t look like he had spent 12 hours in the rain! 

I headed off to the Crystal Springs aid station at mile 47. The aid stations were never more than 7.5 miles apart, and most of them were 4-5 miles apart. Driving from one to the next was never more than a 22 minute drive! Usually crew were allowed at every other one, but this was the one place that you could access two in a row. Jeremy was still doing well but asked at that point that I might want to plan to pace from mile 87 because he was feeling a little sleepy already. He gave me a bunch of wet clothes to dry out with his car’s heater after he changed into dry stuff. I also took his headlamp and flashlight from him.
In the middle of the glamorous task of
changing headlamp and flashlight batteries
I traveled back to the hotel to grab a shirt Jeremy had forgotten to pack in his bag of supplies, and I grabbed him a coffee at the country store to try to perk him up a bit now that the store had opened for the morning. Then on to the Brady Mountain Aid Station at mile 58. This was the longest stretch between seeing him, with 11 miles.

Miles 58 and 65 - The End of the Rain, Time for Something Drastic

When Jeremy arrived at the aid station, he got to see the creek crossing just 20 feet from the aid station. There was some cursing as he waded across the shin deep cold water. 
He is only smiling because I demanded that he do so.
It was now noon and, after 18 hours of rain, the rain probability had dropped to almost 0%. With the help of two of the guy volunteers, Jeremy changed all his top layers. Wet clammy skin plus dry performance fabric equals a sticky time trying to get new clothes on!

I said I would meet him again in 7 miles. At Mile 65 was the Avery Recreation Area aid station, with a pretty view of the river with the dam and spillway. Jeremy was right on the cutoff pace tied to the 30 hour final cutoff when he arrived. The volunteers weren’t bothered because he was still moving. He seemed relieved. But we were both worried going forward. He decided to do something he called “drastic” – he went from the 110 oz LARGE pack he had been carrying (to train with it for Bigfoot 200 coming up in August) and had me grab his 20 oz handheld. Lighter now, he hoped to make up a little time.
I showed Jeremy a picture of his 7 week old baby that I asked his wife to send me, and he headed off again. I would see him again back at the Brady Mountain Aid Station at mile 71.

I went to a convenience store and grabbed Butterfinger Bites. A favorite candy of his, in addition to the pictures from his wife of the baby, it was in my arsenal of psychological tools I was ready to employ to keep him moving if needed!

Mile 71 – Just Keep Moving! No DNFs Allowed!

I waited at the Brady Mountain aid station eagerly with Lalita and Josh (both of whom knew Jeremy). Lalita was crewing Elizabeth who came into the aid station very focused and close to cutoff pace. But in what makes this trail community awesome, in the middle of downing some food and while she's working through her own race issues, Elizabeth looked up and saw me, and probably my concerned look, and said “He wants to drop. Don’t let him.” Uh, ok. Now I was really nervous.

He came in, just a little behind cutoff pace. And yes, he was talking about DNFing. He had fallen early in the race and hurt his hip flexor. And with another 60 miles on his legs, he was in a lot of pain and having trouble with each step. He couldn't imagine being able to continue with how painful it was feeling.

I love this moment when I think back, not because he was hurt of course, but because Josh, Lalita, and I rallied and triaged and troubleshooted (troubleshot?) and that's what the ultrarunning family does! A lot of pep talks and tough love on the emotional side. I showed him another picture I had been sent of his infant son. I had brought him more coffee and had him drink that. On the physical side, we found a foam roller for his hip flexor, then Lalita and I each offered up a hip flexor stretch (hers hit the target area!), Lalita poked around at his hip flexor trying to massage it out, she found a tennis ball and rolled it with that, and then he was moving a little bit better…. And we kicked him out of the aid station. 

But not before I told him I would pace him at mile 82 instead of 87. “Are you sure you can do that?” he said, referencing that we had agreed 18 miles of that much hilly terrain would be difficult for me at my current training. In the middle of his pain, he seemed genuinely concerned about me. “Yeah,” I said. “I can keep up forever at the pace you are now going.” He he he.

He crossed the shin deep stream he had cursed on his way out to this aid station. He was prepared with dry socks from his drop bag at the previous aid station at mile 68 to change into after crossing the stream. He sat down on a rock to change socks, and Josh said he was taking too long. He said, “Hold my gloves.” He proceeded to jump across this 5 foot wide creek crossing! After helping Jeremy, where I gave him crap about “it can hurt a little more by running or you can do 22 minutes per mile walking and it hurt a little less. So I expect a run.” And he hobbled down the trail away from us.

Prepping To Pace at Mile 82

Lalita was so nice to help me out with the logistics of pacing (which are SO much easier on a looped course than an out-and-back like this one or a point-to-point). I parked my car at the finish line and she gave me a ride back to the mile 82 Crystal Springs aid station. And she further took care of me by stopping at the country store to make sure I ate a burger before my long night of unexpected pacing ahead AND bought that burger for me when I lamented that I had left my wallet locked in the car at the finish line!

Then I just worried for hours. Each headlamp that appeared in the distance was a moment to hold my breath and hope he was still moving forward. 11 miles of waiting. Then it was the cutoff for that aid station. Then it was after the cutoff. 

And I’ll separate my pacing into a separate post to come next!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I'd like to share what I learned in this past year. A friend took his own life one year ago tomorrow. I had seen him just 3 days before when he paced one of the races I direct. I originally met Brian through him volunteering at my first ever race on my own back on 1/1/11.

This anniversary of his death is really hard to talk about, but I feel the discussion is beneficial to put out to the world. This post formed over about 2 weeks of turning it in my head.

In the sudden shock of his death, there were a lot of tears and heartbreak, but ultimately big changes came out of it for me, many of which I feel were positive:

  • Let others know where they are valued in my life. In the aftermath of his death, I had not realized that I was in his top tier of friends. Frankly, he would have never communicated that. In hindsight, his love was in his actions and comments but never direct. Not knowing this, I had put him in my midtier of friendships (very very few being in the top tier). After his death, several of his friends along with myself waited for that echelon of best friends to emerge - when they didn't, we found out we were that to him. I learned that for me, I didn't want people in the position I was in of finding out your value in the worst possible circumstances. I want to make sure the important people in my life know where they stand at all times. In the last year, I'm more giving of my "I love you"'s and declaring to people that they are important in my life (Note: even if I feel my actions and communications already say that).

  • I want more validation of my value in friendships. I dislike this fallout. But I'm sensitive. I went from having a friend, a standard decent loved-our-routine-communication friend, to spreading his ashes. I want to know if I'm an acquaintance, a friend, a good friend, or a best friend. Not being sure where I stand is difficult. I don't want to force friends to state where our relationship is at. But occasionally in this past year it creates an additional level of stress out of my need for validation. I was thankful in the two weeks after his death when a good friend just got it on her own and sent me "I want you to know you are important in my life."

  • Family is important. There was a stress in being the only one of his runner friends who had met his widow and child (and had only done that once). And they are both wonderful. I found myself in the wake of Brian's death wanting to be more familiar with the family of my friends. One of my best friends had me meeting the spouse within a couple weeks of Brian's death and I planned a Christmas party where everyone had a chance to spend time with each others' spouses. When all your friends are runners and you see them on the run, at a race, or going on race trips, it's surprisingly easy to be good friends with someone and not know their family.

  • A cry for help gets immediate attention. The moment Brian posted his goodbye on Facebook before committing suicide, I was headed to the doctor for an appointment. I thought he was making a really bad joke at first. Then I couldn't find the punchline. Then I was leaving a message on his voicemail. Then I was asking for someone to go check on him. And then it's a blur. A really bad blur. I've had the occasional vaguebook of an acquaintance or friend on Facebook that raises my hackles. And I will check on you. I'm sensitive now.

  • Every person can have a wide influence. But you didn't know him. Half the time I feel like I didn't know him. And definitely we didn't know he was having the feelings of suicide. But for those who really didn't know him, grieve and recognize that people have battles you aren't aware of, but don't push it all too hard. It's awkward. If you want to know someone's true wishes, talk to the people who were close to him. And then respect what they tell you. Responses toward his death made me uncomfortable in not wanting to speak for him but knowing how he would have felt about some things people wanted to do in his honor, I had to speak up.

  • He lives on through us. My first attempt at 100 miles was an odd thing without him there. He had pushed me to flip the switch on trying a 100 miler, and I never committed while he was alive. Another year of the Fairview Half Marathon happened in April, but I won't forget how happy he was at his performance that day in 2013. And now I prepare to put on my first 100 miler for the North Texas community. I think often how he would have been one of my first registrations. He liked pushing the boundaries of being comfortable. He would have been proud.

There are ripples coming off all our actions. Never forget that.

Monday, September 8, 2014

2014 Tommyknocker Ultras 50K - All This To Win a Bottle of Whiskey

I wanted to win the bottle of whiskey. That's what I decided 30 seconds into this race. More on that in a second.
A happy day in the mountains!
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)

I had chosen Tommyknocker Ultras 50K in Woodland Park, Colorado as a fun end-of-summer race with some challenge to it. I then trained very little (relatively) in August for this level of challenge.
Race shirt

Tommyknocker Ultras 50K and 100K was an inaugural race up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains sorta near Pike's Peak. It was rolling hills, nothing too big, but totaling up to 5100 ft of gain and loss in about 34 miles (a "long 50K"). The race starts at about 7700 feet, quickly rises to about 9000 ft and then stays around there the whole race. The course was fairly nontechnical - ATV dirt roads through and around Pike National Forest.

Because the 100K started at 2 am (we started at 8 am), it was nice to know that even on my slowest day I was going to make the 12 hour cutoff. Race week I learned how small the event would be - ultimately 35 starters in the 50K and another 6 in the 100K.

Friday night was the race eve dinner (included in the entry fee) and trail briefing by the race director, Sherpa John. I just happened to be standing next to someone in a Bandera shirt, I struck up a conversation, and I had found another Texan - Michael from Houston!

In the race briefing, we were warned that the grade of the road would be rough - too steep to run comfortably but not steep enough that walking would seem incredibly slow. We also learned about the DFL awards and the special orange rock on course.
The "Dead F*cking Last" award was a little plaque if you were the last to finish in your distance, and it came with a comp entry for any of their races in the next year. Also, there was a bottle of 100% corn moonshine whiskey at the last aid station 3.5 miles out for everyone to enjoy if they wanted out there. The very last overall finisher would not only earn the DFL award but would get to take home whatever remained of the whiskey. 
What a fun idea and an awesome souvenir. I started to think maybe that was worth aspiring too (especially as these small races tend to come with a pretty fast field of competitors).
The bottle of whiskey in question.
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)

The special orange rock was a rock spray painted orange that would be placed on the course. If you carried the rock with you to the finish line, you received a check for $250. Later we would find out the rock was about 3.5 miles from the finish and weighed about 25 pounds!! Someone had taken it to earn the money by the time I got there so I was able to see it at the finish. Another fun idea!
The Special Orange Money Rock -
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)

35 minute drive back to my hotel in Manitou Springs where I was sure it must be beautiful but all I had seen so far was clouds covering the mountains and rain!

Race Start - Miles 0 to 3.5

An 8 AM start with a small casual race meant that I felt like I had a TON of time in the morning. I parked in the tiny parking lot and stood around in my jacket in mid-40s temps chatting with other runners and volunteers. It was a beautiful clear sky but there were strong chances for thunderstorms midday. The problem with a race at altitude with clear skies when it's in the 40s and you'll wear a jacket until right before the start? I was braindead and forgot to put on any sunscreen!! Last minute someone had a bottle of it to pass around and I put a little on my face quickly.

We start the race with Sherpa John hitting a rock with a pickaxe. Pretty fun way to do a "gun start".
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)

Within 30 seconds I found myself firmly in last place. Yes! The DFL award WOULD. BE. MINE! I knew I was undertrained, I knew the course would climb about 1300 ft in the first 3 miles. So let everyone else go out too fast; I was here to enjoy the whole day!

The first 0.78 miles was on the main dirt road before turning into a campground to move to ATV trail road. A race vehicle trailed behind me since I was the last runner, but I was actually getting really annoyed as I felt they were sticking way too close. Back of the packers know more than others what it feels like to have a sweeper or pace vehicle breathing down their neck! I was happy when we hit the campground, and the vehicle ceased its chase.

The woman in front of me (later learning her name was Nicholette) was always just about to cross over the next ridge every time I caught a glimpse of her in her bright orange shirt. Her shirt matched the buff I wore around my wrist. We had been warned that we needed to wear something bright, preferably blaze orange, because of the bow hunters that would be in the woods. We were also warned about gunshots we would hear, and I did hear them all day long, but they weren't hunters, they were people doing target shooting.
Nicholette at the top of one of a bazillion hills on this course

We shared the trail with the occasional vehicle heading to or from a camping area, infrequent race vehicles, and lots of ATVers and dirt bikers. Everyone was super courteous.
Lots of cambered road the whole way

I passed a cute little grove of aspen trees amid all the pine ones and snapped a picture.

3 miles in I finally came to a clearing high enough where I had a 360 degree view of the beautiful day.
Climbing up to the clearing

I took a picture of the mountain to the south, not even realizing at that point that it was Pike's Peak.

At mile 3.5, I came in to the whoops and hollers from the volunteers and added my own, "DFL, baby!" I saw the bottle of whiskey I hoped to take home, grabbed a stack of 8 Pringles, and was immediately out of the aid station. With carrying a full pack of water, I was able to only have to fill it TWICE in 34 miles - at miles 13 and 21.

Miles 3.5 to 8

You could tell we had a lot of rain the last week because there were huge puddles in the road.

I was surrounded by lots of pine trees and aspens, along with a whiff of honeysuckle I think I caught once. Everything was green, and the sky was so blue. I passed a couple creeks and could hear water often in the early miles.

I ran things that were downhill or slight uphill, and I walked everything with a discernible uphill grade. I knew this constant up and down was going to wear down my glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves over the day, so I stayed conservative. My goal wasn't to run fast and hurt a ton; my goal was to enjoy the experience. Especially after two 100 mile attempts this year, I'm still needing some happy trail time to offset those hours invested.

The climb into the next aid station was a doozy. Play spot-the-aid-station in the pictures (hint: red canopy tent).

The area all around this aid station had been the location of a big wildfire about 15 years ago.

Miles 8 to 13

At mile 8 (Haymans), I saw my friend Steve who was volunteering at the aid station. In my goal for DFL and ultimately the final finisher to take home the whiskey, I asked how many 100Kers remained. I felt like an elite: "*huff huff* how many ahead of me? How far behind am I?" Except the COMPLETE OPPOSITE. Steve told me another had just dropped and 3 were out there. The way the course worked they were doing 2 extra loops from his aid station before completing the last 24 miles with the 50Kers, so my goal was to be passed by 3 100Kers now.

Pre-race Sherpa John had told us two runners in the 100K had turned wrong and added a bunch of miles, resulting in one upset runner heading home and the other who called it quits but was starting the 50K with us that morning!

Steve told me at the aid station that now I could finally see Pike's Peak with the clear day. I said, "But I don't know which one it is!!" The locals laughed. He pointed out the big mountain to the south. The view from his aid station was one of the best of the day.

I wanted to stay on top of calories so I pulled out a snack size ziploc from my pack, and we filled it with potato chips. I posed with a picture with Steve, who by the way I hadn't seen since we ran Gorge Waterfalls in March 2012, and headed out.

An uneventful next 5 miles of more curvy rolling dirt road to bring me into the Phantom Creek aid station at mile 13.
I think someone said this was called Signal Butte. Our trail went to the left. Not up it, thankfully.

I caught Nicholette here and informed her she needed to hurry up because I wanted the DFL award. A man who was just out in the park came up and asked if there was "like a 10K race or something going on?" Nicholette and I burst out laughing as the volunteers explained the mileage of the races that day. The next stretch to come would be the longest of the day at 8.7 miles so I pulled out another Ziploc from my pack and stashed two Snackwells devils food cookies (delicious when I snacked on them later!)

Miles 13 to 22

From here, Nicholette and I began to leapfrog a lot this next segment. She was always ahead, and then I'd catch up, and she'd head off again. We chatted a little, but I explained it wasn't easy to chat on uphills for me if I expected to breathe at all! A mile out from the next aid station, and we were run/walking together at this point, pretty even. It was her first 50K. Actually her first race over a half marathon distance!

A guy named Ricky I had met that morning suddenly comes up on us. He tells us that 6 of the 50Kers had gotten lost and gone an extra 8 or so miles. 4 of them had dropped out. Well, that was alarming and would take Nicholette and me into a state of hyper vigilance for searching for markers.

We had a big steep descent followed by a big steep ascent in the middle of this section. My plans to equalize the total average time with a faster downhill were completely squashed when it was all loose gravel going down. And then we had our first creek crossing, where I mostly avoided wet feet, before ascending. The second of the lost 50Kers who continued passed us here along with a guy who was just being a safety runner out checking on everyone on course. We'd see him again later at the last aid station.
Bottom of the valley
Tromped through a little grass to the left and mostly avoided wet feet.

The altitude really didn't bother or affect me, except on the climbs. I would just get winded a little too easily, and the steeper ones I would get the slightest bit of a headache. I took that as a good sign that the 4 weeks in the altitude tent sleeping at 10,000 feet had worked well!
Pike's Peak again

About a mile or two out from the aid station, a volunteer came out on his mountain bike to greet us and chat as we made our way in. I remembered John from pre-race when we were all standing around chatting. We had laughed as he had worked to figure out how to use his Jetboil to make coffee. Super nice guy.
My bike escort
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)
First a little rain, then suddenly one of the loudest thunder claps I've ever heard. We all jumped! Then the hail started, and I was happy I had my shell rain jacket tied around my waist and my hat on. I put on the shell - regardless of any other actions that day, a big goal was to keep my core warm as the rain would chill me and the temperature would drop.
Dark clouds rolling in

The hail wasn't too painful unless it came at an angle and hit my legs. It only lasted about 20-30 minutes and was fairly small pieces. It finished just as we pulled into the Magnum aid station at mile 21.7. I happened to recognize a guy I knew through Twitter, Jerry, here. That was a fun out-of-the-blue introduction. Nicholette seemed to be spending a little longer at this aid station so I headed out alone. While the previous section had been the longest, this next section wouldn't be short at 8.25 miles (which I swear was actually almost 9 miles).
Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)

Photo credit: Human Potential Running Series (From Their Facebook Page)

Miles 22 to 30

It continued to rain on and off for the entire rest of the race. Just a short bit after the aid station, the race moved to a more isolated section of trail. No ATVs or other vehicles seemed to be allowed here and there weren't camping spots so it became very quiet. I was descending into a valley on twisty narrower dirt road. I stopped for a quick potty break which is definitely the opposite of quick when you're a girl ... With compression shorts on.... And am soaking wet from rain.
Sky cleared up for a few minutes

The flagging started to get more infrequent, and I started seeing yellow CAUTION tape rather than the orange flagging tape we were supposed to be watching for. Was this for something else? Isn't Caution a warning to maybe not go that way? These were the out loud conversations going on. Then I spotted another orange flag and let out a strong descriptive phrase of relief.... And then back to yellow Caution tape! Maybe this was last minute reflagging from moose eating flagging or vandals! I was desperate for something definitive and knew I had about 5 miles in the right direction before the aid station would provide it.

It was here, between my potty stop and slowed pace in determining what route to take at each intersection that Nicholette came around a corner and see me ahead in the valley and yelled to me. I waited back a bit. I did a water crossing that soaked my feet (with 10 miles left in the race). I then yelled back to tell her about a hard to see single yellow ribbon at the next intersection. I then made another water crossing. Nicholette yells up to me "We were only supposed to have two water crossings TOTAL. That was our third. Are we on the right path?" She echoed the negative thoughts in my head. My anxiety level was high. I really wasn't in the mood for bonus miles.

I waited back, and she caught up. We went on together playing "spot the orange (or probably yellow, and we hope they're for us) flags" as we went. Oh look, a yellow flag in the middle of an intersection. Left or right? Ugh? At the top of the ridge we see both paths came back together. Wasting time for no reason deciphering flags, but how could we know that? We discussed staying together because two sets of eyes were better than one.

Nicholette pulled out her phone to see if it had enough signal for a compass reading. We were going due north. I knew the map and general route and knew we were supposed to be heading north and would eventually intersect the course again.

A mile since our last orange ribbon, and we pass a camping site. Nicholette yells hello to the people sitting outside. One guy yells back, "you're on the right path." He said several had come through as lost and concerned as we were. He yelled something about in a mile but we couldn't catch what he said.

A mile later of playing "spot the infrequent yellow flags", we reached another dirt road intersection with a spray-painted orange arrow. THIS is what we were looking for. Something definitive to say we were in the right place.

A mile from the aid station, we started the panic again. Around every turn, no aid station. But it was supposed to be 8.2 miles, maybe even less by GPS on the Gamin! Finally at 8.7 we came upon the last aid station, Manchester Creek.

We chatted with the two guys. We talked about who was left out on the course still. Supposedly the two 100Kers were still behind us. Especially now that I knew I would not be taking the whiskey home, Nicholette and I both decided to do a swig of it.

According to the aid station, we had 3.7 miles to the finish. Funny how tenths of a mile become important when you're tired. I insisted as we moved forward that it could only be 3.25 miles by GPS because this was an out-and-back in the race, and I measured it at the start to that aid station.

Miles 30 to 33

Mostly downhill on this out-and-back section of the course. Nicholette didn't remember any of it from when we came through at the beginning of the race.

My friend Steve drove out and happened to meet us 0.25 miles to the finish. After the last aid station, Nicholette and I had decided neither of us would make a final sprint for it and would stick together at this point and cross holding hands. Two DFLs.

We crossed the finish line as we planned right about at 11 hours. Nicholette had completed her first ultramarathon. Once Sherpa John confirmed we were the last 50Kers, he agreed to make another DFL award. As the non-local, I took the one that already existed home. Nicholette would get delivered the new one. And he was cool with letting us each have 50% off a race next year, versus one comp entry. Very very cool.
The finisher item at top is glass and a magnet.
And then the DFL Award Plaque (view from around Mile 8 on the course).

Final Stats?

  • 100K – 5 Starters and 3 Finishers (60% Finishers Rate)
  • 50K – 37 Starters and 26 Finishers (70% Finishers Rate)
  • Finish Time: 11:04:00

And the whiskey? Ultimately, there were two 100K finishers after us. So no whiskey bottle souvenir for this adventure. But it was a fun distraction on what I set out to make a fun race.

My legs were so completely tired from the up and downhill, my feet felt pulverized by the hard surface, and my toes and toenails ached from my feet moving around in my shoes on all the hills. And I had the sunburn too. But I had so much fun, enjoyed the full day, and spent the day in some of the prettiest scenery I could choose for that weekend!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 Running Review: Choosing to Be Undertrained

Ack, even the title makes me squirm, but I'm owning it. My mileage for August was one of my lowest in the last three years. I had a bit of a start when I saw that and then I slowly made peace with it. Well, 80% of my mind has made peace with it. The other 20% is always wanting to DO ALL THE THINGS and is upset and disappointed in myself when I don't.

Where Did the Time Go?!

I chose to put my energy in August into things that weren't lots of miles. And it really was an awesome month. So what have I been up to?

* One week of vacation to tour the state of Maine for the first time with the family meant lots of early toddler hotel room wake ups, lots of finding great little breakfast restaurants, evenings of fun dinners out, and absolutely no running. I don't miss running when I'm gone for a week when my life is full with other things! But talk about a hit to the month's mileage!!

* I've been feeling burnt out on training for things and tired of the heat. It wasn't fun anymore. Motivation was low this month even if I had all the time in the world with nothing competing for my attention.

* I had a 5 day run trip planned for late in the month, so I spent extra time with the family knowing it would even out some of the time away. Weeknights I was around more for dinnertimes and bathtimes. I spent weekends having breakfast with hubby and kids or spending time with hubby's family, which is very important to him, and working weekend miles in here and there or dropping some weekday miles altogether.
Brunch time - cousins!

* I launched a brand new race heading into August - the Big Cedar Endurance Run, scheduled for November 21-22. It's a big undertaking with any inaugural event, but as my first ultra event to produce and first trail race, it's a very different event to put together than my road races. To say it's time consuming would be putting it mildly.

* I spent 5 days in Montana crewing and pacing a friend's 100 miler (Ghosts of Yellowstone 100). Yes, he was supposed to be running 38 hours, and I was supposed to be getting a technical fatigued 25 miles of pacing (a nice long run), but the race day didn't go as planned. No regrets as we had fun in the really cold wet rain that weekend hanging out, sightseeing when we could avoid the rain, and eating out. My first trip to Montana AND an enjoyable time with a good friend who isn't local so I don't get to just say "hey, let's meet up for a run" or "wanna grab dinner?" any time I feel like it.

* I came back from Montana with signs in the universe that felt like extra emphasis needed to be on my family. Rekindling an idea to take my oldest daughter on a trip, just her and me, after happening to find a book about exactly that ("We'll Always Have Paris" by Jennifer Coburn).  (I LOVE travel writing.) A  friend's blog post about the heart-wrenching moment where her 6 year old asked her right before a race to stop leaving.

* I produce 3 races in the space of only 80 days starting with The Showdown Half Marathon and 5K on October 11th. And often my running falls apart completely. I want to continue to get better at balancing it. I've spent a lot of August getting ahead, or at least not falling behind, on all the details I like to infuse that personalize my races so that I hope to run some throughout the fall.
Friends have helped me feel on top of things. Rodica gave me this dolly, which she asked Aubrey to stencil my company logo on. They gave it to me the day they graciously gave up an hour to help me move things around my storage units!

Where Does This Leave Me?

So with 6 weeks since my last marathon, and undertrained as a result of my own choices, I head into my next ultra in a week. After months of doing an awful job of following training plans by my coach, this week I had no assignments. I actually ended up with my most consistent running week in a long time, motivated only by myself. Except the mileage is much lower than the goal always is each week of assigned plans. However, I still choose to celebrate

  • I ran 6 of the last 7 days,
  • I didn't fret about other things in my life while I ran, 
  • all my running was during the workday where I managed all week that rare thing of being able to mentally step away during the day to run, and 
  • I was there for my family by managing to run all week during the workday.

So Saturday I have Tommyknocker Ultras 50K, a 34 mile trail "50K" in the mountains of Colorado. Altitude + climbing + potentially warm with exposed trail. But I picked it for the scenery, and I don't have many concerns about finishing in the time limit. Beautiful locations while moving through the environment makes my heart really happy. Therefore, I will pack my gear, head off on another adventure, and continue to grow and embrace that in the balance of life sometimes race day is just not what you set out for it to be, but it can still be amazing anyway! And no excuses - I made these choices!