Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Trainer's Trying To Kill Me... Again

My personal trainer Donnie is great because there's not a workout that we ever truly repeat. Every workout is based on what's been happening in my life and my training leading up to it and what run workouts and race goals are coming up.

But that means sometimes we have workouts like today. Where I swear... Donnie's trying to kill me. To which when I called Steve after, he said, "Again?" Where I'm so glycogen depleted 25 minutes in that I'm yawning uncontrollably (a sign of that heavy carb burn from intense exercise).

Every once in a while we write down the workout so that I can see all I accomplished, and he thought today was a good day for that again. So for fun, here's today's workout explained...

  • Chest Fly on the Freemotion cable machine - combination set of flat/down/up/alternating, 21 reps, 3 sets. So now that little strand at the top of the pectoral, where your chest muscle meets your underarm, is screaming. Yay for 63 reps!
  • Flat Bench Press - 20 reps of 45 lbs, 3 sets. Yay for 60 reps!
  • 3 sets of the combo of:
  • Single Leg Squat with kettlebell - 8 each side 
  • Backwards Treadmill, 15% incline, 2.5 mph, 20 seconds (yes, jogging backwards)
  •  Squat jump - 10 for first two sets, 8 on last set

  • 3 sets of the combo of:
  • Standing Bar Row, attached on only side, 5 reps. Attaching on only one side means crazy core work to stabilize 
  • Sitting Row on Freemotion cable machine, 45 lbs, 20 reps

  • 3 sets of the combo of:
  • Hamstring curls, 100 lbs!, 8 reps 
  • Single leg lifts (over leg crossed over) on the ball, 8 reps. All hamstring to do the lift and keep the ball stabilized and from rolling out so after the fatigue of the curls, it makes it much harder. 
 So yes, I want a nap. NOW. But off to do some work, run some errands, and take care of my kids. And at some point look at the schedule from my coach to see what I have to run today. YAWN. Send coffee, please.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Round and round we go - 10 Hours, or 53 Loops

My plan was simple. Run. Or walk. OR DON'T. My choice, whatever sounded fun to me. Life had kicked my family in the teeth for the last 3 weeks.

  • I was really sick with an awful cold over Thanksgiving.
  • My mother was sick over our family's Thanksgiving, which is on the Saturday, so we had to cancel Thanksgiving.
  • Steve's grandfather went on a ventilator in the ICU and after several days, the family had to make the hard decision to withdraw care. Steve made a trip to Arkansas early in the week, and then the girls and I went up with him later in the week for a few days.
  • The toddler spent last week with a strep infection and double ear infections.
  • In with all of those items is the fact that I've been trying to work on 2 days of event production for 1000-person marathon events for my New Years Double race. And trying to launch a new event, which has been delayed with all of this.
  • With Steve's grandfather's passing, I had not gone to my planned race for this timeframe, the North Face 50K in San Francisco. I had been looking forward so much to the race, but in the end, it's all for the best - they had some nasty weather conditions!
So I needed a long run after 3 weeks off of running. I needed no goals, no pressure, no planning, no time cutoffs, no DNF possibilities. Just a catered training run.

I talked with Steve and we quietly planned out that I would go down late Friday night to Austin and register the next morning for Run Like The Wind. I told very few people because the last thing I wanted was to feel a need to perform for someone else. I only needed to do what I wanted to do. A supportive, "I bet you can do 48 miles" would have turned into a feeling in my head that I HAD to do 48 miles. 

I signed up for the 24 hour race. Not because I thought I would keep going for 24 hours, but I wanted to have no pressure of time. And if I felt great and wanted to go for 13 hours, that would have been disappointing if I was only signed up for the 12 hour race. Yes, things ultra runners say. Why not be optimistic and hopeful and plan for the best?!

The course was a 1K loop. Yep, 0.6-mile loop. It was located at the Canine Training Center that was the source of the non-profit cause they were raising money for. It was advertised as a "mulchy" loop. After being there for 10 minutes and chatting with others, we found that it was mulchy... when they laid the mulch 3 years ago. At this point it was slightly uneven rocky ground with larger sticks, nice trippable sticks, of leftover hardwood mulch, and small stumps sticking up.

Things I Learned on a Looped Timed Course

  • A loop that short is mind-numbing. I completed 53 loops, that's 53K. That's a lot of loops. My fastest loops were actually around mile 27 when it got dark. I put on my headlamp and with the change in lighting, it was like suddenly the course was new again!! Invigorated me to have a (kinda) change in scenery. Friend Dat said, "Wow, Libby, you're really running. And not that shuffle walk thing you've been doing." Gee, thanks. :-)
  • Late miles I practiced letting runners pull me. As a runner would pass, I would hop on the train and try to keep up for a couple tenths of a mile. Worked well.
  • I had thought I would come up with a strategy of "Run X Loops, Walk Y Loops". Instead, the very flat course quickly became, "Oh, here's a slight uphill, here's a slight downhill." or "here's more even runnable terrain." I changed my methods and started doing walk this section, run that section, walk this section, run that section in every loop instead.
  • I practiced the mentality of being out on a course for 24 hours even if I wasn't going to. Conservatism early in the day, ignoring the need to run hard the first 20 miles, planning out shoe changes as if I was running 60 miles that day even if I wouldn't. 
  • I worked on eating heavier real food - again, practicing mentality of being on a course for a long time. The Race Director, Sam, cooks the whole day. Grill out there and everything. He put up a white board with a "Menu. Now serving..." and would list the foods so you could check every loop. He had chafing dishes set out to keep food warm. I had a half grilled cheese sandwich, sat down for meat lasagna 2 times, and had a grilled chicken breast. This is on top of the ultra food grazing throughout the day. I learned 0.8 mile leisurely walk after a heavier food was good, and then I could run again without having my stomach revolt.
  • Blisters suck. Mentally I was thinking I'd go another 5-8 miles than I did. But at mile 30, after a shoe/sock change, in just one loop, I gave myself a big quarter sized blister on the exact bottom of the ball of my foot. And 3 other small blisters that hardly bothered me. Maybe I didn't lube my feet enough. I'll have to work on that because I'm not blister prone.
  • I learned maybe I need to let a blister get worse before attacking it, and I need a blister kit. I had a couple bad loops with the blister after I couldn't seem to fix it, decided I was done having fun, and called it a day. It was my first time trying to fix a blister with a safety pin by headlamp and I think I was a little cautious, and I think the blister wasn't big enough to drain well yet. And I wasn't prepared with a kit for blisters since it's not usually my problem, so I didn't have duct tape on me or any kind of tape.
  • The time being out at a race is good, even if it's not moving time. I was on the course for 10 hours and 2 minutes officially. Of course my moving time was less than that. Did you see the list of foods I stopped to eat?!
  • Don't take off the timing chip if you can avoid it. At mile 20, I removed the ankle strap timing chip to change shoes. When I came around on the next loop, I didn't hear the timing system ding. Because I wasn't wearing a chip! D'oh! Stupid mistake. I must have been a little out of it. Ran to my chair, saw the chip, put it back on. So officially, I did 52K. LOL. Next shoe change, I loosened the chip and hiked it up my leg but never took it off.
  • I liked the camaraderie, as a back of the packer, of making so many new friends and getting to know existing friends better. People like friends Chip and Dat are so much faster than me that I would normally get 5 minutes before the start to chat. Instead, I felt like I hung out with these people all day.
  • With a 10:30 am start, in December, that was a lot of time in the dark for the 10 hours I was out on course.
So it was a great experience and a lot of fun. I was exhausted from the last 3 weeks and didn't have the fight in me to push for huge major hours or miles. But at 33 miles completed, I am thrilled. 

By the way, the next part of the ultra was jumping in my car at 10 pm and driving 3 1/2 hours home without stopping. Ouch! Worth it though to be there when my girls woke up Sunday morning!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon Race Report

The plan was to test out altitude to see how it personally affected me as a runner, especially with my iron levels now regulated and normal. I was SUPPOSED to be flying into Denver, driving 4 1/2 hours west over the mountains, and then running the Rim Rock Marathon (road race) on Saturday, before the long drive back to Denver and then fly home Sunday.

The night before I was supposed to leave, sudden severe weather alert. 7-14 inches of snow expected all weekend over Vail Pass and the area exactly where I would be driving through. And I've never driven through snow. And I'm driving a rental car I'm not familiar with (a RAV4).

Um, NO!

So Thursday night, I'm scrambling for alternative plans. I'm cancelling hotels in Grand Junction, CO, and rebooking hotels in Denver. Suann and I find a trail half marathon in a Denver suburb. The Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon. I have a plane ticket and a rental car. I might as well do the best I can with it. Roll with the punches!!

Friday, I flew to Denver in the morning. I went to Jelly for a late breakfast for a pork belly eggs benedict. I wandered around downtown. I enjoyed an amazing lunch at Euclid Hall, even sitting at the Chefs bar and watching chef Jorel Pierce work with staff while they cooked lunch.
Fueling right with a roasted marrow bone. One of my favorite foods!

Saturday morning was cold and windy. It was funny that a week before I woke up at 3:50 am for a 6 am 50K race start. But this weekend, I woke up at 6:15 am for a 30 minute drive to an 8:30 am race! It felt like I was getting up so late!

The weather forecast showed snow later in the day, but those rain clouds seem to be rolling in. It was supposed to be rain, because it was supposed to stay mid to high 40s the whole time we raced. The winds were almost 20 mph, and I hemmed and hawwed over what attire for my upper half between wind, somewhat cold, and chance of rain. At the last minute I settled for a short sleeve shirt, changing in the car, and my light but Cocona fabric so thick weave jacket. And in my haste, I never thought about the idea that with now zippable pockets, I should bring my nice gloves anyway. Gloves left in the car - rookie mistake.

The Backcountry Wildnerness Half Marathon was in Highlands Ranch, and my friends Courtney and Luke were very familiar with the race. It was rolling hills, but very runnable, with a nice downhill stretch.
Stolen from Becka. Rolling hills!
It's the plains, the foothills, the highlands, so not a lot of trees. And for this season, mostly yellowed scrubby grass. But you could see for days. And for an altitude test, this was perfect, moving between 6000 and 6500 feet elevation the whole time.
Great views! I could even see downtown Denver's taller building 20 miles away!

I met up with Becka and her sister L before the race. I'd just seen Becka a couple weeks before at Palo Duro 50K but it was great to see her again.
Me and Becka before the race
We all lined up and then had to all get re-sorted when they figured out they had lined us all up on the wrong side of the start line. The race advertised it was 95% dirt trail. Um, no. It was easily 1.3ish miles until we got off the sidewalk. Oh, and the first few miles are all uphill, which would be nice downhill at the end, but hard to get started.

The views were awesome, and I snapped a few pictures of the storm rolling in.

And then at 4 miles in, the temperature seemed to drop about 15 degrees. And the sleet started.

Against my Brooks earwarmer, I could hear *plink* *plink plink* of the sleet. And I could hear *crack crack* *crack* as it hit the grass. Miserable, and through mile 4 my hands got progressively more frozen.

Mile 5, and the sleet turns to blowing snow. Giant flakes. Blowing into my eyelashes, into my mouth, and I can feel it melting into the side of the earwarmer. And my hands are seriously cold and I'm so mad I don't have gloves.

From miles 5 to 9, I run mostly with my hands shoved deep into my pockets, and my handheld Amphipod water bottle shoved up between my shirt and my jacket, with my pocketed hands underneath it to keep it secure and from falling out. I'm amazed I keep a good pace. I realize that slowing down just means longer to be freezing.
You can see the flecks of snow falling against the backdrop of the bushes on the sides
Mile 9-10 has a nice more undulating, slightly more technical, single track section through some barren trees. Mile 11 I start speeding up. It's more downhill, and I know I'm set for a big trail half PR. I pass a handful or slightly more in the last two miles.

The last mile is back on sidewalk. So again... 95% dirt trail? No. More like 82% trail.

And then the deadly uphill for 20 paces. STRAIGHT uphill. And I've spent most of this race slightly pushing pace and huffing and puffing from the altitude. And my mind and body say "no, just no". And 3 people pass me on that tiny super short uphill, as I powerwalk up it. Because any more huffing and puffing and I may just pass out or throw up in the finish corral.

Becka and her sister are 2 of the 3 to pass me in that last second, which is at least nice to finish right behind them. A new trail half marathon PR by 18 minutes with a time of 2:51 in snow and altitude makes me so happy (previous PR was Grasslands Half at 3:09). Later I saw that I ran even splits over the course, and I'm very happy about that!

The medal is very unimpressive. An extremely cheap small dog tag with the race name and date. It was Veterans Day weekend though so perhaps that was the tie-in, although no tie-in to the date was ever mentioned.
Stole this from Becka's page. Don't even know where I've put this medal at this moment.

I'm freezing, and there's no post-race food left for us, which is fine for me since I don't normally want anything right after anyway. So a quick goodbye and then 40 minutes warming up in my car so that I could feel my fingers again. SO. FROZEN.

Oh, the shirt by the way, was an okay gender-specific technical shirt. Except I wore it the other day and the seam around the neck ever so slightly chafed me all the way around. I've never had a shirt do that before, so that's interesting.
Back of the shirt
I went for brunch to Rioja back in downtown. Started with a house made doughnut filled with lemon curd and marscarpone cheese with a blueberry compote, and then their eggs benedict. Delicious!

Next up? North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco on December 1st. I'm running the 50K. Then a quick 18 hours in Napa of food and wine!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 50K - The Aftermath

I knew I fell hard at Rocky Raccoon 50K (race report here). But my pride was hurt too. And I felt wimpy because trailrunners fall - it happens. So why did I have so much pain the second half of the race and drag myself to a sub-optimal overall performance?

A trip to the sports chiropractor Monday, two days after the race, was extremely revealing.

That unusual pain in my left foot, the foot that hit the tree root? The pain that caused my friend Dat, on seeing me at mile 19 on an out-and-back stretch, caused him to say I was walking "gingerly" and he wondered what had happened? The foot that the night after the race was over, I was wondering if I broke something in the middle of my foot, that was visibly swollen the day after on Sunday too?!

Looks like I locked up my navicular (I had to look up how to even spell this). It's a bone on the top of the midfoot. And if it's off, due to a shock or jarring action, you aren't going to do a good job of being able to flex and bend at the ankle. Which is kinda something as runners we do I don't know, a bazillion times, during a 50K?!?

Now what about the whiplash feeling that wasn't going away, and the odd asymmetrical pains? Right achilles, left hamstring, right glute, left glute medius? When I fell, my body got TORQUED. Never a good weird. I was twisted, from my hips to my shoulders, and had run/walked like that for 20 miles. And to show how twisted, normally when laying face down on a table, my normal out-of-alignment tendencies would have my left hit slightly raised of the table while the right hip is level. That's how my pelvis and sacrum normally get out-of-sorts.

Instead, this time, my left hip was against the table, and my right hip was listened. So I had twisted against the grain of my normal tendency to twist the other way. The biomechanical effects are traumatic.

Happy to say that the great people of Texas Chirosport, and Dr. Chris Miller, got me all fixed up after 1 1/2 hours of poking, prodding, neuro-stimulation, icing, muscle work, and adjustments!

Yesterday's 4.2 mile run I noticed how much more normal my body felt. So happy that it was a simple alignment fix. So so happy I already had a recovery appointment at the sport chiropractor and that I hadn't kept running and putting miles on a twisted torso!

The Harder They Run, The Harder They Fall - 2012 Rocky Raccoon 50K Race Report

Rocky Raccoon 50K was my goal race. I had laid out a couple goals, and since it was my 1 year 50K-iversary, I at a minimum wanted a course PR. Given my level of fitness since last year's race, that was considered totally doable. And I had a decent chance at pushing myself to a PR... Until I wiped out (but we'll get to that and then read the post here of the aftermath of how much the fall screwed me up!).

I was doing this race all alone. My buddies from last year, Corina, Fiona, and Alicia, weren't returning, which was sad to not have their company. Luckily, a 3 hour drive to Huntsville later, and I run into several friends (Crisann, Shauna, and Maggie) at the hotel's front desk!

We all carpooled to get our race packets and then went to dinner at the Farmhouse Cafe.
And I thought I was going to have microwave pasta in my hotel room! Friends!
I was sad to not be getting their delicious peanut butter pie, but I didn't need that the night BEFORE the race. I was asleep by 9:30 pm for my early wakeup call.

And it was early! 3:50 am I was up and getting dressed. 4:45 am I pulled into the park ranger station. With trail races, always plan extra time because of the bottleneck of the ranger station, especially as this time we all had to pay $5 to get in. The line moves fast but can get long quickly!

Parked and settled 50 minutes before the race start. Kathy and I scope out the race site. When Deborah and Anita arrive, we get our communal area set up with drop bags and camp chairs.
New friends Deborah, Anita, Kathy, and Robin

Loop 1 (15.5 Miles)
6 am, we start with headlamps on, planning to spend the next 6 or so miles in pitch dark. I know the course so I'm smarter than last year. Broken asphalt and a slow uphill for the first mile. Then switchbacks and roots for another mile and a half before coming out to the fire road.

Most of the first loop went really well... except mile 11. I'll get to that in a second. I had a goal to stay sub-14:00 pace to get a new Personal Record after my 7:18 finish 6 weeks before in Memphis at Bartlett Park Ultras 50K. Aid station to aid station, my paces came in... 13:51, 13:49, 14:13 (time includes a big fall), 13:53 (from fall to aid station), 16:52 (1.5 miles of ugh, something's wrong), 13:32 (0.9 miles to the base camp of "just get home" feelings). And then downhill from there......

The Big Fall
I'm rocking along at a great pace through a slightly twisty singletrack section of rooty sandy dirt trail. The top 25Kers are now passing so I'm on the look out for them. Luckily this section is wider singletrack, as is most of the course. Mile 11, I hit a root with my left toe. Bam, right foot step. Bam, left foot step, trying to get my legs back under me but can't and I'm accelerating. Boom, I must have tucked in my arms some because... OOMPH. Exact sound from my lips, and I slam to the ground on my ENTIRE right side and slide a few inches in the sandy dirt. Luckily, to me, I hadn't come down on a wrist, elbow, or knee, but uniformly as dirt covered me in one long line from my shoulder to my ankle. Luckily, no roots that I landed on. But note for the pictures below, there was NO mud. The caking of dirt engrained miles later for the race photographer shows how hard I hit.

The other indication of how hard I hit? 2 fast guys in the top 15 of the 25K were behind me when it happened. They stopped. One went to get my water bottle wherever it had flown to in front of me. The other helped me up. They looked me up and down carefully, with a lot of "Are you okay?!?" Checking for blood to emerge under the dirt. I'm obviously embarrassed and I feel really bad that I'm holding up two people who are competitive in this field. I scan myself and say, "I'm more dirty than anything else. You guys need to GO. I'm okay."

And I thought I was. I ran into the aid station a mile later still on PR pace. Aid station volunteers expressed big surprise at my fall and helped me use a gallon water jug to wash off my dirty hands from using the ground to get up and holding a filthy dirt covered water bottle.

I leave the aid station, and my stomach starts to turn. Something feels off. I slow it down for a lot of the next mile and a half assessing. I get a mile from the end of Loop 1 of 2 though and the "fight or flight" situation that just wants me to get HOME kicks in and I'm back at PR pace.

Into base camp, and I pour water down my arm to clean up a little. I hurry to change my shoes. I know in my head something's wrong but so in denial. Still shooting for the PR. I forget to leave my headlamp but luckily see Crisann a half mile on my way back out, and pass it to her to throw in my bag (such a doll to help!).

Loop 2 (15.5 miles)
And then I begin to feel whiplash. Like I had been rear-ended. I identify places that are wrong. Left foot, right Achilles, left hamstring, right glute, left glute medius, and interestingly left bicep throbs (I think from gripping my water bottle harder as I fell). I decide these are not normal 50K pains for me; the blessing of this being my 6th one is I somewhat know what to expect. My right side hurts from hitting the ground, and my left side seems to hurt from tensing or bracing while trying not to hit the ground.

The second 15.5 mile loop is miserable. And comes down to three stories...

1) Aid station nutrition. 
This race lacks in the things *I* want. No potatoes the whole time. I come into Aid Station 1, headed up by Tejas Trails Joe Prusaitis, and say "I will get you one of my children for a potato." My friend Kay comes in right as I say this, my first time to see her that day, and says, "But which child?!?" And I say, "The person with the potato can pick." They are also out of coca-cola.

Aid Station 2, no coca-cola, and I tell the volunteer, because now I'm in pain and miserable and have no happy endorphins, "If I had a pen right now, I would stab it into my jugular."

Aid Station 3, 20 paces from station, I yell, "Do you have coke?" "YES!" "Oh my gosh, you are my best friends ever" and I tear up and almost start crying. I needed that boost.

2) "You Must Be Jeff!"
Mile 19 is an out and back, a long one, on a jeep fire road. A guy coming back says a hello to his friend in front of me and then when he passes me says, "Now you keep up with Jeff!" Um, OKAY! Takes me 2-3 minutes to catch the guy, but I am on a mission of distraction from my pain. "You must be Jeff!" What a surprised face from the guy. I tell him what just happened, and we have a good laugh. We actually run together for another mile because we are both fans of scenic races and both working on marathons or longer in 50 states (he's at 35 states!). So we chat and compare notes on different races! Then he loses me at the aid station, but I had a chance to talk to him after the race and meet his wife, Sherri, who did the 25K that day. Great to make new friends!

3) New friends make miles pass faster! 
Miles 27-30 or so I spent with a guy named Richard. Super nice guy. His first ultra but he had been racking up the marathons this year. I want to say 17 this year alone! We had great discussions that helped the time pass, and we had friends in common, so again, nice to make a friend on the trail, and I hope to run into him at a future race.

In the end, I crossed in 8:04:30. Still an 18 minute course PR. But far from my 50K PR. And I'm okay with that. I'm proud that I didn't give up and pushed through a very uncomfortable 20 miles after an incident that happens to all trailrunners here and there!
Much nicer than last year's finisher item, I must say.
Then, I jumped in the car, drove 3 hours back hurried so I could shower, clean up, and run to see my friend Adam, and my girlfriends Lesley, Sharon, and Elaine to enjoy a yummy Mexican dinner before Adam headed home to Arizona the next day!
Love these people!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Palo Duro Canyon 50K 2012 Race Report

It's been 2 weeks since Palo Duro Trail Run 50K, but I thought I should put a few thoughts down for future reference. I was excited to go on this trip with friends, but I was not terribly excited about the race. My body had felt a little out of sorts since my 50K race in Memphis 3 weeks before coupled with the physical reactions I was having to race directing The Showdown Half Marathon. This was a 50K training run, no more, no less, before my goal race, the Rocky Raccoon 50k two weeks later.

It's a long drive. 6 1/2 to 7 hours-ish, and there's NOTHING along the way. Traveling with Monica (@thepurplerunner) and Lesley (@racingitoff), we played exciting games like "Name That Crop" (note: we need to learn to identify more than just cotton).

Road Trip!
A super sweet surprise at the hotel. A "Welcome to Canyon" bag with West Texas A&M University goodies  from friend Sarah who I had met when she did the New Years Double!

Pasta dinner was good standard spaghetti and garlic bread. I avoided the tiramisu since I don't do dairy the night before a race, but it looked good! Enjoyed seeing friends like Becka, Tony, Suann, Martin, Mark, Corina, and Hari. The race briefing was a little long-winded, but better too much info than not enough.
Martin and Suann look a little bored!
It's a 20 minute or so drive to the canyon in the morning, and we were there on the early side so parking was easy with great volunteers directing. Annoying that the start location was down a rocky eroded hill so my little rolling, heavy (since filled with ice) cooler had an awful time, so this is a warning for anyone reading this report! A cooler with a handler you can carry!

We started the race in the dark. Maybe 200 or so of us between the 50K and 50M. 38 degrees, and I'm in a race singlet. I knew it could get a little hot in the canyon so I dressed for later in the day. But we're huddling together for warmth and wishing we had gloves. I saw my friends Tim and Mark in the start corral. Luckily, it was only about 3 1/2 miles before dawn so not much headlamp time. The road runners out there made me feel like a super veteran trailrunner next to some of them, which is funny since I think of myself as still such a newbie.
Before the race start

Girl behind me in the first quarter mile to her boyfriend: "Why are we stopping?" "What's the hold up?" "Why's everyone walking?"
Welcome to the early bottleneck of a trail race.

Her to boyfriend: "If you need to just go, pass everyone. You just open it up and go!" Um, we're a quarter mile in. Really the time to be telling him to just "open it up". It's not a 200 meter dash.

Me: "First trail race?"
Her: "Second but this is my longest one."
Me: "Just take it slow. We have a long day ahead of us."
I'm sure she gave me a whatever eye roll.

1 mile in, a wider section and I go to pass the girl in front of me. And just as I'm passing her, she faceplants. Sigh. 3 people behind her stop immediately to help her up. My heart rate zooms up into the high Zone 3. No falls today, please!
Sunrise late in the mini-loop of 6 miles
I was able to run with my friends Gates and Becka for a couple miles on this 6 mile first mini-loop we did.

Next is a 12.5 mile loop. Doing well, feeling fine, I'm holding PR pace. I don't even realize it and end up running with friend Kevin for a mile or so at mile 10 - can't recognize anyone when they are wearing sunglasses, darn it! Thank goodness he told me the next day. I finish the loop, and I'm pacing okay, but I'm getting HOT at this point. I am happy though the aid stations had salted potatoes and coca-cola! And super nice volunteers!

Last 12.5 mile loop time. I get about 2 miles into it, and the heat suddenly hits me hard. I knew it was getting hot, but all of a sudden, it's like the heat is radiating off of every rock, grain of sand, and bush. And there is NO shade on this course. I am overheating and fast. My friend Matt is doing the 50M and passes me at mile 21. I say hi and almost burst into tears. He walks with me for a second. I vent, then backtrack as he has a much longer day ahead and self-deprecatingly talk about how unprepared for this heat *I* am.

I come into the aid station at mile 22 and have run out of water in my handheld a long 1/2 mile before that. They refill my water with ice cold water and sit me on a bench in the shade of a little bush and tell me not to sit too long. I tell them I'm thinking of DNFing. I have a bigger goal race in 2 weeks and heat exhaustion and recovery from that is NOT in my plan. We put ice all down the front of my sports bra, up my compression shorts all around the bottom, and inside my wristband (which worked really well to cool me down). The volunteer said, "What else do you need?" I said, "A pep talk." And he did a perfect job - I was already 22 miles in, I'd come all this way to just not finish?!?

So I decided to JUST FINISH. No more than that. No time goals. No cares. Just safety first. Move from aid station to aid station. In full sun. We were 5 hours in and the big thermometer at that aid station already showed 90 degrees, and the volunteers said the one across the parking lot was showing 95 degrees.
So hot but still smiling.
2.5 miles to Aid Station 2. I meet Julio at the early side who is a super nice guy and we chit chat through a mile or so of this section before he moves on. I'm seriously overheating again and drink all 20 ozs of water a few minutes out from the aid station. They put a ziploc bag of ice down the back of my sports bra. One of the nice aid station ladies takes a wet paper towel and completely cleans off my salt-crusted face. Another girl doing the 50K, a big time trail veteran you can tell, takes ice and wraps it in paper towels and tells me to rub it along my exposed skin as I go. It's the hardest 3 miles next and completely exposed in the blazing sun.
No shade to be found anywhere!
Bike medics come up to me a half-mile into this 3 mile section and follow me for a half-mile. I finally convince them I'm not doing anything stupid today, and I'm just walking it into the finish and they go ahead to find more overheated suckers like me.

Next aid station: more ice. And my gosh, the flies that have plagued the canyon all day (and yes, they are BITING flies) are all over this aid staiton. 1 more mile to the last aid station. A slightly shaded area, that's refreshing.

Last aid station I breeze through quickly, grabbing some ice for my bra again. Let's just get this done.

8:37:53, and my 5th 50K DONE. I'm relieved. It's now 105 degrees in the canyon. It was just miserable out there.
Photo from Monica
I will say the canyon was beautiful, but the temperature swing of 70 degrees over the day was exhausting. Big congrats to my friends Lesley and Tony who were out there to do the 50M and completed 37.5 miles in that grueling heat. And to my friend Suann who, even with a 35 minute slower time due to heat, cemented 3rd place overall female.

Interestingly enough, I ended up 8th female under age 40 of the 15 who started. Midpack with an 8:38?!? That's how you KNOW it was a hard day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Taper Madness is Strong with This One

Sigh. Taper can be rough. This one has been rougher than most. Maybe because I just ran a 50K race 2 weeks ago. Or maybe it's because of my achin' knee. Oh yeah, the knee...

I have a tendency to pronate my feet and have my arches collapse down a little when I'm fatigued. Luckily, my trainer Donnie and I have worked very hard to make all my stabilizer muscles stronger so that doesn't happen over the last year of continuous training. But over 20-30 miles? Yeah, that's tiring for all those little muscles. Basically... I end up running a little knock-kneed when I'm tired!

See, this zebra probably just ran 30 miles. Look at his poor knees!
So the inside of my knees (posterior tibialis actually) got tired at the end of Woodstock 50 Mile. Then, they were tender during my PR at the Bartlett Park Ultras 50K. After a hard week at Showdown Half Marathon, they were tender again. And after the V-cut, rutted, rolling, narrow single track terrain of Palo Duro Canyon 50K, they were achy.

So with that background, here's what taper and race preparations for shooting for a big time goal have been like this go-around, for this race (because I do race quite a lot compared to a lot of runners), for the two weeks leading up to the race...

  • I'M INJURED - That darn aching knee!
Emotionally: Here's the place to emotionally freak out and fall apart. And it sounds a little something like this... I race a lot more than other people. People like to watch others fail. Everyone's sitting around waiting and begging for an overuse injury from me, from everyone, it's not even personal to me, and then they can all point fingers and say "See? She was doing too many races. See! I told you so. See! That wouldn't happen to ME." 
Yeah, that's so NOT pretty to say. 
Analytically: This is about me. Not about other people's hang-ups about themselves. And the whole thing is... I don't have an overuse injury. I'm hyper-sensitive to things that feel off, and I'm catching this before it gets bad. I'm not actively running through uncomfortableness these last 2 weeks. 3 chiropractor visits in the 2 weeks leading up to race day. Support kinesiotaping on Thursday to head into Saturday's race. I'm foam rolling (which is painful with my fibromyalgia but good to know on my anterior tibialis to help the knee get better) and using contrast heat and icing. I'm doing everything to get 100% by race day.
  • I'M OUT OF SHAPE - I ran right around 6 miles last week. I haven't run yet this week. Oh, nevermind that part where I ran 31 miles 10 days ago. 
Emotionally: I'm obviously completely out of shape - my lungs have shut down, my heart's filled with slow-moving sludge, and my muscles have evaporated.
Analytically: No one loses significant fitness in 10 days, and I'm actually letting my posterior tibialis recover so I DON'T go into this race risking injury.
  • I'VE TURNED TO FLAB - I'm up 4 pounds from a month ago. When I direct a race, I tend to throw myself 100% into it the last 3 weeks and my stress reactions naturally are not to eat, drink, or sleep. Rather than "stress-starve", I tried to focus on eating through preparations for The Showdown Half Marathon. So instead I was stress-eating.
Emotionally: There's no way I can hold PR pace carrying a WHOLE EXTRA FOUR POUNDS for 31 miles!!! And that 4 pounds gained is 100% fat, while the rest of my body in the last 10 days has also been turning completely to fat, so now I'm this big flabby mess.
Analytically: It's really hard to fight the numbers (said the mathematician). So I demanded my trainer Donnie take body fat measurements on Monday. And while he knew there was no rational reason, he sweetly did it anyway. 7 point skinfold measurements with the caliper and my body fat % hasn't really moved, and in fact, Donnie continues to notice that it's easier to get the pinch for each measure, to "pick the skin off", which is a sign of continued fat loss.
  • I CAN'T DO THIS! Yes, taper brings out the big wimp in me. A total lack of confidence.

Emotionally: A big part of me still thinks my race where I had a big 50K PR at a month ago must have been 4 miles short! ;-)
Analytically: I did a 7:18 in very rooty terrain with hot and humid racing conditions. Rocky should be better terrain and conditions. To regain confidence, my trainer Donnie, who has a degrees in sports psychology I'll add, has had me bench-pressing the last two weeks. You know, since you might have to lay flat on your back and push something away with your chest muscles in the middle of the race. Uh, no! It's a visible strength marker. Seeing the plates, the heft of the bar, and then getting it done at 75, 85, or 95 lbs... it makes me feel strong, in a way that's so much less obvious in an endurance event like ultramarathons. It has been such good medicine for me that I think I want it to always be a part of my taper plans!

  • I SHOULD BE ABLE TO RUN THIS IN MY SLEEP. My "A" Goal for this race will have to mean that everything's going right. There's no room for error, for things to be a little "off", or for hesitations.
Emotionally: When pushing and in pain, life becomes one big "just get to the next aid station" in an ultra. So shouldn't you know where the next aid station is? And when you want to wimp out, you want to be able to turn back on yourself and say, "Look, this is the hardest part of the course. There's a nice worn non-rooty Jeep fire road coming up!"
Analytically: Preparation makes perfect. I know that approximately 80 25K runners will probably catch me and pass me in miles 12-15 so I'll lose time there. Rereading last year's race report reminds me to be sensitive to the uphills in the dark in the first hour because I'm not so great at perception of an uphill in a headlamp's view only. With preparation, I can take the "get to the next aid station" feel and break it down further into "get to the Jeep road", "get to the marshy section", etc. On multi-loop courses, I've even broken it down to "get to that flagged marker by the big tree" and other crazy things.

So there's some insight into how these last 2 weeks have been. I blog things like this because it's fun to reflect a year or two down the road, and I have no doubt this post will be interesting, very interesting, to me later!

PR... Or Bust? Rocky Raccoon 50K 2012 Looms Close

I don't know why I'm putting such pressure on myself about this race. I have the Rocky Raccoon 50K on Saturday. It will be the first anniversary of my first 50K there one year ago. It's been an amazing year. Since then I've done 4 more 50Ks (Wild Hare, Gorge Waterfalls, Bartlett Park Ultras, and Palo Duro), my first 50M (Run Woodstock), and 5 marathons (Cross Timbers, Garmin Oz, Oklahoma City, New Jersey, San Francisco). I've slowly become a little faster. For months, I've been saying that I wanted to go back to Rocky Raccoon and blow last year's time out of the water (last year's time was an 8:22).

But a month ago, I kinda did that without intending to, finishing Bartlett Park Ultras 50K with a 7:18 and sobs of happiness. Since then, I directed a new half marathon, The Showdown Half Marathon, and directing a race is completely draining for me. I spent a week walking around afterwards like a zombie, then Palo Duro 50K happened, and it was 105 degrees, and I walked the last 9 miles knowing I still wanted to race Rocky Raccoon.

I feel like life hasn't really slowed down. But I hold on to big goals for Rocky.

GOAL A: Sub-7 (13:30 pace) -- yeah, I said it, I'd love LOVE love to go under 7 hours in a 50K. That to me symbolizes a lot in a move I've been making to the midpack.

GOAL B: Sub-7:18 (14:06 pace) - a new PR

GOAL C: 7:18 to 7:30 - establishing consistency with my current PR, even if I don't break it, would be good too.

GOAL D: Sub-8:22 - better my time from last year. Goal D should be achievable at this point for me even if the race conditions are awful.

I'm going to go for it in a way I haven't quite done before. At a push where I feel a much higher likelihood that if it doesn't go well, I will combust magnificently out on the course. Nothing like a crash and burn with a 5 mile death march at the end of the 50K. But instead I'll hope that I can keep that push up the whole 7 hours.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Movin' On Up... To the Midpack

I still have a race report to come in the near future for the Bartlett Park Ultra 50K I ran on September 22. A completely impulsive trip after a little texting and looking at race calendars with my friend Suann, we came up  with and decided to drive 7.5 hours on a Friday night to run an ultra the next day in Memphis. We both knew what the world might say. I had just run my first 50 mile race only 2 weeks before. I've seen people take months to mentally and physically recover from that wear and tear. And Suann had just raced, and placed 2nd overall female, in a tough trail marathon the weekend before. All conventional wisdom said that we were foolish. We left for the race Friday at 5:30 pm.

A midnight stop at Forrest City to sleep at the hotel for 4 1/2 hours, back on the road for an hour to roll into Bartlett, a suburb of Memphis, to pick up our race packets and make final preparations laying out our gear for the looped race course.
Long drive!

Even though it was hot and humid, it turned out to be a really great race day for me. My Personal Record going into this race was an 8:22 at Rocky Raccoon 50K last November. I kept a very consistent pace and just held on tight. In the end, an hour and 4 minute improvement on my PR with a finish of 7:18:11.

A 24 oz Polar water bottle for all entrants, and
a finisher medal when we were done!

But what really struck me was how different a race like this felt with finishing 1 hr faster. Typically I'm one of the last 5 on the course... by like a LOT of time. This time I was 6th overall female (6th out of 15 females) and 42/61 in overall race placement!!

Back of the Pack:

  • I spend most of the race never seeing a soul except for the aid station volunteers.
  • It's pretty quiet most of the race and any rustle I hear is an animal.
  • It can be awfully hot out there by the mid-afternoon for races with 7 am starts.
  • You feel like your day is spent based on the time when you cross the finish line.

And now Back of the Midpack:

  • At this race in twisty-turny single track, in loops 3 and 4, I could often see someone ahead or behind me. I could occasionally hear conversation among several runners traveling in two's.
  • A rustling sound in the woods was about 50/50 other runners vs animals.
  • Passing runners is motivating. With  ven race splits and people slowing down in the heat, I slowly tracked down runners through the trees and RAN them down to pass. A lot of the runners I would find were women so I tried to use that to improve my placing, not realizing I was placing myself in the top 10 even.
  • While it was mid 80s when I finished, I felt way less drained than another hour in those high temps.
  • When I finished, we were happy that we had plenty of time for a sit down lunch and then still get on the road and be home at midnight!

Even before I knew my standings the next day after the race, I said to Suann based on these mid-race observations, "I think that PR improvement just moved me from back of the pack to back of the MIDPACK!!"

And that's pretty fun. I loved running ultras before, and if other days find me back of the pack, that's cool; I'm comfortable there. However, it's kinda nice to know in the future maybe I won't spend most of the race alone and worried about cutoffs (a problem that has plagued me this year) and maybe enjoy a little more company while out in the middle of nature. Regardless, HAPPY RUNNING!

Friday, September 14, 2012

50 Miles of Thanks

It took a lot of great people's support to get me to the start line, and uninjured and relatively happy at the finish line, of my first 50 mile race at Run Woodstock. Yes, after talking about this race non-stop for 2 weeks before it and non-stop for several days since finishing (even the novel I wrote called a race report), this is my last post about it.

I wanted a whole post just to thank these awesome people. I have SO many running friends who provide encouragement and whose own actions inspire me daily. But those more directly involved need special mention. I've referred to these amazing peeps in the past as Team Libby, with the belief that we all need and have a "Team" if we want it and ask for it. I hope they know I am completely on their Team too!

  • My husband Steve - He put up with 10-15 hour training weeks. He encourages me to dream big and act big. He defies old-fashioned viewpoints on the roles of parents in a family by without hesitation watching the girls during long runs or quick race trips like this one. I've watched firsthand other families where the wife/mother is not supported to run if the husband has to watch the children. And every once in a while, I can get him to buy in and do some crazy stuff with me! ;-) But no running. :-)
Ziplining in Hawaii - yeah, my idea. We had a blast!
  • My crew, pacer, social media liaison, and friend Lesley - Lesley (@racingitoff) is a great running friend. It turns out she also paced me 17 miles with bronchitis she learned when we got home. Even more amazing. She was an essential part of my success on this trip. She kept me calm, she tracked down a race director when I ran into problems on the course, she pulled off my stinky socks at mile 33, she kept family and friends apprised of my condition throughout the day via Facebook and Twitter, and she told me to run harder and pull out a 1 minute sprint down to an 8:48 pace at the end of 50 miles!
Helping me remember to smile at mile 40
  • My coach Jeremy Day - Jeremy's an ultrarunner to the extreme as far as I'm concerned. While I was off running "just" 50 miles (it's all relative), he completed the very difficult Superior 100 in Minnesota in a time of 37 1/2 hours. Yes, that's a day and a half of running! I've been blessed with Jeremy as a coach. I approached him in late February while preparing for Gorge Waterfalls 50K and knowing Jemez 50K and Chattanooga Stage Race were looming in my future running. I was his first coaching client, but it's been a great fit. Since I'm a certified running coach, I know the basics to form a plan, but his ultrarunning experience has proved invaluable and having a coach keeps me accountable to completing each workout goal.  (If you are looking for a great running coach and need referral details, just let me know!)
Jeremy tackling Superior 100... or about to wrestle a crocodile, eh, mate?
  • My trainer Donnie Campbell - Donnie's a triathlete and runner himself and knows a whole lot about sports psychology, so we're a good fit. I am not a biomechanically efficient runner naturally - my whole anatomy seems to want me injured. But over the last 9 months with Donnie, he has done an amazing job of helping me build a base, get faster, and NOT get injured, while also building strength, dropping fat, rebalancing unbalanced muscle groups, increasing stability on the trails, and gaining endurance. I credit the 3 hours of strength training a week with him for making the 50 miler not so painful on  my legs muscles while also helping me recover a lot faster than I would have expected from stories of other ultrarunners. He's also very skilled at VO2 testing which has let me lead with my heart (rate, that is) to learn to run faster and to see the improvements as I get stronger.  (If you are looking for a great personal trainer and need referral details, just let me know!)

  • My sports chiropractor Chris Miller - I've been going to Chris from Texas Chirosport for 6 years. He's a runner too so he "gets" us. I would definitely count him as a friend more than just a practitioner. He keeps me healthy, fixes any tweaks, and gives me advice. He's a crucial part of "Team Libby", passing info back for my coach and trainer and accepting feedback from them about the good and bad goings-on of my training in the moment. An essential part of my healthy finish! (If you are looking for a great chiropractor and need referral details, just let me know!)
  • My dear friends - I can't mention everyone but some people deserve extra shoutouts today. Some of these people I don't get to spend much time with, others I haven't met at all. Through technology however, amazingly supportive people find each other and motivate and inspire each other, and I want to celebrate that too.
  • Elaine (@trigirlruns42k) and I have been friends for a few years now. She has an infectious smile. She's more zen to my high anxiety and can calm me down. But she can get riled up with me when the time calls for it! She's often been there when I needed a run partner, and miles clip by quickly with her. We've been to Kansas together, and San Francisco. I look forward to seeing what out-of-town races are ahead for this girl, and I cheer her on hard as her triathlon passions take her to new distances!
Elaine in the navy shirt. Gal pals at Big D 2012
  • Alicia (@trailscaredycat) is my #BBFL (bed buddy for life). We met through NTX Runners club and in our first run together over a year and a half ago, we talked about doing a 50K. We did our first 50K together at Rocky Raccoon and then journeyed to Wild Hare together again 2 weeks later. Road trips are fun with this girl, and I have no problem sharing a bed with her and letting everyone know how awesome it is to have her in my life. :-) While her passion for triathlon grows stronger this year (first half Ironman in a little over a week), she's still willing to make time for a run together on occasion so we can catch up. 
Rocky Raccoon 50K - my mouth's full of food but I'm still trying to smile!
  • Suann (@ultra_honeybee) is an adventurer like I strive to be. She has spent a lot of the summer training and running off to hike or run in fun places. We're kindred that way in our love of travel and seeing new amazing things. I was blessed to travel to Squamish 50 Mile in Vancouver, Canada with Suann and see firsthand her fight for a 14 hour finish on a very difficult course. She inspires me and never ever makes my dreams seem silly or out of reach.
New Years Double
  • Sarah and I have known each other for about 4 years. We've spent seasons training together for almost every run and seasons where our runs never collided. But we've always stayed friends through it. As she gets active since her last baby was born a few months ago, I've been lucky to get the chance again to run with her now and again. She's a great cheerleader in my life who can laugh at the crazy stuff I propose. 
New York City Half Marathon 2009
  • Sharon (@5dolla_Runna) is a frequent run buddy who grounds me with her wisdom. Her ability to blow off things that are really the small stuff. And she inspires me, like her incredibly huge improvement on her half marathon personal record last weekend. It's always wonderful to run with Sharon. 
Sharon on the far left. My gal pals with Mr. Bart Yasso
  • Catherine (@paprika1640) is a busy mom in a two-runner two-police officer family with 4 kids. I never get to see Catherine as much as I would like, especially as she gets more involved in triathlon with our mutual friends. But a recent long run with Catherine reminded me again of how much I enjoy runs with her. Now if only life would slow down that it could happen more often! 
Catherine far right at a run on Trinity Trails
  • Courtney (@cisforcourtney) is one of those cheerleaders that I have never met but feel very connected to. She's very encouraging but not cloyingly, sickeningly sweetly so. You know, it's very authentic. You know that she means it. She sent me a note race day morning about more cowbell that I saw just as I started my race, and it lifted me up. I enjoy keeping up with her via Facebook, Twitter, and texts, and look forward to a future chance to meet her in person. 
Courtney with husband and equally amazing runner Luke
  • Desiree (@runbecause) may find herself surprised to be here. Again, someone I have never met. And only been more connected on Twitter with her for the last couple months since realizing she was someone my coach had run with (put two and two together!). But she is completely inspiring, and more alike than she may realize with her snarky attitude! Tomorrow she runs the Pine To Palm 100 Mile. And has rocked a couple 50 mile races recently. And just completely amazes me. Someone I hope to get the chance to meet with someday and maybe even run with! 
Mount Hood 50 Miler Rock Star!
  • Josh and Reece are both "file under epic here". I had the pleasure to run with them after my DNF at Jemez 50K, and they reminded me how ultrarunners should act and treat each other after I'd had a nasty encounter with a runner. This summer I have watched Josh tackle his first 100 miler at the difficult Western States 100 and Reece complete a sub-30 100 miler at the second most difficult 100 out there, the Wasatch Front 100. Reece was running Wasatch while I was running my 50 at Woodstock, but Lesley would keep me up to date when I asked about his progress through the day. Knowing the difficulty of what he was doing made my fifty seem so much more reasonable and cut down my complaining by just a little. These are two people who have never questioned me trying to run long at my VERY back-of-the-pack pace and have never treated me like I don't belong here. That means more than I can say.
They make awesome look easy - Reece, Jeremy, and Josh.
So there you go. My inspirations, my cheerleaders, my friends, the people who got me to the start and motivated me to the finish. Thanks for letting me blab on about these people; I was feeling pretty blessed and wanted to get it out there!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Woodstock 50 Mile 2012 Race Report

Earlier today I posted a super abridged post about the Woodstock 50 Mile experience on Saturday. Mostly, an overview of what you can do while running for 14 hours! As promised, here's the full race report. I write for me to relive later when the details fuzz up to make me smile, which can be helpful if you want details of a personal 50 mile experience or about the Run Woodstock event, but may bore others. I write it for me, so feel free to gloss over for the high points or refer to the above link for the short version if this is too long for you! :-) 

By the way, big thanks to Lesley for all the pictures below, besides all her amazing work as my crew, pacer, and social media liaison during the race! Big shoutouts to all the people who deserve thanks coming in my next blog post - this one was already long and it's important so I don't want people to skip over those awesome people.

Why 50, Pacer Found, Packet Pickup

I had thought I'd never want to do a 50. Then about 10 weeks ago, I had volunteered at theWestern States 100 and darn all those runners for being so inspiring! Okay, I was in - let's run 50 miles.

Woodstock 50 ended up being a great choice for a first 50 (see reasons I chose it in this post). I asked... ok, BEGGED Lesley to be my pacer, and she accepted. So Friday we boarded a plane for Detroit, Michigan.

We were staying about an hour out from Detroit at the host hotel, and that was about a 30 minute drive to the race site. We wanted to scope it out early and pick up my packet.

The race site was the Hell Creek Campground in, yes, Hell, Michigan, and they'd created a mini-commune out of all the campsites. 

Smack in the middle was the start/finish line. I had a cute yellow tie-dye bib. I bought a couple things at the small "head shop" (merchandise tent). We found our friend Kai (running 100M) and met his friend Fritz (running 50K). Then, we saw the 100M and 100K finishers start their race with a 4 pm start time. There were a few silly costumes, lots of psychedelic tie-dye, and a guy in a shark suit. Interesting.

The next morning we made it back to the race site in the dark, and I prepped in the car. It had rained all night and was still raining, which made the mid-50s temps seem even colder. Later, we'd find out many 100Milers were dropping from the wet cold.

We got to the start line 10 minutes before the start. Suddenly it all felt very rushed. A drunk biker chatted up Lesley and me while I sought out and attached a 4th safety pin to my bib (I only had 3). Lesley later told me he had 4 beers in his pockets and after I left to start the race, he said, "you're only pacing; you can have a beer" and offered her one. Only at Woodstock! The rain shell jacket I had put on I tore off and gave to Lesley since it wasn't raining anymore and I felt hot. And then we were off with a 6 am start!

Once around the campsite commune's gravel road and then we hit the trail... And skidded to a stop. Sudden super bottleneck. Turned out the first mile was tight single track and people were picking their steps because it was goopy muddy in many sections.

Loop 1 – A Shorter Version Due to Bad Wayfinding (Miles 0 – 8)

We were finally moving a little. I was in a good position in the back and didn't feel rushed. Walked small uphills from the get-go and tried to avoid the mud. I was saving my nice bright headlamp for night, and once the pack moved ahead it was a lot darker with my dimmer headlamp. We spent about 45 minutes before dawn really came.

About mile 3 I fell in step with a guy named Matt. We chatted and had a good pace going together. We were both doing our first 50. And so very back of the pack as we were, we were alone.

After a long while, I said, "Matt, something's wrong. We should have hit an aid station quite a while ago, even if my Garmin GPS isn't dead-on." I had memorized the course and thought back to what could have gone wrong. We were still following pink flags. The course was made like a "double lollipop" or looked like a barbell. A loop on either end with a straight out-and-back section inbetween. At about 6 miles on my Garmin, I was sure of what had happened. We had missed the turnoff for the "lollipop stick" portion. 
Click on the pic to see it bigger.

I told Matt that I thought we should continue and finish the loop because otherwise we would add at least 4 miles to our total, and when we got in to base camp, they could tell us how to fix this. I had a friend who did something similar at a trail 50M, and I remembered that race director said, "go back out and screw up exactly the same way, then do 2 normal loops" so she would still get the correct distance total.

I'm so glad I carried my phone. I called Lesley, explained what happened, and asked her to find the race personnel and get them on the situation so they wouldn't be freaked out when we came into the camp first before the leaders and we wouldn't have to wait around to sort it out. Meanwhile, Matt and I had spent about 4 miles of the 8 mile reduced first loop going a little too fast, panicky to find out what would happen to us. We were really bummed but talked through it and slowly moved to acceptance that it would all work out. Matt was leading ahead of me and blamed himself, but I said I didn't see it either and was equally chatty, so we agreed to share the blame and drop the guilt.

Ironically about a mile into the race, Matt and I had been part of a small group who yelled to the midpack that they had gotten off course completely at a spot where the trail intersected the road. We were sad there was no one there to yell at us when we'd veered the wrong way.

Lesley was so helpful. When we came into camp she was waiting and watching for us. She had a map in her hands and confirmed with me that we had indeed messed up where I thought. She said the race directors were really cool and that we just needed to do the part we missed twice in one of our next two loops (50 Mile was 3 loops), and they didn't care if we did it right away or saved it for 3rd loop. Either way, we had still just done 8 miles with NO aid stations and one of our next two loops would be 25 miles instead of 16.67. Lesley said it was my decision but she was totally willing to do it with me if I saved it for 3rd loop when she was allowed to pace.

Interesting funny side note about trailrunning – Matt and I ran together for a little over 5 miles, basically about 70 minutes. We talked about running, families, and jobs, shared a nerve-wracking predicament of inadvertently cutting a course, and it wasn’t until we pulled into base camp that we first even saw what each other looked like. He had just been the back of a ball cap and a shirt with a voice, and I was just a voice – ha! This was not the first time in a race I would run with a total stranger and not know what they look like until later (I'm thinking Greg and Eric from Wild Hare 2011!), and it won’t be the last time. 

Loop 2 – Share The Trail... A Lot (Mile 8 – 12) 

Matt and I grabbed a little food, refilled water bottles, and took off. We immediately talked over, wanted to stay together at least through the place we had messed up at and both wanted to do the extra distance in this second loop. It's funny to be in a situation with a total stranger, and I'm blessed he was a super nice guy, because I think we got along well through all the stress of the circumstances. He had a stronger pace than me, but I knew the course and its landmarks better. I slowed him down and kept him consistent, and he kept me calm and pushing the pace just enough to not walk too much. And the company was great. Matt even told me that in case we screwed up again on course, he was not drinking from one of his fuel belt bottles since I couldn't hold much water with my handheld. So nice but I said I knew what was wrong and it wouldn't happen this time!

Sadly for our timing we started 2nd loop with all the 5 milers. Woodstock is a weekend of celebrating running so they do a race for EVERY possible distance - 100M, 100K, 50M, 50K, 26.2M, 13.1M, 10K, 5M, AND a 5K. 50 milers shouldn't have ever seen 5 milers if they did the course right. It was rough going for the first 2 miles until they split off.

Then at 3 miles into the loop, we collided with the marathon and half marathon participants! In single track. Sigh. Could our mistake get any more complicated? I was leading and super-focused on making the right turn, so for the marathoners who chatted us up, super nice folks, Matt did all the talking about why we were there. Three nice girls talked with us for that mile. 1 had a unique name - I want to say Chritha? Anyway, we came up on the sign where we should have turned. How could we miss it? It looked so obvious this time. We wished our pals well and took the correct path.

Finally getting to an aid station to have a real food break. Aid Station 1 (4 miles into the loop). And they don't have potatoes. What?!? I love boiled potatoes diced and dipped in salt for ultra fuel. They suggested an apple slice and dipping it in salt. I hate apples. But I tried it... And it was nasty. I thought of my coach Jeremy who once ate a banana dipped in salt at an ultra. Oh, and they are out of coke. And I want coke starting about mile 13. Since I don't normally drink any soda, it's like rocket fuel for me.  The lack of any promised foods would be a theme with this aid station. It truly was frustrating. I think I took a cookie and 2 cups of Sprite.

Loop 2 – First time on the section we missed on Loop 1 (Miles 12 – 20)

Matt and I took a deep breath and said, "okay, first time to do this loop" and headed out. We would do this 8 mile loop twice back-to-back to be "caught up" with all the right miles.
Click on the pic to see it bigger.
We made it to Aid Station 2, and it was so great because of their variety of foods, except no potatoes again! ARRGH !!! But they offered me soup. Kept warm in a crockpot on a grill, they said it was a Frankenstein of I think beef broth and Ramen noodles. FINE. FINE. The last aid station was awful, this aid station has no potatoes, I need some salt, so I'll try the freaking soup. 

And it was like heaven! I'm not a big soup person generally and had never tried it in a race, but it perked me right up. Along with a cup of coke, and I was ready to go on after we were now 16 miles in.

Back to the aid station 1 and I grabbed two cookies for the road and we retraced back the 0.2 miles to where we had cut the first loop and then came back to the aid station: "Hello again."

Loop 2 – Second time on the section we missed on Loop 1 (Mile 20 – 28)

Time to do those exact 8 miles all over again. I called Lesley at this point to tell her we were 20 miles in and going to repeat the missed section now and let her know what pace we were on.

This time as we headed to Aid station 2 we ended were back a little ways from a girl we had seen earlier who was running in tie-dye leggings. We spent a lot of this 4 miles with the mission to "catch tie-dye". We also ended up running with a nice woman named Lori who was also doing her first 50 mile and had run the 50k last year. I couldn't wait to get to Aid Station 2 again.

"What would you like?" "Soup!" I yelled to the volunteer excitedly. Matt and Laurie had been intriguing by my talking up the soup so they tried it at this stop. It was a hit with the crowd!

Out again to push 4 miles to aid station 1. As requested I let Matt know when we hit 25 miles. He was happy to be half through. While I had been the one up until then counting off each 5% segment of mileage, his happy realization put a pit in my stomach. "Wait, I had to do all this AGAIN?!?"

I faltered a little here, and Matt and Lori went off ahead. I caught up to Matt again a little while later at a road crossing while he stretched but just couldn't hang with him. Caught him again at the aid station. At Aid Station 1, I called Lesley to let her know I was at mile 28, my general ETA, and what gear changes I would want. Preparing to leave the aid station at the same time as Matt, he asked what kind of pace I could manage. I said I would be slowing down and frankly I thought he should go ahead because I was not going to be great company. His mood seemed good, and I didn't want to sour it with my low point. While something I would normally turn my nose up at, I knew I needed fuel and grabbed a piece of peanut butter sandwich to take with me on the trail from the aid station's very disappointing limited offerings. The doughy white bread had me gagging and while I got it down, I truly almost threw it up. The awful food options at this aid station only rattled my cage more.

Loop 2 – Pity Party To That Loop’s Finish (Miles 28 – 33)

The 4.5 miles to base camp were hellish. This had the worst climbs and while I've done worse, everything was starting to hurt. And the bottoms of my feet most of all. I walked a lot of that segment and probably had a bit of a pity party to go with it.

Loop 3 – Fresh Feet and Pacer Friend (Miles 33 – 37)

I came into base camp and Lesley was right there waving her arms, pointing to a camp chair, which I gladly collapsed into. I didn't know whose chair it was and didn't care. 33.3 miles. 
Coming into base camp at mile 33

I started taking off my shoes, socks, and gaiters. I wanted fresh everything. While doing that I was on the verge of tears complaining how Aid Station 1 had no coke and I just REALLY NEEDED COKE. Total stranger (to me; she and Lesley had hung out through the morning) offered me her cold can of unopened coke. Complete angel - I didn't even hesitate. I thanked her repeatedly and started to guzzle the coke. Lesley handed me my clean gear and got the honored job to put my stinky socks and muddy gear into my drop bag. Ewwww. I freaked out when I took off my socks because I guess my feet had been marinating in the muddy watery puddles I couldn't avoid in the first 3 miles and they looked squashed, white, and pruny. I thought my whole ball of each foot and underside of all toes were blistering. Lesley dismissively said, "You're fine. They're just pruny. I had that at Rocky [Raccoon 50M]." It was just what I needed to calm the panic. I bodyglided my feet heavily and put on the fresh gaiters, socks, and shoes with Lesley's help. Then I bodyglided the insides of my knees and under my arms and was ready to go. I grabbed and ate a quick half-cup of chicken noodle soup at the base camp aid station, and I headed off with no-longer-crew-now-pacer Lesley.

My feet felt incredible again. The sore hot spots were gone. I had the company of Lesley. Life was good. I kept a great pace and attitude. Matt caught up and ran with us for a bit too. We rolled into Aid Station 1 at mile 37.

Loop 3 – The Low Point (Miles 37 – 41)

And then it went downhill (figuratively not literally, this part of the course was fairly flat). I left that aid station loudly stating "this is stupid. Everything hurts." I entered a non-talkative state at times where I would only use thumbs up, thumbs down, with a few head shakes and gestures mixed in. Lesley would support me with "just get it soup" to push me towards Aid Station 2. That glorious soup. But I was sullen and didn't want to be there anymore. I asked Lesley to tell me when we got to 40 miles so I could celebrate. When she did, I did a little mostly-arms, slight-knee-bend, feet-planted boogie for a second. Then, Lesley took my photo where I forced a smile. 
Mile 40

I offered to take hers, but she said "Let's get both of us." and, feeling blessed for her support, that smile came more easily.
My lovely pacer Lesley and me

We arrived at aid station 2, now 41 miles in, and Lesley rushed in, calling for soup. I sat and worked on my attitude while eating my soup, and we chatted with the two veteran trailrunners. Their happiness raised my spirits, and the soup did the rest of the job.

Loop 3 – The Sob (Miles 41 – 45)

We left Aid Station 2 and a few minutes later, all of a sudden a mountain biker was coming towards us on a very narrow single track with a rare instance where to our left it was fenced. And to step to the right meant a step 8-12 inches up out of the rutted track. I had a delayed reaction, the mountain biker practically stopped, and then I stepped up onto the grass out of the rut. And that lateral step was the only time I cried on the course. I let out a whimper and a short sob. That step up hurt my leg muscles SO bad.

Shortly after Aid Station 2, I decided that the roll-through of walking was hurting my feet more than attempting a midfield strike in a shuffly run so I went with it. It kept the pace steady and moving, but I went back into a sign-language only state until the next aid station as I focused on keeping the run going.

We ended back up with Matt and Lori in the mile before Aid Station 1. I was in a focused “just run, just run” state and wouldn’t talk. Lots of thumbs up and down as my feedback to the conversation among the 4. I was just coping, not trying to be rude. I was so just trying to get it done at that point.

Loop 3 – Loving the Downhills Plus The Threat of Naked Runners (Mile 46 – 50)

This section had more of the uphills but also some fun downhills. Thankfully, my “quad dominance” that makes me struggle as an uphill runner, helped me to bomb the downhills all the way to the end, which helped keep my pace up. But the uphills were a struggle. I would stop at the top and bend over and put my head between my knees – my heart rate monitor (yes, I wore and referenced my heart rate monitor for a full 50 miles) said I wasn’t doing too bad but I was sucking wind and dizzy. Is that just how depleted you are at the end of a 50, or had I depleted my iron levels, which I struggle with, during the run? Hmmm, I’m not sure.

But we managed to leapfrog with Matt and Lori in this section until we passed them the final time a couple miles out on a particularly fun downhill stretch. And then a half mile from the finish, we realize that the 5K fun run was starting… and we shared part of the course. Plus we weren’t sure if this 5K had the natural option, which some of the short distance races offered, and I didn’t know if that really did mean naked run. (We later saw a tweet from someone that they experienced seeing 8 “natural” runner, and it was scarring. LOL. Glad I missed that!)  It made me a little panicky and cranky. A group of runners went by us. And then a little bit after that, I’m suddenly in the lead pack of shirtless boys bounding by me at 7 min/mi. One said, “On your left”, but I was so cranky that I cried out, “I’m a 50 Miler, please go around me. I can’t get out of the way.” Lateral movement at that time while running was not going to happen. Lesley is telling me to let them drag me forward a bit and feed off their energy, but not too much! But I feel like I’m flying towards the end. There’s a pack of runners who have just stopped in the middle of the trail to gab, and Lesley turned into an awesome enforcer.

“50 Miler coming through – please move off the course!!” she yelled to them! Their jaws dropped, they moved aside, and then so nice of them to raise a little clap and cheers as I passed by. And then we round the corner and see the edge of the campsite. I was happy that even so late as people saw me come toward the finish, they raised some hoots and claps. It felt great. Lesley told me to press harder. In the last 45 seconds, I went from a 15 minute pace to an 8:48 pace!! And I started to feel that choking feeling come up in my throat and the second we crossed the finish line, I bent over and gagged hard a few times. I didn’t lose it, but I sure came close.

The Finish

And then I was bawling. Not like a little victory cry. Like UGLY CRY sobbing. Lesley gave me a big hug. I’m laughing and crying and just completely overwhelmed for a good 20 seconds. Then, I moved through the small chute to get my peace sign tie-dyed-ribbon medal placed around my neck. A gal asked my name and age group, and I actually answered the wrong age group. I haven’t been 29 for 3 years! Yeah, I was out of it. I stuttered and said, “I mean 30-34.” Lesley’s laughing at my incoherence. It was really funny. And then they told me I was 4th place in my age group and gave me my award – a toy VW van with a sticker across the top that said Run Woodstock Age Group Winner. So cool.
So happy to be done!

And yes, as I was fairly certain, it turned out there was no one else left out on the course in my age group. So 4 out of 4. But that doesn’t take away at all for me from the award, because for almost 14 hours of hard work I had earned it!

I finished in 13 hours and 47 minutes.  Wow, it feels weird to think I ran that long. I'm proud that I took a potentially bad and mentally disastrous situation like messing up the race course so early in the race and managed to not let it shake my whole run.

What's Next? Palo Duro Canyon 50K on October 21 and then Rocky Raccoon 50K on November 3. My PR for the 50K is from Rocky Raccoon, which was my first 50K last year, with an 8:22. For perspective in the work I've been putting in, my time at the 50K point of Saturday's 50 miler was an 8:07, so I'm hoping I can shave off some time at one of these two 50Ks.