Thursday, January 31, 2013

My 50 Miler Packing List

In case it ever helps as a starting point for everyone else, here's what I pack for a 50 mile race. This Saturday: Rocky Raccoon 50 Miler.

Not in drop bag:

  • Headband
  • Hat (in case of rain)
  • Sports Bra
  • Shirt
  • Compression Shorts
  • Shorts
  • Gaiters
  • Socks
  • Trail Shoes
  • Body Glide
  • Headlamp for getting around the race site pre-race (not the same as I'll use when it gets dark at night late in the race)
  • Wristband
  • Garmin Forerunner watch
  • Handheld
  • Wipes
  • Honey Stinger Chews and Gels
In drop bag:
  • Extra hair ties
  • Extra contact lenses
  • Sterilized nail, bandaids, blister band-aids
  • Neo-to-go neosporin spray and Benadryl anti-itch cream
  • Pills (Papaya enzyme, Zofran, Immodium, Tylenol)
  • Lip balm
  • Extra shirt
  • Extra shoes, with socks in them and a pair of vinyl gloves and tub of Aquaphor
  • Normally in but not for these race conditions: bug spray and sunscreen
  • Buff
  • Headlamp
  • Flashlight
  • More bodyglide
  • Extra safety pins

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Goals - The Year of RUGGED

2012 could be termed the year of the 50 miler. Where I went from being "No way do I ever want to do 50 miles" to completely inspired by the 100 mile runners while volunteering at Western States Endurance Run 100 Mile to "Okay, I want to go for it", to completing my first 50 miler in September, to signing up for another 50 miler (Rocky Raccoon in February) a month or so later because I knew it would sell out.

For 2013, the theme is RUGGED.

The races themselves will have rugged components like definition 1 and, like definition 2, I will react by becoming rugged to match the terrain I'll be running. By the end of 2013, I'll be rugged - "strongly made and capable of withstanding rough handling." Withstanding rough handling. For someone who strives to keep doing multiple ultramarathons a year, those are powerful words.

I thought over the last couple months about the "need to compete." It's easy to feel like you NEED to go do all 50 milers after you do your first, or, more appropriately, your first 100 mile race. I struggled with this, letting go of what others feel like they and you need. I don't have a big interest in doing a 100 mile race. And right now I feel like I have a lot of experience to gain and speed to be found in the 50K distance. The 50K is not "just 5 miles more than a marathon." On a non-technical course, it's still 7+ hours out there weathering the elements. On a hard course, it can be 10+ hours enduring. That's not just a little over a marathon.

So in 2013, I plan to complete at least 5 50K races and 1 50 Mile race. More detail in a race calendar post soon. But it kinda looks like this...
  • Weathered the mud, rocks, and sotol cactus of Texas desert at Bandera 50K
  • Complete my second 50 Mile race at Rocky Raccoon
  • May will bring a 50K through woods with terrain described as "craggy foothills"
  • June brings rugged mountains of Wyoming where the terrain and the altitude will meet to give me a hard time
  • July has altitude plus climbs with constant up and downhills on a challenging course.
  • September will be the most memorable I am betting as I traverse lava and pumice fields in an area not actually open to the public with a tiny race field on terrain that will look like the surface of Mars.
This year I will gain experience, amazing time on my feet doing what I love, beautiful sights and memories, and I will be made rugged by it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

State Of This Body - 10 Days To Rocky Raccoon 50 Miler

It's been a rocky last few weeks, and I'm not just talking about the rocks at the Bandera 50K. So here, since I haven't caught the blog up on it all, is the State Of This Body with 10 days to the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile!

  • I'm on heavy doses of meds - I lost my sense of smell the last 4 months. A couple weeks ago, I finally went to the ENT for a checkup since it was getting a little distressed - I'm not being melodramatic that I had ZERO sense of smell. The ENT said I've had a bad sinus infection for months. This can traumatize nerve endings and kill olfactory sense, either temporarily... or permanently when it's an ongoing problem. The doctor wanted to nip the issue in the bud which meant having to mega-dose drugs at this storm of sinus problems going on to try to kill it off with no chance to linger. The positives is that my sense of smell IS actually returning, although it's sensory overload when you are used to not ever being able to smell anything. The bad news is that I'm on a powerful cocktail of corticosteroids and antibiotics, both oral pills and nasal wash.
  • I have side effects from heavy doses of meds - The steroids make me hyper, antsy, and give me mood swings, along with some sleep problems. It makes me incredibly thirsty all the time to the point that I'm drinking about 160 ounces of water a day and I'm still thirsty, and my body is sucking that hydration so hard my hands are dried out and my nails are splitting. The antibiotics in large doses for longterm (3 weeks) messes with your stomach, so that sucks. 
  • My iron levels are AWESOME! I had another 2 month recheck, and no iron deficiency. I don't even have to go back now until mid-May before my Bighorn race in June.
  • Mentally I feel good - Bandera 50K was a kick-butt training run, but it set up my mental game for the 50 miler ahead. And the last long week of training felt good.
  • Physically I don't know where I stand - I went from 30 miles over a WHOLE month to a Saturday 50K to a week of 52 running miles. A huge increase. I feel strong but I fear being overconfident when my miles up until last week still point to undertrained. Which is at least better than overtrained.
  • I'm getting more sleep - I started a week ago trying to get 7 1/2 to 8 hours a night. As a night owl, I'm much more used to getting to bed around 1 am to get up around 7 am. I'm trying to rest up for the battle ahead in 10 days!
  • Weight is an ongoing battle - Two weeks ago, I had a check-in with my trainer and came to the reality that over the 3 months of less miles and more race directing, I had gained twelve pounds and 6% body fat. I was eating like an ultrarunner without running like one! Who wants to carry a sack of flour for 50 miles?!? Last week I did a great job watching my food, and while normally steroids would cause a weight increase of a few pounds in water retention, I lost 3 pounds. I'm hoping over the next 10 days with watching my food (note, still FUELING this body, just not to excess) that I can drop a few more pounds to carry less fluff for a 14 hour running day!
  • And now I have a cold! The two year old has had a runny nose for a couple days, and yesterday my sore throat and congestion started. The bright side is better to get it this week than next. Hopefully that means all recovered in time for the race.
I thought this would be a good moment to document the status of where I'm at, and then I can look at this in a week and see how I'm feeling. In general, I will say I'm a lot more calm about this 50 miler than the last one. Which is funny since I'm probably less physically prepared than last time!

Friday, January 18, 2013

2012 Recap - Memories and The Races

I recapped about a week ago lessons I had learned in 2012, but I also wanted to recap the list of 2012 races, and before that, the top memories of the year that stick with me still.


I have a million memories of all the great friends I had a chance to run with, talk with, learn from, and be around through 2012. This section though is about specific run or race memories.
Mud, mud. more mud.
  • The trail briefing before Gorge Waterfalls 50K. My big memory here is a sound of nervous laughter. It had been snowing and the course had changed to keep us out of hip deep snow. The race director James said seriously, "Everyone needs to be careful because there's some sections where it's 18 inches wide, and there's ice and snowmelt, and a 30 foot drop off the cliff... and if you slip, you'll die." 220 runners giggled nervously. James: "No, I'm serious. You'll die." A little more light laughter. We're already here, and we're in this anyway. And by the way, those couple sections did make me nervous.
One of those narrow, icy, snowmelt creek jumps with a 30 ft cliff to the left dropping down

100% happy
  • New Jersey Marathon in May where I was running my 3rd marathon in 3 weekends for the first time. I was supposed to just be hanging out, but I realized I was feeling great at around mile 19. After taking a bunch of pictures and stopping for a boardwalk shot, I realized I had a chance to PR my marathon. But this was intended to be another training run. I called my coach who did not pick up so I went for it. He said if he had picked up he would have told me to hang up the phone and run. The giddy conflict in those late miles of go-for-it or don't stuck with me.
Having a fun time AND earning a PR

  • Baby yellow grasshoppers before the big ascent at mile 11 at Jemez Mountain Trail Run 50K. This actually never made the race report because the focus in that report was my DNF from iron deficiency issues, but I can't shake that one-mile section. Yes, other parts of the course were far more beautiful. But this rocky slope section was littered with little bushes, and everywhere little baby bright yellow grasshoppers jumped back and forth as I startled them. I actually really hate jumping bugs... really hate them. So I had a giggle at this point and a fair amount of anxiety plowing through as I thought, "Great, I'm 8000 ft up, climbing a 1000 ft slope in the next mile, and my undoing will be grasshoppers." Little did I know, my oxygen levels would drop dangerously in the next 10 miles.
This section had the baby grasshoppers

  • DNFing Jemez Mountain Trail Runs 50K at mile 20 after I had already climbed up and down a ski slope topping out at 10,200 feet altitude. Having to be hooked up to oxygen as the medical guy checked my numbers. And when I DNFed, it felt reasonable. And then having to sit with oxygen in the shade for a while, then I got upset and cried a little. Then, it hit.
A couple miles before the DNF.

  • Shortly after my DNF at Jemez, when I was feeling super low and especially about a couple comments from other runners, I had an awesome run with Josh, Reece, and Jeremy. Pepped me up and reconfirmed that trailrunners and ultrarunners are such a supportive group!
Helping ground and support me while they were running 50 miles that day

Start of Day 1

The beautiful spot I DNFed at on Day 2

  • Seeing Timothy Olson completely rock and win Western States 100. Getting a high five at the finish as he came down the track to the finish line!
Still brings me a huge smile. A big moment, and such a fast finish on a hard course!

  • Standing in the American River through the night in a wetsuit helping runners at mile 80 of the race that is Mecca in the ultrarunning world: the Western States Endurance Run 100. Hanging out with fellow San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors. Seeing Dallas area runners and friends at that spot on the course. Big hugs for Jeremy and Josh right in the middle of the river. The inspiration of this trip to volunteer stuck with me and within a week of being home, I was ready to commit to running a 50 miler.

  • Finishing Woodstock 50 Miler, my first 50, with Lesley at my side as my pacer. She hugged me hard, and I SOBBED. Total ugly cry sob. I was so happy with what I had accomplished.
After my cry, I sat down with a giant chocolate muffin they handed me, holding my finisher medal and my age group trophy (a VW bus naturally!).

So so cold. The highland trails of Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

  • Run Like The Wind in December going around a 1 kilometer loop 53 times. About 6 hours in, my gosh I was tired of that loop. And then it got dark, and I pulled out the headlamp. And this miraculous thing happened. The course was brand-new again! The change in lighting, the way the lamp hit the path, the dark shadows. And I had my fastest miles from miles 26-27, as I gleefully ran like I had found a new course.

2012 Races

I'm looking forward to tons more memories in 2013 and some amazing runs and races to go with that!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finding Your Fight - Bandera 50K Race Report

I didn't want to go do this. Coach and friend Jeremy told me it would make a good training run 3 weeks out from Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile. A 31 mile training run on a hard course. Given I'd run 30 miles TOTAL in the last 4 weeks since my 33-miler on December 8, this was going to be interesting. (Race directing divides my time, and I tend to have to prioritize running low to make my races the best I can give!)

Bandera 50K. The race director describes it on the website as "A trail of rugged & brutal beauty where everything cuts, stings, or bites". Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. There are three things as a runner I hate: HUMIDITY. ROCKS. MUD. This isn't going to be pretty...
Race Logo from Tejas Trails Events

Jeremy and I headed down Friday afternoon on the 6 hour drive to Bandera, Texas. We stopped on the outer loop of San Antonio for Indian Food, which Jeremy was craving. I'm happy as long as I can have chicken or fish and something carby like bread or potatoes. So some Tandoori Chicken and Naan, and I was content.
Travel buddy Jeremy at our pre-race dinner
A decent night's rest, and we woke up to find it had rained overnight. It was in the lower 60s, and ALL HUMIDITY. Thick fog made my first drive ever to Hill Country State Natural Area nerve-wracking, as I avoided a possum and a group of 3 deer that thought hanging out on the road in fog was a great idea. We arrived at the race site early to pick up our packets and pin on bibs.
Joe does some great race shirts. A long sleeve dry-wicking shirt from Champion.
They we turned in our drop bags that would be transported to the Crossroads Aid Station at miles 21/26.
I will say I'm an expert drop bag packer! Cute and compact and
has about 80 items I hope to not need in there!

We met several friends at the start. The race director walked the 50K runners the quarter mile to our out-of-the-way start line. I watched Tim Olson mosey through the crowd to the front of the start. I'd had the pleasure of getting to watch him in person win Western States last year, complete with a high-five as he came into the finish. So I was pretty stoked to see him out there.

We start the race, and it's not long before I'm hanging out for the first few couple miles with my friend Gates. We'd done the same at Palo Duro a couple months before. Lots of chaos of newbie 50Kers learning the etiquette of proper passing on a single track trail. We had several big climbs (Cairn's Climb, Boyle's Bump) early on. I had studied the course... extensively. I knew I wanted to take it easy the first 10 miles through the worst of the climbs.
I knew where to save energy and when I would want to push.

It was misty and still very foggy so the views and your bearings were completely obscured. About 3 miles in though the 25Kers started trickling into our ranks. By mile 6, I was overwhelmed by 25K runners shouting "9 more miles" while the slower 50Kers with me would say, "Hey, buddy, keep it to yourself. It's not 9 miles for us." Many practiced poor etiquette, many were rowdy and overexcited in the super rocky conditions. And many were a joy to be running with. Take the bad with the good.

And it wasn't just rocks, and rocks on rocks, it was slick, muddy rocks on rocks. And where there wasn't rock, there was mud. Awful conditions. Many, like Jeremy, who had run this race every single year, said it was the worst conditions yet for what is considered a highly technical course on a good day.

I was so thankful when mile 7 came and the 25K runners turned off. I wanted to go my speed and go safely and cautiously. Lesley, my friend and running partner for Rocky Raccoon, kept saying "Good luck... and don't get hurt." There's no way I was going to let Bandera cost me my 50 mile in 3 weeks, or put a crimp in Lesley's plans.
Lesley pacing me at mile 40 of my first 50 miler. Rocky Raccoon will  be the 2nd 50 miler for both of us!
Since mile 5 was a water-only aid station, I took my only GU of the course right around then. I spent extra time in each aid station to eat. I was worried if I ate GUs or chews inbetween, I would drain my 20 oz handheld water bottle too quickly and not make it the average 5 miles between stations in that humidity.

By Nachos, the mile 10 aid station, I was so sick and tired of humidity, rocks, and mud. And some GI problems making me uncomfortable weren't helping my mood. At mile 13, after most big climbs were done, we were on the worst section of FLAT trail called the #8 trail that was just strewn with tons of slick rocks. I picked my way through and felt like the rocks would never end. I had dark thoughts of how to get out of finishing this race around then. When that level of depression hits, it means it's time to eat. For a couple miles, all I could think about was how tired I was with the recent month I had, how undertrained I felt with the lack of running the last month, and how I wasn't really deconditioned, I was just
There was no fight left in me. I was just going through the motions. I had only felt like the house and family routine had gotten back to normal in the last 2 days, but I was just getting the run routine reestablished. I was exhausted and couldn't put up the fight this course required of me. How could I run Rocky Raccoon in 3 weeks? Who was I kidding? Who was I fooling? You can't take off a month of running and then go do a 50 miler!!

And mile 15.5 I came into the Chapas station and left refreshed with coke, pretzels, chips, and M&Ms consumed. This was a big field section with fewer rocks, but the fields were full of sticky mud that clung to the bottoms of your shoes like a thick extra outer sole. But the food had helped, and I slowly slogged faster than my walk. And in that next mile I found my fight.
And that became a mantra: "I found my fight... keep it." 
Over and over again, about a hundred times in a cadence. And I jogged the full 6 miles to the next aid station, Crossroads, at mile 21. My average pace the rest of the course was about a 19 min/mi, and I was mustering a 16-17 minute mile on tired legs. Slow for many, but for me, I found the piece screaming, "No, I'M in charge here."

During this time Karl Metzler passed me in the 100K, finishing his second loop. I stepped off the trail and said "Way To Go, Karl!" as he stampeded down the rocky hill. He was definitely in a focused race mode because all other top 10 guys would kindly say "Good job" and Karl didn't acknowledge me at all.

Crossroads Aid Station had Janet, Gates' wife, volunteering. Seeing her was refreshing. We chatted about my races coming up. I hung out and ate for a few minutes. She said they were almost totally out of pickle juice so recommended I get some now because they wouldn't have it when I returned there at mile 26. I'd never tried it before so "sure, why not?" I hate dill pickles and shuddered that whole 6 ozs down. A warm quesadilla piece here really hit the spot too. I'm not prone to cramping and electrolyte problems, so I couldn't say the pickle juice helped, but I can't say it didn't!

Back out on the course and within about a mile and a half, a mental SLAM. Rocks, and climbing with rocks, and huge sotol cactus that draped their grass-like blades down over the trail and were covered in serrated edges. They were everywhere and the rocks were brutal. And we were going through the Three Sisters, three big climbs with big downs to go with them. And all rocks. And I was all depressed again. My IT Band, which has never hurt on a run before, started to seize up and was making ups and downs hard. I knew it was caused by the muddy terrain we'd made our stability muscles like that one suffer through.

I mentally and physically had a tough time until I got back to Crossroads Aid Station at mile 26. I knew only one big climb remained - Lucky Peak, at mile 30ish. Everything hurt at this point but my IT Band and the blisters forming on my right foot were the worst. The sucking mud had loosened up my shoes which were so mud coated I dared not attempt to relace and tie them, so my foot rubbed around in there to form two quarter-sized blisters, one on the ball of my foot and one on the heel. Good times.

But again, like the fight I found from miles 15-21, I wanted to show myself I was prepared for 50 miles, and I needed to rally through the pain for that. 2 fast miles at a 16 minute pace, zooming past runners, proved to myself my mind is stronger than my body.

Then I hit Lucky Peak and KABOOM. We go UP that?!? "Fine. It'll be slow though," my IT Band screamed. I wished I had my camera or phone to capture the steep slope of basically rubble. I "summit" and then go to head down... and the whole thing is muddy slick. Oh, fun. Picked my way down and got to watch a top 10 100K runner do his best Kilian Journet-impression and bomb the downhill like he didn't care about cracking open his skull.

When I got to the Last Chance Aid Station a half mile from the finish, I knew I was running this thing in. And at a beyond respectable pace. This was my last show that I had FOUND MY FIGHT. And so I pulled out my 25K PR pace and used it on the muddy path. 14 min-mile pace. Saving the best for last, I found an 11 min-mile pace waiting for me in the last tenth of a mile into the finish line. And I had finished in (unofficial) 9:50, just under 10 hours! My hardest race ever, and I count my 50 miler in that comparison ranking.

I was so happy to be DONE. I'd had so many moments I hated being out there before I would remember the unique scenery, terrain, experiences, and new friends I was making along this weekend's journey. But I know this race was important. It showed me so many things. That when you feel like you've lost your voice, your power, your hope, your FIGHT... it's always still there!

Finisher Medal

Congrats to my travelmate Jeremy who finished with a couple friends in 15:55 (unofficial) in the 100K, and so many other friends who pushed through the tough conditions. Tamara, who finished her first 25K. Claudia, running her first 50K. Melissa, who won 1st in her age group in the 50K! Jennifer and Jorge for strong 100K finishes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Recap - Statistics and Lessons Learned

2012 was a big year of racing and learning lessons. First the stats (hey, I am a mathematician), then the lessons, and the next post will be some of the best memories!


  • 19 races - 1 50M, 5 50Ks, 5 Marathons, 1 25K, 3 Half Marathons
  • 1306 miles ran (beat 2011 by 300 miles)
  • PRed the Marathon distance 2 times and took my time from a 5:34 in 2011 to 5:21 in 2012.
  • PRed the 25K distance by 10 minutes.
  • PRed the Trail Half Marathon distance by 18 minutes
  • Ran my first 50 mile
  • Ran for over 8 hours 6 times and for over 6 hours 8 times!

Lessons Learned

  • Big travel and racing leaps are worth a little anxiety. I travelled some the last couple years but typically with other runners and when alone, they were nice safe road marathons. In 2012, stepped further out the comfort zone and ran the Gorge Waterfalls 50K not knowing anyone else when I signed up, and the Chattanooga Stage Race.
  • I can endure. Cross Timbers Trail Marathon was a beating thanks to the weather. Oklahoma City Marathon was a mentally and physically painful nightmare the week after an 11 minute marathon PR.
  • I realized a strength can be the ability to run in the middle of nowhere alone for hours. I consider this a piece of my trailrunning, ultrarunning skill arsenal. I might not be fast, but I am okay with the complete silence of running for hours alone and not knowing if the sound of a broken branch is a squirrel or a Sasquatch.
  • Medical problems can be hidden and rear their ugly head in the middle of a race. Iron deficiency in May and June caused two DNFs after oxygen problems, trouble breathing, and terrible fatigue.
  • A DNF doesn't mean you are a bad runner or a bad person.
  • Strength training / strengthening biomechanical inefficiencies / balance work is vital to me as an endurance athlete and a trailrunner. I did 3 hours a week with my trainer Donnie through the whole year with few misses.
  • Roll with the punches. I'm a planner - this isn't something that comes easily to me. Bad snowy weather derailed a planned high altitude road marathon in Colorado, so I substituted in a high altitude trail half marathon and set a new PR.
  • I had my first big LOST moment at a trail race. It felt like an initiation to something every trailrunner needs to experience. I spent 8-10 minutes at Hells Hills 25K off-course and still managed a PR.
  • Every trail race is so different, I have so much to learn, and I don't know that I'll ever feel like an "expert." But I think that makes for a smart trailrunner, and it's why a lot of us like trailrunning. There's no one-rule-fits-all, every course is different, every race is a complete mystery until you are out there.
  • Choosing destination races you want to do without waiting for a group, and not doing the races everyone just does as part of a group, can be very isolating while still fulfilling. Managing the balance is difficult.
  • Be me, not everyone else. This was the year everyone became a triathlete. This was the year every ultrarunner did a 100 miler.  This was the year a lot of runners did their first trail 50K, or ROAD 50K, and decided they were an expert ultrarunner or trailrunner.
  • Volunteering can be way more inspiring than you could ever believe. I volunteered at the Mecca of ultrarunning, the Western States 100 miler, and THAT, not comments or encouragement from any ultrarunner friends, was what actually made me decide to do my first 50 miler. It was so inspiring, and I wanted to be a little part of that.
  • Some gear is worth the cost. I'm not a gear junkie or into the latest running fashion, but in 2012 I invested in the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and the UltrAspire Surge hydration pack. I love them BOTH. Neither were inexpensive, but both were well worth getting! I also bought a treadmill, the X9i Incline Trainer by Nordictrack, and it helped with the high mileage needed as a mom training for a 50 miler.
  • I did a better job of  balancing running while race directing. In December 2011, 5 miles run before New Years Double. In December 2012, 55 miles. Along with some running accomplished before The Showdown Half Marathon.