Sunday, February 16, 2014

Recovery - What Happened AFTER Rocky Raccoon 100

After being timed out at mile 80 at Rocky Raccoon 100, at my first 100 miler attempt, I wondered what the recovery would be like. I'd seen some go back to walking like a regular human being again within a couple days. And I'd seen others with lower legs so swollen they could hardly wear shoes for 2 weeks. Some were back to active recovery runs a week later, and some seemed to take a 2 month hiatus from all active endeavors. Either way, I had already committed, via the lottery back in December, to the Gorge Waterfalls 100K race on March 30.

So two weeks post-Rocky, let's see what #hundiecovery looks like. Good friend Jeremy coined the term, I hated it as I also really dislike the word "hundie", but it is a great solid abbreviated term for what I'm up to. By the way, check out the tips for a first 100 miler that Jeremy wrote up after pacing me at Rocky Raccoon.

Here's the 100 miler recovery for me, separated into the categories of WORKOUTS, REST, TEMPERATURE REGULATION (huh?), MUSCLES, BLISTERS, and MENTAL.

WORKOUTS

First week I was completely off.
Second week... 5 1/2 hours of workouts. 10.5 miles, 1500 ft vertical gain.

I didn't cover major miles as I spent some extra time with family this week and was listening to my body on taking it easy while my calf and foot are healing, but I did two good hill workouts. One of repeats on a short steep hill:

And another of repeats on a longer hill to change it up.

Happy to average 150 ft of vertical gain per mile this week!

I went back to an hour of strength training 3 times a week with my trainer, which is my normal weekly schedule. Monday we went just middle-of-the-road in weight and reps. But I could tell it was hard. Benchpressing 75 lbs felt like benchpressing 95 lbs. Wednesday and Friday we focused much more on low weight and slow reps through the eccentric part of the motion.

REST

Immediately after moving forward for 24 hours and 26 minutes, priority of course was a nice lovely shower. Then I crashed for 3 hours. After the long drive home, I slept another 2 1/2 hours, then had a normal  night's sleep. I went back to a standard (bad) sleep schedule of late nights immediately after, getting 6-7 hours of sleep and brute forcing it to get through the day. I made it three days before I snapped rudely to a few people I care about, and I realized I was completely exhausted. I had underestimated what being on my feet for that long would do to me. I crawled into bed Wednesday night and slept 11 1/2 hours straight. I've been working hard to get 8, sometimes 9, hours a night since, and this morning was the first morning that I wasn't a zombie waking up.

I have managed to continue to stay off caffeine (which I go off of a month before a big race anyway, but usually I go back on afterwards).

TEMPERATURE REGULATION

Huh? Yeah, basically I spent the week post-race shivering. I was so cold after the race. Steve would come home at the end of the day, and I'd been running the heater several degrees warmer than usual, and I was still bundled up. I wore my favorite hoodie (which I never wear because I'm never this cold) all over the place for a full week. It turns out it was also a terribly cold week in terms of Texas weather. Going outside with temperatures in the teens and twenties felt almost painful. That's one good way to know how fatigued I felt!

MUSCLES

My legs had felt great at the end of the 80 miles. My undoing was my slowed pace from awful blisters. However, being on my feet upright for that long, the thing that really bugged me the week after was back spasms. I think my fibromyalgia also made this painful, as that's a problem area for me, and stress triggers a flareup of my fibromyalgia condition.

I've seen swollen toes and cankles in others' pictures, but I had ZERO swelling luckily.

My tweaks and niggles didn't really show up until about 9-10 days post-race. Then I could tell the outside of my right foot (peroneals) was tender, my left foot was trying to get plantar fasciitis going again, and the inside of my left calf had a big knot. Recovering these spots have been harder than I expected. Listening to my body means not a lot of running this week. The knot in the left calf at the top is some serious fascial adhesions that have to be broken up. The resulting added calf tightness is only making it harder to rehab my inflamed plantar. The sports chiropractor, Dr. Chad of Lifestyle Wellness Center, worked to break up the adhesions some, which means it's now covered in bruising and so sore. I'm rolling it and icing it daily. You can't recover this stuff overnight, so exercising patience.

It actually looks more purple than this now, but here's what the camera captured.

BLISTERS

Ow, those hurt. It took a few days until I could put on shoes without the pain of the pressure of them against the blisters. Final count was 7 blisters, including my first nice big blood blister. I typically avoid lancing blisters if I can avoid it. And I avoid lancing a blood blister entirely, because there's a direct line to the blood system there - a great way to increase your chance of a blood infection!

However, the blood blister seemed to want to keep growing, and the skin above kept thinning, until I was sure it was going to explode walking across my carpet at home. :-/ So I handled my queasiness and drained that one after making sure everything was sterile and having bandages ready to seal it off from potential contaminants.

It took about a week for them all to heal. I was surprised how long they took to heal.

MENTAL

I thought at some point the sadness of not finishing the 100 miler would hit. But it never did. Aside from the 5-10 second crying outburst a half mile from the finish line of knowing I wouldn't make the time cutoff, I've felt pretty good. I had delayed picking out spring races until I saw how the 100 miler went.

So I race shopped. Including shopping for another 100 mile race. Coach felt confident that I could go again - I don't have serious injury coming out of the race, and I showed I was fit in this effort. So I've picked some fun races and goal races coming up.

Then late this week, I had a bit of a relapse. Am I ready to get training again? Ready to commit to another 3-5 months of hard training for the next goals? I know I'd like to drop another couple percent body fat, without losing any muscle at the same time. But I seem to be rebelling against the idea a little too while I wrap my head around it. Like a willful 4 year old, my food this week has not been good. And I chose helping my daughter on her science fair project instead of one workout last week. Time to get that out of my system pronto.

NEXT

Still working back to the routine. I usually bounce back from races well, so this feels longer than usual for me, but I'm trying to practice patience. Which perhaps is not my best skill.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2014 Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Race Report - I Just Kept Moving

I have many close friends who run 100 mile races, but I had been waiting for the moment where I would say "It's my time." I am big on taking on a distance when YOU are ready, not when your friends tell you to and not just because it's the next longer distance to do.

And in November, I started to hear that whisper that I was ready. I waited 3 weeks to see if that whisper grew into a real conversation with myself about this direction. Then, the Georgetown Trail Marathon happened. 8 hours for 26.8 miles in some of the ugliest conditions I had run. Very slick rocks, lots of mud and puddles, temperatures in the low 30s, rained most of the race, wind gusting up to 24 mph, and only 29 participants. Lesley and I took it on, kept moving forward through everything the day threw at us, and finished.

After shivering and changing in the car, I pulled out my phone and signed up for the 2014 Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile trail race on February 1st. It was MY time. I was ready.

On the Down Low: I told very very few that I was running it. Some other participants knew, because I wasn't hiding it so would talk about it in conversation about the race, but I wasn't broadcasting or actively volunteering the information publicly. I didn't want a lot of people's voices in my head when I toed the start line. And when I got sick over Christmas, then directing the New Years Double races cost me a couple weeks of miles, and then my plantar fasciitis acted up from race directing duties, I was glad I didn't have naysayers because it was all enough to make me nervous. But my coach and close friends know me best and they didn't think I had lost fitness and still should proceed.

WARNING: This race report is LONG.... like NOVEL LONG. Why? Because I want to remember details later. I'm still sleepy from the race and find that with each recovery sleep, details are getting less crisp. I have some awesome small memories from this event. I want to be able to relive those moments in the future when the details have faded. Since this blog is always more of a diary than a journalistic public device, it's written from that perspective. However, if it helps others running this race or running their first 100 miler, then I want it available to those people!

Highlight Reel:
  • I did a lot of things right at this race. My gear was all spot on, my hydration and nutrition were excellent, my stomach behaved, my planning worked out, my mental strategies were successful, and I had a great crew to help me.
  • It can just take one thing to send your overall pace zooming down the drain. For me, it was blisters.
  • I always kept moving. Regardless of how awful I felt or how badly I wanted to stop (and I did at points!), I will always be proud that I timed out by not making the last 20 mile loop time cutoff than to have voluntarily quit midrace.
  • I went 30 miles on awful blisters. I learned I have determination and grit.
  • I was on my feet 11 hours longer than I ever had before.
  • I have such great friends. I am so very lucky for their friendship and thankful for it.
  • I will finish a 100 miler at some point. February 1-2, 2014 was just not the weekend that it happened.

And now the details with pictures where I had them for anyone interested!


Race Eve

Jeremy, a great friend and my pacer/crew, and I headed out about 11:30 am Friday for the 3 1/2 hour drive down to Huntsville. Poor guy had signed on to not only pace and crew, but he also played chauffeur for the weekend.
We've been working on his selfie skills. It took 3 tries for a decent one and THIS is what we end up with.
I took my small 2.5-gallon ziploc with hot pink and butterfly duct tape decorations to packet pickup and put it in the pile to go to the Damnation Aid Station, accessed at miles 6 and 12 into each 20-mile loop.
Bottom left was a half filled version of my Damnation drop bag. Others are my "per loop" needs bags for start/finish.
I got in line for packet pickup and my nerves started to build. I received my bib, shirt, and timing chip, and luckily, we were just a minute before the start of the trail briefing when we walked out on the patio.

A quick hi to friends Travis (running) and Shannon (heading up the medical area), and then Joe (race director) started his trail briefing. Nothing new and amazing to report during it especially since I had run the 50 mile last year. Afterwards, lot of hugs and check-ins by friends. Maybe a few hugs from Tony, who I had helped support towards the end of his first 100 mile finish at Rocky Raccoon last year.
Tony's first 100 miler finish at Rocky Raccoon 2013
Jeremy and I headed to check into the hotel from there. On the car ride, the nervousness became pretty intense, and I kind of huddled down in my seat. Jeremy talked me through my fears until I calmed down.

For dinner, we went to my favorite local place in Huntsville, the Farmhouse Cafe. I had even pre-ordered one of their awesome Peanut Butter Pies to take for during race if I wanted and definitely after the race. Pre-race dinner was blackened tilapia, sweet potato fries, and a baked potato with a little cheese. Perfect meal for me, since I sometimes have an upset tummy race morning.

In bed by 9:30 pm. And I slept horribly. The worst pre-race sleep I've ever had, which is probably still better than some. 1 hour of heavy sleep that felt like 8 hours, then 2 hours of tossing and turning with weird dreams, 20 minutes just up, and then 3 hours of heavy restful sleep to end it out before getting up at 3:45 am.


Staying Mellow Race Morning

I was ready in 30 minutes, and we were on the road. Short line into the park, and we found a good parking spot. I'd eaten my breakfast on the way, so there wasn't much left to do. So we just hung out for an hour, trying to keep myself calm. We headed to the start line about 10 minutes early. I said hi to Sonia and Becky. Travis spotted us and came over. Just a minute to the start of the race, and Jeremy grabbed a quick picture. And then we were off!


First Loop: Miles 1-20 [ I'm Just Going Out for a Run ]

Travis and I chatted during the first 6 miles. I really enjoyed running with him. It was a mix of a bottleneck of 600 people in a race that is basically singletrack from the get-go, and then running at a pretty good clip. I thought maybe I was okay on average because of all the walking and slow downs in the bottleneck segments. At Damnation at mile 6 I sent Travis on. I was so happy to see Jennifer and Suann out there. I grabbed hugs from them both, and I said high to Suann's boyfriend Martin. Jennifer asked how I was, and I said that I needed to slow down, that I had gone out a bit fast. I headed out on the Damnation loop, a 6 mile loop back to the same aid station. Half of this loop was the only part of the course I had not seen already (it is not shared with the 50 mile course which I ran last year).

My goal for Damnation loop, since it was the longest stretch between aid stations and known for being rough mentally, was to break it down into more manageable segments. Ultrarunners live by going from aid station to aid station. I was going to need to break it down further later in the race and go from landmark to landmark. I focused on this and would repeat the Garmin splits for each landmark I chose as I went, trying to memorize it.

I also implemented stricter early calories. I had planned 1 GU halfway through the 6 mile Damnation loop at about 45 minutes into the loop. I had packed 3 GUs just in case. I changed my mind and decided to do 1 GU at 30 minutes in, 1 GU at 60 minutes in, and then the loop would be done at about 82 minutes. I was glad I was on top of nutrition early.

I was about 4.5 miles into the loop when my friend Chris, reddish beard and in a kilt, came up. With him were his friends Mark and Walt. So I fell in with them and we ran while we chatted. It felt a bit like a push but this was more of a downhill segment so I didn't see the harm. Chris talked up my New Years Double races to everyone around us. He's sweet and supportive like that.

As we approached Damnation again at mile 12, I let them go. I was still just going too fast. I told this to Jennifer at the aid station. Suann was super helpful, putting away my headlamp I was still wearing from the first dark hour of the race.

If I got antsy about the day ahead in this loop, my mantra was continuously echoing what I had put in my Facebook status that morning: "I'm just going out for a run." Oh, just a run. A little 100 mile run. A little 30 hour jaunt. But it worked!

The rest of the first loop is a pretty good blur. I knew this part of the course well and just tried to rein in some of the "happy puppy" over-adrenaline pacing I had exhibited in the first 12 miles. I tried to run relaxed and easy. The last 2.6 miles of the loop you hit everyone who has headed out for their 2nd loop just about 20 minutes before. So I started a strategy I had planned to use for the race all day: make eye contact (where the terrain would allow), smile, and alternate between "good job" and "way to go". I kept the mantra "give it all to them and therefore keep a little for myself." Smiling makes you feel better, the distraction was nice, and it was great to focus on that I was out on this adventure with my extended running family!

I was so happy to see my friend Laura Euckert during this part. Laura would go on to finish her first 100 miler. I am SO proud of this girl and her strength!

I was told by Jeremy to run a 5:00-5:20 first 20 mile loop. I took my phone out of airplane mode as I closed into the finish and sent "1.2 miles out. Early." I knew Jeremy would not be pleased. I came in at 4:45 for the first loop. Oops.

Josh and Reece were waiting for me at the last turn into the long finish line chute. I was so happy to see them. But being such a rule follower I immediately chastised them, "You're not supposed to be right here. They don't want crews at the street crossings. It's not safe." I babbled. They laughed and blew me off and jogged with me in the finish chute. "Guys, you can't run with me in here. You'll get me in trouble. It's not allowed." More laughing. Love those guys, they knew my personality, knew not to take offense, and were there to support me whether I was going to stand for it or not!
I swear I was running. Except I don't at all look like I was. Sigh.
I crossed the finish mat, and Lesley and Jeremy were waiting for me. I had my plan figured out - I wanted to sit and retie my shoes that were slightly loosening. Restock my GUs in my shorts and eat some calories, and I wanted the buff I had packed around my neck because it was warming up quick and I might need to wet it later. But with 4 people crewing me all of a sudden, it felt chaotic really quick. Josh and Reece didn't know my bags, Lesley didn't know my organization within my bags, so there was some panic about finding what I was looking for. With the NASCAR pit stop-like attention I was getting, I got to sit down to tie my shoes but never actually got to bend down and tie my shoes (gear shoved at me as well as calories). I heard Reece say, "she's got to get going" and Jeremy say back, "she came in early, she's fine." I looked at Jeremy and said, "Too Many Cooks." There were just too many cooks in the kitchen. However, I was really grateful for all of their help at the same time. It was just overwhelming.

HOT Day: I stood up, and Jeremy got a big scoop of ice and we watched the aid station volunteer girl's eyes turn into saucers as we poured the whole scoop into my sports bra and then I mashed it down flat. The day had started at about 60 degrees, and it was quickly heading to the high of 72 degrees, which was made worse that the humidity was in the high 90-something percent range. It was brutal out there. Jeremy added ice in my hat. Then he said, "I don't want to see you before 5:20 on the next loop. Got it??"


Loop 2: Miles 21-40  [ I Realized I Needed To Have a Little Patience ]

I hugged all my buds and headed back out. With 2.6 miles of two-way traffic, I focused on calming back down and smiling and talking to everyone I saw. I would even smile and say hello to families out hiking. I settled into a pace and thought about Geoff Roes in the movie "Unbreakable" about Western States 2010. Jeremy had told me to think about how Geoff kept pushing especially when he was behind. He didn't give up. But instead I thought of the section where Geoff says, "I realized I needed to have a little patience." That became my mantra for loop 2. I just settled in and watched my Garmin like a hawk, making sure I came in at the right pace for every aid station to aid station split. I used this loop to cement my between aid station landmark spots when later going 3.1 miles from aid station to aid station would even start to feel far.

Surprise! I was in a good mood, and as I came into Damnation, I saw my friend David. His face when he saw me out there since I had been so quiet about it, was priceless. "Libby, are you running the hundred?!?" Um, no, I'm knitting a sweater.

Me: "Um, yeah."
David: "Was this some sort of covert op?"
Me: "Yeah, it was on the down low." Ha.

I was feeling a little worn down though as I was getting into Damnation at mile 26. Jennifer saw me and asked how I was. I said I felt a little off. She said, "I can see it in your eyes. You need some calories." I'd been eating lots of salty things and salt tablets. I told her my tummy felt bloated. She had me lay off the salt and handed me foods to eat. No questions asked - I did as I was told being helped by such a veteran as Jennifer.

I stuck with my 2 GUs in this 6 mile Damnation loop, which I think was a huge help. I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition, which was exhausting. You felt like you were in a food eating contest with a side of running.

In the Damnation loop, I had figured out how to break down the 6 miles into segments...

1.2 miles - where the 50 mile markers split off. Marked for next weekend's race and for some reason they had told us 6 people were doing the 50 mile while we were out doing the 100 mile.
2.8 miles - big 180 degree turn to start heading back towards the aid station rather than taking a big long boardwalk bridge across the lake.
3.4 miles - a park bench. Yeah, that's not masochistic, making the first park bench in the loop a major accomplishment spot.
4.1 miles - a big smooth white downed tree that the trail would head towards and then veer to the right before we got to it. It stuck with me so I made it a landmark spot.
4.5 miles - big left turn marked with arrows
5.0 miles - cross the levee
5.5 miles - rejoin the trail where people are going out on the Damnation loop for the last 0.4ish miles back to the aid station.



I was feeling a little beatdown when I came back in. David and Martin were there and asked how I was. "I don't want to do that loop again... in the dark... alone." David asked if I had music. I said no, and they said, "You'll be okay. Keep moving." I headed over to refill my water and get some food. The aid station volunteers had ice, and it was still so hot out, I had them fill my bottle half with ice. It was wonderful.

A Burger Bite from a Stranger: I asked if Jennifer was around but no one knew where she was. Nothing on the table looked great, but I knew I had to eat. I said to a volunteer in the tent, "Hey, you guys get hamburgers?!?" while laughing. The woman hops up and says, "Do you want a bite?" and offers up her half-eaten burger. I said, "Are you serious?" She says, "YEAH!" Um, yeah, I totally stretched my neck out and took a bite out of the burger she held out past the table between us. Ultrarunning is crazy stuff, people. Thank you to that kind volunteer!! That was good mental juju there!

While I was eating food, Jennifer appeared. I was so happy to see her. I told her about my fears of having to do the Damnation loop by myself one more time before picking up my pacer. She said, "NO. You don't think about that. You think about getting to the next aid station. That's all you think about. You don't think ahead of that." Such good advice. I knew to move from aid station to aid station, but I needed to hear that right then.

I left for the next aid station 3.4 miles away with renewed spirit. Except the ice in my water bottle was making such a racket as it shook around that I was kinda regretting it. Funny how the small things, 32 miles into a race, started to feel like big things. 1.5 miles of this next segment had two-way traffic so I watched for friends. I saw Melanie, and 10 minutes later, her boyfriend and my friend Kai. Shaheen (who ultimately rocked a 3rd place finish) came upon me and stopped to walk with me for a minute or two and chat. Just so nice of her when I knew she was racing her heart out. Those are the moments and connections that really strike me.

I saw a running acquaintance Kay and she introduced me to the guy she was running with, Harold, who ran my New Years Double race this year. I stayed with them for about a mile chatting away. I made it to the Park Road aid station. Now just 4.3 miles back to the start/finish line. And I hate this last section to the finish actually more than the Damnation loop.

I watched my pace and kept it consistent. I used that last 2.6 miles of shared two-way traffic to smile and greet strangers and friends alike. Josh had headed out to pace his friend Jeff for a few miles so he roared a happy hello he saw me on the trail. When I came into the last turn for the finish chute, there was Reece and Lesley waiting for me. I had planned out my course of action here and one thing was that I wanted a picture before it got dark of me running. Lesley had read my mind because she already had her camera out.

They went to run into the chute with me, and I said again, "Guys, you aren't supposed to be on the course. You'll get me in trouble." They laughed, but I was focused at this point. "No, I'm serious, I want you on the spectator side. You can run over there. I'm a rule follower, and I want to follow the rules!!" LOL. I was terrified I would get disqualified for friends running with me for even 20 feet. 40 miles in and I was slightly irrational.

Greg was on the spectator side and shouted a cheer. I was happy to see him there. He was pacing a friend later that night for 20 miles. I pulled into the finish line, and Jeremy was waiting to lead me to a chair. NASCAR pit stop started a bit again. You can't blame people. Hey, wait here for 5 hours, then take all that energy into helping someone for 5 minutes. LOL.

I immediately told Jeremy, "You said 5:20. It is EXACTLY 5:20 for this loop." He was satisfied. A crew mate changed my shoes and socks - my feet were in really good shape, but I wanted the mental happiness of new footwear since the 3rd loop was considered by many to be the toughest mentally. Food and drink was shoved into my hands. People got me outfitted in my headlamps since it would get dark during this part. Someone else tied my shoes. It was discombobulating, but I was thankful for the love and support. I think it was 5 people? Greg, Chris (who came out of nowhere - hadn't expected to see him! yay!), Lesley, Reece, Jeremy.

10 minutes for that aid station stop. Jeremy told me 5:45 for the next loop. The dreaded third loop. But I was in good spirits, my hydration and nutrition were great, my stomach was cooperating, so I headed out.


Loop 3: Miles 41-60 [ where it all started to go downhill ]

Sending out smiles and encouraging words to runners coming towards me got me to the first aid station, Nature Center. A half mile later, I was feeling a little like the lube my crew had done on my feet might not be as much as I normally use. But the feet were at a point where everything kinda hurt, so I wasn't sure. I retied my shoes just to make sure I wouldn't make any lack of lubing worse with my feet moving around in my shoes.

We're All In This Together: A guy passed me then, and I fell in behind him. When he ran a minute later, I ran. It was a decent clip but I could hold it. I asked if he minded if I stayed behind him for a bit. Love the camaraderie on the trails. He didn't have a problem, and it turned out in talking, was happy for the company too! It turned out John was from the Dallas area also. He was mostly doing 3 minute run / 1 minute walk intervals during this rooty, not very hilly, single-track section. I noticed after a couple intervals that he had a good pace running, but I had a better pace walking. So I suggested we take turns leading. We did 2.5 miles like that and made great time plus we chatted the whole time. His watch would ding for a walk, I'd pass him and powerwalk, his watch would ding and he'd pass me and we'd run. Perfect.

A Sing-Along in the Woods: At Damnation, we parted to run our own races. I was so happy to have gotten there before it got dark. Within the next mile, the dusk would turn to completely pitch dark that quickly. I spent the next two miles singing out loud to entertain myself in the dark. Mostly songs from Disney's Frozen, which I had taken the girls to see THREE times, and we'd listened to the soundtrack a hundred times.
Funny how the distance makes everything seem small
And the fear that once controlled me can't get to me at all.
It's time to see what I can do
To push the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me! I'm FREE!
-- From the song "Let It Go" from the Frozen soundtrack
Scolding the Brain: I also had to scold myself out loud here and several other times in this 20 mile loop. My mind would drift to that bad place where I would have to do this 20 mile loop 2 more times. Or this section 2 more times. I woudl sternly say, "NO. It's just X to the next aid station. X to the next aid station."

Join the Convoy: About 3 miles into the Damnation loop, I came upon 2 guys who had a nice consistent powerwalk going. I asked them if they minded me joining their convoy. They didn't so I silently just fell in behind. Eventually we chatted a little. Jeff was pacing Sam who, since he's over 60, was allowed a pacer from the beginning. So we were all on the same loop, but with the advantage of pacer Jeff with us. I stayed with them for about a mile and a half then bid them farewell. The company in the dark on that hardest part of the hard 3rd loop was wonderful!

Blister Time: However on this Damnation loop, my feet were starting to seriously hurt. Wait, my right foot, at the bottom of my big toe, THAT was where it hurt. RIGHT THERE. Uh oh, I really hadn't had enough lube from my crew on my feet. A big blister was on its way. I had my course of action figured out and knew Damnation was known for amazing blister care. I came in asking if someone there could treat blisters or was I on my own? They said Lynn could do it. Lynn Ballard, HE was the one I knew I had heard was the blister expert. 20 minutes in the aid station, but Lynn helped me get my shoe and sock off and found that I had a good blister forming in a spot that's completely bad to try to drain or tape - in the actual CREASE at the base of the big toe. GRRRR. He put a piece of molefoam and some duct tape further down from the spot where it could actually be taped. He said it was the best he could do, it would suck, and when I got back to the start/finish, maybe they could do more because the duct tape would start slipping and could make more blisters. Ohhhhhhh-kay.

The next 8 miles were terribly uncomfortable. I wanted to cry when I got to Park Road aid station. I had held out hope for a mental boost that someone from my group of friends might come out there. I'm sure they were all resting for when I would get in. But I wanted to see a friendly face.

I just kept moving and it was hurting more and more. I knew precisely what I wanted when I came in that finish chute. I didn't see Jeremy but Lesley, Elaine, Josh, and Reece were all there. "What do you need?", they asked.

I said, "I need to talk to Jeremy. I need to sit down and talk to Jeremy."

Someone grabbed him and he rushed over. In the meantime, I told Elaine how beyond happy I was that she had made the trip down. I was so happy to see her face. But my brain was also overloaded with the past loop's uncomfortability and flat out pain. With Jeremy here, I told everyone I appreciated all of their support, but I needed two minutes alone with him to talk. I'm sure they were concerned about what was going on.

Jeremy knelt down right in my face and asked what was the problem. I told him what had occurred over the last loop. He said, "You're not quitting over some *&%^ing blisters." I told him I knew that, I had never said I was quitting, I just knew we needed to handle them now, get me back into a better place, BEFORE we headed back out together with him pacing me. We agreed we would look at and lance and taper any blisters we could. Luckily, Becky the doctor there was available to do all of that.

I called everyone back over. I was so touched Elaine would come down there just to be there for my big race day!
Mile 60 Selfie Fun!
Everyone kept my spirits up while the doctor worked on my feet.

She confirmed the big toe crease one and the heel ones weren't really anything we could do too much about. I was just going to have to put up with it. I got the "Man Up" talk from the doctor. We changed out my headlamps and my shirt while she worked and had me eat.

Here's a fun video Elaine shot of me during this mile 60 pit stop!

The doctor taped me up the best we could, put on new socks, shoved my feet back in my shoes, and we stood me up. Hugs all around for such a great circle of friends. Jeremy and I headed out.
Ultrarunning comes with a surprisingly high number of hugs.


Loop 4: Miles 61-80 [ Happy To Have a Friend With Me ]

The furthest I had ever gone before this was 50 miles. I'd never spent more than 14 hours on my feet in a race. Now I was almost 17 hours into the event!

Having my pacer there definitely lifted my spirits some. We walked for a little bit for me to shake off the stiffness from sitting while the doctor had worked and to just settle into the "Yeah, blisters suck, this is just going to hurt." I still had time to make the cutoff if I kept moving. You had to make 80 miles in 24 hours to get to go out on the last 20 mile loop. We had 7 hours left.

At Nature Center aid station 3.1 miles into the loop, Jeremy filled my water, I drank some coke, had a couple pretzels, I said hi to Becky who had arrived right before us, and Jeremy sent me on while he ran to the bathroom. I worked my butt off powerwalking and a little running on my tender feet so that he said I'd made good ground when he caught me. Nothing eventful on the way to Damnation. He shared stories from the day of volunteering at the start/finish aid station, and I shared stories from the day out on the trail.

We had to get moving to keep me on target so again at Damnation he ran ahead and refilled my water and had food waiting when I walked up. Then he sent me on and refilled his own pack and got some food for himself. When he caught up, he had M&Ms and Oreos in a cup for our long 6 mile Damnation loop.

We walked for what felt like forever. I had told him all my incremental markings, but all of a sudden, it felt like 45 minutes between each instead of 20 or so. He would ask me to eat an M&M every once in a while. My stomach was alternating between hungry and I-can't-even-look-at-food. Jeremy's rule was that I would eat when food struck me as okay and the rest of the time would be liquid calories at aid stations. About 3 miles in, some of my energy and personality actually kicked in. I think because my feet were numbing a bit to the blisters during that time. I was able to run some good segments on the way back to Damnation for those few miles. Although when I would switch back to walking, I'd have to fix my breathing. My cardiovascular system had never been this taxed and the impulse was to hyperventilate as my heart rate would drift up more easily.

We made it back to Damnation, and he let me sit in a chair. The only one available was in the aid station tent. He named off a bunch of foods but nothing sounded good. So 2 cups of coke and 2 cups of Mountain Dew were handed to me to guzzle. I knew I was getting calories but I was starting to get kinda sleepy. I mean it was about 3 am! Someone mentioned something about some sausage they had been grilling up. I remember how earlier I had wanted nothing to do with it, but it somewhat piqued my interest. Remembering Jeremy's rule that if it didn't make my stomach yell "NO" then I should eat it, I asked the volunteer for a piece. Martin came and sat next to me - yay for friendly faces in the middle of the night. I ate the sausage piece. "Do you want another?" I furiously shook my head. Okay, time to go then.

When I stepped out of the aid station tent, I realized how much colder it was getting. I put on my windbreaker. The temperature would drop about 20 degrees quickly those couple hours. I was getting mentally so worn down, and I found the pits of "ultrabrain" during this 3.3 miles to the next aid station. I got really quiet and pouty. I just wanted to stop. I just wanted to be done. I was tired of willing myself forward. I was still moving, but I was kind of hating life. It felt like it took so much effort to do ANYTHING. Wow, that was a dark place.

Jeremy kept asking me to tell him what I was feeling, to tell him what was wrong. A perfect sum-up of ultrabrain, I finally stopped, crouched down a little fetal-position-like, put my hands up against my ears, and yelled, "I JUST NEED MY BRAIN TO STOP TELLING ME CONSTANTLY TO STOPPPPP!" And then we kept walking. Bizarro land.

Somehow I came out the other side of it. I'm sure it was greatly due to the help of Jeremy. He just kept talking to me, trying to get me to talk to him, trying to distract me with jokes or questions, and making sure I didn't stop moving forward.

At the Park Road aid station, mile 76, I sat down in the most uncomfortable looking chair on purpose. Instantly, I started shaking violently because it was getting colder and I was run down. An aid station volunteer threw a blanket around me, Jeremy put gloves on me, and I drank down a hot chocolate. More Coke and time to get moving.

Time was slipping away, but I didn't want to know how much. Jeremy said as long as I kept moving the best I could, it was all he could ask. My legs weren't awful. My low back was a little sore, my neck too from looking down at my feet in the dark, but my feet were on FIRE. I linked my arm around Jeremy's and he made me jog. That's when I finally cried. Because my blisters hurt SO bad. Both feet just hurt SO BAD. I kind of wished something would get bad enough to burst, I've been there before, because I knew the pressure would abate and it would feel a lot better.

The last two miles my body had just decided it was so tired and I started getting a little staggery. I kept my arm linked with Jeremy's for a lot of this, because every once in a while, I'd get a little woozy. I needed a boost in calories but nothing tasted good. Not even my emergency treat of a York Peppermint Patty.

A half mile from the finish I asked him to tell me what the time was. It was past 24 hours. I hadn't made the time cutoff. I wanted to know before I got there and saw the clock. I hugged him and start crying but quickly sucked it up, we said I wasn't going to do that here, and we continued to the finish. I walked into the finish chute, and they took my chip.

I was cold and sleepy, but I was completely coherent. I ate some saltine crackers and a little bacon and chatted with my friends. Elaine, Lesley, Josh, and Reece were all there, and it was a great feeling to see reflected back at me that they were proud of what I had accomplished and that there was no disappointment in their eyes. I love those friends so much, before that moment and especially in that moment.

I had crossed in 24 hours and 26 minutes with 80 miles complete - that's 11 hours longer than I had ever run, and 30 miles further.

40 minutes of blister care at Damnation at mile 52 and at the start/finish at mile 60, plus my slowed pace with my tender painful feet, had cost me my race. BUT I had kept moving and I had never quit. That was always the goal. Even if I had done everything right, I was always the back of the pack and at risk of time cutoffs. But I was not to quit on my own. I needed to go until they took my timing chip from me due to time cutoffs or at 100 miles. Only those scenarios.

42% of the race starters did not finish the race. This was the lowest finish rate in the race's history. I made it further than 33% of the starters who had dropped before mile 80.

Congratulations and Thanks: Congrats to so many friends who finished their 100 miler; I'm sorry I can't begin to name everyone. Thank you to my friends who came to cheer then jumped in to help with various crewing duties. And thanks to Jeremy for putting up with me for the whole weekend, including 7 hrs and 50 minutes tromping through the dark woods with my demons!


What's Next?

RECOVER! I have 6 blisters and 1 big blood blister healing up. My legs are tired. And I was up for 27 straight hours.

Then I have Gorge Waterfalls 100K at the end of March. I have run the 50K 2 years ago and adored that race. The race director is awesome too. This is the first year they have added a 100K. I'm excited to go, along with good friends Jeremy and Lesley, although the 16 hour time limit for a hard race with 12,000 feet of elevation gain and loss is ambitious for my pace. It's an out-and-back. I'm prepared for whatever happens. Again, I've now gone over 50 miles only ONCE. A 100K is still a little scary, especially a hard one. If I get pulled for time, it will be AFTER the turnaround, so I have seen this beautiful course at least completely in one direction!

Happy Running!