Wednesday, December 14, 2016

2016 Can Go Ahead and Fuck Right Off

This year has been fucking shit and I am so glad it's almost over. What the hell, 2016? 

Fortunately my husband, daughters and I all have our health, are safe, and we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and the lights on. Any year where all of that is still true is, I admit, a very, very good thing. But it doesn't make any of the rest of it sting less, unfortunately.

Cruising in to the end of the first half of 2016 it appeared everything was going along swimmingly. There were normal bumps in the road, but personally I was rocking at life, and finished my longest race to date at the end of May. That race was supposed to be a jumping off point, of sorts, to charging in to training for the 100 miler I had my eye on. 

But it wasn't to be. My body, and spirit, were ravaged after the Sun Mountain 50 miler. In the handful of weeks that followed the race I didn't run, and instead indulged in rest and simply looked forward to summer. Then in mid-June my grandfather, at 97 years old, passed away. He was a good, honest, hardworking man that lived a long, simple, and healthy life. His passing at 97 wasn't exactly a surprise, but still hurt. As a WWII veteran he had military rights at his funeral, which was incredibly moving. He is deeply missed. 

While away at my grandfather's funeral our beloved family dog, Heidi, only eight years old, collapsed and died completely unexpectedly. Her death hit me extremely hard. Any motivation I had to do anything, especially get back in to running, was destroyed in the months following Heidi's passing. 

Without Heidi, Summer plodded along, and I in my sadness I decided to forcea bright spot back in to my (our) life (lives). More on that later.

Fall came, things were okay-ish again. Running was still a pipe dream, but I was getting by (and putting on weight, UGH). Like every other human in the United States I was stick-a-fork-in-me DONE with the election well before November 8th. But then fucking November 8th came and then WHAT THE HOLY FUCKING HELL HAPPENED. Jesus Christ. Like the majority of the people in our country, I didn't actually want a demagogue as a president. I am having a hard time figuring out what I can do that's actually meaningful. Right now it seems to be consuming news at a rate about 8,000 times I ever have at any other point in my life and wondering when I when will wake up from the nightmare. 

And because death and destruction wasn't enough to cloud 2016, let's just throw in very scary diagnoses for two of my loved ones, shall we? Out of privacy for these people, I won't say anything more about it than this, but it's fucking shit. People we love aren't supposed to have scary health issues. One person I am more directly involved in, and affected by, the care for than the other, but it's all kind of terrifying and awful. 

That's the bulk of that.

But I won't end this on a low note, no way. There was one major high point of 2016, and his name is Stargazer's Ultimate Full Heart aka "Riggins". If you're new around here, Riggins is the Portuguese Water Dog we brought home at the end of July, when he was eight weeks old. He was, and is, the cutest freaking thing I've ever seen. 

Fortunately a puppy fills every single ounce of space you might have devoted to feeling like complete and total poop. He's definitely saved me from ending this year huddled 24/7 in a trembling mass under the protective covers of my own bed.

I've brought Riggins out for short hikes on the trails. Being back out there has felt so that good I've even started dipping my toes back in to my running shoes. Hoping that the motivation to keep running sticks, but we'll see. I'm not pushing anything at this point. Riggins can't run with me yet, but as soon as he's grown enough I'll get him out! 

So, here's to 2017 not sucking balls. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Time to Get to Work

Like the majority of Americans on Tuesday, I voted for Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States. I am guessing that all of them shared my shock, anger, and sadness over what happened next. 

It is unfathomable to think that our president, the one who won the popular vote won't be taking office in January.

As much as I want to stew in anger over this, I just can't. I have to act.

It's embarassing to admit how passive I was during this election cycle. Donald Trump running for President was a joke, every step of the way, until Tuesday night. There was no way he would win. Until he did. It never once occured to me to get involved, in some way-- ANY way-- in case, well, every single prediction was incorrect. I did my due diligence and I voted. That should have been enough, right?


Perhaps the most positive thing that has come out of election, for me, is it woke me up. Now, I live in a severely blue bubble here in Seattle, Washington. Nearly 72% of the residents in King County voted for Hillary. In our state 55% voted for her. Actually, check out this graph below. See if you can spot the similarity between all of the images below when it comes to Washington state (h/t to my 12 yo daughter for pointing this out to me) . . . 

All of this to drive the point home that the majority of people I surround myself with by and large maintain the same ideals I do. That's pretty cool, and the reason my family lives where it does, but it has made me lazy and has certainly skewed my bigger view of the state of the country.

It was well past time for my husband and me to start the conversation about white privelege with our daughters, but I am glad we did. It's imperative that we "be the change we wish to see in the world", if you will, and do something to help those who weren't born in to the same privelege. While simply being a kind, decent person, who believes in equality for all, is indeed noble- it's not enough. Not nearly. Our family's challenge now is figure out a meaningful way to effect change. I don't know exactly what that looks like, yet, but we're working on it. We have all spent time volunteering for different organizations, but I feel like we need to specifically choose to give what we can to those who will be, and already are, being negatively affected by the results of our recent election. 

It's going to be a long four years. Time to get to work. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tap Tap Tap . . .

I knew it had been a while since I visited the blog, didn't realize it was well over two months.


What's been happening? Somewhere between everything and nothing. 

Here's the condensed version.

I finished my big race. My body decided to be done for a while. Then my grandfather passed away, followed shortly by our family's beloved dog, Heidi. My grandfather's passing was expected, he was 97 and was in failing health. My dog's passing was not. At only 8 1/2 she collapsed and died the evening after Iris and I flew to WI for my grandfather's funeral. We didn't even get to say goodbye.


Such huge loss coupled with the exhaustion of training for and running my race left me physically and mentally unable to carry on any semblance of a running schedule. I just felt broken, in every way. At first I was really frustrated-- mainly because I had a big race coming up (Squamish 50k) and I needed to be ready to keep up with Tara. But there was just nothing I could do. A six mile run around my hood was a herculean effort, and that was after I barely willed myself out the door. My hip didn't recover, it still hasn't recovered, and it let me know that it wasn't happy with any efforts to run. So I just kind of stopped caring to fix it. It became obvious that Squamish was out of the question and I had let Tara know, which sucked. Running that race with her was going to be one of the highlights of my year, so putting in to words that I was letting it go stung.

To complicate matters we decided to get a new dog. Riggins came home At the end of July when he was eight weeks old. It was a sad/weird/exciting process, the decision to get another dog so soon after Heidi's death. We are "dog people" and our home without a dog felt really empty. Also, for a long time I wanted a puppy, one I could train to be a great trail companion (Heidi hated running, and other dogs), but decided I couldn't do that to Heidi-- she would have HATED a puppy. So the idea of a puppy had been planted for a bit, but we thought it would be years off as Heidi grew old with us. We also realized summer is a perfect time to raise a puppy, so we decided to go for it. It's been awesome and difficult. Raising a puppy isn't unlike raising a biting, walking infant human! But we love him so much, it was the right choice for us. He is crazy awesome. It will be a while before he is ready for long trail adventures, but we'll get there!

Riggins resting during a short hike on Denny Creek Trail at 11 weeks old.

A couple of weekends ago I went on my first, and sadly only, summer "running" adventure. I met up with two friends to tackle a section of the Wonderland Trail on Mt. Rainier. We went from the Fryingpan Creek Trailhead up to the Panhandle Gap and back down. I think it was 11-ish miles. There was actually very little running involved, which suited my out-of-shape body just fine. I got a sweet taste of what I love about running though: it takes me to places that are truly amazing while accompanied by wonderful people. It felt really good to be out there!

Outside of all of this summer has been okay. My daughters and I have gone camping and hiking a couple of times, and that went pretty well considering I'm not really a camper. It's been nice to find new adventures that aren't running and that also include my family. I've also been working all summer, which is the first time I have had to do that since I had kids. It's obviously nice to have the extra money, plus my job is hanging with my adorable niece, but it's tough to do everything I already have to do, then work on top of it. Some day my responsibilities will magically dwindle in number, yes?

Camping at Lake Wenatchee State Park was 80% awesome and 20% terrible.
This was part of the awesome.

So, that's about it. Feels weird to just type out 2+ very full/amazing/challenging months in a few short paragraphs, but there you have it. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

What Now?

With my goal race for the year in my rear view mirror, the natural question is . . . what now?

Well, the biggest thing is just happy being 100% available for family time. By Monday after the race I was back to work, by Tuesday I was elbows deep in a farm tour as I chaperoned Eloise’s class on a field trip. Then more work, a ton of errands I had been putting off—oh, but then a three day weekend! I got in a three mile shuffle (no way am I calling that a run!) on Saturday morning with the High Heelers. It was followed by coffee and chatting with friends, which took longer than the shuffle did. Ah, doing Saturday morning right! But then by Saturday evening my youngest got sick and I have been on nurse duty pretty much ever since. While taking care of a sick kid is never fun, I was glad to be able to do it without worry about missing any of my runs.
So, basically, for the two weeks post-race, life is happening, and anything more is not. And that is A-OK. 

I began writing out a plan for “training” for the Squamish 50k in August, and it mostly consists of question marks, hopes for yoga classes, and a few adventure runs. What more would I need, right?! There are at least two runs near/on Rainier planed already, which makes me EXTREMELY happy! 

Definitely won't lie, I am very much enjoying not looking at, or worrying about, a training plan. I think that's how I know I am still very much in recover mode. I don't even care that I am not training or running at all. 

The biggest thing for me right now, in terms of continuing to run, is figuring out what is up with my hip. Not surprisingly, it isn’t any better after running 50 miles (shocker!). My next appointment with my PT will hopefully contain a conversation about how to really fix it. I was kinda sorta staying on top of it during 50 miler training, but that level of stress isn't conducive to healing anything! 

Snacks for the drive home from the Sun Mountain weekend. 

Post-race I am trying something new that is somewhat related to my training, and it's more carefully considering what I am eating. It's always been quite nice that I can pretty much eat anything I want and not gain weight-- I am guessing it's a combination of being six feet tall, having a decent metabolism, and training at the volume I did. It was always something to even sort of laugh at, how many calories I could eat and "not be affected" by it. Which basically meant I didn't gain weight. That said, being able to eat a lot and not gain weight isn't necessarily a good thing for me. I definitely found myself, on a daily or near-daily basis, over-eating. Eating too much at meals or eating when I wasn't even hungry. Sadly, the amount of food my body is truly asking for is quite a bit less than what I really want to eat. I eat for many, many reasons, very often "actual hunger" isn't even on that list. "Because I can" seems to rank pretty high, however. Ugh. 

So, I am practicing this crazy notion of only eating when I am hungry and stopping when I am full

Ground-breaking, right? Ha!

It has been difficult and eye-opening. I like to eat, dammit! It is hard to want to walk to the kitchen and grab something just because I am bored, but instead figure out what else to do. And then remind myself every minute that I'm not actually hungry, I'm just bored. It is also hard to listen carefully when I eat and stop when I am full. My hunger level, and therefor my food intake, typically decreases as the day goes on. Having a small dinner, which is often the yummiest meal of the day, kind of stinks. 

That said, so far I've had one major pay-off, which is that I haven't once in the past two weeks been uncomfortably full. I used to feel that way pretty often, and it sucks. Reminding myself how awful I will feel if I overeat by grabbing a snack when I'm not hungry, or finishing a meal when I am no longer hungry, is somewhat motivating. 

If you have any good advice for how to stop yourself from eating when you aren't hungry, let me know! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sun Mountain 50 Miler: Go Get It

Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama

I made no secret of my pre-race nerves: the impending Sun Mountain 50 miler was basically scaring the crap out of me in the final few weeks of my training. Excitement was over-shadowed by doubt, and my naive "hell yes!" withered in to "OMG WTF."

Fortunately my naiveté prevailed, and on Saturday May 21st I finished my first 50 mile race.

This is the second year my family has made a long weekend vacation of trekking up to the Methow Valley for a Sun Mountain race. Last year I ran my first 50k on those same trails! It's such a fun trip for all of us.  

My husband, our girls and I settled in to our cozy cabin in Mazama (same one as last year!) on Thursday night, then ventured in to Winthrop to have dinner at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery (same as last year!). Making sure to get a picture of the girls in the face cutout photo stand outside (same as . . . you guessed it). Traditions in the making!

Photo credit: my husband Matt

On Friday morning I laid out all of my race gear then we ventured in to Winthrop after lunch. First stop was to the Chickadee Trailhead, where the Sun Mountain races start and finish. We decided to walk the ~one mile Yellow Jacket trail out to where the Homestead aid station would be, which calmed my nerves and shook out my legs. After the walk it was time for a mandatory trip to Sheri's Sweet Shoppe for candy and ice cream, then we threw in a rousing round of mini golf for good measure. Finally, we headed back to the cabin for pasta dinner. And an early bedtime.

The early bedtime didn't matter one lick. I could hardly sleep at all. 

Wide away at 4:00 a.m., I gave up on sleep and snuck out of bed to start getting ready. As I sat in front of the fireplace eating breakfast and drinking coffee I seriously considered bagging the whole stupid idea and tucking myself back in to bed. Sitting there I couldn't shake the feeling that I was in way over my head.

But instead I just simply moved along as planned, and then it was time for everyone to pile in to the car to drive to the race. My stomach started doing flipflops like I have never felt before. Once we were at the start line at Chickadee trailhead it was an easy check in process and we found the tarps for my drop bags. I swallowed my nerves, nervously smiled for photos, and then it was go time.

This is how I swallow my nerves. Photo credit: Matt

Don't think, just go.

My Garmin doesn't hold a charge for long in GPS mode, but I decided to turn it on until the mile 17 aid station. I wanted to make sure I didn't start too fast. The entire group of 50 mile runners started out pretty fast (same as last year!!!) and I stuck near the back. Despite the weather being drizzly and cool I got warm fast and peeled off my rain jacket and stuffed it in to my pack a couple of miles in. 

I ran alone for a bit until I came up behind my friend Callista. She had already decided to drop early, so was just out there to have a little fun and enjoy the first part of the race course. It was nice to hang with her and chat for a while. This is my least favorite section of the course, a lot of it is a long slow climb. Callista and I said goodbye at the Thompson aid station at mile 8.6, which was where I met another runner, Keli.

First climb up to Thompson aid station. Photo credit: Callista.

Photo credit: Ross Comer

Keli and I continued on together towards Homestead aid station at mile 17. The trails in this section were funny, many of them were obviously put in very recently, but were right next to the old trails. I have no idea why! We hit the aid station just a couple of minutes before the time I asked my husband and daughters to meet me there, and was so happy they were there! It was comforting to see them, as well as the familiar faces of the aid station workers. Those guys were all on it, helping me re-fuel and checking to see if I needed anything swapped out.

A quick kiss and hug for my girls! Photo credit: Matt

I call this "can't talk, gotta run!" as Keli and I head out. 
Photo credit: Matt

It took Keli and I a bit to move out of the aid station, but then we were off towards the mile 25.2 aid station at Patterson Lake. This section boasts gorgeous views of the valley, but also holds the little thing known as the "climb from hell". Well, I called it that last year because the switchbacks up to the back of Sun Mountain Lodge were awful in the heat. This year the climb was completely bearable, as it was overcast and cool. Once we got to the top, we did an out and back on the other side of the lodge, then came back down the same switchbacks. That was different from last year and I didn't like it as much. 

We made it down to Patterson Lake well under the cut-off. It really wasn't until that point that I began to feel comfortable with my time. I also was feeling good enough that I started thinking I might want to push my pace a bit. Keli and I had been taking it easy, which was smart for the first half of a long race, but I love steep climbs, and knew it was a good spot to try and see what I could do. We climbed a bit together until we got out in to the open and I bid farewell to Keli. I pushed very nearly as hard as I could up Patterson Mountain and made it to the top with what felt like much less time than last year. A quick photo at the top and back down I went.

Chillin' on the step ladder that we had to go up and over on our 
way up Patterson Mountain. Photo credit: Keli

View from the top of Patterson Mountain.

At this point I looked at my watch and was absolutely shocked when I realized that if I booked it back to the Chickadee Trailhead, which was our mile 31 aid station, I might meet or beat my 50k time from last year! So down I went. As I passed Glenn, the race photographer, I decided I would try my first ever jumping shot (photo at the top of this post).

Oh, hey, don't fall! Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama

Down, down, down, then across the road and up the trail, I pushed harder than I probably should have, and was shocked I actually managed to come in to Chickadee a few minutes under my time from last year! Matt and the girls were there waiting for me, and I definitely needed them! I plopped down in to a chair and began to answer their questions. Did I need new shoes? No. Did I need new socks? Yes. Did I need ibuprofen? Yes. Did I need a new buff? No. Etc, etc. I changed the tape on my foot (damn blisters!) which ate up the biggest chunk of my time at the aid station. After getting my socks and shoes back on I leaped up from the chair, knowing every second more I sat would increase the chances of my muscles seizing up.

Coming in to the mile 31 aid station to hugs from my girls!
Photo credit: Matt

Hugs, kisses and waves goodbye, I was back out. I had previously warned Matt, multiple times, that I would likely tell him I needed to drop at Chickadee. I would be tired and hurting and done running. His only job was to kick me out of there (unless, of course, I was actually in serious pain). Thankfully that wasn't the case on race day. Adrenaline was still surging and I was so excited to get back out on the trails and finish my race.

The way the course is laid out the 50 mile runners do the entire 50k course then head back out and do the first 17 miles of the course again before heading two miles back to the finish line. As I chugged along I realized my "A" goal of finishing in 12 hours was very attainable by that point, so I had five more hours to go. My watch was only showing me the time of day, and I knew I made had previously made it to mile 17 in 3 1/2 hours, so I used that as a gauge to measure my progress.

Hello dreary skies.

The work of climbing up, up, up to Thompson aid station was even more tedious the second time. Not getting to do it with a friend just meant it was quiet and boring. My stomach decided it wasn't too happy, so I focused on breathing deeply, and keeping from getting to worried about how I was feeling.

Distracting myself by taking photos on the second pass through.

Finally at the Thompson aid station, again, I only grabbed some Sprite to drink. No food. I decided the end was near enough to gamble with not eating very much more at that point. I had spent the earlier part of the day eating all sorts of goodies out of my pack as well as two Oreos and a handful of Ruffles from every aid station, so I definitely felt well-fueled. 

Upon leaving the aid station I became a bit disoriented. I was climbing a dirt road, but felt almost certain I had missed the turn-off to the trail. I kept turning around, no one coming up after me, and was worried. Finally I found it. The trail ascends sharply, and for the first time that day, I had to stop. I put my hands on my knees and bent over in the middle of the climb. "God-fucking-dammit" I repeated out loud. Yep, I'd reached the swearing out loud portion of my race. Quickly I decided music would help, so I turned on LCD Soundsystem on my phone and played it out loud from the pocket of my vest. I consider this terrible trail etiquette, but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. Luckily I only passed one person on the trail and turned the music down as I did. The music energized me so completely, it was almost like I was running on fresh legs! I flew down the trails, smiling and singing out loud (hey, it's better than swearing!) and made it to the Homestead aid station by the end of the album. Shockingly, I beat the amount of time it took me to run to Homestead the first go-round by several minutes! 

On the section of trail, from Thompson to Homestead, shortly before Homestead, I passed another runner. He wasn't in the race, but he looked extremely familiar to me. I saw him twice that day and still can't place him, it's driving me nuts! But as I went by he said to me: "go get it".  

At that moment, his words really struck me. I was at about mile 47 at this point, had been running for about 10 1/2 hours, and while overall my day was going quite well and I was happy about how things were playing out, I never felt really empowered, like this was my day and I am out here to crush my fear, my anxiety, and my doubt about whether or not I accomplish this goal. But not only was I doing it, I was exceeding every (ridiculously low) expectation I had set for myself. I hadn't been truly embracing my race, I was just moving through it. But I thought about the words "go get it" and decided, hell yes, I AM going to get it. I am going to get my finish, I am going to get my day, I am going to get this huge accomplishment that I deserve after all of (literal!) blood, swear and tears I put in to it. 

So, I ran up to Homestead aid station, beaming from ear to ear, and I heard my friends there shout my name as I approached. It was so thrilling to be back all of those hours later! They asked what I needed, which was only some ginger ale. I looked at my watch and actually worried that if I kept moving at the same pace that I would beat my family to the finish line (oh! just like last year!) as I told them to be there at 6:00 to get food and wait for me. It was about 5:40 at that point. So I lingered a bit, taking a moment to pause before heading out.

Go get it.

My legs were slowing down a bit, so I started walking fifty steps then running fifty steps. Then I came to the part of the Yellow Jacket trail I saw the day before on the walk with my family. I could hear the the finish line from there! I turned the corner, ran down the road a few steps, then turned back on to the trail. Then I slowed to a walk. I knew the finish was just up ahead. There was someone waiting by the trail.  I stopped and said "I have to wait until I hear my daughters' cowbells" (they had been ringing them at the aid stations they came to). That was how I knew they were there. Right then I heard the cowbells and I sprinted forward. As I came up to the finishers' chute I heard my girls call out that they saw me coming. I threw my arms in the air and pumped my fists before high-fiving James and throwing my arms around my family.

No finish line photos as my family was barely ready for me, ha!

Belia, Wendy and I at the finish line. Photo credit: Matt

It was so great to see my friends at the finish line, they had just finished the 50k! Belia ran her first 50k and crushed it! 

My wonderful family.

I finished in 10:57. More than an hour faster than my wildest dream of finishing in 12 hours, and mostly had just hoped I wouldn't get cut off because I couldn't make a 13 hour finish. This day couldn't have played out how it did without all of the support I received from my family. A bottomless pit of thank yous to Matt and the girls. They were a stellar crew, and I know will rock their crewing duties at my first 100 miler (some day!) But it wasn't only that, they were amazing at allowing me to be incredibly selfish with the huge amount of time it took for me to do everything I needed to do to train for this race. Eternally grateful doesn't even begin to cover it. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Final Countdown

And so it happened. Time did indeed pass, and I am a week out from my first 50 miler. When I hit "register" on that ultrasignup page, and even when I began training, it didn't actually seem like the race would ever really happen.

But it's about to happen.

I am still not actually sure it's even possible to run 50 miles. Well, I know people who've done it. I've seen people in the middle of doing it, and even finishing a 50 mile race . . . I just am still not convinced it's possible. How could I train up to 30 miles, then magically tack on 20 more miles on race day? That doesn't seem like a real thing that a person would do. Not a sane person, at least.

But I'm about to do it.

Hold me. 

Coming down Patterson Mountain last year in the Sun Mountain 50k.
I will be at this spot at just over the halfway point this year. 

I have to say that I'm enjoying my taper. I like not worrying about running all of the time. Last weekend I slept in both days. I am eyeing the dismal state of my house and garden knowing I will get to start paying attention to it again soon. Most of all I like my body (namely my cranky hip) not hurting 24/7. It's nice to have short runs and time for lots of stretching and foam rolling each day.

The planning for the race has also begun. I printed course maps, I outlined the cut-offs, and figured out when and where my family should meet me out on the course. In a stroke of brilliance I saved copies of my packing lists from the Sun Mountain 50k last year-- just reusing my packing list for the race and for meal planning. Saves me a ton of time! My family and I are staying in the exact same cabin we were in last year, which we are looking forward to. It will be such a fun vacation in the Methow Valley! Even though (or especially because?) I am running a race that might be impossible to run. 

A bit further down Patterson Mountain last year. 
I hope to even feel half as amazing at this same point this year. 
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

One big difference this year is that the weather, at least so far, is looking cooler and rainy. When I checked on Thursday night (I check at LEAST twice per day) there were thunderstorms in the forecast! Eek! As a Pacific Northwest girl I am completely comfortable in the rain, but when running there is a difference between a nice steady rain with damp trails and a downpour with trails that are mud pits and rivers. The later would slow my already slow going pace down to a crawl. 

The training's in the bag, the weather will do what it wants, and I just hope my body can hang in there for the ride.

Here we go.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

DIY Ultra

In 50 miler training, my last big run was a 30 miler. Gulp.

When faced with the daunting task of planning a run of 30 miles I had to get creative. Not many running buddies have a distance that far on the calendar for the same weekend! I decided to float the idea of running five mile loops at Cougar Mountain to a local women's running group I am a member of. It was very exciting when many people responded they were in to it! The loop format gave everyone the option of running as many loops as they wanted (we had women run as few as one loop, or as many as six) and also come at a time that worked for them. Four of us started at 7:00 am, the rest of the starters came about 8:15 am. 

In all we had at least 12 runners show up. It was like a moving party and so much fun! 

We created our very own aid station with extra snacks in our cars and I brought lots of goodies to share, as well. Oreos! Ruffles! Gummy bears! Oh my! 

Everyone who came loved the idea of doing the loops, and seemed very happy to have the company for their planned runs, too. I was worried about the loops being boring, but they weren't at all. If I had run them solo it probably would have gotten boring, but with friends it was fun. It also helped calm my reservations about the last 20 miles of my 50 miler being a repeat of the beginning of the course, since I actually typically do not enjoy repeating the same trails on a run.

My day started pretty well. The goal was to run each loop in 75 mins, including "aid station" stops at the cars. The stops were great: lots of eating, chatting, and taking care of other business The only downside was how long we lingered at the cars as it added to the total running time! 

I had company for each of my six loops except for the last one. It wasn't until about half way through the fifth loop that my body decided it was D.O.N.E. My hip began hurting, the blisters on the sides of my big toes were causing me pain, and I was feeling the effects of the heat. At the car at the end of the fifth loop I felt nauseous and very tired, but I had to finish my run. I could barely bring myself to run and walked at least 50% of the loop. When I tried to run my hip wasn't having it. At one point I sat down on a log to investigate my blisters, really, really not wanting to get back up. Of course I had to, so I just focused on making it through small sections of the trail (run this until the bricks in the trail! run the brick section until the intersection! run this until the gate!) until I finally returned to the trailhead. 

My body felt like it could barely move on lap six, and my brain was of zero help. It was extremely defeating. If I was going to run 50 miles in less than three weeks shouldn't I still have been feeling pretty good at mile 25 or 30 of a training run? I would think so.

My log. A dog came by and slobbered on my pack. It seemed fitting.

A trip to my PT yesterday was actually super helpful-- she had suggestions for both my hip and my blisters (the issues are related!) The only problem is that I am so close to my race, and her suggestions were along the lines of more support in my shoes because my arches are collapsing. Ugh. Do I risk messing with my shoes or insoles? Do I risk NOT messing with my shoes or insoles?! My PT suggested Second Skin for my blister issues, and I also bought Fixing Your Feet so that I can get some answers before my race. 

Hopefully the taper will take care of the doubts in my head. The rest will do me good-- I suppose I shouldn't be too shocked that a 30 mile run was hard at the end of my longest training week ever!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Yakima Skyline Rim: Racing the 25k

Last weekend, April 16-17, I volunteered at the Buffalo Road aid station for the Yakima Skyline Rim 50k, and then raced the 25k the next day.

In a word, the entire weekend was amazing

My experience volunteering Saturday absolutely fed in to my energy for the race on Sunday, but I'll get in to that in another post.

The race started at 9:00 am, which felt fairly late for a race. The plus side was that it allowed me the luxury of waking up at a decent time and stop for coffee before making my way through the Yakima Canyon to the start/finish line at the Umtanum Recreation Area. Having spent time there the day before as a volunteer helped calm my nerves-- I mostly knew what to expect.

After saying some hellos --and chatting for a bit with Gunhild Swanson!-- it was go time. Race director James Varner warned us of rattlesnakes (and probably other stuff, but that's all I heard) and sent us on our way.

I started in the way back with my friend Belia. We followed the crowd through the gravel parking lot and then waited to cross the swaying Umtanum Bridge over the Yakima River in single file line. Then came a quick duck underneath the railroad tracks before the climbing began.

Oh, the climbing. One of the most incredible parts of this race is the elevation gain:

4,500 feet of elevation gain in 15-ish miles. No joke.

We fell in to single file line, climbing. And climbing. And while the trail wound around a bit, it wasn't switchbacks-- it was mostly just straight up.

Straight, no switchbacks. Hi Belia!

The fragrance of the sagebrush along the trail was intoxicating. I repeatedly ran my hands along the leaves to cover my fingers with their scent.

In the long conga line I was maintaining a perfect, comfortable pace, which was a good place to be that early in the race. I overheard someone behind me explaining uphill technique to another runner and made a mental note of the advice.

When we finally hit the top of the ridge the trail opened up in to a jeep road and the line of runners quickly spread out. It felt very good to finally begin running!

It was a gorgeous day-- expected to be quite warm, up to 80*, but the breeze was fairly strong, so I never felt too hot. On top of the ridge we had views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams-- and even Mt. Hood way off in the distance. The Yakima River was way down below us.

Heading out on the ridge.

Somewhere on the jeep road I realized that I was in absolute heaven, and was having one of the most enjoyable race experiences of my life. My body felt strong and like I was made for that course. As the trail began winding back down the ridge I felt like a little kid jumping down the trail. Since the course was an out and back, the front runners were coming back up the trail, so we did a little jockeying moving past each other. Eventually the trail went what felt like straight down and there were a few moments were I had to stop and figure out how exactly to place my feet to continue moving down it.

Finally at the bottom, there was an aid station right next to the river. It was awesome to see the previous day's 50k female winner, Kaytlyn Gerbin, cutting up watermelon for the runners! I grabbed some watermelon and oreos, topped off my water bladder and headed back out.

Saying hi to Belia as I left the aid station.

My biggest annoyance on race day was how completely uninterested in food and drink my stomach was. Every time I ingested anything my stomach began making audible "glurping" sounds with every step. It sounded, and felt, very unsettling. Ultimately it meant I didn't eat or drink nearly enough during the race. It was a gamble that ended up paying off, as I fortunately had high energy the whole day.

The climb back up the ridge was tricky. Every time there was a bit of a break in the elevation I thought "that was it!" and, well, that wasn't it. At the top of each climb was another climb! I power hiked as strongly as I could and began passing many people on that section. With every person I passed I said a quiet prayer I wouldn't see that person again on the downhill. While I can power hike all day long, downhills are my kryptonite.

I felt amazing and just. didn't. stop. Climb, climb, climb, run when I could, then climb some more. Sometimes my hands dropped to my knees to help power my legs up.

There were a few moments where my mind went to Gunhild Swanson, and I thought about her ascending this last section of her 50k. I hoped to channel even a fraction of her strength!

(Will take a moment here to reflect on "tooting my own horn" so to speak. My last two races I finished waaaaay at the back. I ran what I had in me on those days, but when you are at the back from the start or at the back because you are passed so many times, that isn't the most fun. So to be in a spot in this race where I felt really, really good and knew I was moving up in the field-- well, it made me feel just short of invincible.)

I ran the jeep road section as hard as I could and suddenly it occurred to me: I might finish under four hours. Four hours was my absolute "A" goal, something I thought sounded good, but was likely unattainable. Once the trail turned back downhill I knew there was about two miles left. I stopped to text my husband that I was going to beat four hours, took a photo, tucked my phone back in my pack and set my head around bombing down the trail.

Heading back down.

Despite being a downhill weakling, I was extremely proud of myself on this section. I pushed as hard as I possibly could and my mind wandered towards advice I had recently read from Kilian Jornet: "Go down as if you are dancing."

My only mishap occurred as I came around a tight corner, and ran right in to a sagebrush plant that took a chunk of flesh out of my knee. I quickly assessed the damage, uttered a few swear words, and continued on as the blood ran down my leg. It certainly wouldn't stop me!

At the bottom it was time for a sharp turn to duck under the railroad tracks before dashing across the wobbly Umtanum bridge. Then the only thing separating me from the finish line was the loop around the parking lot. I repeatedly glanced at my watch knowing the only way I could get under four hours was to sprint across the gravel. Unfortunately my legs were suddenly done, and I walked briefly a couple of times before rounding the corner to the finishing chute.

High-fived James Varner at 4:00:41.

While I didn't get a sub-4:00, finishing in four hours was a massive accomplishment for me. There was no coming in second to last that day! In fact, I was in the top half of all female finishers.

My husband, daughters and mother-in-law were at the finish line to cheer me in. It felt amazing to have them all there.

We spent the next two hours eating, relaxing, visiting, soaking in the Yakima River (okay, that part was only me) and listening to the music.

My family relaxing in front of the Pine Hearts.

It was the perfect end to an ideal race.

Cannot wait for next year, I will absolutely be back for at least the 25k. Not sure if I will be strong enough for the 50k (the cut-off is nine hours) but maybe!

Post-race, there is a bit of carnage: my feet have more blisters than I had ever seen and my knee is scabbed over. 48 hours later and my quads can barely lower me to a sit, let alone do any running. All good reminders of a hard-fought race, though, so definitely worth it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Regretting That Run

You will often hear the saying that you only regret the runs you don't do. Or something along those lines.

Well, I finally did it. 

I did a run I regretted almost immediately.

Somewhere along the way when I was writing my training plan for my 50 miler I made some decisions that looked good on paper, but didn't turn out to be the best for me on the day of my scheduled run. Most of the time I am able to make the choice that is best for my body and either scale back on or change my run, but sadly, not always.

Saturday was one of those days.

I was nearing the end of three really big weeks of training, each bigger than the last. Build, build, build. Last weekend I ran the Deception Pass Marathon, this weekend I was to run 28 miles, or seven hours (whichever came first).

From almost the get-go my hip/butt issue (from the marathon) wasn't super happy. It wasn't super pissed, either, so okay, I thought, I'll just go with it until my body rebels completely. My legs felt heavy, I couldn't get my legs moving, and my hip/butt soreness was keeping me from feeling loose and strong.

My friend Belia, who ran the marathon with me last weekend, wasn't in to it, either. After the first seven mile loop our chatter centered around ending this foolishness early. I had all but decided to call it done at 21 miles, which was Belia's limit. Then my inner chatter started going to "quitter", and "if you can't do this, how can you do 50 miles?"

I had to circle back to the car with Belia so that I could refill my bladder-- first time I have ever ran out of water on a run!-- and my car was singing a siren song. So very much wanted to climb in. But no! Instead I had some cold cantaloupe and coconut water from my post-run lunch cooler, refilled my bladder, and said goodbye to Belia. Just try for 75 more minutes, I told myself. I started a loop. It hurt. A lot. I had it in my head I wanted to take a picture of the cluster of trilliums we passed earlier. No lie, that cluster of trilliums kept me alert and moving. I needed to find them again!

There was hobbling. Even a bit of limping. Some whimpering, and hands-on-knees slogging up hills that I have run up in the past. My hip/butt finally rebelled completely.

Though I did find the cluster of trilliums!

Trilliums on the Deceiver Trail on Cougar Mountain.

When I got back to the car and sat down, I didn't feel accomplished. I just felt stupid. I immediately realized I pushed myself way too hard. It was something around 26 miles, and 6 1/2 hours.

I ate my lunch, then drove home. My awesome husband had filled the backyard kiddie pool with ice and water so I could take an ice bath. It felt awful/amazing, like ice baths tend to do.

The rest of the evening, as I shuffled around the house pretending to be a useful member of the family, I was mentally kicking myself. There was no need for back-to-back weekends of marathons that left me in that condition. What if I sabotaged my training by being so foolish?

So far, the silver lining is that after a good night's sleep, I felt 100% on Sunday. No hip/butt pain, no other soreness, nothing. Even the blisters (story for another day) I developed on Saturday were all but gone!

Even though I felt okay I ditched the planned 10 miles, hung out with my family, walked with my my daughter, and napped. It was a good extra recovery for a stupid decision.

Looking forward to two weeks of significantly lower mileage, and Yakima Skyline 25k this weekend!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Random Thoughts on the Deception Pass Marathon

On Saturday April 2nd I ran the Deception Pass marathon, as a training run, with my friend Belia.

Here are my random thoughts, in a somewhat chronological order:

Waking up at 4:30 to drive almost two hours to a race isn't that much fun.

Being able to park close up, and walk right in and get your bib because only 40-some people are running is nice.

It was exciting to think about getting my first ever medal for a marathon (or farther!) distance race.

After "Go!" the marathoners were off like a herd of . . . really fast runners. Belia and I were in the back of the pack before we even crossed the start line. 

Photo by Takao Suzuki.

I thought the course would closely follow the Deception Pass 50k course. It did not, though many of the trails were the same. 

Climbing Goose Rock early on was actually extremely fun and was one of my favorite parts of the race (as it was during DP50k).

I picked up an unopened Hammer gel packet off the trail on the back side of Goose Rock and decided to keep it. 

Seeing Ras and Kathy Vaughan volunteering at aid station at Cornet Bay (miles 6.75 and 13.25) was so cool, as I really admire them. 

Getting the seven mile loop around Hoypus Hill out of the way in the first half was relieving, as this loop was downright awful during DP50k.

Right in the middle of the trail. Yes, it really was that big!

Finding out we were at 13 miles when we came back through Cornet Bay aid station was amazing. Belia and I both felt like we were running strong and I was glad that I was far ahead of the arbitrary time goal I had set for myself! 

This is where I should point out neither Belia nor I were wearing a watch that was tracking our race (we only knew the time). We never knew exactly how far along we were until we asked at aid stations. 

While coming back up the back of Goose Rock we hit an intersection that wasn't marked. I was convinced we were off track and made Belia stand there while I attempted to pull up the map on my phone. She said we needed to keep going straight. I didn't think so. She was right. She didn't smack me.

Running across Deception Pass bridge while dodging runners and sightseers was pretty annoying. I wished we had done that section earlier in the race.

My favorite food in the world became Ruffles at the Pass Lake aid station (miles 17 and 18.8). And they had blue Gatorade, which is pretty much the best drink in the world. 

Being told we were only at mile 18.8 as we came back through that aid station seemed impossible. How did it feel like we ran approximately a thousand miles since being at mile 13??? 

But hey, there was going to be medals at the end! Woo hoo!

The two "lollipops" out to two different points were insanely gorgeous. 

Photo by Takao Suzuki.

My right butt/hip hurt. Way more than it should have.

Miles 18.8 to the finish felt like they took an eternity.

I began cursing my laziness the day before: I was trying to find single serve bottles of Fireball to bring in my pack. After striking out at three stores I stopped looking. Belia and I agreed we would have enjoyed a little sip at that point.

While heading up the trail I got to meet someone in real life that I follow on instagram! 

Chasing Belia out on one of the lollipops.

Double fisting Oreos and Ruffles each time I went through the Bowman Bay aid station (miles 21.25 and 23) was simply the best.

Engaging in a sport where it's okay to shuffle down the trail double fisting junk food is hilarious.

Coming back across the Deception Pass Bridge and encountering even more sightseers was more annoying than the first time. And not because I felt like we necessarily had the right-of-way as runners, it was more that people were just hanging out and we had to dodge them to even get through at all.

We were close to the finish-- and to our medals!-- at the end of the bridge. 

After a short push over the trails, it was a quick shuffle through the parking lot to the finish line.

We passed by a fellow runner, one whom we had seen in passing several times on the course, hanging out at her car. She gave us the bad new: they were out of medals.

Belia and I crossed the finish line. They really were out of medals. 

Photo by Takao Suzuki.

Someone tried to offer us a mug, until someone else said "no, those say half marathon on them!" 

Um, so we didn't get medals or mugs as marathoners?!

They will apparently mail the medal.

I will wear that damn thing when it arrives.

My official time was 6:34:59. Belia's was 6:35:00, which I find far too funny, as we ran together the whole time and the race wasn't chip timed. Only one runner finished behind us.

The post-race burger and beer absolutely hit the spot.

So did the Oreo S'mores blizzard I got on the way home.

The end.