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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

New Shoes and Updates

In the middle of my highest mileage week EVER I got some new shoes.

I bought the shoes at Seven Hills then promptly hit the trails at Discovery Park. It was a great run-- rain, wind, hail, mud, everything. Even saw a couple of rainbows! 

The shoes are the Pearl Izumi Trail N3. They felt good-- I previously ran in the Trail M2 (M has a bit more stability than N and the higher the number the more cushioning). The N3 didn't feel super soft or squishy, which I actually liked. It is fun to change things up a bit. 

48 miles the week before last. Whew! My peak mileage for my first 50k was low 40s, and I forget what it was for my second 50k. Maybe that high-- I was more focused on time on feet and less about mileage for that one. As I head in to a 50 miler I need to get the miles up a bit more. Won't lie, a 48 mile week was tough. It involved seven hours of running on the weekend, which was 30 total miles. I will eventually get up to a 40 mile weekend. Not going to lie, I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Add to all of that my strength training workouts, yoga, and PT/stretching. It's a lot of hours.

Pretty solid post-20 miler snack!

The next week I flaked out on my hardest workout-- the "two-for Tuesday" hill sprints and strength training. It is one of those days where it sort of feels like I might die during the workout. But skipping it and filling my week with several more walks than usual was perfect: I came back this week feeling stronger than ever. Tuesday's two-for was great. Thursday's midweek longish run (that's a term, right?) felt really easy.
Thursday views.

One other new training development is an attempt to increase the amount of protein in my diet. My hope is that eating more protein will help with muscle recovery as well as help keep my energy levels high enough to sustain the heavier than ever training loads I am asking of my body. Turns out changing my diet from "shovel everything with carbohydrates in my mouth as fast as possible" requires a huge amount of thought and planning, and even then, I'm falling quite short of my goals each day. As I type this I am sipping on what has to be the nastiest protein shake on the face of the earth.

My best attempt at protein intake so far.

And. . . . on the hip front, things are going extremely well. It feels about 95% better. The only time it is even remotely sore is if I lie or my right side. Even then it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. Daily PT exercises, icing after every run, massaging with arnica, foam rolling and stretching seems to be working! Huzzah! Knock on wood, everything else feels great. Legs haven't fallen off!

Two weeks until the Deception Pass marathon, which appears to be an identical course to the DP 50k I ran in December, except for it only does the 7 mile loop of death (I should trademark that) once. Looking forward to being back on those trails, only hoping that the weather isn't nearly as terrible this time. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hey February

Obviously not doing so hot keeping up with the ol' blog. 

These days the answer to "how are things going?" is, "good, I think?" 

You know what isn't easy? Juggling family life, work and training. Likely this isn't a news flash to everyone who has attempted this trifecta before. On any given day it feels like I am not doing something as well as I really should be-- which is super frustrating, to work really hard every day and still never be 100% in every aspect. 

So, yes, it's all good, I think.  

As far as my 50 miler training, I think things are going okay. It's really a day-by-day, week-by-week thing right now. How does my body feel today? Good? Great! Then let's go! And by and large it does feel good, though often teetering on the edge of breaking apart. But let's be honest, that's kind of my M.O. 

The hip: Despite initial reports to the contrary, the cortisone shot didn't actually work. Or maybe it did very briefly? At any rate, about three weeks after the shot it was clear my hip was back to the same as always. I have started PT and my new PT seems like she knows her stuff so I am optimistic. She made some simple suggestions after our first meeting that seems to be helping, such as stop sitting with my legs crossed and sleep with my legs supported with a pillow so I stop putting my hip in to a stretch. Hopefully the PT helps and I can heal the bursitis once and for all. A second cortisone shot isn't out of the question, but I haven't thought too much about it. My hip is following the same pattern of feeling fine while I run or walk, and sore when I rest. Yay.

The training: I just decided the best thing was to make myself a flexible training plan. I don't let anything be set in stone, I have to listen to my body. If I need to cut back on mileage, I will. If a hill sprint workout isn't in the cards (about 50% of the time it isn't) then I let it go. It is what it is. I have become okay with the fact that come race day I just might not be ready for 50 miles, and that's life. I can tackle the distance again when I am. That said, I'm doing my best and letting my big goal and determination kick my butt in to gear even when I'm tired and my motivation is lacking.

I have done some boring runs (15 mile run on the pavement around my neighborhood. Oof.) and some amazing runs. The highlight so far was just this past weekend, which was four hours on Tiger Mountain with my friend Belia. I won't even say how few miles it ended up being, laughable really, but it was a ton of elevation. Power hiking straight up, then hitting snow, and trail finding a bit. There was a little running when we could, which was fun. The most humbling part was being left in the dust on a technical downhill by a hiker with a giant pack on his back. Ouch! 

We didn't expect snow at the top, what a treat! 

Approaching West Tiger 2, looking east.

The view of Mt. Rainier from West Tiger 1. 

Snow!!! Clearly I wasn't 100% prepared. Thankfully I was fine, 
my hands got a bit cold at one point and I lamented forgetting my gloves in the car. 

What's coming up? Deception Pass Marathon and Yakima Skyline 25k in April. Thinking about squeezing some more things in there, too. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Oh, Hey 2016

I kept meaning to write something about the start of the year, but it took a while for any words other than "ugh, this sucks" to want to come from my fingertips.

BUT! Happy to report that everything has turned around. 

So when the year began I was sick. Not deathly so, but sick enough that I couldn't do anything more than the bare minimum that needed to be done each day. Running and other workouts were out of the question. My plan after the Deception Pass 50k was to take three weeks off of running-- and I did! That worked out well! But right before those three weeks were up I was sacked by The Crud. For TWO WEEKS. I was sick for two weeks. 

On top of all of that, there was the question of what the heck was going on with my right hip. Before the 50k I was having bursitis-like symptoms, but only at rest. I had zero hip pain while running (even after 31 miles!) but my period of rest after the race proved to not alleviate my hip pain at all and I started to get more worried. 

It was time for an MRI.

I got the MRI (with arthrogram, which means they take a needle and inject dye in to your hip before doing the MRI). 

MRI results-- "moderate to severe bursitis".

A week later I got a cortisone injection.

Now it's a week and a half after that injection. 

I feel . . . . 50% better. Maybe 75%? 

Unfortunately I had to bag the Chuckanut 50k in March, but I have been building up my mileage a bit, and should end this week at over 30 miles. Woo hoo! Sort of making it up my training as I go as I am still not completely confident in my hip and how recovered I am from being sick. The 50 miler in May is no where near a given at this point.

There has been some awesome runs-- a wet run in almost complete solitude at Discovery Park:

Lighthouse in Discovery Park.

A very, very wet 10 mile run at Cougar Mountain last weekend! No pictures. But imagine jumping in the lake in your clothes, that's how wet I was. And side note: guess how waterproof my fancy new rain jacket is?! (Answer: not very! Grrr! Review coming!)

This week I got a beautiful mid-week run in at Cougar again. It was partly sunny with no rain, plus I only had to wear shorts and a t-shirt! 

Lake on the trail at Cougar. 
I stood here contemplating how to get across for far too long. 
Normally I would charge right through, but my shoes were dry and I was 
close enough to the end that I didn't want to soak them.

Strength workouts are all getting done, trying to do yoga or PT exercises 6 days/week. All is looking solid, so let's hope I can keep it up! 

That's my January . . . how has yours been???

Friday, January 01, 2016

Start of a New Year

Ugh. Just like in 2015, I am starting this year sick. Yay for new traditions? I was excited to throw on my trail shoes and head out for a run on Saturday morning, but now I'm not sure that is going to happen. Oh, well.

But I DID start the morning out doing something very exciting-- I registered for my first 50 miler! Hooray! It's at Sun Mountain, the scene of my first 50k. Last night I went in to full-blown freak-out mode because I realized they changed the 50 mile course from last year so now it follows the exact same 50k course, then 20 more miles of the same course. That isn't nearly as exciting to me as running an almost 100% loop course (there was a small section that was repeated). After going back and forth I decided to register, anyways. The race will sell out quickly and at least I know I really love the course. Plus it helps A LOT that friends have also signed up for the race. So, that's all set! Yay 50 miler in 2016!

2015 was a huge year for me . . . . can 2016 top it? My biggest concern is being healthy enough to reach my goals. I didn't have any side-lining injuries in 2015, which was HUGE. Can only hope 2016 will be as good to me. 

I have some smaller goals for the new year, other than run a 50 miler. Last year I focused hard on doing my stretching/PT exercises/foam rolling as many days of the year as I could. Remember my beautiful chart from last January?

Here is what it looked like at the end of the year!

I am proud of my efforts. Definitely room for improvement, though. Ideally I would do them 6 out of 7 days a week (I did enjoy one day off from all exercise). The days I did my stretches/exercises/foam rolling it took at least half an hour, so it was a significant amount of time on top of my regular training. 

So, my 2016 goal is to aim to do my extra stuff 6/7 days a week. I am not sure I will track with a calendar again, but maybe. I do know having it right on the wall where I see it several times a day made me accountable! 

Here's to a big year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year in Review: 2015

I 100% stole this idea from Andrea at Born and Raced in Chicago. She has such a great blog, you should go check it out! Usually I do year-end posts where I recap every month. This year I am too lazy for that nonsense. I actually seem to be too lazy for just about everything as we skid in to the end of 2015 . . . .

But I digress. This list pretty much encapsulates any runner's high points throughout a year. What were yours?

Best Race Experience: For this one I am going to have to go with the Sun Mountain 50k. It was my first 50k, which means it will always hold a special place in my heart, but it was more than that: the setting was perfect. My family was there to support me. Several friends were on the course and at the start/finish. When I got hurt other runners immediately swooped in to help. And Rainshadow Running races have the best finish line of any race I've ever done!

Official race photo from Glenn Tachiyama.

Best Run: I went back and forth a bit, but my first run at Mt Rainier won just barely over my second run at Mt Rainier. Our little group started at the Fryingpan Creek TH and finished at Box Canyon. I had never been that close to Rainier, and it was a beautiful sunny day so the mountain was "out" in her full glory. The run was incredibly challenging, but every step was amazing.

Just a bit of a view. Photo by my friend Callista.

Best New Piece of Running Gear: This will have to be my Ultra Jacket from Ultimate Direction. I went around and around and around on whether or not to drop the serious $$$ on this jacket. I tried out several other jackets first to try and save money. In the end, this one fit the best and it has accompanied me on several runs, including one marathon and one 50k. I struggled a bit with it in the marathon (hell, I struggled with everything in that marathon), but during the 50k I adjusted some things and it was perfect. 

Wearing my Ultra Jacket at the Deception Pass 50k. 
Photo from Glenn Tachiyama.

Best Piece of Advice: Not going to lie, I gave this advice to myself. It was "Do. Epic. Shit." I gave myself this advice after the first run at Mt. Rainier I mentioned above. 

Most Inspirational Runner: This is impossible to pic just one. I am incredibly lucky to get to run with a local running group called High Heels Running Group. It is a group of badass women who trail run and meet weekly for runs around the Seattle area. Every one of those women inspires me. Simply hearing them talk about their race accomplishments made me realize that ultra running was something I could attempt- and fall in love with! 

Favorite Picture From a Run or Race: There were several for me, I have posted them all above. My favorite picture for someone else was this one I took of Ellen on our run at Mt. Rainier:

Doesn't even look real, does it?

Race Experience You Would Repeat: I am not sure if this point was for an entire race experience, but I want to pick one experience in an otherwise kind of tough race. It was at the Deception Pass 50k when I made a friend and we ran together for the last 10-ish miles of the race. We were the last runners for the last part of the race and we really helped motivate each other to the finish. It turned a run that had become dreadful and grueling in to something that was really wonderful. I really loved watching her finish her first 50k, too! This might be my new favorite thing: helping other runners finish their first 50k. Will be doing it again with my friend Tara in a few months!

Finishing up a tough race.

Sum Up Your Year in a Couple of Words: Epic. Shit. I feel like this year I have time and time again stretched the limits of what I thought I could do and it's only made my desire to figure out what else? that much stronger. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

50k Recovery

50k recovery has been going swimmingly. I was limping pretty good on Sunday, but that was the worst of it. My knee was in rough shape! Likely it didn't help that I had to sit in the car for about three hours to get home after the race and then sit in the car again the next day to go to Great Wolf Lodge with my family. I spent all day Sunday just sitting or laying around and reading-- no water slides for me! By Monday I was feeling normal, save a bit of exhaustion from everything. I even climbed the stairs, pain-free, for a few water slides by Monday night. Woo hoo!

Heading in to the 50k I knew I would take at least a week off of all exercise afterwards-- this wasn't that hard as it was a pretty busy week with work and pre-Christmas activities and things going on for my girls. It didn't feel like much a break, unfortunately, but some rest is better than none! 

After a conversation with my chiropractor on Friday we decided the best thing for me was to take a break from running through the new year. By January 2nd I will have been off for three weeks and hopefully have had enough rest to start clearing up some nagging issues that stuck around up to the 50k. My right hip has been . . . interesting, but never bugged me while running. Then my left knee joined in on the fun, busting out some pain during the race. Want to make sure that doesn't turn in to full blown ITBS!

On Saturday I joined my running group at Cougar Mountain and had a nice little walk with three other girls while everyone else ran. Having never been on those trails without running them, it felt a little strange, but good. We walked for just over an hour then had coffee. So much easier than my usual multi-hour runs! 

There are currently three races that I am signed up, with two more to come as soon as their sign ups open. Eek! If that isn't just me taunting the injury gods, I'm not sure what is.

Here's what's coming up:

January 9th-- Bridle Trails Winter Trail Running Festival. I am on a team running a 50k, so it's 5 or 6 miles for me.

March 19th-- Chuckanut 50k

April 17th-- Yakima Skyline Rim 25k

May 21st-- Sun Mountain 50 mile

August 21st-- Squamish 50k

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

There Will Be Adventure: Race Recap of the Deception Pass 50k

Being blown down the trail near the start.
Photo from Glenn Tachiyama.

Heading in to the Deception Pass 50k, I wasn't feeling entirely confident. I had trained, yes, but life being what it was, I would have rather done just about anything than run a 50k that day. Since I knew the weather was going to be challenging, and I knew it wasn't going to be a fast (for me) day, I came up these three goals for the race: to remain present, enjoy the journey no matter the weather, and stay under the cut-offs.

The day started with a 4:30 a.m. alarm. I headed north from Seattle and arrived at Deception Pass in the pitch black. The weather was already threatening: lots of wind, but no rain yet.

After checking in and getting my bib (lucky #7!) I hunkered down in my car and arranged my things, waiting for the race to start. Once it got close to go time, I joined the crowd of runners at the starting area -- an unmarked spot in the parking lot. The race director, James Varner, gave the pre-race announcements along with some news: he might cut the race short at 11 miles. Strong winds were moving through and making for a potentially dangerous situation. I'm not going to lie, after how exhausting the previous week was, I did a small prayer that the race would be shortened. Despite standing in the group of runners it still hadn't sunk in that I was about to run a 50k. I eyed the sky as I hoped my rain jacket would hold up, my hands would stay warm, and that I made the right decision in donning shorts.


Then we were off! I stuck near the back and moved slowly. Since my Garmin no longer holds a charge for longer than about 6 1/2 hours, I decided to wear it simply as a watch instead of turning on the GPS. I have no idea what my pace was at any point during the race. Instead, I ran by feel. This worked out well... I never had a single moment of panic because I never knew my pace! 

The trails wound through Deception Pass State Park, which was absolutely breathtaking. Sometimes we ran under under thick tree cover, sometimes out along the water. In the trees I couldn't really feel the wind, but once out in the open it hit hard. Mostly I didn't mind it. In fact it cooled me down a bit since I was pretty warm in my rain jacket. The only time I found the wind downright awful was when the course took us over the Deception Pass bridge--twice. I held my baseball hat in one hand and kept my other hovered over the railing, ready to grab on whenever I lost my balance a bit. I couldn't even look up to see the view!

Course map.

As I passed through the aid station at mile 7.3 I asked a volunteer how close I was to the cut-off. He said I was 45 minutes under so I was cautiously excited. I was doing well, but there was a lot of race left. I grabbed some snacks and Gu Brew at this aid station and moved on. 

The first half of the race was so much fun. I loved the trails, which weren't too muddy and held a lot of fun climbs and sweeping views. The climb up Goose Rock might have been my favorite part-- steep switchbacks and views for miles. I felt great and my effort level remained comfortable.

During the race random songs kept popping in to my head, including one of my nine year old's favorites: "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes. "And now that I'm without your kisses, I'll be needing stitches . . . ." echoed through my brain. It made me laugh. 

I ran with others who enjoyed chatting a bit and there were several spots where we crossed paths with runners coming towards us. Almost everyone said some version of "good job" and it was nice to feel this sense of community. I even had the chance to meet some folks who I had only previously known on social media and that was really great.

Eventually I realized the RD wasn't calling the race short and a bit later I passed by him on the trail. He asked me if I was having fun, to which I replied "Yes, I am!" And I truly was. In that moment, at least, I was very happy to keep running.

Elevation profile. I think almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain?

Once I hit the aid station at about mile 15 I was finally starting to feel the effects of the hard work. It was so great to see some friendly faces, awesome ladies from the High Heels Running Group, working the Cornet Bay aid station. I grabbed some snacks and drinks and headed out to do my first of two big loops. 

During the first loop things got difficult. My outer left knee started throbbing in pain. I knew the feeling: the dreaded IT band. I hadn't felt it in a few years, so was confused why it was showing up now. The trails in the loop were much more difficult than the first part of the race, with lots of puddles and some difficult ups and downs in solid mud. We were shielded from the wind down on the trails, but the tall trees swayed violently overhead. There were many trees down on the trail, as well, turning the race in to a bit of an obstacle course. Over or under? Sometimes I was crawling, sometimes I was hoisting myself up over tree trunks. The rain was fairly constant most of the afternoon, but thankfully I never felt completely soaked. 

I spent the last few miles of that loop in a very low spot. I had no idea how long the loop was and just kept thinking: "it has to be over soon, I've been out here forever!" I went back and forth in my head, wondering if I needed to drop out because of my knee. I walked for a while, contemplating my foolishness for thinking I could even consider a 50 mile race next Spring when I was falling apart this far in to a 50k. I ran my fingers along the hem of my Cascade Crest 100 shirt from volunteering last summer, which was serving as a reminder of my ultimate goal of finishing that race. It felt completely out of reach in that moment. Finally I decided to make a plan for the aid station: first, figure out where I was on the course and how long that damn loop was and then grab some ibuprofen and swap out my wet buff from my drop bag in hopes of helping my body feel better.

After situating things at the aid-station, I was still ahead of cut-offs (though I assume just barely) so I semi-reluctantly ventured back out again. I decided my knee would hold, and so there was no solid reason to drop out. There was really nothing to do but finish the darn thing. 

On the way out of the aid station I came upon a runner I had previously seen at the top of Goose Rock. We chatted and walked together and she mentioned she was struggling a bit. Not feeling too great myself, I appreciated her company. We decided to stick together and it made the idea of doing that loop again much more tolerable. 

With some walking, some running, some chatting, and even a bit of laughing, I was surprised at how fun that second loop was, especially after the significant amount of dread I had going in to it. My knee felt a little better, good enough to keep moving at least. I repeatedly reminded myself of my three goals. Despite a small rough patch I was "back in the game," nearing the end, and hitting each goal. 

My new friend and I came through the aid station at about mile 28 and were told we were the last runners out on the course. This was shocking news; I knew we had fallen back in the pack but there were still several runners that I knew had to be behind us. Apparently they weren't allowed to head out to do the second loop because of the strict cut-offs. I felt simultaneously sad and excited by this news-- "last?! How in the world?" And also: "We weren't cut off!" After that aid station it was up the road for a bit before ducking back on to the trails. We came upon another runner and landed in a great spot to take a commemorative photo:

This was the only photo I got with my phone all day.

We kept winding around some technical trails trying to figure out exactly where the finish line was. It felt like it would be "just around the corner" but over and over it wasn't. Since I didn't know the mileage I kept asking my friend where we were. Finally we heard the cheers from the finish line: we were close! We dropped down on to the parking lot from the trail. Through the parking lot, wondering where exactly we needed to go, a volunteer directed us towards the finish line. We turned the corner on to the gravel path and, as we approached. I heard someone shout my name. I don't know who it was, but it sure felt amazing to hear! High fives to James and with that the race was over. 7 hours, 48 minutes and 27 seconds after I started. Like, whoa.

The smile was not forced!
Photo near the finish by Glenn Tachiyama.

I went through just about every range of emotion out on the course and finished feeling strong and happy. Joining friends for a beer and food in the shelter after the race was icing on the cake. It felt perfect.

Driving home after the race pretty much sucked, my knee was not thrilled. But I had a smile from ear to ear and certainly increased my level of badassery a notch or two.