Friday, October 16, 2015

Bear 100 Redemption!

At mile 76 of Bear 100, I’d made it to Beaver Lodge, where I knew Misha my crew was waiting for me, and where Ken, my pacer through the 22 miles of darkness, would leave me for the final push through the night. I’d come too far to quit, but I’d gone so far to keep going. At first when I saw Ken it had been a joyous reunion -  was so proud that I’d made it through the tricky tough climb from Temple Fork to TonyGrove. We caught up about his family, his runs, his finish at Wasatch 100 two weeks before despite trying multiple times to quit. He’d tried the hardest at around Wasatch mile 85, calling his wife to pick him up. Unluckily (or luckily), his wife had tried, but Cottonwood Marathon had started, blocking the mountain roads. Ken had no choice but to continue, and he was proud he had. Now was my moment of truth - I had to finish. 

Start to Logan Peak (mile 10)
Started off on easy pace. Pulled off trail for pit stop at mile 2, everyone passed me. Literally, everyone. I was DFL but didn’t care. Still had signal, so tweeted a few pictures of sunrise. At mile 8, came upon Chihping sleeping sitting up on a log the trail. uh-oh. He said “let me be” so I let him be. I was surprised by how familiar the trail was - I hadn’t been here in a year, but every bend, climb, dip was as I remembered. Into Logan Peak, I passed Scott Kummar. At the aid, I told him how much I admired his determination to “I will failing until I find a way to succeed at Bear”. 

Logan Peak to Leatham (mile 20) took it easy. Chihping caught back up with me, and we goofed off taking running selfie videos. Again, no hurry. I was just astounded “where is everyone?” Saw Misha at mile 20. 

Leatham to Richards (23) Again, took it easy. Chihping ran this part, I watched him disappear into the distance. At the aid I dumped water on my head & filled my buff with ice. 

Richard to Cowley (30) Took it easy. Chihping had told me I went out way to hard on this section last year. “Survive the night”. Last year, I’d tried to show off and pass people. This year I knew it was a 100 mile race, not a 100K. There were many cows on the trail. I used to be scared of free range cows. Now, after seeing so many bobcats and mountain lions while running solo in Marin, cows don’t have the same edge. All of a sudden all the cows were in motion towards me. A cowboy on a horse was herding them toward me, down the narrow draw! “Sorry ma’am, we didn’t know there was a race today”.

About another mile, & another cowboy - but this time there was only the trail, with nowhere for me to go to avoid cows. “Raise your arms and clap, and they’ll go around you.” I raised my hands. The cows went around me. 

Cowley to Right Hand Fork Last year, I’d ran UP these hills as I felt good. What had I been thinking? It’s a 100 miles! I felt good, but walked the up hills. 

Right Hand Fork to Temple Fork Last year I’d left Right Hand Fork with around a liter of water for the 8 miles and my heavy night gear. I’d showed up at Temple Fork dehydrated and tired, my race already disintegrating before mile 45. This year, I’d gotten smarter. I filled up with 3 liters. Slow and steady, even taking a picture of where my sister’s running club friend had gotten lost in 2013. At Temple Fork, I realized how much Misha really helped me. She couldn’t meet me here as she had to meet my pacer, Ken, & shuttle him to Tony Grove. She’d left me a bag with my headlamp and warm clothes. However, without her there, I couldn’t get my beverage of choice - red bull. Also, I was completely fried. I dumped my drop bag out and stared at it, trying to figure out what combination of clothes and food to take me from the hot day into the cooling dark night, also knowing that whatever I didn’t take, I wouldn’t have access to until the end of the race. A volunteer ran over “What can I get you?” “Nothing, I need to sort myself out”. 3 minutes later “What can I get you?” “Just need to sort myself out”. I changed into fleece leggings. As I was leaving, Chihping came in. I didn’t want to be by myself in the dark, and asked Chihping when he was leaving “I just got here”, he said. I’d already spent 25 minutes at the aid station - too long to wait. 

Temple Fork to Tony Grove 
I was proud of this section. I was by myself, finding the trail. I took out my headphones & listened to the sound of the mountains, crickets, frogs, and odd shuffling noises. When I looked into the woods, red eyes looked back. I realized the shuffling were cattle, strewn across the climb. I would look for headlamps ahead. The scariest moment was when the shuffling stopped being placid and was an angry cow in the middle of the trail. I waited for two other runners to yell & startle the cow off. 

I was surprised how much of the run I remembered so well, down to the tricky turns in the campground coming into Tony Grove. I’d made the bad mistake last year of leaving Tony Grove with ~1 liter of water, expecting the next aid to be 3-4 miles, instead of it’s actual 10 miles away. This time, I’d bought a 3L bladder for my pack. The prior night, Misha & I had practiced in theBest Western motel how she could fill my pack all the way to the brim, not being fooled by the weight of my headlamp, warm clothes, food, extra battery to think I had enough water. 

Tony Grove to Franklin Trailhead 
Ken & I comparing notes on last year - “Here’s where you tried to make me run, & I had none of it”. “Here’s where I thought the next aid station was those lights, and another runner said “Negative, ma’am, it’s another 5 miles, and I felt so defeated”. This year, I was running the sections I’d walked, and fast walking the sections I’d stumbled through. Ken remarked how strong I looked. “You said that last year”. “This year I mean it. Last year I told you what I thought you wanted to hear.” Ken was a good pacer - the best. 

We got to Franklin Trailhead (mile 61) with plenty of water still in my pack. Last year, after walking multiple hours, I’d started licking my jacket for condensation. I’d rather haul an extra liter (2.2 pounds) then be so dehydrated again. Misha was there. Last year, the rain had started as we’d gotten into Franklin, and I’d sat on a cooler for a half hour, listening to the rain on the tarp, willing myself to continue, to go out into the cold misery. This year, I quickly hugged Misha & then was off. Misha remarked how hyper I was to see her - every time, I was so happy & grateful to see her. She’d given up her weekend to come chase my dream with me, meeting me at every single crew aid station she could. Of course I was happy to see her. 

Franklin to Logan The climb from Franklin to Logan was where my race had disintegrated last year - the sticky slick mud had made me fall & slowed my pace to a mile an hour. This year, the climbs were steep but attainable. My main disappointment was that the descents that had seemed so steep last year with th click mud seemed less steep last year. There were stream crossings that neither of us had remembered, as last year the entire trail had been an open river of mud. I tried to be clever, but instead slipped and crossed in the cow patties. My feet were soaked. 

Wanting to kick a ghost, I asked Ken if we could skip Logan aid station, where I’d gone into the warming hut (mile 69) and dropped last year from altitude sickness, dehydration, exhaustion and hypothermia. He was all for it. However, I’d gotten too low in water. We stopped for me to refill. Ken wanted to fix his recyclable batteries, and told me to go ahead. I made it down to the river crossing. A stream of other runners had just crossed, their headlamps bounding ahead. The last lamp in front of me hesitated, debating which log to step on. I waited, a moment, than another, then said “dude -c’mon”. He went. 

Logan to Beaver Lodge I felt bad about leaving Ken at the aid station. I’d called to him that I had a backup penlight, but he wanted to tinker with his lights in the bright aid. What if he couldn’t get it going? He’d be stranded. I regretted it until suddenly he caught back up with me. His lights were duds so he continued with me. 
It wasn’t all of a sudden but a slow slide when I realized that I could keep moving, stay away, or maintain a conversation - and do only 3/4 out of all. The bushes were full of imagined boiler parts, as at the pre race meeting they’d said there sa mining equipment still rusting. But when I got closer, the boiler parts were only tree branches. I’d been awake now for over 24 hours at high altitude, and had started hallucinating. I felt very rude, but I turned on music to calm myself. I didn’t have the energy to talk with Ken. 

Another few runners had fallen into step with Ken, and Ken talked with them. I walked point, shining my light to see the route. I was a good route finder, better than the rest, as we silently trudged. For a year I’d regretted dropping at mile 68 last year, thinking I could have made it at least 7 more miles. Now, doing the 7 miles, I thought I’d done the smart thing to drop. Even with a year and 2 other 100s under my belt buckle, this was hard.

As the first brightening of the sky began, Ken kept reassuring me that everything would be better by day. I didn’t have the energy to agree or disagree - I just kept moving. I was grateful that Ken had found better company than me - our tail had talked with him for many miles while I was a walking zombie. We wound around Beaver Lodge high on the ridge before doubling back. I saw a headlamp break away and take a shortcut down the drainage - to this day I’m not sure if it was a shortcutting runner or a figment of my mind. But finally we had popped up on the road to Beaver Lodge. I mumbled that I wanted Ken to keep going with me, but he couldn’t - he’d run Wasatch 100 two weeks before, and he had St Georges Marathon. “That’s fine - I’ll buddy up with other runners. Who was the guy you’ve been talking to for the past 5 miles?” Ken said “Oh! I never even got his name!” 

At Beaver Lodge at 8 AM, I changed out of my night clothes into my day clothes. This sounds far simpler than it actually was. Beaver Lodge had one (1) bathroom for all runners/volunteers/crew/etc. When I went in, there was a long line. I asked if there was somewhere I could change, and they pointed down a long flight of stairs like a Jules Verne journey to the center of the Earth. Misha came to the rescue & held up a sleeping bag for me to change under outside the lodge. I can’t say enough about what a saint Misha was. I hugged Misha goodbye, and then the grim reality hit.

 Beaver Lodge to Finish I had 10 hours to go 24 miles. All I needed to do was keep walking. But 10 more hours after already going for 26 hours. It wasn’t that I was sore - I wasn’t. But I was sleep deprived, hallucinating, & at high altitude. The next stretch was flattish on a fire road that then become a steeper and steeper fire trail & then crossed into the Idaho border. I couldn’t talk. Other runners would trudge forward with me, and try to make conversation that I was incapable of responding too. I wondered if the other runners were hallucinations. I wondered if I was a hallucination. I had my favorite song on, and I moved.  It was utterly beautiful & I couldn’t muster the energy to get my phone out of my pocket to lift if for a picture. Somehow shocking to me, as miserable as I felt, I kept passing people even more miserable. 

Mile 81, we popped up into an open plateau with an aid station. It was beautiful. I was miserable. Eat soup. Drink coke. Keep moving. I hadn’t had a cell phone signal since 8 AM the prior day, and I missed it. I wanted to see Facebook messages. I wanted to hear from my sister. I wanted to hear from Australian Peter. I wanted to hear from the outside world, period. I grabbed onto a band of about five other runners who looked like they knew where they were going. Runners was a misnomer, as we were all walking. Higher. Higher. So miserable. I’m so crap at altitude. Then we started descending, and I started running. I ran down from 9000 feet to 7500 as quickly as I could, feeling marginally better. I saw Misha & ran to her. It was mile 85 & I still had 5 hours of walking at 3 mph to go. There was no way in hell I was quitting here. But I drank a Red Bull and griped to her about the altitude. I griped out of earshot of the volunteers - I did NOT want to get pulled.

Another long trudge from mile 85, still more climbs. An eager guy in a clean shirt passed me, tried to talk to me. He was a pacer “fresh as a daisy”, I said. His green shorted friend had less energy but still passed me on the ups, though I passed back on the downs. My world had shrunk to listening to music, looking for pink ribbons, and relentless forward progress. I would listen to the same music over and over. I couldn’t bear to listen to some music as the memories it would bring up were more than I could contemplate. 

The trail was relentless. Ultra runner joke “What’s the hardest ultra you’ve ever done?” A: The one you’re doing right now. But where Western States mercifully descends over it’s 100 miles and becomes easier, more runnable, Bear 100 had saved the nastiest elevation and climbs for now. There was no doubt that I would finish. None. But I was miserable. I had done the smart thing to drop last year.

At a leveling, and a vista, the green shorted runner & his pacer embraced. I knew then that they were celebrating,  their finish. They were embracing as we were at the high point. “How touching” I said. “Want a hug too?” “yes”. So first one, then the other hugged me. The race had already reminded me of Burning Man - the heat, the physical exhaustion, the erosion of physical hygiene - but this was a pleasant reminder of Burning Man. To quote Ken “I never knew their names” but I will remember that moment. “Go hammer the downhills, girl”, they said, patting my back. 

I told Misha about the hug at mile 92. Typing my race report, I’m amazed anew at her. She crewed me at 9 separate stops (11 if you count start finish). She & Ken were so determined that I should not DNF like last year. I couldn’t ask for a more patient or helpful crew and pacer than them. Or perhaps they’re like me - they hate quitting. The trail descends ~3000 feet to Bear Lake to finish. I finally got a cell phone signal and texted my sister & Peter about how miserable I was. As I descended I felt better and better, and passed about 10 more people. Ugh, the final winding around Bear Lake was agony - not because my legs were sore ( they weren’t) but because I was just ready to be done. Ready to be done. I’d retired from 100s multiple times. So much time and effort for what? for what? 

I saw Misha waiting two blocks from the end. We walked into together. I ran the final ramp & then lay in the cool shade by the finish. I found Erol “Rocket” Jones to ask for my buckle - he looked at Misha & me, then said “The one with the dirty legs must be the finisher”. 

Things I did well:
Tried to say thank you to volunteers, even when barely cohesive, 
Conservative, strong race. I was literally DFL for the first 6 miles, and in the back 10 runners for the first 20 miles, but didn’t care. I finished at 154 out of 305 starters, 205 finishers. I never cared about my time more than finishing. 
Tried to give Misha a hug every aid station. Near the end, the dirtier I got, the less she wanted this hug! It was an immense help to have her as I didn’t have to plan my drop bags - I knew she would have what I needed. 
Ate steady supply of snickers even after stomach went south.
Had backup peppermints after stomach went south. 
3L water pack - I didn’t always drink it all, but better than running out of 2L
No blisters. Literally, zero. I’d lost four toenails after Western States, so my big toe nails are still growing in.
Relentless forward motion.

To improve on:
Misha wanted a dirty clothes bag, and after sorting out my drop bags, I agree. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Crystal Springs 50K

Crystal Springs 50K - 7:24, 6300 feet climb

Left plenty of time to get to start, as last race at Huddart huge backup to pay $6 entrance fee, and I started 5 minutes after start.

Hiked the early climb, fun to see Christy B and chat with Chuck Wilson. He tried at least three times to finish Hardrock, couldn’t, including getting pulled at mile 90 for missing cutoff after getting lost. He raved about Bear 100. Told funny story about thinking Skyline 50K is first Sunday in August, went to Lake Chabot on Sunday to have ranger tell him “it’s not today!”. So Chuck ran 50K in Point Reyes as just over the 580. Yesterday (Saturday) he was waking up, saw Chipfing’s photos on Facebook, and realized he’d missed it! oops. At mile 6 aid station Christy’s friend asked me about my buckle - she’d been at Last Chance Aid at Western States - great to see her! 

Rambled the first 12 miles, not stressing about cutoffs.  (Un)fortunately, got to mile 12 at ~11:17, plenty of time for the noon cutoff. Big lollipop loop 9 mile through Wunderlich - slightly paranoid about water but had plenty left. Walked almost all of the ups. Really fun to see Bonnie Porter killing it on the up on her way to a PR. Just really wasn’t feeling any urge to go fast. I’d run 7 miles on Friday, 18 on Saturday, I finished Western States in June - nothing to prove, right? The course was a little confusing but I tried to doublecheck the ribbons and compare to my mental map of the course. Tried not to think too much about how I wished I was running the marathon instead of gutting out a 50K. On the 50K lollipop, a marathon runner came back - she’d missed her turn. I felt bad as she probably added at least 4 miles. Coming back into Bear Gulch (21) Jennie L caught back up with me - she was ahead of me, so I was surprised to see her, but she said “I was behind a tree & you passed me”. She'd run WhiteRiver 50 Mile two weeks ago so we briefly attempted to sandbag each other. 

Ten miles back to finish - tried to run gently, enjoy myself. Flip-flopped with two dudes. Experimented with new nutrition - Stinger Waffles & PowerBar Waffles. I liked the Stinger more. No soda at any of the aid stations on the way back - all out :( Finally, descent, an annoying pop back up, then the final two mile descent on the road. 

At the end, the guys I’d flip flopped with chatted - they recognized me from North Face 50! I’d seen one of them go off-course, trying to climb a downed tree in Muir Woods, and I’d yelled at him to get back. Good memory on their part - it had been their first ultra. 

At the end, I was down on myself. I’d spent seven hours and twenty four minutes, and was an hour off my PR. I wasn’t in the top 3 for my age group. Why had I spent so much time and money to gut out a meaningless race? I’d spent the whole day rambling in the redwoods with nothing to show for it but a coaster, medal & T-shirt to add to my literal heap of medals and stack of t-shirts. I was envious of Bonnie and her awesome sub 6 PR. I’d run 25 miles the two days prior and was just trying to keep myself moving. After a good meal and some reflection, I’m happy I finished. Not every race is an “A”, “B” or even “C” race, some are long supported training runs in pursuit of a bigger goal. I had time on my feet to finish Bear 100. 

Things I did well:
Kept moving
Tried to say thank you to volunteers
Tried to say good job to the other volunteers. 
Kept pack full
Plenty of time at start
Copious sleep night before

Things to improve on
My battery pack didn’t work - I think I was using an after-market cord that barfed. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Montara de Oro 25K (+ bonus 2K)

Montara de Oro was a surprise addition. I’d planned to be in SoCal to see my college friends. While looking at the PCT schedule, I saw they had a race 1.5 hours from where I was staying, on the California Coast at Montara de Oro. New place? Coast run? sold! There’s an 8 K, 12k, 25K and 50K. By the time I went to register, online registration had closed, but over email the race organizers very kindly said “no problem!”, sending me instructions and a warning to bring cash as the credit card wouldn’t work in the remote area.

I budgeted plenty of time to arrive at the venue, a pretty location on the coast. The 25K was two loops and saw the most scenery, the 50K was two loops of the 25K, and the 12K was 1 loop of the 25K. I’d run Western States five weeks before and had nothing to prove…at registration I almost signed up for the 12K, then decided I’d spent so much time driving here I should get my moneys worth. There were ample bathrooms and I had plenty of time to spare - a rarity for me. 

The race had a low key start up the road, then we did a flattish loop along the coast cliffs. Then the first real climb began - up, up, up Victoria Peak. The fast 12Kers, who started 15 minutes behind us, passed me. The fog obscured the top. I stopped to take pictures and tweet. A nice downhill back to the start, as I tried to stay ahead of the 12Kers. 

At the aid station/start/finish the volunteer treated me like an elite - he grabbed my pack and quickly refilled it, then said “Go catch them!”. A boring section on a dirt road, then a turn and another sharp climb. In the distance I saw the peak we would have to climb. Up, up, up. Then down, I thought. But then another up. My Strava was ticking over 14 miles - and the end was not in site. I trudged along, finally reaching the end at 17.3 miles. I’d finished. 

Good: Took pack, as water was after 8 miles and then 9 miles
kept moving forward

To improve on:

Shoes are too small. Caused pain. Toenails felt like they were jammed.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Western States 2015 Race Report

With temperatures near 100 degrees, a merciless sun at 8,000 feet altitude beat on me as I ran the rocky, dusty, Western States Trail, the air hazy from both the dust and the nearby forest fires. I soaked in a stream by Swinging Bridge at mile 39 before the 1,800 foot climb up Devil’s Thumb. Then my stomach disintegrated - I felt nauseous and energy-less, with chills through my body as I tried to force myself to take another step. Just one more step. I remembered how easy and fun this climb had seemed at Western States Training Camp in May, when I’d passed a string of struggling runners. Then I remembered how at Canyons 50K I’d soaked in the same stream then stormed up the hill. Now all I could do was keep moving. I saw a very sad, motionless runner perched on a switchback. When I reached her, I saw it was Christine, my training partner. I wanted to encourage her, to stop and tell her she could do it. But I didn’t even know if I could do it. All my energy was in just willing myself forward, step after step.

It’s 3 pm in Auburn Sunday afternoon. I’m sitting in a cool air-conditioned motel room with Karen & Ken & Misha, my friends who’d given up their weekend to help me meet my goal of finishing Western States 100. Karen & Ken tell me they didn’t think I’d make it to the river - mile 78 - but they wanted to help me anyway.  

Right now you think this is a DNF race report. And it almost was.  But I thought of the email I would have to send my friends and coworkers that I’d dropped out, and I felt sad. I CAN WRITE MY OWN STORY  - and it’s not quitting. Somehow, despite everything, I stumbled into Devils Thumb at mile 43. I immediately slumped into a chair, ignoring for a second Coach Ann’s voice in my head saying “A chair is a coffin”. Tawnya & Bull Dozier hurried over to me, as I mumbled how nauseous and miserable I was. Tawnya brought me ginger ale, which I gulped. Bull took photos, and I begged him to not put them on Facebook. “It’s okay, it’s a tough day, so many people have quit. If you stay here for 44 more minutes, the aid station shuts, we’ll give you a ride out.”. NO. NO. NO. NO. I have worked TOO hard to get here - I’m NOT NOT finishing! I shot up out of the chair. I'd finished Leona Divide 50 Mile in the heat, finished Overlook 50 Mile as second place woman in worse heat conditions. I was not quitting now. 

I ran out of Devil’s Thumb aid station so determined. Despite how dreadful I’d felt, I’d still passed multiple people going up the climb. I wasn’t “killing it”, but I was still in the race. I remembered this section so well from Canyons 50K & Training Camp — a long downhill I could pick up speed, then the brutal downhill to El Dorado Creek, too rocky and steep to really hammer, but enough I could keep a good pace, remembering running this with Leigh-Ann. Then the long climb up to Michigan Bluff, remembering the rattlesnake I’d seen at Canyons. At Michigan Bluff, Karen,Misha and Laura were waiting for me. I really wanted to change out of my soggy clothes but there was still a speck of daylight which I wanted to push through. 

I’d started at dawn at 5 AM in Squaw Valley, almost 16 hours ago. I’d hiked up the Escarpment at the back of the pack, a position I was fine with - I like being at the back, that way I know where everyone is. I caught up with Timothy Allen, who I’d met in training camp, on the final scramble. In the high country, I passed shirtless Gordy Ainsleigh who teased me “Mountain Lions like girls with headphones”. I replied “Mountain Lions like topless runners”. “Topless! I don’t think of myself as topless!” It was a huge advantage to have run the course before - I knew all the jags of the course as it rolled through the spine of the Sierras. I remembered Ken’s podcast “Keep your head” + “Don’t trash your quads” and kept a consistent pace without too much effort.

It was fun to see Allen Lucas & Bonnie Porter at Last Chance aid station. As I was leaving the aid station, they’d made signs for runners I knew - like Alvin, Franco & Mark Tanaka. To my huge surprise, I was the last sign! I wished I had my iPhone to take a picture, but I’d decided I would NOT get distracted with social media or taking pictures, and was running iPhone less. I'd run the Squaw to Robinson Flat 31 miles section two weeks earlier, when the spring flowers were in full bloom. Now the flowers had wilted and dropped, as the full blast of summer had begun. However, it was a huge boost to see my crew every 10-15 miles, and I was basically on schedule until I got to Devil’s Thumb at mile 43. 

Now, runninng to ForestHill (mile 62) I took advantage of the daylight as best I could, but soon it was dark, and the trail wasn’t well marked for the night. i was glad I’d run the course numerous times, but even so I stopped & hollered a few times for other runners. On the descent down the canyon, Ken Neely caught me - I asked if he wanted to pass, but he said he liked my steady pace. He’d blown up trying to break 24 hours and was trying to put himself back together again.  “If you keep this pace, you’ll finish the race”, Ken said, which helped my psyche. The long climb out went quickly, and soon we were climbing Bath Road, me remembering Loren Lewis giving me Western States advice during Training Camp. He’d gotten to Michigan Bluff after dark, and finished - I was ahead of his pace.

At Forest Hill I changed shorts and socks and shoes. Well, actually, my crew changed my shoes and socks for me (THANK YOU) including moving my pacing tag from shoe to shoe. Jen established her sainthood by unpinning my race bib from my gross 62 mile shorts. (When I read later about Mike Kradens pacer switching SHORTS my jaw dropped, but not my trousers). Laura and I set off into the night. The first section went smoothly - I was drinking and eating, running well, trying to build up more of a buffer. I’d run the section in training camp and remembered being in stiff agony. I felt loose and good and strong. I ran into Cal1 looking for Bruce LaBelle, but couldn’t see him. I felt strong, I pushed into the red, past Cal2 way ahead of the cutoff. My goal of 3 AM to the river seemed easily achievable, then my stomach absolutely disintegrated again. I'd ignored Chihfing Fu's advice - "survive the night". 

At Cal3, mile 73, I chugged ginger ale, hoping it would help me as much as it had helped me at mile 43. Immediately as soon as it went down, I knew it would come back up. “Laura, we have to leave. NOW”. I got about two feet out of the aid station then started violently retching so hard that I popped the pins on my bib. All the ginger ale & fluids I’d taken came out. And I still felt terrible. Laura and I walked to Rucky Chucky. I was weak and dehydrated, and I’d been awake for over 24 hours running. I felt terrible, absolutely terrible. My stomach ached and was sore. And I was so sad. My race seemed over. How could I continue? Every time I broke into a jog, my stomach rebelled again & I would dry heave. In the darkness, runners & their pacers kept passing, including Catra Corbett. I managed two bites of Snickers. 

At Rucky Chucky, mile 78, I collapsed into a chair. Tony Nguyen was so helpful, and came by to give me advice on the river crossing. Ken came with cheese saying “Eat this cheese”. I told Ken very strongly where he could take the cheese and his advice, and Tony backed away with wide eyes. Somehow I was having a life jacket strapped on & crossing the chest-high icy river in the dark, with glowsticks marking the rocks. It was 4:10 AM. I was ahead of the 5 AM cutoff, but the race had slipped out of reach. All I could do was keep going til I was pulled. I wasn't going to stop of my own accord. 

Ken told me to trust him and eat the turkey & cheese, that I needed protein. Up to the top of Green Gate, and surprisingly the turkey and cheese stayed down. Alina & Jen were there, and I got another Snickers from them. We were at the top of the hill at 5 AM, with 6 hours for 20 miles. If my stomach stayed together, if I ran smart, if I could hang in there - I could finish. If if if. I thought about how much I’d trained for the race, how much time I’d spent up in the Sierras running the course, how much time I’d spent in the Headlands, how hard I’d worked for this race, and how many people were helping me. I thought of my DNF at mile 68 of Bear 100 and how devastated I'd felt after, seeing Chihping Fu and Mark Tanaka with their finishers shirts at SFO airport. Then the bitter pill of unpacking my dirty drop bags from running 24 hours at Bear without the solace of a finishers buckle. “I’m FINISHING”. I announced. 

Honestly, the next 20 miles I was in a zombie like trance of relentless forward motion. I put in my headphones & turned them up as loud as possible. I’d walk the ups, run the downs, shuffle the flats. I knew I had some serious blisters on my feet but my actual legs were strong and in good shape. Ken had warned "don't look at your feet - you'll get in the trap of taping & fussing, then you'll blow your time at aid station". So before we got into an aid station, I’d consult with Ken on our plan to get in and out as quickly as possible. When we got to ALT it was a very happy surprise to see Mike Weston! He was our volunteer, and in addition, I could give him my headlamp. At Brown’s Bar, I was in such a daze I didn’t even realize Hal Koerner had helped me. My mind kept doing the constant math that I needed to keep moving, and there was very little time to spare. At Highway 49 I tore through the mile 94 station, grabbing a new pack from Misha & getting another Snickers (yum). I was honestly surprised to see Misha, as when I'd seen her at mile 78 I was over the verge of quitting. Wow - she was still here on the course helping me! The final climb up from Highway 49, then we were in the familiar meadow with 6 miles to go I knew so well from doing an out & back three weeks ago. The next 2 miles were a sharp descent to No Hands Bridge. 

“Ken, I GOT THIS” - I took off my headphones and yelled. Ken said “What, what? What do you mean?” “Ken, I mean, I GOT THIS”. And then I dropped the hammer. And I mean, I really dropped the hammer. If you’re at mile 95 of Western States and staring a DNF in the face, you don’t leave much in the tank. I clocked down the hill, scampering through the rocks where I’d seen a rattlesnake in training. Ken even went ahead to warn hikers I was bombing down the hill! In no time we were at No Hands, where Ken bragged to Tim Tweitmeyer that I’d run 8 minute miles on this section. 

Those 8 minute miles gave me the cushion I needed, and finally I could relax, or as much as one can while finishing Western States. Alina & Jen gave me a Red Bull at No Hands Bridge, and Ken & I jogged up up to the final climb up the hill. At Robie, Misha, Alina, Jen, Laura met us. Then, a very nice surprise - Ann Trason walking her dog Zoey, with Bruce, who had given me so much good advice. Ann surprised me by wanting her picture taken with me. We all posed by the mile 99 sign that had haunted my thoughts for the last month. Ann had said “no crying til the white bridge”, a quarter mile before the finish, and we were there, crossing the white bridge. As we came into the stadium Andy Jones Wilkins slapped my hand.

Then I was rounding the track with all my pacers and crew and Ann, and I was so happy. I was walking as I had plenty of buffer of time, even after stopping to take multiple photos in the last mile. Ann said “you have to run on the track”, and for emphasis, pinched my butt! So I started running. I was so tired and so happy. I had done it, with the help of my friends, who’d spent a weekend helping me achieve my goal. Ann escorted me over to an ice bath where I dunked my feet, though I wanted to dunk my entire body. I’d really done it! I’d done it! I can’t say enough how much it helped to have Karen, Laura, Ken, Misha, Alina & Jen on course to help me. 

Things I did well:
Kept going even when my race seemed over
Didn’t look at my feet til after the race
Had variety of food (Snickers, pretzels, Milano cookies, Gatorade, Red Bull) so could digest what seemed appetizing. For the last twenty miles all I ate was Snickers
Kept my iPods charged so always had music
Said thank you to volunteers
Three packs to rotate between meant aid stations were very quick
Didn’t carry phone so not distracted by social media/taking pictures

Things to improve on:
Should have listened to body more instead of shoving down food on schedule - it pushed my stomach into the red zone

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Canyons 50K

Canyons 50K - 9,000 feet climbing, 9:28

As usual, busy week at work, so I only packed my race gear Friday morning, booked Auburn Comfort Inn Friday afternoon. The Quality Inn where Karen & Ken was staying was sold out, as was Super8 where Kevin was staying.  Picked up Kevin at 7:25 pm from the BART (only 10 minutes late) then headed up. My plan worked - no bad traffic, and we were in Auburn a little after 9 pm. Kevin was good company on the drive up as I was extremely sleepy from long busy past week. I had two separate friends visiting Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then work events til late on Wednesday and Thursday. Too busy to buy Frappucino for the morning, and I forgot to pack Buff or Cap. Karen saw my Facebook post & brought over an American River Buff for me. And the Comfort Inn had a vending machine where I bought a Starbucks DoubleShot for the next morning. However, the room smelled like stale smoke, and when I asked to change the woman said they were booked full.
Thing to different #1: Don’t pack gear at last minute! Get race bag ready at least two days before.
Thing to different #2: stay at better hotel for Western States Training Weekend 

Got to the start in plenty of time, 6 AM, even enough to re-park car in better spot, use porta-potty, and take pictures with Pen & Kevin.

Started, headphone cords all tangled, walked at back of pack while sorted out. Could definitely feel that I’d run 50 miles two weeks ago. Passed people on initial descent down canyon. Walked hill up to Michigan Bluff station. 
Thing did well: Asked people if they wanted to pass, tried to be courteous.

Michigan Bluff - A runner was asking the aid station volunteers if the homemade cookies had gluten. The volunteers said they didn't know. I asked if "the cookies were made with love?" They repeated they didn't know, then got my joke.  Ate cookies, thanked volunteers. Descended down the canyon. Decent speed but didn’t hammer. On long climb to “The pump” aid station, the 100K’er started coming back. Got off trail to let returners pass. Chatted with Monique, a Marin runner. She’d gotten into Western States, but then gotten a stress fracture in training camp, couldn’t run. Strong cautionary lesson to take it easy. 
Thing did well: Thanked volunteers, ran own race. 

After Michigan Bluff was a “5 mile out and back”. It was one mile of flattish where there was a one man impromptu water aid station with a bongo-playing dude & Alvin! It was nice to see Alvin, we took some pictures. Then a long, long descent that kept going down and down and down. At the bottom was a stream with a waterfall. Ian Sharmian’s blog said he tried to soak in all the streams. I took off my pack and soaked my front and then my back completely. It was quite hot, in the high 80s and low 90s. The girls with me followed my lead and started dousing themselves too. 
Things I did well: Took S-Cap every hour, tried to keep body temperature down. 

Long long climb to regain all that we’d lost. I walked a bit with Laura, where we had ultra one-upmanship. 
Laura “Good training for running States!”
Me “Yep, I’m running States too.!”
Laura “My coach has run Western States 5 times!”
Me “My coach has WON Western States 14 times.”
Oneupmanship aside, fun to talk to Laura, she’d run Javelina also. She said her coach advised her to put ice in her sports bra. 

Finally back to the pump aid station, where I learned the climb I’d just done was the famous “Devil’s Thumb”. As I left the aid station, I passed a 100K runner who was laden down with enough gear for a small battalion, saying “Good job!”. He replied with
“Thanks, Ma’am”.
“Are you in the military?”
“Yes, how do you know?”
“You called me ma’am”. 

More climbing and descending down and out of the canyons. I was feeling a bit depressed. Though I was moving at a decent speed despite the heat, this was quite hard. I was grateful I was only doing 50K, but then would think I was going to run 100 miles in these conditions. How could I finish under the 30 hours cutoff?

The runner in front of me shrieked and pointed as she ran up the hill. A large, four foot long snake was slithering on the side. As I came up, I could hear the snakes loud rattle. UHOH. Not just a snake. A Rattle Snake. I tried to remember what to do when one saw a rattle snake and came up with nothing. I hoped it would slither away, but instead it curled up about a foot off trail, rattling loudly, it’s head in a triangle position. Not good. Not good at all. I debated what to do. Run by quickly? Throw rocks? Paralyzed, I waited. A slower runner came up behind me. 

“It’s a rattle snake, what should we do?”
“I’m born and raised in the city - no idea.”

I was really hoping that the other runner would go first, but he was as scared as me. Finally, very slowly, I walked as far on the opposite trail side from the snake as I could. I was scared. Snake stayed still. phew. 

After that liveliness, the rest of the race was tame. Climb the canyons, run the downs, finished at Foresthill at 9:28, near my personal worse (9:39) for a 50K. But I took it easy like a training run, and it was a hot day. My coach was proud I’d taken it slow. 

Things to do different: Bring back up music just in case iPod dies
Experiment with cap & ice. 

Things I did well: Relentless forward progress. Now I realize I’d done some of the toughest sections of the Western States course - the actual race will not be all so difficult. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile 2015

Marin Ultra Challenge was basically my Facebook feed of ultra-running friends, all in person, running a race! Wonderful day…even though I was crew less, pacerless, drop bagless, and even rideless.

MUC started at the base of the GoldenGate Bridge at 6 AM Saturday. I’d had a hectic week at work and started packing my gear at 8 pm Friday night. No time to coordinate a ride or drop bags. So I planned on carrying everything I need, and taking a taxi to the start. When I got in the taxi, I asked him to take me over the Golden Gate Bridge. He said he didn’t know how to get there. Eventually he admitted that it was his first day. I gave him turn by turn directions. On Park Presidio the car slowed to 20 miles, and he admitted he’ d bought the car yesterday! and wasn’t entirely sure how to drive it. And oh by the way, the car was used & he hadn’t had a mechanic check it, as “dealers are trustworthy”. After a pit stop at the Golden Gate Vista for him to restart the car, we made it to the race start at Fort Baker.

Misha found me waiting in the bathroom line, where I still was 6:55 AM when the Race Director announced that he would wait for the line to clear before he started the race (phew). Saw Tawnya at the end of the line.

Then the start! Walked up Coastal Trail to Golden Gate Bridge, as Mike Weston passed me in the dark. Alina, Alvin, Jen and I talked about lactose-free cheese, and met Sam Hsu in the dark. Cruised down Coastal, past Rodeo Lagoon as the dawn broke. Saw a hapless runner utilizing the “bush” bathroom, not realizing or couldn’t wait that the real bathroom was ~20 feet ahead. I ducked into the Rodeo Beach bathroom for a pit stop. 

Up & over Hill 88, where a runner (Kim) said she recognized me from White River 50 mile. White River 50 Mile had also held the start due to toilet line, and the RD had told a funny story about everyone knowing that Scott Jurek was still in the ports-potty, holding the start for him while everyone chanted for him.

On Wolf Ridge, I just wasn’t feeling it. Christy crested down the hill quicker than me like a surfer girl catching a wave. uh-oh. Usually downhills were my strength. My coach Ann had said I could not finish if I felt like I had the flu. The flu had been going around the office, but I at least wanted to make it up Willow Camp, which I'd done so many times training. But on Old Springs I was just cruising along, falling into step with another runner. Two turkeys were standing sentinel as we entered the stable area before the aid station. I thought they would scatter as we approached, but instead they advanced. I learned the old adage is true - you don’t have to be faster than the turkey, just faster than the other runner. At Tennessee Valley, as I didn’t have a drop bag, I gave my headlamp to Rose who was there at the same time as me. 

Pirates Cove to Muir Beach, then Muir Beach up Heather Cutoff to Cardiac. Descending to Muir Beach, Brett Rivers and the SFRunCo group seemed to be going quicker UP than I was going down. Relentless forward motion, jogging the flats, walking the ups. Ahead I could see Alvin, Jen and Alina, but I just didn’t seem to be gaining on them - at best keeping even. At Cardiac the aid station captain said “you’re at mile 19!”. Wow. So much work, so much climbing to only be at mile 19.

Down the Dipsea stairs which are increasingly decrepit every time I see them. Passed a few more cautious runners. Willow Camp Aid station, then the true race began. Passed runners going up Willow Camp. Passed Alina, who was having a rough patch on Coastal Trail. As I came into Pan Toll I saw signs for Leigh-Ann, my training partner - was she ahead or behind me? At Pan Toll I saw Laura, who was waiting for her runner Alina. Before she could sprint away I gave her a sweaty hug. 

As I came into Cardiac I saw Emily & Jen. As quickly as possible I was in-n-out. This section I’d done so many times in training - down Ben Johnson, around Fern Creek, up Lost. On the climb up Lost, Jen caught back up to me, and she told me she’d tried to catch me at North Face 50K in 2011 but not been able to ! I thought she was right behind me but I lost her on the Dipsea descent into Muir Woods. Ugh…more stairs.

The bridge was still out on Dipsea at Muir Woods, so we didn’t go up Dipsea to Deer Park but instead around on the road to Redwood creek. The plus was avoiding a climb, the minus was traffic on the road. At Deer Park Aid Station, Leigh-Ann was leaving as I came in. Again, quick in and out. I caught up with a woman as we started the climb up Miwok to Dias, but as we climbed she took the lead. She’d jog the gentle ups where I was quite content to walk. When we broke out to Dias though…suddenly 12 hours seemed in reach. I put my timer on and caught up with Leigh-Ann, who said the heat had taken a lot out of her. It was hot, but I didn't mind - I just thought of it as heat training for Western States. I deliberately didn't get ice at the aid stations to intensify the "hot" feeling. 

Muir Beach Aid Station, refilled pack for last time. A lady talked about how hot it was. It didn't feel that hot to me - Overlook 50 had been 100+. This was a balmy 80s, and I was in the home stretch with only 10 miles to go. Again, I knew the course so well - I wasn't even looking at ribbons. The 'hot' lady paused at the Zen Green Gulch gate, looking confused. I said "unbolt the latch" as she fumbled around. When I caught up to her, I unbolted it, and she darted through, leaving me to close it. When I passed her again she looked confused "why are we in a farm?" "Trust me, this is the course." She passed me back up Middle Green Gulch, but I caught her on the technical single-track of Wily, then passed more runners on the steep descent of Miwok into TV. At TV I was on the hunt. Ate three bites of watermelon, then was on my way up Marincello. Ken texted me asking how I was doing. “Passing people!”. I texted back. “Get off the phone & finish!”, Karen replied. 

I passed about 5 more people. As I descended Coastal there was a guy in sight, but I just couldn’t push enough to pass him. Finished, laid on the ground for about 7 minutes doing absolutely nothing. Then I saw Mike Weston, who’d had a spectacular finish well before me! Well done Mike! He did me a huge favor and drove me home. 

So on the one hand, I had no crew, pacer, ride, or drop bags. On the other hand, on my home course, I had friends every step of the way to crew me, (virtually) pace me, give me a ride home, or help me with drop bags. Thanks!!!

Things did well:

Left enough time to get to race start that even after UberX had engine trouble and had to pull over multiple times.

Packed headlamp.

Waited in bathroom line, started toileted. 

Started at own pace, didn’t get caught up in anyone else’s race.

At every aid station, quick turnover in/ out - trash out of bag, calories regained.

Kept pack adequately watered.

Watermelon at aid stations. 

S-caps every hour on the hour to avoid thinking about when I’d taken them.

Carried pace chart with cutoffs, didn’t stress about cutoffs.

Said thank you to volunteers.

Said thank you and “great day” to hikers.

Said “Great job” to runners passing / being passed. 

Things to improve on:

Was trying brand new battery pack, which didn’t charge my iPhone all the way. Turned off phone to conserve battery, couldn’t get whole course on Strava. Fix: Get more robust battery pack.

Had all Cola Scoobies, got quite wired/amped at end. 

No drop bags, gave headlamp to Rosie, haven’t gotten back. 

Shirt really worn out - should switch from 2008 NFEC to 2014 NFEC as “lucky” race shirt.

Didn’t bring buff, but didn’t really miss. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Golden Gate 30K

3:50, a substantial 14 minute improvement over my 4:04 the prior year.

Things I did well:
Ate well day before - Little Star Pizza!
Got plenty of sleep - in bed by 9 pm, though the 6:55 AM still felt early. 
Got to the race on time. At Woodside Marathon I went to a show til 3 AM, barely slept, and got to the race 10 minutes after it started. Starting on time, well rested, shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Brought plastic baggie for phone to protect it.
Hat protected my glasses from direct water. 
Ran my own race - walked all Hill88, ran the downs, didn’t get caught up in anyone else’s pace.
Tried to say “thank you” to all the volunteers.
In & out of aid stations quickly. Assessed weight of water in pack & ran 30K on 2 Liters. Roughly 5 minutes stopping in 3:50, including a 1:30 minute bathroom break at Tennessee Valley. 
Tried to say “Good job” while passing people or being passed.
Dropped the hammer at mile 15, and again at 17, with a 7:15! minute mile.
Set Strava PRs for 10K, 10 Mile, 20K, half marathon, and 30K!

Things to improve on:
My rain jacket didn’t seem to offer much protection. I don’t know whether it’s not a good jacket or I was sweating enough nothing would have helped. 
Set drop bag down on ground, it got waterlogged. Should double bag with a trash bag in wet conditions.

Wished I’d brought a cider to toast my finish, as everyone else was drinking beer & I don’t drink beer. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Crystal Springs Marathon

Crystal Springs Marathon went well, if I viewed as a training run. Stayed out til 1:30 at a concert I wanted to see, woke up at 7 AM to drive down to race start, arrived 5 minutes late kinda tired but ready to run. Ate bagel on drive. Kinda nice to start after everyone else as I didn't get caught up in conga line, just ran at my own pace. Walked the first big 2,000 foot climb, caught two slower runners. One said he was worried about the 3 hour 15 minute cutoff at mile 11. OH! I didn't know there was a cutoff. 

I was trying my coach's advice of "New Year, New Gear" & wearing my new running skirt. It kept slipping down oddly & I worried I'd washed it in too hot water. Around mile 3 I tried to cinch it up with the drawstring, & realized that my skirt was on BACKWARDS - explaining it's odd feel. Nowhere to change on the busy trail with the half marathoners overtaking, so I just kept running.

Around 11:02 I got nervous as I wasn't to mile 11 yet. Where was it? Ran faster to make the 11:15 cutoff time. When I ran in, the volunteers seemed very casual. Not much time, kept going on the 5 mile loop. Finally had breathing room to put my skirt on right direction. Later, I realized I'd made a basic math mistake - the cutoff was 11:45, not 11:15. 

Kept walking all the ups, running the flats & downs. Never really went super fast, just enjoyed the day, eating & drinking, electrolyte every hour. After mile 22 aid station, it was all downhill to the end, so I picked up pace, ending with 8:43 for final mile. My own timer said 5:45, but by official race time, 5:54 as I started late. 

At the end, Marisa made an announcement I was 2nd in my age group! So I picked up an age group medal. From looking at the results, there were ONLY 2 women in my age group, but hey, an award is an award. 

Things I did well:
1) Ran own race - didn't get stressed & try to catch up.
2) Ate bagel on drive down so always ahead of nutrition.
3) Said thank you to volunteers. Even the slow ones at the aid station who had pitchers but weren't using them.

Things to improve on:
1) Check direction of clothing (frontwards/backwards)
2) didn't apply bodyglide but not an issue