Tag Archives: Calico Racing

2013/04/20: Labor of Love 100-miler (race report)

Short version: I ran my third 100-miler (11 weeks after my first one) at Labor of Love on 20-21 April. I ran it in 26:26, which wasn’t a PR, but it was on a much more difficult course than where I got my PR last month. There were lots of friends at the race. I was fortunate to have elite 100-miler Dave James pace me for 27 miles. In spite of a bad spot from miles 66-88, the race was an awesome experience. It was a small race (34 starters, 25 finishers), but I was 3rd female overall (out of 6 finishers, 8 starters). My next 100-miler is 5 weeks away. I love the ultrarunning community. 🙂

Much longer version:

The ultrarunning community is like my family, and that is not an overstatement. That group of people is the only group of people in which I have *ever* felt fully accepted. The foundations for some of my most meaningful friendships have been built over the span of hours across miles shared with strangers. This has been the case since my very first interaction with an ultrarunner. When I wasn’t sure if I should try my first 50k, I emailed someone in a book I’d just read. It just so happened to be ultrarunning legend David Horton. He gave me the encouragement to try, and I did it. I’ve been overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of everyone I’ve crossed paths with, which extends beyond other runners to volunteers, race directors, and other runners’ crews and families.

Labor of Love is a special race for me, as it was the site of my first 50-miler last year. I’d done 50+ miles on two other occasions, but both instances were in fixed-time races, so there had been no obligation to complete a certain distance. My first official 50-miler was a big milestone for me, and I’d managed to do it in 11:21 which was good enough for 3rd place female overall. Honestly, though, I would have been okay with this being my single Labor of Love event ever. The 100-miler was on the same 11-mile strip of pavement, and over 4 out-and-backs just didn’t appeal to me. However, I also had no desire to step down to any of the lower distances (since there are 2 10k options, 2 HM options, a marathon, and a 50k in addition to the 50-miler and 100-miler).

After my last 100-miler last month, I lost focus. With no races to aim for, I didn’t do any concentrated quality training. And I was depressed. I know this is common–to train months for a race and then finish and think, “Now what?” I had this sentiment, and I also missed my friends. My second 100-miler was so much fun. I knew over a dozen people before I ever showed up, and at the race, I got to meet some online friends who I felt like I’d known a long time, and I also met a lot of new friends. Simply put, I wanted to see them again… and a lot of them would be at Labor of Love. I committed to running or at least volunteering since I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend more time with them. Also, this is a local race for me–no reason not to go.

In the end, a bunch of my on-the-fence friends jumped on the 100-mile bandwagon and I figured, “Why not?” I signed up two weeks prior to the race, just in time to taper, haha. I accepted whatever was to come, knowing it might not be pretty, but at least I’d be amongst friends. I was grateful for the 32-hour cut-off, which is very liberal, but in the back of my mind, I still remembered how easy I thought the 30-hour cut-off for my first 100-miler in February would be… and I only made it with 42 minutes to spare. Forty-two minutes might seem like a long time, but that equates to a mere 25 seconds per mile, including any stops.

After I made the decision to run Labor of Love, I decided to wear a sign that said http://www.walkforliz.com in order to help raise awareness for a “project” a friend of mine is doing. Drew who is crossing the country on foot to raise money for a lady named Liz (who he has never met) as a random act of kindness. Liz beat leukemia but was recently diagnosed with severe multiple sclerosis. She is only 21 years old, is pregnant, and already has a 20-month-old daughter she has difficulty doing anything with. Drew is raising money to ease some of the financial burden for her and her family. I just met Drew two weeks prior to Labor of Love when I found his story online, saw he was coming through my area, and invited him to stay at our house and keep him company one of his days on the road. Yup, I invited a stranger into our home, and I not only survived but gained a friend. I shared 32 miles with Drew one day, mostly walking but with some running. He inspires me and his cause is genuine. I figured the least I could do would be to raise a bit more awareness for what he’s doing by “advertising” during the race. I WILL write a non-race report in a couple days about the ultra distance I covered with Drew (which I meant to do over a week ago). He is a good person, and I like good people. 🙂

A couple days after I told Drew I would wear the sign, the tragedy in Boston happened, so I added a blurb about that; my friend Deb (referenced a bit later) made the ribbons for us.

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And blue and yellow fingernails for Boston. 😉

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Last month at my second 100-miler, BLU 100, there was a guy who ran the 50k whose name didn’t sound familiar, but based on his fast finish time, I felt like I should know who he was. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before he added me as a friend on Facebook. He is one of the fastest 100-milers in the world and won the U.S. 100-mile trail championship race twice. His name is Dave James. We exchanged a handful of Facebook messages after the race. He seemed nice. I mentioned he should come out and do Labor of Love or one of the other local Calico races sometime. As with everyone I tell to visit Vegas, I noted that we have a guest room if he didn’t have other accommodations. He already had a couple races on his schedule, including a 100-miler that he won, so he noted it would be a Thursday-before-the-race decision if he came. I assumed he wasn’t coming, but remembered this statement the Thursday before Labor of Love. I messaged him and he said he was coming but hadn’t committed to a race yet. He noted some transportation issues he had and I did some coordination to ensure he would be able to get around here, specifically to the airport after the race. He seemed very appreciative.

The night before Labor of Love, Ken and Stephanie, who were the co-race directors at BLU 100 hosted a dinner at their house–there were probably two dozen people if not more, and I knew most of them. They also had over a dozen out-of-town runners staying with them, including Dave James. My husband and I went to the dinner, and when we walked out to the back patio, a bunch of people were already eating. I scanned the faces at the table and then said something like, “Hey, I don’t know all of you, but I’m Katrina.” Dave immediately stood up, introduced himself, and thanked me for helping him out with transportation and inviting him to the race. He’s a very unassuming guy and he’s very modest; we chatted a bit over dinner.

At the conclusion of dinner, a few up us stayed out back to chat. Karla (who I crewed at Badwater), Josh (who I met at BLU 100 and felt connected with since his first 100-miler was the same one as mine, just a few years prior, and he was even closer to the cut-off than me… but he had made HUGE improvements), Dave, and I chatted about running-related things. Josh intrigued us all by talking about a 500k (not a typo) race he’d run twice. I loved the few moments of silence where the other three of us just look looked at each other while mulling over the possibilities while Josh sat there likely wondering what he’d started.

It was during this little chat that I discovered something interesting and I got a better grasp on my “lineage”… Ian Sharman was my coach for 15 months and helped me make tremendous improvements in my running; he’s most notably known for his 12:44 100-mile time. Who did he get some of his guidance from for that race? Dave James, who had just run a 13:06. And who encouraged Dave to try for a low 13-hour 100-miler in a sea of naysayers? Eric Clifton. I met Eric Clifton “randomly” about two months ago right after my first 100-miler when I was lost and in need of direction for my second 100-miler. His advice and perspective largely drove how I trained for and ran BLU 100, where I got my nearly 4.5 hour PR (24:53). He has a ton of experience and takes the time to share it with me; he also spent a few hours with me at BLU 100 when he had a “crash and burn” episode during his own race–he’s known for his epic successes and equally epic failures. Eric’s one of the most intriguing people I know. I also consider him a friend.

Toward the end of the evening on Friday, Dave and I were talking and he asked if I had a pacer. Of course I didn’t (as that would mean I knew someone local who was willing and able to spend 22 miles with me in the middle of the night). He asked when I was allowed to have a pacer, and I told him mile 44 (after two out-and-backs). There was a pause, during which what I thought was happening and what logic told me wasn’t possible didn’t match. And then it happened. Dave asked if he could keep me company miles 44-66. WHAT?! After going home, Dave and I exchanged a few messages on Facebook, and I gave him a couple opportunities to change his mind. But he looked up my past ultra results online and still seemed to want to pace me. I was happy about this, but I still couldn’t imagine this actually happening.

I chatted quite a bit with other people at the dinner too. There were a handful of us who had been at BLU 100 last month. Deb, Rob, and their son Matt are among these people. I met Rob through a mutual friend online and I’d met him and his family at BLU. At BLU, Rob ran the 100-miler while Deb and Matt completed their first marathons. I remember Matt had been so sweet–he always said something nice to me by name, and he was happy to announce to me when I got to the halfway point, haha. I love this family. I also met Mark for the first time, even though we’d done a handful of the same races in the past, including BLU 100. He adores Hokas (as did most of the people I saw other the weekend for that matter…), so I have to like him by default. 😉 Vanessa is someone else I had seen at races before but never met; she was kind.

Mike and Kimberly are a couple I keep seeing at races. I knew who Mike was since Badwater last year, since he ran it and he’s friends with Karla (who I crewed), but I didn’t officially meet him until BLU. Just a few months ago, I realized that this lady I kept seeing at races was actually his wife Kimberly. She finished just behind me at the Labor of Love 50-miler last year and I have photos from Badwater that we’re both in. I was glad to finally really meet her at the dinner, even though we’d exchanged some words at BLU.

This is the *only* photo from the whole weekend where I’m not wearing running clothes; this is my friend Giovanni and me.

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The Labor of Love 100-mile course consists of a little over 4.5 out-and-backs on an 11-mile paved road. The elevation varies from 4,600 to 5,700 feet, and the race has over 8,000 feet of gain (and the same amount of descent). There were three points we could have drop bags: at each end and in the middle, which corresponded to the three aid stations. I opted to have three bags, although the one at the far end was very minimal with just a light and a change of clothes. My “main” bag was in the middle one since I saw it every 11 miles. I also had a bag at the start/finish area. I always overpack, but there’s no reason not to; if nothing else, it gives me peace of mind!

This was all of my race day stuff, including what I wore/carried and my drop bags.

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Saturday morning, I got to the start area and had a great time chatting with a bunch of friends there I knew. Dave was there too; he said he wasn’t going to do a race that day, but maybe the next day. Based on my 9:52 time to do two out-and-backs last year and my uncertainty about when I would get to that same point this year (doing the 100-miler instead of the 50-miler), Dave said he’d met me at the start/finish area around 5pm (10 hours into the race). Cool! It appears I still had a pacer. I also ran into a guy I work with, who’s sort of a jerk. He knows I run long races, but I guess It caught him off-guard that I was there. He was defensive with I asked him what race he was doing, then he told me he was doing the 10k. He responded and said, “You’re probably doing the f&^%ing 100-miler, huh?” I said I was, to which his eyes got really wide and he said, “Really?! You’re seriously going to f&^*ing run 100 miles?!” He then awkwardly introduced me to his wife using similar language. He said I was crazy, at which point I just smiled and turned around to start talking to a bunch of my friends who were also doing the 100-miler.

This photo makes me laugh so much. These are my friends Josh and Colleen with me, and the guy from work is the one looking toward us in the background with a very weird expression that seems to sum up his sentiments about “people like us.” Haha.

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Here’s another photo of Colleen and me. She told me she was going to wear all pink. I had a pink running skirt, so I thought I’d wear it, in spite of the fact it was new and I’d run less than five miles in it (and I had ZERO issues with it!).

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And here’s a photo of Dave and me. (Yeah, he’s super nice, fast, and dare I say quite attractive.)

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I didn’t really have a strategy going into the race. Since the course is all hills, I decided I was going to walk the inclines and run the other parts. The course has significantly more elevation gain on the way out to the turn-around point than on the way back. This was a bit difficult mentally because I started walking earlier than a lot of other people, and after only about a half mile of running together, I let my friend Karla go because I didn’t want to run uphill. In the first 11 miles, I had a chance to interact with a lot of people before we got really spread out.

Colleen and I briefly met at BLU 100 last month (also her second 100-miler) and we’d interacted a lot between that race and Labor of Love. We got along really well, and we’re actually both local to this area (although we live as far apart as geographically possible… about an hour or maybe a little more). Mitch is someone I first met at the Once in a Blue Moon 12-hour race last summer, and we’d run into each other multiple times since then. Giovanni is someone I’d seen at races for years, but I didn’t know his name until my second 100-miler. Colleen actually asked me at that race if I knew Giovanni, since he also lives in Vegas, and I said I didn’t. Giovanni and I talked a bit during that race too. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized that I DID know Giovanni, I just hadn’t know that was his name, haha. Eric W (not to be confused with Eric C) had been at my second 100-miler, but I had not met him at that race. But we had become Facebook “friends” so it was nice to meet him in person.

Eric and me with Mitch up ahead a bit; this was around the 6-mile point. Giovanni took this photo and quite a few other ones.

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Eric and me again.

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By myself. This is one of the many photos that I don’t know when it was taken. I can typically figure out when photos were taken based on what I’m wearing and who I’m with. Since I went through minimal clothing changes and ran a lot of the race by myself, all I can say is that this was taken somewhere in the first 44 miles of the race.

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Another photo of just me.

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Here’s Eric and me again.

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And a close-up of the sign on my back. I also had a small sign on the front of my skirt that said walkforliz.com, but none of the photos captured it clearly. I was excited the few times people did ask about the web site and I was able to share what Drew’s doing. 🙂

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There was another guy whose name is Jay(?) who I have seen at a lot of local races, mostly marathons. We always seem to spend the last few miles “leapfrogging” each other and exchanging a few words. He is also in my finisher photo from my 51k last summer. We ran and chatted off and on for about seven miles at the beginning before we realized we were doing different races. He was doing the marathon. I wasn’t sure how we were moving at the same pace if our marathon paces are about equal and I was running almost four times farther, but I chose to not try to analyze the situation. When he discovered I was doing the 100-miler, he had a lot of questions. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to understand my motivation and other “whys” of the situation, but it was still a concept he could not seem to wrap his mind around. I don’t blame him, really. Someone recently reminded me that last July, I said I would never do a 100-miler. 😉

Here’s a great photo of Jay and me.

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The major exception to all of the inclines in the first 11 miles of every out-and-back is a pretty steep descent that lasts a bit less than a mile. It was a lot of fun to run down (the first few times) but not so fun going back up. The first out-and-back was quite fun because there were lots of people out there: the 100-milers, the 50-milers, and also marathoners. While the shorter races were going on, there were more water stops, which is sort of ironic. I took advantage of them, though. In addition to taking a gel every 40 minutes, I’d grab a cup of Heed at each water stop and take a couple mouthfuls. I carried a 20-ounce Amphipod bottle and I just kept water in it; this worked out well so I could use the water to rinse my hands if they got sticky.

This is the hill, which angles off to the left, back to the right, and then it curves upward some more out of sight.

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I noticed a small hotspot developing on the side of my big left toe, so I took a few moments at the mid-point aid station (16.5 miles in) to put a blister bandage on it. I’ve learned that not only is it important to deal with issues as soon as they arise, but it’s worth the extra few moments to do things right. This meant I wiped off the area with an alcohol pad and let it dry before applying the bandage. While my toe was drying, I took advantage of the time I had to stretch, put more gels in my spibelt, etc. I finished the first out-and-back in 4:24; the “back” part was 10 minutes faster than the “out” part; while the times got longer each time, going back to the start/finish always took less time. This time was 8 minutes faster than the year prior when I was doing the 50-miler, but I was feeling fine, so I didn’t question it.

The second out-and-back was rather uneventful. People were getting more and more spread out. There were a few little groups/pairs of people running together, but with the exception of a few minutes here or there, I was on my own. But I was enjoying myself. With only 34 100-milers, including 8 women, I always knew my placing amongst the women. Heading out from the start/finish at mile 22, I knew I was the 4th place female, but I was literally less than three minutes ahead of Colleen and a lady I’d passed at mile 20. I kept track of where I was just for my situational awareness, not because I wanted to run anyone else’s race, especially that early on. At mile 27.5, I grabbed my 12-ounce Amphipod water bottle out of my bag. The *only* other time I’ve ever run with two handhelds was at Labor of Love last year, as I always like to have access to water and the temperature had risen to the mid 80s.

Here is another photo taken sometime in the first 44 miles. What cracks me up is that I look so worn out… even though, at a minimum, I still had 17 HOURS left.

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And my “official” race photo, again, taken somewhere in the first 44 miles… although I actually think it was within the first 22 as the photographer didn’t stay around very long.

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When I left the aid station after grabbing my second bottle, I was surprised to look ahead and see Karla off in the distance; I’ve spent enough time behind her in races that I can pick her out pretty easily! I wasn’t intentionally speeding up, but I was slowly creeping up on her. I was about 30 seconds back for probably about a mile… until she finally realized I was there when a runner passed her, she exchanged some words, and then she heard the same runner exchange words with someone right behind her. She started running more, and I caught up, but it was short-lived, as I expected it to be. Karla’s a very consistent runner, but it was nice to spend a few minutes with her.

Later in that out-and-back, I developed another hotspot of my left foot and took a few minutes at mile 38.5 to remedy it. Things were going well. Whenever I crossed anyone going in the opposite direction, I always said something to them. Those types of interactions are what I love about ultras.

I was amused by the fact that there was a female leading for most of the race. That alone wasn’t super strange since Calico races tend to not attract top competitors, but I was intrigued by how far ahead she was of the first male, my friend Mike (who races a lot, including running Badwater). I also didn’t recognize the woman, and she never said anything or acknowledged words of encouragement from me. I figured she was just very focused and “in the zone,” but it still stood out to me. Of course I took advantage of every opportunity I had to tell Mike he needed to catch up to her… because that’s what friends are for. 😉

The first 44 miles went by really smoothly and I got to the end of the second out-and-back in an elapsed time of 9:19, 33 minutes faster than I did last year. This was 41 minutes quicker than Dave expected me, so he wasn’t ready. I asked around and no one had seen him, but finally one lady said he was taking a nap. I told her to tell him I was back out on the course when he woke up, but she insisted on waking him. Since it was going to take him a few minutes to get ready, I was told to go ahead and he’d catch up. I remember commenting, “Yeah, I don’t think he’ll have any problem doing that!”

Prior to this race, I’d only ever had two pacers, which was at my first 100 (two months ago). One lady was someone who chose her first ultra three years ago due to a race report I’d written the year prior (from my first one), and we actually met during her ultra when she recognized me… then we kept in touch and she paced me for miles 60-80 at RR100. My husband also paced me at the same race for the last 20 miles. They were awesome, but they’d never paced anyone before, and honestly, by the time I was with either of them, I was mostly in survival mode, so the biggest thing they did was just talk to me. Dave is super experienced in racing and pacing, so it was an interesting experience. He was awesome. He talked to me lots, but he also did tons of other things that enhanced my performance during the race. Having him as a pacer (or any pacer for that matter) is a total luxury. He took good care of me.

My third out-and-back was my most enjoyable one and also the one that seemed to take the least amount of time (although it actually took a bit more time than the first two). Dave didn’t carry water, so he frequently took advantage of the “abandoned” water stations from earlier in the day, even when it meant there weren’t any cups or he practically had to lie on the ground to access the water cooler. He also took restroom breaks. I sort of made it a game to see how far I could get before he caught back up. (Yup, there’s my confession, Dave. Your suspicions were correct.)

I LOVED running down the big hill, and right before this, at mile 49, Dave said he’d catch up. After a couple minutes of running down the hill, I hadn’t seen him yet, so I looked behind me and he was about 20 feet back. I said, “I thought you were going to run with me!” to which he responded, “I’m trying to catch up.” I motioned with my hand to catch back up, after which I immediately thought, “Whoa, I can’t believe there was any situation ever where I would have the opportunity to tell Dave James to hurry up!” We both had a good laugh about this. My pace, by the way, was an 8:3x during this descent, which is fast for me, but nothing for Dave. Dave had actually run down to the far end of the course earlier in the day in a “leisurely” sub-7 minute pace before volunteering down there for a bit, doing some trail running, and eventually making it back to the start finish area where he took his nap before pacing me.

Around mile 52 or so, Karla, who’d stopped at the aid station at mile 49.5 caught up to Dave and me. The three of us ran together a bit talking about random running things. I attempted to take a picture of the three of us while running, which turned out pretty bad. But then Dave was kind enough to run ahead a bit and take a photo of Karla and me; that single photo marks a very brief moment in time where Karla and I were tied (for 3rd place female). It was starting to cool down by this time, so Karla ran ahead to the turn-around and in pursuit of her drop bag at the middle aid station (mile 60.5). I had a jacket in my far end drop bag, although shortly after putting it on and running it is, I was way too warm so I took it off. Dave asked me if I wanted to wear his lighter jacket and if I wanted him to carry my jacket I didn’t want to wear. I thanked him but opted to go jacket-less a bit longer and to just tie the one I had around my waist. Dave had also offered me a jacket prior to the start of the race because it looked like I was underdressed, even though I felt fine.

Bad “self” portrait of Dave, Karla, and me.

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And the better photo Dave took of Karla and me when we were momentarily tied, haha. I really like this photo.

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Dave was good at ensuring I was eating and drinking enough. When it got to the point I didn’t feel like eating much and mostly just ate oranges, he cut up oranges for me (leaving the other volunteers to tend to other runners) but also insisted that I eat some other food. At mile 60.5, he told me I needed to eat some real food. When I tried to get away with not doing it, he told me to eat some ramen noodles. I tried to give him reasons why I couldn’t… I didn’t want to waste time stopping to eat, I couldn’t eat while I walked because I was holding two water bottles, I didn’t want to carry it after I was finished, etc. But he told me to give me my water bottles, to start walking and eating (it was up the steepest hill anyway, so it’s not like I would have run it), and that he would carry my trash when I was done. So, it was settled, haha. He also carried other random stuff of mine, mostly trash, including some ridiculously sticky gel packets that I didn’t want to give him but he insisted. At one point, I think it was with the gel packets, I commented that he wasn’t my slave, and he said, “But I AM your pacer. Give them to me.” Okay! Dave’s super humble and I had to pry info about his own races out of him (but it was totally worth it!). 🙂

As it started to get dark, more traffic started appearing on the road. Evidently, on a dirt road that branched off from the road our course was on, there was a “420” rave party taking place. This meant there were vehicles speeding down the road driven by people who had no regard for runners on the road. Dave warned me of cars coming, and on a few occasions, he ran in front to signal to drivers that we were there; the first time he did this, I asked, “Why are you running away from me?” and his response was, “I’m trying to keep cars from hitting you.” Oh… That’s nice. 🙂 There was a really disorienting point for me when I was walking up the steep hill on a curve at about mile 61 where it had just gotten dark and there were cars coming with their headlights on and a runner coming toward me with their light on. For whatever reason, I was staring at all of the lights and was somehow unsure where I was supposed to go. I think I said, “Whoa,” to which he responded, “It’s okay, just look down and keep moving.” Surprisingly (or not), looking down at the ground re-oriented me, yet I hadn’t thought to do that on my own.

Dave kept me motivated and reminded me to run on sections that were downhill at times I didn’t really care to run. Just running with him made me want to run faster. I mean, he’s Dave James! He cracked me up, though. A lot of people at the race recognized him, and I’m sure they were wondering how/why he was pacing me (I wondered the same thing), but a few didn’t know who he was. The biggest piece of info about him I liked to share was that he’s run a 13:06 100-miler. But every single time he heard me say this, he’d comment, “It was on a flat course, though.” Yeah, because that *so* negates the accomplishment of that ridiculously fast time. 😉 I was also impressed with how encouraging Dave was to all of the other runners. In ultras, I always try to say something to every other runner when I cross paths with them, but Dave was quicker than me doing this almost every time, and you could hear the sincerity in his voice.

Toward the end of the out-and-back with Dave, when I wasn’t running, I was walking briskly. I consider myself to be a pretty fast walker, but to hear Dave say I had one of the walking paces he’s seen made me smile. However, I explained to him that my brisk walking pace was merely a way to compensate for my relatively slow running pace. Dave’s good at predicting paces; at one point while we were walking, he noted that we had to be under a 13-minute/mile pace. Yup—12:3x. I couldn’t help but laugh when he would fall behind a little then jog ahead until I caught up because he had difficulty maintaining my walking pace. 😉 That’s another thing I appreciated about Dave as a pacer: He gave genuine encouragement, but he didn’t give over-exaggerated compliments. And some of his statements I wasn’t sure whether to take as compliments or not, like when he said at one point, “You’re doing great! I didn’t think we’d get this far while it was still light!” Gee, thanks. Haha.

At the end of our segment, Dave apologized for not being able to pace me more, but he had a legitimate reason. He was heading to Europe to begin his racing tour over there a few days later and couldn’t afford to not sleep. He was also still getting over a sickness that caused him to drop out of the Sonoma Lake 50-miler a couple weeks prior. I told him I grateful for the time he did pace me, which was the truth.

I ran into my friend Joel at the start/finish area; he was recording times. It is always nice to see a friendly face; we’d crossed paths a handful of times, most notably at Badwater as he was Karla’s other pacer last year. My elapsed time at mile 66 was 14:41. I was approximately 10 miles ahead of the next female behind me at this point in time.

Before heading back out onto the course, Joel took a photo of Dave and me:

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Starting off on my fourth out-and-back, I was sad to not have Dave as company, but because I was in such high spirits at the end of my segment with him, I had zero thoughts of dropping. In this particular race, 66 miles is a MAJOR dropping point because 100-mile entrants can drop and still get credit for a “heavy 100k” and not a DNF. The lead female had actually dropped here, meaning I had moved up to 3rd female overall.

The fourth loop was not pleasant for me. While there were physical factors, I know the root of my problems were mental. It was dark and I was not just alone, but I was lonely. With the sun down, it started to get cold. I put on tights under my running skirt and wore a couple jackets and gloves. The cold made me feel stiff, which made it uncomfortable to run. Even my walking pace slowed. I found myself not only cold and slow-moving but incredibly tired. I was nodding off and waking up only when I walked off of the road into the bushes. Or I found myself on the other side of the narrow road. The tights and knee-high socks I put on were rubbing on the sunburn I hadn’t realized I’d gotten, but I was able to dissociate from this discomfort, even though my calves and the backs of my knees chafed on top of the sunburn by the end.

Another element that was a physical and mental bother to me were the cars speeding by. Without anyone else there, it was solely up to me to watch out for myself. When I stepped off the road to give the cars room, it meant I was walking on the slanted gravel shoulder which caused my feet to slide sideways in my shoes; I got a couple blisters and it banged my feet up pretty well. From a mental perspective, it upset me that the drivers were so careless, and in some cases reckless, swerving TOWARD runners. This bothered me because I knew there was no way I was the first runner they’d seen out there or that they somehow didn’t know there was an event (besides theirs) going on—they just didn’t care. I had multiple close calls with vehicles and I witnessed this with other runners too.

I was in a bad place. It was around mile 80 that the thought of dropping out crossed my mind. It wasn’t a rational thought, but it did seem like a good idea. But there were a few things that prevented that from ever becoming a reality: I was running the race for Liz. I’d also vowed to keep Boston in my mind. Dave had spent over five hours of his day devoted solely to me and my race. And logistically, if I dropped anywhere besides the start/finish area, I’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere, still freezing. So I kept moving. One foot in front of the other. It was depressing to do the math, though, and realize I might still be out there for 10+ more hours. As time went on, I realized I’d let my lead on the 4th female dwindle from ten down to six miles. I felt helpless because I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do to change that, like just speeding up. Once I accepted that I could only control my race and not anyone else’s, I felt a little better.

I was glad to get to the end of my fourth out-and-back. My elapsed time was 22:25. I decided I needed to eat something. There was chili and cornbread, so I sat down to eat it. It actually tasted good and it was warm. I saw my friend Eric W there. He’s had problems and dropped, but he still earned his heavy 100k designation. I’d been concerned about him as I knew he was having issues pretty early on and then I hadn’t seen him on the course in many hours.

After finishing my chili, it was starting to get light and I set out on my final 12 miles, a smaller out-and-back than the other ones but on the same course. I was still curious where the 4th place female was, and I had a new motivation: I wasn’t going to lose 3rd place. I wasn’t running, but I was walking at a decent pace, and I realized I would fight (somehow) to stay in 3rd if I had to. I was relieved to discover when I got to mile 92, the 4th place female was 8 miles behind me, meaning she would need to cover the distance twice as fast as me just to catch up.

The sun reenergized me. I still hurt physically, but mentally, I felt a lot better. At about mile 92 is when the 50k runners started passing me since their race was that morning. I got some weird looks, nice comments, and a few people just wanted to know why I would subject myself to such “torture.” Karla passed me going the other way on the way to her finish; she actually got a PR of 23:3X. I was very happy for her. One of the 50k runners, Chris, is a friend of mine and he slowed down and chatted with me a couple minutes and took some photos. After so many hours of darkness and hardly any interaction with other people, even something as simple as this really lifted my spirits.

I have no idea what this expression is, but this photo makes me laugh. Chris took it.

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And Chris also took this photo; I don’t think I look terrible, considering I was at mile 92 and over 24 hours into the race.

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As I passed the mid-point drop bag area for the final time, Karla and her son were there and asked if I wanted them to take my bag back to the start/finish area, which I did, so I thanked them and congratulated Karla. I had intended to swap my 20-ounce bottle out for my 12-ounce bottle that I’d left in my bag a lap earlier, but in my haste to get my bag ready to go, I didn’t grab either bottle. I realized this after my bag was gone, but the turn-around was only about a half mile beyond the aid station, and once I got back to that aid station, I only had 5.5 miles left. What I neglected to realize, of course, is that it would take a lot longer than usual to cover that distance.

At mile 95, I saw something that was totally unexpected but made me really happy: Dave was running toward me! He’d woken up at sunrise, opted not to do a race, ran trails for a couple hours, and then just happened to get back on the road right near someone who told me I was back on the course just a little bit. So he decided to keep me company the final five miles. Yay! Of course I quickly realized he would have the opportunity to see me in one of my most “broken” phases (minus the very middle of the night). Lovely…

I hadn’t run in hours at that point. I’d tried is a few times, and it hurt a lot. And my pace was nowhere near what it should have been for that effort level. But Dave told me that I should try to run a bit more and it’d loosen me up. When I first tried, it was super awkward and painful, as I had previously experienced. I looked at my watch and realized I was “running” almost a 14-minute mile. I apologized since this way slower than I had ever run and there was an elite runner next to me trying to run the same pace. I felt quite ridiculous. But he said I was doing fine and that it would get better. Sure enough, it did get better. I only ran a minute or so at a time, but it was a lot better than just walking. And I was shocked to see my running pace finally get to a sub-11 minute… then a sub-10. It was so surreal to me.

As far as being without a water bottle, I got lucky. The additional water stops from the day prior had come to life for the 10k and half marathon runners by the time I got to what should have been the first “abandoned” water site. I really wasn’t that thirsty. But Dave convinced me to drink Heed after I admitted (and remembered, when prompted) that I hadn’t consumed any calories since the chili at mile 88 nearly three hours earlier. After taking a mouthful from one of the cups and tossing the rest, which caused Dave to go back and get me another one to drink, I drank the other cup he gave me in its entirety merely because I didn’t want him to have to go back again.

A funny moment I recall from probably about mile 97. I saw a woman heading out for her final out-and-back (9 miles from the finish), and I said, “Oh good…” to which Dave responded, “What?… Wait… That is your competition you were concerned about for third place?… I think you’re good…” It’s funny to me because even though math told me I had secured my position as 3rd place female a few hours earlier, it wasn’t really until that moment that I really realized that.

Dave told me that there was a beautiful view of the valley from one point that was just a little bit off the course. My first thought was, “Really? I already added enough bonus mileage weaving back and forth across the road and into the bushes in the middle of the night…” But Dave’s excitement over this view made me want to check it out. It was in the last few miles, and indeed, it was a hidden little gem. It was beautiful, and I just stood there looking down below at the course as it wound down to the other end for a minute or two. Dave also pointed out stuff in the distance and showed me where he’d been running earlier in the day. It was definitely worth the few minutes and tenth of a mile or so “detour.” In a very literal way, Dave reminded me that so many things aren’t just about the destination/finish line—they’re about the journey, and there is so much to appreciate along the way, assuming we take the time to pay attention. Dave’s passion for running and life really inspire me.

I told Dave I wanted to run the last .2 miles. And I RAN it. It was mostly uphill, and I somehow managed to do is at a 7:48 average pace. I SO wish I had a photo of the two of us during that moment, but it wasn’t meant to be. I actually sadly don’t have a single photo of us running together.

While I only vaguely recalled it when Dave told me about it after the race, in my final push to the finish line, I was so focused on that that I was totally oblivious to the fact I was running toward a moving vehicle that was pulling onto the course. The chances of me getting hit would have significantly increased had Dave not done what he could to get the vehicle to stop (which it did). It’s a good thing SOMEone had my well-being in mind.

I finished as the 3rd place female (out of 6 female finishers and 8 who started) in a time of 26:26:54. I was about an hour and a half off of my PR, but given the more difficult course and struggles in the miles 66-88, I was okay with it. Out of the 34 runners who started the 100-miler, 25 finished it. Of the nine who dropped, five dropped at mile 66.

Here’s my 3rd female overall award (which will go nicely with my 3rd female overall in the Labor of Love 50-miler last year!) and my buckle.

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Dave and me after the race with my finisher buckle. I really like this photo, especially since it shows my semi-crazy socks, even though the shadow of my hat covers most of my face. It’s hard to see, but my socks have hearts since it’s Labor of LOVE plus ladybugs for good luck. I love all of my quirky socks–they make me happy. 🙂

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And here’s a similar photo but with my face showing. And in case anyone’s wondering if I’m super pale or if Dave is just really tan, the answer is yes to both, haha.

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Here’s a photo of Dave and me in front of the Lovell Canyon sign; I’m holding my buckle and 3rd place award (which was made of out sandstone, I think).

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I got to see Deb and her family after the race too. All three of them are awesome. Deb completed a 10k BOTH days and even managed to set a new PR on a difficult course! Rob ran the 50-miler and set a PR, and Matthew ran the half marathon and also set a PR! Additionally, all three of them volunteered at aid stations when they weren’t running. After finishing his 50-miler, Rob manned the far end aid station through the night, which was the coldest place on the whole course–he is awesome. All three of them seemed to be everywhere all of the time; every time Deb drove by me on the course, she had something kind to say. I love this family.

Here’s a photo of Deb and me after our respective races in front of the Lovell Canyon sign. Her determination and positive attitude really inspire me.

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After the race, I hung out for a bit with some other people who had already finished and cheered some more people in. It was nice to finally be done and to relax a little bit. I was happy to hear that of the top three male and female overall runners, four of them were people who’d been at dinner the night prior and all of us had been at BLU last month. Mike won overall, Mark was 3rd place male, Karla was 2nd place female, and I was 3rd place female. There were also quite a few 1st place age group awards within our little group; Calico age group awards only go one deep. 🙂

Eventually, Dave and I drove back to the same house we’d eaten dinner at Friday night. It was a super nice house and all runners were invited to come and go as they pleased. I needed a nap and Dave needed to get back to that house to get his stuff, so he drove my car there since I didn’t feel like driving. I took a short nap and then hung out with about a dozen other people who made their way back to the house.

I was so proud of how all of my friends did, not just the people who placed high in the rankings, but everyone. A handful of people managed to get PRs, and everyone did really well. There was only one person who didn’t complete the distance he set out to do, but his performance inspired me. After not being able to keep any food in his stomach for many miles (35?), he was essentially forced to quit at mile 60. But after resting and finally getting nutrition, he went back out to do 6 more miles to get to the “heavy 100k.” My friend Ed the Jester was injured, so he walked the whole 100 miles; he always had something kind to say and greeted people by name and with a ring of the cowbell he carried the entire race. I was so proud of my friend Mitch, who was the last person to get to 88 miles by over 90 minutes, who still had a smile on his face as he headed out for his last 12 miles alone. I was also in awe when I saw Colleen’s massively blistered feet afterward which she had endured in pursuit of her buckle. I love seeing triumphs of the human spirit, and I was able to see so many of these over the weekend.

I later took Dave to the airport so he could catch a flight to visit some family and then start his European racing tour. Very cool. I had arranged another ride for him to the airport, but the person had decided to not leave until the next morning; I knew Dave wanted to get there earlier, so I told him it was no problem to take him. Yet he hesitated because he knew the airport was not on my way home. Right, it would add 30 minutes to my trip… compared to the nearly 7 hours he spent with me on the course. I figured it was the least I could do, haha. I also know he was concerned about me driving, as indicated by the message I got about an hour later checking to ensure I’d made it home safely. 😉

Under the circumstances, I think my race turned out pretty well. I loved getting to spend time with so many friends, not just during the race but before and after it. Having Dave pace me was an incredible experience, and I learned quite a bit about myself in the process too. For example, if he was able to encourage me to run after mile 95, over 25 hours into the race, that means I am physically capable of doing it regardless of whether or not someone else is there with me. There were times when I put in more effort because I didn’t want to let him down which again emphasized I am capable of pushing myself more when I’m on my own. He showed me that I still have room to improve and that I haven’t reached my potential yet.

Dave’s a wonderful person. I’m still really not sure why he cared enough to pace me, but I am so grateful for his kindness throughout the whole weekend, including lugging my drop bags around after the race so I didn’t have to. I told him afterward that I didn’t know how to repay him. Typically, it’s common to repay a pacer by pacing that person in a future race. However, that’s obviously not at all realistic in this situation. His guidance was clear: Pay it forward. THAT is why I love ultrarunning. Likewise, when Eric Clifton opened his home to my husband and he after BLU 100 and I asked him afterward why he was so willing to invite total strangers to his house, he said that over the years, many strangers had opened their homes to him before races and that he still had a lot of paying it forward to do to even break even. I love this. Being surrounded by acts of kindness and generosity like this can’t help but make me want to be a better person and do what I can to help others. I mean, if elite athletes with nothing to gain can go out of their way to help someone way slower who they don’t even know, what else can I do?

One thing I considered not mentioning but will anyway is the fact I was a bit disappointed looking back at the photos from the race because I look so “chubby” in them. I hate it really. However, I decided to share them all, even the ones in which I really don’t like how I look, as there are so many fun memories attached to them, and a lot of them include my friends. I admit I might be too critical of myself in some aspects—I mean, how unfit can I be if I completed 100 miles? But I do know I still have some work to do. While I can’t say I don’t care what I look like entirely, my primary desire to lose a few pounds stems from the fact that I know it’s easier to run when I weigh less—simple physics. 😉

As for what’s next for me, I have another 100-miler in 28 days: Nanny Goat 100 in southern California. It’s on a 1-mile dirt loop at lower elevation. I *will* take a break after this one, for real this time. As it is, I’ve done three 100-milers in 11 weeks—Nanny Goat will mark four in 16 weeks. 😉 I’m going to aim for a PR. Doing it without a coach is a little risky to me, but I got my PR last month solely following guidance from Eric C, so I know it can be done. My biggest hurdle, I think, is finding how to prevent, or at least lessen the effects of, my early morning slump. The logical answer is to get a pacer, but the more realistic/feasible answer is to find the root of the issue and deal with it. And this race should be fun. Many of the people who were at BLU last month and Labor of Love last weekend will be there too. I look forward to my next adventure! 🙂

I’ll close with a photo of the buckle. It’s funny what great lengths people will go to in order to earn one. But it is pretty. 🙂

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Katrina

2012/12/15: Hoover Dam Marathon (race report)

I was originally not going to post a race report for my marathon last Saturday since it wasn’t a PR or even a goal race of mine.  However, it ended up being my favorite marathon I’ve done (out of eight… five that were this year), so I wanted to share my experience with it.  It’s a hidden gem, in my opinion, like quite a few of the Calico Racing events.  This one was the Hoover Dam Marathon (that also had a half marathon and a 10k–all of the Calico events have multiple distances, typically ranging from 5k/10k up to marathon/ultra).

I signed up for this race as a supported training run.  I knew it would be the morning following my husband’s Christmas party (read: alcohol, improper nutrition, heels, little sleep), but I figured it’d be good training.  I also didn’t taper for it and it was just 2 weeks after my 50-miler.  In other words, my expectations were low for my performance, but I LOVE Calico events, so I looked forward to it.  My goal going into it was hopefully to get under 5 hours, but I’d heard the course wasn’t exactly easy (keep in mind the only times I’ve broken 5 hours have been on point-to-point courses with a net loss in elevation).  This one had a little elevation change and was an out-and-back.  It was also primarily on dirt/gravel, which I’d heard was difficult to keep footing on by someone who’d done the race previously.

Asa, my husband, signed up for the 10k, which started 2 minutes before the marathon.  The 10k had a very small out and back which meant those runners passed back by the start line as the marathoners took off.  The marathon turn-around point was the finish of the 10k.  The marathon course consisted of two out-and-backs, but each time, we had to run almost a mile past the turn-off for the finish area before turning back around.  The half marathon started 30 minutes after the marathon and consisted of one out-and-back.

I was pleasantly surprised with the course because the elevation profile looked like the first 3 or so miles were gradually uphill when they were actually gradually rolling uphill (which I preferred!).  Due to the out-and-back nature of the course, there were was access to an aid station less than every 2 miles even though there were only a few stations set up.  The scenery was pretty as we ran by Lake Mead and up onto an overlook where we got a different view of the lake.  There were a handful of tunnels we ran through, which was neat.  It was a bit disorienting because it was bright outside so the pitch black in the tunnels was sort of surreal.  It was easy to see the light at the end of each one, but when I looked around, I couldn’t see any other runners or even my feet.  I hoped there weren’t any rocks I’d trip on, but I was fine.  My GPS didn’t like the tunnels at it always lost signal and then had a difficult time trying to calculate the distance in the tunnel, haha.  At the turnaround was a great view of Hoover Dam.

The morning was cool, which I liked–41 degrees at the start which was “freezing” to Las Vegas people.   I wore capris, a tank top, a light jacket, Christmas socks!, a headband with bells and reindeer antlers, and a jingling bracelet.  In the car before the race started, I shook the bracelet and asked Asa if it was annoying, to which he responded, “No.”  Then I asked if it would be annoying for someone to listen to for nearly 5 hours.  He slowly smiled and just looked at me as if to ask if I really needed a response to that question. Of course that didn’t dissuade me from wearing the bells.  I figured that I might motivate some people to run faster to get away from the sound.

Right after starting, I saw Asa and we ran together for a couple minutes.  He said he’d run with me, before I convinced him he would NOT be running MY marathon pace for only 10k.  I told him to run ahead, which he did.  I continued running along at a little faster than an 11-minute pace and that felt okay.  My calves were tighter than usual, but considering the amount of time I spent in heels the night before and the uphill sections at the beginning of the course.  I felt fine and decided I was going to run a “comfortably effortful” pace for the race.  Less than 5 minutes after Asa ran ahead, who would come up behind me but my friend Karla (the one who ran Badwater)!  She seemed very energetic and I told her I was just running the race as a training run.  She said she was running it as a training run too.  I still don’t think she comprehends that she’s sort of like Super Woman, it doesn’t matter that she’s 20 years older than me, and her “training run marathon pace” is literally my marathon PR pace, lol.

Anyway, of course Karla said she didn’t want to run ahead.  Her pacing plan was to run sub-10-minute miles on all of the flat/downhill parts of the course and just over 10 minutes a mile on uphill sections.  She was thinking a 4:20 was doable.  This was NOT my plan, lol.  My marathon PR is 4:17.  However, I chose to just run with her for a while.  We talked a LOT and somehow I was running sub-10-minutes miles doing this.  Time flew by.  Karla and I talked about lots of stuff during the time we weren’t cheering on other runners.  We even took a few pictures of each other along the way and have some goofy official race photos to show for our time together.

We made it to 6 miles barely over an hour 1:00:1x, which was way faster than I’d planned.  Karla and I continued to run together until we got to about 11 miles and she finally decided to run ahead, lol.  Not long after she took off, another girl caught up to me and wanted to run together for a while.  However, I had to break it to her that she needed to be WAY ahead of me if she wanted to come anywhere close to her goal of 4:05.  At that point we were at about 12 miles and already over 2 hours (barely, but not a course to run a negative split on).  For the mile or so we ran together, though, we got on the topic of ultrarunning, and she got all excited that I run ultras, and it made me feel awkward so what did I do?  I diverted the conversation to Badwater and how Karla ran it.

I think I officially made it to the halfway point at about 2:12, which registered as about 13.35 on my Garmin.  I ditched my jacket at the halfway point because it was annoying running with it tied around my waist.  I am a wimp with cold when I’m just standing around, but assuming my clothes aren’t soaked (like at NC24!), I stay pretty warm while running.  I made the decision to slow down on the second half, primarily because I wanted to take some photos of the scenery.

During the second half, I ran a lot, walked some, and took quite a few photos.  Some of the pics were blurry if I took them while running so I had to walk (or stop completely, like in the tunnels).  But it was fun.  One of the things I love about courses with out-and-backs is that I get to see lots of other runners.  I knew a handful of other runners from other races I’d done.  People seemed to like my festive apparel.  I gave lots of high fives in the last quarter of the race.  The volunteers were awesome and very encouraging.  Even the race photographer is very interactive with runners.

In the final 3 miles or so of the race, I decided I was ready to be done with the race, so I sped up to sub-10-minute miles.  My Garmin distance said 26.5 miles and my official finish time was 4:38:56.  I was definitely happy with that.  It’s still crazy to me that I can now get below 5 hours without putting in anywhere near maximum effort.  I tried for YEARS to get below 5 hours and it never happened.  Now, on a course that wasn’t known as “easy” (not saying it was super difficult either), I sort of goofed around, talked a lot, and took lots of pictures, and I still had over 20 minutes to spare.  Of course I have to give some props to my running coach, Ian.  He has enabled me to do things I was never able to do on my own.  I am at a loss for words for exactly how to explain the impact he’s had on my running and ultimately my life, so I’ll just say he’s awesome.

So here’s a funny story about Asa’s race.  After running ahead, he finished the 10k in 1:03:x.  He then waited at his finish line for over an hour to see me go by.  He waited until the last bus went back to the start line (since the 10k was a point-to-point course).  He said he saw the 11-minute milers, then the 12s, and finally the 15s and got concerned because he didn’t know what happened to me.  When I ran by the 10k finish area, I looked and didn’t see him, but I assumed he’d already finished and boarded a bus.  Piecing everything together, we think we know what happened.  Another minor detail is that there was a point, after rounding the corner of a wall at the parking garage where the 10k ended, the marathoners/half marathoners turns right while the 10kers might an abrupt turn left to the finish that was RIGHT there.  The only thing we can think, based on never seeing each other and my 6-mile split with his 10k finish time is that he was RIGHT ahead of me.  This would explain why I didn’t see him a minute earlier when I had a view of the finish line, and he never saw me run by. LOL.  So as it turned out, we could have run together after all.

Getting to my point of sharing this race report… I highly recommend this event to anyone!  It’s pretty, the course is fun, the social aspect with seeing lots of other runners is enjoyable, the volunteers are awesome, and it’s just a great event!  I’ve never done another marathon that I would rate so high in all of those regards.  The only areas I’d say it lacks in are crowd support and mega crowds.  The race is sort of remote and pretty small (less than 200 marathon runners), but these are actually pluses for me.  While people cheering can be motivating, I really don’t mind if a race has that; in this race, the other runners and volunteers provided more than enough motivation anyway.  And I HATE megaraces, so I don’t see the small number of runners as bad at ALL.  Plus, all runners get a nice tech shirt (this one has long sleeves) and medal.  And I didn’t get an award at this race, but I can attest that the overall and age group awards at Calico races are always neat.  The race director, Joyce, puts a lot of time into making them meaningful and unique (like my hourglass from my 12-hour race and my cactus from my 50-miler in the middle of nowhere).

In the age where bigger always seems to be better in racing, I can’t help but give a shout-out to local race organizations like Calico Racing.  I’ve done 7 of those races this year and have no complaints about any of them.  Another thing I love about Calico is that they “pay” their volunteers in credit toward future races–$10 an hour.  How cool is that?  Here’s their race web site, by the way: http://www.calicoracing.com

Now, here are some pics:

Hubby and me before the race:
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Pic that my friend Mitch took during the race (he’s talented to run and take pics at the same time!):

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From my friend Giovanni around mile 12:
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Karla and me after the race:
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A couple official race photos of Karla and me (still figuring out if I want to purchase any):

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Some photos from the course:
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Finishing pic that Karla took:
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Back of race shirt and finisher medal:
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Thanks for reading and/or looking at the pics.

Katrina

2012/09/29: Red Rock HM and 5.4M Ascent (volunteer report)

As most of you know, I run quite a bit, and do quite a few races too.  I’m always appreciative of volunteers, and I kept planning to volunteer sometime, but it never seemed to work out.  Most races are on Saturdays, which are when I’m typically either race or (more likely) doing my long run.  ‘
I’d had my eye on the local Red Rock Twilight Half Marathon and 5.4-Mile Ascent for a few months, but seeing as North Coast 24 was just the week prior, I wasn’t sure about it.  As it turned out, I feel fine, but thought it’d be risky to race, so I decided this was finally my chance to volunteer.

I emailed the RD, Joyce, a couple days ago.  Joyce runs Calico Racing, which is the most awesome race org I’m aware of; she puts on races about every month or so here in the Las Vegas area, and they all have at least 2 distance options, sometimes with as many six (Labor of Love in April – 10k, HM, marathon, 50k, 50M, and 100M).  She sent me a detailed “agenda” for the race and put me down for 4.5 hours.  Cool…

I showed up at 8pm Saturday evening.  She immediately handed me a reflective vest, a blue light (like a light saber), and told me I’d be directing runners at the most critical point in the course.  On the first lap, all runners loop back toward the start line, but on the second lap, they’re directed out in a different direction.  The course is point-to-point with a small loop at the beginning.  It got a little complicated because the faster people were lapping the slower people, so it was difficult to tell which loop people were on.  While I waited for the race to start, I was really energetic, so I ran back and forth for about 20 minutes; Red Rock is beautiful, especially as the sun is going down.  And no, I wasn’t wearing running clothes, but I had running shoes and a sports bra, so that’s all that really matters (it was surprisingly easy to run in jeans).  After the last runner passed by, I ran the loop backward to ensure I didn’t miss anyone.

Then I helped Joyce load some stuff into a huge truck before going around picking up glow sticks and all of the course markers on the loop.

When I met Joyce at the finish line, I unloaded all of the course marker signs and reported for my next duty.  I initially was the chip clipper person.  I gained a whole new appreciation for that job.  And based on my experience, I will NEVER again pull the zip ties so tight on my chip as those are infinitely more difficult to cut than ones that are looser.

I only cut chips for a few minutes before Joyce said she needed something else.  I went over and helped arrange all of the drop bags on tarps in alphabetical order.

Then I unpacked all of the overall and age group awards for both races.  They were neat little stones with holes in the center, each with a little tea candle.  I absolutely love the unique awards Joyce comes up with for every one of her races.  Trying to read all of the wording on the fronts of the awards made me realize I should have brought a light (even though it was nearly a full moon and very bright outside as a result of that).  Luckily, someone lent me one.  I arranged the awards on the table just in time for Joyce to make the preliminary awards presentations; she called names and I gave out awards, which was fun for me.

Then, I went back over to the finish line and cut more chips off of shoes.  This is difficult to do, particularly at night.  I was surprised with the number of people who laced their chips to their shoes instead of using the ties–this ALMOST resulted in some clipped shoe laces.  It was enjoyable to be at the finish line seeming people so happy to finish.  The course is NOT easy; it’s uphill for the entire first half–I’m familiar with the course because it’s essentially half of the out-and-back Red Rock Marathon course which I ran in March.

With 45 minutes to go (3 hours and 15 minutes elapsed in the half marathon), the person handing out medals and the person manually recording times left as their time was up.  This meant I absorbed both of their jobs, which proved to be quite cumbersome.  Noting the time each person crosses the mat and their bib number, then clipping their chip off and handing them a medal takes some juggling (literally–clipboard, pen, clipper, light, and medals).  Luckily, there weren’t very many people coming in during this period.  Being right there when people finished a difficult race, particularly those who were doing their first half marathon, was very neat.  I was so happy for everyone and whoever was at the finish line made it a point to cheer for EVERY runner who came in.

At midnight, the end of my shift, Joyce thanked me and told me to please come back and volunteer at whatever races I don’t run.  She said she had been excited when she saw my email asking about volunteering because she said she remembered how even my splits at the end of my 12-hour race were a few weeks ago and if I was organized enough to do that, then she knew she could count on me as a volunteer.  I’m not really sure about that logic, but I’m glad she trusted me to be so involved in so many elements of the race.

Since the last bus taking people back to their cars would not depart for a while longer after my shift, I took three runners back to their cars.  We had some fun conversation for the 20-minute car ride.  I love runners, really.

In summary, I had an AWESOME experience, and I will definitely be volunteering at other races in the future.

And as an added perk, it turns out I earned $45 in credit to put toward a future Calico Race.  Way cool.

(Sorry there are no pics.  I wish I would have brought a camera, but at the same time, I don’t know when I would have had time to take any photos!)

Katrina

2012/08/31: Once in a Blue Moon 12-Hour (race report)

Yesterday morning, I completed the Once in a Blue Moon 12-hour race. This was the 11th ultramarathon (17th race that was marathon distance or longer) I’d run. This year, I’d run 3 marathons and 2 other ultras prior to this race.

This race fit perfectly into my training for North Coast 24, which is a 24-hour race in 3 weeks.

Once in a Blue Moon is a limited edition race that literally only happens once in a blue moon, so the next one won’t be until 2015, assuming that there is a race in conjunction with the next blue moon. (For the record, the moon was not actually blue; a blue moon is a reference to the occurrence of two full moons in a single month.) There were 4 race options: 12 hours, 6 hours, 3 hours, and 1 hour; the goal of all races was to cover the most distance possible in the specified time. The race took place in Henderson, Nevada at a park. The course was a 1.22-mile paved loop that was the shape of a peanut (or “8”). The first half of the course is a gradual uphill section with a few flatter portions, and the second half is a gradual downhill. The elevation change of every loop had roughly 75 feet of climb and 75 feet of descent, which doesn’t seem like much at all, but after many laps, it adds up! 😉

The weather was warm but not as hot as it usually is here in the Las Vegas area. I think it was in the 90s at the start and got down to the low 80s or so at the coolest. It was also more humid than usual as there have been some thunderstorms nearby in the last couple weeks.

I got to the park at 6pm for a 7pm start, and the very first person I saw was Joel, who was the other pacer for the lady I paced at Badwater. I didn’t know he was going to be there, so it was a pleasant surprise. He was only doing the 6-hour option since he’d run a 50-miler the week prior (and he also got into a minor accident on the way to the race on Friday). All of the runners checked in and dropped off their drop bags and whatever else they had before driving to another parking lot; the walk from the parking lot back to the race start was a little over a half mile. I always bring way more stuff than I need, but I like to be prepared. I had 2 gym bags, a small ice chest, and a lawn chair. There was one official aid station that runners passed on every lap.

I chose to run with my water bottle because I didn’t want to feel obligated to stop at the aid station every lap. I’m used to running with my water bottle, so I really didn’t notice the weight. My nutrition strategy going into the race was to drink water and/or Heed (which was at the aid station) when I was thirsty and to take a gel every 45 minutes, supplementing gels with real food as I felt appropriate. I also expected to get to a point where my body wouldn’t tolerate gels anymore, which tend to happen somewhere between 4 and 9 hours into a race; at this point, I planned to eat more real foods.

For a pacing strategy, I was pretty conflicted. I used to use a run-walk strategy almost exclusively, but for the last year, I have switched to only running (with the exception of steep hills, through aid stations, and other times when I felt that running was overly effortful given all other factors). In other words, walking was done only when I felt it was necessary, not as a proactive strategy. My coach had recommended that I try running 9 minutes and walking 1 minute indefinitely; he also said that ideally this walk break would be in conjunction with the aid station or my drop bag if I were grabbing anything.

From the very first lap, I had a feeling the pacing strategy wouldn’t work. When I got to 9 minutes, I was on the downhill section and I couldn’t justify walking on a downhill portion of a course that’s runnable and felt good. My drop bag was on the downhill section, and the aid station was at the bottom of the downhill section but followed by a slightly flat section, making this whole area undesirable to walk. By the time I convinced myself to take a walk break, on the uphill section, it was 19 minutes into the race. By the time I got to an hour, I’d only managed to take 3 walk breaks. Mentally, it was bothering me because the course gave good cues of the best places to walk, which did not line up with the walk breaks based on time. I continued trying to take walk breaks based on time for another half hour or so, but then I decided to revise my strategy. I started running the entire lap except the steepest portion at the top of the uphill section, but I didn’t like this one either. So I revised my strategy again.

I continued to run the whole downhill section and decided to run this section every single lap without exceptions for as long as I could. On the uphill portion, I walked most of it, but on the slightly flatter sections of it, I would run, even if it was for only 20-60 seconds. I did a lot of I’m-going-to-start-running-at-that-bush-and-stop-at-the-glow-bracelet-tree running. (Yes, there was a tree that some kids had decorated with about 15 glow bracelets, which looked so neat at night.) This strategy worked well for me.

I met a handful of people during the race who were fun to interact with. One of them was named Tony (Endorphin Dude as he is known among Marathon Maniacs); I’m a Maniac, but I’m not very “involved” with the club. However, I knew who he was; he was extremely friendly and recounted tales from his 100-miler 2 weeks prior. He was also hallucinating, which was interesting to me. I also met and walked with Yolanda Holder, who is a walker who holds the Guinness World Record for the most marathons completed in one year (101!). She was very kind. I also ran for a bit with a guy who is in the Army who said he races every weekend or so since he’s not married and can do whatever he wants. He was at the 51k I did at the beginning of August and I took some pride in the fact that I finished the race 12 minutes faster than him. 😉 I interacted with other people along the way, but I ran and walked by myself mostly.

One thing I found annoying was that I evidently have a decent walking pace, so even when other people were walking too, I was quicker than them. You might ask why this was annoying. It’s because I heard people involved in conversations I would have liked to have joined and saw people I would have liked spending more time talking with, but I couldn’t justify slowing down my comfortable walking pace to do this.

The hardest period of the race mentally was from a little over two hours to about four hours. I didn’t think about quitting, but my mind was thinking, “How are you going to do this for over 9 more HOURS? That’s more than you work or sleep on a given day!” I’d run 12 hours before (when I was deployed about 2 years ago), and I’d also run a 24-hour race a year ago, so I knew it was possible; I just had to remind myself of this. There was a distinct difference between my previous 12-hour race an 24-hour race, though, in my opinion. In the previous 12-hour race, I spent the entire time running/walking unless I was taking a potty break or refilling my water bottle/grabbing some food. During the 24-hour race, however, I’d taken a lot of breaks and even a nap in the middle of the night. In my mind, this meant that the 12-hour had been a single effort while the 24-hour was not a continuous effort, which also explained why I’d covered 51.88 miles in 12 hours and less than 15 miles more in 24 hours.

Another thing to note is that my previous 12-hour race was based only on Garmin distance as I was deployed and the stateside race director agreed to this.

Around the 4-hour point, I felt quite good and just kept moving forward. As each of the other timed races ended, the number of people on the course dwindled. But it wasn’t bad. I chose to run without a light the entire time, which was peaceful to me. Since it was a full moon and the course was paved without any really sharp turns, I didn’t think a light was necessary.

The volunteers at the race were great. After many hours, I didn’t even need to tell them what I wanted; if I asked for a bottle refill, I needed water, and if I reached for a cup, I wanted Heed. I felt very pampered! Also, after the first couple hours, the race was manually timed, so each time through the start/finish area, I told them my time and they’d repeat it. I was surprised at the number of runners who had family members and friends out there crewing for them. My husband was working and I don’t have any other local family or close friends who I’d want to recruit to help out, but I really didn’t think I needed a crew in a race like that.

I continued to run every downhill section, and even though my running pace slowed over time, it was nice to still feel good running. Over the course of the run, my lower back got sore at a few points, so I’d take a few seconds to stop, bend over, and stretch out. I only took one potty break during the race, and that was only because mother nature chose to grace me with my “time of month” 4 hours before the race started. 😉

I listened to podcasts and music when I wasn’t chatting with people. It kept my mind occupied and made the time go by quickly. Before I knew it, there was only an hour and a half left and the sun was coming up. Even though I was wearing a Garmin, for the majority of the race, I really didn’t know what my “official” mileage was. From the very first lap, I knew I’d get some “bonus” mileage since the 1.22-mile loop registered as 1.25 miles on my Garmin; .03 miles is practically nothing, until you add that up many many times!

With a little under an hour and a half remaining, the race director, Joyce, who had been helping with tallying mileage the last few hours, told me how many laps I had and then mentioned I was currently the 3rd place female. What? This was good and bad. It was good because I had no idea where I was with regard to the other runners, but it was “bad” because I now felt some pressure and I knew I had to do whatever I could to not lose that ranking in the last 80ish minutes of a 12-hour race. Luckily, due to my steady pace throughout the night, I still had some energy to push it at the end. There were two girls who passed me in the next couple laps, but I determined that the two of them had to be the first and second girls so I wasn’t really concerned with catching them; their pace was much faster than mine at that point. However, surprisingly, it seemed like almost everyone else was JUST walking at that point, including all of the males. I felt strong to still be running, and I was STILL running the entire downhill section without exception.

After my final full lap, I was given a glow stick to run with. I sped up even more on the final lap and was able to make it almost an entire other full lap (shy by less than a tenth of a mile). The last .93 miles according to my Garmin was my fastest pace of the whole race (10:50 avg).  I then tore off the bottom tab of my bib, slipped the glow stick through the hole, and put it on the outer edge of the course in the dirt. This was an ingenious idea, especially for the other races that ended in the dark; it enabled volunteers to easily find the glow sticks to annotate the partial lap, and it also warned other runners to avoid the glow sticks on the ground as there would be non-runners (stationary people) on the course around them in the near future.

As it turned out, I finished with a total official distance of 53.6 miles. In contrast, my Garmin distance read 55.02 miles. I was happy with this. I “officially” beat my previous 12-hour PR by 1.72 miles, but I *really* beat it by 3.14 miles since my previous PR was based solely on Garmin distance (in other words, Garmin compared to Garmin was 3.14 miles difference). I wish I could have gone a little farther, but considering the non-flat course and the non-cool temperature, I was satisfied. I’ve also realized over the last year or so that secondary to competing against my own times in the same distance in similar conditions, if I choose to compare myself to others, I should only do it in the context of that particular race. In other words, comparing my performance to others’ distances in 12-hour events on different courses in different weather really doesn’t tell me much of anything. And for the people who turned out at the Once in a Blue Moon 12-hour race, I did well. I was the 3rd place female overall, and I actually beat all but 1 of the men; yes, women scored 3 of the top 4 positions. Yes, the men evidently brought it weak. 😉  There were 23 people running the 12-hour option.  (Also, based on the distance I had at the 6-hour point, if I had done the 6-hour option, I would have been the 1st place female, lol.)

And a few other random stats: The total elevation gain was close to 3,500 feet (with the same amount of elevation loss).  I never sat down (except to use the porta potty). The only things I used out of EVERYthing I brought were: gels, a carbonated energy drink, and a bandaid (for chafing a tag in my running skirt caused). I only consumed a total of 12 gels. The only “solid” food I ate consisted of 5 gummy bears. Fluid intake was a combo of mostly water, some Heed, half a Starbucks Refresher energy drink, and some sweetened iced tea. I also consumed a total of 3 salt pills over the course of the race; at one point, I reached up to wipe off my face and it felt like it was covered with wet sand, but it was actually salt, and another time, I noticed a ton of salt all over my chest. It was pretty excessive. Everything I consumed seemed to work pretty well since I never bonked and actually had a relatively strong finish. I emailed the race director, Joyce, after the race and even she made the comment, “You looked so strong and consistent—way to go!” Coming from her, that means a lot.

Getting back to the post-race happenings, the race director gave me my overall award which was a little hourglass, symbolic of the fixed-time race. When it’s flipped one way, it says “3rd Woman Overall, 8.31.12” and when it’s flipped the other way, “Once in a Blue Moon, 12 Hour Run” can be read.

I also earned my “Calico Mega Slam” award at this race. When a person does 4 Calico ultra races in a year, they get one of these hand-painted mementos. There are typically only 4 races that have ultra distances, and the hot Devil race in the middle of summer can be subbed with a marathon; I didn’t do the Devil ultra or the Angel Ultra, so I shouldn’t have been eligible. However, there was a special edition Blue Moon race where I did an ultra distance, so I was able to combine this 12-hour race with my 51k and 50-miler and include my marathon as my one sub for Devil. Sort of a loophole, but still think this is way neat and a nice personal touch (no cost associated with this “award”). In looking at the list of other people who have gotten this award in this past 4.5 years it’s been offered, there were 11 people total prior to this race, with 4 added yesterday (including me). And of the 15 total people who have gotten it, 3 are Badwater finishers! I also feel better about subbing a marathon for one of the ultras as that is how over half of the people qualified.

I LOVE how all of Calico Racing’s races have unique awards and are just unique experiences overall. They really remind me what I love about racing and how I hate the commercialized and corporate feel of many of the larger racing events (like the entire Rock N Roll series).

After the race, I realized that not only did I need to somehow get back to my car, but I had to get all of my stuff back to my car. Joyce asked if I needed help. I responded, “Uhhh, yes…” She picked up half of my stuff and I picked up the other half, and we started walking toward the stairs to the nearby parking lot. There was another runner, actually the male winner, up ahead a little bit with his family, and Joyce asked if he could give me a ride back to the other parking lot. He initially said, “There are already 5 of us,” but then said, “Yeah, we can take her.” Then, about 30 seconds later, two of his kids, a girl who was about 13 and a boy who was about 10 ran toward me and grabbed my stuff from Joyce and me. The girl exclaimed, “You can’t be carrying stuff, you just ran for 12 hours!” Then she started talking really fast about how awesome it is and asking a bunch of questions. She was so sweet! When we pulled up to my car, the male runner asked his wife, who was driving, to pull up as close to my car as possible so I could easily move my stuff from their trunk to my trunk. However, before I could even get out of the car, his kids had already gotten out, grabbed my stuff, and were waiting by my trunk. They were so kind!

I seriously love ultramarathons, especially due to the people associated with them; I’m not just talking about the runners themselves but their families, volunteers, race directors, everyone. These people give me faith in humanity.

It’s been a little over a day since the race ended, and I’m feeling pretty good considering I just ran over 50 miles yesterday. I’m sore, but that’s to be expected. Also, in spite of using Body Glide, I had quite a bit of chafing, which I’m blaming on the slightly elevated humidity. Chafing areas included: thighs, lower back, arm, and ALL around my sports bra. I had a small blister on one foot, but it’s already been absorbed back into my skin. I also noticed some weird red splotches on my feet/ankles and thighs that didn’t hurt or anything, but those are gone too. The only lasting thing that’s weird is that my voice is practically gone; it’s very hoarse. It’s normally like this a little bit after I run long distances, which I attribute to all of the coughing I do when I run, but it normally goes away by the end of the day. However, nothing hurts, so I’m not really too concerned.

Also, my breathing during the race was a non-issue, so my asthma meds seem to be working. However, I still cough a lot when I run, which remains unchanged with the asthma meds; I’m used to it, though, so it’s not too bad.

I plan on taking it easy for a few days and just walking, then run some before tapering for North Coast 24 on 22 Sep. 🙂

Here are some photos:

Me during the race (taken toward the beginning):
Blue Moon 1

My 3rd place award:

Blue Moon 3

My Calico Mega Slam award:

Blue Moon 2

Shirt (that fits perfectly!) and medal:

Blue Moon 4

Katrina

2012/08/05: ET 51k (race report)

The event started out awkwardly after I mis-read the packet pickup time.  When I noticed my error before I left my house, it was already too late for me to make it to the host hotel to pick it up.  There would be packet pickup at the start line too, so no big deal, right?  Hehe… Since the race took place about 2 hours from Las Vegas, shuttles were provided for runners at an additional cost (well worth it!).  The problem was that entry onto the buses required a bib.  Out of the hundreds of people who were there, I was the *only* one to not get to packet pickup on time.  I felt ridiculously foolish.  Luckily, the race director who is super involved and meticulous got me onto a bus once all of the “definitely confirmed” (meaning with a bib) runners had boarded.

The race began at midnight, so the drive to the start line was dark.  It was also ominous due to the desolate route, driving on “extraterrestrial highway” (near Area 51), and the lightning ahead that we seemed to be driving right toward.  Luckily, the lightning stopped by the time we were dropped off.  The start area was in the middle of nowhere and the route was a straight route on the highway to the finish in Rachel; the 51k route actually passed Rachel at mile 20, went down another 6ish miles to a turnaround, and then back.

From glancing at the elevation chart prior to the race, I seemed to recall a gradual uphill for 13 miles, gradual downhill for 13 miles, and flat for the rest.  This wasn’t entirely accurate; it was a gradual uphill for 13 miles, but then it was only downhill for 8 miles, and then it wasn’t exactly flat for the rest of it even though there weren’t any significant elevation changes.  Aid stations were every 3.5 or so miles.  The elevation was higher than Las Vegas where I live (which is 2,200 feet) ranging from 4,500 to 5,700 feet.

Going into the race, my expectations for my performance were pretty low.  I’d never done a 51k, but  I had run a 50k (three different times, actually), and since I am in better shape now, I really just hoped to at least run the 51k faster than my fastest 50k, which was 6:56.  I wanted to treat this race as a supported training for as I prepare for North Coast 24 next month.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect due to some asthma issues recently.  I finally got diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, but one of the tests they administered to me almost a month ago “messed me up” (according to my doctor) and I had a 3-week long asthma exacerbation that a different doctor had not taken seriously when I went on right after I started having issues breathing.  I had been put on some meds a few days prior to the race and was unsure how this would affect me, positively or negatively.

Prior to the race, I met up with Karla, the lady I crewed at Badwater as she was doing the same 51k race (there were also 10k, HM, and marathon distances available).  Since she’s a faster runner, I did not even attempt to run with her.  I figured I’d meet up with other random people along the course to run with as I’d done during every other ultra I’ve run.  This was actually my 10th ultra (and 16th marathon-or-greater distance race).

The atmosphere was neat and sort of surreal with everyone wearing glow sticks and reflective stuff and carrying/wearing lights; there was also a handful of people wearing Area 51-inspired costumes.

I decided I was just going to run at an easy pace and didn’t strategize much beyond that.  Immediately after the first mile, I realized I had once again not gotten rid of some older runs in my Garmin because I was getting a “database almost full” message.  This happened during my 50-miler in April and caused a big problem when it got full because the pop-up message kept getting in the way of me trying to delete older runs (and it was in the middle of a race).  After two more miles, I decided to bite the bullet and walk a bit while I erased some older runs; after deleting three runs totaling 31 miles, I knew I’d be fine for the rest of the race, but I was annoyed I had not checked this prior to the race.  Nutritionally, I was taking a tiny sip of water every half mile and taking a gel every 45 minutes; I admit I probably take more gels than I need, but in ultras in particular, I try to get in more calories earlier in the event I can’t take in calories later.

Even though the long uphill section was very gradual, my calf muscles were starting to feel it after about an hour.  It was sort of annoying to realize the uphill section was going to continue for about another hour and a half.  In longer races, or any runs for that matter, I try to break up the run into smaller pieces, typically based on landmarks at certain distances.  In this race, I knew the first thing to look forward to was the beginning of the downhill section, but that wasn’t until 13 miles into the race.  I was ticking off 11:xx-minute miles (one 12:01), and I was okay with that.  I thought it’d be nice to try to keep below an 11:27 average pace, which equates to a 5-hour marathon, but that plan was out the window by mile 7.  It wasn’t a concrete goal, but since it didn’t look doable, I put it to the side and decided to just roll with what was going on.

At a bit over 10 miles into the race, my breathing seemed more labored than normal, so I decided to take a walk break and take a couple puffs of Albuterol to see if it helped.  About five minutes later, I got a headache and I was also all jittery.  This was unpleasant.  I took one pain pill for my headache and vowed to only take that one regardless of whether or not it worked (luckily it did, after a while).  My headache persisted for a bit and I just wasn’t feeling like I wanted to run.  At that point, I wasn’t even a third of the way done.  I walked some more, which resulted in miles 11-13 being at just over a 13-minute average pace.  Even though my average pace was slowing, I was feeling better, so I figured it was worth it.  Even at this point, I was passing quite a few people who were walking although I wasn’t sure why there were so many walking at that point.

Just before mile 13, I caught up to Karla (?!) and we both remarked that all of the flashing lights along the road ahead was reminiscent of how the Badwater course looked at night.  She said she’d walked the entire “hill” (meaning the previous 2.5ish miles); honestly, to that point, I hadn’t realized the incline had gotten quite a bit steeper (relatively).  I’m terrible at judging whether or not a road is uphill/downhill/flat at night, let alone the grade.  But it suddenly made sense: My breathing got labored when I got to the steeper part of the hill, but I hadn’t “realized” it was steep, so I didn’t intentionally slow down at all.  And I was passing so many people because they were walking the hill.  I felt silly for not “noticing” the hill, but was happy that I’d reached the gradual downhill portion of the course.  I fully expected that Karla would catch up to me during the downhill section,..

I love running downhill, and this section was a lot of fun; it was gradual, but it felt great compared to the long uphill section I’d just done.  Of note is that when I got to 13 miles, my average pace to that point was 11:51, which was slower than I would have wanted, but I reminded myself this was just a training run and that I didn’t even taper for this race.  On the downhill section, I hit my first sub-11 miles of the race with some sub-10s thrown in too.  Since I was moving at a decent pace, I started counting the number of people I passed, although I stopped when I realized there were a bunch of half marathoners in the mix who had started 30 minutes later and 7 miles ahead of us, so passing them was sort of a moot point.

I hit 16 miles, which was the approximate halfway point (since I knew the total distance would be just under 32 miles) in 3:04.  However, I thought it was odd that the mile markers seemed to be a little off (shorter distance than my Garmin was registering by about .2 miles); I got the impression the start should have been just a little bit back since the mile markers were evenly spaced.  Anyway, getting to 16 miles signified that I was halfway done.  I was unsure whether or not I could match that split for the second half (I didn’t think so), but I realized I still had some leeway to beat my 6:56 50k PR time.  Mile 16 was also my first sub-10-minute mile of the race, which was a boost to my confidence.  I was running almost the entire time and was only walking through aid stations.  One thing I loved about the aid stations is that at every single one of them, there was a volunteer with a pitcher of water and a pitcher of Heed in hand ready to quickly refill runners’ water bottles; it was very efficient.  I’d made the decision to only subsist of the gels I brought and water/Heed I put in my bottle and to not waste time looking at all of the “ultra” foods that were available at the aid stations.

Early in the second half of the race, I recalled something else, besides my nearly full Garmin database, that I had meant to “fix” before the race.  When I was creating my iPod playlist the day before, I was modifying one of my shorter ones.  I remembered I’d gotten up to 5.9 hours of music before getting distracted and never adding more.  This meant I was going to run out of music before the end of the race.  Sure, it’s not too difficult to navigate to a new playlist or restart the current one, but I hate having to take any time to do this during a race because it takes time and effort.  Oh well, I figured I’d deal with it later since I still had quite a while before it’d be an issue.

I knocked off a few more sub-10-minute miles and was happy to note that my average pace continued to get faster; by the end of mile 20, it was at an average of 11:22, which meant I’d brought my 11:51 average all of the way down to 11:22 in the matter of 7 miles.  This was promising.  When I passed the turn-off for the half marathon finish (my mile 20), the guy directing people made the comment, “You’ve got a great pace, gal!” which was encouraging.  I was still feeling very strong and thought I might have a chance of hitting 26.2 miles in under 5 hours.  While I’ve run one sub-5-hour marathon (2 months ago), the 5-hour barrier has always been a mystical sort of thing to me.  I was still picking off people one or two at a time.  From the time I started paying attention at mile 13, NO one had passed me, which was very weird.  It actually made me a little bit sad to notice a unique light pattern in the future and focus on it for miles (sometimes hours) and then eventually catch up to and pass the person (i.e. “blue blinky headband guy” and “red flashy dinosaur guy” as the pattern of lights on his back reminded me of a dinosaur??) and not have that to focus on anymore.  Since it was dark, there weren’t really many things in the distance to focus on besides the lights from other people, and “unique” ones stood out.  One of the neat things out there was how visible the stars were.  I also saw quite a few shooting stars, which I loved.

When I passed by the marathon turn-around point, the volunteer there asked, “Marathon or 51?” and when I responded with 51, he responded with an ominous, “Okay, have fun…”  I shouted back, “I’ll see you in about an hour!”  Running past that turn-around and looking ahead, there were very few lights ahead of me, which evidently indicated the number of “crazy” people wasn’t too high. 😉  I’m terrible at judging the distance of lights, so I arrived at the 51k turn-around sooner than I thought I would.  I could see it ahead, but I was suddenly there standing in front of the table confirming that I had indeed gotten to the turnaround.  As I approached the table, I recognized Karla’s son, who was volunteering.  I shouted out, “Hi Jakob!”  He looked at me a little puzzled and said, “You’re here… quick.”  He asked what I needed and refilled my water bottle, but I told him I didn’t need anything else and took off back to the finish line.  Only having about six miles left at that point was encouraging because I knew I had roughly an hour, maybe a little more left.  It was also somewhere around this time I considered the possibility of breaking 6 hours.  It still seemed outlandish, but it seemed at least possible.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got to 26.2 miles, according to my Garmin, in 4:49:xx.  Yeah, sub-5 (not that it counted for anything).  Around this time I realized I had just over 2 hours to run about 5.5 miles in order to break my old 50k PR.  I felt mostly like it was “in the bag,” but I couldn’t be certain.  I’d wondered where Karla was and got my answer when we crossed paths when I was around 27 miles; I was surprised she was that far behind me (over 2 miles at that point).  I made an effort to tell everyone I saw coming toward me and who I passed “good job.”  I felt almost guilty because everyone else seemed so much worse off than me.

By this point, it was barely starting to get light outside and I realized that the runners around me had been transformed into the walking dead.  I didn’t know how/when this had happened, but I hoped it wasn’t contagious.  It was crazy to me that there were still a lot of people heading out to the turn-around point, that I had somehow gotten that many miles ahead of other people.  I was continuing to pass people, which was fun because I was picking them off one at a time.  I felt great and I literally felt like I was flying by them.  It was quite strange.  I couldn’t explain how I felt so good.  The only times I’d walked since mile 13 had been for a few seconds at aid stations, and I hadn’t been passed by a single person (well, anyone that had stayed ahead of me).

After the final aid station, I pushed the pace a bit more.  I knew that unless something ridiculous happened that I could break 6 hours and maybe even cut a whole hour off of my old 50k time.  I ran past one guy who was taking photos of the sunrise; I don’t know if he was doing the marathon of 51k, but he looked fit and not overly tired like everyone else.  As luck would have it, right after I ran past him, he resumed running and easily sped past me.  Being so close to the finish and not having been passed by anyone since mile 13, this was not cool, haha.  So I sped up a bit, passed him, and never saw him again.  I continued to be amazed that there were people still heading out toward the turnarounds; I couldn’t figure out how I had somehow covered 10+ miles more than them at that point.

In the final quarter mile or so, out of nowhere, a guy came up from behind me and started to pass me.  I hadn’t seen him before.  I love racing to a finish line, so I was excited to have that opportunity.  We ran stride for stride up the last little incline before I barely pulled ahead by the time we got to the timing mat.  I crossed the finish line in 5:43:38 according to my Garmin (5:44:03 officially).  My average pace was under 11 minutes/mile, and I had shattered my 50k PR time.  I’d run a kilometer more but I’d somehow cut over 72 MINUTES off of my time.  And I felt okay!  And my playlist lasted the whole race, with about 2 songs to spare, haha!

I waited at the finish line for Karla, and she came in about 45 minutes later.  She said that for some reason this race, which she’d thought would be really easy (relatively) but it had seemed a lot harder.  (I also suspect she may not be entirely recovered from Badwater which was only 2.5 weeks ago.)  She mentioned we should have run together, and in retrospect, we probably should have.  However, I assumed she’d be way faster and didn’t want to hold her back.
Anyway, the race was fun!  And one thing that set this race apart from other ultras I’ve done is that I ran the entire race alone.  I normally meet up with random people along the way and run/walk with them for a while but that didn’t happen.  I sort of missed having the company of other people, as human interactions are an integral part of ultra events for me, but it also built my confidence.  I didn’t need someone else to get me through the race; I was fully capable of doing it myself.  There was something empowering about this, and I think this knowledge will come in handy during future ultras (or even shorter races).

And with the exception of the minor breathing issue/headache around mile 10, I had really enjoyed the whole race.  It was actually a good time, literally fun (not just in retrospect but in the moment).  I think it was also enjoyable because there was no pressure so I just ran how I felt.  I also didn’t hit any low points and I never bonked.  Honestly, I never bonk during ultras, but I also typically slow down so much toward the middle/end that I’m not sure if I would even know if I did bonk.  But during this race, I ran negative splits and I felt fine!

My mile splits were: 11:06, 11:10, 11:34, 11:17, 11:33, 12:01, 11:37, 11:10, 11:26, 11:54, 12:16, 13:54, 13:11, 10:14, 10:03, 9:40, 9:50, 11:06, 11:10, 11:06, 10:19, 10:27, 10:37, 10:27, 10:56, 11:11, 10:22, 10:32, 10:27, 9:59, 9:39, and 4:53 for .53 miles (9:10 pace).

Another thing I learned during this race is the power that the mind holds.  As I mentioned earlier, I sometimes have a difficult time judging inclines or declines at night.  As a result of this, there were times where, if I had known I wasn’t running downhill that I may have slowed from my “downhill pace.”  In my mind, I thought the whole second 13 miles were downhill, but really only the first 8 were downhill and then it was flat and very gradual elevation changes; I ran them like they were downhill and didn’t know any different.  I perceived the distance to and from the turn-around point as totally flat, which was also not the case, but again, I didn’t know any better.  And going up to the finish area, the last mile or so is uphill, but I didn’t comprehend this, so it turned out to be my fastest pace on the course.  Of course if the elevation changes would have been extreme, I would have noticed, and even as it was, my pace was *slightly* affected by the elevation changes at times, but it was a few seconds per mile, not half a minute or more which I would have resorted to if I had noticed and acknowledged, “hey, I’m running up a slight incline, so I should slow down from the pace I was maintaining while I was running downhill.” 😉

In looking at the results today, I discovered I was #2/7 in my age group, #13/44 for females, and #23/83 overall.  Considering I did this race just as a “fun run” and didn’t even taper for it, I was pleased with the results.

And now, after such a climactic race, I’m supposed to not run for an entire week.  When I was seen a few days ago for my asthma exacerbation, my doctor recommended that I take a week off from running completely and asked if I could do that.  I told him I could… if the week didn’t start until after the race.  He said that would work.  I didn’t exactly tell him how long the race was going to be, but he was okay with me doing the race and then taking some time off.  I guess it’s for the best, though. 😉

I didn’t bring my camera with me to the race, but here is the official photo plus the elevation chart.

Official finish photo:
51k finish

Elevation chart:
51k profile

Katrina

2012/06/23: Running with the Devil HM (race report)

There’s a local event here in Las Vegas area around Lake Mead called Running with the Devil, and it has multiple distances: 5k, 10k, HM, marathon, and 50-miler.  It’s purposely in the middle of summer, and the course is pretty hilly, so it’s pretty much everything counter to what people want when they’re looking for a “fast” race.  There’s also a Running from an Angel race in the winter on the same course so people can compare times.  I walked the Angel race (HM) earlier this year when I had tendonitis in my knee, so I knew the course.   I hadn’t planned on doing this race, but I recently got chosen to crew/pace someone at Badwater, so I figured a warmer weather race would do me good.  It’d been 15 months since I’d run a half marathon, so I chose to do that one, even though I knew a PR would be out of the question…

Last night, my husband and I picked up out packets at the host hotel, which is actually close to an hour from where we live, but it prevented us from having to wake up even earlier this morning.  As I walked up the steps to stand in line, I recognized my online friend Greg and said hello to him and his wife.  He noted that he’d gone for a quick jog earlier and that it “wasn’t too bad.”  I tried telling him he was going to do “really well” (i.e. a top contender), but of course he modestly said he wouldn’t happen (lol).

My husband signed up for the 10k, but as fate would have it, he had a mandatory social event late last night for work, so he only got an hour of sleep.  I coaxed him out of bed and told him he didn’t have to run but to just go out to the car and sleep on the way.  He ended up running it. 😉

We got to the start area this morning about 15 minutes before the start of the HM, which is closer to the start that I typically ever get to a race, but it was a small race, so there were no issues.  I was feeling good as I waited for the race to start, and the temperature felt cooler and breezier than I’ve been running in lately.  The RD spoke about the course and explicitly told us this was NOT a PR course and that we should not even TRY to run one because it would end in disaster.  I’d been teetering between running it conservatively and actually trying to PR, and that pretty much sealed the deal.  No one is going to tell me I can’t do, or even TRY, something.  I knew this could come back to bite me, but I figured it was worth a shot.

The race started and we were immediately greeted with a very short but steep hill.  I walked a few steps, but I still ran the first mile in 10:18.  I guess this is a good point to say that my previous HM PR was 2:19:36, which equates to an average pace of 10:38.  The next mile went well too and I completed it in 10:04–so far, so good.  Mile 3 had part of a hill in it and I ran it in 10:31–slower, but still faster than the pace I needed.  Mile 4 was 10:04–another good one.  But this mile was mostly downhill, which I dreaded running on the way back.  I had my Garmin set up to show time, distance, instantaneous pace, and average pace; I cared a lot more about the average pace than the instantaneous one.  I noted as the miles ticked by, my Garmin was reporting roughly a hundredth of a mile more each mile (i.e. by mile 4, I hit the mile marker at about 4.04 on my Garmin).  This was important to be aware of, as it meant that if I were to PR, my average pace, according to my Garmin, would need to be faster than 10:38.  Mile 5 was run in 10:26.

While my mile splits don’t indicate it, I was beginning to feel pretty tired.  The temperature felt okay (not cool but manageable), but the hills were getting to me.  I like some hills, but I prefer for them to be short so the uphills and downhills “cancel” each other out pretty frequently.  This course’s hills didn’t have a bunch of elevation gain (and It had zero net gain since it was an out-and-back), but they went on for quite a while.  The first and last 3 miles (which are the same stretch…for the math majors out there, haha) had smaller hills, while the middle 6 had the more drastic changes.

Mile 6 had quite a bit of ascent (relatively) and my time was 11:07–not good, but understandable.  I walked a couple times during this mile, and during some other parts of the course.  I used this quick gauge to see if I should walk: If running was very effortful and I was running slower than an 11-minute pace, I walked; however, if just one of those criteria were met, I’d keep running.  It felt sort of like cheating at some points because people around me who were running were exerting a lot more energy and not gaining much ground while I was re-charging as a brisk walking pace.

I hit the turn-around point (which my Garmin said was at 6.6 miles) at 1:08:00.  I was happy to still be on pace to get a PR, but I felt more tired than I should have and wasn’t sure how long I could keep up the pace.  I began to think that maybe I should have gone out more cautiously and did not look forward to trying to justify why I crashed and burned in such a short race (relative to what I normally run).  I knew better.  Mile 7 had quite a bit of downhill and I finished it in 10:29, so that was encouraging, but I knew there was one more significant uphill section and that it was in the next mile.

At one point during mile 8, I noticed my average pace had crept up to 10:35.  That was way too close for comfort.  I sped up a little bit, and even with the hill, I ran that mile in 10:57.  It’s slower than I wanted, but given the hill, I knew it could have been a lot worse.  Mile 9 was done in 10:38–not great but not terrible.

I got a second wind somewhere in the mile 10.  I ran that mile in 10:18—very happy with that, as it lowered my average pace, which gave me a little bit more of a cushion.  It was somewhere around this point I started doing mental math to figure out how slow I could run and still get a PR.  I felt cautiously optimistic but it was by far not a done deal.

I’m not sure what happened  in mile 11, but that was my fastest mile: 9:51.  I felt more confident about breaking my PR, although I still knew it’d be close.  Mile 12 contained part of one of the small hills, and I ran it in 10:29, which was quicker than I needed, so I was happy about that.  The remainder of the hill I started in the previous mile ended in mile 13.  I had somehow remembered (erroneously) that it was all downhill after that.  However, there was a gradual incline for about the last half of mile 13.  My time for that mile was 10:31.  At this point, I was really happy because it was a pretty steep descent for the remaining .2 miles, which I really picked up my speed for.  I ran the last .2 in 1:20 (which is a 6:51 pace, lol).

My Garmin time was 2:17:03 for 13.2 miles.  My official time was 2:17:01.  This meant it was a PR by 2:35.  I didn’t get it by much, but under the circumstances, I was happy with it.  The temperature only got up to the low 90s or so, which wasn’t too bad, especially for Vegas!  I still look forward to doing a “goal” HM in the next few months where I can actually see what I’m capable of doing.

I’m glad I lowered my PR a little bit, but I’m still not satisfied with the time itself.  It’s a “soft” PR that I’ve run faster than many times in training.  Even my marathon PR earlier this month, in ideal conditions, was done at a faster pace than today’s HM.  I’m honestly happy about my performance today, but it makes me more motivated to find a “normal” (i.e. it doesn’t have to be known as “fast”) HM. 😉  Oh, and even though I felt, for a while, like I was slowing down significantly in the second half, I ran just a slightly positive split–the second half was 61 seconds slower than the first half.

Also, even though age group awards only went 1 deep, I got 2nd place in my age group! 😉

Oh, and I had the pleasure of texting Greg an “I told you so!” message after I looked at the results for the 10k he’d run; it turns out that he won it. 😉

Here’s a photo of the shirt and finisher medal:
Devil shirt and medal

I *had* a photo of my husband and me and  of Greg and me, but I can’t find them.

Katrina

2012/04/21: Labor of Love 50-miler (race report)

Shorter version:  I have a history of not training for races.  I decided to train for a 50-miler and got a coach to help.  It was the Labor of Love 50-miler, near Las Vegas.  Random facts about my training: 177 days since I started training, 985.81 miles (597.78 running and 388.03 walking), 1 injury (tendinitis in knee) that halted running for a month, 8 pounds lost, 5 races (including 2 marathons w/new PRs at every distance I ran). Total time on my feet (running+walking) was a bit over 224 hours (9.35 days). Average pace for all running miles: 10:45 min/mi. Longest run: 26.22 miles. Longest walk: 27.72 miles. Peak weekly mileage: 72. Peak monthly mileage: 274.65.  The entire course was on a road that was almost entirely hills; there really weren’t any flat areas.  There was about 4,000 feet of elevation climb (which honestly isn’t a whole lot for a race that distance), but I wouldn’t say it was easy.  Elevation varied from about 3,600 to 4,700 feet, a bit higher than the 2,200 feet where I live.  Last week, my husband and I drove the course and the course was covered in snow and it was snowing at the time; yesterday, there was no snow at all, I started the race wearing just one layer (a tank top) and the temperature actually rose into the 80s.  My primary goal was to finish strong and not do a death march the last 30, 20, 10, or even 5 miles.  I didn’t have a time goal, but I was hoping to get under 12 hours.  I had an awesome time.  I finished in 11:21:05 and was the 3rd female finished overall!  It was a small race, but there were at least a dozen women; my husband, who volunteered at an aid station, said there were about 20, but I don’t think the number was that high.  Regardless, I was shocked I did and FELT so well.

Longer version:  After repeatedly doing races, including marathons and ultras, either minimally trained or barely trained at all, I wondered what it’d be like it I actually put in the time and effort to train for a race.  A bunch of little things occurred around the same time last year that led me to want to exercise some of my potential, including but not limited to coming across this quotation: “No one has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for one to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which their body is capable” (Socrates).  I’ll never be an elite runner, but I seemed to have become resigned to the fact I was slow and that that’s how I was “meant” to be.  True, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being slow (which is a relative term anyway), but I wondered, “what if…?”  Around the same time, I stumbled across the blog of a very experienced ultrarunner who had just posted something about coaching.  I was hesitant initially because I thought I’d just be wasting my money and the coach’s time.  I also felt silly because the coach was literally twice as fast as me at any distance.  If you look up Ian Sharman, you’ll likely understand my reservations.  I mean, last year, he ran the fastest trail 100-miler on U.S. soil ever recorded, in 12:44!  However, after exchanging some emails with him, he seemed very inviting and down to earth, as everyone else I’ve met in ultras has been.

Training started 6 months ago, and Ian and I would Skype once a week.  He also sent me a revised training plan every week based on my goals, recent performance and mileage, and also took into account other time commitments and events in my life.  The plan included mostly running but also some walking.  In ultras, time on your feet is sometimes more important than the actual miles run.  Ian also worked with me through a 1-month period of time in January when I had tendinitis in my knee and didn’t run for an entire month.  He had me do runs that I didn’t think I was capable of doing at paces I’d never imagined (i.e. 4 miles at a sub-9 minute/mile pace…actually 8:40, when I’d only ever kept that pace once before for any distance, and it had been only 1.5 miles).  I know that getting a coach isn’t the solution for everyone, but it definitely helped to keep my on track and to give me individualized attention and a customized training plan.  I put my running fate in Ian’s hands and did what he said (yet there were a few days I made modifications, like cutting a run short or skipping a shorter run due to fatigue, other time commitments, etc., and he was okay with this), and I’m very pleased I chose to trust him.  While training for the 50-miler, I ran races at the 5k, 10k, and marathon distances (as well as a 1.5 mile run for the Air Force fitness test), and I set PRs at all of those distances.

Getting closer to race day, I didn’t really have a time goal.  I’d previously completed 50+ miles on two previous occasions, both during fixed time events.  Both previous races were on flat courses near sea level in cool temperatures.  My best performance had been 51.88 miles in 12 hours; I’d calculated that I’d passed the 50-mile point at roughly 11:36.  While I was significantly more trained for yesterday’s race, I didn’t want to assume that I could beat the previous time due to the significantly different race conditions.  Just seven days prior, my husband and I drove the course and I was shocked to discover it was covered in snow; I thought I may have a cool race after all…but that was not to be.  I hoped to break 12 hours if everything went perfectly, but I really just wanted to finish the race feeling strong.  I did NOT want to feel terrible and do a death march for any distance at the end.

The course was on an 11-mile stretch of road; the 50-miler consisted of two out-and-back runs of this plus a shorter out-and-back the third time.  There was also a half marathon, marathon, and 100-miler going on at the same time on the same stretch of road, which I liked.  It was neat cheering on and getting encouragement from other runners the entire time.  There was about 4,000 feet of elevation climb over the course of the race, which isn’t very much for a race of that distance, but I won’t say it was easy!  There really weren’t any flat sections of the course and most of the ascents and descents lasted for miles.  There was one particular part of the course, at one of the highest points, where I looked down and could see the aid station from about a mile back way down below and then looking off in the distance from that, I could see the road climb and disappear into the distance.  I wish I would have had a camera to capture that view.  The elevation ranged from about 3,600 to 4,700 feet, which is a *bit* higher than the 2,200 feet I live at.

Despite the snow last weekend on the course, it was significantly warmer yesterday.  I first noticed it when I got out of the car at 6:20am wearing a tank top and a loose long sleeved shirt on top and I was warm.  So much for all of the extra warm clothing I’d packed in my drop bags!  There were three points at which people could put drop bags: the start/finish, the midpoint, and the far end.  My main drop bag was at the midpoint since I’d cross it every 11 miles; I had another one at the start/finish area.  Inside the drop bags, in addition to extra clothing, was gels, solid foods of all kinds in little ziploc bags, bandages, moleskin, scissors, duct tape, sunscreen, compression sleeves, pain meds, an additional water bottle, lights, reflective belt, body glide, and tampons (yes, mother nature has “perfect” timing, haha).  I always way over pack to ease my mind and know I have whatever I need to handle almost any situation.

The race started out going uphill for about 3 miles, so I ran slowly until it started to feel effortful and then walked.  I figured there was no reason it should feel hard at the beginning.  The effort factor was based on my breathing because I was feeling the slight elevation change from where I live.  Just a couple miles in, I started running and walking with two guys.  One of them was doing his first 50-miler and wanted to finish in 13 or 14 hours.  The other guy was doing the 100-miler and was a seasoned 100-miler who traveled all around the country doing different ones.  He said his favorite one was Hardrock, which is notoriously difficult and actually has a much longer cutoff than any other 100-miler I’ve heard of.  He was thinking he’d run just under 24 hours for this particular one.  I figured that if I stuck with him for a while, if his intuition was right, I would get under 12 hours.  The three of us ran and walked and talked for about an hour before the 50-miler backed off a little bit and the 100-miler stayed longer than I did at an aid station.  I try to be very quick at aid stations and plan while I’m running what I’ll need to do at the next one so I have a plan when I get there.  Some of the aid stations took a few minutes while volunteers re-filled water bottles, but I really couldn’t complain.  I loved the volunteers and made it a point to thank all of them for being out there.

When I got to the turn-around aid station at mile 11, I was happy to see my husband for the first time.  He’s not only supportive of my running, but he wanted to help at the race too.  I gave him a kiss and one of the other, much older, aid station workers made the comment, “Oh wait a minute!  If he gets a kiss, I want something too.”  He held out his arms and we hugged.  It was silly and made me smile.  Heading back the other way, I passed the 100-miler I’d run with earlier, Scott.  By that point, I was about a mile ahead of him.  He said some words of encouragement as we passed.  That’s one of the things I love about ultra events.  Everyone is so friendly and supportive.  It seemed like regardless of how tired someone way, if I said something to them, they ALWAYS responded.  There were also quite a few high fives throughout the course of the day.  I was taking gels every 45 minutes, which seemed to be working well.  I was also getting a cup of water from each aid station, which were positioned about a mile and a half apart.  I’d read, though, that all of the aid stations wouldn’t be open the whole day; after the 8-hour point (which was the marathon cutoff), only the end and midpoint ones would be open (meaning every 5.5 miles).  I ran into a silly problem at mile 15.

For the last few runs, my Garmin had been warning me that my lap database was almost full.  Of course I intended to remedy this before the race but I forgot.  But at mile 15, it kept beeping (non-stop) and kept telling me to acknowledge that the database was full; simultaneously, I was trying to get back to the history to delete some older runs, but the information alert kept getting in the way as it was coming up every second.  Finally, I stopped the timer and was able to go back and delete some older runs and restart the timer.  I walked during this time and I felt foolish for having to deal with that in the middle of the race.  I think I lost about 5 minutes and the distance associated with it, while I was trying to get rid of older runs.  While I was at it, I got rid of more than I probably needed because I didn’t want to run into the same thing later one.  I made it to the end of the first out-and-back in about 4:36.  I still felt great, so I went back out.

I ran the vast majority of the race by myself, but I didn’t really feel like I was alone because of all of the interactions I had with runners going the opposite direction.  When I was going out the second time, I was surprised that Scott was now 5 miles behind me.  I really started to notice the heat on this stretch.  I made it to the mid-point aid station (mile 27.5) easily and munched on some potato chips while they refilled my bottle.  About 3 miles later, I was becoming concerned that I hadn’t seen another aid station (since it was still under 8 hours) and I was running low on water.  I took a gel, drank the last of my water, and decided to be conservative and walked the remaining distance to the turn-around aid station (mile 33).  My husband was still there, even though his shift ended about 30 minutes prior, because he wanted to wait to see me again.  When I first came up, one of the volunteers asked, “Is that the kisser?”  I was confused before I was reminded I’d kissed my husband the last time I was there (duh).  We kissed again and the other volunteers cheered.  Luckily, my husband had an extra water bottle he’d brought, so he filled it for me and I took both bottles from that aid station.  Before I’d left, my husband had asked if I wanted him to pick up my drop bag from the midpoint aid station.  Not thinking, I said yes.  Of course, he got there first and I therefore didn’t have the gels in my bag (which were the only thing out of the entire bag I actually used) when I got there.  But there were some gels at the aid station, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

I felt good from mile 33 to 38.5, probably because I finally had water (with ICE!) and I’d also walked about 2 miles to the turn-around so I was a bit refreshed.  The hill right beyond the mid-point aid station was a tough one, which I walked, and it felt harder than the first time.  I continued alternating between running and walking as I felt like it.  I’d been playing little math games in my head since mile 28 about the pace I needed to get under 12 hours…then 11:30.  I was able to keep on pace pretty well with the forward motion I was putting in, but it got close when I factored in aid station stops and potty breaks.  I was happy to see that my husband had somehow created an aid station about halfway between the start/finish and the midpoint that hadn’t been there since much earlier in the day.  This meant I was able to top off my water, get a quick kiss, and head on my way.  I’d reset my watch at the beginning of the second lap so my Garmin miles would match with the course markers (since I’d messed it up the previous time with the lap issue).  I finished the second out-and-back in about 5:19 (elapse time of about 9:55).

The third time out was pretty exciting because I only had to go out 3 miles (actually it was about 3.2 since the stretch of road was actually a little less than 11 miles, meaning there was a little extra mileage that had to be made up on the last out-and-back.  Heading back out, I knew I could get under 11:30.  It was pretty much uphill to the turnaround, so I walked most of it, with the intention of running most of the way back.  I left the aid station at the same time as this one female 100-miler who I’d been seeing all day; she was faster than me, but she spent a lot of time at aid stations.  I mentioned to her how awesome she was doing, and her response was, “Really?  I just keep trying to pace off of you!”  We were both wearing purple shirts and she said a few people had asked her if we knew each other and had come together; she said she just told them, “No, but I love her!  And I really like her hair!”  LOL.  We chatted for about a mile, but while I was trying to pick up the pace a little bit, she was being more conservative; I only had about 5 miles left at that point and she still had 55 (yikes!).  My husband was near the turnaround point and I asked him to turn on my second Garmin, which I’d intended to pick up from the midpoint aid station at mile 38.5 from my drop bag he’d already picked up, and once it had a signal, to drive toward the finish line and to make the Garmin swap on the way (because I really wanted Garmin data for the whole race for some reason).

After I got to the turn-around point at about mile 46.6, I decided to run as much as I could.  There was one woman who was only about a half mile back who was heading to the turn-around; she inquired if I was on my final stretch, to which I told her that I was.  I was hoping I could keep my lead on her, just because I don’t like being passed, particularly late in a race, especially a longer race.  I actually discovered in the few miles previous that while I wasn’t able to run significantly faster than I was walking, that running actually felt easier!  I ran the last 3 miles without taking any walk breaks.  It wasn’t fast, and I had a side cramp that lasted about a mile, but I felt good.  Several times, when I realized I would definitely get under 11:30, my brain kept rationalizing, “Hey, you’ve made it.  You can walk a little bit here.  The woman who was a half mile back is nowhere even in sight,” to which my body responded, “No, I don’t want to walk.  I don’t want to get to the end and know I could have done the last stretch without walking.”  While this internal “conflict” was going on, I just kept moving forward.  The last tenth of a mile is up a pretty steep hill, which I ran.  At the very top, it leveled off for a few strides and I was able to give one final little kick.  I completed the last 2.77 miles (which is where I got the new Garmin) in 32:18, which was an 11:39 pace.  My total time for the 50 miles was 11:21:05.  I was very happy!

When the RD looked at her paper (the race was manually timed), she said, “Oh, congratulations, you’re the third female finisher!” WHAT?!  I was shocked.  It was a small race, but there were at least a dozen women; my husband, who volunteered at an aid station, said there were about 20, but I don’t think the number was that high.  Regardless, I was shocked I did and FELT so well.  I got a cute little cactus in a pot that was hand painted and said the name of the race and “3rd Woman Overall.”  I was very happy at how well I had done, and I was happy with the training I’d put in to get to the start line, which impacted how I got to the finish line.  I’m thrilled that things worked out as they did and I was able to see that hard work really does pay off and that there truly is hope for everyone to improve, IF they’re willing to put in the work. 😉

Props to the 100-milers who were out there yesterday.  I have no idea how they ran twice as far, particularly in the heat.  Yet they remained encouraging the entire time to those of only doing the “half,” lol.  Scott told me early on when we were running together that the only difference between a 50-miler and a 100-miler is mental and that if a person is fit enough to do a 50-miler that they can complete a 100-miler.  While this may be true, I can say I don’t want to venture there yet.  I was happy enough to finish my 50-miler feeling good.

I’m not really sure where I’m going to go from here.  I’d planned to do a marathon in 6 weeks, but it sold out 9 hours before I tried to register this morning.  I’m on the waiting list, but I’m not sure how that’ll work out.  I’m scheduled to do a 24-hour race in September, but I’m not sure how serious I’m going to train for it.  My husband will be doing it too, but he’s had some issues with his foot recently.  If he can train with me, I’ll likely keep my coach an train hard for it.  But if my husband can’t train for it seriously, I won’t either, as we just started living together 4 weeks ago and I don’t want to spend a significant amount of my free time away from him; I’ll also not keep a coach if this is the case because I know I’d just be wasting money.

I was happy to wake up this morning with only some minor soreness.  The only “battle wounds” I got yesterday were a slight sunburn on my shoulders/chest and three small blisters which I know will be gone in a few days. 🙂 If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading this.  Or even if you skimmed it, thanks for taking the time.

Here are a few photos from yesterday:

Near mile 20:
LOL50 1

Near mile 41:
LOL50 2

Running up the final hill to the finish:
LOL50 3

Speeding up, just a few strides from the end:
LOL50 4

With my finisher medal and age group award cactus:
LOL50 5

With my loving husband:
LOL50 6

Katrina