The 26 hour wedgie: A Bear 100 race report

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I was not supposed to run the Bear this year. I was drawn out for Wasatch. During peak week (3 weeks out) of training for Wasatch, I realized I had mistook the trail work deadline and was not allowed to run. That was a bad night and I’ll spare you the details (but ask Tommy – his version is probably entertaining). The next morning, Tommy forwarded me an email response he had gotten from the RD of Bear saying that he’d let me run his race (two weeks after Wasatch). I was grateful to be able to utilize all the hours spent training for Wasatch! **Let me just insert here how awesome it was that Tommy was willing to do that. He was already signed up for Bear as his first hundred, so although it was to be an amazing experience for us both, it meant I could no longer pace him through his own experience nor be there at the finish line to watch him cross.

TRAINING:

I trained on roughly 45 miles averaged per week.  Some weeks I hit 50-60 but that was earlier in the summer.  The last two months it was closer to 40-50.  Ideally it would have been more but with two trainees in the house plus real life, job, kids, you know the routine –  I was happy with what I got. The weekend that Tommy and I had planned on our longest peak run of 40 miles, it rained like a mofo so we had to cut the run short and ended up with 28. I do have to say that I feel like I had plenty of time on my feet training with a lot of vert and technical in the miles I had. Quality over quantity. I had plenty of runs over 25 miles this summer, probably at least 9. I also tried to keep up with my once/week tempo runs.

NUTRITION:

The night before the race I ate a 6 oz steak, sweet potato, salad and at least 46 rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Protein, fat and carbs. The morning of the race, 2 hours before go time: 2 scrambled eggs, a piece of toast with jam, 1/2 banana, my Core Power protein shake and a piece of bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

My nutrition plan was at least 150 calories/hour at minimum. I had five 5-oz flasks of raw unfiltered honey that carry 120 calories along with lots of aminos and sugar per oz. I planned to drain a full flask every 4-5 hours and supplement with whatever sounded good of real food at aid stations. That worked until about mile 45 when I started puking (it was hot as hell). The thought of honey after that was worse than getting hit in the face with a giant log. I had run out of my usual electrolyte drink about a week before the race but “luckily” found some sample packets in a bag in my garage and put those in my drop bags. I realized at mile 3 when I opened my bottle cap and heard a fizzing sound that my electrolyte powder from the sample packets was rancid (it has a little protein in it). Taste confirmed. Doh. I had to fill my bottle with nasty Heed at the aid stations but hardly had any. I used salt tabs as my main electrolyte replacement, taking one per hour since the start and as many as 4 per hour in the most intense parts of the heat. Saved my butt! At the aid stations I survived on chicken noodle soup, watermelon and about ½ cup of Coke from mile 50 on. Somewhere in there someone handed me the most amazing stale and cold grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Oh ya, shout out to quesadillas too.

THE RACE:

Good luck suckers! Also, I lost this buff during the race somehow and I'm pissed about it.
Good luck suckers! Also, I lost this buff during the race somehow and I’m pissed about it.

Mile 1-25: Loud Talkers and Mall Walking

Took things slow. Power hiked every uphill, mall walked or ran the flats (depending on the temps and if it was shaded or sunny) and crushed every downhill. The night before at dinner, Stephen Lindsay reminded me of something I already knew, but his phrasing stuck in my head and I repeated it during the race: walk with purpose. Not all walking is equal. There is a HUGE difference in a 16:30 min/mile walk and a 20:00 min/mile walk, especially over the course of 100 miles. Even on the last miles of the race, I forced myself to “walk with purpose” when I needed a break and kept it under 16:45 min/miles as much as I could. Thanks for the phrase Mister Stephen. The first 19 miles passed surprisingly quickly thanks to me eavesdropping in on a loud-talkers conversation behind me. I wisely picked up a cooling towel in my drop bag at mile 19 and kept it around my neck. Around mile 22 a sizeable climb began on an exposed part of the trail about the same time that the temps started cooking. I slowed my pace quite a bit, partially on purpose but honestly I couldn’t keep my breathing steady in the heat. People started passing me like crazy and I was getting a little pissed. The next miles into the Cowley Canyon aid station just never frickin ended but I maintained a steady jogging/power hiking pace on this long flat section.

Mile 25-50: My Nativity Cameo

The climb out of Cowley Canyon aid station blew goats. It was probably the hottest part of the course for me. I was keeping up really good on my water, salt tabs and honey (along with some potatoes and whatever from the last aid station). Kristyan (my crew captain extraordinaire) poured ice down my sports bra and my boobs were frozen but a little frost bite on the ladies was worth keeping my core temps down.

Please Lord, let me die. So freaking hot.
Please Lord, let me die. So freaking hot.

I wrapped my cooling towel, freshly drenched from the aid station around my head and tied it under my chin. I looked like I had run straight out of the nativity. I didn’t care about my biblical fashion because the heat didn’t seem as bad this way. After I reached the summit and started downhill, I started to feel really good. I passed a lot of people on the downhill coming into Right Hand Fork and came into the aid station on a second wind. No stomach issues yet.
I picked up my first pacer Jena and we headed out. Bless her heart for agreeing to this. She was telling me how it didn’t feel that hot while I was panting like a dog. Chatting with her kept my mind off of the miles and even though we were mainly walking, time passed quickly enough. I started getting nauseated and couldn’t tell if I needed more food or if food was making it worse. In these scenarios I err on the side of eat anyway, which I did and promptly started into the barfs. Poor Jena, who has probably never experienced the lack of pride that comes from puking out your intestines while you pee your pants at the same time. This was basically the highlight of miles 40-50.

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My pacing bestie Jena. Basically we are twins.
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Happy for shade!
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Climbing out of Temple Fork
She said to make a cute face.
She said to make a cute face.

Despite literally walking the entire section from Right Hand Fork to Tony Grove, I somehow came into Tony’s around 13:10ish elapsed time which was even a tiny bit ahead of my projections. I credit it to the “walk with purpose” pace.

Mile 50-75: Wedgies and Sing-a-longs

I came into Tony Grove feeling somewhat better because temps started to cool but stomach was still a little touchy. I changed my pee pants, addressed some hot spots on my feet and ate some chicken noodle soup and a cheese burrito. I spent a little more time there than I hoped (aimed for 10 min, spent around 15 because I changed all my clothes and had to fix my feet). I picked up Pacer 2 – Mr. Sam Jewkes. My nausea was gone and energy levels were back up so we made really great time, running a good portion of this section. Whenever I started to slow down, Sam would remind me that this was a good runnable section so we needed to take advantage. What an A hole. He did a great job of entertaining us all – us being every person we passed with his never ending portfolio of songs from high school choir. He reminded me when I needed to eat and mostly ran in front of me so I could chase him and that sweet never ending melody. We passed a lot of people. I was happy. We ran a good section of these miles with Kendall Wimmer, Jason Brock and Brady Adams. We were in and out of aid stations almost without stopping as I had plenty of water, temps were cool and I’d grab a cup of noodles and a sandwich or something on the go. I feel inclined to tell you that I had a significant wedgie from here on out.

Mile 75-Finish: Obscure 80’s music that no one but MVH listens to and Moon Walking

I came into Beaver feeling so good that I was able to slow jog even the small uphills. My crew was great, Sam had kept me fueled and smiling, and MVH was ready to roll as soon as I arrived. In fact, he told me we needed to leave in two minutes. What an A hole.

Beaver Lodge Aid Station. Kristyan's weekend can be summed up as a date with my feet.
Kristyan’s weekend can be summed up as a date with my feet.

I had zero stomach or GI issues and having some aid station food in my belly I set off on a decent jog. The feely goods left quickly and within an hour I was death marching up the hill toward Gibson Basin. I wasn’t sick, just sapped of energy. By this point, I had no panic or thoughts that I wouldn’t finish, I knew I was making good time. MVH just kept me running the flats and downhills and power hiking the ups. As soon as I ate a good amount at Gibson Basin, my energy was restored and we were again running the flat section called the Sinks. At one point I looked up to see Matt moon walking back and forth across the mud. I was jealous. He also got hot chocolate at every aid station. I was jealous. I was afraid it would bother my stomach or give me the shits.

Ranger Dip AS. 7 miles to go! MVH and his damn delicious hot chocolate. All I got was chicken noodle soup. I shall never tell him of my jealous rage.
Ranger Dip AS. 7 miles to go! MVH and his damn delicious hot chocolate. All I got was chicken noodle soup. I shall never tell him of my jealous rage.

I must give credit where credit is due here: horrible music. I have no idea where in the hell Matt gets his playlists but they are aweful. So aweful I love them. I think I spent at least 5 of the 6 hours with him wondering who the other one person on earth is that actually has the Flash Gordon theme song downloaded. Time went by surprisingly fast. Confession: I came home and downloaded the Flash Gordon theme song.

By the time we had hit the Beaver Creek campground aid station, I had a pretty good idea that I would be under 28 hours. I knew as long as I kept up my calories that my pace could stay steady. I was able to catch up with Matt Williams and Jennilyn about 2 miles out from Ranger Dip.

Matt Williams and I ticking off the last miles.
Matt Williams and I ticking off the last miles.

I started to get a pain in the top of my foot that was pretty significant but didn’t want to take the time to figure out what was wrong. I made good time up the last climb out of Ranger Dip and knew from there it was just a painful downhill to the finish. At some point along here I realized I would be under 27 hours which fueled my fire. I kept up with Matt W as much as I could. We crested the summit overlooking the lake just in time for the sunrise. It literally took my breath away. I yelled at the mountains “I’m happy!” probably 5 times at the top.

1 mile to go
1 mile to go

The whole way down I was thinking about how Tommy had probably finished a few hours before and would be waiting for me across the finish line. I remembered my last 6 miles at Wasatch last year and how I was able to run for a small section but mainly walked the last bit. I couldn’t believe how much stronger I was feeling this year.

The pressure of hoping I would make it was gone. I knew I had made it. The main feeling I remember thinking along the last few miles was gratitude. Grateful that I was still running at mile 98. Grateful to have a husband that could empathize with my suffering and elation. Grateful for Jena, Sam, MVH, Kristyan and Aaron for taking their time to be there when I needed them. Grateful for the morning glow on the aspens on the way down. I remember thinking that all of the barfing, peeing my pants, chaffing, exhaustion, legs begging for mercy for seemingly endless hours were worth that last 20 minutes of pure happiness. I’ll be honest, I was also thinking about that damn pain in my foot but I figured my season was over so let the freaking thing be broken – I didn’t care!

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I crossed the finish at 8:24am. 26:24 for 100 miles. 7th female to cross.  4 hours and 40 minutes faster than my race last year. It was completely unexpected. But then again, I somehow feel like my strongest version of me during these tests of body vs mind.  I had put a lot of faith in the very conservative first half theory.  I shouldn’t say “faith” because as a running coach, I advocate this with my clients.  It takes self control and letting go of anxiety to let people pass you.  I nearly ran the second half as fast as my first half.  All the walking in the first half both saved my legs and reserved my energy systems.  It also saved me from a DNF in the heat.  It’s been 2 days since I finished this race. I am still smiling about it. This is the first race I can honestly say that I raced to my physical potential. I started off this year with an injury that left me questioning whether I’d be able to run consistently enough to have a satisfying year. I am reservoir of satisfaction right now. Can’t wait to do it again.

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Empathy. Tommy finished in 24:37. He had one hell of a race.
Oh mommy
Oh mommy. She comes to all my finishes.
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Overwhelmed. My amazing pacers Sam and MVH who I owe my finish time to.
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I am a grateful hobbit.
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Thanks for smelling my feet all weekend. She took good care of me.

 

Base training – don’t skip this stuff!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in running, training

I got all crazy up in here one December evening and signed up for 3 ultramarathons in one night.  After I realized what I had done, I reached for the bottle of Jack Daniels.  When I remembered that I don’t drink, had no Jack Daniels and that the strongest drink I had to soak in the perceived pain of said races was a plastic cup of Crystal Light Energy, I pulled up my big girl panties and started making my training schedule.  This kind of stuff gets me excited.  I see training plans as an intriguing look into the body’s physiology.  It’s so intriguing in fact, that I have purchased several used college textbooks just so I could study up on the matter.

This is how I do
This is how I do

After a few month running hiatus due to crappy Utah winter weather and an unexpected surgery, I am starting back at square one with my training and need to rebuild my endurance base.  A few of my recent social media posts have referenced my base training and a few people have asked about it.  Thus I decided this may be worthy of my second blog post.  Hold on to your spandex running tights, it’s bout to get all sciency up in here.  Cue the dubstep party music and strobe lights.

Let me first start off with the disclaimer that I am not an authority on endurance training.  I would call myself more of an enthusiast.  I am not a certified coach or trainer, though I have plans to remedy that situation this year.  Dare I say there are few people out there that have studied up on the matter more than I have out of sheer intrigue.  I dare.  Aside from that, I speak from personal experience.  One aspect of a well written training plan is the base training.  This is something I vaguely understood the concept of, but never really put into place until this last year.  I attribute my 17 minute PR on a marathon and 1 hour 20 minute PR (yes, you read that right) on a 50 miler (both within a month of each other) to sticking religiously to my base training.

To fully understand the concept of building a base, you need to understand a few basic principles of Sport and Exercise Physiology.  I am not trying to insult those that are smarter than me and already know this stuff, but it took me studying a textbook (my idea of a stimulating Friday night) and picking the brains of other authorities on the matter to understand it myself.  Please excuse that I’m explaining something relatively intricate in very basic terms for the sake of keeping this post to an attention span friendly length.

In a nutshell, there are two main types of training: aerobic and anaerobic.  Aerobic training focuses on improving cardio-respiratory endurance.  Anaerobic training focuses on increasing muscular strength and your body’s ability to buffer lactate acid in the body.  So when we are base training, we are trying to keep our body in an aerobic state.  Anaerobic training is still important to the endurance athlete, but for the sake of discussion, we will keep this to the base training and talk about anaerobic training in another post.  Your body needs to be trained to deliver sufficient oxygen to meet your active tissue’s needs over a prolonged period of time when training for an endurance event.  VO2max is the measure of the highest rate of oxygen consumption attainable during exhaustive activity.  With correct training (keeping yourself in an aerobic state), you can increase your VO2max and more oxygen can be delivered and consumed to those hungry tissues than in an untrained state.  Now these improvements are nifty, you see, because they allow you to run at a faster pace for a longer period of time.

Another fun and sciency concept is what types of energy (fuel) your body is burning during aerobic vs. anaerobic states.  Basically, your body mainly burns fat stores during the aerobic state and glucose (sugar) during the anaerobic state.  Your body has ample fat to burn (one study I read somewhere – can’t remember where, wish I could reference it) said that your body has enough fat stores to fuel your body for 2 hours of aerobic exercise.  It is very common for people to believe that you need crazy amounts of food to replenish your body during long runs.  While this is partly true, if you train your body to burn your fat stores, you can run faster for longer periods of time.  Your body just doesn’t have enough glucose stored to fuel prolonged activity.  And yes, this means your body is happily burning fat and you have a great chance of losing some weight during this training phase.  Bonus.

Now how in the howdy hey hey do I know if I’m in aerobic state, you ask.  The most basic way to measure is heart rate (HR). This is important to understand because your heart rate can determine whether you are in an aerobic or anaerobic state.  Oh man, there is an entire chapter in my secondhand textbook about HR.  The blog post version of all the fancy terms is that as a general rule of thumb, if you can keep your HR at 70% of your maximum heart rate, you will know that you are most likely in an aerobic state.  There is a big debate on the best way to find your maximum HR, go ahead and Google it – I did.  Because we are just trying to stay basic, I will take the easiest way, which is the following formula:

220 – your age = HRmax

So in my case, my formula would be 220 – 31 (I’m 31 years old) = 189.  According this this formula, my HRmax is 189 beats per minute.  I have learned through my own base training and using a heart rate monitor during different types of runs over the last year that my HR is actually a little higher than average, so my real HRmax is probably a little higher than this.  The base training philosophy that I have used successfully in the past year is focusing on heart rate training zones.  During my long runs, I wear a HR monitor and focus on keeping my HR at 70%, not focusing on my pace.  I was a very difficult sale on this idea at first.  I found it counter-intuitive to run a 9:15 minute mile average for my first few long runs when my goal marathon pace was an 8:35 minute mile.  I actually adjusted the screens on my watch to show only my HR and distance during my base training runs so that I wasn’t tempted to pick up the pace.

Last Fall, after 7 weeks of base training, I went from 9:15's to 8:35's at 70% HR
Last Fall, after 7 weeks of base training, I went from 9:15’s to 8:35’s at 70% HR

You have to remember what the purpose of the base training is: training your body to increase it’s ability to transport oxygen to active tissues and burn the right types of fuel.  I found that after I hit about the 7 week mark in my marathon training, I was running at a faster pace while my HR was staying at the same 70% rate.  At this point, I knew I had created a successful endurance base and could use my anaerobic training (speed and tempo work, and in my case, GPP cross-training – that will be another post) to run at race pace through muscle memory and lactate threshold training.  Looking back at my training logs of my last marathon, the majority of my long runs ended up averaging just under 9:00 minute miles (m/m).  My final long run of 20 miles averaged 8:56 m/m but more importantly, I felt very comfortable and had some left in the tank at the end of the run.  3 weeks later, I ran my marathon averaging 8:27 m/m.

So base training huh?  It’s not just a total leap of faith, the science behind it is sound.  Your body will be able to sustain you effectively through an endurance event without injury, GI issues and unnecessary suffering.  That gets my vote.

Oh, one other cool thing I forgot to mention: your body actually creates more capillaries during aerobic exercise.  More capillaries means more oxygen transferred (reference: http://www.livestrong.com/article/437373-does-exercise-increase-your-number-of-capillaries/).  That kind of nerd talk gets me hot and bothered.

 

Run with purpose,

Kenz

Questions:

1) Have you ever run according to heart rate instead of pace?

2) Have you found another method of base training to be effective?

PS – I’m just working out the kinks on this platform, if you try to comment and are having difficulty, please let me know.  I’m working on it.

And the blog adventure begins, hot damn I love adventures.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in running

I believe that no extraordinary person exists that wasn’t first ordinary.  That’s what extraordinary means: someone ordinary did something “extra” and boom – amazingness!  I am as ordinary as they get.  If you follow this blog, you’ll learn that I’m not a naturally gifted runner.  I have worked my stumpy 2″ femurs off to get where I’m at.  This blog isn’t another one of those “Oh I just decided to run a marathon one day and – what do you know, I qualified for Boston!” blogs.  Those are good blogs.  I follow them but I just have a hard time relating because God didn’t bestow me with that runner’s gift.  What I did get was an adventurous spirit. I got a taste of what it feels like to smash through my own mental barriers when I crossed my first finish line.  I wanted more.

 

Over the last 5 years, I’ve gone from baby gestator to ultrarunner.  Why?  Because there are those few delicious moments in my life when I literally run out of that dark abyss of physical pain and mental barriers and come out on the other side to relish in my winning that battle. It is in those moments that I know life is tough but I am tougher. If I can conquer this, I will conquer the next. What once seemed daunting I now call adventure. I can and will do hard things.

 

I have heard comments like “I can’t even fathom running that far.” I couldn’t have myself 5 years ago. I remember having a goal to simply run on a treadmill without walking for 30 minutes. I remember the first time I ran 4 miles without stopping and couldn’t believe how far that felt. I remember signing up for my first 13.1 and being scared to death about how bad it was going to hurt. I remember crossing the finish line of my first full marathon and feeling like I was a strong woman. Here is what I have said: If you can train and complete a 10k, you can finish a 13.1. If you can complete a half marathon, you can complete a full. If you can complete a full, you can complete an ultra.  I simply stick to a plan to build my base, take a leap of faith and watched the training work its magic. Here is my point: we often see what other people are doing and immediately assume that there is NO WAY we would ever be able to do that. Not true. It takes someone ordinary believing in themselves then simply acting upon it in order to make them “extra” ordinary. If they weren’t ordinary to start with, they couldn’t have become “extra”ordinary. If you build the machine, it will perform beyond any limit your mind has put on it. That is, if you decide it is possible for yourself. TRUST ME, if I can do it, you CAN do it. You don’t have to run an ultra marathon, you just choose your impossible and persist until you’ve conquered it. Then you can look around you and say with excitement “what does life have in store for me now”.

I am hoping that for those of you that say “I’d never be able to do that”, whatever “that” may be, my own journey will provide a little insight into helping you discover what is possible for yourself.  Let’s empower each other to discover how extraordinary we really are.Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

 

“Everything is possible.  The impossible just takes longer.” – Dan Brown