A Thousand Second Winds – Wasatch 100 Race Recap

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Oh, you know – 2 months later I sit down to type this one out.  I am already regretting waiting so long as the whole experience just seems like a dream.  And I’m happy to say not a nightmare.  Quite the pleasant memory actually, as the further into the past my races become, the more I tend to remember the good and positive feelings and drown out the bad.  That’s a good thing, right?  That’s what keeps me coming back for more.  And I will be back…

I put into the lottery for this race back in January before I had even completed one ultra-distance race on trails.  What kind of a moron does that?  This girl.  I had actually viewed this race as my “consolation prize” after hoping to get into IronMan Boulder but it selling out before I could register.  I like pushing my limits and finding out what i’m made of and doing something as epic as Wasatch 100 in my first year of trail running seemed like no joke.  Looking back on how things turned out, I couldn’t be more grateful that I didn’t get into Boulder IronMan.  My experiences this past year on the trails feel like I have finally come home to my real passion.

Training:

My training schedule for this race really started in January after I got into the lottery.  I immediately signed up for several other ultras in one night as a strategic build up of both distance, terrain, technical difficulty, and mental toughness training.  My race schedule was as follows:

March: Buffalo Run 50K: 31 miles, 3900 ft gain

June: Squaw Peak 50 miler: 52 miles, 12000 ft gain

July: Speedgoat 50K: 33 miles, 13,000 ft gain

This schedule kept me motivated to continually train and push my elevation and technical terrain experiences as Wasatch covers 26,000 ft of gain over 100 miles.  It is considered one of the most difficult races in the nation.  Oh mommy.  I had intentions of completing the Katcina Mosa 100k in early August but had to opt out due to some IT band issues coming off of Speedgoat 2 weeks prior.  Good choice.

I ran 4-5 (usually 4) days/week in preparation for this race.  Most people think that training for this distance requires upwards of 60+ miles/week.  I am an minimalist.  I believe that while miles are important, keeping those miles quality while giving your body adequate rest is equally as valuable.  I also find great value in weight training to keep my body strong and aid in quicker recovery time, thus I was in the gym 3-4 days/week which is also why I only ran 4-5 days/week.  I averaged around 50 miles/week on the trails, with one longer run on Saturdays. Those longer runs averaged anywhere from 18-26 miles depending on the week.  My peak week topped at 76 miles.  I had intentions of a 50-60 mile training run (Katcina Mosa 100K was to be that training run) but with some family commitments I had to settle with 3 back to back runs of 20, 14, and 26 miles and a few shorties at the first of the week.  I was worried that my lower mileage and unconventional peak week would not be enough to carry me through this caliber of a race but I am happy to say that I proved it to be a great and realistic training schedule for a mom of 3 kids and husband that travels often for work while training for his own races.

RACE DAY – The first half:

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How do you even begin to describe the feeling of standing at the start line of what will be the beginning of 30+ hours of straight running? Oddly enough I felt no more jittery than the start of a marathon.  Really.  I am surprised that despite my lack of experience in this distance and my doubts with my training, I felt remarkably peaceful at the start line.  I am grateful to have spent the last few months running with a group of now friends that are avid trail runners, most of which have run this race several times.  They were all happy to impart their vast wisdom and knowledge to me on our runs over the summer.  Two pieces of advice that I believe saved my race – one physically and one mentally:

1) Start SLOW.  Don’t let your race day anxiety get the best of you and start speeding up when people are passing you.  Let them pass.  You will likely pass them at mile 60.  Minutes cost at the start will save you hours on the back end.  If you think you are going slow – go slower.  Make your goal on the climbs be that you don’t push yourself to the point of hearing yourself breath and feeling a lactic acid flush in your legs.

2) You will have a thousand second winds.  You will be amazed at how horrible you can feel one minute and then feel so great the next.  This comes with the territory of this distance.

The beginning of this race starts out with a nifty climb gaining 4300 ft in the first 9.4 miles.  I decided to take the advice given and be more conservative than I felt comfortable with for my competitive nature.  It was definitely a power hike.  My goal was to keep my breathing controlled and steady.  I was surprised that not many people passed me.  I listened to the conversations of a group behind me talking about their past race experiences and could tell that they had been around the ultra block a few times.  This made me feel more confident that I was pacing with some people that knew how to race.  I left my headphones off to keep my mind on my breathing and how my legs were feeling.  I didn’t want that deep burn in my quads and hamstrings.  By the time I had come over the top of Chin Scraper and began my first descent, my leg literally felt fresh.  That’s how slow I was going.

Final ascent up Chin Scaper
Final ascent up Chin Scaper. Photo credit: Lane Bird
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So happy to be freaking done with that climb. Photo credit: Lane Bird
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Other poor suckers ascending Chin Scraper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was happy to catch up with a friend Kendall Wimmer at the top and spend the next few miles chatting with him while we took a pretty conservative but steady pace down to the first aid station.  I packed some replacement GU’s, a Core Power protein shake, replacement hydration bottle with my favorite drink and replacement socks in each of my drop bags.  I ended up almost never using anything out of my drop bags.  I tried to minimize the amount of time at each aid station and limited it to grabbing a few items of real food (watermelon, boiled potatoes dipped in salt, potato chips and oranges usually) to offset the GU and having someone fill up my pack with water.  I only sat down at the major aid stations when I had a crew later in the race.

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Running toward Francis Peak. Photo credit: Kendall Wimmer
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Francis Peak. Photo credit: Kendall Wimmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The views from Francis. Morgan Valley in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I was running down into this first aid station, I had one of the most incredible runners high’s I have ever experienced.  I had run this stretch before several times during my training as it is at the top of Farmington Canyon, which is literally 10 minutes from my house.  I started thinking about all of the runs over the last few months that took me to the place I was at in that moment and combined that with 360 degree views from a peak I stare at from my backyard, and I literally felt invincible in that moment.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude for a body and mind that carried me to be in that place in that moment.  I don’t know that I will be able to duplicate how intense those feelings were for me.  You betcha I’m going to try.

I was extremely diligent at monitoring my salt and fueling intake the entire race.  The latter half of the race I had to rely on my pacers to remind me as I was a little out of my mind. :0  I took 2 salt pills every hour, rotating from S-Tabs salt tabs and Enduralytes every other hour and a GU Roctane every hour with a few regular GU’s mixed in when I felt like my caffeine intake was fine.  I did take Roctanes probably 75% of the time.  That’s one every hour over a 100 miler.  Do the math.  That’s a shit ton of GU in my belly.  Luckily I do well with them.  My stomach is pretty much a garbage truck.

When I came into the mile 25 aid station, I was completely shocked to see two friends, Matt Williams and Scott Wesseman just getting ready to leave.  I consider them both talented ultrarunners, both with a goal of 28 hours on this race which is much faster than I anticipated finishing.  I started to wonder whether I was going too fast but honestly felt extremely comfortable with my pace, even still conservative.  This gave me a good mental boost.  I spent the majority of the miles between 25-40 running with Matt, Scott and Kendall.  It made a huge difference in making the time pass to have some homeboys to chat with.

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Scott looks so happy. No he doesn’t.
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God bless this popsicle. Scott and Matt at Swallow Rocks – mile 33
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Look at us, looking at ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came into the mile 40 aid station with a massive grin on my face, feeling much better than any race I have done to this point.  The biggest difference was just in the conservative nature of my pace and consistent salt and GU monitoring.  I picked up my first pacer Leslie, changed my socks and picked up a handheld flask of flat Coke and off I went.  Let me just say that the flat Coke idea was seriously THE BEST piece of advice from a friend.  It helped keep my stomach settled through the next 12 miles until we hit the mile 52 aid station at Lamb’s Canyon where Tommy was waiting to pace me.  I had again caught up to my group of friends as we hit one of the notoriously boring and hot sections along a literal rut in the trail.  We all had to run single file along the rut tracks so we made the most of the crap section by belting out a few show tunes.  I am a much better singer than Aaron Williams.  At this point I was still feeling amazing, even ahead of a few people that I expected to be far behind.  Up to this point – no stomach problems, no major bonks.  That was about to change…

The second half:

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Not jazzed about life
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Scott’s Peak aid station. I wanted to throw myself off a cliff. I’m not joking.

When I came into Lamb’s Canyon and got weighed they informed me that I only had about 2 more pounds to lose before they would have to make me sit out until I could gain some weight back.  I was shocked.  I was plenty hydrated, fueled, felt amazing and had no GI issues.  My crew panicked a little and talked me into trying to eat a little more food.  I had some broth with noodles and maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  Dusk was just barely settling in and about 2 miles out from the aid station, I started to feel a hint of nausea.  I started to wonder if it was the food I tried to cram in.  2 miles after that I was in full on panic mode as we hit another one of the long steep climbs and I was breathing REAL heavy, like lamaze style just to keep the barfs from coming up.  This lasted 3 hours.  If you are wondering what it is like to try and run while trying not to barf – it’s pretty much exactly how you’d picture it.  You can’t zone out, you are living each second, acutely aware of how every inch of your body is feeling.  It was a long 3 hours.  BUT I never stopped, I just power hiked the shit out of that climb and let out a few primal yells (yes, it helps okay?).  I came into Upper Big Water at mile 61 wondering how in the sam hell I was going to keep going.  I sat down and ate a half of a grilled cheese sandwich made by the hand of God, pulled up my big girl panties and just kept going.  Here is where those thousand second winds start to kick in.  It’s miraculous.  It’s impossible.  But we do impossible.  I put in my head phones and made the next climb my biotch.  I even passed a few people.  I started to feel good.  REALLY good.  How is that even possible?  I may never know.

I maintained a reasonable pace (steady hiking the uphills and running the flat and downhills) until we hit Scott’s Pass.  I started to get tired.  It’s funny how you kind of forget that you’ve been up for 24 hours and all of a sudden you’re like “I will literally kill someone if I don’t lay down on this nice hard rock RIGHT NOW”.  This part was some pretty intense mental torture.  This is where it’s all mind, no body.  My body was on auto pilot.  My mind was almost gone.  Tommy was a huge asset to me at this point as I just needed to feel comfort.  I started to have a hard time focusing.  Since it was pitch black, near Desolation Lake (which is just as desolate as it sounds), I really needed to focus on where my feet where falling within my little headlamp circle of light on the trail.  I felt like I was on drugs – which would have been much more preferable at this point for sure, anyway…just a lack of clarity in thinking was the best way to describe it.  I lost a little bit of time between Desolation Lake and Brighton Aid station just because I couldn’t focus on where to place my feet in order to do any serious running.  I tried to increase my salt and caffeine intake and I think it started to kick in just before I came into the mile 75 aid station and Brighton Ski resort.

As I ran into the aid station, I was greeted by several of my dear, sweet freaking nut job friends who had surprised me by showing up at 2:00am to see me.  I don’t need to describe their wardrobe choices, I will grace you with pictures instead.  The surprise wasn’t in their clothing choices, that’s pretty standard crew attire in my circle.  I more surprised at how many of them showed up in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere to support me.  It was an overwhelming moment.  I was much too exhausted to give them the proper thank you’s but I’m sure everyone else that was lucky (or unfortunate – depends on who you ask) enough to be in that lodge that night gave them a thank you.  In their hearts.

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Nighties and massages? Yes please. Photo credit: some thoroughly entertained spectator that posted this on the Wasatch 100 website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dropped Tommy off here and picked up Janice to head out for the last 25.  Oh mommy.  I felt ready to go but as soon as we left the lodge, something immediately took a turn in my nether regions and I began to suffer one of the most intense moments of misery (moments meaning 6 or so hours) I have ever experienced.  Janice was awesome to chat away to try and keep my head off of my situation but I was horrible company.  I literally grunted.  We had hit another grueling climb and the highest elevation point on the course.  I was nauseated, I felt like my bowels wanted to leave my body and just didn’t want to be moving any more.  This is the mind over matter part.  I was pissed and ornery, wondering why the hell I was choosing to do this.  But i’ll be damned if I was going to quit at this point.  The details of the next 20 or so miles aren’t important other than it was the hardest thing I have ever done and felt exactly how you’d picture you’d feel after running for over 29 hours straight.  My stomach remained at an uneasy point, no food or GU sounded good so I had to sip on a GU over the period of 30 minutes just to get it down.  I really just wanted to crap my pants and get it over with (but happy to report that kept my pants clean).  I just decided to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I think that is the key with deciding to do this kind of distance – deciding you can persist regardless of your discomfort level.  Ultrarunners are some of the most mentally tough people I know and have a new level of respect for what happens out on the trails after this experience.

Tommy met me with 6 miles to go.  I never wanted to quit but have never wanted God to make the time magically pass more quickly than I did those last 6 miles.  Your body is in such a state of “WHAT THE HELL” shock at this point that I had no idea if anything was hurt or blistered.  Tommy helped me to set mini goals with running to a certain point and then walking to the next point.  This helped so much in terms of keeping my mind off the big picture and making time pass in a bearable fashion.  At some point along this section I looked at my watch and realized that I was going to come in around 31 hours.  This was remarkable for me.  I had a goal to simply finish in the time cutoff of 36 hours.  I could not believe with how slow I felt I started and how slow I felt I went over those nausea hell moments that I could be coming in at 31 hours.  I was elated.  I was happy.  I was oh so miserable.  Here came my favorite experience of the race:

With 2 miles left I had said to Tommy that I wanted to just run the rest of the way in.  This was almost laughable when I said it out loud.  I was almost pissed at myself that I did.  But once spoken I can’t go back, so here I was running (running was probably a 13 minute mile – laughy cry cry) and literally moaning out loud.  I came around the last corner when the finish line came in sight.  My mother in law pulled up along the road and I could hear my kids yelling my name from the car.  All of a sudden all of the pain and misery left my body.  It really did.  My kids got out of the car and I don’t remember a thing about how my body felt for that last quarter mile section – we ran the whole freaking thing when I didn’t think my body could carry me another step 2 miles before.  This is how amazing the mind is.  I crossed the finish line with my husband and kids beside me and my legs decided they needed to be done.  And they were.  But they carried me 31 hours over 100 miles and 26,000 feet of climbing over the incredible mountainscapes of my mountain backyard.  I can’t look back on this experience and tell you how I did it.  It’s not something that can be explained, just experienced.  I would have done it the next week if I could, there is NOTHING that can replace the feeling of crossing the finish line after something like that.

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The best moments are hard earned.
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Every emotion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used to think 100 miles is what conquering my impossible meant, that I would feel like I had arrived at some final satisfying destination.  And believe me, there is no sweeter satisfaction than literally crawling out of the depths of hell and hitting that thousandth second wind.  I now understand that impossible is not a destination.  Your horizons just keep expanding to accommodate your endless potential.  This is what I want out of my life.  I’m going to continue to reach into the landscapes of my mind and body because every race will teach me something new about myself.  This is my love.

GEAR USED:

Shoes: Pearl Izumi N2 Trail (I didn’t change my shoes once)

Socks: Three changes of socks: Wright Socks, Smart Wool at night and Drymax (not one blister which is incredible)

Compression Sleeves: ZeroPoint Compression

Shorts: Pearl Izumi Women’s Fly Split Shorts

Top: Team Pearl Izumi tech tee, Lululemon Run Swiftly Racerback

Gloves: Pearl Izumi Shine Wind Mitt

Hydration: Nathan VaporShape hydration pack, Salomon Park Hydro soft flask handheld

Headlamp: Petzl Myo RXP

GPS watch: Suunto Ambit2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: SMART Bar by Detour Bar

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*The following post is sponsored by Fitfluential LLC on behalf of Detour Bar.*

I woke up this morning so sore.  It *almost* put a smile on my face.  I’m sick like that.  It’s been awhile since my legs were so sore that I wanted to huddle in the corner and weep like a wee babby.  The more heavy into the ultra distance training world I’ve gotten, the less I’ve been able to get in my weight training.  Hence, after returning to the gym from a 3 week hiatus because of tapering then recovering from the Squaw Peak 50 miler, it felt like coming home when I finished off my last of 400 squats completed as part of a 30 minute workout.  That is, it felt like coming home to the pain cave.  It’s amazing how quickly the body adapts or loses the types of fitness you put on it.  Although I am sore, it doesn’t deter me one bit from my usual incorporation of weight and cross training into my ultra training regimen.  It most certainly has it’s place.  Only 3 days after completing a grueling 50 mile race with heinous elevation gain and being on my feet for nearly 12.5 hours, my legs felt almost no soreness.  Really.  That is why I weight train.  The strength gained and quicker recovery periods have sold me.

The intense muscle tear down and re-build that occurs during my training requires proper fueling.   I am constantly on the hunt for healthy snack options that fit the bill.  Some of my requirements in a post-workout snack are low sugar and high protein.  There are a lot of great protein bars out there but if I check the sugar content, I’m almost always disappointed.

Between my training schedule, a part time job and being a wife and mom, I seriously feel like I live out of my car.  It has been tricky to find clean, filling, protein packed, on-the-go snacks that leave me filling full.  When I got my shipment of SMART Bars by Detour Bar, it was like the Heavens had parted and the perfect answer had landed on my doorstep.

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Detour Bar as a whole has a variety of different products, all focusing on nutritious, high quality protein with low sugar.  The SMART Bars are made with organic whole oats which makes them a great source of fiber.  And for all of you looking for awesome gluten-free snackage, these are certified GLUTEN FREE.  Party time.

I was immediately impressed when I opened the shipping box to find my SMART Bars encased in cold packs.  Cool.  Very cool.  Not many companies will do that with their shipped products.  I received a box of Apple Cinnamon and a box of Blueberry to try out.  My kids were so stoked (they always think anything that arrives on the doorstep is magical), so I offered each of them one to try.  If they can pass the kid taste-test than we know this will be a regular household item.  Both of my 6 and 9 year old daughters loved the Apple Cinnamon (not stoked on the Blueberry which is fine cause that’s my favorite).  I’ll be honest about the flavor, if you’re not hot on the taste and texture of oatmeal, this may not be your thing.  I personally love oatmeal and the fact that you can combine whey protein and oatmeal in one bar and make it taste as natural as it does is impressive to me.

So here is the best part: turn over the package and read the macros.  BOOM.

My fingernail polish is awesome.

Seriously, compare this bar to the competition and you’ll not likely find anything that tastes this great with these macros.

*130 calories

*10 grams whey protein

*4 grams of sugar (holy smokes that’s awesome)

*3 grams dietary fiber

I just happened to be leaving two days after this shipment arrived on a 5 day backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls near the Grand Canyon (if you don’t know what that is, google it and you will drool).  Everything that we needed for 5 days had to fit in a pack on our backs that we had to hike 10 miles into the canyon with.  I figured this was the perfect time to put SMART Bars to the test.  I had such limited space in my pack that I had to be very picky with the quantity and quality of the food I put in.  I threw 8 bars into my pack and can’t tell you how grateful I was to have something that was easy, healthy, protein packed, and kept me feeling full during several of our hikes down into the waterfalls.

So after waking up with trashed legs, I decided to focus on some upper body and core strength at the gym today.  I was happy to throw a SMART Bar into my purse to enjoy after I was done.  This girl loves her protein.

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Whether I need a quick snack I can throw in my purse for a post-workout refueling or a mid-day snack to hold me over until dinner, I think SMART Bars will be on my shopping list.  Woot woot for new snack finds!

If you want to know more about SMART Bars by Detour Bar or to find where you can order them, go to:

www.detourbar.com

Facebook.com/detourbars

Twitter.com/detourbar

Instagram.com/detourbar

Buffalo Run 50k Race Recap – Oh shiz that was harder than I thought.

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Be patient with this girl as this is my first time writing a race recap.  Just go with it.  Going along with the theme of firsts, this was my first 50k distance race (I’ve run the 26.2’s and the 50’s and skipped the 50k – maybe I subliminally have a prejudice against metric measurements).  It was also my first ultra race on trails.  It was also my first (and easiest) race of a slightly daunting list I signed up for this year.

I had signed up for this 50k with the idea of using it as a “training” race.  After getting drawn out of the Wasatch 100 lottery, I figured I might as well get my feet wet (or cracked and blistered) with something easy.  Easy is a relative term, right?  (Laugh and wipe slow tear from eye). The Buffalo Run had two aspects that appealed to me.  First, it has a total of 3,900 ft of elevation gain over 31 miles.  That’s like the bunny hill on the grand scheme of ultras.  Perfecto for this trail race virgin.  Second, it is in March.  In years past I have basically stopped running from December through February, claiming the Utah weather card.  My idea was that if I totally blew goats on this one, I could just tell everyone it’s because it’s early in the season for Utah runners and I didn’t have adequate time to train.  Brilliant, right?  Well after learning about the trail running community Wasatch Mountain Wranglers via Instagram and then joining their very active Facebook page, I quickly realized that trail runners are a rare breed of bizarre that still train when it’s so cold that your snot freezes to your face and still wake up in the middle of the night to get in a 2 or 3 hour trail run before work.  Brilliant plan ruined.  Thanks guys.  I am easing into this diehard thing, like an ugly duckling still waiting to hit puberty.

Training.  Well, crap.  I did sit down and write myself a nifty little training plan that looked real great on paper.  Enter reality: 3 kids, carpool, part time job, snow, dark, a husband who also needs training time, and no friends that also thought the idea of waking up at 5:00am to run in the dark with the mountain lions sounded like a good idea – weird.  I will say that despite not training adequately according to popular standards, I did manage to log about 3-4 runs per week with a reasonable long run on Saturday mornings and a few of those on the trails.  I also heavily cross train with weights.  I’m a big fan but that’s a post for another day.  Luckily I was able to join in on a group run on Antelope Island where the race took place 3 weeks out from race day.  I logged 20 miles that day and realized this was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

I've really fine tuned the art of running selfies.  Yes, it's an art dammit.
Antelope Island training run.  I’ve really fine tuned the art of running selfies. Yes, it’s an art dammit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Day.

I was honored and happy to drive out to the island the day before to cheer on my ultra cyberbuddy Janice Cook in her first 100 mile race.  We had never met in person, meeting via Instagram then chatting back and forth through it.  If you are social media savvy, then you are probably familiar with the hashtag #runnersmakethebestfriends.  It’s true.  You find you have so much in common, you know just the kind of support the other needs and you can relate to the struggles.  It was fun to see her off with all the other 100 mile runners.  I later learned that she finished as 2nd overall female with of time of 22:17.  I just love race day.  The positive atmosphere is contagious.  This left me feeling energized and excited for my own race the next morning.

Janice looking calm a few minutes before the start.
Janice looking calm a few minutes before the start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived with 10 minutes to go time.  I prefer this because I hate standing around, anxiety ridden and freezing my extra round butt off.  I had just enough time to do a gear check and off I went.  I had decided going into this race to leave all expectations at the start line.  After all, you only get one first at each distance.  You have nothing to compare to – no PR and no failure.  With it being my first trail race, I really had no idea what pace to expect.  I wore my Suunto but decided not to look at it and I never did the entire race.  I wanted to listen to my body and not my watch.  I started off mid pack and decided to take the first 2 mile climb nice and slow.  I figured that since I had no idea how many people were ahead or behind me, I wasn’t going to start my usual calculating of who I needed to pass in order to start picking off people in my age group.  The first 15.5 miles went pretty darn swell.  I was very conscientious of my fueling and took a GU at mile 6 (much sooner than I usually do on road races).  I knew that the elevation gains and losses affect your body much differently than what I have been used to.  I never stopped at the aid stations because I had plenty of electrolyte drink, water and GU in my hydration pack.  On that note, I realized after surveying the start line that my pack seemed a little bulkier than the majority of the runners.  This made me a little nervous wondering if I had made a rookie mistake.  I ended up being happy with my choice.  My pack never bothered me and I was able to sustain my own fueling throughout most of the race, avoiding time costly stops at the aid stations.

I started to notice that as I could see the line of runners ahead of me, I only noticed about 3 women.  My immediate competitive nature kicked in and I started to wonder if I’d be able to catch any of them.  I didn’t speed up, I still listened to my body and the gap between us remained about the same until mile 13.  I hit a second wind (I guess this means you have about 17 winds on these longer distances) and started to close the gap between myself and these powerhouse women.  I passed all three as I came into the 15.5 mile aid station.  This 50k was a two mile loop of the 25k distance.  As I started to near the halfway aid station, all the runners ahead of me started passing me the other direction as they went back out.  This allowed me to see how many people were ahead of me.  I saw only one woman pass me.  That meant that coming into the halfway point, there was only one (or two if someone was so speedy that they had long turned around and headed up the path) women ahead of me.  I arrived at the halfway point at 2:37.  I was pleasantly surprised with my time.  This gave me quite the mental boost as I filled up my electrolyte bottle and turned out for round 2.

Round 2: The Second 25k.  Heading up the first 2 mile climb of the second loop was tough.  My mind was renewed but my legs and heart rate were crying.  I turned up my music, put my head down and just put one foot in front of the other until I reached the top of that crusty biotch of a hill.  A few guys passed me on this hill, one of them yelling back “You’re looking strong, you’ll pass me later.”  I laughed and said I doubted it.  One thing I have learned about these ultra distances is that you can’t focus on the entire distance, that will crush you mentally.  You have to compartmentalize.  Once I got to the top, I knew it was nice and flat then downhill for another 2 miles before the next major climb.  Two more women passed me looking fresh and holding a steady pace while I was running out of gas.  When I hit the notorious switchbacks the second time around, I almost couldn’t fathom making it to the top.  I ran one switchback then walked the next, alternating this to the top.  This mentally was my lowest moment in the race.  Feeling so fatigued and knowing that I had to magically get to the top of the hill and still run another 8 miles was such a mind game.  These are the parts that I secretly crave.  I go into that dark place in my head where I know that the race becomes more mental than physical.  I’ve been there before.  In fact, it’s a familiar place.  The benefit of running ultra distances before is that I know what this feels like and that it ends with me on top.  I started repeating a mantra that had popped into my head during the switchbacks on the first loop: “relentless forward motion”.  I knew that no matter how slow, I just needed to keep moving forward.  Forward is progress.  Forward is all I could give.  I started to bonk pretty hard as I came into the last aid station at mile 26 so I stopped to eat a PB and jelly sandwich (my fave race day real food), my stomach needed something other than GU.  The guy that had run past me and yelled back just past the halfway point was stopped at this aid station.  I overheard him saying to someone “I’m at 4:45, you think I can finish in 5:30?”.  Up to this point, I had no idea where my time was at.  I knew I was doing okay, considering I had made pretty good time on my first half.  I only had 5 miles to go and it was motivating to hear that I would probably finish under 6 hours.  I finished with everything I had.  Everything I had meant walking up the last short hill.  Everything I had meant picturing my family at the finish line.  It meant being acutely aware of every ache, every sore muscle, every stiff joint.  It meant doing exactly as my mantra stated: “relentless forward motion”.  It didn’t have to be my fastest, it just had to be the most by body could give.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 5:45.  It was good enough for 6th woman overall and 3rd in my age group.  I will take it for my first trail ultra.  It humbled me but didn’t break me.

IMG_2538

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know what might break me though?  Squaw Peak 50 miler, Speedgoat 50k or Wasatch 100.  I came home after this race, knowing what 3900 ft over 31 miles now feels like and studied each one of these courses.  I’m scurred.  I guess that’s part of what motivates me to keep going.  Pushing past fear is an empowering feeling.  Any one of these races may break my body, but I promise you that my body will go before my mind.  One more impossible checked off my list.  Onward and upward my friends.

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Proud of these legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Used:

Hydration Pack: Nathan VaporShape

Socks: Some Adidas socks from a giant pack at Costco.  Seriously guys, I’ve run in them for years and love them.

CEP compression calf sleeves

Shoes: Pearl Izumi M2 Trails

Pearl Izumi Ultra gaiters

Shorts: Pearl Izumi Split Fly

Top: Pearl Izumi Flash Long Sleeve

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