I walked out of my sports medicine doctor’s office yesterday with some information I needed to digest. The first unexpected news came as a result of an MRI I had gotten the previous day. Since my last race a month ago, I have had a series of mystery ailments that have left me cautious and nervous about how they would affect the rest of my race season. I have not been running for the last 2 weeks for fear of making some lower back and hip pain into something that left me on the sidelines for the summer. The first news that he gave me was that the results of my MRI show that I have a congenital defect in my spine where an extra joint has formed between my lowest vertebrae and sacrum. This causes my hips to move independently from each other during activity instead of parallel. The result of being highly active with this type of faulty anatomy is inflammation build up and cysts in the SI joints from all of the friction in the extra joint. The inflammation is always hovering right around my sciatic nerve which is the culprit for my lower back pain.
I have mixed feelings about this information. On the one hand, there is no specific injury that needs to be healed and therefore no surgery or time off of training needed at this point (huge sigh of relief) because this type of defect cannot be permanently fixed. On the other hand, I am left with a problem that although is only intermittently painful in nature, will be something I have to deal with as long as I choose to continue with a highly active lifestyle. The solution to the problem is simply a regimen of anti-inflammatories or a steroid shot and just enough time off to get the inflammation to leave the nerve alone. I can probably deal with that. I suppose it depends on how inconvenient of a time it decides to be a naughty bugger.
One of the cysts burst a month ago, two weeks before a marathon that I was trying to PR. I had no idea what the heck had happened at the time. Based off of the acute pain, I assumed I had a pinched sciatic nerve but no idea why as I have never had nerve pain like that before. I was pretty much bed ridden for 5 days. The good news to that story was that I was able to get the sensation to go away with one week left before race day and probably no fitness lost. Although I did not feel any lasting effects from the problem, I do feel like it took a toll on my mental game as I was unsure whether I could even run so close to my race. Therein lies the second tidbit of information I walked away from the doctor’s office needing to process:
The doc pretty much told me that I wouldn’t have to deal with this problem if I choose to give up my love for ultra running. BUT he also told me that as of right now, there is no damage being done other than inflammation so he wasn’t going to tell me I had to stop running. Hmmm. Is continuing on a path of training for what many people consider to be an “extreme” sport worth the investment of countless hours of training for a race I may end up sitting out of due to an untimely bout of back pain? The emotional toll of watching something from the sidelines that you invested your heart and soul into is pretty rough. Perhaps I take these kinds of things a little harder because 90% of my running passion comes from its emotional benefits. High emotional risk for high emotional reward. This was what I was left thinking about all night last night.
My conclusion: Life is simply a game of trial and error, of action and consequence, of risk and reward. We take stories away from each experience that make up who we are and who we strive to be. Those sweet moments when my body and mind are in a rhythm together have more value to me than any amount of emotional or physical price paid. A race is so relatively short compared to the amount of time spent preparing for it. And you know, when I really think about it – the thought of crossing the finish line isn’t what gets me out of bed at 5:00am to hit the trails. It’s the time spent ON the trails. It’s the time spent running with people I love. It’s the time spent being amazed at what the human body is capable of. It’s watching perceived limits melt away on the horizon of my backyard peaks. It’s crawling out of emotional and physical hell being a stronger person than I was when I dropped to my knees.
Give up all of that to avoid the possibility of temporary setback?
I am smack in the middle of peak week training for the Salt Lake City marathon. Things are going good, really good! To be very honest (this is the cyber truth circle) I don’t have much of a love for road running anymore. Once I started mountain races and ultra distances, there was no looking back. It’s been nearly two years since I ran my last official marathon (on the road).
So why am I back to the road? Since becoming a running coach last year, I have written dozens of marathon training plans. I was curious to know how the sound scientific training principles that I am using on other people would work for me. AAAnnnddd by the end of the ultra season last year, I was craving a little speed, a little faster cadence for a little change up to all the climbing climbing climbing. My last marathon was a great experience. It was the first time I had actually stuck to a training plan and it paid off. I PR’d by 18 minutes. But I always felt that I had the potential to be a faster runner than what was reflected in my finish time for that race (3:42). Back then I didn’t fully understand that all runs are not created equal though. I always kind of thought that you just went out and logged the miles. In order to get faster, you have to get SPECIFIC with your running workouts. Each running workout needs to have a purpose. Each workout should be programmed to create a physiological change in your body that results in increased fitness – whether that be in the form of endurance, speed, strength, etc. and all of that depends on your individual goals. If you want to become a faster runner, you need to train your body to be able to clear blood lactate and keep it below a manageable level. Why? Because when your body becomes more efficient at clearing lactate (aka increasing your lactate threshold), you are able to deal with a slightly more demanding pace for a prolonged period of time. My last go around with a marathon, I was missing a vital piece to increasing my pace:
Some people call them Threshold Runs. I don’t care what you call them as long as you are doing them. Before I dive into the “T” pace runs, let me clarify that these are different than interval running (“I” runs). “T” runs and “I” runs are done at different paces and for different amounts of time. T runs (I’m not typing parentheses anymore so deal how you need to) are over a longer duration than I runs, therefore by nature requiring them to be a little slower than I runs. I will dive more into interval runs in another post, I’m sure you are just salivating at the thought. 🙂 So is pace important in T runs? YES. My T pace and your T pace are going to be different because the pace at which my body will begin to clear lactate faster is going to be different than yours albeit possibly very close. A very common mistake for runners to make is judging a run by it’s overall AP (average pace). Example:
Monday: I run 6 miles with an 8:15 average pace (AP). This run was designed to be an “easy effort” run. I run each mile at a fairly consistent easy pace between 8:05 to 8:20 which averages out to an 8:15 AP.
Tuesday: I run 6 miles with an 8:10 AP. This run was designed to be a T run. I run an E pace warm up and cool down with the middle like this: 15 minutes @ 7:20 w/ 2 min rest, 7 min @ 7:20 w/ 1 min rest.
22 minutes of Tuesday’s run were run significantly faster than Monday and the rest of it was run slightly slower in order to recover. Even though their AP is only the teensy weensiest (I like it, it stays) different, each workout has a completely different physiological response in the body. I used to not understand this. But now I do homekids and hot dang it is paying off. If my training runs are an indicator of my marathon performance in 3 weeks, I will be able to satisfy my speed appetite early this season and move on to my créme de la créme: mountain trail racing, baby!
Don’t be deceived by that sneaky average pace when you are logging the miles. You might just be getting an apple when you wanted an orange. Now I’m hungry and hopefully you have a nice little tidbit of training knowledge to stick in your back pocket. If you are interested to know more about how to customize running workouts that help you to a goal, let’s chat.
I received an email notifying me that my domain name from an old blog I used to post a few years back was expiring. I was torn on renewal because I have paid to continue it a few years after posting due to a few posts on there that I really loved and didn’t want to lose. I’ll be honest, most of the posts were junk but my all time fave post is one that I want to keep close to me forever because of the message it sends. I decided I am going to let the old blog die but I wanted to repost one here. There is not a lot about it that pertains to running – but then again, a lot of who we are goes into why we run. I don’t think I have posted on this blog about my favorite race mantra (that may have to be my next blog post after this). If you follow me on Instagram you probably have seen me post about it several times.
My race mantra and life theme is: I am fearless. I will persist without exception.
The following blog post, written exactly two years ago explains the first half of my race mantra. It applies to my life and my racing:
BLOG POST FROM www.sarcasminspandex.com dated 02/27/2013:
GETTING AUTHENTIC AND LASER BOOBS
While I was enjoying a running therapy session with Katie yesterday, we got into a very insightful ah-ha moment that I wanted to write about. Mostly because I have found that if I put it down in writing, I receive better clarity on my own thoughts. I am wondering if you can relate any of this to yourself…
I am an inauthentic person. Most of us are. What I mean by that is that over the years, we have created stories about ourselves because of the things that occur in our lives. The real eye opener for me over this past weekend was to identify what stories I have told myself over the years, where they came from, and how I then have taken that view and started looking for evidence to support it in almost every aspect of my life. Separating the stories from the incident itself and realizing that what’s left is just reality, just a fact that happened and that it didn’t define me, opened the door to empowering myself over the things that have riddled my life with misery.
When I was 7 (ish) years old, I was molested repeatedly by a neighbor boy several years older than me. A few years later, I was molested again by a different neighbor boy who was also several years older than me. They were completely unrelated incidences. That was my incident. The story that I told myself because of that incident was that I have no control over my situation, I have no worth beyond my body, I am not loved, I am not important to other people, and that i’m ordinary. That is just a story, it is not reality. Of course people love me, of course I am important to my kids, my husband, my friends, and of course I have control over my own situations. All these years I have confused the story with the incident. My payoff was that I was right and someone else was wrong. I was justified in being a victim. It was my right to be sad, depressed, angry and frustrated. Just throw me into the pile with the millions of other people in the world that have gone through what I went through and i’m just another ordinary victim of sexual abuse. By telling myself these stories and getting the payoff of being justified, the ultimate outcome of this was that I had thrown off the responsibility for my own situation. Again, I had a right to be depressed. But that just isn’t working for me, 20 years later i’m still in the same vicious cycle of thought. There is always a cost with every payoff that I get. And that cost has been meaningful and emotionally expressive relationships with other people. I have lost the ability to love and be loved from people I have craved closeness with over the years. And the costs have been devastating to me. When I realized that the payoffs were not worth the costs, and that I am ultimately empowered to choose whether I continue getting my payoffs or do what i’m scared to do and be fearless, it was the most liberating feeling I have felt in my life.
Am I getting too serious here? Do I need to throw this in to make you smile for an intermission?:
Here is my point about being inauthentic: I learned to be an outgoing, sarcastic, life of the party kind of gal when I have felt completely blah and apathetic to my own feelings. This makes me feel like I can’t be fully expressive because who the hell wants to hang around a depressed person? I am done with that story. By being fearless(frick, this will take some trial and error), I believe that I can be completely emotionally honest and expressive and be clever as hell at the same time. I am going to get what I want out of my life. And part of what I want is to inspire others that you can get the same thing. I for sure don’t have everything figured out and am accepting that I probably come off as a hot mess, but secretly I like that because it’s just how I feel inside being manifested on the outside. Perhaps I can be relatable.
On a random note: I was searching my camera roll on my phone for a certain picture and caught this one that was taken on accident yesterday when we were doing human back squats:
I found it interesting that this was the face I just happened to be making at that moment and starting to recognize a pattern for me:
I am a crusty ho. Actually, if I were to go along with the theme of this post, the actual reality is that I pull this same face often. The story that i’m telling myself is that I’m a crusty ho. See what i’ve learned? Life changing.
I wanted this blog to be a little more about fitness and my love for it when I started and realized that this is just what came spewing out when I started trying to be more authentic. I have some realizations about how these inauthenticities have shaped me as an athlete as well. I will be working on that post shortly. Perhaps I need to keep the serious thoughts a little more sparse so you don’t want to gauge your eyes out with your drinking straw every time you read my blog. I promise shorter posts in the future. And I promise to include all the totally inappropriate and offensive things that I do because something inside me wants to make you laugh that guilty and awkward laugh that leaves you wondering what the hell just happened. Like shooting lasers out of my boobs and poking my friend in the nipple while wearing lingerie in public.
Part of why I chose to become a running coach was because I have used running as one of my ways to be fearless. I wanted to inspire others to do the same. While I in no way claim that I am an inspiration, I do hope that I can be an instrument in someone else’s journey to become fearless – both as an athlete and as a person.
I wanted to ask your advice. I have been running fairly regularly for the last 7 years. Last year I completed my 5th marathon and was very happy with my progress. I am thinking that I am ready to take the next step and dive into a 50k distance race but am not sure I am ready. What advice could you give me to help me decide if this is a good idea?”
The email continued on with a little more detail about her running background and family situation. I get emails like this fairly often so I thought I’d post some thoughts.
“How do I know when I am ready to make the ultra marathon leap?”
Perhaps it would be appropriate to ask you if you enjoy crapping your pants and vomiting on bushes. “Gee, that sounds swell Kenzie” Perfect, let’s do this. Alright, jokes aside most people seek out the ultimate challenge because they are looking for just that – an ultimate challenge (and let me insert here that I have yet to crap my pants or vomit #winning). So the real question is: are you ready to dig deep inside yourself and find out what you’re made of? I think you’ll like what you find along the journey.
The truth is, there is no real set answer to this – no box of prerequisites I could list to check off. If you took a random slice of the ultra running community and looked into their journey to their first ultra distance race, you would see such a wide variety of demographics and differing amounts of previous races under their belts that it would be difficult to find a prevailing common thread. I know people that have never run a full marathon before running their first 50k. I know people that have run 30 plus marathons before they ran their first 50k. I also know a handful of people that have run a 100 mile race but never any other distance.
While my journey may be different than yours, mine is not better or worse than yours. It’s simply mine. Everyone that considers the leap has their own unique reasons. It would be nearly impossible for me to make a generalized blog post telling you a one size fits all answer.
“So thanks but no thanks for the non-informative post Kenzie”. My pleasure. Before I leave you thinking I’m a waste of cyber space, let me give you a few points to consider:
1) Like I said before, most ultras are on trails. If you aren’t comfortable or familiar with running on trails, you need to learn to be. Everyone starts somewhere.
2) Do you have the time to dedicate to the training? While training for a 50k really isn’t that much more than an advanced marathon training plan, you need to consider whether you not only have the time to log the miles but DRIVE TO the trails to log the miles.
3) Is your family life supportive of your time commitments? I run with a girl that is an amazingly talented runner. She leaves me in her dust on almost every run. We have talked about her debate on whether she should sign up for the Speedgoat 50k. While I have zero reservations that she is physically and mentally strong enough (if I can do it, she most certainly can), she has little kids at home making it difficult to get out on the trails more than she does already. She can manage training for marathons by making up for some miles on her treadmill but getting out onto the more technical trails in order to make a race like Speedgoat doable would be nearly impossible for the next few years. Family comes first.
4) While a 50k is only 5 more miles than a marathon, the time on your feet significantly increases. This is due to the fact that you are now dealing with the elevation gains and losses on trail and technical terrain. And let’s be honest, 5 miles at the end of 26.2 feels more like another marathon to most of us. My PR on a marathon is currently 3:42 (improving that come April) and my PR on a 50k is 5:45. That 50k was considered “fairly runnable” with minimal elevation gain for a 50k and very groomed trails. Now contrast that with Speedgoat 50k which took me 10 hours because it had about 4 times the elevation gain as the previously mentioned 50k and very technical trails. So even with my fastest 50k, I was on my feet 2 hours longer for only 5 miles. Party time. Still sound appealing? Awesome, let’s continue.
Note that none of my points to consider had anything to do with how many races you have done, what your PR on a marathon is, how many miles per week you have logged over the last 5 years or how big your beard is. While all of these things can definitely help in a lot of aspects, I don’t think they are absolutely necessary. Would I recommend a marathon first? Depends on the person. Would I recommend that you have at least a year of trail experience first? Depends on the person. I don’t go around telling everyone that they should just go ahead and sign up for a race right away. The benefit of hiring a running coach is that we know how to get you from whatever your point A is to your goal in the most efficient and effective way possible and in a time line that keeps you healthy and interested.
“So am I ready to take the ultra marathon leap?”
If you are to the point that an ultra distance race even sounds appealing, congratulations – you are 75% there. If after reading the points to consider you feel like this may be the gig for you, feel free to contact me and we can discuss your goals. I’ll give you a cyber high five and perhaps recite a motivational sonnet because I can relate to the seduction of the trails.
Many of you that know me personally know that my love for cross-training (mainly with weights) is almost as strong as my love for running. The good news for me is that the former can benefit the latter if done properly. For years now I have spent at least 5-6 days in the gym (3-4 during training season). I have a pretty good idea of what works and doesn’t work now when incorporating it into a specific race training plan. I have come up with some rules through research and good ol’ trial and error. Although there is no one universally superior way to cross train, there are a few rules that should be adhered to in general for overall success in incorporating some cross training into an endurance training plan. Keep in mind that this post is meant mainly for the running audience. So to the rules:
1) The amount of days spent per week cross training is going to change depending on the amount of miles you are running per week and your overall goals for the training season. For the most part I would recommend 2-3.
2) You can overdo it. There is a delicate balance between cross training that will enhance your race performance and that which will be a detriment. Let’s stay away from the latter please.
2) Each workout needs to have a specific purpose other than making you ludicrously sore.
3) Things that mimic the movements of running are the most common forms of cross training for runners (ie:// swimming, biking, eliptical) and although all great workouts, I feel that targeting specific areas of the body in more direct ways can be just as, if not more beneficial to your performance.
4) Utilizing the “rest” periods between specific movements to work on an area that wasn’t just being worked can both give you the most bang for your time and allow you to keep your heart rate up (which has it’s own benefits that I will talk about in another post). For example, instead of simply performing 5 sets of 20 pushups, then 5 sets of 20 squats, etc – superset those and add a cardio set in between supersets to allow your energy systems to recharge before the next superset. It would look more like this: 20 pushups, 20 squats, 400 meter sprint x 5. Yes, that means I just called a 400 meter sprint your rest. 🙂
5) Stay away from very heavy lifting. I struggle with this one myself because I like it. There can be a place for that in the off season if you’d like but generally it is not recommended for endurance athletes during training season. Note that this didn’t say stay away from lifting. Just heavy lifting. This is subjective, but usually things that only ask for 3-8 reps per set at that weight are because they are heavy. Don’t do it. The more reps in the set, the less weight asked for. Think lighter and more reps.
5) If you are only going to spend 2 days/week in the gym, make sure each of those workouts is well rounded or that between the two workouts, you are getting a full body experience. If you spend each time just targeting your legs and core (as most runners tend to do), you will miss out on vital upper body strength needed to carry you across the finish line. Plus, what if you come across your friend who just hit a wall at mile 22 – who’s going to be able to hoist them on their backs and carry them across the finish line? That’s going to be you with your newfound well-rounded fitness.
Now then, to the fun part of the post: “But what would one of these cross training workouts look like?”. Awe, way ahead of you. Here is one example. It contains all 4 elements of what I believe are a well rounded workout, along with some nice VO2max training along with it to boot. I will be posting workouts like this under the training tab along the top of my page so check back periodically for ideas if you get in a funk. I am also happy to offer cross training incorporation into the training plans I write and as part of my monthly E coaching package.
15 Robuster Complexes (10# dumbells in each hand for women, 15# for men)
800 meter run
15 Robuster Complexes
500 meter row on the rowing machine (can sub 400 meter sprint if no access to rowing machine)
A lot of people have asked me to give them a workout that will benefit their performance on the trails. Tabatas are one of my favorite types of workouts. Never heard of Tabatas? They are a HIIT (high intensity interval training) type of programming characterized by 20 seconds of hard work followed immediately by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. Studies have shown that in just 4 minutes of this format of HIIT, you can increase both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness faster than longer more moderate training. You can read more about Tabatas and their studies here.
I have been doing them for years. Here is what I like about them:
Even someone with the worst attention span (this lady here) can handle 4 minutes of the same thing.
You can pair different movements for a specific target audience.
The best of both worlds people: aerobic and anaerobic in the same workout. Me likey.
So here I have created a nifty little pairing of exercises in Tabata format that will benefit all types of runners from road to trail. I chose to target muscle groups in the legs, glutes and core, although some of them will work your upper body as well.
Don’t have a hill at your convenience or stuck in snowpocalypse? No biggie, do those sprints on the treadmill homeslice.
For those that are new to this type of cross training, a word of caution: go easy on those 20 seconds until you get used to it. We don’t want you getting injured now do we? You can increase intensity as you do this more often.
You should be nice and schweaty by the time those 20 minutes are up. Also, if you are incorporating this into a race training plan, pair it with a few miles at easy pace (in other words, don’t do this the same day you are planning a tempo, interval or long run). And on that same note, if you are new to these movements, you will most likely be a little sore so I wouldn’t being doing this the day before your 20 miler either. That’s a good way to make a long run feel longer. And by good, I mean bad.
An ultrarunning friend of mine from Canada had contacted me a few months ago and suggested that I test out a brand of compression socks and sleeves that he had been using. They are based out of Europe and not as well known as some of the more popular brands in the US like CEP and Zensah. I’m never one to just jump on a product bandwagon because they are willing to give me a few pairs to try out for free. If I like it, I will rave about it. If I don’t, I will post what I do like about it and what I would have preferred to see in the product. There is a lot of debate about the effectiveness of compression in general and this post is not meant to address that. I am a fan and believer of compression based off of my own experiences with it and thus this post will talk about what I like about ZeroPoint Compression’s product.I have been product testing both the compression socks and compression sleeves for a few months now. I have chosen to run all of my ultramarathons this year in the sleeves so you could say that they are been well tested. I will just say right out of the gate that I fell in love with the sleeves initially because of the color. Hey, I may have the mantraps to fool you but I am indeed a girl. And a girl with a love for flashy colors at that. But you can get flashy colored compression wear just about anywhere these days. Nevertheless, hot pink calve sleeves are always a precursor to a party on the trails. See?As opposed to CEP sleeves that have a ribbed texture to them, ZeroPoint’s design is such that you can see the different compression zones on the sleeves based off of the knitting design. That’s pretty nifty.
Once they are put on, I can immediately feel the graduated compression from the bottom of the sleeve near my ankle, gradually decreasing in pressure upwards toward the top of the sleeve. As a side note, they make a compression ankle sock (I have yet to try) that can be paired with the sleeves for a more custom-fit compression to the individual’s foot and calf size, as opposed to a full length compression sock.
As mentioned before, I have used the calf sleeves on all of my ultramarathons this year. I feel that they aid in blood flow, decreasing the overall fatigue feeling that I tend to get on the longer distance races. Once the race is over, I put on the actual full compression socks for my recovery. The first time I put on the socks, I could immediately feel the different areas of compression on my foot. Once you try a pair, you’ll know what I mean. I feel a tighter compression on the arch of my foot and achilles area, while the balls of my ankles are left with less compression.
I have not worn the full socks during a lot of my trail runs simple for the reason that the pair I was testing was slightly big on my foot – meaning there was a little too much fabric at the end of my toes. This is never a problem for my weight training or recovery days so I reserve the full socks for those days and use the sleeves for my runs. I plan to get a pair of ankle socks to pair with my sleeves to remedy that issue.
Overall I have come to love ZeroPoint’s brand for use on running, weight training and recovery. Although they aren’t as well known in the US market (just yet), they are definitely a cutting edge company with a keen eye for good looking compression without sacrificing functionality. Two thumbs up, especially since my only complaint with the full sock sizing can now be remedied with a pair of ankle socks. Hot pink to match my sleeves please. 🙂
If you’d like to read more about the studies done on compression wear, you can click on this link.
You can visit their website at https://www.zp.fi/ to read more about their products and order online.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
*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.
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.
Seriously, compare this bar to the competition and you’ll not likely find anything that tastes this great with these macros.
*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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.