Shaking Out the Cobwebs

This was my first run since Big Horn on Saturday. I felt a little sore afterwards, but not too bad. It was another testament to the fact that the rest of the race was still waiting in my body and hadn’t been spent yet. Kind of frustrating, honestly.

Since I got home late Sunday night, it’s been pretty busy with my two sons in baseball and getting unpacked and caught up with friends and family (and most importantly my husband and kids!) It felt good to get out and run today finally.

It’s hot and sunny – 80 degrees with a 10 mph wind. I felt really strong from the first step. No soreness, no blisters, nothing to show I ran 32 miles in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming on Saturday for over 10 hours.  I’ve been reshashing the race over and over in my mind, dissecting it and analyzing it.  I did so many things right going in. I was well trained, I tapered, ate well, didn’t stress and thought I would do well.  When the race started and the first couple of miles were downhill, I went for it – playing to my strength of downhill running. I tried to plow right through the mud and water crossings. I ran strong and yet kept the pace a bit conservatively knowing I had a long day ahead of me and not wanting to burn out.  I took my S caps every hour, drank water frequently and kept my posture good.  My mind was in a good place for many hours.

What did I do wrong or could have done better? The aid stations ran out of salted potatoes and soda and I didn’t have a back up plan for that.  When I hit Foot Bridge at 16.1 miles I did get a few sips of soda, but they were out of salted potatoes (the only “real” food I trained with.) I took some grapes but avoided the sandwiches they offered me since they had flies sitting on them.  Honestly.. I should have just gotten over that and taken one. It probably cost me my race, since the steepest climb in the entire race happens right out of that aid station and goes on for several miles. It’s just rugged, slippery, rocky up, up, up. The sun was out. It was hot and all I could think about was Coke and salted potatoes.  I had gels, but they were making me nauseous by that point, something that hadnt’ happened in training – though again, in training, I had potatoes to even things out in my stomach.

I should have used my arms more to move me up the mountain. I did have a vision of my friend, Jenny, barking at me, “You’ve got arms! Use em!!” in her cute little Louisiana accent, but I didn’t keep that up. I’m a horrible uphill climber. One of the slowest of my friends. I usually make it up on the downhills and flats, but in this race, more of that was waiting after that cut off than before, so I was unable to make it back up (which I honestly REALLY think I could have if I’d been allowed to go past the aid station.)  Once I got some food in me at mile 26 (Raman noodles, a few bites of PB and J and some soda) I was ready to rock and roll!!! I flew out of that aid station on a mission! I was ALIVE again! I ran as hard as I could for four miles (which included plenty of mud, a couple water crossings and some uphill), but once I got to the point I could actually SEE the aid station I was heading towards wayyyyy up the hill – about 741 feet of climb in a mile – and had just 6 minutes to make the cut off I knew it was over.   That was tough and still haunts me.  I felt fine. My stride was strong, I was perky again and just know I’d have been able to make up the time in the last 18 miles if given the chance. DARN IT!!!!

Other lessons: Don’t jump up and down and cheer for the 100 or so runners who pass you coming the other way on the trail and DON’T come to a standstill when this happens. Keep moving forward, Conserve Energy (except of course when you see your friends who deserve every bit of energy and jumping and hugging and woo-hooing you can give them!) 🙂   Don’t waste time in aid stations.  I went through 5 aid stations (Cow Camp at 5.5, Horse Camp? at 12.1 or so, and Foot Bridge at 16.1, then back through them all again on the way back: Horse Camp at 20ish, Cow Camp at 26 and then hit Dry Fork (the place our race started and the place mine ended since the cut off was 4 pm.)  It’s hard to train for all the distractions and stopping required. I zipped right through Cow Camp and Horse Camp on the way down, flashing my number, and getting out fast.  I first stopped at Foot Bridge because I was burning up and needed to get my pants off that were covering my shorts. Problem was I could not get them off without taking my shoes off. They were thickly caked in mud, so I just yanked them off, then the socks since they were so gross and changed shoes and socks there from my drop bag.  I thought it was ok, though I hadn’t planned on doing it and didn’t need it (feet were fine even though muddy and wet.)  I was watching the other runners and trying to copy what they did since I’m still so new to ultra racing.  There was a whole row of chairs there and many runners sitting in them with their shoes off soaking feet in water tubs, or changing shoes or eating.  They all looked so relaxed, I think I took a cue from them and tried to relax, too. MISTAKE! I grabbed some food and then headed out, only realizing right when the aid station captain yelled, “10 minutes to cut off” that’ I’d been there 10 minutes!! YIKES!  It can add up fast! I took maybe 2 minutes at the next aid station grabbing salted peanuts and three mini candy bars (yuck!) But, it was all they had.  My pace slowed considerably after that. I was alone and had been for some time. Not another runner in front or behind. Just me. It was hot. Very hot. Salt was caking my face. My Garmin was reminding me how bad I was at uphill climbing and I started to wonder if I had a hope in the world of making the cut offs.  It was a low point and I hiked/walked a lot.

I shouldn’t have stopped for the thirsty dog. At least not so long. The runner said the dog needed water and she didn’t have any. I had plenty, so I took drinks and spit them out like a fountain and the big dog just lapped it up. She was so thirsty, it broke my heart, so I did that maybe for 5-7 minutes until she seemed to have her fill. But….. that 5-7 minutes again could have made all the difference in the world at the Dry Fork aid station – the difference between being allowed to pass Go and Collect $200 dollars or being sent to Jail indefinitely and DNFing. DANG IT!  Live and learn. 🙂

Anyways… the run today went well. 5.41 miles. 9:42 pace under the hot sun. 165 ave heart rate.  Last .41 of a mile 8:28 pace (I always tend to speed up the longer I run – usually, which would have also been a bonus if I’d been allowed to continue on.)  Best pace today: 6:55. Felt: Strong, eager to race soon.

Money’s tight, so I can’t just sign up for something else like Mt Hood in July. Wish I could. I’ll probably have to wait until August, when my friend, Ben has a super tough 50 miler called Wild Idaho – with an elevation gain of 16,000 feet (yeah, you read that right and I’m scared), but a time limit of 28 hours (yeah, you read that part right too!) Could be my perfect combo – a super long cut off, even though the uphill is going to murder me.  I’m sure I can do that as long as I don’t injure myself.  I love the area his race takes place in. My parents had a place up there in the mountains from the time I was about 10 or so. I learned to drive on a golf cart in those mountains.  I took many long, nature walks as a kid under those piney canopies. It’s a beautiful area and I’m very at home there. I just never ran 50 miles in it before!!!!!  I guess I will soon.

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