03/28/12

Lessons Learned from my First 100 Miler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve had a few days to put up my feet and reflect on what went right and what went wrong at The Buffalo Run over the weekend.  I am still floating on cloud 9 that I finished my first 100 mile race – and on the first attempt, too! I know that’s a huge accomplishment and I’m insanely proud of myself! But, I also like to really stop and consider the lessons that each race inevitably teaches me. I learned a lot out there in those 30 hours and 11 minutes and I’d like to share it here with all of you, in the hopes that other first-timers can possibly glean something useful out of my own experiences.

What I Did Right 

1. I Trained Well

In the past two years that I’ve been trail running, I have gradually built up my stamina, my endurance, my weekly mileage and my elevation gains. I listened to my body, pushed it harder at times and also balanced that with rest. I ran 3 (50) milers in the last 8 months and about 10 (50k) distances in preparation for this goal of a 100 mile race and a ton of other shorter distances getting my body ready for this challenge. I do not believe the 100 mile distance is a wise choice for someone who is a total beginner. Build up to it.  My training was consistent. I was committed. I used the training plan from Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell based on 50 miles a week. That was a great guide!

2. I Dialed in my Fueling/Hydration Needs in Training

My first (fat ass) 50k attempt in January of 2010 was a disaster! I was totally inexperienced to trail running and how to fuel for it. I ate too many unfamiliar foods, had GI problems and dropped out at 23 miles to rush off to a bathroom! I thought I’d learned my lessons, but proved in April of 2010 at my first “official” ultra at Weiser River 50k that I was still learning when diarrhea hit me at miles 10 – 20. I spent more time in the bushes than on the trail and came in dead last – but finished!

I kept tinkering with things and slowly but surely found what worked for me. These days I carry two handheld bottles in my training and usually they only hold water. My earlier races, I had relied on Gatorade and for me, that was just too much for a long race for my gut to handle. I do take in some Gatorade or Powerade at aid stations or from a crew, down cups of soda and broth and even fill one of the bottles with Mocha Frappuccino for a caffeine boost and those seem to go down well and keep me going.  Other foods that work well for me are Mint Chocolate GU, orange slices, bananas, granola bars (without chocolate!), grapes, half of a peanut butter sandwich, Lunchable crackers and cheese, animal crackers (they had chocolate ones at the Buffalo Run and they really hit the spot!), and the occasional handful of peanut m and ms or peppermints.  I also take S caps throughout – approximately 1 per hour or two.  Raman noodles were also served and those also were easy to digest and fueled me well.

A friend of mine suggested eating every half an hour to me when I was training for my first 50 miler. I found that to work really well, so that is how I continue to time my eating. I don’t necessarily take in a ton of food either. Sometimes it’s just two bites of a peanut butter sandwich or one GU. I’d say somewhere between 50 – 100 calories per hour while on the move, though that is for my own body (at about 123 lbs) and someone larger would need more calories than that.  At aid stations, I try to consume another 100- 150 calories on the spot – downing a paper cup of soda, a cup of broth, an orange slice and a handful of trail mix for instance. I can get those down in about 3 min and be back on the move, with little to carry.

3. Aid Station Efficiency

I was pulled from the Big Horn 50 mile race in June of last year on a time cut off at mile 32. I’d barely missed it. I kicked myself over the next few weeks thinking about how long I’d taken at each aid station socializing, changing shoes, etc. I’ve made it a huge goal of mine to be quick at aid stations now during ultras. I flash my number, get checked in, take what I need quickly and then get out of there. I rarely will sit in a chair during a race. At the Buffalo Run, I sat down at two aid stations.  First at the halfway point at mile 50 when I got my night gear and ate more food than usual and second at mile 94 when my blistered feet needed a break. There were 20 aid station stops throughout the race. If I’d dilly dallied even a little bit at each one, I’d have missed the cut off and not completed my first race. On average, I’d say, I spent less than 3 minutes at each aid station – sometimes less than 1 if I didn’t need anything. I’d just check in and right back out and keep moving forward.  That is essential if you are a back-of-the-packer like me!

4. Pacing

I’ve had the experience of going out too fast in these uber long distance races and regretting it later on. No matter how well you pace in a hundred, you will slow down and get tired by the second half. It’s inevitable. Many of my more experienced 100 miler friends had  told me to use the first 50 mile loop as a warm up. To hold way back and rein in my pace. To walk long before I thought I needed to and to intentionally do that from the start. This course is flatter than many 100 milers (about 7,000 of elevation gain throughout) so I needed to be mindful of forcing walk breaks from the start and I did! I had so much energy the first loop, I commented to the aid station workers at mile 34 that I felt as though I’d just started, since I was so fresh! I was leaping for the race photographers, chatting, feeling great – no soreness, no exhaustion, no problems at all for about 45 miles.

Later on, when the bottoms of both of my feet were covered in huge, painful blisters, pace again became a focus. Though the pace in the second half was much slower, I made sure to keep pumping my arms and to force my back to straighten up, knowing those little tweaks would propel me forward just a bit faster – and every little bit helps get you to the finish line sooner!

5. Keeping A Strong Mind

This one alone, I believe is more important than all the other things combined! Without the intense focus on the overall goal, it would be too easy to quit. Ultras DO hurt! You WILL get tired! You will have a thousand logical reasons enter your mind about why you should just pack it in and end the pain!!! But, those who cross the finish line have learned to silence the inner whiner!! They’ve learned to be problem solvers on the spot. Overcome each new obstacle, one at a time and eventually you’ll finish! You must stay positive! You must believe to the core of your gut that YOU have what it takes! If you don’t believe that, you’re not ready.  It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel cranky out there. It’s normal. But, the overriding mindset has to be “I belong here!” “I can do this!” “No excuses!”

 6. Having Support

My good running buddy, Ryan gave me a note before I left for my race. In it, he said the single best advice he could give me was to cherish the time with those who care about me – my family and my friends –  since the buckle would lose luster over time, but that the memories of experiencing my race with my five kids and husband crewing for me and my friends out on the course would be the real treasures I’d always have! I really thought about his advice and took it to heart.  Each time my family crewed, I made sure to hug the kids, kiss my husband and look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for being here!” I crossed the finish line, hand-in-hand with my beautiful children and my husband.  It is a memory I’ll always be thankful for!

Now, that my race is over and I do have the buckle in hand, I can see that he was right. I did a good job of making sure my family felt appreciated and I applied that same mindset to everyone on the course I encountered  – especially those hard-working aid station workers who selflessly meet all our needs. I smiled at the other runners as we passed, I high-fived people and I tried not to grouch too much at my faithful pacer, Conner, though I would think that he, of all people, might say I can still use a little work on that one – especially after 80 miles!

7. Remember to have FUN!

While I was running on Antelope Island, I saw buffalo, antelope, a porcupine, horses and several birds and mice! The views from the Island were breath-taking! The Salt Lake was a soothing distraction and reflected the snow-capped mountains in the daytime and the stars and the city lights during the night.  The rugged rock outcroppings, the vast meadows of wheat-colored grasses that were taller than I was, the dodging of buffalo chips and the sight of the other runners, their families, the smiling faces, the cheering friends along the course were all things that deserved to be enjoyed and not overlooked! Mentally, I tried to pretend I was just on a training run as much as possible. I’d relax my shoulders, occasionally let my legs stretch out and run fast just for a bit to feel the wind in my face and to really enjoy the moment! I had FUN out there – even when it wasn’t that fun in the last 40 miles or so.  The picture at the top was taken at around 20 miles in after running for about 4 hours. I was definitely still in my happy place!! Try to think positive thoughts, savor the fact that you’re on the journey to achieve a life-long dream – and enjoy it as it’s happening as much as possible!

8. Apply Body Glide and Wear Clothing that Doesn’t Irritate You

Amazingly, I had very little chafing in this race. I had one small spot on my lower back from the tag on my underwear rubbing me raw.  Normally, I don’t wear that extra layer, so I’ll leave it at home next time and avoid that problem. I was pretty thrilled after 30 hours to have no chafing, though! A nice, little victory to say the least!

What Went Wrong 

1. Don’t let small problems become big problems!

I made one big mistake in this race! When my feet started to blister up at around mile 45, I ignored it. I thought being tough was part of the game and that if I ignored the problem my feet would eventually go numb and I’d be fine. Instead, the hot spots I had from that point grew until the balls of both feet, my heels and eventually my toes were all covered in painful, swollen, horribly painful blisters! The toenails on almost every toe lifted straight up as blisters formed under them, too! My feet were a mess! It made it hard to even walk a step – let alone more than 50 miles.  I did finish and I made the cut off in that ragged condition, but I now realize that I didn’t have to! I could have listened to my husband and the aid station workers at the half point when they wanted me to take off my shoes and socks and attend to the blisters. I had other socks and shoes right there and could have lanced the blisters, gotten bandaged and went on. Instead, it took more than 30 miles for the big blisters to burst painfully on their own and the others stayed swollen until the race was over and they were attended to.

It was a newbie mistake! I’d only had one blister in the entire two years I’ve been trail running! I’d never lanced one before! I didn’t realize how painful they would get or how they’;d make me cry and mentally get me down. The next time I have an issue like this, I will take care of it right away!

I also ended up with a bad sunburn. I’d applied sunscreen before noon on Friday when the race started. Saturday was hotter than the day before with less cloud cover. My face, my neck, my arms and legs are still painful and a good reminder that I should have taken a couple of minutes from the race to reapply the sunscreen.  My husband and my pacer both mentioned it to me. I ignored them and pushed forward, too focused on the time cut off to really think about how that would have been a wise thing to spend some minutes doing.

2. Change Clothing if You Need To

I should have changed clothes on day two when I got too hot. I was wearing a long-sleeved  shirt since the first day had been really windy. I had a tank top in the bag my husband had. It would have taken just as minute to change the shirt and move the bib, but I chose not to do it. I would have likely felt cooler and been able to move forward a little faster if I’d changed.

I should have changed shoes! There was a timing chip zip locked onto my shoe. I was obsessed about NOT having to deal with cutting that off and getting it back onto another shoe. Somehow I thought it would take several minutes, so I didn’t change shoes even when they got so painful and tight that a friend of mine finally insisted I sit down so he could cut off the tops of my shoes to let my blistered feet have a little more room.

3. Have Charged Garmins for the Entire Race

This is a “me” thing and won’t apply to everyone, but it made me crazy when my 1st Garmin died at mile 47 and my second Garmin died at mile 88, when I was freaking out about the time cut off and also wanting to know “How much further” I had to go as I went. It was miserable not knowing those things.  I’d packed a regular watch in my bag and should have had that on for the time.  I plan on buying a Forerunner 310xt for the 20 hour battery life for the second half of these hundreds.  I really needed to know I was on track in those last miles and feel I’d have been more calm with that information (I’m kind of a data junky and numbers calm me and motivate me!)  It was super stressful especially in the last few miles when I’d ask a runner who passed by “How much further” and they’d say, “2 miles”, then 10 minutes later have another runner pass by and when I’d ask they said, “3 miles!” That doesn’t sound like much to feel frustrated about – but by that point, every extra mile I thought I had to go sounded like an eternity and it mentally got me down that I didn’t know the “real” answer.

And, that’s it!!! Overall, I am thrilled to bits about how the race went! I hydrated, fueled, paced and kept mentally strong throughout! I kept my eyes on the prize, but not so much that I ignored those who were there to support me. I enjoyed myself and had a lot of fun!

I’ll buy some better dry-wicking socks and wear bigger shoes before the next one. I’ll take the time to change shoes, socks, clothing if I need to and will apply sunscreen and lip balm  (those are burned too) as needed. I’ll also make sure that I have electronics along that can handle the distance. I could have really used some music those last 50 miles when my IPod was dead and having the feedback of my Garmin later on would have been a nice touch, too!

I can’t wait to get out there and do it again – and hopefully even better than the first time!

 

03/26/12

Antelope Island Buffalo Run – My First 100 Miler!!!!!

I spent the last five months specifically training for one goal — to run my first 100 miles! In late June of last year, I ran 50 miles for the first time – and it wasn’t even a race! I ran that distance just to prove to myself that I could go that far since I was pulled on a time-cut off at the Big Horn 50 one week before at mile 32. After finishing that uber long distance for the first time, my husband took a video of my buddy, Ryan and I and asked us this question: “You just ran 50 miles, how do you feel?” I responded: “Crappy!” Ryan (who had just finished his 3rd time of doing 50) “Like a million bucks!” My husband then asked, “Are you ever going to do it again?” I looked away and said, “No!” Ryan said, “Next week!!” and stuck his tongue out!!!!

Well, I lied! I did run 50 again in August at the Wild Idaho race! And, then I did it AGAIN for no good reason in December on a training run – just to prove I could do it without a pacer or crew – and I accomplished it and felt confident – and did it faster than I’d done the previous two. I’d set my sights on running a 100 miles and was determined to train as hard as I could to accomplish the goal!

On Friday, March 23rd, I sang “Happy birthday” to my baby girl, Savannah -the youngest of my five kids, hugged my family and then I headed to the starting line with about 50 other crazy ultra runners out to conquer the 100 miles at the Buffalo Run on Antelope Island – right smack dab in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. The location was spectacular! It was so beautiful!

 

I got to the back of the pack and started chatting with some of the other ladies nearby. I told them it was my first 100 and that my only goal was to finish and that if I came in at 6:29:59 pm the next day (after running for 30 hours and 29 min and 59 seconds) and made the cut off, I’d be happy! I had no idea how close to that I’d come in the end!!

After race director Jim Skaggs dragged his foot in the dirt for a start line, he yelled, “GO!” and we were off! Tears came to my eyes as I thought about how much I had admired every single one of my ultra marathon friends who’d ran a hundred. I had always called them my heroes -and here I was — trying to become one too! I blew kisses at my five kids and husband as I ran by and settled into an easy, gentle pace. I had a long road ahead and the best advice everyone had given me was to not go too fast in the first 50 miles. I found a great spot behind a man dressed in a court jester outfit! It made me happy to look at his silly costume and it put me in a great mental place to start this mighty journey. Within half a mile, the trail starts climbing upwards and most of the pack slowed to a walk. I did too. I tried to do what those just ahead of me who seemed more experienced did, so I stayed in control and easy but consistent. I relaxed and looked around at the island! The weather was windy (20-30 mph winds), sunny and beautiful out! The temperature was around 50. It was a perfect day to run a 100 miles!

I’d tapered well and my legs felt awesome for the first 45 miles! Every time I’d come across one of the race photographers, I’d leap or throw my hands out wide and grin and smile or stick my tongue out! I was having a ball!!! I had no pain, no exhaustion, no problems for the first ten hours or so. I ate often, took my S caps every hour, kept my pace reeled way in, and listened to my Ipod and felt relaxed and focused. I chit-chatted with the other runners and the wonderful aid station workers, who really went above and beyond at every stop to meet my needs, helping me fill my two hand bottles, offering me broth or orange slices or candy. I made it a point to get in and out of aid stations quickly and I did a great job of that.

My running buddy, Ryan had written me a note before I left. It started with a quote that had really spoken to me, so I’d written that part down and brought it along for the journey, thinking it would be inspirational when the going got tough. It said: “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” – Christian D Larson. Every time I took a gel or an S cap, I’d see that note and read it to myself and it kept me positive and made me smile. Up until mile 45, though, I really had to admit that I’d encountered no “obstacle” but I knew that there was still a long ways to go and I’d certainly find some down the road to contend with. And, I was right!

My Garmin battery died somewhere around mile 46 or so. It was around 11 pm. My feet were starting to hurt with every step as I could feel blisters forming on the balls of both of my feet. The island was beautiful at night. I could see the city lights reflecting on the water. The sky was full of stars and so clear. I was starting to get fatigued and knew there would be no sleep for me that night — instead I’d run right through it and on into the next morning until about dinner time before I’d be able to stop again. The section of trail I was on is very technical and rocky with some climbing. I had to slow way down since my feet were feeling sensitive and I didn’t want to do something stupid with so many miles left to go, so I took my time going gingerly around the rocks. Normally, stuff like that is really fun to kind of run fast through, sort of tip toeing and high-kneeing your way, zig-zag style through like a kid out playing! My feet didn’t want to play that game, though, so I let them take it slow.

I made my way through and then passed a campground where most of the people were sound asleep around midnight. I was running well through this part, since it was a wide road and a bit easier on the feet. I saw a guy, about twenty years old, sitting in front of his tent, watching me. He yelled out, “You’re sexy and you know it! Do you WORK OUT????” and I laughed and kept running, thinking how bizarre it was for a woman to be out alone running in the night like this on an island!

I finally came into the start/finish area at mile 50 and was so excited to see my husband there and my pacer, Conner ready to go. They asked what I needed and I told them I needed to eat and to go to the bathroom. I mentioned my sore feet and the aid station workers asked if I wanted them to look at them or if I wanted to change shoes or socks. I said no. I was thinking about my friend, Dennis. He has told me that he prefers not to change shoes or socks in ultras since they’ll just get dirty again quickly anyways. I thought I was being smart by not taking time to at least check on those feet, but I was wrong. Since I haven’t had much experience with blisters or super long distance races, I really didn’t understand the consequences of not attending to a problem early on before it became a bigger problem. So, I didn’t even look at my feet, I got my warmer clothes on, ate some food and took off with my pacer into the night to run the entire loop that I’d just completed again. I’m not sure what time I left, but I think it was around 1 am. I’d taken about half an hour in that aid station, which was also too long and I was in a hurry to get back into my groove and head towards the mountain I’d need to climb for the second time.

Conner and I found a comfortable pace and he did a good job of making sure I stayed hydrated and fed as we made progress down the trail. We saw eyes in the night and realized a buffalo was just off the trail and I reminded him not to make eye contact or freak it out with our headlamps. We just kept moving forward and tried not to make a lot of noise to upset it. Conner looked for the smoother sections of the trail, which were a bit hard to come by. It was rugged and rocky, and my feet were really hurting with the uneven terrain, since the blisters were swelling and had not popped. At this point, when I’d read the quote, it meant something. I’d found my “obstacle” and I kept saying, “You can overcome this! You can do this!” I was wearing calf compression sleeves that my friend, Les had given to me. I was holding Ryan’s hand bottle and had his note in it. I was also wearing Michelle’s Garmin on my wrist. All of those things reminded me that I was not out there on this journey alone. That I had many friends who cared about me and who were with me in spirit cheering me on! I imagined my five kids saying, “GO Mom! You can do it!”, my husband, Wayne looking me in the eye and saying, “Everything’s going to be ok! You can do this!”, I thought of my parents back home wishing me well, all of my trail running friends, my Daily Mile friends, my Facebook pals – just all of them and I felt comforted, even as the night grew long, the fatigue set in and my feet started to hurt so much with every step that I wanted to cry. And, cry I did at times. The pain on the bottoms of both feet was excruciating — like knives being jabbed over and over along the balls and heels – and by that point – the toes and toenails too, as they started lifting, one by one up from their beds as blisters formed underneath them. Every time I’d bump a rock or step on uneven surface, I’d wince. I’d tell myself, “Pretend you’re on a training run. Pretend you feel fine. That you’re fresh!” and it would help. I’d force myself to put my foot down fully and let the foot roll through as normal since I knew altering my gait would probably cause other issues. I played mental games with myself over and over out there those last 50 miles. It helped. Then, the pain would be unbearable and some tears would fall, but I’d whisper, “There’s something inside you that is GREATER than ANY obstacle” and I’d keep moving forward, step by painful step.

As the sun was coming up, as I was finally coming off the 20 mile loop, I sent my pacer ahead to tell my family I was coming into the start/finish area again. This was Saturday morning and about 700 other racers were now on the course too — the 50 milers, the 50kers and the 25kers. It was surreal to see their headlamps bobbing along when we’d been alone for so long out there, quite spaced out from the other 100 milers. It was so painful when some of them went by if I tried to move off the trail to make room for the fast ones. They were coming at me fresh and full of energy. I was hurting, tired and I still had another 30 miles to go, but many of them saw my bib and realized I was a 100 mile runner and they said things like, “Way to go!” “Looking strong” “Awesome” and smiled at me. That really lifted my mood and pushed me onward.

As I came into the 70 mile checkpoint, just hobbling on my raw feet, I saw my family. I wanted to hold them so bad. I was so tired. I started to cry. My husband held me and said, “It’s going to be ok! You can do this!” Just then, my Daily Mile friend, Jeremy, who I’d never even met in person, walked up to me and said, “Are you Christie?” I nodded and only just then remembered that he was going to join me for a few miles. I had looked so forward to that and somehow in my pain had forgotten I had a friend waiting for me! I apologized for the tears, gave him a hug and then we took off down the trail. It was wonderful to have a new face to see and someone with fresh energy to talk to. It was a happy distraction and very quickly I went from being sad to being hopeful again. But, I was really scared about the time cut offs at this point! I’d lost a lot of time on the 20 mile loop. The day before, taking it easy, I’d done that section in 4 hours. Through the night on blistered feet it had taken 7!!!!!! I was slowing way down and it took so much strength to just keep moving forward. My husband had said something about needing to stay at a 16 min pace to make the cut off and the more I thought about — ok – OBSESSED about that — the more frightened I became that I wouldn’t make the cut off. Tears came again the more I thought about it, since the pain was overwhelming by this point in my blistered feet. My hips were sore, my shoulders felt saggy and I felt the weight of the world on them. I no longer grinned at the racers who went past. I stared at the ground, tears sometimes just falling into the dirt as I shuffled along at the best walk pace I could muster in that state.

Jeremy and Conner tried to cheer me up. It worked at times. Other times, I just zoned out in the pain zone and just stared at the trail in front of me and kept shuffling. The sun was up. It was getting really hot and I was still wearing my long sleeved shirt and tights but I was too scared of the time cut off to take even a few minutes to remove them. At every aid station, I would check in and grab a couple things to eat, then head back out. They’d say, “Want to sit down? Would you like more to eat?” and I’d say “I can’t fail at this!!! I have to keep moving!!!” and head off again. I was so afraid I wouldn’t make the cut off. My pace was more like an 18 – 20 min pace as I moved. Finally, my husband could see that I was in a bad state mentally and he said to me at one of the aid stations, “You’re ok! I thought it would motivate you to tell you that you needed to go that fast. You really can go closer to a 20 min pace and make the cut off!” My eyes grew wide and I said, “Are you serious?!!! THAT I can do!! Why didn’t you tell me that hours ago?! I’m on pace for that and I have HOPE again!” That also relieved me just enough that I took an extra minute and removed the tights. I had on shorts and the long sleeved tech shirt and it was scorching hot!!! They asked if I wanted sunscreen. I said “NO! I have to finish!” and kept going. The sunburn on my face and neck, arms and legs later would remind me I should have taken that extra minute too.

Along the way, I’d be able to see my family from time to time. I’d hear my five kids yelling out the window of the Suburban, “GO MOM!!” and it would take my suffering away for a minute and remind me of what mattered most in my life!!! I’d wave and smile at them until they were out of sight and think, “Keep moving until that finish line and then you’ll get to hug them all again!”

I got crankier and tireder and slower, but I kept going. I remember at mile 94 finally agreeing to sit down for a minute at Jeremy’s aid station. He’d been so nice to run out and ask if I needed anything even before I got there. That was great service! The views of the Salt Lake were incredible right there and I just took in the view for a few minutes while I sipped broth and ate an orange slice and some soda. I just wanted it to be over. I heard the man there radio in that I was through and still in good spirits. That made me smile. I was still kidding around a bit with them, even though I was so tired and so sore. I no longer had working Garmin, so I could not judge distance and I was moving so slow that every mile felt like an eternity. It was really late, so there were very few other runners still on the course. Jeremy made me feel good, though when he said I was over an hour ahead of the cut off for his aid station. That made me smile and renewed my focus, so I got up and headed out, determined to go, go, go until I got that buckle and finished this thing!

There’s an uphill, rugged section right after this that hurt so very much on my blistered feet. Conner kept telling me I was doing great! He was trying hard to keep me positive. I’d grit my teeth and start swinging my arms faster and it would move my pace up and he’d say, “Wow!! Look at you GO!” and I’d almost want to laugh thinking how slow I really must be going compared to normal – but I knew every bit of energy forward would help the suffering end sooner!

When we got to the rocky, technical section that I’d ran in the dark the night before so gingerly something overcame me — some animal inside of me was unleashed!!!!! I set my jaw and swung my elbows hard and shocked myself when I started RUNNING hard and fast and lifting my knees and hopping over those crazy, irregular rocks! I was insane! I was glaring at the course, thinking, “You got me last night! I can NOT be broken that easy!!! Don’t you KNOW I’m a badass???!!!!!!” It sounds nuts, but I was able to keep that up and ran at least a mile and a half like that – at what I will only have to guess was about a 10 min pace. My pacer was gasping, “What the heck?? Where did THAT come from?” behind me!!!!! I saw the looks on the faces of a few bikers who pulled off the path and saw me coming like a maniac when Conner said, “She’s a hundred miler! I think she’s ready to be DONE!” One of the guys bowed at me. That made me feel awesome and more determined!!

Then it was over. The big moment. The push. I had no Garmin, so I had no idea how much further I had to run. Someone who passed by said, “Oh, just two more miles.” Ten minutes later another runner passed and said, “Oh, just three more miles.” My shoulders slumped. I was so tired. I hurt so much. I flopped onto a rock. Conner did the same and we let a few 50k and 50 mile runners pass us as they picked up their speed in the final climb to the finish. I just didn’t have it in me anymore. My little burst was gone. I remember staring at the dirt and thinking, “Dang, I’m tired. I’d really like to just lay down right there and take a good nap! I don’t want to play this game anymore. It’s too hard!” But, I didn’t do that. I took a breath, focused on my kids being at the finish line waiting for me and I got back up — slowly, painfully and hobbled forward.

Inch by inch I got closer. I could see the finish line tent. It seemed so very, very far away. It’s funny how a couple of miles normally seems so easy — so short! At that point, it sounded nearly impossible to cover that far of a distance on my feet. One runner who passed by joked that he’d offer me a piggyback but that he was too tired. I answered back, “I didn’t go THIS far just to get disqualified for a piggyback this close, but thanks!” hehe.

About a mile from the finish, I saw my friend Tiffany!!!! She’d come from Idaho and was there to cheer me on!!!! Man, that was an amazing feeling, seeing someone I care about right then! I needed it bad!!! She told me I was her hero and that I inspired her. I hugged her and we fell into step running – yes RUNNING, as my brain realized it was almost over for real! Her company made that last stretch a joy – a painful one still – but so much better than when I was alone. My pacer had headed on ahead to let my family know I was coming in.

As I got within a quarter of a mile of the finish line, my family came towards me with open arms, the kids cheering and saying, “You DID it, MOM!!! We’re so proud of you!!” and happy tears came to my eyes as I reached for their embraces!!! I grabbed the hands of my 5 and 7 year old daughters and the whole family held hands as we headed towards the finish together — as a team! Conner and Tiffany took pictures and we stopped and smiled, a few runners passing us by as they finished up their journeys too.

When I saw the finish line, my instincts kicked in. Savannah and Anneliese and I picked up the pace, those who had stayed to see the final runners cheered and I got the biggest smile on my face as I crossed the finish line! I DID IT!! I ran a hundred miles!!!!!!!!!!

I had ached for that belt buckle – that symbol that proves I’d done this for months and now it was my chance to hold it! I limped over to the man handing out the finisher prizes and he handed me a ceramic soup bowl. I stared at it and at him and said, “I’m a hundred miler! I earned a buckle!” He looked at my bib, took back the 50k, 50 miler prize and then reached into the box to grab MY prize — the BUCKLE – and handed it over to me!!!! I pumped it up into the air and yelped out, “YEAH BABY I DID IT!!!!!! and my husband started taking pictures!

I finished in 30:11 — about 18 minutes and some change before the cut off! I was the 34th (and last) person to finish the hundred that day. There were a lot of casualties out there. It was a tough course. The weather had been hot. I’d seen one friend vomiting on the side who had to quit. I heard about another woman who had a fracture. I was the 4th female to cross the line. I think 4 more had started. I was first – and ONLY in my age group! Wow, I did it!!! I dreamed a big dream and it came true!!

My feet are a mess! I couldn’t even walk into the house when we drove the 4 1/2 hours home after the race. My sweet husband had to carry me in. I’m sunburned, I’m sore and I’m insanely HAPPY and proud of myself! Will I do another? Oh yeah, baby!!! I can do this!!!!!  But, first I need a nice long NAP!!

03/18/12

Getting In a Zen Place Before My Race

 

This was my first run in several days. I took most of the week off, letting the IT band settle down and gave my full attention to directing my race on Saturday. When I saw the snowflakes fluttering outside my window this morning, I couldn’t wait to get out there and do some running in it!

 

Unfortunately, the snow didn’t last very long, but I did get to enjoy a mile or so of that. The Oregon Trails were nice by my house, but really slippery and muddy the further I went. It was bad enough that I was sliding backwards on the uphills and just decided it wasn’t worth it to keep making a mess of the trails or fight them in those conditions. So, I jogged back over to the sandier, flatter ones near my home and then ran down to Barber Park and ran on those lovely trails along the Boise River.

It was peaceful out. A heavy fog hung along the top ridge line of the Boise Foothills. It was cloudy and overcast and really quite perfect as the natural world seemed so still and soothing. When I came to the trails along the Boise River, I was overcome with reverence. The sound of the rushing waters, the breeze as it rustled through the trees, the occasional bird, just settled my soul and it felt disrespectful to run at first. I had to walk. To really take the time to appreciate the beauty, to let Mother Nature work her magic on my stressed out, busy mind, as breath by breath, I let go of the tensions and the worries and the troubles and took in deep breaths of fresh air that renewed me. I took out my camera and took the time to get a few shots I was really proud of – that could in some small way attempt to capture the moment – part of the experience, though nothing will ever compare to just taking a friend out and experiencing the trail together. It’s the only way they’ll really ever understand my crazy love affair with nature!

I took a path less traveled. It led to a lovely dock. I walked out onto it, stood at the railing and closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the river as it went past. I could see Table Rock, shrouded in fog, the mountains in the not-too-far distance, the trees reflecting in the water. I noticed that someone had carved J hearts L in the wood on the railing. It made perfect sense that someone would be overcome with romance in such a beautiful place as this. It made me wonder if the girl wrapped her arms around him, pulled him close and with a passionate kiss said, “I love you, too, J!!!”

I finally got my head out of the clouds and headed back onto the trail and started running – just enjoying each footfall on the firm earth. I heard a branch snap and I stopped, a little afraid and stared into the woods. I couldn’t see anything and hadn’t seen another soul on the trail. It made me miss my running buddies! Having someone to be scared with is way more fun than being nervous alone! I kept running and the path looped around to the other side of where the noise had come from. That’s when I saw two women, a man and two dogs, pushing through the bushes and the trees off the path. I heard one of the women say, “Keep looking! You’re not trying hard enough!” and the man (who was dressed in camo and wearing a baseball hat) responded in slow hillbilly way, “Then do it yerself!!!” I started wondering if they were out looking for a body they’d buried (possibly the last runner who’d encountered them out alone in the woods!) and I kicked it into gear to head back to civilization!

All, in all, it was a good run. Not a great one, but a good one. My IT band is still a bit sore, though it may be from the Graston therapy I had done on it on Friday, which left some bruising on both knees. I will see the chiropractor for the last time on Monday and then it’s just heal, run short and mentally get in a Zen place before my 100 miler on Friday and Saturday. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m eager. I’m taking any and all hugs and encouragements to bolster my heart and mind that I totally can do this. I really want that belt buckle! I will put one foot in front of the other and keep moving until I find that finish line and collapse across it! I promise!

Elevation Gain: 464 feet. Average HR: 144. Felt: Good (Mentally – Very Good)

03/13/12

Trail Running With My 11 Year Old Son

This Saturday, my husband and I are directing an inaugural St Patrick’s Day 5k/10k race at a local winery called Ste Chapelle. www.runstechapelle.com We’re on track to have about 200 runners, which is very exciting! On my last run with Ryan, he mentioned that he was going to run the race with his son and wanted to know if my boy would like to join them! It was a great plan, since Jr loves to race and this would give him grownup supervision while we were occupied with race directing duties! Yay!!!

So, today, I decided it would be a good idea to take Jr on a three mile run on the Oregon Trails near our home. It was windy and overcast and really peaceful out. We stopped and read all of the Oregon Trail information plaques along the way, talked about volcanic rock, sagebrush, animal scat (unfortunately we only spotted DOG POO today, but since deer frequent our neighborhood all the time, I’m sure we’ll run into more interesting poo in the future!) and took our time at the overlooks to enjoy the view. I pointed out Table Rock (which Jr has ran up to before!), the taller buildings of Boise, which looked quite tiny from our vantage point, Lucky Peak, the Boise River and the cars weaving along the road way below us. Jr took an extra interest in locating school buses moving like yellow dots along the road furthest from us. It was a lot of fun!

When we reached the steep downhill section, that I was intending to avoid since my IT band is really acting up, he begged to run down it. I let him while I walked it. He started whooping and leaping and saying, “Woo hooo!” and I just grinned and thought, “Man, this kid is SO MUCH like ME!” 😀 He (also like his mother) huffed and puffed when he reached the bottom and had to climb back UP that sweet downhill! That’s my BOY!

I think he’s all warmed up for his race now! And, I think I need to take a few more days of rest and recovery on this cranky IT band. 🙁

Elevation Gain: 146 feet. Ave HR: 106. Felt: Super Happy to share the trails with my SON!!! He put his arm around my waist and I put mine across his shoulders and we strolled side-by-side at the end. What could be better?!

03/9/12

Happy 7th Birthday Anneliese

Shared Photo

Here is a photo of me 7 years ago just weeks before my 4th baby was born. She was 9 lbs 7 oz and 22 inches long! Someone asked me today if I imagined back then that I’d ever run a 100 mile race. The answer is : “Not on your life!!” I would never have believed that I were capable of that (and all of that after I’d go through one more pregnancy two years later, where I topped the scales at nearly 200 lbs on my 5’3″ body!)

Seven years ago, I was an exhausted, overweight Mom of 4 – all ages 5 and under! My kids were 5, 4, 2 and a newborn! They were all too little to help around the house, so I did it all, often while nursing a baby, entertaining a toddler and homeschooling the older two. Back then I didn’t think it was possible to find time to exercise or eat healthy. I was tired all the time and just trying to juggle all of the responsibilities I had. My husband was going to college and working full time (often 60+ hour weeks) at his own business and I’d never left the kids with a sitter.  Money was tight, so a gym wasn’t an option and since I was nursing, it felt too difficult to even think about scheduling any exercise around that.

I have so much admiration for young moms who are able to find the time to take care of their own health and sanity during the young baby years! If I could go back in time and speak to myself, I’d say, “It’s ok! You don’t have to try and do it all! You need a mental and physical break sometimes from the children and that doesn’t make you a bad Mom (I suffered from a severe case of Mommy Guilt if I even left the house, with my husband in charge to buy a gallon of milk!”)  Back then, I also struggled with anxiety, depression and insomnia that would last sometimes for six months before I’d finally have a proper night’s sleep.  I remember someone once asking me what my hobbies were at a party around this time. I just stared blankly at them. “I’m a Mom. I don’t have TIME for any hobbies.” was my reply! I also didn’t have any pals — no one to call up on the phone just to talk about my crazy day or to ask out for a lunch date on my birthday. It was a very busy, lonely time.

I never would have believed that just a few years later, I would make a decision that would change it all! In May of 2008, my fifth baby was a year old. I was no longer nursing. I was 35 years old, overweight and finally ready for a big change! I bought myself running shoes for my Mother’s Day present that year and printed out the Couch to 5k running program. I had one big dream – to run a marathon like my own Mom had done the year she was 40. I figured it would take me at least 5 years to get in good enough shape to handle that goal, so I began working towards it.  I’d never stuck with an exercise routine for more than a few weeks, so I think my husband thought it was a phase of mine and I’d be back to square one pretty quick.  Something magical happened to me, though. It turned out I really enjoyed running and walking and it turned out I DID have the time after all! I just hadn’t been open to the possibilities of pushing a double stroller, while wearing a baby sling and having my 5 year old walk with me or heading out alone to do laps around the block after dark when my husband was home to listen for the kids after I’d put them all to bed. I spent many nights staring at the moon and stars in those early months, walking and running in my neighborhood. They were very therapeutic for me (and free!)

Walking (and then running) gave me some time to myself that I dearly treasured to clear my head after a long day with the children. I’d talk to myself sometimes, just letting the tears roll down my cheeks, when I wondered if I was doing a good enough job as a wife and Mom. Being outdoors cleansed my soul. The fresh air, the moonlight, the chance to watch others out enjoying their day were all lovely distractions that settled my heart and mind and left me happily spent by the time I came back into the front door when it was all over – ready to again handle tantrums and potty training and teaching ABC’s. I came back restored for a time – better off than when I’d left.

Though the first time out, I could not even run a block without a side ache, I kept getting out there for half an hour three times a week. And, as the weeks passed, I got better at it. It hurt less. I started to meet other runners, who shared my new passion and we knocked off miles side-by-side as we shared stories about our kids, our lives, our dreams and our troubles. And, I started getting fitter. The weight just started melting off, pound by pound. I didn’t know it when I started, but not only would I lose every single pound that I’d gained through the five pregnancies — but I’d actually end up thinner in the end than I was before the first pregnancy! How surprising! All that without counting calories or giving up any foods I liked! It turned out, my own body would start craving healthier foods and smaller portions and the rest just happened on it’s own, though it took a couple of years.

I ran that first marathon in October of 2009 when I was 36 years old. It was one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life! And, from there, it just snowballed! I attempted my first 50k in the mountains in January of 2010. I didn’t finish, but it gave me a hunger that I still have today to reach further than I ever thought I could, to push my body harder, to challenge my mind with extreme distance running and with each and every race I finish, my confidence is bolstered!

I’m a very different woman than the one in that photo at the top, who’d never ran more than 5 miles in her life – and that while I was in my teens – and only ONCE! I sit here exactly two weeks before my first 100 mile ultra marathon — fit, confident, excited and ready to take on the world!!!

If this finds you at a stage in life, like I was at 7 years ago, don’t lose hope! If I can do these things, ANYONE can!!!!! I believe in YOU because I believe in ME!

Happy Birthday, Anneliese Rose!!!! I love you with all my heart! I hope I’m setting a good example for you and your sisters and brothers and that you know that I really do believe each and every one of you can do anything you dream of doing! I will be there to support you! To be your greatest cheerleader! To love you and hold you when things don’t go right! I will always be your #1 fan!!!!  Happy Birthday, Baby!!!!

03/5/12

To Wayne’s Work and Back

My friend, Ryan shared this on Facebook today and it fit so well with my story, I borrowed it. Thanks, Ryan!! 

My husband, Wayne moved our family to Boise four months ago to be closer to his job. In the past few months, as he’s worked to get in shape and start running, too, it occurred to him that he could start running to work and back sometimes. He asked me if I’d mind “running him to work” a day or two a week and I thought that sounded like a fun idea. Today, he drove to work, but I decided to try the idea out, just to get a rough idea of how many miles exactly the run would be and how long it would take to do.

The weather is insanely gorgeous today!!!! 53 degrees, sunny, blue skies, breezy. I decided to run comfortably and just enjoy the day. I had no other goals. I greeted all the dog-walkers and other runners I saw with a friendly, “Good morning!” I passed an adorable, gray-haired couple who were snuggled up together, walking arm in arm, like a fine gentleman with his adoring lady and it just made me happy! The sweetest lovers of all, to me, are those who’ve lived a lifetime together and who still gaze at one another like they’re crazy in love after all those years.

After 2 miles of a mixture of trail and Greenbelt, I reached the Boise River. I just slowed down and walked for a minute, closing my eyes and listening to the rushing waters. The birds were singing their love songs so sweetly to one another. I could hear the wind as it rustled through the trees and tall, dry grasses nearby.

Spring has always been my favorite season and today all of my senses were reminded why I adore it so much! I picked up the pace again, running comfortably along the trail, enjoying the morning, taking in deep breaths of the crisp, soul-cleansing fresh air!

I had to leave the path and hop onto the sidewalk to head towards Wayne‘s job. That was not as much fun, having to stop at stoplights, have cars HONK at me when I was running on the shoulder when the sidewalk ended, dodging people on their strolls out for lunch on the sidewalk and having to listen to the whizzing of the traffic. Back, when I lived in Nampa, most of my miles were exactly like those, though, so it made me thankful that I have the option here in Boise to run on the Greenbelt or on the trails and have an entirely peaceful experience instead!

I hit the front door of Wayne‘s work just about 6 miles into the run. That’s when I realized I had no way to contact him and tell him I was there, since I had left my cell phone at home and there is a security person guarding the entrance, who requires a special badge to get in. Oh well. Next time, we’ll just come together! 🙂

I turned around and headed back (into the 10 mph winds) and decided at mile 9 that I’d like to push my pace a bit and see if I could run a BQ marathon-paced mile just for the heck of it. That would be an 8:35 or better for my age/gender. It went better than expected, since it was an 8:02. I took a little walk break after that, as I walked along the Boise River again, feeling proud of myself. I was fatigued by this point and most of the uphill climbing comes in the final 3 miles of this route (about 300 feet of gain.)

There’s a monster hill on the trail near my home that just kicks my butt! I’ve taken several friends on it and those pals will know which one I am talking about. I have NEVER made it up that hill without taking a walk break before, though I have done it several times in the last 4 months. So, I decided that no matter how SLOW my pace was, I would run Every Single Step of it today!!!!! (It’s 127 feet of climb in about 2/10 of a mile or so.) I ran on my toes. I pushed. My quads BURNED in protest!! I glanced at the Garmin and saw I was going a blazing 15:00 min pace (hehe). I kept it up. I wanted to walk, but I did not!!!! A cute, little bunny hopped across the path when I was nearly at the top, distracting me from the exertion temporarily. At the top, I just gasped out, “YES!! I did it!!!! I DID IT!!” I was so proud of myself!!! I took another little walk break at the top and then ran comfortably the rest of the way home.

It was a great run! In the end, I’d call it more of a tempo workout! It kicked my butt, but it was fun!!!

Stats:
Mile 1: 8:46 pace ave HR: 190
Mile 2: 8:37 pace ave HR: 166
Mile 3: 10:00 pace ave HR: 151 (walk break)
Mile 4: 9:15 pace ave HR: 160
Mile 5: 8:50 pace ave HR: 167
Mile 6: 8:50 pace ave HR: 169
Mile 7: 9:13 pace ave HR: 171
Mile 8: 8:55 pace ave HR: 169
Mile 9: 8:02 pace ave HR: 180
Mile 10: 9:36 pace ave HR: 178 (walk break recovery)
Mile 11: 9:27 pace ave HR: 178
Mile 12: 9:34 pace ave HR: 180 (127 foot of climb – the hill of death – + walk break at top)
Last .08 – 7:02 pace ave HR: 186

Felt: Happy, pretty strong, but not as strong as I need to be yet. 🙂

03/4/12

Scooby Dooby Doo Where are YOU?!!

The skies were blue, temperatures were in the high 50’s, so I put on some shorts and met up with my best friend, Bertha and her dog, Scooby Doo and we headed out to the Owyhee Mountains for some fun on the trails! It was such a beautiful day! It felt like SPRING!

Bertha and Scooby Doo

We had one thing on our minds today: Enjoying the beauty of nature! We took our time, savored the views, stopping to really appreciate what we were seeing, the only thing breaking the perfect silence of the hills was our comfortable conversation and laughter.

About 4 miles into the run, Bertha’s dog, Scooby Doo took off like a rocket up the side of a really steep hill in the opposite direction of where we were heading. I asked her if her usually came back when he did that and she said he did. So, we kept moving on the trail, calling out his name, figuring when he was done chasing whatever had caught his attention he’d come back. Fifteen minutes later, we started to worry. We kept calling, “Scooby!!!!!!” “SCOOOOBY.” But, we saw no sign of him. Finally, we headed up the same hill trying to go after him and find him. It was a pretty steep hike! I heard Bertha gasp when she reached the top. There were deer on the other side! So, that’s what the dog had been after! But, we looked back and forth and saw no sign of the elusive Scooby, so, when the deer pranced off across the hills, we decided to follow them and see if we, would also end up finding the lost dog. We kept calling his name as we went and I was starting to worry. It was getting closer to sunset and neither of us had a headlamp, so I figured we had to find the dog in the next hour or we’d be wandering the hills in the dark.

Once we’d climbed yet another summit, we came across about thirty deer. It was a lovely sight!!! Just then, Scooby came running up, mouth foaming from the effort from behind us! Whew!!! He was safe!!! And, really thirsty! Bertha gave him plenty of water from her Nathan and we headed back on our adventure.

It wasn’t long before we came to the beautiful, jagged edges of the cliffs, high above Wilson Creek. Bertha and I love running the 10 mile loop down there and it was amazing to be up so high that the path looked miniature below. We could hear the far-away sounds of the bubbling water and see the tiny ribbon weaving it’s way through the red canyon. We stood on the edge of the cliff, taking in the spectacular view of the valley below and the mountains that ringed it as far as the eye could see. Bertha and I started noticing landmarks like the Sugar beet factory in Nampa. It looked so tiny from up there! We could see several towns all at once from our viewpoint and it was just an overwhelming feeling to be that high up.

We finished up our run, high-fived as we always do when we’ve accomplished another great, epic run and then headed back home. Scooby sat politely in the back of my Suburban, calm and worn down from our shared adventure.

Elevation Gain: 1,798 feet. Average HR: 121. Felt: Happy and in AWE of the Owyhee mountains and the spell they cast on me every time I come back!!!!