40 Miles for 40 Years – My “Over the HillS!” Birthday Run

On November 2nd, I turned the big four -O!! 40 years YOUNG! I can’t believe it! 40 is a pretty special number for me since it was the age my Mom was the year she ran her marathon. Four and a half years ago, when I took those first steps to becoming a healthier Mommy, my ultimate goal was to run a marathon the year I turned 40 years old just like my Mom had done.  So, here I am!! Finally 40!

Since I’d ran that first marathon a few years back (and gone on to do other ultra marathons including my 100 miler this past March) I needed a special way to commemorate the day.  So, I invited a bunch of my crazy running buddies to join me as I ran 40 miles to celebrate 40 years of a good life!

It couldn’t have been more perfect to begin my special day, in the dark, at 5:30 am with a headlamp meeting up with Ryan at the base of Lucky Peak. That alone was kind of sentimental for me. A year ago I moved to Boise. The night before my birthday, I was feeling a little down since I was still unpacking and didn’t have any official plans to run with anyone the next day for my birthday. It was late when the phone rang. It was my friend, Ryan, inviting me on my first-ever midweek trail run by  headlamp!!! Just one of the “cool, new things” that changed for me when I moved to Boise! The next morning, I awoke at 4:30 am (a time that seemed ungodly, but would over time become my new normal on running days.) It was freezing cold, windy, my hands were numb and I could hardly hear Ryan when he spoke because the wind was blowing so fiercely! But, we ran the Homestead Trail up towards Lucky Peak, stopping once we’d reached a great spot to view the city lights below. It took my breath away and almost made me cry! I felt like the luckiest person in the world — standing on the top of a mountain as a new year of my life began in a new city!

So, beginning this run in the same way was pretty special. To make it even better, my friend Andrea was joining us and my amazing friends Bobby and Calvin, who had driven all the way from Baker City, Oregon to join in were along the for celebration too! I was dressed in my new purple birthday tutu and I was feeling rather festive and full of appreciation for my good friends, my loving husband and five children, the gorgeous trails I run on and my good health! We ran under the bright moon and the twinkling stars and chatted as we made our way up.

At the top, we paused, taking in the views below of the city lights – twinkling like diamonds beneath us against a black sky. Though I’ve seen this view many times since last November, it still causes me to catch my breath and my heart wells up with awe at the sight and wonder of it all. Me, way up on a mountain on the morn of my birthday.

We headed down the hill, running hard and fast, dodging rocks, uneven washout on the road, letting gravity pull our bodies like speeding bullets down the hill, trying not to fall the way I did on my birthday the year before. This time, I can feel the familiarity in my footfalls. I run this trail in the dark all the time now and I don’t hesitate on the downhills anymore – I push myself instead – loving the riskiness of daring the rocks to trip me up, the drive welling up inside my chest as I try to chase down my faster friend! I run well, my cheeks are flushed and I am smiling. In fact, I find that I am running effortlessly — floating down the mountain, gracefully, quickly gaining on Ryan and I am not out of breath. I feel wonderful! I push a little bit harder, see the gap between us closing bit by bit. My mind is buzzing.. “Could THIS be my day? The day I finally catch my faster pal?!” My stride stretches and I get closer and closer, my breathing heavy, when I am right at his heels – JUST as we reach the gate and finish the run! I am elated! He teases, “If you hadn’t had on your headlamp you might have caught me this time!” Maybe next birthday….

We get about 8 miles in before the day starts to dawn. We say goodbye to Ryan as he heads off to work for the day and the others and I head back to my house as the sun starts to rise to meet up with a few pals who will join me for the next leg of our journey. I find my sweet friend, Martha there with her bicycle and a delicious homemade key lime pie — baked special for me! Yum!!! I hug her, and my friends Mark and Dennis also show up, giving me hugs and saying, “Happy Birthday!” My five kids wake and are enjoying all the commotion at our home at such an early hour. They love my friends and I think my friends love them too.

We head off as a group, this time running some roads and the Boise Greenbelt on our travels. We keep the pace easy, conversational. Today is about pleasure, celebration – FUN! We talk about the fall leaves – the golds, the eye-popping reds, the browns. It’s a lovely day – sunny, blue skies, comfortable. A perfect fall day for a 40 mile run! We spot a deer standing statue-still in the Boise River! I jump up and down and clap like a 5 year old! It really feels like nature just sent me the best gift of all – this moment to gaze at this powerful and graceful beast — as she walks serenely through the water, pausing, staring at us, then walking on. It’s a perfect day!

By the time we are back at my house, I and three of my companions have ran over 22 miles! The mission is half complete! My husband is adorable – wearing a pink flamingo hat, working hard to whip up grilled cheese sandwiches for all my friends and I, spreading the table with other goodies for us to munch on – yogurt covered pretzels, potato chips, M and Ms, bananas, oranges and all sorts of tasty drinks! We are nourished, we’re in good spirits and then my friend, Uli comes over! Ulrich Kamm is something of a legend in our group. He’s from Germany and he brings me a delightful little champagne fruit and nut cake covered in chocolate. Uli is over 60 years old and has completed more than 250 ultra marathons, including multiple 100 mile finishes including Leadville, Wasatch, The Bear, Big Horn and 10 at Hardrock – and he’s never ran a step of any of them! He’s a power walker unlike any I’ve ever known! His walking pace causes others to run just to keep up! He’s energetic, funny and inspirational and I am thrilled to have him at my party!

This loop on the Oregon Trails with Uli is one of my favorite! Bobby, Calvin, Mark and I laugh and enjoy the chatter of our faithful leader — as Uli keeps us all putting in a solid effort just to keep him in sight! It’s wonderful! We enjoy the rocky terrain, the views of the Lucky Peak Dam reservoir and I feel very, very alive and incredibly happy as we run (and Uli walks!)

We get back to the house, say goodbye to Uli and Bobby tells me his foot is bothering him. I feel so badly for him. He’s gone 30 miles – a huge effort and I am so proud of him! My buddy, Jon has shown up and joins in with Calvin, Mark and I for the final round. We are in good spirits and the boys are being silly – harassing me like school children, playfully kicking at me or running off with my cell phone to take funny pictures that I’ll find later!

We get a call a few miles later that two of my gal pals have shown up to run with me. Wayne drives them down to meet up with us and it’s a pleasant change of pace to run with the girls, with their fresh legs. I am struggling with needing a bathroom so we do more walking than running, but they don’t seem to mind and we laugh and talk and enjoy the rest of the day.

My friend Christena needs to head off to a family dinner, so Wayne comes to give her a ride and I hug her and thank her for joining me! Denise stays and we slowly meander up the trail back towards the house. Calvin has reached a new milestone — he’d never gone more than 33 miles before — and Jon and Mark help him run strong to the end! They are done several minutes before I come trotting up the road with Denise. I am smiling. Only Denise is there when I hit the big 40 miles goal and the low key finish seems just perfect.  She tells me “congratulations”, hugs me and I head into the house for a shower before my birthday dinner.

It was a wonderful day. About 40 people come to my dinner. My oldest daughter says, “Isn’t that perfect, Mom?!” And, yes, it really is!

I am so lucky! I feel surrounded by people I adore, people I respect and enjoy the company of! My kids and husband are there, smiling, enjoying the fellowship of our friends and I am happy. It has been a life well lived thus far!!! 🙂 Here’s to many, many more miles and years ahead…..



Last Medium Run

I have a dream – a dream to run 100 miles and qualify for the Boston Marathon before my 40th birthday on November 2nd. So far this year, I’ve achieved half of my dream by running the Buffalo Run 100 miler on March 23rd. This Saturday, I have a chance to achieve the second part of my goal – to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It won’t be easy. I need to run a 3:45:00 or faster to “BQ.” My last marathon in May was a 3:48:33. Close, but not close enough.

Today I ran from my house down towards Lucky Peak Lake. The first mile is fairly flat and I took it easy, warming up, relaxing my muscles and allowing them to warm up good (which I believe will be key on race day as well – either by walking or gently jogging a mile before the race or by taking it a bit easier on the first mile in the marathon. I haven’t decided which yet.) The second mile is a crazy steep downhill with about 230 feet of loss! It’s a rush!!! I’m a good downhiller and practicing one more time, nice and easy on this hill is excellent practice for what awaits me on the Pocatello Marathon course where there is a loss of elevation in the first half of the race of 1,400 feet!!!! I’m nervous and excited to see how I race on such a course since I’ve only done fairly flat marathons in the past. I’ve read plenty of race reports about Pocatello and some say they ran out so fast and hard in the first half that their quads were thrashed by the second half. In the mountains, when running trails, I’ve often heard others say similar things when they run long stretches of downhill. In my experience, I usually have felt really strong even after running miles downhill at a pretty quick clip, but…. this is a marathon. It’s different! Can I do a fast pace downhill for several miles and still have what it takes to bring home a Boston Qualifying time in the last half? That’s the big question!

I ran that second mile today in 7:37, feeling like I was gently gliding downhill, taking it easy, letting gravity pull me along and never fighting it. (This, I have often believed is the secret to successful downhill running – relaxing and leaning slightly forward, staying fairly perpendicular to the road, never braking or locking the quads, not pushing the pace at all – just riding the “wave” down, letting gravity do the work, while you catch your breath and enjoy the breeze blowing past while the Garmin rewards you with a faster pace than you can normally comfortably hold on the flat!)

Once I was off the highway and onto the Boise Greenbelt, I turned towards Lucky Peak Dam and found a strong headwind. I settled into a pace I felt I could manage until the turnaround and just enjoyed the views of the black, jagged canyons jutting high into the air on either side of me, high atop hills of golden grasses and sagebrush and scree – the crazy piles of broken rock fragments at the bases of these mighty hillsides – a trail runner’s Russian Roulette for a sprained ankle (or bragging rights!)

The jagged canyons on my right reflected in the Boise River, which is fairly still past the dam – like a pool of dark amber glass -still, motionless, lovely. The day was warm, nearing 80 degrees, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, though the sight and smell of burning forest fires hung like a wet blanket over the city of Boise, preventing fresh air from coming or going. The stagnant air was oppressive, heavy. I longed for a breath of crisp, clean, fresh air but it was not to be. I was sweating more than usual and regretted not bringing any water.

I ran the two miles out to Sandy Pointe Park, stopped the Garmin for a few seconds and turned on the water faucet in the picnic section and drank a few gulps of lukewarm water. As I turned on the Garmin again, I swallowed and the taste of licking an old metal pipe was strong in my mouth. Ugh! Next time I bring my own water!

I turned at 4 miles and headed back, the wind still in my face. This happens every time I run down in the canyons. It seems coming or going the wind is in my face! It had a slightly cooling effect, but made getting my pace up more difficult. At about this point the song, “Top Of the World” by the Carpenters came on my Ipod. It made me smile and these two lines stood out to me:

Something in the wind has learned my name
And it’s telling me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There’s a pleasing sense of happiness for me

As I stand on the cusp of my race with some solid training under my belt, I hope I can carry that sense of happiness and joy into my race on Saturday. Sometimes when I have a big goal, I can get carried away with the “whatifs” and worry myself silly – so much so that I’ve sabotaged my own races at times by not being able to sleep for days before or having my inner critic at the ready whispering, “You can’t do this!” over and over during the race. I’m committed to NOT allowing that to happen this time! I’m going to eat well, rest, stretch and mentally get into my “happy place” before the race this time. When the gun goes off, I’m going to run by feel – not by fanatically obsessing over my Garmin’s pace or distance. I believe that if my body is ready and trained well enough that it will all work out on race day.

My last marathon wasn’t supposed to go so well. It was a benchmark marathon. I had been to the chiropractor three times that week with IT band problems and I had 2 fifty milers on the horizon that were my “key races.” In fact, the first mile I ran with friends and chatted and told them all, “I feel like I’m showing up to a final exam on a class I didn’t attend even by BEING at this marathon!” since I’d been running trails and racing ultras for the previous year and a half and assumed I would have lost what little road speed I had previously — when my best marathon had been a 4:20:59. My only long-shot hope was to break 4 hours and I’d written in my log book that morning, “Breaking 4 is unlikely since I’m not trained for this. I’m expecting a 4:10 or so.” I ran by feel, racing smart, holding back, eating more frequently and drinking more often than I had done in my previous 3 marathons. And, it worked! Relaxing, running steady, eating, drinking, staying mentally happy brought me a 32 minute PR! I was stunned! I felt like I hadn’t even “tried” and yet – maybe that’s the point! Running long distances in the mountains seems to have strengthened my legs and my resolve. I can go for hours and hours and suffer many discomforts and never, ever want to quit. And, by contrast, not having to worry so much about spraining an ankle or doing a face-plant on a sweet, technical downhill meant I could relax in a new way, and the pace was much faster than I can manage on mountainous, rocky terrain, so it felt good. Maybe it was a fluke!!! Maybe that 3:48:33 was the best race I’ll ever run! I don’t know yet. I’ll find out soon if I have it in me to earn that sub 3:45 and the coveted BQ to reach my dreams before that 40th birthday sneaks up on me in a couple of months.

Wish me luck!!!!

My splits today:
Mile 1: (warm up) 9:20
Mile 2: (downhill) 7:37
Mile 3: (greenbelt) 8:15
Mile 4: (greenbelt) 8:42
Mile 5: (greenbelt) 8:38
Mile 6: (greenbelt) 8:44
Mile 7: (uphill – 233 feet gain against heavy traffic) – 10:24
Mile 8: (hooray – flat reached the top) 8:50

Total: 8.01 miles. Time: 1;10:40. Pace: 8:49. Elevation Gain: 315 feet. Felt: Controlled, Good. Ready to BQ on Saturday or die trying!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Silence The Negative Chatter!

I had a workout that didn’t go perfectly today. It was an interval workout that I thought I could handle with two faster guy friends. It was 3 x 1600 at 7:20 w 800 recoveries + 1 mi WU and 1 mi CD.  Bonus for doing a 4th interval at 7:20.  I told my buddy, Frank before we started “Let’s do the bonus one today! It’ll be good for us!” The truth is I haven’t ran intervals for about two years (and neither had Frank) so we weren’t actually sure how it would go!! Seems I was a little overconfident!

We did our warm up mile then Frank took off like a rocket ahead of me. I yelled out, “Frank! That’s too fast! (He was doing about a 6:30 pace.) I looked helplessly over at Ryan who was beside me and he took off after Frank to try and get him under control and back on pace. And, the amazing thing was, though he was able to slow him down just a bit, Frank continued to feel awesome and kept running really well for each and every interval! Ryan stayed with him encouraging him on and pacing him and it was fun to watch the two of them doing so great.  I, on the other hand, was struggling just to make the splits!

Interval 1 was at a 7:18 pace and felt pretty good.

Interval 2 was harder since I was chatting with Frank when it started and had to go from walk pace to super fast in a hurry.  7:24

Interval 3 I was determined to go faster so I could get back on track for a 7:20 average. My time – 7:18 — right on the nose (back on track!)

Interval 4 I fell apart. I was pushing myself as hard as I could, lifting my knees, swinging my arms harder, harder, trying with everything I had to get my pace up — but I kept seeing 7:50 ish. It was like running in sand even though I was on the asphalt. I was just out of gas.  My time? 7:45.  I know that doesn’t seem like much off, but I was discouraged. In the past when I did intervals or tempo work, I would nearly always nail my times. I was consistent.

With my dream of qualifying for Boston at the Pocatello Marathon in 6 weeks looming on the horizen, it caused some self doubts. “Am I really fast enough to BQ if I can’t even hit my numbers in a speed workout in training?”  It really bummed me out. I don’t handle failure very well. I know it’s just part of life (and I’ve certainly had plenty of practice with it) yet it’s still a difficult area for me.

While I cleaned the house today and looked after the five kids, I was considering what to do for the next few weeks as I prepare for my marathon.  I haven’t used a traditional schedule to prepare. I’ve honestly spent most of my time in the mountains on trails, running longer distances at slower paces with plenty of hillwork.  It seemed to serve me pretty well since my last marathon in May was a 3:48 (just 3 1/2 minutes over a BQ time!) I’ve continued to put in between 175-200 miles a month and have spent most of that doing trail running with the intention of adding a bit of speed and tempo work to the schedule on roads to sharpen my speed to hopefully shave off those last few minutes between me and my dream goal!

When I came home from the run today, I went to Runner’s World online and created a specific Smart Coach plan based on my own abilities just to see how close today’s workout goals were to what would be prescribed for me. Turns out it was pretty close. A 4 x 1600 at 7:35 was the suggestion for me. I am fairly certain that would have been easily doable. It’s only a few seconds difference, but when you’re really pushing, that little bit can make the difference between attainable and out of reach.

While I was obsessing about this, my friend Ryan headed into our local running store, Shu’s to ask advice from the owner, Mike, who is well known for happily giving training tips to the locals.  I hadn’t even thought of that and felt incredibly lucky to have a running buddy who cared enough to help research my dilemma.  Mike’s advice for me? I should stick with the tougher workouts and just do less intervals.  If I’d have stopped at the 3 intervals that ended up being right on target, the workout would have been a success.  My form was suffering in the final one. I was struggling.  He says I should have allowed myself to quit the lap right then and not feel bad about it. That was awesome to hear! He gave Ryan some other helpful training advice for me that I will read over and try to implement in these last few weeks as I fine tune myself for the marathon!

I found this tonight and thought it really hit home for me and was something I needed to see. I hope it helps some of you who may also be struggling with challenging workout goals or big dreams that you aren’t totally sure you can accomplish! I’m really very lucky to have amazing friends who care enough to guide and direct me (and offer encouragement when I need it!)  But, ultimately, I am responsible for what goes on in my head. I need to learn to silence the negative chatter and instill a positive mindset no matter WHAT as I approach each workout, each day, each race.  Believing in myself regardless of the outcome is really the ultimate goal!


Beat Coach Pete 5k

I have been hoping to do this race for a few years. Boise State University football Coach, Chris Peterson does this 5k each year to help raise scholarship money for the college. The idea is to try to run the event faster than the coach so you can earn one of the coveted “I Beat Pete” t-shirts to show off to all your friends. If you don’t beat Pete you get a shirt that says, “I’ll beat Pete next year” which is pretty fun! I’m a BSU alumni, so this was on my “must do” list!

There were over 2500 entrants this year! The mood was festive and fun at the start. Wayne and I got a picture with the BSU Bronco mascot. I also bumped into quite a few pals and got to mingle and say hello. The temperature was chilly but perfect for a race. There was just a slight breeze, it was sunny and beautiful.

I tried to get placed somewhere towards the front – maybe 8 rows back, but once the start happened it was mostly a push/shove shuffle and then really difficult to find room to stretch out and get to my pace for the entire first mile. I kept thinking it would spread out, but there were little kids, strollers and even a motorized wheelchair right in the front pack to get around. I had my shins and shoes stepped on and I accidentally almost knocked a man over as we all tried to move ahead to our own pace. I ended up just easing back since there was no real way to get ahead since even the grass on both sides of the greenbelt was totally wall-to-wall people. By mile 2, things had spread out some and I was able to settle into the pace I’d intended (around 7:25-7:30). That felt good!! It was fun to be running with a nice group at that point all going about the same pace and I enjoyed myself a lot.

By the time we came off the greenbelt and I could see the Bronco stadium, I was pretty excited. BSU is famous for it’s blue “Smurf Turf” football field and I was excited that the race finished inside the stadium. I was surprised to see the finish line so soon after we entered. I’d assumed we still had a ways to go and would have to make a loop around the track, so I didn’t get into full sprint mode before the finish line, but it was still a lot of fun. I was super pumped when one of the volunteers wrote a black X on my hand signifying I had in fact, Beat Coach Pete and was deserving of the prized t-shirt! Wooo hoo!!!!

Fun day!!

Finish time: 22:40  Pete’s time? Not sure, but pretty sure it was something around 30 minutes. I heard he high-fived those who finished after him! What a great guy!

Elevation Gain: 58 feet (just two bridges -everything else was flat.) Average HR: 167 Max HR: 240!!! The interesting thing is that my average heart rate for mile 3 was only 129, like my body had adjusted to the faster pace. Sweet! I’m even more excited since this is exactly 3 weeks to the day of my 100 mile race! I guess I’m recovered!

When I got back home, the kids were excited to hear I’d accomplished my goals for the day (to beat Coach Pete and to run a 5k in about the time of my McMillan Predictor for being on pace for a BQ in the fall – which was 23:03.) I heard my 9 year old son say as I walked outside, “That is soo cool our Mom can beat the BSU football coach, huh?”  That made my whole day!


Test Tempo Run

After my daughter’s friends woke up from the sleepover this morning, a clever plan formed in my mind. Since one of the young gals lives close to the Greenbelt, I decided to jump on the chance to get in a run after dropping them both back off at their homes this morning.

I arrived at the Greenbelt around 11 am and it was already about 80 degrees and very sunny. I was eager to test out the ankle again and hopefully get in a little tempo work for my marathon training.  Knowing it how hot it was due to my later start and because I was not wanting to push the ankle too hard yet, I decided that I’d set a goal of 10 miles at about 45 seconds slower than marathon goal pace (so, around 9:53 min/mile for today since marathon goal is about 9:08.) I knew if today’s test went well, there’s still plenty of time to ramp myself back up to the speed I need to break 4 hours.

I was pleasantly surprised how well my ankle felt from the start! SWEET!  No pain, no swelling or limping and just a bit of soreness. I relaxed into my tunes and just let my legs find their own pace for the first mile. I always run very slow the first mile and when I do that, I tend to have a much better run than if I try to hit a faster pace in that first mile. My body tends to speed up as I go for middle distance runs, so I just let it do it’s thing. Mile 1 was a 10:18 pace and I gradually speeded up to about 9:30s – 9:40’s for most of the run and finished with a final mile at 8:36 feeling I still had something left to give. Perfect! Average Heart Rate for the Tempo Run: 179. Felt strong. That’s about 80% of my max. Thinking it’s a good place to aim for for the race.

I love this particular area of the greenbelt in Eagle that runs along the Boise River. I started and finished in this fantastic little park that has a bathroom, water fountains to refill my water bottle with cold water and water sprayers for the local children (that I unashamedly ran right into to cool off – ahhhhh – heaven!)

After running my 10 (at a 9:36 average pace), filling my water bottle and using the bathroom, I reset the Garmin and cooled down with a nice walk along the River. I walked until I was closer to town and then took a detour to the local Wendy’s, bought an ice cold Dr Pepper and then walked back to the River, where I took off my shoes and socks and soaked my feet in the Boise River and savored the day. Perfection!  (Got in 2 miles on the cool down too!) Average heart rate for the cooldown: 140. Felt great!

Total miles for today: 12

P.S. I saw two snakes today – one about three feet long that crossed the path right in front of me and another little guy later on that I nearly stomped on accidentally. 🙂


I Ain’t No Quitter – 50 Mile Race Redo

 “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.  Action has magic, grace and power in it.”  — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I was pulled from the Big Horn 50 mile race last Saturday just after 32 miles (and more than 10 hours of running) when I missed a time cut off by a few minutes. It’s been bugging the crap out of me.  I felt fine, strong, even, when they pulled me and it troubled me that I wasn’t even allowed to try and finish the race (which had plenty of downhill in the remaining 18 miles, which is my strength.) I kept thinking, “I would have made the 15 hour final cut off if I’d been allowed to continue.”, but who can say for sure.

All week long I asked my husband, “What should I do with these feelings, now? It’s months away before the next 50 mile race near where I live. I can’t live with the big question in my heart, “Can I really do it?” for that long.

My friend, Randy announced a group run a few days ago. He was planning on having the group meet on a trail head, a few miles from Bogus Basin and then climbing up, up, up to Shaffer Butte (around 7500) and then back down. It was going to be close to 25 roundtrip.  That got the wheels turning in my head. Hmm…. What if I did it twice? 50 miles in the mountains. Maybe I could do my own little “Big Horn Repeat.”

My friends Ryan and Michelle mentioned to the group that they were going to start early,  near the top at a spot called Deer Pt (around 6884 elevation) and run down to Corrals Trail, where the elevation is about 3700.  Michelle was planning on doing around 12 miles and her husband was planning on doing the out and back for about 24-25.  I asked if they’d mind if I joined them at the earlier start (5 am) and told Ryan about my crazy plans.  Now, Ryan’s a pretty accomplished runner. After losing 135 lbs a couple years ago, he trained hard and qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2010 in his first attempt! Shortly after, he paced one of our ultra friends in his first 100 mile attempt. They made it 93 miles before being pulled for a time cut off.  Ryan ran Boston this year in 3:19 and then came home and ran “the toughest half marathon in the northwest”, Robie Creek course out and back all on his own, since he’d missed the race due to the Boston conflict. He ran my Lake Lowell Marathon shortly after that, holding the first place spot for many miles until he struggled and faded back. In late May, he ran the Pocatello 50 miler (a really challenging course, with tons of water crossings, snow and elevation gain and loss). Just last Saturday, he ran an unofficial 50 miler called The Schaffer Butte Run and crushed his time from the Pocatello by a few hours. So, it was a big surprise to me when Ryan volunteered to run the entire 50 miles with me again this week! The man’s a machine!

When I told my husband about my idea, he was very supportive and even decided to come along and run the first 12 miles with Ryan’s wife, Michelle, which I thought was awesome. I’ve been hoping to get my husband interested in trail running and this was a perfect opportunity!

We started our run, bright and early at 5 am. It was still dark out, so we all wore headlamps.  The crisp, early morning air was delicious and I enjoyed staring up at the stars and the crescent moon up in the velvety black sky as we ran hard through the mountains so early into the new day.  Deer Point starts at 6,884 ft. We ran from the top, on forest roads, until we reached a trail called Hard Guy (which we agreed, especially on the way back up, is a fitting moniker!) From Hard Guy, we ran to Corrals Trail, to the parking lot for a total of about 11.84 miles one way.

Starting the run up high reminded me a lot of Big Horn’s start, which, for this year’s snow course, also had a nice elevation loss in the early miles. I ran like a maniac last week in the first few miles, loving the downhill start, despite the mud and over-crowded singletrack. Ryan and I started our run very similarly.  My Garmin recorded our first mile as a 7:47 pace! We were flying and I felt determined and strong!

One thing I felt very strong about was leaving the Garmin on the entire time – no matter what happened (stops to use the bathroom, to adjust clothing, to chat with spouses and friends, to eat, even later on, to wait for traffic multiple times at crosswalks when we headed back into Boise (which, indeed happened probably 10 times.) I wanted to treat my run like a race and see if, even with the delays that come up, I could “make” the 15 hour time cut off Big Horn had.  I needed to know if I had what it takes to do it or not. I figured the delays we would face would mimic time in aid stations, crowded trails and check ins and outs at Big Horn last week.  I couldn’t replicate the mud – the crazy, calf-high, shoe-sucking miles of mud from Big Horn, but I did replicate multiple water crossings, crazy elevation loss and some serious climbs on single track. I was also running on legs that had put out a pretty hard effort just one week before – more than 10 hours at Big Horn giving my all.  I figured that would even things out some, too.

Ryan had jokingly told me before we started that he wanted us to get down to the Corrals Trail parking lot in about 2 hours. He later confessed, he really didn’t think he’d make that time goal – but it turned out that we came awfully close!  We passed our friends, who were on their way up from the 7 am start, about 1/2 a mile from the parking lot!  It was awesome seeing our pals and gave me a mental boost. We got down to the parking area (which also has an outhouse) and I used the facilities, while Ryan refilled our water with jugs we’d left in my car there.  He was awesome, helping me and then sending me back up the mountain, while he hid some of our extra food for later, since my husband would be taking that car home and it wouldn’t be there the next time we came down the mountain. He told me after he caught back up that we’d only spent maybe 5 minutes in the “aid station” there. Doing good!

Now, I can run downhills very well. I run flats good. But uphill, I seriously suck! I went from seeing a nice steady downhill pace to a sudden slow-as-molasses uphill crawl. Mile 17 was a 31:48! The sun was out. It was getting hot and we were slogging back UP that sweet downhill on rocky, single track trail. It was slow-going. It was about here that I started to struggle with nausea. That would become the biggest trial of the day off and on for hours. I felt like throwing up. I took a gel. I use the GU Lemon Sublime ones that have ginger and chamomile in them and thought it might ease my stomach distress. It only made it worse. I spent the better part of that climb burping and feeling awful. (I had to apologize to Ryan for all the unladylike behavior. haha.) I soon realized I’d accidentally left my salted potatoes and hand held full of soda back in my fridge at home (guess it really was like Big Horn all over again, where the aid stations had ran out of potatoes and soda when I got to them!)

We trudged along, Ryan way ahead, while I dragged along behind up, up, up the mountain. I was craving Coke.  After dealing with severe morning sickness with all five of my children, I’d learned that Coke can always settle my stomach when it’s upset. I became very focused on getting some, even though it was a pretty ridiculous wish way out there in the mountains, so far from any stores.  Poor Ryan. I’m sure I repeated my longings for soda at least a zillion times. Thankfully, though, Ryan did have some pop in his truck back at the top of Deer Point – about 23.5 miles into the run.  He ran ahead where he found a couple of our friends and asked them to grab me an orange soda from his cooler and bring it back down to where I was lagging behind, nauseated and plodding along slowly uphill.

About mile 22, I looked up and saw two smiling faces coming towards me! My friends, Sparkle (who is every bit as fun-loving as her name suggests) and Chele were jogging down to me holding the longed-for drink! I could have kissed them both!  Ryan had teased them earlier to go slowly on their descent, so as not to shake the soda too much. They had replied, “We’re graceful runners! We GLIDE, we don’t JOG!” hahaha. Well, despite their “gliding” the soda started spewing out the top when I opened it! We all got a good laugh out of that! Ohhh and did it taste heavenly! Cold, sweet, orange soda just hit the spot. I gulped down several mouthfuls before continuing on.  We just walked, while we chatted and I drank several sips along the last mile or so back to the car. With every sip, I started to come back to life.  My stomach settled, calories got into my blood stream and I started to feel good again.

Seeing friends along the way was such a motivation and source of encouragement!

Seeing friends along the way was such a motivation and source of encouragement!

It was such a treat to reach the car and see my husband, Wayne, Ryan’s wife, Michelle and several of our running friends waiting there.  Wayne even had a folding lawn chair set up and I took the opportunity to sit down and take my right shoe off and pour several pebbles and some dirt out of it. Ahhhhh. I ate a few bites of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sipped some more soda, filled our packs with new water, posed for a couple of pictures with my friends and then we were off again – heading once more back down the mountain.

The heat was really getting to me, so I ran pretty slow the first few miles.  My stomach was still settling down and Ryan was feeling strong, so I had a hard time keeping up. I enjoyed chatting with my friend, Chele for a bit, before I sent her on her way, too, since she was feeling stronger and I didn’t want to hold her back.  It was about this point, that I remembered my mp3 player in my pack.  I took it out, along with the second Garmin and put them both on.  I had the 2nd Garmin just in case my first Garmin died on the run, so I’d be able to keep track of the miles and overall time no matter what.

Once I got that music playing, things started to change for me.  My mood lifted. My legs turned over faster. I started to feel GOOD again. The first song I heard was “Be Ok” by Ingrid Michealson. I felt it was appropriate as she sang the words, “I just wanna be ok, be ok, be ok. I just wanna be ok today.” It truly was my heart cry. I just wanted to know at the end of the day that I was “good enough.” That I could, indeed accomplish a big goal that I’d set before me.

We reached the Hard Guy trail, and that’s when things really took off for me! I love the single track through this section.  All around us were wildflowers – white,  yellow and purple! The scent of the white ones was similar to lilacs (my favorite flower!) The Boise Foothills are so beautiful this time of year! Lots of green grasses swaying in the breeze, some trees and all those lovely flowers! It was a high point for me to be running while surrounded by such beauty.  Pink’s song, “So What” came on about here and before I knew it I was running about an 8:30 pace easily, rocking out to my tunes, dancing, leaping down the hills, running like a maniac.  The Beatle’s song, “Help” came on after that. I just kept running and didn’t look back.  After ZZ Top’s “She’s Got Legs” was over, I hit pause on the mp3 and turned to say something to Ryan.  Ryan?! He wasn’t there.  I looked way up the hill and saw him in the distance. I almost laughed out loud! I guess I was feeling better. I decided to just crank the tunes again and let him catch up with me when he could.

That didn’t take long, either. Soon, I was marching on an uphill and Ryan caught up. I grinned and said, “I guess music helps me run better, huh?” He said, “YEAH! You should always run with music if that’s what it does for you.”  Ryan stayed ahead the rest of the way to the Corrals parking lot. I relaxed and twirled on the mountain top, stuck out my arms like a bird, ran swiftly and just HAD FUN for a change! I realized that when I’m having a great time and my mind’s in a happy place, I tend to run better.  So, I went with it for as long as it lasted.  Unfortunately, I had ran out of food at about mile 28 and I’d only had water – warm, disgusting, blah, water – for many miles. I was fading again. My nausea returned with a vengeance.  I slowed way down again, just shuffling and feeling in a foul mood. I started muttering about cold Coke again. It’s all I could think about.

I ran the last 1/4 mile into Corrals at a dead man’s shuffle pace.  Ryan was patiently waiting at the gate for me.  I looked him in the eye and said, “I really need some soda, Ryan. Please, can we run down the mountain on the road to the grocery store about 3 miles down so I can buy one. I’ll buy you one too.” He said we could and my mood improved. I used the porta potty and Ryan refilled our water and pulled out our stashed snacks. My stomach felt ill just looking at the things I had available – trail mix, a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich which had been smashed and was sweating in the plastic bag in the heat.  I just stared at the unappealing food. My brain knew I needed to eat but my stomach just felt so terrible it was hard to get an appetite for anything I had.  I put the trail mix in my pocket and took a couple tiny bites of the sandwich, then put the rest of it in my Nathan pocket, too.  I stood up, leaning on my knees, trying to steel myself for another 16 miles of running.

We were heading out of the parking lot, towards Bogus Basin road, when Ryan spotted the first of our friends making their way back to the parking lot! I was worried about time since my pace had slowed way down, but seeing first one, then another and then another smiling face pop around the corner at the end of the trail really was very encouraging.  I stood as each of our friends came down to chat with us.  They asked how I was and I told them I was feeling sick and needed some cold Coke.  Mike, Ben Blessing’s dad, said, “Did you say Coke?”  I nodded. He walked over to his truck, opened it up and pulled out this huge cooler.  He lifted the lid to reveal tons of ice-cold drinks buried in ice – including one, ice cold Coke!!!!!  He held it out to me and I rushed up and gave him the biggest hug and said, “You just saved me!” I couldn’t believe it! It was like a miracle! I think the other runners had similar thoughts of him being a magic Genie when he passed out beers and water. I think Mike became everyone’s best friend right at that moment!

With ice cold Coke in my hand (a screw-top, thankfully), Ryan and I headed out to the road and started running downhill towards town. I had on my tunes, was sipping soda and was starting to feel better again.  Just a few minutes later, I saw my husband, who passed us in his car, waving and smiling!  He turned around and met up with us shortly after.  He was there to crew us the last 16 miles!  Glory hallelujah!  Wayne’s crewed for me many times, so I knew we’d be well taken care of for the final leg of our journey.

When he pulled off the road, it was such a relief to take off our Nathans and dump them into the car, knowing we’d have access to them along the way, as needed, without having to carry them anymore. YES! He’d also brought me the potatoes with salt and flask of soda I’d had in the fridge at home.  I was still too nauseous to eat, but was thankful to have them nearby if I did later on.  I kissed him and told him how much I loved him and then Ryan and I headed into town, aiming for the Boise Greenbelt to finish our last few miles.  I had roughly figured we’d earned enough elevation gain and loss in the mountains to equal Big Horn, so this was our final stretch where we just needed some flatter miles.  The Big Horn finishes up on a very flat stretch of 5 miles of road, so this was as close as I could get for that.

It was about 6 miles of running, having to stop at stop lights, then finding our legs pretty locked up so we’d creak and shuffle across the crosswalk, laughing at how ridiculous we looked, only to repeat the whole business again a couple blocks later. Ryan and I were in good spirits in this section.  Wayne kept waiting for us every mile or so with cold drinks and an encouraging word.  It was wonderful having his help!

It was very, very hot by this point.  We were really tired and I remember passing one home where the sprinklers were going. I shamelessly walked right through each and every one of them — loving the icy water yet almost immediately wanting to scream from the pain it brought from the chaffing of my inner thighs. Ouch!  I’d been feeling blisters forming on the bottom of my feet and my toes for many hours. The bottom of my feet felt like someone had hit them over and over with a hammer.  My brain was foggy. I was lethargic, tired, ready to be done. I was walking a lot. I remember looking at my Garmin and seeing that I was doing a 20 min/mile. I realized I still had about 11 miles to go and I almost started weeping thinking I’d have to keep going for 3 1/2 more hours. Ugh!

When Ryan and I finally got to the Greenbelt, I was relieved.  10 more miles. Right away I noticed a patch of soft-looking grass under a tree and flopped down and stretched out.  Ryan did the same. Man, it felt good to stretch the back out, but I didn’t want to get up.  Ryan said, “C’mon! We still have more running to do.” I groaned and got up, trying not to focus on all the footfalls I still had left before I’d reach 50 miles.  Ryan pointed out that we were “crushing” the time goal. I wanted to finish in 15 hours – the same time cut off that Big Horn has and we were well on our way to coming in under that goal.

I think it was around mile 42 or 43 that we came across the flooded sections of the Greenbelt.  We’d ran through two water crossings each time we’d done the mountain section (so, 6 times we’d submerged our feet as we forded the crossings) and here we found sections of the path covered in overflow from the Boise River, which runs parallel to the Greenbelt.  My feet were so hot and I felt terrible, so this section really picked up my spirits.  Ryan was ahead of me and at first was trying to pick and choose his steps across it, trying not to get his bright red running shoes wet again. I was ankle deep in freezing cold river water and yelled ahead, “Embrace it, Ryan! Just run through it! It feels great!” Within seconds, he was charging through, whooping and having a ball! “That’s the spirit!” I yelled.

My shoes felt pretty heavy after that, but I didn’t mind. The cold water had been refreshing.  We kept going and going and going, slowly making our way down the Greenbelt.  Ryan promised me somewhere in here that when we finished our 50 miles in Ann Morrison Park, that we’d both jump into the Boise River to celebrate!  It sounded wonderful and I kept thinking about that, as we slowly went along, doing a whole lot more painful, slow walking than running at this point – just intent on getting to the 50 mile mark.

At some point in here, a couple of faster runners passed us, giving us a look like, “What the heck is wrong with you two?”  We were shuffling like a couple of old ladies and most of these runners were probably out for their daily 3 miler.  I’m sure they were thinking, especially after glancing at Ryan’s muscled calves, “Yeah, right, buddy! Pick up the pace!” We laughed about that.   When we finally reached 45 miles, we turned around to head back the final 5 miles to the park where our spouses, Ryan’s kids and our friends, Randy and his wife, Patti were waiting to cheer us in.  Knowing that they were there for us was a real mental boost. It really did feel like a race to me.

We encountered some dude doing speedwork about here. He ran at us, hard and fast, panting and puffing, then stopped right in front of Ryan and turned around to head the other way.  Ryan looked at me and said, “That guy is taunting me!” I said, “Ok, bigshot! Go show him what you got!” I laughed as Ryan tried to pick up the pace and chase after the guy.  I was actually pretty surprised when he did, in fact, get some knee lift in there and looked fast for about three seconds.  Then he was done and shuffled back at me saying, “That’s all I had left.”  We laughed.  It was funny to feel so slow. We started making dumb jokes like, “This IS me sprinting right now” as we dragged our sorry selves across the pavement at a break-neck 17 – 25 min pace.  Old ladies walking dogs, little kids on trikes – all passed us easily here.  None of them knew what we’d been through or how long we’d been running or the mission I had before me. It was kind of funny.

Getting there...but the steps were getting slower.

Getting there…but the steps were getting slower.

At about mile 48, Wayne met up with us again.  Ryan handed me over to Wayne for the final stretch and he ran ahead to the park to let the others know how close I was. I hugged Ryan and thanked him for helping me on my journey.  As soon as Ryan was gone, I looked at Wayne and burst into tears. I moaned, “I’m soooooo tired. My feet hurt soooo  much. I don’t like this. I never want to do it again.  I just want to lay down, honey!”  Wayne hugged me and chuckled at me.  He’s seen me like this before – usually at the end of a marathon, when I’ve given all I have on the road and am reduced to a raw, empty emotional wreck. He was smiling, too, since he knew I was going to achieve my goal by that point.  Even in my deranged state, I knew it too. I knew I was crushing my time goal – despite flopping onto the grass every half mile or so or leaning on my knees and just coming to a standstill over and over and over.

Somewhere in here, Wayne offered me that salted potato again. I finally took a few small bites. My brain new I was bonking hard and that some fuel would help, even though my stomach wanted nothing to do with anything to eat or drink.  My stomach was so bloated from all the water that I looked a few months pregnant. I was sloshing and yucky feeling. But, I made myself eat just a bit for the final part of my journey.

We had to make some circles around the block, then headed back to the Greenbelt.  Right when we hit 49 miles, we spotted our friends again. Noooo… I said to Wayne. We’re too soon! I feel bad! They were so encouraging, clapping and cheering and I had to shuffle along and say, “I’m so sorry. 1 more mile! Just 1 more mile.” and I kept going.  Ryan and Wayne switched again and it helped having my “pacer” back by my side for the final mile of my journey.  I turned on my music, blocked out everything else and slowly but surely started to find my stride again. We ran until I’d hit 1/2 mile out, then turned back towards the park and our waiting support crew.  I locked my mind into race mode once more. I’d noticed my watch showing that I was nearly the 14 hour mark and I made it my goal to finish before the watch showed 14 hours.  My goal had been 15 hours, so I was still ahead of what I’d set out to do and felt really confident that I was about to become a 50 mile runner no matter what! It was a great feeling! I cranked the pace once I hit .25 away and when I saw my husband and our friends I really laid it down and went into my final kick! My Garmin shows I hit about a 5:25 pace at the finish line! My Garmin battery died just as I hit 50 miles – in 13 hours and 57 minutes! I did it!!! I reached my goal! I proved something to myself out there! I redeemed myself from the Big Horn thwarted attempt! I hugged and kissed my husband and said, “I needed you so much out here today. Thank you for everything!” and Then I hugged Ryan and told him, “You were awesome to help me so much today! Thank you so much!”

I have no idea where this energy came from at the end, but I couldn't wait to cross the "finish line" and become a 50 miler!

I have no idea where this energy came from at the end, but I couldn’t wait to cross the “finish line” and become a 50 miler!

Ryan took off running into the Boise River and dove in with a splash! We were all laughing – especially his four kids! Then he looked at me and said, “Come on!” Wayne helped me get off the Garmins and mp3 player and I started to take off my shoes and everyone said, “Don’t even bother! Just go in!” So I did. I walked right into that water and when I reached Ryan I pumped up my fists in the air in triumph and yelled, “We did it!” It was awesome!

Stats: 50 miles, baby! Time: 13:57.  Pace: 16:45. Best pace: 5:25.  Moving Time: 12:00 (wow, I stood still throughout the day nearly two hours – those flops on the grass, those aid station stops and those stop lights really added up!) Moving pace: 14:26.  Ave HR: 132. Max Heart rate (the HIGHEST I’ve ever seen it by nearly 20 points!) was: 223. Elevation Gain: 4,977 feet. Elevation Loss: 9,180 feet.  Fastest mile all day – mile 1 – 7:47. 🙂

I did it!!! Along with the help of the world's best pacer of course. :)

I did it!!! Along with the help of the world’s best pacer of course. 🙂


The best finish ever - right into the ice cold Boise River in June!!

The best finish ever – right into the ice cold Boise River in June!!



My Favorite Path

I’m in taper mode for Big Horn, so nothing too fast or too long on the schedule for me until the race. I tend to do my best when I have a long, restful taper.  I’m still feeling some soreness in my calves likely from all the climbing I did in the Boise foothills the past month.  I hope that means those calves are going to be healed up and even stronger by race day in two weeks!

I hit my favorite path today. I ran comfortably, enjoying the speedier feeling of the flatter surface of the local greenbelt along a canal with plenty of shade cover and ducks.  I listened to my music and relaxed, enjoying the heat and the breeze and the feel of my ponytails bouncing on my shoulders. I wore a bandana tied around my head. It made me feel tougher. I liked that feeling. 🙂

When I was done, immediately I noticed that I was even sweatier than usual and not hungry at all. I’d forgotten, in all these last few months of mountain running how road running at a faster pace works like an appetite suppressant!  That likely explains at least in part why I’m still packing around an additional 5-10lbs I’d like to drop off my body before my fall marathon. Ultra running makes me HUNGRY! haha! Not just for more scenery and longer and more death-defying terrain – but also for things like cheeseburgers, fries and Cokes.  Aw… heck. Who am I kidding? I love those things no matter what kind of running I’m doing.  Oh well. I really do think I’ll be able to drop those extra pounds once I get back to a marathon training schedule.  That faster pace really does seem to do wonders for my waistline.

Stats: 5.51 miles. Pace: 9:53. Time: 54:33. Ave HR: 160. Felt: Pretty good. Weather: Sunny and breezy – nice.