07/17/13

McCall Trailrunning Classic 40

Louie Lake - one of many breathtaking lakes the McCall Classic 40 mile course offers for your aesthetic pleasure!

Louie Lake – one of many breathtaking lakes along the MTC 40 mile course.

Had an amazing day at the McCall Trailrunning Classic 40 miler over the weekend.  I thoroughly enjoyed running on some of the most technical, difficult trails I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing through some of the most eye-popping scenery Idaho has to offer!

What would a good race report be without a proper mountain leaping photo?

What would a good race report be without a proper mountain leaping photo?

This was one of the first photos I stopped to take during the race. The morning was still and quiet and this gorgeous mist hung over the water. It was heaven-on-earth!

This was one of the first photos I stopped to take during the race. The morning was still and quiet and this gorgeous mist hung over the water. It was heaven-on-earth!

There was a plethora of gorgeous scenery (I took about 130 photos to prove it), a zillion fallen trees to climb over (some so big I had to climb on top as though I were riding a horse just to make my way over) huge mountains to climb, valleys of wildflowers to take in and that perfect silence of all things beyond the trail were all highlights of this course.   There were several ice-cold water crossings to crash through to cool the body off and refresh the soul –  my favorite was through a swift current, up to my thighs with a rope to help assist the runners safely across, which was HEAVEN on my inflamed IT band! I stayed there for several minutes. All in all, the journey was a rugged, beautiful journey through paradise (or hell – depending on how hard you were running and what demons awaited you for the day.)

There were a spectacular display of wildflowers along the course, which made every twist and turn in the trail a wonderful surprise to the eyes!

There were a spectacular display of wildflowers along the course, which made every twist and turn in the trail a wonderful surprise to the eyes!

Trail art - cains showed up here and there along the trail offering some of nature's finest works of art by those who've traveled these paths before.

Trail art – cains showed up here and there along the trail offering some of nature’s finest works of art by those who’ve traveled these paths before.

Purple, yellow, orange and white wildflowers dotted the course and took my breath away with their beauty!

Purple, yellow, orange and white wildflowers dotted the course and took my breath away with their beauty!

Post-card worthy beauty on the top of Boulder Mountain

Post-card worthy beauty on the top of Boulder Mountain

I felt really good for the first 20 miles and was running fairly conservative but strong with similar runners which was enjoyable. I settled in early to two chatty girls and relaxed and let them do the talking, while I enjoyed the faster-paced single track trail of the early miles and the conga line of racers heading along the course through the shady, pine-scented forest.  I took the time to stop and really take in the scenery, to take some photos and to say hello to each and every friend on the course (I’m not kidding when I say I knew the majority of the 40 mile racers and the volunteers, so it was a truly relaxing, social time in the mountains catching up with friends.)  I was holding back, intending to save some turnover for the final miles of the race. I was feeling wonderful, fueling really well and playing it smart. I didn’t fall once though the footing was pretty tricky in many spots and I saw plenty of bloodied knees and heard of a broken finger, so the risk was there if you didn’t play it smart! I had a rough expectation of around 12 hours for the course and was on track for that for a very long time.

Then coming up Boulder Mountain the IT band just locked up (reminded me of Wild Idaho 50 miler a few years back where I limp-ran the final 29 miles.) It was painful and I tried stiff-legging it and running with one normal acting leg and one locked up, but it was difficult to get a reasonable pace going like that with all the boulders and rocks and downhill to deal with. I stopped at a tree and stretched and did some hip-loosening exercises that I’ve used in the past to help. And, they did help – for a few minutes each time, but as the hours passed it became apparent this race would just be a day of getting through and not be a day to push myself hard in pace.  I took an ibuprofen hoping it would reduce the inflammation just enough to let me run again and for a short while I did get the glorious feeling of motion going again, but it didn’t last very long. I even resorted to trying to do Graston therapy on myself (the one thing that always helps me when I struggle with this injury) but let’s just say it didn’t go too well with a smooth rock rubbing up and down my IT band out on the mountain and I gave up my self-doctoring idea pretty quickly!

Luckily, I’d packed several tropical flavored Life Savers and some Caramel Coffee Werther’s candies in my pack and sucking on those and putting on the IPod helped pass some of the tougher stretches when my leg just wasn’t cooperating. I just lost myself in the scenery and made the best of it.

My favorite (knee deep) water crossing! So nice we got to do it TWICE!!

My favorite (knee deep) water crossing! So nice we got to do it TWICE!!

Having struggled with IT band syndrome in the past I knew that I could keep going but that it would be a slog. The IT band had started to act up on me at Silver City 100k three weeks ago, so it did not come as a total surprise.  I’ve spent some time reading a book about an athlete’s mental training the past week and this was a point in the race where I really tapped into those exercises (deep breathing, focusing on a positive outcome no matter what and controlling my emotions) to help me accept what was and to choose “joy” instead of disappointment at the events of the day.

It wasn’t too difficult. I really was having so much fun, I was out in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I’d ever experienced and I had many friends greet me, hug me and high-five me along the way! How could I not be happy? I’ve definitely had my days of disappointment in races in the past and some of those I took to heart. I understand the sting of a dnf and how that can mess with your sense of self-esteem and chip away at your confidence.  But, I’ve had my share of successes, as well.

I’ve ran two 100 mile races and have the belt buckles to prove it! I’ve battled injuries and getting lost in other races and have managed to still find myself at the finish line eventually, crying tears of joy and exhaustion at overcoming the difficulties that I’d encountered to arrive there. I even qualified for Boston two months ago – the dream more precious to me than any other running dream I’ve dared to dream in the past! So, I guess you could say I have finally gained some perspective at this point. Sometimes races don’t go as planned and that’s ok! Because sometimes they are out-of-this-world, over-the-moon WONDERFUL – and it all balances out in the end if you continue to dust yourself off and try, try again in the future, learning from your mistakes and gaining knowledge from what you’ve done right.

The only failures in this world are those who give up and never face their giant again. Because I believe most giants CAN be conquered.  And, isn’t that really the point of these difficult ultra marathons?  To push ourselves beyond our comfort level. To pit man and woman against mountains and weather and long, grueling miles on the body? We, who choose this sport are not here to be coddled or given the “easy road”, we’re here to test our limits, to find out what we’re made of and to ultimately conquer the course – slay the dragon at the finish line!  It doesn’t come easy or with any guarantees of success on the first, second or third try! But, it’s always worth it in the end to keep coming back to the fight until it is won!

I call running trails that are this technical a game of "Think Fast!!" A totally, exciting experience!

I call running trails that are this technical a game of “Think Fast!!” A totally, exciting experience!

I met Jen during the race. She was celebrating turning 40 this week by running the 40 miler! What a fun idea!

I met Jen during the race. She was celebrating turning 40 this week by running the 40 miler! What a fun idea!

The out and back section was my favorite of all since I was able to cheer on the front runners and see each of my friends in the race (and take a few photos with them which was fun!)

The out and back section was my favorite of all since I was able to cheer on the front runners and see each of my friends in the race (and take a few photos with them which was fun!)

I slogged along the next 17 miles or so, excitedly jumping up and down and cheering when I saw the front runners pass me (I was especially thrilled to see Joelle!!) and stopping for hugs and pictures from each friend who came my way as we all made our way through forest and up and over the mountains together. I had a smile on my face, though my right knee was inflamed, sore and tight the further I went.

I finally checked into the Boulder/Louie Lake aid station where my friend (and aid station captain, Emily,) refilled my Nathan with fresh water, offered me watermelon (which I downed hungrily) and a mashed up Popsicle in a cup (which tasted like the sweet nectar of the gods in the heat of the day) and my wonderful mentor and friend, Ande offered me two small peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take along with me for the final 8 miles of the journey (she assured me they were soft and would hit the spot and she was right!) I headed out. My Garmin showed a bit over 37 miles at this point and Emily told me it was closer to 8 miles until the finish (the actual distance of this course is 45 miles)  I’d been on my own for hours, was feeling tired, though well-fueled and was eager to head towards the finish line, though I knew I still had a few more hours to go before I’d arrive.  I left the aid station about an hour before the cut off there and knew I would make it as long as I stayed steady and kept moving.

I headed down the dirt road, then took a left at the sign that directed me, then walked on, eating my sandwich. About a mile away, I hit an intersection where I didn’t see any pink ribbons (which had been my guide all day.)  My Garmin said I was about 38 miles into the course and I didn’t have the heart to turn back and go ask Emily which way I was supposed to go (which I later would regret.) I stood there puzzling over which way to go.

Straight ahead was the Louie Lake Trail head, a parking lot was on my right and to my left was a road.  I didn’t know which way to go.  A woman standing in the parking lot saw me and asked, “Are you lost?” I told her I was in a race and was looking for pink flagging to direct me which way to head towards the finish line.  She said, “I just came from the Louie Lake trail and I saw pink ribbons way up high there.” So, I decided that must be the correct way and I started heading uphill onto the trail.   My instincts were uneasy, though since there was no flagging, but I kept going thinking, “The woman saw some up ahead. I’ll feel better when I reach that.”

Unfortunately, I climbed on and did not see any flagging. I went for another mile or so and found myself along the dam of the lake, where I realized I’d been earlier that day going the other direction. I started to really doubt my choice to continue. I saw a fisherman and asked him if he’d seen other runners heading this way. He said that he had and so I continued on (unknowingly going further and further off course.)  Finally, after not seeing any flagging for another half a mile I turned back.  It just didn’t feel right and I knew getting lost was the last thing I wanted to do as darkness would be approaching within the next couple hours and I didn’t want to get caught in the mountains without a cell phone or head lamp alone.

Just a few minutes after turning back I started to get worried. I was afraid by the time I got back to Emily’s aid station everyone would have gone home and I was worried I’d be stuck, lost and confused waiting for someone to find me.  I tried to remain calm, but found my fears overtaking me and I started to tear up.  Just then, I looked up and saw 3 men coming towards me! I was so relieved! One of them was my friend, David and I recognized his t-shirt as one of the volunteers from Emily’s aid station! He was with a runner who wasn’t feeling very well and that man’s friend, who had also jumped in to offer encouragement for the final stretch.  They thought they were going the right way.  We chatted about not seeing ribbons and they decided we should head on another path nearby. They told me my friends Sparkle and Jenny had also followed them up this path, so all of a sudden it seemed this might really be the right way after all! All I knew was that I was so relieved to not be all alone out in the mountains in unfamiliar territory again! I had people with me and I felt instantly happier and safer!

After another half an hour of not seeing any ribbons (or seeing Jenny and Sparkle) we all agreed we were lost.  I noticed one of them had a cell phone and I asked if he had any coverage on it. He said he did and I asked if I could call my husband.  I dialed his number and it rang but went to voice mail. I left a message and we continued to try and figure our way out of where we were. I’d gotten really turned around when the boys took me on the second path so I no longer knew the way back to Emily’s aid station, even and when I tried to get my Garmin to “go back to start” – it just froze and would not function properly, so it wasn’t much help.

After another half an hour of making no progress on finding the course, I asked to use the cell phone again, hoping to get Wayne to answer.  Again, it went to voice mail. I dialed my own cell phone, then, knowing my 13 year old daughter had that one and I was hoping she could tell him and the race director that we were lost. But, that cell went straight to voice mail, too.  Finally, the man mentioned that he had the race director’s number!!! He dialed it and Jeremy picked up (YAY!!!)  They spoke for about twenty minutes with a bad connection, while the man tried to give our gps coordinates to him that he was finding by using an app on his phone at the same time.  Jeremy tried to figure out where we were and how to guide us back to the proper path with that information.  That was the most wonderful feeling when we realized that others knew we were lost, approximately where we were and we had some guidance again! We walked for another half an hour or so (the other runner was having stomach problems, was dehydrated (I shared my water with him) and he was having plenty of pain in his shins, so we slowly progressed towards the final aid station and were never so grateful to see the two ATV guys there manning it waiting for us!! I could have hugged them both!

I sat down on a log, looked at my Garmin and saw I’d made it 42.3 miles. It was 8:10 and the race cut off was 8:30 pm – and we still had over 5  miles to go to the finish line. It was an obvious decision to ask for a ride back at that point.  There was just no way with the IT band seized up that I could have made it to the finish before the cut off (I mean 5 miles in 20 minutes would mean I’d probably be setting some kind of world record anyways!) and I knew it and accepted that.  I was honestly just so grateful and thankful to know I was safe again and would see my husband and children soon.

How could I not smile when I was rescued in a Pinzgauer?!

How could I not smile when I was rescued in a Pinzgauer?!

The cool part was when the golf course owner (the venue for this race), showed up in some sweet looking Swiss Army jeep thing that reminded me of a narrow Hum Vee and gave us a ride back on the ATV trails in that thing (what a wild time!!!) Going up and down the crazy course in that thing, ducking to not get knocked over by the pine trees’ branches smacking in the open windows! Driving through the water crossings! It was AWESOME! They even gave me a Coke and some trail mix which was much appreciated since I’d been running for over 14 hours, then had to wait for the ride for another 30 min or so and I was a bit hungry. 🙂 There was plenty of laughter on that ride back to the start/finish line and my heart was happy. The day had not turned out like I’d expected it, but it had been an adventure nonetheless!

I was overjoyed when we pulled into the golf course parking lot! My husband was really happy to see me and he held me tight! I was smiling and genuinely thankful to Jeremy, the race director, for answering his phone, guiding us back and sending help to us out there! I was very grateful to the man who’d driven out there and given us a ride back and I was exceptionally happy to be allowed to just rest again. I couldn’t wait to get back to the camp site and hug my sweet kids!!! They were very happy to see me! My 6 year old had even colored this really great poster that said, “GO MOM! I <3 Mom!” for the finish line with pretty pink (my favorite color) flowers and hearts on it. I felt bad I’d gotten off course and she’d not been able to cheer me in with that — but it meant the whole world that she’d made it and I hugged and kissed her and told her how much I loved it!

I’m happy. I’m fine. I need to deal with the injured leg. I’m hoping to see my chiropractor later this week for Graston therapy and hopefully I’ll be running again by next week.

P.S. The things that went supremely WELL in this race:

1. My attitude. I have been reading about mental preparation for athletes lately and have really focused on staying positive no matter what. That paid off for this day and I looked the race director in the eye after it was over and told him wholeheartedly that I took full responsibility for myself and getting lost and had a GREAT TIME on his course and thanked him for doing an excellent job! That felt good to accept my fate with no regrets.

2. Zero blisters or feet problems again! Love Pure Grits!!! Even with my feet plunging right into about 20 or more water crossings I was just fine and dandy! And the feet felt fine at the finish, still.

3. Zero chafing. Yay for Body Glide and knowing how to apply it liberally!

4. Fueling!! THIS was my biggest success!!!! I decided from the start to try to stick to a mostly liquid, simple-to-digest diet for this race and see how it went. I brought along 2 Vi Fuel packs flavored like peach cobbler and they were awesome! Then I turned to what the race offered – Hammer gels and probably took about 8 of them during the race. I have never taken more than 3 GUs or anything like that for any distance before and didn’t know if it would cause stomach distress. I was FINE!! I also had 2 Mrs May’s natural granola bars (about 220 cals each), a few bites of watermelon, a bite of a banana and at the last aid station two small squares of peanut butter and jelly (which was wonderful since I got lost for hours shortly after.) I never bonked. I felt awesome! I took s caps and endurolytes throughout. Seriously would have ran so great on that fueling if the IT band wasn’t an issue. That was a great feeling!

Tempus Photo Design got this shot of me during the race and I really love it! It captures the joy I was experiencing in the beauty of those gorgeous mountains!

Tempus Photo Design got this shot of me during the race and I really love it! It captures the joy I was experiencing in the beauty of those gorgeous mountains!

Elevation gain: 9,626 feet or so. LOTS of climbing – especially when you add on a few extra mountains just for the heck of it!

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/343224615

The McCall Trailrunning Classic is a must-do ultra marathon in the Salmon River Mountains! With plenty of single-track trail and some of the most technical and challenging running I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a relative paradise of wildflowers, lakes and shady Ponderosa Pines, it will take your breath away! Of all the other race courses I have ran in the past, this most reminded me of Big Horn in scenery and difficulty.

The race directors, Jeremy and Brandi Humphrey (ultra runners themselves) put on a well-organized event and pour their heart and soul into it.  Well stocked aid stations, world-class race volunteers ready to meet your every need at the many aid stations along the course and a delicious baked potato bar at the finish make this a race not to be missed!

07/11/13

Heading to McCall for the Trailrunning Classic 40

Mccall 40

This weekend I’m heading to McCall, Idaho to run the McCall Trainrunning Classic 40 miler! My husband will be timing the event and our five children will be helping him out, which they are excited about. I love when we can travel to these things as a family and all participate in some way. Since our children are growing up as race directors’ kids they are learning some fun skills and are pretty helpful already! I know they enjoy getting to know the runners and meeting the other kids who come along to these races as well, so it’s a nice time for all of us.   We are not the race directors for this fun trail event. Some friends of ours are – Jeremy and Brandy Humphry are and they do a wonderful job! It will be fun for the family to help them out.

Mccall 40 elevation profile

I am eager to hear “GO!” so that I can lose myself in the gorgeous scenery, the lush forest, the views of the lakes and the wildflowers lining the singletrack trails and ATV roads we’ll be running. I am craving a good soul-cleansing and I cannot imagine a more beautiful place to shed some of my worries and emerge refreshed and renewed! See you in a few days with a full race report and some really beautiful photos!

06/26/13

Silver City 100k – The First Shall Be Last

Silver City 100k - photo courtesy of Julie Tinney

Silver City 100k – photo courtesy of Julie Tinney

As I laid in my camper bed, relaxing to the hum of the heater keeping me toasty, I wondered what the day ahead would bring for me as I tried to catch a few winks of sleep that just would not come. I didn’t feel afraid of the challenge, though I did worry about the weather and hoped I had chosen my morning race gear appropriately since the weather in the mountains can change with very little notice.  Only two days before the race, there had been a blizzard, then the night before it had rained on and off for hours. The weather reports were suggesting sunny and dry and possibly a little too warm for my 100k journey and I just wanted to be prepared!

I must have finally dozed off for about an hour before my alarm went off. I quietly applied copious amounts of Body Glide and put on my shorts, tank top and Brooks Nightlife LSD super thin wind and waterproof jacket, my gloves, my ever-faithful Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes and my headlamp and headed outside. I was stunned by how bright it was at 4 am! The truly blessed runners who chose the early start of the race were being graced with the presence of a spectacular and very special occurrence – a Super Moon! It was magnificent in the sky and I can honestly say, I’ve never seen it look so massive or so breathtaking before! I turned off my headlamp and was able to walk by the light of the moon to the porta potty.

I grabbed my number and timing chip and chatted in the early morning dewy pre-dawn chill with the race directors (who are good friends of mine) and the other early bird volunteers and waited for the big start!  Though 40 were registered for the event, only 35 or so actually showed up to do the race (some had dropped down in distance due to injury and others just didn’t show.) Of those, about 10 of us had chosen the 4 am early start, which eliminated the chance at any placing in the race, but gave a nice, big cushion of time to keep ahead of race cut offs on this very challenging course! I knew I was right on the line of those who could go either way. The regular start was to begin at 5:37 am and since I have had 3 dnfs to my name from cut offs in tough mountain ultras in the past (Big Horn 50 twice and Pocatello 50 once) I just didn’t want to take any chances.

Sean and I leading the early start about a mile into the race. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

Sean and I leading the early start about a mile into the race. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

I was really happy that so many of my friends had chosen the early start too! There was lots of well-wishing and hugging before the final countdown where we took off! Very quickly my friend Sean took the lead and he and I stayed close together until the first aid station – Slacker’s, where our good friend, Dennis (who is about the most experienced ultra runner among us) was ready to give top-notch service for what would be a very long shift (since his aid station would be our 2nd stop and our 10th and final one as well!)  Sean and I had taken about 45 minutes to run the first 3.4 with about 800 feet of gain already under our belts to warm our legs up nicely for the grueling 14,000 or so that remained.

I left the aid station first and settled into an easy, comfortable pace, running well on the early terrain, dodging the multitude of rocks and finding my rhythm. I relaxed and ran easily feeling so fresh and alive! The dawn was breaking, the scenery was postcard beautiful and there were many wildflowers, grasses wet with dew, the sweet scent of freshly rained on earth in my nose, the wide open expanses below me covered in fog as I happily ran on, all by myself for the next 9 miles.  Through this gorgeous stretch, I could run fast. I stirred up a deer from it’s bed and watched it bound up a hillside as I called out, “Good morning to you!”  A gray jack rabbit hopped across my path a little while later.  I encountered many cows near the trail and began to alert them to my presence by mooing at them as I approached! I did this the entire loop, grinning and feeling delight in the early morning light. Many of the wonderful ATV volunteers were positioned along this part of the course to keep an eye on us and help us go the right way and each one cheered and offered encouraging words as I passed, which was awesome! It was also fun hearing things like, “Your’e the first runner!”  I was only the first early runner, but it was pretty cool being in the lead (or sharing it with Sean when we were together) for this section! I was in a very happy place as the sun started to rise!

The gorgeous scenery on the Slackers 9 mile loop. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

The gorgeous scenery on the Slackers 9 mile loop. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

I completed the 9 miles in about 2 hours, checked in and out of the Slackers Aid station again and headed on my way. Sean had just caught up to me again and we enjoyed chatting and running in the early morning light. This is where we also finally saw the regular starters on the course.  I had glanced at my Garmin at 1:27 into my race and saw that I had about 7 miles down when the regular field was released. It was an exciting mental game to think of being the little turtle put ahead of the rabbits who would chase me down! I thought it would be fun to have a front row seat to all the action at the front of the pack and get to say hi to each of my fast friends as they passed me. I was happily looking forward to this part of the race and felt I had run well and was eager to see how long I could hold the lead for before I got caught by the pack!

Slacker's Aid Station and the Aid Station Captain Extraordinaire Dennis Ahern! - Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Slacker’s Aid Station and the Aid Station Captain Extraordinaire Dennis Ahern! – Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Sean and I stayed together, enjoying the chilly early morning, our feet getting wet from the dew on the grasses that lined the trail heavily at this part.  The scenery was out of this world beautiful and we oohed and ahhed at every bend in the trail at the brilliant vistas before us!  As we entered Silver City, Sean decided to take a bathroom break at one of the only vault toilets along the course and I ran on, eager to hear some cheering from the dwellers of Silver City (though I was aware that it was mostly a ghost town and was not expecting a big crowd.)  Unfortunately, I saw exactly zero people as I ran through town – right down the middle of the street. I was fascinated by the old stone buildings with huge metal doors and reminded myself that the race director had said under no circumstances should we peek into the windows of these cool buildings since apparently, the citizens don’t appreciate being ogled!  So, I ran, eager to hit the 3rd aid station – the Silver City one, but I didn’t see one.  I was more than 18 miles into the race and still waiting for the front runners to catch me and I was all alone and wondering how much longer this part would last. I think my overall pace at this point was something like a 13:30, which was pretty solid for this course. My goal pace was about a 17:00 so I was doing well. At this point we’d done about 3,215 feet of climb and already experienced some pretty knarly, technical, rock-strewn sections and a bit of shoe-sucking mud in the 9 mile Slackers Loop, though the worst was yet to come.

After I’d ran through town, I finally spotted some flagging indicating the 100k distance (the race also offers 30k and 50k options for those looking for less punishment!) I saw three flags in a row (which usually  means turn here), then looked down the road at the turn and saw confidence markings down the road.  But, I hadn’t hit the aid station yet and so I was confused. I stood there puzzling over it for a few minutes.  I looked straight ahead into town and did not see any other flagging, so after a few moments, I decided that turning right and heading up the hill was the right thing to do (cue the doomsday music!)

The old mining town of Silver City. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

The old mining town of Silver City. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

This is a really fun section since there are abandoned buildings, barns that have crashed to the ground, old schoolhouse type wooden structures – just all sorts of really, really cool things to look at! AND, a plethora of water crossings so wide and deep you HAVE to get your feet wet (which quite frankly I adore in a race where it’s warm!)  Sean caught up to me about half a mile in and we both felt relieved that we’d each made the same decision to follow the flagging.  Soon, the road became very steep and the grade made it hard to keep running, so we power hiked.  We hiked on and soon our Garmins said we’d hit mile 20 – and there was still no sign of the aid station.  We’d followed flagging along this entire stretch so felt like we were doing what we were supposed to,  but things just weren’t making sense.  We both agreed there was no way the front runners had not caught up with us yet by this point!  We had climbed 800 bonus feet in those two slow, hot miles and suddenly we were at a fork in the road — and the flagging ended.  We stared at each other and agreed to work as a team – him going one way and me going the other in search of the  way to go.  I went right, Sean went left. After about 2/10 of a mile with no visible flagging in a spot I could see way down the road another 2/10, I ran back to tell him that my direction must be wrong. He reported the same and we stood there as an uneasy feeling settled in and we realized we must be off course!

We had wasted over 45 minutes climbing and looking for the right way and knew it would only get worse, so we turned around and started running back down the hill, back through the multiple water crossings, back through the path of decrepid, cool, old buildings and all the way back down to the main road into town where we saw a Sherrif on an ATV talking to a woman with his back to us. We had to wait a minute to get his attention and then I asked if he knew the way we were supposed to go.  He said “Straight!”  Ugh!!!  🙁   We had done 4 bonus miles and totally wasted more than an hour of our early start cushion! Bummer!

Our moods both saddened.  We were now over 22 miles into the race and in search of the 18 mile aid station and it looked like most of the fast runners had already flown by (including most of my closest running partners who I had really hoped to see in this section.)  I was disappointed. It was my own fault for not verifying the turn or checking my map (which I did consult after the two miles uphill), but I could not get that time (or the energy my legs had expended) back.  So we started running through town together. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw a red jacket and a turquoise Pearl Izumi tank top peeking out on the runner just behind us!  Several of my friends are part of the Pearl Izumi team and I was trying to figure out which one this was. I kept running figuring they’d catch up in a couple of minutes and when they did I realized it was my neighbor, Tony Huff! It was nice to see him and he, Sean and I started running together in search of the elusive aid station.  We got a little confused in here and weren’t sure if we should cross Jordon Creek or go straight. Tony and Sean went one way and I went the other and when I saw flagging on the road another quarter of a mile away I yelled back at them until they joined me again — back on course!

Crossing the water to the Silver City Aid Station behind Sean. Photo courtesy of Antonio Salazar

Crossing Jordon Creek to the Silver City Aid Station behind Sean. Photo courtesy of Antonio Salazar

Finally, we reached the Jordon Creek aid station headed up by Tony Salazar and his exceptionally happy, hero-costumed family members and friends! I went plowing through the 6 inches or so of water to the other side, grinning and enjoying the delightful rush of cold mountain water on tired feet! They had music playing, the mood was light and they had a gourmet feast of delicious treats to offer us! I took some of the tasty watermelon and two of the most delicious pancakes I have ever eaten — the salty butter just dripping off of them as I scooped them up and started munching them as I left their aid station with Sean and Tony headed up to Hayden Peak Saddle another 5 miles away (and most of it uphill!)  It was a fun moment and I said thank you to each volunteer (as I try to do along the course in every race I do!)  I glanced at my watch and realized that I was now over 5 hours into my race which was a bit disappointing since I  would have been there closer to 3 hours 45 min into it had I not gone off course. Bummer.

Silvery City Aid Station - the most festive on the course (sorry honey!) Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Silvery City Aid Station – the most festive on the course (sorry honey!) Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Sean and I relaxed into a strong hiking pace and enjoyed some nice conversation as we aimed for the highest peak in the Owyhee Mountains – Hayden Peak at 8.403 feet. But, first  we’d need to reach the Hayden Saddle aid station about 5 miles away (at an elevation of 5,270 feet!)  Since Sean is a friend of mine from Boise and we’ve done a few long training runs together, this section felt very comfortable.  The scenery was extraordinary!! So much lushness! So many trees! Fields of wild flowers, long sections of tall sage brush. And, the sage brush especially caught my eye because it occurred to me how nicely it would shield the human eyes of other runners, so I excused myself and headed for a nice hidden one to take care of business before I headed for the rest of the climb to Hayden Peak.

Heading up Hayden Peak. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Heading up Hayden Peak. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

It was at this point 3 runners passed me by.  Someone in a yellow shirt, a young gal in a white hat and a runner in a pink skirt.  I was peeking out from the bushes, trying to be discreet, so I didn’t even realize the third one was my friend, Lynette!  Several minutes later, I cleaned up and came out from my hiding spot and got back into power hike mode. The 50k runners were also climbing and descending Hayden, so I was starting to see some of the people I know!

Dondi Black kindly took this photo as I climbed up Hayden Peak.  Thank you, Dondi!

Dondi Black kindly took this photo as I climbed up Hayden Peak. Thank you, Dondi!

This section was covered in red shale and was difficult to navigate.  It was a long stretch of ankle rollers that made footing a challenge – especially when trying to speed up! I finally rolled into the Hayden Saddle aid station at 6:48 into the race (mile 23 for most 100kers and mile 27 for those on the scenic, self-guided tour!)  We were greeted by cheers and energy and smiles from more of my friends from Boise, which was awesome! I swear every aid station went above and beyond in service and smiles and for that I am truly grateful!  We were told to head to the summit grab a toy solider from a bag (to prove we’d been there) and bring it back – a 7 mile journey that would have us climb another 1,200 very rocky, very steep miles! It was slow going for sure!  This also was the one section of the race where I actually got to see several friends all at once! I saw Ryan, Marci, Michelle, Andrea, Dondi (who took my favorite pictures of the day – thanks Dondi), Derek, Frank and many others and it was a joy to see how their days were going and catch them up on mine. The most common question, “What happened to you?We thought you’d be way ahead of here by now.”

Socializing on the climb (my Garmin tells me I spent over 3 hours of non-moving time. I think I talk too much!) ha! Photo courtesy of Dondi Black.

Socializing with my childhood friend, Marci as Ryan zooms on down on his way to a serious PR.  Photo courtesy of Dondi Black.

My Garmin tells me I spent nearly 3 hours of “non moving” time in the first 18 hours and 16 seconds of this race (when my Garmin battery died at mile 61 and some change.) I can guarantee you I spent at least 45 minutes or more of that in this section talking people’s ears off as we’d pass on the trails!! I gave one runner friend some ibuprofen for her IT band problems, got a few hugs and pictures and then met up with a runner who wasn’t feeling well.  Once we started talking I realized she and I had done a couple of races together already this year (and she was 1st place in both!!) She was a rock star! 🙂 But, this was her first 100k and being a tough little gal, she was pushing through the difficulties to make it happen despite struggling with a lot of nausea.  After chatting a bit, I told her that sometimes throwing up might be the only way to relieve the nausea and she gave it a try. To my happy delight, a few minutes later she was running by my side and said she felt much better! It was nice to see her handle that stretch and feel good for a bit!

We headed to the summit, where it was getting a bit chilly and we were the only two up there. I’d seen other pals from last year take photos here and I really regretted not having a camera to take a few shots of my own (next year!)  My new pal, Serrah and I grabbed our Army guys (mine was dong the Army crawl with a gun) and we headed downhill.  I was eager to go faster than our uphill pace, but unfortunately with the loose, shale rocks covering the trail, it was almost as slow going down as it was up in many spots! My knees both started to really hurt here (which isn’t something I have had happen before.) I think the loose rocks made the IT bands work harder than usual. Serrah was struggling with nausea, so I talked her into trying to throw up to ease the feeling and she headed off into the bushes to give it a try.  A few minutes later, she was back by my side smiling and feeling much better.  We stayed together until we were back at the Hayden Saddle aid station again, where her dad and sister helped her get some ginger ale and she sat down for a minute to rest. I was now 9 hours and 17 minutes into my race and had ran over 34 miles counting my bonus 4. I had been carrying a laminated projected aid station chart with me and gave it a glance to see how far off I was of my hoped-for arrival time.  I had written 12:30 on the chart and I was 47 minutes behind due to my earlier mistake. I had already climbed over 8,500 feet in the race as well and I knew I was about half way done with another 6,000+ of gain awaiting me on the rest of the course and 33.5 more miles to go.  I hoped I would be able to pick up my pace a bit now that Hayden Peak was bagged and return to my predicted time goal if possible.

I ate some strawberries, a piece of white bread and sipped some Mountain Dew, then asked for a baggie of M and Ms from my friend Nellie who was heading up the aid station (thanks, Nellie!) and then I headed on my way.  Though I had been wearing my jacket on the trip up and down Hayden Peak, I was warming up in the afternoon sunshine at the lower elevation and I decided to take that off and stow it in my Nathan for the next stretch back to Silver City aid station – another 8 miles away.

Serrah quickly joined up with me again and we started to run really well together. We got to know each other a little bit better and it was a nice stretch.  The ATV roads through here were especially nice and we found a faster pace than we’d managed on the more rocky sections, running through the wide mountain vistas of green gorgeousness that surrounded us.  I realized about an hour later that I should fuel again, so I let Serrah go and  slowed down to take out my snacks and nibble a bit and drink up.  Not long after this, I came to a fork in the road without any ribbons or markings. I wasn’t sure which way to go, so I made a mental note of the exact mileage on my Garmin and then started heading down the path straight ahead hoping to find another trail marker within a tenth of a mile or so.  I didn’t find one after 2/10ths so I headed back to the junction and found Serrah there, equally confused having gone down the other path, also without finding a marker.  Finally, we decided to go with the one I’d tried and go further to see if it was correct or not.  We found another runner not far away after running for a bit and he assured us this was the correct path. He said a couple other runners near him had also been confused, but it was nice to be back in a groove and making progress again.

We had some nice conversation with our new trail mate – who it turned out had ran some of my Final Kick event races, which was pretty cool! We started discussing climbing vs. descending and which was our strength.  He said he was a better climber. I told him I was a better downhiller and just about this time, we hit a stretch with some nice, gentle downhill and I took off, feeling really strong and enjoying the feeling of a second wind!

I ran alone for a mile or so and then my steam faded away again.  The man caught up to me first and I encouraged him as he passed by looking strong and then Serrah caught me next and I wished her well as she went on ahead.  I had pulled out my little prediction sheet and saw I was getting further behind and I started to really get discouraged. My stomach was starting to feel nauseated, my knees were hurting when I’d try to pick up the pace and my mood slid downhill as fast as my legs normally like to carry me.  What had occurred to me just before this was that I was about to hit the stretch of the course where I’d have to REDO the section I had already done earlier when I’d taken a wrong turn.  Including the 800+ of climb.  That kind of bummed me out.

I reached the Silver City aid station at 3:34 pm – exactly 11 hours and 34 minutes into the race and I had traveled more than 43 miles by this point (instead of the 38 I should have been at.) I had hoped to arrive at this aid station at 2:46 pm, so I was now 48 minutes behind schedule (which I suppose also means I was fairly consistent in the last 8 + miles.) Antonio Salazar and his wonderful family and their other aid station workers were smiling and willing to jump in and help in any way we needed which was wonderful and a bright spot in the race for me.  I especially enjoyed the hug from his sweet mama, dressed in her Super Man t shirt and red tutu!  They topped off my water pack and I took another pancake and some watermelon. I did pull Tony aside and ask if they could radio ahead to the RD and see if there was any way I could skip the next section (since I’d already done it.) I don’t know what I was thinking – that maybe one of the ATV guys could bring me back up the hill to the spot 2 miles up I had turned around and leave me there to continue, but it was a silly thing to ask and I know that.  The radio user was busy reporting some runner data so the request never went forward and I just headed out onto repeat the section I’d done. I didn’t want to risk a dnf no matter what so I was honestly expecting to hear I’d have to redo it no matter what, but figured it didn’t hurt to ask.

There is a vault toilet about a quarter mile down the road in Silver City and I took the opportunity to stop and use it.  As I entered I spotted a brand new, unopened snack pack of Lays chips balancing precariously on the back of the potty. The aid station had ran out of salty chips by the time I reached them and it was like a ray of sunlight shone on the Tasty Treasure Treat! I believe I heard angels burst into choruses of Hallelujahs as I reached for the Gift Chips and inspected the bag to make sure it had not been opened. It had not, so I ripped it open and stuffed a few into my mouth (after wiping my hands with one of the baby wipes I carry in my pack!) It was a small ray of joy in my day and I needed it.

It felt nice to sit on an actual toilet seat after peeing in the bushes for hours! So nice, in fact, that when nothing exciting happened on the potty after a few minutes I found myself not wanting to get up. It was comfy there in the vault toilet and I hadn’t sat down all day. It was a monumental effort to get my butt off that seat and back into the groove of being in a race again! I opened the door and headed back to the road and started running again.  Serrah caught up to me somewhere in here and she wasn’t feeling too hot again, struggling with nausea and exhaustion a bit.

We fed off each other’s misery as we climbed up towards Long Gulch, which is only 3.5 miles from the Silver City aid station but has 1311 feet of climb and feels like a slow, long haul.  About a mile up the hill, I saw an ATV rider. I had pulled out my map concerned about the junction I’d encountered earlier in the day on this stretch when Sean and I could not find any flagging 2 miles up.  The rider asked if he could help me and I explained my concern about getting up the hill again and not being able to tell which way to go. I asked if he knew which direction was right or if he’d spotted an aid station at the top.  I showed him my map and let him look at it and he told me that he had seen the aid station but could not remember which direction to take, but that it was a long, long ways up to the top.  🙁 I thanked him for his help (and realized somewhere in here that he was the husband of one of my childhood friends) and then Serrah caught up to me and we continued on.

There are many water crossings through this section and in the warmth of the afternoon sun, they were a welcome relief.  Serrah pulled off to puke again and I kept heading slowly up the road, trying to stay out of the path of the stream of ATV riders and pick up trucks coming and going up and down the hill. I finally reached the spot Sean and I had gotten to and noticed someone had placed a ribbon to the right.  I was so happy about that! So, I headed right at the junction and encountered several men and a woman and an angry, barking dog right at the next big water crossing.  The dog barked and barked at me as I got closer and I kept my eye on him as I got around the people and crossed the water.   I was glad to be on the other side and on my way.

It was several minutes later that I heard the dog again and knew Serrah was safely behind me. I’d been worrying about her and didn’t want her to get too far behind while she was feeling bad. This eased my mind and I kept moving forward at a slow, trudging pace, just following the plethora of footprints in the dirt that had traveled up before me.  Serrah and another man caught up to me about a mile before the aid station and we heard hoots and cheering as we approached the Long Gulch aid station, where they aid, “C’mon! Let’s see some RUNNING!”  That lit my fire and Serrah and I started sprinting towards them at a breakneck speed (likely a 10 min mile at this point, which honestly felt like a 5 min mile!)

I was so relieved to finally be at the top.  I realized that I knew a few of the volunteers and we said hello.   They offered me bacon and I accepted (because WHO refuses bacon?!) but when I tried to take a bite, my stomach went very sour and I had to set it down.  I was now about 46 miles into the race and at the point I often start to struggle with getting food into my system.  I had been eating steady most of the day and my gut just felt full and sloshy and gross. I didn’t want to eat and yet I knew I should. It was 5:04 pm and I’d been running for more than 13 hours and I was starting to really feel it. It occurred to me that the winners were likely already done and I still had over 22 miles left to go. Ugh! I checked my cheat sheet to see how far off I was and saw that I had hoped to arrive here at 3:45 pm, so I was now an hour and 19 minutes behind my goal.  Dang! And, I knew Tennessee Hill (the steepest climb of the race) was still awaiting me.

After a few minutes of light snacking, a nice man packed up some Cheese It crackers and sent me on my way.  Sadly, those crackers would ride in my pack the next 8 hours and I would not eat one of them as my stomach would go from bad to worse.  Serrah, our new friend Steve and I left the aid station running fairly well together, but quickly my stomach made me feel awful running, so I slowed to a walk and let them take off.  We were one our way to Jordan Creek aid station (the final cut off place in the race with a cut off time of 7:30 pm) and I knew Tennessee Hill was right after that. I spent the next 4 mile walking alone. I tried to keep the pace at about a 14-16 min pace and would just add bursts of running for as long as my sore knees and sour stomach could take it.  I finally decided to take a moment of this solitude and head for a bush break again, hoping I could ease some of the stomach problems with some emptying.  I spent several minutes taking care of business and then got back on the trail, but found I wasn’t moving much better. I was starting to really fatigue and it was getting late.

Jordan Creek  Aid Station for the second time. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Jordan Creek Aid Station for the second time. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

When I could hear the sound of rushing water, I perked up.  I knew that Jordan Creek must be getting closer and that gave me hope!  I made it through a water crossing and then hit a dirt road and followed the markings and just kept running. I was suddenly running a little better and was eager to get to the aid station.  I finally pulled into the aid station at 6:26 pm about an hour before the cut off.  My friend Tina Upton was there and she offered me a banana Popsicle, which I happily accepted.  I refused water, since I hadn’t drank any since the last aid station and didn’t need any.  My race director friends were there too and they looked concerned.  They wanted to know how I’d gotten the 4 miles off course earlier in the day and I spent several minutes explaining what had happened.  As I spoke I started to get more down about it. In retrospect, I should have just asked if we could talk about it later, since this was taking time and reminding me of my mistake.  I showed my friend Davina my Garmin and said, “I’m now over 52 miles into the race and I was supposed to arrive at my husband’s aid station at mile 51, so that’s kind of depressing.”  That’s when she also told me that the next runner behind me on the course was over 4 hours back and would be pulled.  I had just become the last place runner.

With that bad news I headed through Jordan Creek water crossing and straight up the worst climb of the day — Tennessee Hill.  I had hoped to arrive at Jordan Creek AS at 4:58 pm. I was more than an hour and a half behind and I’d spent about 20 minutes at the aid station, so I was getting further and further behind my goal.

Tennesee Mountain. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Tennesee Mountain. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

The climb up Tennessee is no joke! I’d take several steps up, moving steady but slowly and then have to stop and catch my breath.  I had to keep my shoes at an angle as I trudged uphill, leaning forward on my knees as the grade increased and I got further up.  Tennessee hill ascends something like 1,200 in less than a mile, so it’s a real kick in the gut at such a late point in the race. I’d heard people who had done the race the year before giving some pretty colorful names to this section and I started to understand why!

The worst part was when I thought I’d reached the summit (and had traveled more than a mile from the aid station and could see just a small white dot where the white canopy was marking the spot back), I headed forward and realized that the climb had just BEGAN!  There before my bewildered eyeballs was the steepest section of all! Oy vey! I groaned and struggled on, noticing that the light was fading around me and the sun was setting.  When I finally reached the summit, I wanted to mark the occasion.  I couldn’t think of a better way than peeing right on the top to mark that I’d been there and conquered it! Take THAT, Tennessee Hill!!   I walked a bit more to the other side, where it started to descend and just took a moment to enjoy the view. It really was spectacular.  I could see deer bounding in the distance and the purple and white wildflowers were a beautiful sight in the fading light of the sunset.  I decided to just sit down right on the path for a moment and take in the scenery from way up high.

Once I got moving again, it was slow going. I think I’d just lost my drive and was just putting one foot in front of the other. Thankfully, this next section is much easier and I started jogging again, though most of it was power walking.  I knew that the next aid station I would reach would be the one I’d looked most forward to all day — Delamar  – the aid station my five kids, husband and I had headed up last year!  My husband and some friends would be there waiting for me this time and I was so eager to get there! I knew he had coconut Popsicle and I tried to use my desire for one as motivation to get there!

About a mile from the aid station, I was surprised to hear a runner coming up from behind me. It was my buddy, Paul! He told me he was the race sweeper and was here to hang with me! Woo hoo! It was so very nice to have some company after so many hours alone!  My pace picked up considerably for a little bit, but soon, I had to let him know my fatigue and lack of nutrition were catching up with me and I’d need to power walk instead.  Paul is a very happy-go-lucky type of person and I appreciated his taking the lead in conversation since I was pretty brain-dead by this point.

Coming into Delamar looking like I'd had just about enough. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

Coming into Delamar looking like I’d had just about enough. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

We finally pulled into the Delamar aid station at 8:30 pm (about 2 hours behind my goal time.)  My husband took photos as we came down the hill and I had the look of “You would NOT believe the bad day I’ve had” face in them.  Normally, I’m a goofball and ham it up for the camera so I was not in a good mental place at this point.  I was tired. I was nauseous and I was eager to be done. I had been running for 16 and a half hours buy this point and I still had about a half marathon in distance before me (and over 2,000 more of climbing to boot!)  I quickly perked up with the fun mood of the aid station, though.  Everyone was smiling and offering me help.  I accepted a cold mocha Frappuccino and drank half of it while I filled them in on the events of the day.  I think I sat in that chair chatting for about 20 minutes and honestly hated to leave I was having so much fun.  But, there was work to be done and I headed out.  I made one very crucial mistake here. I had only one drop back for the entire race and it was here.  I was still wearing my thin Brooks windbreaker, a tank top and my shorts and gloves and had my headlamp, but could have used some wind pants and a warmer shirt or jacket (all of which were in the bag that I never even asked for!) Doh! This would be a huge mistake and I’d pay for it!

Paul and I had heard that another runner was only 15 minutes ahead of us and we decided to see if we could catch them.  Unfortunately, my stomach and sore knees said, “Um NO!”  when I tried to convince them to run.  So, we took short run breaks and power walked on. We had to turn on our headlamps not far down the road and after several miles we finally did catch up with our friend, Day (who was doing his first 100k and doing a great job!) That gave me some renewed strength and I ran on ahead letting Day get some conversation time in with Paul and I ran along, riding another short wave of energy under the full moon, through the forest in silence.

My Garmin had died, so I had no idea how far I’d gone but it seemed I’d been running alone for at least half an hour when I got to a marking on a fence that made me wonder if I was supposed to go through the wide crack in the fence or run along the fence line.  I was freezing, shivering in the night chill and I didn’t want to stand still and wait for Paul and Day to catch up.  Luckily, I saw a blip of light to my left and headed in that direction, with renewed hope.   My teeth were chattering, I could hardly feel my fingers and I was struggling in the temperatures that felt about 32 degrees or so.  When the person with the headlamp reached me I recognized the orange Brooks jacket right away! It was my friend, Mark! I said, “Mark! I’m so happy to see you! I’m so cold, just so cold and tired.”  He was a gentleman and offered me his jacket, which I was thankful for.  It’s the same jacket I was wearing, so it helped a bit but did not really warm me up much.  I continued to stumble forward, feeling very bonky and very, very tired.  I knew my wonderful friend and mentor, Dennis Ahern would be at the next aid station (Slackers – the one we’d also hit at aid #1 and aid #2) and I could not wait to see him!! Mark told me that Dennis had a heater and that made me long for getting there even more.   I’m not sure how far we walked, but it like an eternity and I remember asking, “Are we ever going to get there?”  Poor Mark assured me that we would and that it wasn’t far.

Finally, I saw the glow of the propane heaters and I started stumbling towards the aid station in the night, muttering, “Dennis. Dennis. Dennis!!!”  I staggered into his camp and opened my arms and said, “Ohhhhh, Dennnnissss… I looovveee you sooo much. I was trying so hard to get to youuuuu.”  I know I must have seemed like a total drunk in my horribly exhausted, bonky state, but Dennis has ran more ultras than anyone I know and he embraced me, kissed me on the forehead and said, “I’m happy to see you too, kid!”  Then, he had me sit down by the heater and he offered me a blanket and someone offered me a cup of broth with noodles.  I just wanted to sleep. It was now 19 hours and 52 minutes into my race and it had taken me almost 3 1/2 hours to go the 9 miles from Delamar. I was raw and emotional and totally drained.  My basic human needs were all that mattered:  Sleep, food, warmth.   But, sleep would have to wait.  I still had 3.5 miles to the finish line to go.

Dennis kindly let me borrow his Big Horn 100 miler blanket (which had special meaning to me since Dennis and I had traveled there together two years in a row.) I wrapped it as best  as I could around my frozen body and I stumbled forward into the dark, cold forest on a mission to the finish line.  I had traveled over 64 miles (the amount most 100kers would do that day), but I was not finished yet.  My drunk stumble got wobblier and wobblier as I deliriously tried to follow Mark and Paul as they happily chatted and SANG in the dark.  Paul would belt out, “Call Me Maybe” and wait to see if I’d identify the tune through a raspy, low energy whisper.  I did. And identified,  “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night by the Black Eyed Peas and “Lucky” before I could no longer even muster the strength to respond at all.   Mark joined in and my brain tried to figure out what exactly crazy dream state this was where two men kept happily singing while I stumbled, wrapped like a human burrito in the dark behind them.   Each time we’d approach a hill, Paul would say, :”Christie! Isn’t this WONDERFUL?! A hill will help warm you up!!” and I’d groan……   Then slowly trudge up.

After what seemed like a million, bajillion years, we finally reached the dirt road. I was very familiar with the road because I’d gone back on it last year several times to run in my friends Michelle, then Tony, then Ryan and Derek (just before they did the sweetest double heel click finish line photo ever known to man!) I did not feel like a heel click, but it did make me emotional thinking of my friends and I missed them all and was eager to get done with the race and be with everyone again.  I knew the road was about 3/4 of a mile (and this of course was the same road we’d started the race on a million hours ago) and when we got close enough to hear the buzz of the generators, I started to stumble faster, tugging my blanket closer to keep out the freezing cold as I started to run again.  And, then we rounded the corner and the people who were amazingly still up at 1:15 am clapped and cheered for me.  Day had caught up and passed me in the final section, so they were welcoming in the last runner — who had been among the first to jump on the course at 4 am the day before.  The first shall be last was my story.  And as I approached the finish line, tears just came spilling down my tired, frozen cheeks. All I wanted to do was stop. To lay down. To be done! And, then I was.

My husband wrapped his strong arms around me and told me he was so proud of me and I just sobbed.  Davina’s cute little son, Tanner handed me my amazing double horseshoe finisher prize (the absolute COOLEST finisher award I have ever owned!)

It had taken me 21 hours and 15 minutes to run the 100k about 3 hours later than I’d hoped to do.  I had traveled over 68.5 miles. I was exhausted. I had done it! I asked my husband to help me get to the camper so I could get warm.  As soon as I stumbled into the blazing heat, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that he’d gotten it toasty for me.  And, there I was again, just as before, in the warm camper, but this time caked in mud and sweat and tears.  I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes and forgot about the pain and the miles and slept the sleep of the righteous (as Dennis always says to us after a race we’ve finished!)

 

The morning after the race, holding my totally cool Silver City 100k finisher horseshoe award! Photo courtesy of Alan Sandquist

The morning after the race, holding my totally cool Silver City 100k finisher horseshoe award! Photo courtesy of Alan Sandquist

 

 

06/11/13

About a Week and a Half Until Silver City 100k

Volunteering (while wearing my super cool pink flamingo hat) at Silver City 100k last year! It should be FUN!

Volunteering (while wearing my super cool pink flamingo hat) at Silver City 100k last year! It should be FUN!

My next ultra is sneaking up on me! I’m doing the Silver City 100k (with 13,000+ of elevation gain) through some pretty rocky, sweet trails in Silver City, Idaho and I’m pretty pumped! Last year my entire family volunteered to do an aid station at the race and I had a blast! The course is technical and some of the climbs are sure to have me begging for Mommy, but I figure with the creek crossings and the panoramic views and familiar faces along the course it will be a time to remember for sure!

Lucky Peak at the summit - what a view!!!! Worth the 3,000+ of climbing in 5.5 miles to get there!

Lucky Peak at the summit – what a view!!!! Worth the 3,000+ of climbing in 5.5 miles to get there!

I’ve spent the last three weeks hitting up my local trails again (that I’d been grounding myself from as I got into BQ shape) and that’s been a lot of fun! I’ve done Lucky Peak, Dry Creek, Corrals, Hard Guy, Watchman, Shane’s, Stack Rock and some of the Bogus trails and it’s been a delight to get back into my groove!  My climbing skills still need some serious work, but I’m feeling like my old self on the downhills and flats and the gorgeous wildflowers have been making my journeys a total delight!

Enjoying some altitude training up at Bogus Basin on the trails.

Enjoying some altitude training up at Bogus Basin on the trails.

I hope to get in a couple more solid runs this week before I ease up and taper more seriously for the race!

Life on the home-front has been pretty good, too. My five children have been begging me to take them to the local pools a few times a week, they’ve had sleepovers and we’ve gone on hikes and out for ice cream and to the movies! It’s been a nice time to relax from our usual homeschooling responsibilities and enjoy the summer together!

MMmmm - Taking the kids out for ice cream on a hot summer day is always a treat!

MMmmm – Taking the kids out for ice cream on a hot summer day is always a treat!

 

05/26/13

Onto the Next Big Thing

whats next

My training and racing have gone really well so far this year (other than a setback in February when I suffered a calf strain, which thankfully was resolved with rest and aggressive treatment by my chiropractor and sports massage therapist!)

So far for 2013 I have had a PR marathon at Redding in January (3:47), a PR at Run 4 Luv 5k with a time of 22:27, my second hundred miler at Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March (with a PR by almost 2 hours), a surprising 100k distance (which I finished with a sprint) at the Pickled Feet 24 hour race one week after my 100, a PR at Weiser River 50k (4:56) and finally a Boston Qualifying Marathon at the Famous Potato with a PR and a 3:40 time! 2013 has been a wonderful year for me so far and I am excited to see what the rest of the year brings! All those 4 am alarms to get up for a run,  running through snow, ice, rain or whatever the day brings and lots of run by headlamp (so I could be done before the kids were up for the day), all the tough climbs, the long miles, the speedwork and the constant work on my mental game over the last few months are paying off!

Boston finish

Now that I’ve qualified for Boston, my focus goes into my ultra running races for the summer and fall!  I’m competing in the Idaho Trail Ultra Series again this year (I was 5th female last year and part of the “Dirty Dozen” – top 6 men and women in the field) and I’m hoping to work hard this year, race well and aim for a top 3 spot this time! In order to compete, a runner must do 4 races of 50k or longer in the series.  So far, I’m signed up for Silver City 100k in June and the Foothills Frenzy 50k in October.  I also plan on doing the McCall Classic 40, Wild Idaho 50 miler and IMTUF 100.  It should be a really exciting racing season!

Idaho Trail Ultra Series

I’ve got my work cut out for me! With so much focus on the roads in the past few months to help me qualify for Boston, I’d pulled back on my trail time significantly, so I’ve been trying to hit the trails hard again and start working on gaining a lot more vertical during the week and weekends in order to build my strength and endurance for the upcoming races!

IMTUF 100 Profile

First up will be the Silver City 100k on June 22nd.  Last year, my family and I manned an aid station for the race and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery! I’m looking forward to having my turn facing those tough, technical trails in only 4 weeks!

Silver City

05/21/13

I Qualified for Boston!

My friend, Ryan shared this with me this week  and reminded me of how appropriate this quote was for my journey to qualifying for Boston! I couldn’t agree more!

set a goal so big

 

I ran my first marathon – The City of Trees Marathon on October 4th, 2009.  It was 40 degrees and raining the entire race. It was wonderful and hard and definitely one of the most difficult things I’d ever done to that point (and that’s saying something from a woman who’s given birth without an epidural 5 times!)  I had set a goal of running the race in 4:45, but crossed the finish line in 4:57:33. It was such an emotional and glorious moment to suddenly become a “marathoner!”  I could not imagine running any faster than the 11:21 pace I maintained for that 26.2 miles!

Here I am running my first marathon in 2009!

Here I am running my first marathon in 2009! My finish time that day: 4:57

But, that is one of the things that really seems to drive our kind — the “runners” in the world. We love to challenge ourselves, push hard to achieve our goals and once those are mastered, we make new goals and go after them, too! One of the first thoughts that went through my mind as I soaked in my ice bath after the race was, “I bet I could do the next one FASTER!” And once I got on that path, it wasn’t long before I started daydreaming about pie-in-the sky goals — especially the biggest one of all for most marathoners — to one day qualify for Boston – the Holy Grail of running achievements!

I've loved Boston so much, we went there on vacation and I ran the entire marathon course just for fun, dreaming of one day running it officially back in 2010.

I’ve loved Boston so much, we went there on vacation in 2010 and I ran the entire marathon course just for fun, dreaming of one day running it officially.

At that point, I’d already bought several books about the Boston Marathon, about it’s rich history, about Kathrine Switzer and her first run there in 1967 (where she was the first female ever to run it with a race bib) and how the race director, Jock Semple tried to attack her and remove her race bib and kick her out of the race partway through.

The infamous photos of the 1967 struggle between Kathrine Switzer and Boston Race Director Jock Semple.

The infamous photos of the 1967 struggle between Kathrine Switzer and Boston Race Director Jock Semple.   Her boyfriend knocked him out of the way and she finished the race in 4:20!  Go Kathrine!

It angered me and surprised me to think that women had been unable to freely race in a marathon just a little over four decades ago. And, women weren’t openly welcomed into Boston until 1972, which coincidentally was the year I was born!

Here's a picture of Kathrine and Jock in 1972 at the start of the Boston Marathon - the first year women were officially allowed to enter the race. He had apologized for his bad behavior in 1967. This photo shows progress in the mindset of those who thought women could not and should not run marathons!

Here’s a picture of Kathrine and Jock in 1972 at the start of the Boston Marathon – the first year women were officially allowed to enter the race. He had apologized for his bad behavior in 1967. This photo shows progress in the mindset of those who thought women could not and should not run marathons! Kathrine’s first Boston marathon time was 4:20. Her PR was Boston in 1975 when she ran a 2:51! She was truly talented!

From the moment I learned that little fact, I felt a connection to Boston and the history of women runners. I felt it was my destiny to one day run the race myself — one of the benefactors of women like Kathrine Switzer (and my own Mom who started running in the 1980’s and was the first woman I knew who ran a marathon the year she was 40!)  They blazed the trail! They showed me the way and I knew it would be an honor to have things come full circle and freely come to race in Boston one day.

I think I'm looking at my Dad and thinking, "Dad and Mom, would you come cheer me on when I'm 40? I know it will help me qualify for BOSTON!"

I think I’m looking at my Dad and thinking, “Dad and Mom, would you come cheer me on at a marathon when I’m 40? I know it will help me qualify for BOSTON!” P.S.  Bring a cool sign! I’ll like that little touch!

But, there was the qualifying problem.  Boston, unlike most other marathons, won’t allow you to just sign up and show up on race day to run. Instead, you must run a marathon on a  USA Track and Field certified course in a qualifying time (based on your gender and age!)  At the time I was dreaming about Boston, my qualifying time would have been 3:45:59 since I was 36. That was a difference of about an hour and 12 minutes FASTER! Talk about a pipe dream!  But, it was already engraved on my heart as my destiny — so I kept training, kept running, even when others stopped joining me for training runs or gave up on their running visions for awhile. I spent many years running alone along the roads in Nampa, Idaho, dodging sugar beet trucks in the summer and heavy traffic. I wasn’t close to a greenbelt so I made do with what I had.  And, little by little, I started to improve.

I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been hit by a falling beet from an over-full truck going 50 miles per hour down Cherry Lane in Nampa on a training run! It made for some quick foot action, that's for sure!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly been hit by a falling  sugar beet from an over-full truck going 50 miles per hour down Cherry Lane in Nampa on a training run! It made for some quick foot action, that’s for sure!

About 6 months later I ran my second marathon. I’d been training for and ran my first ultra marathon just a few weeks before, so I wasn’t expecting a very fast time when I signed up for the Famous Potato Marathon – and that’s good – because I actually ran slower with a time of 5:14:13, but I wasn’t discouraged! I’d done a difficult half marathon (with 8+ hard miles of uphill) and my ultra within the same month as this race, so I was seeing myself accomplish several races in a short period of time, which was cool, too and it was helping me develop my strength and endurance (even if my speed wasn’t improving much yet.)

This finish photo always cracks me up! This was my 2nd marathon and my kids were chasing me as I final kicked it home!

This finish photo always cracks me up! This was my 2nd marathon and my kids were chasing me as I final kicked it home! Though the final kick was sweet, my final time was my slowest of all 7 of my marathons: 5:14!

By my 3rd marathon, I got more focused. I printed out a Smart Coach plan from Runner’s World and I started training more seriously for speed.  When I ran the City of Trees in October of 2010 (one year after my first marathon) I shaved off 36 1/2 minutes off my time when I crossed the line in 4:20:59! That was a huge improvement and gave me hope that Boston could someday happen for me – if I kept working hard!  But, I still had a long way’s to go. I needed to shave another 35 minutes to “BQ” (runner lingo for Boston Qualify!)

I was more focused for the City of Trees Marathon in 2010 finishing with a time of 4:20:59 - a huge PR!

I was more focused for the City of Trees Marathon in 2010 finishing with a time of 4:20:59 – a huge PR!

My focus was averted temporarily as I sought to run longer and longer distances in ultra marathons on the trails I’d fallen in love with.  I didn’t run another marathon until the Famous Potato Marathon one year ago — just two months after my first 100 mile race! I had no idea what I could do and had not trained on the roads hardly at all during my ultra prep, so I was amazed when I crossed the finish line comfortably in 3:48:41! A PR by more than 32 minutes!  That’s when my quest for Boston became more than a dream. It started to seem so much more likely!

A huge PR at Famous Potato Marathon in 2012! 1st in my age group and 10th woman overall with a time of 3:48!

A huge PR at Famous Potato Marathon in 2012! 1st in my age group and 10th woman overall with a time of 3:48!

There was just one catch.  Though I was about to turn 40 and the standards would have allowed me to run a 3:50:59 to qualify, new standards had been put into place that required me to run faster than ever!!! They shaved off the 59 second grace window that had applied for so many years and then took another 5 minutes off the time, basically requiring everyone in all age groups to run nearly 6 min faster to qualify!  My job just got harder! I needed to run a 3:45:00 or better to BQ! If the standards had not changed, that would have been the day I qualified for Boston! But, with the new standards in place, I needed to run 3 min and 41 seconds faster! I was NOT discouraged! I was pumped!!! I was so determined to go into laser mode and just focus as hard as I needed to to reach my dream goal!

I had moved to Boise late in 2011 and had the amazing luck of having a good friend who is much faster than me ask me to start running with him more in the early mornings. This benefited me in a couple of ways. Being able to run in the dark, before the kids woke up meant I was able to get in more miles (my weekly average went from about 30 miles a week to closer to 45-50) and I was having to push my pace more to keep up with my fast friend (even on his easy days!) I also suddenly had access to the Boise Greenbelt for safe running on long stretches of asphalt without a beet truck (or any traffic) in sight and I could hit the trails and run in the mountains almost from my front door, so I was gaining strength in my legs from climbing a lot more mountains – several times a week!  I had been noticing an improvement in my endurance and my strength and my speed over several months when I ran the 3:48 race!

Me and the "Fast boys" - Ryan and Derek  who've helped to get me in BQ shape in the last year and a half!

Me and the “Fast boys” – Ryan and Derek who’ve helped to get me in BQ shape in the last year and a half!

I set my sights on a fall marathon with a lot of elevation loss (something I thought would play to my strength of running fast downhill.)  That race was the Pocatello Marathon and it didn’t go as planned. I was on pace for a BQ until mile 18, when the wheels just fell off and I started to walk – and pretty much walked the rest of the race until I crossed the finish line in a disappointing time of 4:27:01.  I had not trained specifically for a downhill road race. I had hoped my good luck at the previous marathon with very little road training or any speedwork would mean I could just “wing it” and do well at this race while still training for ultras in the mountains. I was wrong! It was a lesson learned! But, I did not give up!

My buddy April and I both were seeking Boston times when the wheels fell off for each of us. This is us coming to the finish realizing just how FAR we'd sunk in pace!

My buddy April and I both were seeking Boston times when the wheels fell off for each of us. This is us coming to the finish realizing just how FAR we’d sunk in pace!

My friends Ryan and Derek continued to push me hard in training and they both knew how much I wanted Boston! Derek said something to me that really spoke to me this past winter. He said, “What is difficult for you must become easy!”  From that point on, when the boys ran roads with me in our midweek runs, we ran my BQ pace – or faster – every single time!!! I started to train at the pace I needed to qualify! It was hard at first and I couldn’t hold it long, but as the weeks went by, I started to find it more comfortable and by the time I showed up at the Redding Marathon in Jan of 2013, I knew I was ready (or close!)  I had even ran a 20 miler at 1 second per mile faster than BQ pace in training!

You know you gave everything you had in a race when you look like THIS at the finish line! A PR - but no Boston - yet! 3:47. Still needing to shave 2 min and 22 seconds off to qualify!

You know you gave everything you had in a race when you look like THIS at the finish line! A PR – but no Boston – yet! 3:47. Still needing to shave 2 min and 22 seconds off to qualify!

That was the most comfortable marathon of my life! It truly did feel like a training run until the final 4 miles or so (when it started to hurt and I could not muster the energy to push it home a bit faster!) I enjoyed the hills, the beautiful bridges we crossed and the route. I crossed the finish line in 3:47:22 – a PR but not a BQ!  I had ran a smart race and my Garmin said I’d done the 8:34 pace I needed for the duration – but – the certified course, being done on a very curvy route turned out to be a 26.5 instead of closer to 26.2, so I just missed it.  Being a race director myself (and someone who has personally helped certify 4 marathon courses) I should have known better! If you don’t cut every single tangent the course will be a bit long and I should have assumed from the start that I needed to run a little bit faster the entire time to reach my goal. It was another lesson!

I ran my second 100 mile race in March of 2013 (about 2 hours faster than the year before), then I set my sights back on qualifying for Boston in May at the Famous Potato. I felt fitter and more focused than ever before! Ryan had gotten the marathon bug and was training hard right along with me (for his own goal of a 3:10 or better) and having that camaraderie was good for me! Even though we run different paces, we would meet together, do the warm up miles as we talked and then each push hard for the speedwork and tempo work, then cool down together. I think we both pushed each other to do better and that was a big help!  For about 6 weeks, we abandoned our beloved trail running and just focused on preparing our bodies to qualify on the asphalt!

Ryan and I (and sneaky Dennis our photobomber friend - who also qualified for Boston) just before the start of the Potato Marathon 2013!

Ryan and I (and sneaky Dennis our photobomber friend – who also qualified for Boston) just before the start of the Potato Marathon 2013!

And, it paid off!! This past weekend, on May 18, 2013, I made history (for ME) by qualifying for Boston!!! I did it!!!!! I can’t believe it!!!  Despite having to stop for potty breaks several times along the course, I ran across the finish line in 3:40:44 — a full 4 minutes and 16 seconds faster than I needed to! My family was there to cheer for me along the route (including my parents, which meant the world to me), so many of my friends were either running the race or were there cheering or pacing, my amazing friend Lucia, who has ran Boston more times than any woman I know, paced me the last 6 miles and kept me steady and I got to high-five Ryan as he grinned at about mile 18 for me and 22 for him as he went on to qualify for Boston with a 3:08, too!

This is me and my wonderful friend, Lucia (in her Lucky Purple gloves that I'm sure gave me Boston qualifying Magic) at about mile 22. I was all smiles and felt strong!

This is me and my wonderful friend, Lucia (in her Lucky Purple gloves that I’m sure gave me Boston qualifying Magic) at about mile 22. I was all smiles and felt strong!

It was an amazing day! When I crossed the finish line, my dear friend Dennis yelled at me, “C. EB” as he likes to call me. I was having a hard time catching my breath and when I looked up and saw him with his arms stretched out I went to him for a congratulatory hug. That’s when it all suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks — the quest was OVER! I’d actually DONE IT!!! I started sobbing, just so overcome with gratitude and emotion and RELIEF and joy! I did it! I really did it! I finally qualified for Boston!!!

I was overcome when I saw my family and lifted my  hands and shouted out, "I'm going to BOSTON!' I couldn't stop crying tears of relief and joy! 7 marathons but I finally got it!

I was overcome when I saw my family and lifted my hands and shouted out, “I’m going to BOSTON!’ I couldn’t stop crying tears of relief and joy! 7 marathons but I finally got it!

My parents were there with the video camera and my Mom said, “Where are you going now?” and through tears, I threw up my arms and yelled out, “BOSTON!!” My five kids gathered around me and hugged me and said they were so proud of me! “You did it, Mom! you finally did it!” My husband hugged me and said, “I knew you could!” which meant the world!  Later, Ryan found me and we posed for a picture. I’d named our little team, “Boston and a Belt Buckle” – meaning I wanted to earn a 100 mile belt buckle and a Boston qualifying time in the same year.  We’d both earned our 100 mile buckles at Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March -and less than two months later, we were standing near the finish line where we’d each BQ’d!!! That couldn’t have gone better!! 😀

"You did it, Mom!' the kids said! I told them, "Big dreams will not come easy! Just keep at it and you can accomplish what you wish for!"

“You did it, Mom!’ the kids said! I told them, “Big dreams will not come easy! Just keep at it and you can accomplish what you wish for!”

 

Thanks for the support, Dad and Mom!

Thanks for the support, Dad and Mom!

So, if you are dreaming of Boston and it seems like an impossible dream, I want to encourage you to never lose hope! I went from a 4:57 marathoner to a 3:40 one. Anything is possible if you are willing to believe in yourself, work really hard and keep on picking yourself up and trying if things don’t go right the first time! It’s worth it to keep after your goals! You can do it!!!!!

03/27/13

Antelope Island Buffalo Run – My 2nd 100 Miler and a PR!

Antelope Island Buffalo Run

Antelope Island Buffalo Run

Six weeks ago I strained my soleus muscle in my calf while heading uphill on black ice on a 22 mile training run, when I slipped on the road and fell as a car was coming towards me. I was limping as soon as I picked myself up and immediately I worried all the training I’d done over the winter would slip down the drain as I recovered.  The injury was just a grade 1 strain, but it was bad enough I was not supposed to run or even take leisurely walks on it for several weeks. I knew the Buffalo Run 100 miler was fast approaching and instead of joining my pals on extended long runs to peak for the race, I watched my log book go week after week without a run added. It was a little stressful!

Thankfully, with a chiropractor, who is also an athlete working diligently on the calf to break up the scar tissue and encourage healing and frequent visits to my sports massage gal, I was able to recover in time for the race — barely! The longest run I did in those 6 weeks was a 13 miler less than a week before the race – and most of it was walking! Thankfully, my training had not slacked during the winter months, though and I had been in good shape prior to the accident hitting about 70 miles per week for the two weeks before I got hurt, so I was banking on my prior mileage and experience to get me through the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 for the second time!

To add a little more pressure to the day, the race was taking place from March 22nd – 23rd.  The 23rd is my youngest daughter’s 6th birthday, so I’d decided that the coolest gift I could possibly give to her would be the belt buckle after I crossed the finish line! I decided to be as conservative as possible to nurse the injury and hold back to increase my chances of just finishing the race so I could surprise my daughter at the finish!

In the days leading up to the race, I expected to be nervous or worried. I’d certainly been terrified the year before when I’d shown up at the starting line of AI since it was my first 100. This time was pleasantly different for me. Even with the worries about the injury, I felt relaxed, slept well and felt calm as I approached the starting line. I never assumed I’d finish, as these things are insanely difficult and even the strongest of runners can encounter injury, bonking, stomach issues and mental breakdown throughout the 25-30 hours on the course, but I did come to the race ready to give my best and to walk away with no regrets no matter what happened – and that acceptance of “what will be will be” put me in a good mental place.

We looked like tiny ants being herded by this buffalo

We looked like tiny ants being herded by this buffalo

One of the coolest things about the race this year was the huge turnout! Jim Skaggs puts on a great event and apparently word had gotten around that this was a 100 not to be missed! Last year there were about 60 people at the starting line and 34 finishers. This year, there were closer to 100 starters! The weather this year was much colder than last year! I’d woken up to see snow falling outside my hotel window in Layton, a few miles down the road. The winds were strong, even at the noon start and the clouds were covering up the sun. I was bundled up and ready to face a much chillier race than the year before.

Getting ready in the hotel before I saw the snowstorm outside. Added tights before the race.

Getting ready in the hotel before I saw the snowstorm outside. Added tights before the race.

I moved all the way to the back of the back as the racers lined up (Karl Meltzer, dressed in his signature Hoka One One white and blue tank and shorts rightly at the front) and reminded myself to stay back there for as long as possible to be conservative.  Almost immediately I caught sight of a pal of mine I’d met the year before – world-famous blogger and ultra runner Cory Reece!! He was festively decked out in a red jacket with a matching sock monkey hat that his young daughter had asked him to wear and his characteristic bright smile! I was thrilled to see him, since I knew he and I were similar paces and figured we’d get to share some fun miles together. I also said hello to my friend, Ed Eddinghausen (who as usual was dressed in his court jester outfit and also being cautious since he was coming off of a 160 mile race the previous week!)

karl leading race

I heard the countdown and we all took off! My five children were ringing cowbells and cheering on the sides and waved at them and blew kisses as I passed. My husband was taking photos and I smiled at him and said, “I love you!” just as I rounded the corner off the main road onto the path, passing a few buffalo standing just a few feet from the colorful congo line of runners.  I relaxed, checked my HR and settled into a super easy walk pace, sticking to my plan of playing it safe and not going out too fast.

Me and Cory at the start of  the race on the Fun Train already!

Me and Cory at the start of the race on the Fun Train already!

I soon found myself in some pleasant conversations with those around me and the miles just seemed to tick by rapidly. One woman recognized me from my blog (which was a nice surprise) and another gentleman shared that there were four generations of his family doing the race that day – including his 81 year old father! It was amazing to hear people share their stories and I had such a fun time getting to know some new trail friends.

When we reached the Elephant Head aid station and turned onto the path to do the out and back, the faster runners were speeding back already and it was fun to see the front of the packers duking it out! That is one of the things I love best about this race is the chance to see so many other runners out on the course and get a chance to say hi or give encouragement to those ahead of you or behind you! The vibe is always positive here!

I had the pleasure of starting this race with several other Boise Trail Runner friends which was also fun. 7 of us had shown up to do the 100, so during this section I was able to cheer for my faster friends, Ryan, Lyn, Sam, Sean, Emily and Amy and several other buddies I’ve met at previous ultras, which was fun! I was in great spirits and the calf was holding up fine as I reached the turnaround spot and leaned down to choose a sticker from the box (the way the RD knows you’ve actually gone all the way out to the turnaround.)  Cory and I were together here and word on the street was that there were some sweet Justin Beiber stickers in that box. Since we’re both parents of kids who might consider that cool, we decided to choose one of those. It turned out all the front runners were suffering from Beiber fever, though and all that remained were fairy princess stickers, so we each chose the prettiest fairies we could from the selection!

Just as we were finishing up, I heard heavy breathing (a rarity at the back of the pack this early in the race.) Cory and I looked at each other then looked up and saw Karl Meltzer himself running like it was a 5k coming straight at us! Our jaws simultaneously dropped to the dirt and star-struck, I squeaked out, “Um.. can I get you a sticker, Karl?” I don’t think he heard me since he had earphones in, but for a brief, shining, moment, I was shoulder to shoulder with Karl Meltzer (who was several miles ahead of me since he’d done the other loop section of the course first and was just finishing this bit up before heading back to the start/finish for the 20 mile check in) in a race as he hurriedly ripped a fairy right in half, slapped it on his bib and took off!  As the dust whirled in his wake as he zipped off, Cory and I just stared, wide-eyed at each other and he said, “What just happened?!!” I said, “I have no idea but it was SO blogworthy, dude!” and we both started to laugh like hysterical schoolchildren!

The bulk of the climbing of this course happens in the first 20 mile loop section that we were on (which we get to repeat from miles 50-70.) We were through the majority of the worst by about mile 12, when I started to feel the urge to let myself run just a bit to test out the leg (and have a little bit of fun.) I said goodbye to some of my pals and eased into a gentle jog. I could see my friends Sean, Emily and Amy about half a mile in the distance and decided it might be time to catch up. I didn’t rush, just let the ground pull me closer bit by bit and it was a lot of fun to finally find myself side by side with them about mile 13. I thought some of them would join in, so I just kept doing what I was doing, but none of them stayed with me. I saw my friend, Sam’s bright yellow shirt up ahead another half a mile and decided I’d focus on that next. I still walked every uphill and kept the pace conservative, but I was feeling really good!

As I rounded the fence back near the start finish, my husband snapped a couple of pictures of me and told me I looked great! I told him I was sticking to my plan (as my average heart rate was still about 30 points lower this year on this section than the year before.) I had done the first loop last year in about 4:07. With holding back, surprisingly, I did the first loop in exactly 4 hours this time! That was awesome to see! I checked my number into the aid station and then kept moving down the road, feeling amazing.

Coming in to mile 20 after the first loop.

Coming in to mile 20 after the first loop.

Despite the strong winds, the temperature started to feel a bit better through this section as we headed to the path along the Salt Lake, which is one of the highlights of the course! It’s just breathtaking with the snow-covered Wasatch mountain range in full view on the other side! There was a lot of mud through this section and my feet got a bit wet, but I didn’t mind. It was actually all part of the craziness of ultra running and I welcomed it.

I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery along the water. I love the trails on Antelope Island and most of them are very runnable, so I just enjoyed the day, staying conservative and doing plenty of walk breaks to keep things low key.  My family drove along taking pictures and cheering when they could see me which was very motivating! My 12 year old son, Wayne Jr came to run a little section with me and my youngest daughter, Savannah also got to get a nice hug here, which are probably my favorite photos of the day!

Wayne Jr and I running a little stretch together! A highlight for me!

Wayne Jr and I running a little stretch together! A highlight for me!

hug antelope

 

About mile 28 coming into Lower Frary Aid Station

About mile 28 coming into Lower Frary Aid Station

When I arrived at the Ranch at mile 33.3 or so, I was feeling like a million bucks. I saw my buddy, Vince Romney and his lovely wife Chris and we hugged and said hello! Then I headed into the (REAL) bathroom there and got myself ready for nighttime running. I put on my headlamp, pulled out my ipod (since I’d enjoyed hearing music through this section last year) and put on my gloves.  I sipped some broth, said my goodbyes and headed out. The first song that came on almost made me burst out laughing. It was ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme a Man After Midnight.”  My pacer (my friend Derek) was told to expect me at around midnight and it just seemed like a hilarious coincidence!

ABBA the 70's singing wonders got me through

ABBA reminded me that I’d be getting a PACER after midnight!

These lyrics really DO fit, if you think about it. I was by myself at this point and looking forward to some company to take me to the next day (and to the FINISH!)

There’s not a soul out there
No one to hear my prayer

Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight
Won’t somebody help me chase the shadows away
Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight
Take me through the darkness to the break of the day

It was starting to get really cold, but I had a smile on my face still. My feet (unlike the previous year) felt amazing in the Brooks Pure Grits and things were going pretty well. I did  start to fall behind on fueling/hydration here though. As the wind picked up, the sun went down and I didn’t feel as thirsty or hungry, so I was just taking little sips of broth at each of the aid stations and very little else.  I know better, but I was heading myself straight into bonkland.

At mile 44, I was back in the Mountain View aid station, huddled out of the wind and cold with two other male runners. We chitchatted for a couple of minutes while I sipped yet another serving of beef broth (my stomach was starting to really hate the sight of beef broth by this point but I thought the warm liquid and the sodium would help.)  As the nausea started to bother me from that point on, I slowed down. The winds picked up, the temperature dropped further (down to a real feel of 8 degrees by the middle of the night), snow had fallen twice already and I was starting to feel kind of miserable.  There was a lot of shuffling from miles 44-50.

When I arrived at the start/finish area and the huge tent with heaters inside, it was like seeing heaven! I was so relieved to step inside out of the weather. My watch said I’d been running for 11:18 min (which meant I was about 45 min faster on the first loop than the previous year, which was exciting!) My pacer was there and two other friends who were there waiting to pace other runners. I was so happy to see them all! I was shivering so badly and low on calories. Derek, my rock star pacer, quickly jumped into action setting up his little heater to warm me up. My friend Christine put a sleeping bag around my shoulders to help me feel warmer and my friend Jon started asking about other clothing I had to change into to warm myself up.  That’s when I realized that most of my running gear, fuel, etc was not in the tent. My husband and five children had left the island to head back to the hotel for a night of sleep and the majority of my things (including the extra batteries for my headlamp) were with them.  It was my own fault! I had not really gone over what I might need throughout the night and my husband had left me a small bag with the exact items I had mentioned earlier in the day I’d want – including one more light jacket and a pair of shoes and socks.  Amazingly, my friends quickly went into action, one handing me her extra thin jacket to put on, another (Derek) offering me his ginormous, thick ski coat he’d been wearing while he waited for me! This coat would take on the nickname of “The Man Coat” for the rest of the night. It made me look like I was still that 200 lb lady from 6 years ago and it made me feel like I was basking in the Florida sun instead of freezing my buns off on a stormy Utah night! It was exactly what I needed!

Picking up my pacer, Derek. He told me he'd drag me by my pigtails to the finish if he needed to. I appreciated his determination and his MAN COAT!

Picking up my pacer, Derek. He told me he’d drag me by my pigtails to the finish if he needed to. I appreciated his determination and his MAN COAT!

Derek told me to rest my eyes while I sat in the camp chair and he went to work making me a grilled cheese sandwich! I was so touched by the outstanding help of my friends and knew that they would help get me through the rough patch.  Unfortunately, I was so nauseated, that when he offered me the sandwich I picked at it and ate about two bites before I told him I was sorry but that was the best I could do at the moment. He had me sip some Gatorade and we headed back out into the night.  We’d taken probably 40 minutes getting my needs met so it was around midnight.

I was so slow through this section and not a lot of fun to hang out with I’m sure for Derek. I just slogged along in my man coat, putting one foot in front of the other, sucking on a peppermint trying to get the nausea to ease.  It didn’t. It got worse. I didn’t want to drink or eat so I think I had maybe 3 sips of broth and a couple sips of water for the next 20 miles as I walked over the mountains following Derek.

By the time, Derek and I were in sight of the 70 mile spot, it was 6 am (I’d been running for 18 hours) and the 50 mile racers were just starting. They came up the trail at us as a swarm of bright headlamps and thundering feet. I heard lots of encouragement as they passed us and it was a little mental boost.  My Garmin battery died just as I got into the tent and so did I. My husband was there, looking concerned (since I looked like a total wreck and was behind schedule.) All I wanted to do was lay down. This was my dark place for the race — the point where I just wasn’t sure I could find the will or strength to go on. I was so cold, just shivering – even in the man coat and multiple layers. I felt like throwing up, though my stomach was totally empty. I had no energy and I was tired and sore.

I wandered around looking for a place to lay down and couldn’t find anywhere. Finally I settled on the drop bag tarp. I just flopped to the ground, curled up in fetal position and lay there shivering.  My husband leaned over me and said, “Not there! It’s covered in water from a hydration vest leak or something.” I didn’t care. I looked up at him and for the first time, let myself shed a few tears as I told him how awful I felt and how worried I was that I could not finish in this condition.

Derek was already on top of things, having set up the camp stove again and was working hard at making me a grilled cheese sandwich.  Wayne went to find me some hot cocoa and within a few minutes, they started to bring me back to life – bite by bite and sip by sip.  That’s the thing about these races — many times nutrition is the greatest obstacle for the racer.  When you don’t get enough water, carbs and electrolytes into your system, it’s like having a car without any gas.  No matter how fast the car can go when it’s got some fuel, it’s a useless pile of metal sitting alongside the road when it runs out. That’s what happened to me — I was out of gas and they were doing everything in their power to change that!

Though I love running in the dark and actually do the majority of my training by headlamp, it had also gotten to me. So, I asked Derek if we could stay in the tent until the sun was out. I’m glad I did, too, because when the sun came up, Cory was just arriving back at the tent from his 70 mile stretch and I was eager for some company! It was exactly what I needed! We’d taken more than an hour in the aid station, but by the time I left (still donning the sexy man coat) I was a totally different runner again! I felt energetic, happy, revived and EXCITED to run again!!

Coming back to life with Derek, Cory and his pacer!

Coming back to life with Derek, Cory and his pacer!

Derek is a pretty funny guy and does great Jim Carrey impersonations – my favorite being his Vera De Milo one from In Living Color. He started doing his silly impersonations and had Cory and I and Cory’s pacer totally cracking up! He also started to signal to me every time we passed another mile by doing a heel click, which was freaking awesome! The mood became light, the conversation picked up and all of us felt alive again!

Derek did a great Vera De Milo impersonation during the last 30 miles to keep me laughing!

Derek did a great Vera De Milo impersonation during the last 30 miles to keep me laughing!

In fact, I warmed up from the beautiful sunshine (oh glorious sunshine how I missed thee in my darkest hours!!), that I had to remove the man coat a few miles later and get a pair of sunglasses instead! I was in great spirits after this.  Derek took total control of my fueling and started feeding me Cheese It crackers – just one at a time – and waiting for me to ASK for water. This was a good sign since before I could not tolerate anything.  I’d sip Gatorade, we’d run a mile and we’d do it all again. Over and over. It worked perfectly!

Fun times again with Cory who made the miles zoom!

Fun times again with Cory who made the miles zoom!

In fact, I couldn’t believe how AWESOME I was feeling. I was definitely tired and my right big toe was sore from smacking it hard into a rock in the night on the second 20 mile loop (Derek’s famous words when I yelped, “Hey, it’s just a TOE. You don’t need that for running” which had me laughing. I smiled at all the runners, hugged my friends along the way and snuggled my kids at the aid stations. I was on fire again!

Derek giving me the heel click signal each time we passed a mile!

Derek giving me the heel click signal each time we passed a mile!

In fact, it was a complete contrast to this same section one year before where my blistered feet had me hobbling the last 50 miles. I did have a few blisters, but nothing like the year before and that just made me count my blessings. By mile 94, I felt like I was going to PR. It seemed crazy, but true!

Derek was the perfect pacer for this race for me! He took amazing care of me, shared his man coat and kept me smiling to the end! I may owe him my first born as a proper thank you!

Derek was the perfect pacer for this race for me! He took amazing care of me, shared his man coat and kept me smiling to the end! I may owe him my first born as a proper thank you!

I actually tried to pick up the pace from that point, but just as I got to mile 97 a huge blister on my left foot burst and I gasped with the sudden excruciating pain! I tried to walk on it and couldn’t believe how painful it was.  That’s when I stopped, turned to Derek and said, “How in the WORLD did I run 50 miles with both feet covered in these last year?”! Sub freezing, windy weather, snow and bonking are NOTHING compared to this! I am insanely lucky that things have gone so very WELL this time!”  And that was my attitude the rest of the race.  I had to slow down the pace because of the blister, but I had a smile on my face.

Derek and I got closer to the finish line and I was passed by my friend Graham who was doing the 50 miler. Here is a quote of what went down at this point, that I had to share in his own words because he said it all so well:

Craziest most enjoyable finish for me yesterday…with 1/2 mile left I decided to push HARD and finish strong. I look up and see Christie Combs Ebenroth and we are like “hey there:)!”. Then Derek Call says “Go! Race him to the finish, Christie!” Sweet cheery Christie flips a switch and her normal friendly smile is gone, replaced by this…this look like I’ve just become a threat to her kids and all she loves and takes off! I thought what the?!? and kicked it up a notch…running mostly out of fear. It’s a good thing I did because a guy i had just passed decided he was going to run me down. I never expected to need a big kick at the end of 50 miles, but me and this other guy were in a 50 yard dash neck and neck like the gold medal was on the line, heads back full speed hoping our legs would hold out(well I was hoping mine would. and it was probably nothing like that, but it felt like it. Emily or Sam may have a much different take.) we crossed the finish line with nothing left.(I almost ran over Sam Collier andEmily Schuh Berriochoa watching the finish…I remember thinking, well if I black out at least I’m amongst friends)

So, it was definitely action-packed! As soon as Derek had told me to race, I went into final kick mode, loving the feel of pushing after slogging for so many miles — but I quickly remembered the plan — the fact that it was my daughter Savannah’s 6th birthday and saw the faces of my 4 other kids running towards me wanting to run across the finish line together the way we had the year before and I pulled back to let them catch up.

Derek’s two sons joined in, his youngest, little Cody, age 6 wrapped up in a blanket and we all held hands and ran towards the finish line together, grinning from ear-to-ear!  Just as we hit the second timing mat, we raised our hands up in unison and went down into a bow! It was totally awesome!

 

Coming victoriously over the finish line!! What a glorious feeling! What goes through your head the second time you cross a 100 mile finish line? "Woo hoo! The first one wasn't a FLUKE!"

Coming victoriously over the finish line!! What a glorious feeling! What goes through your head the second time you cross a 100 mile finish line? “Woo hoo! The first one wasn’t a FLUKE!”

Jim Skaggs handed me my coveted finisher prize — the black and silver belt buckle that says Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 Mile Finisher – and I said to him, “Today is my daughter’s 6th birthday and this is her present from me.” And I turned and handed it to her. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes, her blond curls framing her tiny face and I saw the surprise in her face! Then she broke out into a huge grin, grabbed the buckle and threw her arms around me and said, “Thank you, Mommy!!!”

Happy Birthday Savannah! She was so excited about the buckle!!

Happy Birthday Savannah! She was so excited about the buckle!!

It was the perfect race! I’m so thankful the calf injury held up, that I stuck to my plan and that things went so well! I PR’d by almost two hours too!!!! Now, that’s a bonus!!!!!! Finish time last year was 30:11. This year was 28:24.  Not bad!

03/13/13

9 Days Until The Buffalo Run

woo hoo

Good news! The injured soleus muscle seems to be fairly healed up – and just in the nick of time! The Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler is only 9 days away! I was really sweating weather or not the calf strain would heal up in time to even attempt it. I took two weeks off when the injury hit, then eased very gently back into using it — doing 31 miles of mostly slow walking in week three, a little cross training – some yoga, a spin class, lots of stretching and a few visits to my chiropractor for ART and Graston therapies and then slowly beginning to run again last week.  I also went to see my sports massage gal who does an amazing job of working thoroughly into the muscles, breaking up the scar tissue and loosening up my tight-as-can-be runner muscles to get me into a good position to heal in time for the race!

It seems to have worked! I have now been running some of my regular routes at paces that aren’t horribly different from before the injury. I’m taking more walk breaks and wearing compression calf sleeves and remembering to stretch after the runs — but I’m getting there!

This morning I ran with a group of friends, including my pal, Derek who will be my pacer at Antelope Island! It was exciting to be thinking ahead to race strategy and nutrition needs instead of holding my breath wondering if I would even be able to make the trip! I’m pretty pumped! The best part is that this year there are about 20 local pals from the Boise area heading down to Utah for the race! It’s going to be a party!!!!

My change in mindset from fearful injured runner to eager racer took a little bit of soul reflection and a big leap of faith, honestly.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the worry of “what ifs” when you’re facing the idea of testing the injury in a race. It’s a risk to move forward and trust that you’re healed enough to begin running again – it’s a whole other kind of leap of faith to go from barely running for 4 weeks to racing a 100 miler! I’ve decided to take the leap!

Here are some words of wisdom I ran across as I was making my decision that bolstered my resolve and gave me the courage I needed to move forward with my plans!

what could go right

It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen. – Herodotus

The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead! – General George S. Patton

 

 

01/24/13

Redding Marathon 2013 Race Report

 

Sundial Bridge Illuminated at Night - photo from SWEAT Running Club

I turned 40 in November. I am really hoping to qualify for Boston this year as a cool way to celebrate that milestone in my life.  When I heard that several of my friends were signed up for the Redding Marathon in California, I was instantly intrigued! It’s been an exceptionally cold winter in Boise, Idaho and zipping off to some California sunshine to run a race sounded like a lot of fun!

Though I wasn’t officially training for any particular race, my overall training has been going exceptionally well this year. I was starting to see my weekday runs on both roads and trails get faster and I was really starting to think that my body was gearing up for a great year! So, with 4 weeks until the race, I signed up too and joined in on the fun – a road trip to Cali to run a marathon as fast and hard as I possibly could!

Famous Potato Marathon 2012

My PR was at the Famous Potato Marathon in May of 2012 when I was 10th female, 1st in my AG and ran a 3:48:41. I had no expectations when I showed up at the starting line and was shocked that I shaved 32 min off my previous best time! I did miss qualifying for Boston by 3 min and 41 seconds but the fact that I was in the ballpark really boosted my confidence! So, I hoped that with some really solid training under my belt this year, that I would be able to close that gap and finally get my BQ at Redding.

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Trees outside the Oxford Suites Inn in Redding, CA

 

 

I have to say that arriving in Redding was such a visual treat! There were a row of palm trees outside my hotel room, the temperatures were in the 60s and it was oh-so-gloriously SUNNY!!  We stayed at the Oxford Inn and Suites and from the moment we arrived, we felt well taken care of by the friendly, attentive staff.  The hotel was clean, attractively decorated and we loved seeing the swimming pool open and ready for business in January! We liked our room, the hotel was quiet and we loved the free hot breakfast with foods like hash-browns, scrambled eggs and sausage each morning! Mmm mmmm!

My friends and I at Shasta Dam

In total there were 8 of us from the Boise, Idaho area (plus my sweet husband who had come along to cheer me on at the race and be my amazing support system! Thanks, honey!) I highly recommend bringing along other runner friends when you travel to out of state races. And Redding was a wonderful place for sight-seeing, eating out and taking pretty scenic pictures to boot! Our group spent the day before the race picking up our race packets at Fleet Feet, getting a yummy lunch at Luigi’s, checking out the race start at Shasta Dam and carbo loading at Olive Garden before turning in early for a good night’s sleep and we had a lot of fun!

Packet Pickup at Fleet Feet. I am wearing the super cute race shirt in the photo! Love it!

I had studied the course and the elevation chart at www.findmymarathon.com and knew that it was hilly and that I’d have to a pace myself wisely. I felt confident that if I could relax and run a smart race, I’d probably do well and I felt I had a good shot at my goal.

My husband drove me and my friends Billie and Julie to the start about half an hour before the race began. We spotted five deer nibbling on the green grasses just outside the visitor’s center at Lake Shasta Dam. I took it as a good sign that it was going to be a great day! We arrived early enough that I was able to walk right up to the row of porta potties and use one! The temperature in the parking lot was probably close to 35 with 15 mph winds! I was freezing but knew I’d warm up once I started running and I also knew the high was predicted to be mid 70’s for the day. I was wearing a tank top, shorts, my calf sleeves and a light running jacket and thin gloves and they were just about perfect for the start.

I had a funny conversation with a man in line ahead of me at the bathroom (when I lined up for round 2 a few minutes later) that made me laugh. He said his wife had gotten sick, so he’d made her sleep in the guest room, while he bargained with God to let him show up at the race healthy and that he’d trade being sick the day AFTER the race instead! Smart plan!  I also met a young guy wearing sandals and socks. He was getting lots of questions from curious runners asking if he was going to run the “whole way” in those things! He said, “Yeah” – and he really did! We would turn out to be a pretty similar pace and I would refer to him as “sandals” every time I saw him out there, as in, “Looking strong, there, Sandals!” Oh yeah, we bonded! 🙂

Posing with my friend Sam who DID qualify for Boston later that day! Woo hoo, Sam!

When it was time for the start, I lined up about halfway back in the pack, knowing I didn’t want to go out too fast. I knew the event was not chip-timed but hoped it wouldn’t hurt me later for making that decision. Someone said “GO!’ and we were off! I relaxed, settled into my warm up pace and was happy to be running! In the first mile, we ran across the Shasta Dam which was a pretty awesome way to begin the journey! The views were spectacular of the mountains covered in thick trees, the bright blue sky and Lake Shasta! Wow!

The runners take off and cross Shasta Dam in the first mile of the Redding Marathon.

I soaked in the beauty in mile 1 and soon after the course started to go downhill – literally! I love downhill running and this race had a few really enjoyable sections of it with mile 2 being the fastest of all! I passed my buddy Sam here and our friend Bill who was pacing him. Knowing they are both really solid runners, I expected them to pass me back as soon as the swift downhill section gave way to the flatter parts of the course, but that didn’t happen.  I had decided early on to feel out the pace – to NOT obsess over what the Garmin was telling me about my pace and instead to just tune into my body and run exactly the way it wanted to run that day. I hoped by doing so, I’d ration my energy appropriately and be able to turn it up a notch at the end if I needed to to chase my time goal.

From the start, I felt really good. I was well trained, had tapered and rested and felt amazing! I can honestly say this turned out to be the smartest race I’ve ever ran as well. I walked through every single one of the 14 aid stations, switching between cups of water and Gatorade at each one. I ate a GU every 45 min – an hour and I took an S cap each hour to help maintain my salt balance. It seemed to work really well, too. I felt fueled, my energy stayed consistent and I had a smile on my face throughout the race! I also made it a point to thank each and every volunteer I encountered, letting them know how much I appreciated their help! I chose to do the race without carrying any water at all. I think that was a wise decision for me too. There was plenty of water on the course, so there was no need to slow my time down by carrying any (although it could be argued that by walking the 10-15 steps through each aid station so that I could get every drop of water inside my mouth instead of up my nose may have balanced things out.)

I had promised myself to only check the Garmin at a few points during the race: the half point, 20 miles and then each mile in the final 6 to try to push harder if I could to reach my 3:45:00 goal.  I had printed out the approximate paces at www.findmymarathon.com, which takes into account elevation gain and loss for each mile and knew I needed to be at the half point by about 1:50 or so. I hit that point at 1:49 and felt really pleased with how things were progressing! I had hit a 1:47 half at the Pocatello Marathon in September and then tanked in the second half and was hoping I was playing my cards a little smarter this time by holding back. At the 13 mile aid station, one of the volunteers said, “You’re looking strong!’ I said “I feel wonderful!’ She told me to keep it up and let me know I was 6th place female! That really cheered me up and I kept my focus as I headed out.

Me at a little past mile 13 right on target!

I knew I needed to hit the 20 mile point at around 2:52 or so and hit that at 2:50! I was elated! I knew I had a little cushion, but not much to reach my goal.  I ran into the aid station and started pumping my fists in the air and smiling! A lady said to me, “You look great! How do you feel?” I replied, “TOTALLY AWESOME!” She said, ‘Good luck, AWESOME!”

The course was really beautiful! We ran through an old train tunnel at mile 4, which was insanely cool (and yes, I did hoot and hollar as I ran through it), and we also crossed 3 bridges during the race, which were also neat highlights! The views were spectacular! The  asphalt running path runs alongside the Sacramento River, which was a pretty distraction. There were lots of mountains and trees and lots of greenery alongside the trail to keep things enjoyable. The most noteworthy thing about the course is the hilliness, though! I felt that all my training in the Boise Foothills on trails really paid off here since there were lots and lots of ups and downs throughout the entire course. There were also lots of twists and turns and curves in the path, which means it’s more important than ever to focus on cutting the tangents if you want your Garmin to come anywhere close to 26.2 in the end. Though I’ve helped certify three courses myself and knew this, I found it easier after awhile to just relax and run the curves normally (which meant I did add some distance onto the race, which probably hurt me in the end.)  My Garmin showed 26.5 at the finish line.

Though there wasn’t much of an opportunity for my  husband to see me in the race, he was able to see me at the start, at about mile 9, 13.5 and about 19, which was still pretty awesome! I always feel happy to see him cheering me for at my races and it always boosts my mood! So, though the crowd support was minimal in this event, the volunteers along the course were second to none! They were helpful, friendly and very clearly called out, “Gatorade” or “water” as they held their cups up, which I appreciated! My favorite aid station was the one where every single volunteer (including the three men) wore pink tutus and neon pink wigs!  That definitely brought a smile to my face!

The fatigue and the warmth of the day started to tug on my pace in the final miles. The undulating hills, which I had loved earlier became a mental challenge, but I pressed on. When I finally saw the famous Sundial Bridge (the only bridge in the world that is a functional sun dial) I had mixed emotions! My Garmin showed I had already gone 26.3 miles, that I was on pace for a BQ, but once I actually saw the bridge and realized I had to do a little more path just to get to it – I knew there was no way in the world I’d be able to get my 3:45:00 time I’d hoped to earn.  But, I quickly dismissed any negative thoughts from my head and told myself, “That is NO excuse to not run each and every last step as hard as you can!!” and I started pumping my arms and legs as furiously as I could to final kick it home!!!!  The bridge, I have to tell you, is so freaking cool! Looking down, I was running on glass and could see the water beneath me. Crowds lined the bridge and cheered as I ran and I felt revived! I pushed and pushed right until the finish line which I crossed in 3:47:22 – missing my BQ by 2 minutes and 22 seconds.  My Garmin showed I’d ran an average pace of 8:34 for 26.5 miles and I knew I’d needed an 8:35 or better to BQ, so I had to at least give myself a pat on the back for sticking to my goal pace — even if I didn’t quite make it in time.

Crossing the Sundial Bridge to the finish! Kicking it in!

A volunteer placed a really beautiful, brag-worthy medal around my neck. I was thrilled! I’d run a smart race, I PR’d by over a minute on a much tougher course than the Potato Marathon (which has only 130 feet of elevation gain vs the 600 or so in this race) and I was really proud of myself! There were 201 marathon finishers that day. I came in 51st place, 6th female overall and 1st in my age group of 40-44.  Even though I didn’t get Boston, I feel like I WON! I had a big smile and no regrets as my husband congratulated me and I flopped to the ground to catch my breath – a sure sign I’d given my all to the course and had ran the best race I had in me on that day!

I gave all I had in the race. This is how totally spent looks.

My friends and I enjoyed pie at the finish party (PIE!!) Mmmmmm and I received a really cool silver plaque for winning my age group along with a cool mug that had the cutest marathon tagline I’ve ever seen: twenty-six two with a view!  Perfect! I will definitely be proud to drink my morning cappuccino in that!

I love my plaque for winning my age group! Really COOL!

 

 

 

My pals and I at the finish line! We loved the Redding Marathon!

01/5/13

Looking Back 3 Years Ago Today

 

Bertha and I at Leon’s Fat Ass 50k in 2011

3 years ago today I attempted my first ultra marathon — and quit after 23.33 miles in the snowy Boise Foothills when I had GI distress and needed a bathroom (this was before I’d grown accustomed to baring my bottom in the wild!) As I rode home in the car that day, I remember wondering if I’d ever really be able to make it the entire 31.07 miles of a 50k someday.

Three months later, I showed up at the starting line of another ultra – the Weiser River 50k — and this time I did get to feel the satisfaction of crossing the finish line – and it felt awesome!

Bertha and I racing at Weiser River 50k in April of 2010.

Every year since that first freezing January morning in 2010, I have shown up at Leon’s Fat Ass 50k to do the race again. In 2011, I got off course and did so many bonus miles that my husband refused to let me run the second half of the race (so — 20 miles done instead of the full distance.) In 2012, I had my year of redemption finally and raced much, much faster than previous years AND got to cross the finish line!!! It was a glorious feeling – and carried a lot of meaning for me since it had been my first experience at an ultra distance back in 2010.

Today, the race happened again, but this time I was not in attendance. I was volunteering for the Treasure Valley Weight Loss Challenge at Humphrey’s Diabetes Center in Boise. I had the privilege of greeting about 850 local people who are committing themselves to losing weight and getting healthier in 2013! I showed a few of them my before photo and enjoyed some wonderful conversations about achieving really difficult weight loss and fitness goals when you really commit yourself to them! It was an inspiring and fun time getting to give encouragement to others and give my time to a worthy organization. I’m glad I went. 🙂