04/19/13

Reflections of Boston at Bruneau Sand Dunes

I was excitedly watching the runner tracking on the Boston Marathon on Monday, cheering on several local friends who were living the dream out in “bean town” while I rooted for them at home and daydreamed about running the race myself next year if I can pull off that BQ I’ve been chasing since I first fell in love with running 5 years ago.  Running the Boston Marathon is for me what it is for countless other runners who have come before me – the “Holy Grail” of running achievements for the common man and woman.  For most runners,  earning the right to race Boston is an extraordinary honor, bestowed only on those who have had the determination, grit and speed it takes to earn a place in Hopkinton on Patriot’s Day each April.

My mood was light as I watched the race updates.  And, then, suddenly, something went wrong. Very, very wrong.  There was an explosion. People were falling, bleeding, panic ensued. And, then another explosion. Frantically, I searched the news for information about what was happening. I texted my closest running buddy and asked if he was watching the news. I was in shock. Stunned.  What had been a joyous celebration scene had suddenly become a war zone with spectators losing limbs and bleeding and runners being told less than a mile from the finish line that the race was cancelled.  The quick response of the police, the paramedics and volunteers on scene who rushed to the aid of the injured, not knowing if they were right in the midst of more attacks was overwhelming. Good people do good, selfless, kind things – even at the risk of their own well-being, which is exactly the opposite of what the cowards who unleashed this horrible attack did – orchestrating an evil attack on innocent people in the midst of a celebration who had no way to defend themselves or fight back.

I was in tears watching the mayhem, the blood, the fear I saw on the faces of those interviewed. I worried for my friends who were there and for their friends and family who had been there watching and cheering from the sidelines! My five children hugged me and looked at me with questioning, innocent faces asking why anyone would do such a terrible, ungodly thing? I had few answers.

My heart was heavy when I awoke the next morning realizing that the Boston attack had not been some terrible nightmare but was in fact, a harsh reality.  My husband and I had directed The Bruneau Beast sand dunes race over the weekend and it was my responsibility to head back to the course and sweep the 5k, cleaning up flag markings, any trash and such.  The sky was gray and dark. It was threatening to rain. I welcomed the weather as an appropriate response to the grievous acts that had taken place the day before, the loss of innocent life (including an 8 year old little boy who was waiting for his daddy to cross the finish line).  I drove alone the hour out of Boise, losing myself in the mournful mood of my soul, glad for the chance to process my emotions and be alone.

I took along my camera and these are the photos I captured that day as I grieved for Boston.  My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this tragedy.

SAM_2226SAM_2295 SAM_2234 SAM_2235 SAM_2248 SAM_2250 SAM_2254 SAM_2258 SAM_2262 SAM_2275 SAM_2277 SAM_2286 SAM_2292

04/2/13

I Donated Blood for the First Time Today

I'm so happy that I was able to finally donate blood!

Giving blood = giving life! I will always be indebted to those who gave blood so my little girl could live! It felt wonderful to finally be doing something to return, in some small way, the gift that was given to our family when Savannah’s life was saved in 2007!

I have several items on my “bucket list.”  Some of them are grand adventures like running Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim at the Grand Canyon, taking a ride in a hot air balloon, running the Boston Marathon or meeting a running hero like Kathrine Switzer. Others are a little less glamorous, but very personally meaningful to me. One of those things on my list was to donate blood – something that I think we all know is a good thing to do, but many of us never get around to actually doing.

There is a special reason why this was so very important to me. My beautiful daughter, Savannah, the youngest of my five children was a very sick little baby when she was about 6 months old. Though we never did get a diagnosis for why Savannah became so seriously ill, one of the turning points for her recovery was when she received a blood transfusion at St Luke’s Children’s Hospital on September 22, 2007.

Savannah in the PICU after her blood transfusion in Sept of 2007.

Savannah in the PICU after her blood transfusion in Sept of 2007.

I remember being terrified as they told me that my little girl might not live through the night, but standing by her bedside, stroking the soft tufts of blond hair on her little cherub head and singing softly to her through my tears as she received that life-giving blood. As the hours went by, color started to return to Savannah’s face. It would be nearly a year before Savannah would be fully well again, but that night will forever be etched into my memory as the night she was given hope again.  I told my husband that very day that it was very important to me to one day donate blood as the best way possible I could say, “Thank you” to whoever had given so selflessly to my own baby girl and helped save her life!

Well, a few weeks ago, while on an early morning run with my pal, Ryan, he mentioned feeling a little tired since he’d given blood the day before. That’s when I shared with him my own family’s story and told him I really wanted to give blood too! So, he invited me to join him the next time the American Red Cross came to his office and I happily jumped at the chance!

Thank you, Ryan for being a great example to me and letting me join you so I can do my part too!

Thank you, Ryan for being a great example to me and letting me join you today!

So, today was that day. The day I was able to pay it forward. As I was lying back in the chair, I thought about how frightened and hopeless I’d felt the day Savannah needed blood and how utterly grateful I was when there was blood available to give to her. I wondered about where my own blood would go. Would it be another little baby like my own who would need it? A mother? A grandpa? It really doesn’t matter. It just feels amazing to know that there is a very simple way to do some good, to provide some help to those who really need it!

So, if you are like I was – thinking that giving blood is a good thing to do and something you’d always intended to do, I encourage you to take the steps to find a local donation location so that you, too, can share the gift of life! And for those of you, like Ryan who have been giving for years, please know from the bottom of my heart how truly grateful I am for your kindness! Thank you!!

 

Savannah (who's a healthy 6 year old and the light of my life) and I.

Savannah (who’s a healthy 6 year old and the light of my life) and I.

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!

09/23/12

10 Running Questions Game

Authors and fellow bloggers, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea of Another Mother Runner started a little game a couple weeks ago where they each answered 10 questions about themselves that they shared on their blog with their readers, then they tagged three other bloggers and they’ve asked other bloggers to “tag” one another and keep the game going!  Well, my Daily Mile pal, Danica Lucker of Boston or Botox  tagged me this past week so now it’s my turn to play! So, here you go!!!!! I hope none of my revelations are too shocking!

1. Best Run Ever:  The first time I ran 50 miles in June of 2011. It was the week after I’d been pulled at Big Horn 50 at about the 50k spot for being too slow. I needed to know I could really do the distance in the same amount of time that Big Horn had allowed for the overall distance which was 15 hours. I ran that fifty miles in 13:57 – more than an hour faster than I needed to.

It started in the early morning hours under a star-studded black sky by headlamp with my good friend, Ryan there to pace me. I remember feeling fast on the downhill early on, enjoying the thrill of doing something crazy. I remember the trails being lined with fragrant lupine flowers, dodging some fierce cows that threatened to block us from the path, splashing my feet through the ice cold Boise River that had flooded the Greenbelt, the agony of muscles that were so tired they threatened to seize right up and stop working, the joy of digging deep and getting it done when it hurt so much and somehow sprinting to the “finish” at the end where we jumped into the Boise River to celebrate while family and friends clapped and cheered and took photos.  It wasn’t an official race, but it was honestly one of the most meaningful runs of my life. I regained my confidence that day and knew I was unstoppable!

2. Three Words That Describe My Running: Soul-cleansing. Energizing. Social.

3. My Go-To Running Outfit Is: Under Armour 2″ black compression shorts, Pearl Izumi teal and black running tank, Zensah neon pink compression calf sleeves, Moving Comfort Fiona sports bra, Balega no show running socks and Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes.

4. Quirky Habit While Running: I’m kind of an attack hugger! Sometimes I get so overcome with love for my running partners, so amped up on endorphins that I throw my arms around whoever I’m with and pull them to me for a quick squeeze right in the middle of a run! The pals sometimes look stunned. I am usually left smiling! If I like you and am having a particularly joyful outing with you at some point, you may experience this. You’ve been warned!

5. Morning, Midday, Evening:  I know it’s been an exceptionally fun day when I have started in the early morning and am still running midday and through the night and get to watch a second sunrise before I’m done but I need to do more 100 milers to experience that more often!  Honestly, I usually do the majority of my running in the early morning hours – much of it by headlamp in order to be back at home before my five kids wake up for the day! It’s one of the ways I am able to be a devoted Mom AND devoted runner!

6. I Won’t Run Outside When It’s:  I have ran through snow, hail, rain (my first marathon had rain the entire time!), 100 degree temperatures, smoke (we have had quite a few forest fires in our area this summer but that didn’t stop me from training once), wind and perfect weather.  I feel that one of the reasons I have been successful at keeping my weight off and have trained well for most of my races has been my willingness to get my runs in no matter what the weather is like.  If it’s cold, I wear more layers and gloves. If it’s hot, I go slower and bring more water. It’s pretty simple.  Sometimes (like the one time last December I ran through a storm with lightening, rain, hail and winds high enough to knock me to the ground repeatedly while I was doing a 50 miler alone) it was hard to feel sure it was a wise decision – but the knowledge that I’d survived and came out stronger afterwords convinced me that most of the time there is no such thing as weather bad enough to justify skipping a run. Plus, those sorts of stories are always fun to tell at parties to those who think long distance runners are a little crazy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Worst Injury and How I Got Over It: Last August at Wild Idaho 50 miler, I suffered an IT band injury that forced me to limp the final 29 miles of a very difficult, mountainous race. It was pretty painful and I had to take a few weeks off to rest it, to spend time foam rolling and stretching and finally seeing a chiropractor for Graston therapy to finally heal it entirely.

8. I Felt Most Like a Badass Runner When I: Crossed the finish line at Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler in March of 2012! Running a hundred miles is one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life! I felt like nothing I set my mind on and worked hard to achieve was out of my reach once I’d done that!

9. My Next Race Is:  My next race to direct is the Idaho Wine Run coming up next Sunday, September 30th in Caldwell, ID! My next race to participate as a pacer in will be IMTUF 100 miler in McCall, ID the following week, where I’ll be pacing my good friend, Rachael for about 50 miles. The next race I am running as a participant is the Foothills Frenzy 50k here on October 20th here in Boise, Idaho! I’m really looking forward to all three races!

10. Potential Running Goals for 2013: I am eager to run another 100 miler and I’d like to qualify for the Boston Marathon!

Now I get to “tag” other bloggers that I follow! I choose my super, awesome, running partner, Ryan in Boise, Cory (a cool and really funny guy I met at Antelope Island this spring) Fast Cory and Jeremy, a good friend from Daily Mile who was kind enough to show up at my 100 miler, offering me a kind face and a big hug after I’d hit a really rough patch in my race and helped pace me for a bit – Jeremy runs this.   Can’t wait to see your responses, fellas!!! TAG! You’re IT!

 

07/19/12

Boise Trail Running Videos

“Why do you run trails?” “Is it worth it to run in the mountains versus running on the roads?” “What’s it like to run for hours?” “Is it fun to run with others?” These are some of the questions I frequently hear from others and my answers are usually along the lines of “I really just need to take you along and let you experience for yourself how the whole world looks different from a mountain top, how much pride you can feel in yourself when you’ve pushed so hard to climb steep sections at elevation to reach that lovely summit, how spotting a bunny or a herd of deer or a snake or a chipmunk or a hawk can remind you that this world is full of more life than you ever imagined and had forgotten about while sitting at home in front of your computer or on your couch, how awe and reverence can overwhelm you as you watch the sun rise or set (or both!) while you’ve been running, how coming around a bend and seeing a meadow of wildflowers can make your soul sing, how the smell of pine forests or sagebrush and rain and earth can make you breathe more deeply than you have in a long time, how splashing through a creek or a river can make you feel like a five year old again, how stopping to sit on a log and share a sandwich with a friend can make you feel like you’ve never been happier in your life before.”

Well, now I can also “show” those who ask by sharing these little YouTube videos! I am thrilled that a local runner has taken the time to make videos of a few trail runs on some of my favorite trails to run in the Boise Foothills and at Bogus Basin and I wanted to share them with you since it’s as close as I can come to taking all of you running with me in beautiful Boise, Idaho (and it doesn’t hurt that they used two of my favorite songs in the world as background music!) Just a word of warning, though… you will likely feel inspired to lace up your own shoes and head out to find some trails to run!  Happy running!!!!

 

 

04/23/12

It’s All About Heart at the Back

I had the great honor yesterday of volunteering at the 2012 Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, which is billed as the “toughest half marathon in the U.S.” The theme this year was Samurai Warrior, so my husband dressed as a  Samurai and I dressed as a Geisha to bring a little fun to the summit aid station at mile 8.4 that the local running store The Pulse puts on each year.

It was a lot of fun watching the team of volunteers at the top transform the roadway into the highlight aid station for the race! It was pretty cool to see how well the 20 or so volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got a few hundred cups filled with water and Gatorade – stacked three tiers high and got ready to hydrate and encourage the runners as they passed!

I placed myself just below the summit and as soon as I saw the front runners I started cheering and clapping and high-fiving them as they went by! It was a ton of fun to bring a smile to the very worn out racers who were fighting the relentless uphill of Rocky Canyon Road who’d been tearing it up for more than 8 uphill miles in about 90 degree heat by the time they reached us! I was very impressed by how well many of them tolerated the tough conditions! I told the runners “You are my heroes!”

I must have high-fived over a thousand runners on Saturday! I also got about a dozen sweaty hugs! You could just see how much some of them really needed to be told, “You’re doing GREAT!  You’ve got this!”  It was a really neat perspective to be on the other side of the race this year, since I ran it myself the last two years in a row. It may surprise you to know that I actually preferred cheering and helping out to running it myself. Seeing all of those grateful smiles will forever be a memory that will gladden my heart!

The highlight of my day came after the race had been going on for about four hours. The racers started at noon, so it was the hottest part of the day and the back of the packers were still toughing it out on the course, under the blazing sun, long after the front runners had crossed the finish line and joined the party down at Robie Creek on the other side.

The crowds of runners coming up to the summit had dwindled way down and I headed back down the hillside to find those who would need encouragement the most — the ones at the very end of the race.  I found them after about a mile and a half – a mother, in her fifties doing her first Robie with her college-aged son, my friend who was sitting at a search and rescue aid station, under an umbrella who had struggled in the intense heat who was making the smart choice to call it a day and another friend who was in good spirits but just needing a little more time to complete the long haul up the hillside in the heat.

I joined the mother/son team and my pal, Derek came back to help them too. It was nice! There was such a great energy at the back of the pack! The college age son kept saying to his Mom, “I’m so proud of you! You’ve got this, Mom!” And, his Mom’s eyes would well up with tears at the wonderful support and love her son was showing for her. I think Derek and I felt like we were being allowed to share in a very special time for this family. We moved along as a group, letting the Mom set the pace, encouraging her to rest when we came to shady spots along the road, offering her drinks and pats on the back as we went.

My friends, Jon, Ryan and Mike were also there, just ahead of us, offering the same support and encouragement to my friend Marcie. It was a very positive, humbling experience to watch these wonderful runners give their heart and soul out there and never give up!

The Mom and son team ended up pulling ahead a bit and I had the pleasure of staying with my friend, Marcie, with just the pace car pulling up the end of the race behind us. There was a great energy each time we passed another aid station or a person who’d stayed to cheer on the last runners!  Marcie was in great spirits, taking time to hydrate, rest or eat as she needed. There was never any doubt about her finishing! She was strong right to the last step!

The sweetest moment came when, about a mile from the finish line, our other friends walked back onto the course with her ten year old daughter, Felicity, who had ran the race herself and already had finished as the youngest runner on the course that day! What a huge accomplishment!!  Marcie had bought a special necklace that said “13.1” to give as a  gift to her daughter when she caught up to her. It was wrapped beautifully in her daughter’s favorite color – purple! I think we all got a little teary eyed as Mom and daughter hugged and the lovely necklace was placed around Felicity’s neck!

As we came around the final curve, Marcie started picking up speed, her daughter and her friends all cheered her in as she pushed the pace right over the finish line! It was a wonderful time! I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it!

 

04/2/12

Run Free Caballo Blanco

 

“If I were to be remembered for anything at all, I would want that to be that I am/was authentic. No Mas. Run Free!” — Micah True

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post in honor of Micah True also known as Caballo Blanco, an ultra runner who became something of a living legend after the book Born to Run was published that documented this free-spirited runner’s life living among the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyons.  He founded the 50 mile Copper Canyon race, that helped raise funds for corn to help feed the Tarahumara giving back to the people he’d grown to care for and run alongside.  My friends, Dennis and Lynette ran Micah’s race in March of this year, calling it a life-changing experience in one of the most remote, beautiful places in the world.

I had the pleasure of meeting Micah just once, about a year ago when he came to Boise to give a speech. Afterwords, he joined my friends and I for a birthday party celebration for my friend, Dennis. I found him to be a very humble, kind-hearted good man. The world would be a better place if there were more people who lived as he did — authentically, purely and with an appreciation for the natural world, running and his fellow man. He will be dearly missed.

Micah is in the background in his festive party hat at Dennis’ birthday bash!

My friends will be honoring him with a trail run this Saturday. We’ll stop at the water fall and share stories about him and pay our respects to a dear man who left this world much too soon.  Run free, Micah!!!!

03/26/12

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01/22/12

The Inaugural Wilson Creek Frozen 50k

Hanging out at the start with my homeboys, Calvin and Bobby!

4 weeks ago, I ran my solo 50 miler. One week later, I ran Leon’s Fat Ass 50K. Now, two weeks after Leon’s race, I ran Wilson Creek Frozen 50k (which, as it turns out, would be the hardest race of them all, yet I enjoyed every minute of it!) So, in less than one month, I did all of that!!!! And, I feel FINE! I think that says a couple of things about me right now.

1. I am learning to race more conservatively, so that I don’t bonk, but give a steady, strong effort the entire time and then recover better. 2. That I am getting more experienced at these ultra distances! 3. That I am well on the right track for my training for my first 100 mile race at Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March!

My husband, Wayne, my 11 year old son, Wayne Jr, my best friend, Bertha and I all arrived together at the race start at about 6 am. Seeing the flood lights on the road, the people already directing traffic, the ambulance and fire department vehicles there in case of emergency, the covered tent for the packet pickup, the cozy fire-pit to get warm around, all the volunteers, etc just had me in total awe of my two friends, Emily and Davina who had chosen this big endeavor as their first venture into race directing! It was obvious upon arrival that they had thought and rethought out the details, down to the very last item and had done an amazing job setting this race up and doing it well! I knew all of the racers (more than 200) were in for a great day, with the two of them in charge!

Now race directors can control many things, but they cannot control the weather (try as they might!) The race is called the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k. In the past week, the Melba Idaho area has had snow, then several days of rain. The temperature on race morning was about 35 or so and a little humid. We had all been warned that we would not be finding any part of the course frozen, but would encounter more than our fair share of mud. And, we weren’t disappointed!

Now, when I raced Big Horn in 2011, I encountered insane amounts of mud that slowed everyone down! This was like Big Horn but WORSE! The mud was slippery, thick, clay. The kind that sucks your shoes right off. One of my pals, named Robbie told me he lost a shoe 8 times and even ran in his socks for a couple of miles before giving up and quitting the race, since it was so difficult! I would say at least 20 of the 31 miles were muddy, maybe a bit more. The 20 mile loop is a very challenging section, with or without any mud. The mud just turned it into a slog-fest! I looked down at my feet around mile 10 or so and almost laughed. They looked twice as large as usual. The mud was so thick, it just clung to the shoe and made it look like I was wearing snow shoes — snow shoes made of MUD! I teased some of the other runners (I use that term very loosely since I honestly saw everyone near me walking, slowly, looking exhausted from the effort, through the mud for miles) that I should have trained for this race by strapping two concrete blocks to my feet and then trying to run, since that’s pretty much how it felt. I didn’t let it get to me, though! I have learned to roll with the punches at these ultras! The weather will bring you what it does. Same with the course. You can’t control it, so don’t fight it! Put a smile on your face, adjust your expectations and pace accordingly and keep moving forward!

Shared Photo

It was like a big reunion of all my running buddies as we milled around waiting to start! I think I got about fifty hugs and “good lucks!” before we even hit the starting line! I have the best running friends in the whole world! I have never met a more loving, fun, kind-hearted group of people in my life and I was excited to get to share the trails with them at this race! The Daily Miler gang came out and truly represented, too, all giving me hugs before the start! Ben B.Calvin , Bobby H. , Emily B. (as awesome race director), Andrea S. , Rachel C. , Mike C., my husband Wayne (doing his first trail race EVER!), Otto , Randy and my goofball running buddy, Ryan A. , who totally made my day when I saw him wearing shorts and these crazy, orange and pink striped knee socks he’d borrowed from his 8 year old daughter!!! That was hilarious! I’d also later on that day, get to hug Les A.! It was like a big Daily Mile PARTY!

Ryan working the socks!

Just before they called us to the start, I wished my son and husband “Good luck” in their 10 mile race that would start two hours after ours. I had them both on my mind that first 20 miles, hoping they were having a fantastic time!

Here’s a photo by Michael LeBowitz from the LongRun Picture Company of my two guys finishing up their race with smiles! I love it!

 

With so many runners at the start (the 20 milers and the 50kers started together), it was like a slow-moving human train on the single track trail up the first big climb, a steady stream of headlamps as far as the eye could see. I enjoyed hearing the chatter from excited runners all around me. I’d passed my buddy, Jon just before the climb started, as he high-fived us, while he waited to jump in at the tail end and serve as one of the sweepers of the race, making sure those in the back are well looked after. Jon is known in my group as the “fun guy!” – always doing crazy stuff like running in the winter without a shirt and this day he didn’t disappoint – nearly blinding me with his alabaster skin! hehe!

I caught up to my friends, Otto and Randy after a mile or so and felt so proud of myself for being near them already! In the past, they were both always pretty far ahead on the climbs, so I felt really happy to see that all the hard work I’ve been doing has improved my climbing ability a bit! The three of us were in silly moods and the conversation was light-hearted and fun. I would teasingly pull ahead just a bit and say, “And Christie pulls ahead, CHICKING both men and the crowd goes wild!!” throwing my hands up in the air!!!! Otto, pushed me on the head as he bolted by and said, “Not so fast, there, Missy!” The three of us were like a bunch of little kids at recess and it was a nice way to start the race.

Otto took this picture of me during the race. It’s one of my faves from yesterday! The scenery was beautiful out there!

I never looked at my heart rate during this race. Instead, I just focused on how I was feeling and kept my effort consistent, steady and strong! I made sure to eat about 50 calories or more every half an hour to keep my energy up. I carried my two hand bottles with 22 oz each and made sure to keep drinking every few minutes. It was quite a workout packing all that mud for miles and miles (many of those miles UPHILL!) so I was very thirsty and kept sipping throughout the race.

I’ve definitely had more than my fair share of experiences with bonking in the past. I have gotten much better at avoiding it these days and for that I’m thankful! I never struggled at all with the bonk at this race and believe my constant fueling paid off keeping me physically and mentally in the game — even if it was a very slow pace with the added effort of the mud.

The weather had other surprises for us on the course, too! Crazy winds, hail, sleet, snow, and believe it or not — a little sunshine and blue skies by the time I finished, too, just to keep things fresh and interesting! I had one wardrobe malfunction on the course! Don’t worry! It was just a windbreaker incident! I’d just bought a new windbreaker at Old Navy the night before and about 6 miles into the race, I looked down and the zipper seemed broken! The top of the jacket was open and the bottom was too, whipping in the breeze, but the zipper held steady right in the center. Argh! I pulled to the side, trying to fix the problem, the winds and the cold getting fiercer as I worked. Maybe 15 people passed me here, but I knew I had a long day ahead of me of nasty weather and that I really needed my coat to work, so I tried not to think about it. After a few minutes, I looked up and my friend, Conner was passing by, too. He saw my predicament and likely the frustrated look on my face and came to my rescue! He had me grab the jacket from the bottom, holding it tight together, while he worked the zipper and he got it unstuck!!!! Then I was able to actually zip up my coat again! I gave him a big hug and thanked him and would later tell him, “Every time the cold winds blew and I was warm I said a silent, “Thank you, Conner” during the race!!!! I also told him that I had definitely chosen the right person to pace me at my 100 mile race, since he helped me out when I really needed it and he could be counted on as a friend. He said, “You just wait! I’m like that! I’ll take good care of you!” 🙂 Yay for awesome friends!!!!!!

After the jacket was zipped, Conner and I stayed together for a few miles, chatting. It was lots of fun catching up and knocking out a few, slow miles together heading up the mountain in the storm. Conner is part of Team in Training and had come to the race with some of his friends from that group, so at the first aid station at about mile 8, he waited for them to catch up, so he could offer them some encouragement and run with them (what a good guy!)

Miles 8 – 18 are pretty challenging. Nearly all mud. It also involved the climb right up to Wilson Peak, the highest point we reached during the entire race! The winds had picked up and were really intense and icy as we slowly climbed towards the summit. I smiled and said, “Way to go!” to everyone coming back down the hill towards me. The person behind me finally caught up and said, “Aren’t you Christie from Daily Mile?” I grinned and said, “Yeah, that’s me!” He said, I’m Matt G.!” It made me happy to meet another one of my online pals from Daily Mile! It had started to snow by the time I reached the summit. The views were amazing!!!! You could see the red rock canyons, the outcroppings of unusual rocks everywhere (some of them reminding me of those at Stonehenge!), the mountains in every direction, sagebrush and wheat-colored long grasses covering most of it. I didn’t see the wild horses, as I often do when I come to run in the Owyhee Mountains, but the natural beauty of the area, still blew my mind.

I saw Otto, just ahead of me again, crouching down at the tower on the top, looking really cold. I asked him if he was ok. He nodded, but I was a bit worried. After using the hole punch at the summit to prove I’d done this loop (and getting it STUCK to my race bib since it froze from the cold, though thankfully, a kind hearted fella helped me out. I think it might have been Matt G again! – Thank you! I’d still be up there since the hole punch was attached to a wire, hooked to a pole!), I headed back down the mountain, eager to get done with the first 20 mile loop!

It was like a miracle occurred once I got off that tough, rocky, muddy, steep, windy section, too! The next section of trail was sandier, so it was less muddy and it was less windy, too! I actually broke into a RUN for the first time in many miles and it was a great feeling to stretch the very, sore legs out! That mud was a serious workout! Unfortunately, more mud and lots of steep sections with rocks were ahead, but I was in good spirits, so I didn’t mind. It was lightly raining, I was warm and I was listening to some music, enjoying the day and excited to see my husband and son and see how their race had gone!

I was alone for much of this section. When I passed the body of the dead Raven on the trail, I thought of my friend, Tony, who had mentioned this very sighting earlier in the week. He’d said, “I was out there alone, on the eve of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday and spotted this dead Raven. It was a bit creepy!” I said, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as I passed the corpse!

I could hear the cowbells and the cheering of the crowds of those blessed souls out there cheering on the runners as I got closer to the start/finish area, where I would complete my first 20 mile loop (which was really closer to 20.5 I think.) A grin spread over my face and I picked up the pace. As soon as I checked in, I headed for my drop bag. My friend, Holly, who owns the local Pulse running store, quickly jumped in to help me! She was a doll, taking my hand bottle and filling it up with my Mocha Frappuccino that I’d saved for this section. I also grabbed my lunchable that I’d put into a zip lock bag and dropped off the headlamp. That’s when I turned and saw my husband and son, just glowing with pride in their new scarves (the finishing prize) waiting for hugs from me! I was so proud of them both and gave them kisses and told them, “Great job!” I also got hugs from Mike and Les, who had also finished their races and were looking pretty pleased with themselves! Then, I quickly took off to do the final 10.8 mile loop to finish up my race.

Now, I’ve ran that loop many times in training. I normally adore it and consider it a fairly fast section and had been looking forward to it all day. But, the mud monsters had gotten to that section too and that was discouraging. I just walked the first 3-4 miles since it was also really slippery and muddy. I took that time to eat and drink and will my legs to keep on going. I have gone longer distances, but after the crazy mud for so many miles, my hips, my glutes, my hamstrings and my knees were just spent! There was very little pep in my step.

Randy caught back up to me here. He’d apparently been at the aid station when I checked in and out. It was nice to see him and have some company, since it seemed I was the only person out on the course. I did find out later that many people DNF’d or chose to drop down to the 20 mile distance after they’d done the first 20, since it was so challenging. So, very few actually went on to complete the full 50k they’d signed up for. It really was THAT tough of a course! But, I was proud of myself for never even considering that. I like to finish what I start and felt that every obstacle I encountered out there was just another opportunity to improve my mental strength for the upcoming 100 miler.

Randy said his hips hurt. I told him about my aches and pains and together we slowly slogged along. Somewhere in here we started talking about how awesome hot baths are when you’re sore (despite the fact that everyone advises ice baths.) Clearly, we were both eager to be done and looking forward to rewarding ourselves back at home with some rest and relaxation!

Randy and I came into an aid station. I have to say each and every aid station and every volunteer was way above average!!!! We were treated well, by smiling friends. I enjoyed the warm soups, the peanut m and ms and the orange slices at the aid stations, then quickly got out. I’d say, on average, I spent between 1 – 5 min max at any aid station — usually 2-3 min. I didn’t dilly dally! I got right back into the race. That’s how I ended up without Randy, when he saw his pal, Jenny, at her aid station and they started chatting. Jenny’s my pal, too, but I had a race to run!

My favorite part of the 10 mile loop is along Wilson Creek, through the red rock canyons and up on the ridge, on single track, looking way down at the creek as you climb high up. It’s breathtakingly beautiful! I’d been running about 8 hours when I hit this section and it was finally warm and sunny! That was the first time all day I took my gloves off. I closed my eyes and just smiled, listening to the gurgling of the rushing waters. It was so peaceful and I was happy.

I caught up to a lone, male runner here. Wished him well and passed him. I was running strong again and just enjoying the moment. About 3 miles from the finish, I heard croaking. I looked all around the trail expecting to see a toad or frog, but I didn’t see one. I kept hearing the sound, though and finally I looked UP! It was a black bird soaring in the baby blue sky above me and sure enough — he was CROAKING! I burst out laughing!!! I have since googled and learned that black birds can sound like that, but I didn’t know that before! It was about here, that the runner I’d passed got a second wind. I’d slowed down to a steady, brisk walk and he was feeling good, so he passed me. I could make out 3 other runners way up ahead and watched as one by one this guy passed them all! Impressive! It inspired me to pick up the pace and get back into a run again, too, though my pace was much slower than this guy’s had been. And, one-by-one, I, too, ended up passed those three ahead of me, who were finishing up the 20 mile loop.

Once I heard the cowbells and the crowds again, joy just flooded my body again. I always get a second wind when I see the finish line and the crowds!!! That’s when my legs get renewed energy and I feel them churning faster and faster! I saw my friends, my husband and I saw Ryan taking pictures and I just threw my arms in the air and ran like a lunatic across that finish line, laughing and smiling, enjoying the moment! My Garmin says I reached a 5:38 pace at the finish!

Michael Lebowitz from Longrun Picture Company took this final kick photo of me! I love it!

Finish-366

My overall time was 8:55. I had done both loops in training and, based on those (done without crazy mud), I’d expected to come in around 7 – 7:30 hours, but given the circumstances of the course, I felt that sub 9 was a great accomplishment, even if it was quite a bit slower than I had expected to do. I was given an adorable light cheetah-print scarf and got a ton of hugs from all my friends! When Ryan ran up to say good job, he was sporting the same snazzy scarf and called us twins! His wife, Michelle cracked me up and took me aside and told me she’d told the race director earlier that that particular print wasn’t very manly and that when Ryan finished he’d begged for one. hehehe!!!!

I finished 4th female overall and 1st in the 30-39 age group! My trophy is totally freaking adorable! It’s a wood block with an empty shotgun shell casing stapled to it! Out at Wilson Creek, there are always tons of those on the side of the trail, so I thought that was a perfectly fitting award and I’m going to display it proudly!

I love my sweet new animal print scarf and 1st place AG award from the race!! Sweet BLING for sure!!!

My shoes AFTER most of the mud was cleaned off!! You should have seen them earlier!!!!!

It was an awesome day and I’m so happy I got to take part of the first official Wilson Creek Frozen 50k!

Elevation Gain: 6,037 feet of climb. Average Heart rate: 158. Max Heart rate: 203