Monthly Archives: April 2015

In The Desert

A desert can be broadly defined as any place lacking in something.

Words used to describe a desert include arid, desolate, lonely, uninhabited, solitary, wild, unproductive, untilled

While in Zion, I ran in the desert, ran. I did not have to stay there. I had support there. Constant food, words, water, clothing, shoes. All that I needed. More than I needed. The same intensity that drives me to run can also bring me to some tough low places sometimes, some desert places. I do not think I want to change that. Even with the best laid plans, expectations and details, I may be in the desert longer than I have planned.

As an ultra runner, my desert times seem to come after I have finished the race. There is so much time, care, planning, experimenting and energy that go into preparing for an ultra, months, weeks, days, hours. After I finish a race, I rest on a high for at least a week. I feel super human. I look at my body with a new sense of respect and love. I think about what just happened and bounce back between “never again!” and “what’s next?” There IS something tangible about training for a race, making plans and achieving your grandest racing expectations for the moment. (It is making me smile right now.) It’s been about this thing, this goal, building and building for months. I eat to run. I dress to run. I exist to run. I love this quote from FEARLESS by Max Lucado,

Pat prefers biking to breathing. To him biking is breathing.

Just substitute “running” for me.

Then, the crowd disappears. It’s not “supermom”, it’s back to being mom. It’s not “superwoman” it’s back to being woman. It’s a steeper step than I am prepared to step down and I lose my footing and fall. What does my desert look like? Sad. Empty. Fragmented. Sometimes I try to minimize the high’s so that the foreseeable low isn’t as exhausting.

“But there is such beauty in the desert”, . . a friend told me, when I was struggling with the low. The brilliance of the colors. The expanse of the space. The richness of the sunset. My small body against the height of the mountains. Moments in the desert took my breath away.

I like the idea of the desert as a metaphor. I just have to keep in mind that it is not always harsh and extreme. It can be beautiful and leave you with a loss for words.

I want to end with this “personality test” called, “The Desert”, simple yet profound. I would love to read your feedback on your desert times as well as your answer to this desert test.

Race Recap: Yamacraw 50K + miles

Enjoy this race recap from my friend (and Zion pacer) Teresa. She ran the inaugural Yamacraw 50K. She placed 3rd in her age group, top 10 for the ladies!! 

Start to Aid #1 (0-7.2) We got to the Blue Heron Mining Camp @ 7:40. Went to the potty, signed our waiver, and loaded the shuttle by 8:15am. It was a hot, windy 30 minute ride on a school bus. No potty at the start.  So, everyone made for the woods to pee. Turned my Garmin on and it wouldn’t get off the start screen. Kevin googled soft reset which didn’t work. Did a hard reset and got the satellite. Lined up for the start near the back and was stressing over setting up user profile on the watch. It wasn’t showing my heart rate which I was going to try to run by. Race started and we walked a short distance uphill then I started running right through the puddles everyone was avoiding (we knew we were going to cross the creek a bunch). While running,  I figured out how to add data fields to my watch to get my heart rate. It was already too high. I wanted to run 142 bpm for the day. There were tons of creek crossings and we passed Princess Falls. I stopped to take a photo. I ran a good bit of this section though we had a small climb to the aid station that I walked. It was already hot and I was concerned because my heart rate was running in the 160s. By five miles in, I had a hot spot on the ball of my left foot. It would bother me on and off for the rest of the day (along with a smaller one on my right foot). I had one Huma gel and drank a bottle of Tailwind, before the aid station. Pulled a Tailwind out of my pack and moved quickly out of the aid station. I just needed my bottles refilled, grabbed a 1/2 banana and walked out of the aid station. I was a few minutes ahead of my best pace prediction.

Aid #2 (7.2-11.6) I grabbed a peanut butter tortilla half and ate it with the banana the next several minutes while slowly jogging downhill after leaving the aid station. I was able to eat well and felt good, despite the heat and my high heart rate. I remember thinking “See, you can feel good after having a rough patch. Remember that later today!” I really liked this section. It was a lot of gentle downhill and rolling single track with tons of creek crossings. I was playing leap frog with several guys all day. Two had stopped at Yahoo Falls. I stopped and they took a picture for me. I somehow missed the arch. I believe it was in this section a guy from NJ came up behind me,  and then stopped in a creek crossing to douse his body with cold stream water. Great idea!! For the rest of the day I would wet my arms, face, neck, and hair at every creek crossing. I finished my bottle of water but had no Tailwind before pulling into aid station #2,  4.5 miles later. I used the only potty on course and quickly refilled my water and was off. I was still ahead of my best pace predictions, coming in at about 3 hours. Heart rate was still in the 160s.

Aid #2-3 (11.6-17.9) After leaving the aid station we started a gradual climb/rolling section that followed the river upstream for 6-ish miles. There were several spots in this section that I second guessed if I was still on trail. We would sometimes go a quarter to a half mile before a course flag/ribbon. After crossing a bridge, we started to climb up away from the river towards aid station #3. I was still averaging 15:28 pace and running with mid-160s heart rate. Way too high! Knew it would catch up with me later. I had another Huma gel in this section and another bottle of Tailwind. I pulled into the aid station wanting ice, which they didn’t have. The aid station was busy with the EMT and a runner who had twisted his ankle. I refilled both bottles, one with Naked Tailwind, and ate a pickle and headed out as a few runners I’d been leap frogging commenting about me leaving so quickly (though I was there longer than the previous 2).

Aid #3-4 (17.9-25.8) We ran out of the aid station and onto the road over the Yamacraw bridge and then back down to a trail by the river. We ran upstream for almost a mile then turned to follow Rock Creek for half a mile to the creek crossing. This was a gradual uphill section that was very mucky. We had to ride a raft across the creek. The next 2 miles were gradual uphill single track with lots of wide creek crossings, one with a guide rope that was thigh deep. Then, we left all the water we’d been in all day and had a decent climb to an unmanned water refill station. I put one earbud in during this section to help me run some of the service road, which I really dislike. We then ran an up and down a high bluff section where we were very exposed to the sun. I attempted to eat another peanut butter tortilla half but it was not going down well. I was very thirsty with a really dry mouth. At some point, I think I ate another Huma gel. The last mile to the aid station was a big climb up a forest service road. I walked the entire way to the aid station. I was exhausted by the time I got there. It felt like forever since the previous aid station. I was sick of anything sweet so I threw out the Tailwind and filled both bottles with water and grabbed another pickle. I also found out Kevin had finished. It was about 7 hours to this station which put me at about 16:10 pace, somewhere between my best and worst case scenarios. I had walked a lot and was bleeding time.

Aid #4-Finish I left the aid station walking with another 1 1/2 miles to go on service road. I put both earbuds in to listen to music and help me down the road. I was emotionally hitting a big low point because I was hot, tired, and realizing that getting in under 9 hours wasn’t going to happen. I tried my phone and briefly had cell service. I called Liz and spoke to her a couple of minutes before losing cell coverage. Just hearing a friendly voice was a boost and I knew she’d start praying hard for me. That was also a big boost. After filling up at the last unmanned water station with 7-8 miles to go, we popped back into the woods with some good single track. I took 2 Advil, a salt tab and had a Huma gel, my last for the day. The next 4 miles were winding switchbacks going through some high grass field sections between single track. I begin to focus on a personal goal to hit 31 miles (an exact 50k) before my watch reached 9 hours. We had our long last trail climb and ladder climbing sections to go. Somewhere in here my watched beep 31 miles. I had successfully reached a 50k distance in 8:44. I was so excited! I passed a group of three walking that had passed me multiple times during the day (I was quicker in aid stations). I was euphoric from my 50k time and was going to run while I felt this mental lift. The trail started back down and came to a long downhill ladder that I had to breath deep to get down from my fear of heights. I climbed down and caught a lady who I’d also been leapfrogging all day in and out of aid stations. I ran and chatted with her a few minutes and then passed her for the final time. I knew we had to be getting close. The last bit of trail was uphill but I could see people standing at the end in the distance. I ran in knowing I was almost finished. They told me to turn on the bridge and I was determined to run the whole way across. I could see Kevin on the far end and I ran to the finish.

Gear: I wore Lululemon What the Sport? shorts, Moving Comfort Fiona bra, Nike Dri-Fit Cool Breeze Strappy tank, Icebreaker underwear, Swiftwick Dirtbag 7″ socks, Pearl Izumi N2 trail shoes. I wore the AK Ultimate Direction pack with 2 20oz bottles. Used Run Goo all over for anti-chaffing.

Thoughts: It was a beautiful course with tons of water crossings. We had wet feet almost all day. Splashing my body with water was a good call and something to remember. If I had crew on a hot race, having ice in a cooler would be a must! The heat and my heart rate really affected me. It was 64 at start with 97% humidity. It reached 88 degrees. I was very hot and thirsty at the finish. My minutes per section were 109, 66, 95, 162, and 120. The section between aid #3 and #4 was the hardest for me and took me the longest, 40 minutes longer than the last section to the finish, both being 8.1 miles. This section was higher up, during the heat of the day, and we were exposed a good bit (Kevin also was 20 minutes slower on this section than the last section). I had achy legs that night but felt really pretty good the next day. I went from “never again” the day of race, to “if” the day after, to “when” by the third day! I’m sure Seeing the results and finding out a day after the race that I had a top 10 female finish and was 3rd place masters may have improved my outlook on running another ultra!

Zion 100K: pacer and crew. . . the heart

Teresa sent me an email about a month before my race. It was a questionnaire. (She actually sent it to someone named ‘Liz Johnson’ first. . . then, to me). It had 14 questions on it, some of which included. . .

When you’re tired, do you prefer lots of conversation, or absolute silence? How will you communicate that you want the opposite of what I am doing?

Do you want me to learn any bible verses or mantras to recite to you?

What do you want me to do at the aid stations? Run ahead and let Kathy know what you want? Fill your bottles?

About a week before the race, Teresa asked me to write a race plan. A race plan? I just want to finish.. I’ve never run this distance, how was I to plan? I fought this a bit in my head. I sought the advice of five running ‘greats’, Jobie, Joel, Scott, Matt and Kevin. I needed some feedback, before I started writing. I loved each of their words of encouragement and advice. Their thoughts helped me to make a tentative plan. Since my first priority was to finish, I designed my plan, based on cut off times. Then, I rewrote it with cutoffs in mind, breaking my plan down from aid station to aid station. Finally, I finished it with cutoffs, aid stations and ‘climbs’. There were three different climbs–all before mile 35! I knew I could not have my quads trashed or my body exhausted, going into the last 50K. I’m glad Teresa encouraged me to write a plan. It DID relax my nerves and helped me to begin visualizing my ‘checkpoints’. Def–have a race plan, even if it is based on finishing.

Kathy came over a few days before we were leaving to look at my plan and to go over some crew details. She too asked me about my expectations of her. My words to her? “Be YOU!” Kathy laughs easily. Kathy is a rock of calm. Kathy has a bit more control over her emotions than I do. What am I saying?! 🙂 The fact is that a large majority of people have more control over their emotions than I do. HA! I wear my heart on my sleeve, most of the time. I also tend to put my foot in my mouth, from time to time.

We arrived in Utah on Wednesday, two days before the race (good choice). First stop? In-&-Out! Well, our first stop was Arizona–who knew it was SO close? Who knew I would get lost?! HA! Second stop? In-&-Out.

Thursday, we went to Zion and took an easy two mile hike, has a GREAT lunch, per Teresa’s recommendation. The weather twas fantastic and promised to be that way for our entire trip. It was during our lunch, chatting with other racers that we realized I had to go pick up my race bib and check in before the meeting at 6:30 pm.

Got my bib and began to get nervous about my drop bags.

Kathy and Teresa were calm. They held it together, kept it light and got us back to our house to work on my two drop bags. We got everything together and wrote down aid station to aid station details.

Those two were rock solid! I cannot express enough or emote what that meant to me or did for me. They had NO doubt in their mind. They never backed down in their confidence and calm. I would try to shake them with my uncertainty. I remember saying something to Kathy about my feet. Without hesitation, she said, “Your feet are going to hurt. You’re running 63 miles!” She did not say, “duh”, but maybe, she thought it. 🙂

I am telling you, rock solid!!

Race day. . .

Kathy got me to the start. She saw me off with a hug, and we’ll see you in 15 miles! I was looking forward to seeing them. I saw them four times, during the race. I cannot tell you every situation or detail. They were always on it! They were the loudest cheerleaders, when they saw me. I felt like a prize fighter in the corner of the ring, each time I met them at the aid stations. One was getting food and drink. One was tending to my pack, my feet and my sunscreen needs. We had the best time together. We laughed. We smiled. I believe that everyone around us could feel our positive energy. I’m not sure you can rehearse this stuff. It is a bond that we share. My low at mile 30.5 was just a hiccup. Teresa walked me through it and ‘pushed, not shoved’, me along. I had complete confidence in the ability of these two.

My fav Kathy look? Two braids, Patagonia trucker hat, buff and lime green REI jacket!

My fav Teresa look? The one on her face, when she turned to me 100 yards from the finish and said, “You did it!”

At the end, BOTH of them were able to express the emotion that I had no energy to express. It was way more than a “high five”. I owe a lot of this accomplishment to you both, Teresa and Kathy. You helped to get me from start to finish. You believed in my ability and refused to let me disbelieve.

Race Recap: Zion 100K

4:30 AM alarm goes off. I am up. Made coffee and ate two waffles and peanut butter. I drank about 16 ounces of water. Left the house at 5:05 am. Arrived at the start at 5:35 am.

6:00 am the race starts promptly. The sun rises around 7:00 am. I had my head lamp but barely had to use it of rate first few miles. I was running with the pack and used their lamps. I conserved my batteries for later.

time now becomes a blur. I will track for you by miles

Miles 0-4 we headed toward ‘flying monkey’. This would be the first climb of 3. The sun was on the rise. The view was breathtaking. We were running on the edge of the mountain. At one spot, a rope hung down to help with the climb. You could use the rope or a side trail. I chose the side trail, because the rope was in use. I thought that this part of the race would be slow. No ‘conga line’. I was able to hike up these rocks without slowing down too much.

Miles 4-10 The first aid station was at mile 4. I grabbed water and some m & m’s and continued on. During this section, I ran a loop back to this same aid station, before heading down to mile 15 at Dalton Wash to see my crew for the first time! I do not remember much about miles 4-15. I was looking forward to seeing Teresa and Kathy before climb #2.

Mile 15! The sun was up and bright. I had my hat on. I put my sunglasses on. I gave the girls my headlamp, arm sleeves and some trash. They filled my bottles and supplemented my food.

Miles 15-19 were mostly uphill. I walked most of this at about a 14:00-15:00 pace. There was no need at this point in the race for me to run uphill. I made it to mile 19. The climb was not bad at all. I felt good. I was really trying to eat well, keep positive and run by feel to prepare myself for the last climb, starting at mile 30.5.

Miles 19-26.5 were tough. There was no climbing,  but the mixture of small rocks, large rocks and single track made it hard to get a rhythm. It felt like an uneven conveyor belt of rocks and dirt that someone would turn on and off intermittently. I made it back to mile 26.5 with a last sip of water. . . barely (that was long).

Miles 26.5-30.5 for the most part this was downhill. I decided about one mile in, to use the downhill to my advantage. I also thought that if there was going to be a place to run, this would be it. I changed my shuffle to some good music and pushed my pace. I finished those miles with about a 10:00-11:00 average. FELT GOOD!! My feet had several hot spots. I needed some blister prevention.

Mile 30.5! Ran in strong. Teresa got my Perpetuem ready and Kathy helped me with the duct tape for my feet. Kathy also reapplied sunscreen. Blisters covered, socks and shoes on. . . headed to my LAST, HARDEST climb. Teresa walked with me a bit, while I ate. The joy of finishing 30.5 AND the task of running 32.5 collided. I started to cry. Teresa talked to me a bit, “This is your normal low, right?”. . . “You are strong!. . . “We’ll see you in 5 miles.” I calmed down and carried on.

Miles 30.5-35.5 I still felt like running. The beginning of this section was runnable and “fast hike-able”. I ran and hiked until about mile 34. At about mile 34, I climbed 1500′ in 1.5 miles. I hit this mile at the warmest part of the day. (The heat of the day, still, was nothing, compared to a hot, humid Southern day.) It makes me laugh to remember the steep grade of this hill. People were stopped, sitting, hunched over, throwing up, meditating, as I pressed on. I made it to the top in good spirits! 🙂 I beat Kathy and Teresa here. They came running into the aid station, about 5 minutes after I crested the hill. I was ready to get going. I remember Teresa looking at me and telling me that we were going to run down before sunset. I was invigorated because my goal was to get to mile 47.5 by 7:00 pm. We had to go down the same 1500′. I wanted to do that in daylight! We were having great time! My smiles were genuine. It was good to be cared for and supported. Teresa and Kathy helped me to get ice in my hat and sent me off. Twelve miles and I would be with my pacer!

Miles 35.5-47.5 were tough. There was not much climbing but the ‘conveyor belt’ (intermittent up/down and trail/rock) was back. The views were incredible! I remember watermelon at aid station 40 & 41–SO GOOD! This section was monotonous. Looking for the trail markers kept me busy. I was keeping my eye out for pink flags, chalk dots and chalk arrows. At times, my goal was to run marker to marker. I was able to pass a few people on this section too. FINALLY, mile 47.5. I could not wait to sit and reassess my feet. . . more blisters. . . they hurt.

I made it to mile 47.5 by 7:10 pm! I sat down for a bit. I didn’t know what I wanted to eat. I made the mistake of eating too much from mile 42-47.5: 1/2 sandwich, ramen noodles, 2 gels and Tailwind. As I sat in my chair, I ate 1/2 avocado. Kathy had to remove my socks, because I was afraid my leg would cramp if I had to bend it to pull off my compression sock.  We placed some more duct tape on my feet, put new socks on and took my tank off. I switched to a long sleeve shirt and put my shoes back on. Teresa and I started at 7:20 pm! The sun sets at 8:00 pm. We were heading downhill into the sunset.:) I was trying to eat a 1/4 of a quesadilla, but my stomach was not feeling so hot.

Miles 47.5-55 7.5 miles until the next aid station. It was great to be with my person! I was pretty much alone for 13 hours. I was delirious, like I was just reunited with a long-lost friend. I was very chatty at first. Still not eating. I was anxious to get to the aid station at mile 55 and some TUMS. It did not cool down. I took my long sleeve off and ran in my sport’s bra. I could tell that my breathing was kind of labored. This was a dry and dusty place. I was breathing it in for 15 hours so far. It’s funny how this time with Teresa went from me being “chatty Kathy” (not to be confused with Kathy) to single word answers. We reached the aid station, I got some Tums, water and a small bag of pretzels. I still did not want to eat. We used the restroom and started for the finish line. Did I mention that there were compost port-a-pottys at EVERY aid station? (spoiled)

Miles 55-63 OH BOY! 8 miles to finish line. From miles 55-61.5, my responses to Teresa’s questions went from single word answers to NO answers. She got it. Teresa would run. . . I would run. . . Teresa would walk. . . I would walk. I managed to eat a few pretzels and sip water. The Tums made my stomach feel a bit better, but I still did not want to eat. When we got within 1 1/2 miles of the finish, Teresa let me know. I could carry on more of a conversation with her now. I was ready to be finished. Our last mile was a 13:00 pace.

We were 100 yards from the finish, Teresa turned, looked me in the eye, and said, “you did it!” She started crying. I joked that she needed to stop because I would not be able to breath, if I started crying. I ran across the finish and Kathy gave me the biggest hug! What a race! What a pair. . . of friends. What a majestic God who made this place and my body.

WOW!

Along with Teresa and Kathy, I had a large group of friends at home praying, calling, messaging. I had a husband, cheering me on and taking care of the kids. NOT ONE TIME did I think of dropping out, NOT ONCE. Awesome race. It did not disappoint.

17 hours 57 minutes. 17:05 pace.

Stay tuned for a post on my crew and pacer. . .

Zion 100K prep

So, I am preppin’. Race day is Friday, April 10, 2015. Start time is 6:00 am. 20 hour cutoff time for the 100K. Projected forecast is a low of 44 and a high of 74.  Here’s a peak at my race plan. My goal is to finish. I have never written a race plan. Birth plan? Yes. Race plan? No. Writing a race plan helped to settle my nerves a bit. It also gave me some distance related to possible time(s).

Race Plan

Mile 0-4 Flying Monkey Aid Station (uphill to here) 19:00 pace

Mile 4-10 Flying Monkey AS (down ½, up ½) 18:00 pace

Mile 10-15 Dalton Wash AS (all down hill) I’ll see my crew here. ½ way to ½ way. I’d like to be here at 4.5 hours. Second big climb, after I see my crew.

Mile 15-19 Guacamole AS (uphill) 19:00 pace

Mile 19-26.5 Guacamole AS (flatish)

Mile 26.5-30.5 Dalton Wash AS (downhill)

I’d like to get here in 9 hours (17:42 pace). I’ll see my crew here again.There is a long steep climb at this point. I would like to have eaten well up to this point to tackle this last big climb!

Mile 30.5-35.5 Goosebump AS (steep uphill) 19:00 pace. I’ll see my crew here after that last big climb. I am thinking I might want something savory to eat. Avocado on a tortilla with salt? Maybe, new socks, new shirt?

Mile 35.5-40 Gooseberry Point (uphill) 19:00 pace

Mile 40-41 Gooseberry Point (flat)

Mile 41-47.5 Goosebump AS (downhill) I will see my crew here and pick up my pacer!! I would like to be here in 14 hours. (17:42 pace) So, I would arrive here at 8:00 pm?

Mile 47.5-55 Virgin Desert AS (downhill)

Mile 55-63 Start finish (downhill) estimated finish of 18h 35 min (17:42 pace) Finish at midnight?

**eat every hour or every 4 miles

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http://www.grandcircletrails.com/zion-general-info/#maps

I have 3 climbs and 11 aid stations in this race. The aid stations are each represented by a dot on the Elevation Profile map, above. I will have a pacer at mile 47. (That is the second to the last dot on the profile map.) She will run me in to the finish. My final climb begins at mile 30.5 (the 6th dot). I will see my crew at this point. My goal is to make it to this point with a strong mind, strong body and a ‘good’ stomach. I’m looking to this point to be a “refresher”. I may put on a new shirt, new socks, something to reinvigorate me for the climb and the finish. It will be good to see my pacer at mile 47!! She is a strong runner with a spunky spirit. She’ll bring me some positive vibes.

Nutrition. . . I have not had any problems with my nutrition during training. I will keep doing what has worked. I will drink Perpetuem, water and tailwind. I plan to drink 4 servings of Perpetuem, over the course of the race. I will have one at the start and then, every 3-4 hours thereafter.  I will eat salted carmel gu, chocolate chip Z bars, tortillas with nutella and the food offered at the aid stations. I will also have endurolytes.

Wearing. . . I will wear a Oiselle tank, and Oiselle Roga shorts. I have Swiftwick socks, tall, medium and short. I will bring all three. I will be wearing my new trail shoes, Pearl Izumi N2s. I have a AK UltimateDirection Vest. I have a Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp for early morning start and late night running.

I have trained consistently. I am confident that my training will get me through this race. I am most looking forward to seeing the stars. 🙂 I have two friends coming with me, who have been my cheerleaders and support through the highs and lows of my training. It will feel like home with them there. God is GOOD! I’m looking forward to this journey.