Monthly Archives: May 2016

100 miles is a long way.

I’m going to give you an inside glance, as I prepare mentally and physically for my first 100 race. Please note, I did not say my last! 100 miles is a L O N G way, even in a car. I’m preparing to tackle this distance with the help of my mind and body and stomach. I realize that my stomach is part of my body, but I separate it because it is a vital part of my training. 

When my foot first hit the trail in 2013 I had NO desire to run 100 miles.

DESIRES CHANGE.

I do not believe there is a specific path to follow before a 100 mile race, i.e. run (2) 50K, (3) 50s, (1) 100K. There is just not a formula. And, you may never choose to run 50 miles or 100 miles. For me? It has taken me at least 3 years to get to my current level of fitness to even entertain a 100 mile race. 

Where do I start? I choose a race, by location and challenge. This does not have to be a “safe” choice. This is where I balance my “affinity for risk” with “challenge”. I chose Pine to Palm.

“-. . . affinity for risk in endurance sports typically increases with experience, which consequently helps make more challenging events increasingly achievable.”

-Jason Koop with Jim Rutberg, “Training Essentials For Ultrarunning.”

 Next? I create a training plan. I chose the blueprint of a plan from “Relentless Forward Progress” by Bryan Powell. I add miles, track work, tempo running, treadmill hiking, hill running and gym work. I add a new element to each training plan that I write to each year that I train for trail races, with intention. Side note–I’d love to design a plan for YOU! 

I also seek out the advice of a network of runners who are several levels ahead of me in experience and skill. I do not always use their advice. Again, this is a balance of “affinity for risk” with “challenge”. 

When I began training for Ultras, my primary focus was my long run. . . I needed to balance my weekly mileage so that I could FINISH my long run! That is no longer the most important portion of training for me. Now, my focus has switched to the middle distance training runs, 12-18 miles. I focus on adding speed, intensity and hill work to these. 

Is it doable? In longer races, 50-100 distance, I sit down with the elevation map to create my potential outcome(s). Rather than estimate my pace(s) aid station to aid station, I estimate my pace(s) based on the climbs, up and down. I start with my “A” time. If all things play out perfectly, this will be my time. Funny, I hold my breath until I reach the end! I am thrilled when my estimations get me in under the overall cutoff time! Side note–I can sit down with YOU and write a successful outcome!

Pacer(s) and crew: I hope to have 4-6 ladies on my crew and two pacers. I sent out an email to a group of strong running ladies to see who might be interested. I was BLESSED to have a good reply. Seeing their faces, getting hugs, getting encouragement will do a lot for me as I run/walk 100 miles. Their presence will be invaluable.

Execution: I do not always follow my plan to the exact detail and I do not think you have to either. There are many days and weeks to a training plan. They all build on one another. I have learned through injury and exhaustion that if I miss training time, it WILL NOT make or break my desired outcome. The last two races that I trained for, I had several 8 day  blocks of time that I was not running due to injury. It DID NOT cause any training setback. I DID NOT have to change my desired outcome. 

What’s new this time? Each training cycle, I like to add something new. This time, I hired a trainer to work with me twice a week in the gym, Greg Swafford with AthletIQ. I call it an experiment of one. Per the advice of my coach, Sonja Friend-Uhl, I will work 4 weeks in the gym and 3 weeks on core. I’ll continue to rotate until taper week! Excited to see the results on September 9-10. 

To perform at a champion’s level, let the butterflies fly in formation!

-Jim Afremouw, PhD, “The Champion’s Mind.

But there are always ways to prepare the mind so that fun will come more readily. For instance, if you approach sport too seriously, if you can’t occasionally see the humor of some of its aspects, you might be missing some its most joyful aspects.

-Susan A. Jackson, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Flow in Sports“.

Pacing the Burn

Have you ever watched someone you care about do something great? There is something powerful about it. You witness the outcome of their hard work, their struggle. It is inspiring. It makes me proud. Proud to know them. Proud to SAY I know them. Proud to be a part of their life.

Standing on this mountain top
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Kneeling on this battleground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone

-One Socic Society, “Never Once”

Teresa chose Tillamook Burn Trail race for her first 50. I do not remember all of the discussion we had before she chose it or what other races she had on her radar to choose from. I do very clearly remember her saying, “I am going to follow my heart.” Following her heart not out of blind ambition. Following her heart because the races on her short list were all great choices. She chose to follow her heart, after a conversation with her son about following his heart.

I put my athletes in a position for success by first encouraging them to train for events they genuinely care about, then building their physical tools around that event, not the other way around. -Jason Koop with Jim Rutberg, Training Essentials For Ultrarunning.

She was passionate about this choice. As her running partner and friend, I was going to believe in her, encourage her,  100%.  We were all in. This was going to be a tough race. I did not tell her until after we finished this event that it was the hardest,  climbing race that I have ever done. I ran Lake Martin 50, Lookout Mountain 50 and Zion 100k. None of these had as much elevation gain or loss as Tillamook! (9,300 feet up and 9,300 feet down!!!)

Life is most exhilarating when we are deeply involved in a complex challenge. . . one of the  most important factors for getting into flow is knowing what it is you are trying to achieve. -Susan A. Jackson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow In Sports.

We sat down with a copy of the elevation chart and course map. We wanted to choose a pace for hiking that I knew would give us plenty of time to get up those climbs and a cushion for our tired bodies as the race progressed. We chose 21:00 min/mile pace as a conservative time for each climb we would have that day. We had a total of 7 climbs, ranging from 1 mile to 7 miles long. Teresa is a strong downhill runner so our pace on the downhills was not as conservative. We chose between 13:00-15:00 min/mile pace on all of the downhills. Again, we had 7, ranging from 1 to 7 miles long, approximately.

Going with our conservative numbers, we projected a 14 hour, 21 minute finish, which averaged out to 16:56 pace overall. Teresa took those stats and made some pace adjustments to come up with a more aggressive plan, on average 19:00 min/mile pace on the climbs and 12:00-14:00 min/mile on the decents. That is how we came up with our conservative plan, “C” and our aggressive plan, “A”. Our “A” finish time was 13:58, with an average pace of 16:29. She printed these numbers out, shrunk the data, and I carried this info all day, looking at it at every aid station, sometimes more. I also had a copy of the elevation chart that I carried all day.

These are GREAT tools and references, especially when your race has such variance, as ours did. By variance I mean that in the early miles, we would be running pace(s)that are far from our average pace(s), for a “C” time or an “A” time.

My goals as pacer?

  • Get Teresa to the finish line before the 15:00 cutoff time
  • Eat well, drink well (this has been a challenge for me in my past two races, Lookout & Zion. It was critical to care for myself and fuel well, because I was her help. She was NOT mine.)
  • To remember, it is HER race, not mine.
  • HAVE FUN. I wanted to have a smile on my face all day and I wanted to see a smile on hers. So, at each aid station, I took a selfie of us smiling. DO NOT underestimate this as a goal. A smile is powerful. A smile is contagious. A smile is engaging.
  • To adhere to the requests Teresa made to me via questionnaire about what she needed from me as a pacer.

She hiked strong all day long. She smiled all day long. She ate well all day long. I remember only 2 long sighs that I am familiar with as her running partner. To me, they mean, “this is tough”. . . or “I’m a bit tired”. . . or “am I still on pace?” (This is my interpretation. . . it may not be Teresa’s) She questioned me once, “Are you sure we are on pace?” I told her, “yes”,  and that if I felt like we were slipping behind, I would run/hike in front to get us moving. (per Teresa, “I want to lead most of the day. If I’m really tired towards the end, it may be beneficial to have you lead. . . but not if you are way ahead of me. . . that will just make me feel like you are leaving me and I’m doing poorly.”) I NEVER lead.

There were long stretches of quiet and that was okay. She also mentioned that she does not like to be asked questions. She wanted me to do the talking, sharing stories or bringing up topics. NORMALLY, this is not hard to do. I love to talk. It is tough, when you are challenging your body for 13+ hours. I had to dig deep for some of these.

Encouragement

I love being a coach. I coach a track group and a few ultra runners. I was THRILLED to pace Teresa for 50 miles. I wish I had a video tape of her racing. She did so well. Some key phrases I used:

  • “You are hiking so well”
  • “Get into a rhythm on this climb, short, choppy steps”
  • “I am so proud of you”
  • “Great running, Teresa”
  • “Great surge, every little 30 second surge will make a big difference over 50 miles”
  • “Keep it up”

We would also high 5 from time to time, because she was KILLING it. She looked confident and in control all day. It was a powerful stimulant for Teresa to see her friends throughout the race. We saw Jobie and Sherrie, twice during the race and once, at the finish.

Mini-transitions

We had one aid station that we visited 3 times, approximately every 12 miles. This is where we had access to our drop bag and a bathroom, and Jobie & Sherrie. I saw this as a mini-transition for us. We were both very efficient at all the aid stations that day. The longest we spent at an aid station was 5 minutes, at mile 36, prepping mentally and physically for the end! It was funny,  to me,  that Teresa would almost charge out of these 3 particular stops.  I would have to tell her to slow down each time, to settle us back into our pace. I wanted us to have something in the tank for a strong finish.

Finish: miles 47-50

Our last 3 miles were pretty much downhill. By this time in our race, 13 hours later, Teresa had legs to run and run she did. We sprinted through the finish line, in step, in stride, smiles on our faces. Mission complete. We were done. No tears. PURE JOY.

. . . after 50 miles and 13:32 hours. Wow. I was impressed. I was inspired.

 

Race Recap: Tillamook Burn Trail Run 50

9300 feet of elevation gain and 9300 feet of elevation loss. . . it was every bit of that. The green. The trees. The single track. The rivers. The breeze. The waterfalls. . . for 50 miles. It was epic in many ways.

This was Teresa’s first 50 miler!! The race director (RD) did not allow pacers, so I offered to run it with her. It was NOT a hard choice. She has done much for me. She chose a gorgeous place to run, Oregon, and half of the race was uphill!!!

We chose early start. Race started at 5:00 am for us. We were up at 3:00 am, out the door by 3:30 am.

10. . . 9. . . 8. . . 7. . . 6. . . 5. . . 4. . . 3. . . 2. . . 1. . .

Let me break it down.

0-3.6 Bell Camp 1 This segment was dark (5:00 am) and all uphill. We wore headlamps the entire way up. It was cold. We both had on shorts, arm warmers, two tops and gloves. Very steep in sections, overall, not bad to climb. We allowed ourselves 21:00/mile on our uphill climbing. We were faster than that. Good climb. Good warm up. Good nerve shake out for Teresa.

3.6-11.2 Storey Burn 1 This section has approximately 5 miles downhill, mixed with some flat/minimal uphill, and then 3 miles of uphill climbing. Still cold. This was a beautiful section. You heard the river and could see it in the distance. We had a few stream crossings, nothing like TN stream crossings. These had plenty of rocks to cross on and your feet did not need to get wet. Still cool. We kept our gloves/arm sleeves on. INCREDIBLE single track. We will revisit this section later in the race. . . UGH. . . it becomes tough at the end! We arrived at Storey Burn 1! This is the open spot that will serve as an aid station 3 times in this race. We have access to our drop bags here 3 times. We have access to a port-a-potty here. We only had to pack one bag, with everything with needed for aid, rather than having to figure 3 different aid station bags. It def helped to ease the stress.

11.2-18 Saddle Mountain This section starts out with 1.75 miles of steep downhill, sweet single track, lush trail foliage. GORGEOUS. On the Historic Hiking Loop. About 1.5 miles of downhill to 1.5 miles of uphill to Saddle Mountain Aid Station. Do not get me wrong, the views were still fantastic, but this was probably my least fav section, not sure I have a good reason why. Miles 11-15 are sometimes monotonous, during any race for me. What was the steep decent out of Storey Burn 1 will be the steep ascent back to Storey Burn 2, about miles 24.2. . . tough climb out to come. . .

18-24.2 Storey Burn 2 University Falls was def the highlight of this section!!! Oh my gosh. More than expected, completely breathtaking. This section was on average 4.2 miles down hill and then a STEEP, 2 mile climb out and back to Storey Burn 2. DANG!! Teresa did not skip a beat! She hiked so well ALL day. I was very impressed on this section because she did not stop once!! We worked very hard on the climbs to establish a rhythm and hike with short, choppy steps when the trail was steep. By steep, I mean more than a 15% grade in places. We received a bonus on this section. We were surprised by our friends, Sherrie and Jobie! They met us on the trail with like,  3/4 mile to go to the aid station, smiles, hugs, pictures. It was a SERIOUS boost for us. 🙂 Getting warm. We put on sunglasses and wore tanks for the rest of the race.

24.2-31.1 Larch Mountain Warm climb, continued breeze, this section was all exposed.  MY FAV SECTION! approximately 7 miles of UPHILL on jeep road to the highest point on the course!! What more could I ask for? HA!! I would consider this a moderate climb, until the last mile!! That last mile up was STEEP. Again, Teresa was hiking so well. Our goal on all climbs was 21:00/mile. We hiked faster here AND we were between miles 24.2-31.1. AMAZING! We hit the top at approximately 8 hours and 33 minutes. This was a fun aid station. My fav aid station food all day was here, hot pancakes with M & M’s!!

31.1-36.4 Storey Burn 3 What goes up, must come down, pretty much ALL day this was the motto. So down we went for approximately 5 miles on the jeep road. We ran most of this. Teresa was so strong here. Proud of her. Back to Storey Burn  for the last time. Back to see our friends. On to the finish!! All downhill (and lots of uphill) from here! 🙂 We refueled from our drop bags and went to the bathroom. This was the longest we spent at an aid station all day, only 5 minutes. We were pushed out by Jobie, keeping us on task. 🙂

36.4-44.4 Bell Camp 2 This was the second section that we started with in the morning, only in reverse, only harder. (exhale) 3 miles of sweet downhill from Storey 3. Then, 5 miles of relentless uphill to our last aid station. This section was probably the hardest because of where we hit it in the race. I drank all of my water in this section with about 1/2 mile to go. STILL, Teresa was doing so well on the climbs. She kept a consistent, strong rhythm to mile 44.4. (Smelling the barn, now.)

44.4-50 Finish LOTS of downhill! Steep 2 3/4 miles, moderate 3.25 miles of mostly downhill. The first part of this section was where we started in the morning. We kept saying, “wow! this is steep. we hiked this?” The middle part of this section was jeep road and smooth single track under the canopy of trees. Single track, like butter. The final part of this section picked back up where we ran in our first section. Teresa ran almost all of the last 2-3 miles. STRONG running from Teresa.

DONE 13:32

Ascent time: 7h 17 m

Descent time: 4h 55

Flat time: 1h 7 m

9300′ up/9300′ down

What a day!

Consumed: 2350 calories + water

  • 2 gels: chocolate/coconut and salted carmel
  • 1 probar
  • 2 luna protein bars
  • Roctane sports drink 40 ounces
  • 1 serving strawberry/vanilla Perpetuem
  • 1 large turkey and cheddar sandwich
  • 1 pack of peanut butter crackers
  • 1 bag of peanut butter pretzels
  • 6 fig newtons
  • 1 Zbar
  • lots of water

 

What I wore: lululemon compression shorts, Oiselle top, Oiselle sport’s bra, Swiftwick medical grade compression socks, HOKA Challenger ATRs, trucker hat, lululemon arm sleeves. AK Ultimate Direction Vest.

Race overall: Put this one on your radar. I have a feeling that it will sell out next year. Everyone working at the event was fun, kind and professional. The Oregon green and single track will blow your mind, if you are not used to it.