Category Archives: Racing Recaps

Race Recap: Leona Divide 50

Ten Hours, nineteen minutes. 10,500′ climbing. 15:28 pace. Forty miles.

I signed up for Leona Divide 50. I finished Leona Divide 40 with a 50K medal. This was my fifth 50 and my hardest to date, climbs to 4000′ and temps in the high 80s to low 90s. The race director (RD) , Keira Henninger, sent an email out to runners a couple of days before the race to make everyone aware of the heat and to offer several suggestions for key places in the race to load up on drinks and ice. The RD specifically mentioned miles 17 to 26 to load up on ice and water because it was a long, exposed climb.

Miles 0-17.8 My goal with this section was to run it as fast as I could comfortably go. This would be the coolest part of the day and I took advantage of it. The start was about 2 miles uphill on the road. Then, double track trail that fed to single track for the rest of the race. The race started at 6:00a. You did not need a light at the start. I ran hard and was WAY ahead of my projected pace/time by mile 17.8. I did need to slow down. The climbs were not too steep or technical. For me, they were challenging because of the altitude.

Miles 17.8-27 I was happy to reach aid station #3, Aqua Dolce, mile 17.8. The cutoff time was 11:30a. I arrived at 10:15a. I took a few minutes to put ice in my hat, in my bra and around my neck in an arm sleeve.

This section was tough. It was 5.5 miles uphill and about 3-ish miles down. It was exposed except for the occasional oasis of shade. There was a breeze that blew every once in a while to cool my ice soaked body. The top of this climb went to around 4K. The climb to the top and the run down from the top required me to breathe deeply. I unbuckled my vest on the climbs to get a full breath of air.

Miles 27-33  Mile 28 was aid station #4, Bouquet Canyon Rd. The cutoff time here was 1:45p. I arrived at 12:30p. Great volunteers! They were fun and helpful, making light of an insane day. I restocked ice in my hat/bra/arm sleeve. I took a brief, ICE COLD sponge bath, put on sunscreen and loaded up my bottles with electrolyte and water. I do not remember much about this section. It was part of an out/back. Just remember more running up and more running down. The trails were beautiful and runnable. The downhill was sweet.

Miles 33-40  Aid station #5, Spunky Edison. This is where the race got tough for me. I was not mentally prepared to patiently suffer. When I reached this aid station it was about 1:45p. The cutoff here was 2:30p. They were out of ice and they had one container of cold water remaining. The rest of the drinks were warm. I was not prepared, mentally. I wasn’t sure how to process this,  and I started thinking about dropping to the 50K. I would still have to run back about 4 miles to the finish. I decided to move to the next aid station at mile 40, before making any decisions. It was an out/back. . . 7 out & 7 back, then 4 miles to the finish. THIS section was the toughest of the day because my body was hot. I was carrying 50 oz of water & electrolyte. I drank my electrolyte and one bottle of water. It was warm. (bleh)

There was plenty of runnable trail in this section, really ALL day the trail was runnable. My energy was low. My water was hot. I knew I needed to eat, especially if I was going to run back and finish 50. I started 1st on my sandwich, eating one tiny bite at a time. I chased it with a bit of hot water. I made it through 1/2 sandwich.

I occasionally confronted my desire to stop. . . 

“Do your feet hurt?”

“Do your legs hurt?”

“Are you vomiting?”

“Are you eating/drinking?”

“Are you hot?” **KIDDING!! I was hot!**

No. No. No. Yes. Yes. 

It was hard to stop thinking about the 7 miles back to the aid station that did not have ice or coke or cold drinks. I tried eating again. I did not really want to chew, so I slowly sipped 1/2 GU and followed it with more hot water.

I could see the aid station now at mile 40 (I could also see the trail back.) A very sweet, energetic lady came running up the trail to tell me that the aid station was waiting for me with ice and cold drinks. I started to cry. She couldn’t see the tears behind my sunglasses but she saw my mouth turn down and my lip quiver. I made it to the AS with time to spare. I hiked ALL 7 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I arrived at 4:30p. The cutoff was originally 4:30p, but it was extended to 4:50p.

It was too late. I decided a mile back that I was done suffering for the day. I gave up the fight. As soon as I walked into the AS, Sara asked me if I was okay. I said, “no, I’m done. I want to drop.” I think she could have convinced me or anyone could have helped to convince me to go on, but I could not convince myself. I got a ride to the start from a dad, crewing his daughter. I picked up my 50K medal and headed for my car.

Leona Divide: Why run?

  • Fantastic Volunteers, very organized
  • Sweet, runnable trails, not technical
  • Easy to get to from LAX
  • Awesome muscle (race) shirt!

Positives/negatives:

  • -NOT easy for this TN girl at the end of April. In some ways it was more challenging than Pine to Palm (P2P)
  • -Hotter for longer, completely exposed all day in the sun
  • -Minor elevation, up to 4K. The top of the climbs and the top of the downhill was hard. P2P was at the end of August. I trained all summer in the heat and humidity. This helped prepare me for the elevation at P2P.
  • +I did a great job drinking. I knew with the heat and altitude that I needed to drink to avoid dehydration. I think, overall, I drank more than 2+ gallons in 10 hours.
  • -Eating was worse than I thought. GOSH. I ate 1 zbar, 1 1/2 turkey/cheese sandwiches, two handfuls of peanut butter pretzels, one pack of GU watermelon chews. 4 mini peanut butter cups, some watermelon, 1/2 GU, ginger ale, and 4 mini ginger cookies.

Race Recap: Music City Trail Ultra 12K (guest post)

Trail Race Virgin

My first official trail race . . . 7 to 8 miles (Hardwin Adventures race which apparently makes the race mileage a bit, fluid, shall we say?) didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  I mean, I’d done training runs of that distance in Percy Warner a couple of times and felt fine so I really went into it more excited than nervous.  Honestly, I didn’t really care how long it took me, I was really just looking forward to some uninterrupted time on the trail in the woods.

I showed up a bit early the morning of the race to pick up my number and get my bearings.  I was running this race alone, but ran into some acquaintances at the start which was fun.  As I dug a handful of rusty safety pins out of the zip-loc bag full of pins provided and crumpled up my race number (only newbies leave it clean and pristine, right?), I had flashbacks to road bike racing days and started to feel some of those old pre-race jitters.  I told myself I was just here to “run” and not “race” and I just needed to simply enjoy being in the woods for a few hours without needing to feed or clean anyone else (Mom of 3, 7 and under, #reallife).

The participants lined up at the start and pledged their commitment to giving their all and running with humility and respect for the land and their fellow runner which of course made me choke back a sob because #waterworks ever since birthing aforementioned children.  Then just like that, we were off!  After a brief stint in an open field we started a climb.  Not a bad climb, really, but the crowd made it feel like I was in a ride line at Disney.  Now, if you don’t know me, you must know that I don’t really like to walk or hike when I trail run, I like to run everything – albeit very slowly at times – so this queue was frustrating to me at first.  I felt like I could have run this climb if it hadn’t been so crowded but I just sort of settled in and hiked and coached myself by remembering that this would save me some energy for later.

The initial climb led us up to a brief ridgeline where the crowd thinned out.  Before long we came to our first significant challenge . . . a descent and subsequent ascent that required sideways footing and the occasional bracing of self with a hand on the hillside.  This part was crazy steep!  If I’d tried to run down (which I didn’t see anyone do), I feel certain I’d have tumbled head-over-heels cartoon style to the bottom.  The ascent on the flip side was nearly as daunting.  It was not runnable for me (Boo.  See previous note, regarding me not liking to walk/hike) but I went into the race knowing that, so I was truly okay with hiking and had fun passing a few people who had to stop to catch their breath.  All this ascending and descending was further complicated by thick mud resulting from rain overnight that was covered by a heavy layer of fallen leaves.  These things worked together to make it less of a trail race and more of an adventure race for me.

After the steep ascent and descent the rest of the course fell into a regular rhythm of jeep roads punctuated here and there by climbs and descents of varying degrees of difficulty.  My least favorite section was another steep descent down a trail-less hillside coated in thick mud covered with inches of dead leaves to a creek at the bottom followed by a climb with roughly the same conditions just on the other side.  Really, nearly the entire course was like this which made it not my favorite, to be honest.  Once I came to the first aid station across the creek I knew I had only about 3 miles left and I felt sort of home-free because the race manual had described this section of the 12K to be where you could really start to pick up some speed to the finish.  Maybe I read that wrong, but I did not find that to be true.  There was still much climbing to be done and I feel like when I wasn’t on a gravel jeep road, I was on one of the plentiful trail-less sections of the course guided by little multi-colored flags sunk in the thick mud and leaf icing on the cake that was the Music City Trail Ultra.

It’s kind of funny . . . another thing about me is my covert competitiveness.  I like to think I’m “only competing against myself” and just “trying to do my best” and while that’s true . . . . towards the end, I came across an acquaintance I’d chatted with at the beginning.  Given her experience and my lack thereof, I didn’t figure I’d see her at all after the start but here she was.  All of a sudden it turned into a race for me.  I tried to block out thoughts of “I must pass her, she cannot beat me” and tell myself I didn’t care who crossed the line first but she was so close.  I noticed she walked the hills so I became determined to jog them if at all possible.  At some point, I came up on her and she seemed surprised to see me.  Then I passed her and didn’t see her again until sever minutes after I’d crossed the line.  So, maybe I am a bit competitive.  Could be genetic.

Takeaways from my first race . . .

  1. This race was tough but my training had me really well prepared for the challenge of it.  Thanks Coach McClain.
  2. This race was not my favorite, but it was accurately described by the organizer and I feel like he did a fantastic job with the event. The course was really well marked, swag was fun and the atmosphere was chock-full of comradery.  Bonus points that it was really close to home!
  3. I literally crossed the line looking forward to my next race, whatever that will be. I’d really like one that has you on actual trails, though, not trail-less flag marked hillside.  I will say – this is not the fault of the organizer and I don’t feel like the event was mis-represented in any way, shape or form.  I just really enjoy gliding up and down packed trails.  I’m cool with obstacles but this course was just too fraught with less than ideal topography and conditions for me to call it a favorite.
  4. This is one time I can say without hesitation that I gave everything I had. Oftentimes out of fear of failure I find myself sub-consciously holding back a bit.  Not here, folks.  When I crossed that line I did it with my last ounces of energy.  That, my friends, is a pretty cool feeling.

 

Race Recap: Lookout 50, December 2016

 

Stick to a task ’til it sticks to you. . . for beginners are many, but finishers few.

-Thomas S. Monson

YEP.

Tough day on Lookout Mountain 50 for many. I finished in 11:45, one hour, two minutes slower than last year. Here are a couple of comparison stats from last year to this year.

This year, I ran without a safety runner and without a crew. All the miles mentioned are approximate.

Lookout 50 2015

  • 174 finishers (145 men and 29 women)
  • Finish Line 1, 21/22 miles, my split was 4:24
  • Finish Line 2, 50 miles, my split was 6:19
  • Finish time 10:43

Lookout 50 2016

  • 137 finishers (99 men & 38 women)
  • Finish Line 1, 21/22 miles, my split was 4:21
  • Finish Line 2, 50 miles, my split was 7:29
  • Finish time 11:45
  • DNF: 13 men & 7 women
  • DNS: 29 men & 20 women (approximately)

The start & weather Lookout starts at Covenant College in GA at 7:30 am EST. It is a wide open, short road section through a portion of campus until you come to the trail head. At the trail head, there’s a brief slow down as everyone files onto the trail and patiently head single file onto the single track. 🙂

The weather forecast changed 5 times, leading up to race morning. As of race morning, showers would start around noon. The temperature started at 38 degrees and would climb to a high of 70 at 3:00 pm, with intermittent showers. As I mentally prepared for the race in the days leading up to the start, I planned to expect rain.

Miles 0-8 ran by feel. This first section to AS 1 (aid station 1) is mostly downhill and very runnable. This year, it seemed like runners were being a bit more cautious with the wet leaves and wet rocks. I hung with most of the crowd for about 4 miles, and then decided to move around runners and find my sweet spot. At about mile 5 1/2, you hit a steep climb, then, a switch back decent to a jeep road. LOVE, LOVE this section. I def pushed my pace here. I ran hard to AS2, felt good. I stopped to refill my bottles. I wanted to stay well hydrated, especially as temps would be rising as the day went on. (Last year, I did not stop here at all.)

Miles 8-15 another quick, runnable section. I definitely had my sweet spot. I did not feel like chatting or running with anyone. This is where I put one ear bud in and just ran. 🙂 It felt good. This section overall is slightly downhill with some rollers here and there. This group of miles to enjoy running on. The next section has a long climb back up to the start/finish. I stopped to fill my bottle here too and grab a few fig newtons. (Last year, I did not stop here.)

Miles 15-21/22 Easily one of my favorite sections. I LOVE to hike uphill. There’s a short, steep climb out of AS2, then, rolling hills to the 3 mile climb back up to the start/finish. It is a great feeling to pass people HIKING. The climbing felt easier than last year. Still going by feel and not looking at my watch. I arrived around noon, and I was hungry. I stopped to refill my bottles with water and Gnarly electrolyte drink. I really like the Gnarly drink, WAY better than HEED and better than GU Roctaine. I needed to eat. I grabbed a bagel with almond butter and honey out of my drop bag. I ate it all while walking out of this AS3.

Miles 21/22-30 This section of the course is also the last 8 miles of the race. I thought this section was marked better than last year. The section is mostly downhill with a few short climbs and rollers. This section has a creek crossing. You do not have to get your feet wet, if you cross on the rocks. At about mile 30, you arrive at AS4. This is one of my favorite AS’s. It is right by the waterfall. The group of volunteers here is a lively bunch! LOVE it!

Miles 30-34 The most memorable part of this section is the rope climb!! Here, I saw Jobie Williams (one of the course photographers & a friend of mine). It was really good to see him. He humored me and let me go back down the rope so that we could stage a shot climbing back up. 🙂 This section also provides a great view and nice, runnable bluff portion. Toward the end of this section, you are able to see and cheer on the leaders, as they are running to the finish. It is cool to see how hard they are working.

I still felt good and was running by feel. Last year, I started watching my pace here, anticipating the time with my safety runner, Kevin. I walked more of this part last year. This year, I did not have a safety runner. I was not sure how the next section would go. It entered my mind that I would be doing it alone. This might be the place when I asked myself, “what is your why today?” I needed to be reminded, because I was getting ready to run the rest on my own.

The last 1/2 mile of this section is on the road to the Long Branch AS4 & AS5. This is where you can stretch out your legs and RUN!

Miles 34-38 This is the spot last year when my stomach went downhill FAST. Last year, I suffered from this point to the finish. This year, it was different. My stomach did not bother me at all. This AS is called Long Branch, you visit it at miles 34 and 38. You can have a drop bag here. I stopped here, dropped my pack, grabbed a water bottle, some food and took off. This is a 4 mile loop. It was a nice break to drop my pack and run/hike with just a water bottle.

I do not remember much of this section from last year. I think I was kind of out of it and suffering with my stomach. I was lucky to have a safety runner, last year. This section was pretty. A lot of runners will tell you that this is their least favorite section because it is difficult to get a rhythm on the single track. I disagree. I would tell you to look forward to this. 🙂

Done with the loop and back to mile 38. (sigh) I did it. 🙂 KEVIN-you’d be proud of me here. I ran more than I walked. I put my jacket back on, put my pack back on, filled my bottles, put my headlamp in my pack, grabbed several pieces of frosted Christmas cookies, and smiled as I headed out. FINISH TIME!!

This is when the fog started to roll in thick, and there was a 5 minute downpour.

Miles 38-43 These are the same miles that I ran to get to Long Branch. I started hiking with a friend, here. I cannot remember his name. This is also where we got a bit lost, by about 1/4 mile. The fog was pretty thick, and it was raining. We missed the flag we needed to follow to get off the road and back on single track. GLAD that we noticed that sooner rather than later. (phew)

Back down the rope to one of my fav Lookout AS’s!! At this point, there were 3 of us together, me and two guys. We dropped down the rope to the last AS before the finish!! By this time, the atmosphere was a bit more lively. Last year, they had whiskey shots here. This year? Nope. I asked them if it was against the rules, this year. They quickly told me no that they make the rules out here! They just did not have whiskey. 🙂

All 3 of us were ready to finish!

Miles 43-50 “Are we there, yet?!” We power hiked almost the entirety of this section. It was getting dark here, and we put on our headlamps. The fog made it difficult to see with our headlamps on our heads. It was like driving in the fog, with the fine mist falling. To see better, we had to carry our headlamps. This section has lots of rocks and roots. It is okay to navigate in the light at mile 23, but it beats you up in the dark at mile 46!!

It was a grind. LOTS of hiking. Some running.

With a mile to go, I told the guys that we had to run across the finish line (Kevin). They weren’t convinced. With about 1/2 mile to go, I said, “I think we can run now.” We ran a bit. We slipped on a hill, going down in the mud. We started walking. I saw the finish. I started RUNNING. I crossed first in 11:45!

Happy 45th birthday to me!!!

83 out of 137 overall

16 out of 38 women

4 out of 7 in my age group

Hungry. Satisfied. Thankful. Finished.

 

 

 

 

Race Recap: Monumental Marathon, BQ Quest

Boston Bound!

When Liz asked me to write this I was really excited to share my experience (I mean, what runner DOESN’T love to talk about running lol).   But sitting here now all I can think is crap – where do I start? So I guess I’ll give you a little background.  I’m a 40 year old, divorced, remarried, no human kids but one awesome dog child mom, equine surgeon, nonrunner until 5 years ago woman.  That about sums it up haha.  I come from a long line of “real “ runners, but I never ran more than a mile or 2 on the treadmill (begrudgingly) until I went through my divorce.  I started running then, & a bunch of ½ marathons & 5 marathons later here we are.

The plot is probably familiar-ish to many of you: “I’m just going to do one ½ then I’ll go back to 5/10ks” followed by “I’m going to do one more ½ because I think I can go a little faster”; “I’ll NEVER run a marathon, the ½ is plenty for me”; “I’m going to do one full, just as a bucket list thing, but ONLY one”; “that was terrible, I am never doing that again” (fast forward 3 more marathons…) “I think I want to TRY to qualify for Boston?”. Turns out running is fairly addictive haha.  But I love that it is also a sport that you can improve in and make gains if you put in the work.

As for qualifying for Boston, a few things to note: 1-I am not particularly fast.  I’m also not particularly slow, but I do not consider myself a naturally gifted runner.  In fact, I’m pretty darn average as far as my “speed” goes. So I knew IF I wanted to BQ I’d have to work pretty hard; 2-I absolutely needed the experience of my 1st 4 marathons to hit my standard of 3:45; 3-It takes a village, literally.  I cannot name everyone who helped me, but here are a few: Ryan, my husband, who put up with all of the early mornings, the Saturday nights I didn’t want to do something so I could run long on Sunday, & (probably the worst) the constant talking about the running; Liz, my AWESOME track coach & friend who gave me such solid running advice & inspiration on a weekly basis and while training for & finishing her own 100 mile (ONE HUNDRED FREAKING MILES!) race; Kara & Christine for being great cheerleaders/running buddies/therapists; Travis my brother for always pushing me to be a better version of myself in a mostly good natured way; Nashville on the Run for being such a welcoming & supportive running group; and last but definitely not least my co-coach & constant running companion Nike (my blue heeler), who made sure at least 1 of us was excited for EVERY training run.  See-an actual village!  That would be a cool village to live in. But I digress…

Training:

  • I used the Hal Higdon “Personal Best” plan & tweaked it a bit based on my last few marathons. I did an 18, 20, & 22 mile run for my last 3 “long” runs with a 12-13 mile run in the weeks between them.
  • I typically ran 4 days per week (track, medium run, short run, & long run). 5 days on a few of my peak weeks.
  • Yoga 1x per week (day after my long run)
  • Weight training 1x per week (usually the day before my long run)

The Race:

  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – I picked this race because it’s relatively flat, the weather is typically ideal, it was drivable for me, & historically it has a high number of people that BQ (yes, I’m a huge dork & research the crap out of everything. Because – science.)
  • What I wore:
    • Race start was 39 degrees, predicted to be 55 by race end. So I wore Nike spandex shorts, “Embrace the Suck” tank top (this was an important mantra for me-I said it repeatedly during the race) with a tech T shirt from a previous race over it, arm warmers made out of lucky 4 – leaf clover long socks (did I mention I’m superstitious?), a buff (from a past Ragnar trail team = more superstition) & compression socks.
    • I ditched the buff around mile 5, the tech T around 10, & the arm warmers around 15. I felt perfect (temperature wise) the entire time – I love running a little cold!
  • What I ate:
    • Week of: I tried to just add more carbs to my typically carb – low diet; so lots of sweet potatoes, white rice, & spaghetti a few nights out thanks to my cousin Marissa (2 time BQer) who was in town. I felt her making me a pre race dinners was a good omen (…superstitioius…)
    • I drank so much water the week before. So.   Water…
    • Night before: Ryan & I ate an early (6pm) dinner in our hotel. I had roasted chicken & mashed potatoes.  I’ve learned that for me, I need to eat early the night before & not too much.  I figure most of my “carb loading” has/should have occurred in the 5-6 days leading up to this, and a very big meal the night before just gives me GI issues on race day.
    • Moring of: ALWAYS = whole wheat bagel thin, almond butter, small redbull ~ 2 hours out.
    • During: Gu every 5 miles; by the 4th one I did NOT want it, but I know from past experience I NEED to eat them or it does not end well.
    • I drank a little water every mile; not sure how much total – 16oz through 13 miles, then used water from water stops after that.
  • The race!
    • My plan – my qualifying standard is 3:45 (~8:35 pace), but the last 2 years you’ve had to do at least 2 minutes faster than this to actually get into the race. So I was aiming for 3:42. No biggie right? WRONG! Turns out there’s a big (mental) difference in doing 8:35 for 26.2 vs. 8:25. That freaked me out, and honestly I was scared I couldn’t do it.
    • Decided to start w the 3:40 pacer & stay with him for as long as I could; if I could stay w him through 13 but not let the 3:45 pacer catch me after that I thought I’d be ok.
    • The 1st 5 miles were rough – I tend to start slow & get progressively faster, so this was REALLY fast for me to start. I started to get a little worried I couldn’t keep this pace up, but I quickly made myself stop thinking that.  NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!
    • From 5-10 the pacer was a bit erratic. Not his fault; we got behind a bit in the 1st 7 because it was crowded, turns, etc. & he slowed down at the water stops.  So he was trying to make up time (~8:00ish pace – eek!) but would continue to slow through the water stops.  I wasn’t digging this fast/slow/fast thing, so I went out a bit in front of him.  Girl who came with me: “we are going too fast”.  She was probably right, but I felt good!  So my new plan was to do my own thing/hold this pace for as long as I could.  “Just get to 10”…”Just get to 13”…”Just get to 15”…
    • Before I knew it I was 18 & still in front of him – REALLY??? Ok, this is good, but just keep this pace, you know you hit the wall between 18-22…
    • Mile 19: I felt so good (relative term for sure – every cell in my body hurt but not like a dying hurt haha? [yet] – not like the “hurt” that I knew was to come at some point) that I texted Ryan a pic of the 19 mile marker & time. Then I thought about the time – Holy crap I think I’m gonna do this!
    • Mile 20: Eminem’s “Phenomenal” came on. HOLY. CRAP. YES! It was like he was literally giving me a pep talk. & I was starting to need it.  It worked. Embrace the suck…
    • Mile 21: This isn’t great. It isn’t terrible, but it really isn’t great.  Wait – 5 miles left – Liz ran 100 FREAKING MILES! I’ll bet when she was at 95 she was so stoked! 95-man – get it together Liberty you can do 5 freakin miles. Embrace the suck…
    • Mile 22: Ah-there it is-the dying hurt. But still not as bad as I remembered?  “You ARE doing this! You CAN do this! Remember how disappointed you are in yourself when you stop…”
    • Mile 23: Ok yah this is actually pretty bad. But…you are on pace to kill this race! Think of all of the 4am days – you DID NOT do those to give up on this pace! You ARE NOT dialing this in!
    • Mile 24: Oh so there’s a hurt worst than the dying hurt? Awesome. Needed more motivation – put on “Beast” off of the Southpaw soundtrack –it’s my go-to when I’m struggling.  (I also have a playlist called “struggle bus” of songs that always get me pumped – I’d had it on since about 22).
    • Mile 25: This hurts SO BAD. BUT I AM DOING THIS! Just keep running.  Just keep running.  Keep. Running.
    • 2: You guys, I CANNOT even describe how I felt. I was stumbling towards the finish, legs weak, afraid I’d trip over the timing mat.  Couldn’t really see straight/a little blurry? I was looking for Ryan but couldn’t see much outside of what was directly in front of me.  I heard them call my name.  I managed to give a thumbs up going across the finish line, and then I literally collapsed in a heap against the fence separating the competitors from spectators.  It is honestly the weirdest combination of sheer exhaustion + complete happiness that I have ever felt (also probably a bit of the hypoxia – after I collapsed I immediately had an asthma attack – I have cold induced asthma but I’ve never had it be an issue at the end of a long run before, and this one was pretty bad but went away quickly).   The medics rushed over & tried to take me to the medic tent, but I waved them off & insisted Ryan was coming to get me & I was fine.  And then once I caught my breath I started crying….it was good crying though.  The poor people hovering over my head from the other side of the barricade must have though I was dying or insane.  Ryan found me & we hugged over the fence & we both started crying…an even better cry
    • I finished in 3:39:35. I never saw the 3:40 pacer again after mile 10 until after the race.  This is 6 minutes faster than my Boston qualifying standard, and an11 minute PR for me.

 

Race Recap: Crazy Owl Marathon

The Crazy Owl Marathon is part of the Rock and Road 5k-Marathon-Marathon Relay put on by the Friends of Warner parks and takes place at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. This year’s event took place on October 22.

The start time for the Marathon and Marathon Relay was 8:00 am.The course consisted of 3 loops of approximately 7.8 miles (one of the 7.8 added the stone steps at Belle Meade Blvd., and made that lap 8.1) and a final loop of approximately 3.1 miles (my watch read 26.55 miles at the end). This course was new this year. I talked with several friends who have run this in the past. They said that this year’s course was tougher and had more trail. This was a tough marathon with some sweet road sections.

The first 3 loops (approximately 3.2 road/4.6 trail).  These loops started and finished at the Steeplechase Grandstand and were a mix of trail and road, mostly trail. The trail portions of this race were on the red trail and on the white trail. You stayed in Percy Warner the entire time. You did not go over to Edwin Warner or the blue trail. I love how the the road sections broke in and out of the red and white trails.

The first part of the course was tough. Mostly uphills. You took the road from the Grandstand to the red trail and went right (left here takes you at the intersection of candy cane and red in .20 mile). You ran red downhill to the Indian Springs sign and back up tornado alley to white.

At the white trail you ran right and took it almost all the way around to the road, close to Deep Wells. This mini road section was .25 miles right, toward the Deep Wells trail head. Then, you climbed up to get back on red and take it to the right, toward dripping springs.

You come to a road crossing, before ascending to dripping springs. At the road, you turn left and run for about .20 miles. Then, turn right back onto the red trail at mile 6 then off again at mile 6.5 to run the road back to the exchange point. It is 1.3 miles on the road back to the Grandstands.

The final loop started at the Grandstand and finished just shy of it with a right turn before climbing back up the hill to the Grandstand. The final lap, 3.1 miles, was on the road. The last 1.3 were the same as the previous 3 laps, except for the detour right to the finish at the end.

I loved this race. This is one race that I would do again. The swag was nice. I like the race shirt, and we received a cool pair of Swiftwick socks! Whole Foods catered delicious food at the finish. You could get your food and eat out at the picnic tables, at the Grandstand. The Jenni’s ice cream truck was there if you wanted to purchase ice cream. There was also a free beer for the runners at the finish.

I think this would make a great training run for a longer distance race in November or early December. You could use this race as a training run for a November 50K. You could also start a 7 mile run before the 8:00 am start and make this race a 50K in prep for a 50 miler in November or early December. There were aid stations at every mile. Some stations just had water and some had water and gel. Worth running checking out next October!

The temperature ALL day was terrific. The 8:00 start was a chilly 42 degrees. The finish was a pleasant 65. I loved this and would definitely run it again. I ran with a handheld for the first 3 loops, and I ran without it for the last 3.1 miles. We had a total of 3400′ of gain and 3400′ of loss.  I finished in 5 hours and 6 minutes.

 

 

How I finished 100 miles: My Crew & Pacers

 

 Intimate friends share each other’s experiences and in some ways they inhabit each other’s lives. They often have similar viewpoints and values, and they may share similar backgrounds and traditions. They witness the milestones and unexpected changes of life, the highs and lows, celebrations and sadness.

-Saul Levine, M.D. “The Importance of Friendship” Psychology Today

It’s easy to put down on the paper the logistical details that evolved before, during and after my race. It is not as easy to explain to you the connection and value that my crew and pacers brought to bear on this journey.

These four proved invaluable. They sacrificed their money, their time and their sleep for me. I wanted to make them proud.

Delaina. (crew) I would also call her a crew(s) director. She knows a lot about a lot. She is also an accomplished ultra runner. She is great with directions and not getting lost (the anti of me). What I remember most about her on this trip? Her laughter. I have never witnessed her uncontrollable laughter. I will also remember her hugs and care, when I needed to sit between aid stations. She stayed up all night and day and never showed a sign of tiredness. She made me sandwiches and cut watermelon. These two foods were the staple of my race!

Kathy. (crew) Gosh. She is another accomplished ultra runner. She is a solid, emotional rock to me. She could possibly be the anti-me, when it comes to expressing emotion. She def has emotion and does express it, but I wear my heart on my sleeve. My fav moment with Kathy on this trip was on our “scouting day”. We hiked up to Wagner Butte to check it out after we had driven the last part of the course. We met a man up at the fire tower whose job was to watch for the fires. He was a colorful character. He thought Teresa had the strongest southern accent. Later in our conversation, Kathy wittily said to him, “You’re the only TEN-I-SEE.” Hilarious. She too stayed up all night and all day to support and cheer for me.

Michelle. (1 st pacer) Gentle, humble. I have known her the longest. Michelle exudes excitement and joy. She ran miles 66-80 with me. We ran together from 2:15 am until about 6:00 am? Michelle’s a talented road runner! She is a Boston Qualifier. On the trail with Michelle, she told me, “Liz, you are doing this. You are running 100 miles. God is going to have bigger mountains in heaven for you to run!” We ran together into the sunrise.

Teresa. (2nd pacer) Detailed. Hilarious. Accomplished Ultra runner. Ran her first 50 miler in Oregon this year. I would say emotionally we are similar. She is better, however, at the details than I am. She has taught me a lot about putting together a race plan, and she has taught me about mental tapering. She paced me from mile 80 to 100.5. We started together at about 6:30 am and finished at 1:04 pm! My favorite part with her was the last 10 miles. She helped me to run/walk this section. I could not have done that without her. It hurt. Running. It hurt. Walking. She kept me focused on finishing with 5 minute walk intervals/5 minute run intervals. My fav moment with her was in the last 10 miles. She said to me, “did you see what Byron wrote about you?” She proceeded to tell me and we both started crying. 🙂

These four women know my heart. These four women mean a lot to me. Thank you ladies. I will never forget this trip.

 

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” ― Flavia Weedn

31 hours, 4 minutes. Pine 2 Palm.

Carnage: 2 blisters. 2 purple big toe nails. NO chaffing. Did not change my socks or shoes.

I brought to eat (and didn’t): Probars. Luna Bars. Square Bars. Stroop Waffles. GU roctane chocolate/coconut gel. Z bars.

What I ate: Watermelon @ every aid station. Sprite. 3 large turkey and cheese sandwiches. 2 quesadilla wedges. 1 grilled cheese. 2 pb & j cracker packs. 2 cookies. Ginger Ale. Soup. Ramen. 2 packs of GU watermelon, electrolyte chews. Skratch labs drink mix in pineapple. Water.

What I wore at some point during the race: Hoka Challenger ATR 2’s. Dry Max Socks. Lululemon* tank, sport’s bra, compression shorts, long sleeve, 1/2 zip. Buff. Gloves. Calf sleeves.

*I get a discount at Lululemon AND I really like their stuff.

Equipment: Petzel Reactik headlamp (6 hours). Black Diamond headlamp (5 hours). iPod shuffle (12 hours). Suunto Ambit 2 (until mile 61). Ultimate Direction AK vest. Handheld flashlight. Decided AGAINST hiking poles. Camelback handheld water bottle.

Songs on repeat: “Patience” (Guns & Roses). “Flashlight” (Jesse J). “God of My Everything” (Bebo Norman)

A week before the start, the course changed a bit for the last 34 miles. Pacer 1 would run 14 instead of 9 miles. Pacer 2 would run 20 instead of 26 miles. There were a few different aid stations that left us scrambling a bit the evening before as we neared the deadline to leave our drop bags at the start. . . race meeting. . . star gazing. . . dinner. . . bed.

31:04 the best that I remember it. . . Kathy, Delaina and I were up at 4:00 am and out the door with coffee in hand at 4:30 am. It was dark and cool at the start.

I had my hand held flashlight instead of a headlamp as the countdown began, 10, 9, 8. . . 3, 2, 1. . . we’re off! Cheers, whistles and hollers rang out. I got a last hug from Delaina and Kathy. I would see them in 28 miles.

I liked the climbing. NO, I LOVED the climbing, 10 miles uphill. I settled into a rhythm. There was a fire burning in Northern California. You could smell the smoke and the smoke from the fire created a haze that obstructed some of the view. I was eating and drinking, relishing the climb. I was not looking forward to 13 miles of downhill.

After 10 miles of climbing, it was all downhill to my crew and mile 28 at Seattle Bar. I arrived at 12:38 pm. I completed the first 28 miles in 6 hours and 28 minutes. (The cutoff at this aid station was 2:00 pm. I was looking forward to seeing my crew. It as starting to get hot. Hal had mentioned in the race meeting that runners would be into this aid station faster than expected. I ate some watermelon, got my bottles filled, got some bars for my pack and a turkey/cheese sandwich. I had been looking forward to that sandwich! I remember coming into this aid station in kind of a “fog”, mentally, not sure why? Delaina and Kathy hugged me, put watermelon in a baggie and sent me off. I kind of felt like they were sending me off, alone, into the wilderness, HA! And, they were. Hal said that next section would be the toughest part of the race.

The next 13.5 miles were the hardest part of the race! It was the hottest part of the day, the climb was steep, and I struggled. I was hot. I was having a hard time eating. My stomach struggled. My heart rate was high. After 6 miles, I made it to the next aid station at mile 35 at Stein Butte. I took an arm sleeve, stuffed it with ice and put it on my neck. One of the aid station workers told me to bow my head and he slowly poured a few cups of ice water on my neck and head.

It felt good . . . to stop, to get ice, to be in the shade, to eat some watermelon, drink some sprite. This was the lowest part of the race for me. I cried. I entertained the discussion in my brain of quitting. It took me almost 2 hours to eat my turkey and cheese and 1 GU gel. Glad I ate. My stomach was still “iffy”. There was a lady here that did not look good and I could tell the her non-verbal communication was not coming across to aid station workers. I tended to her for a bit (ice for her hat and helped her to lay down). The aid station workers took over and I headed out. A bit distracted, I forgot 1 of my water bottles.

“Being willing to be uncomfortable is essential for building toughness; it’s a characteristic that will pay dividends when honed to its fullest potential.”

Jason Koop with Jim Rutberg, Training Essentials For Ultrarunning.

I arrived at mile 41 at 5:06 pm, cutoff time was 6:30 pm. This aid station was called Squaw Lakes. You arrive at mile 41, run a 2 mile loop around the lake, and leave at mile 43. Boy! This aid station was like an oasis from the heat. I arrived and my crew quickly took my pack and handed me my handheld water bottle. It was nice to have my pack off. THAT section was tough. I walk/jogged around the lake and relaxed a bit, mentally and physically. Tim Olson did give me a bit of encouragement before I arrived. He told me that when he won the race, the second section was the toughest for him. He said I would gain my legs at the lake. 🙂 Thanks Tim! Delaina met me at the edge of the lake and walked me back to our “set up”. They had a chair and blanket laid out with my stuff. I only remember seeing the chair and I sat. I also told them, possibly sternly, that I only wanted to sit for 8 minutes. Not sure why I chose 8 minutes, but it sounded good. 🙂 I got some ginger ale, watermelon and another turkey/cheese to take with me. Delaina ran and got me my calf sleeves from the car, and Kathy put ice in my arm sleeve to put back around my neck. Those two were so smart. They set me up, right next to the aid station tables instead of in the back, where I would have to walk around everyone resting and sitting in the shade. Delaina met me at the edge of the lake so that I would not wander in this oasis too long. I do not know if this was their plan, but it was SMART. Nine miles to the next cutoff and to the next time I would see my crew. I was off. 

I did ask for my compression socks, “maybe, they are in the next bag”

Miles 45 to 65 would be the longest climb of the course, uphill for the most part, going from 2500′ to 7500′! I had my headlamp on, the sun was setting, it was cooling off. (exhale). 

I arrived at Hanley Gap Aid Station 8:30 pm. The cutoff time here was 9:30 pm. Here, I could drop my pack for a bit. My crew met me and handed me my handheld. I had to hike up 700′ to grab a flag and bring it back to the Aid Station Captain before continuing on. This was a hike. Man! At the top, I paused for a bit. The stars were so bright. The wind was blowing. I could not believe I was there. . . in Oregon. . . running 100 miles. Wow. At this aid station, a lot of runners were dropping. My CREW!! Again, they placed me right next to the aid station table. I did not see any of the carnage. THOSE TWO. They always had happy faces and hugs as I left the aid station. I wanted to make them proud. The got me my long sleeve shirt and 1/2 zip. It was getting cold. They packed my gloves, another sandwich and watermelon. 

I did ask again for my compression socks, “maybe, they are in the next bag”

14 miles to go (miles 52-66) and one aid station in between until I saw my crew, my 1st PACER and hit the LAST cutoff!! Woo Hoo. It was cold. My iPod shuffle died. It was dark. I would need to stop every once in a while to catch my breath. I would occasionally turn off my head lamp. NO ONE was around. It was awesome. The STARS. I decided early in my training that I would look forward to the darkness. . . darkness of night, darkness of mind. What a cool place to be. . . in the darkness. I did not really see much wildlife. I saw a Jack rabbit, a baby owl and a few black scorpions. I wasn’t scared. By this point in the race, the number of runners had thinned out considerably. So, aid station to aid station could be lonely and quiet. I loved that. 

I made it to the mid point aid station between 52 & 66. I arrived and sat. Almost immediately, I started to shiver. I knew that I could not stay long. I had some soup. Another lady walked in and sat. We both watched as a man sat shivering and sick. We encouraged the aid station workers to get him in a sleeping bag and have him lay down and warm up. He was not doing well. She and I decided that we could not sit and shiver anymore. We had to move. We had 6 miles to go. I do not remember what time it was. My watch died at this point. It kept the time but not the distance or elevation. I do remember looking at my watch before it died and it was the first time I have EVER seen 5 digits in the spot where the ascension goes!! Very cool. 

My friend was tired. We talked to keep each other company, and I was hoping to keep her alert and moving. The only thing I remember about her is that she had two horses. She told me their names, but I forgot their names. I knew that we were getting closer. You could hear the music. By closer, I mean 1-2 miles away! My crew, pacers and I drove this part of the course the day before. I knew exactly what we were looking for. I pressed on faster, because we were almost at the trailhead up to Dutchman Peak and MY 1st PACER, the last cutoff. 

I hit the trailhead and looked at my watch. It was 1:15 am. I made it. I made it. I made it. I got a bit choked up. I had a mile to go, but I knew I could go a mile in 45 minutes. I was in!! I arrived at mile 66 at 1:42 am! (huge exhale, a few tears) I received a hug from my pacer, Michelle,  and I sat down. I ate some ramen, about two cups, some sprite and some watermelon. It was FREEZING. About 5 minutes later, Delaina came running up. I was hoping to be here at 12:45 am. She was worried. The aid station captain encouraged us to go. It was cold. I need to start moving again.

Michelle and I made our way down one mile to the car. Delaina ran ahead of us. At the car, we were all there, me, Kathy, Michelle, Delaina and Teresa. I washed my feet with a cold, wet washcloth. I asked again where my compression socks were. . . I am sure they were like, “if she asks about those D@$% socks again. . . “ I ate some more watermelon. I switched out headlamps. I got hugs from everyone and we were off. I felt at this moment a humongous sense of relief. I felt like the race was now in Michelle and Teresa’s capable hands. I just had to keep moving. I was being SO well cared for and these two were ready to do their part and get me to the finish line.  

Michelle is a (Boston) marathoner. She ran fast. She especially ran fast to my 66+ mile fatigued, sleep deprived body, HA! This section of the course was on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), very cool. The time with her went by fast. Michelle lives in CO. I have not seen her in years. We had a lot of catching up to do. Our conversation went deep. She was so positive. I remember that she told me I would not be running mountains like P2P in heaven. She said God would have bigger ones for me to climb. That made me cry. 🙂

The first 8 miles were relatively downhill. The last 6 to mile 80 were gradually uphill. The sun came up. Such a cool experience to be in the dark for so long and to be still moving as the sun rises. It was warming up a bit. We did stop for a bit at aid station 73.5. Michelle “ordered” me a grilled cheese. I ate some more watermelon. The aid stations at mile 73.5, 80 and 90 were my favs. (All day the aid stations were excellent.) I think I was a bit loopy for these and in really good spirits! I was having such a great time. Michelle was very encouraging and positive. I also remember crying as we ran into mile 80. Michelle kept telling me how strong I was and that “I was doing it!!” She said this many times. We arrived at aid station 80 at 6:33 am. I SAT. I ate some soup. 

Teresa was rearing to go! She was almost bouncing? Okay, she was not bouncing. I exaggerate. T W E N T Y miles to go. I could not do math in my head at this point. I was a bit concerned that I would not make it? Michelle and Teresa were so confident. This is just what I needed. They had talked about what pace(s) I needed to run in order to finish. I think we probably left this aid station at 6:50 am or 7:00 am. 

10 miles to the next aid station, but 8 miles to the last climb over 7000′. 8 miles to Wagner Butte. (A mysterious, secretive climb-HA!) This section took SO long. The steepness of the trail was getting to be painful. UGH. Parts of this section to Wagner Butte reminded Teresa and I of Tillamook 50. We came to a place on the trail that broke off to Wagner Butte. People were leaving their packs here. I left mine and we headed toward the Butte. Boy! This section went on and on and on. FINALLY. . . we made it. We had to scale some large boulders to reach the top and grab a flag, which turned out to be a pink or blue, plastic baby pacifier! NICE touch. This was one of the best views yet. Teresa stayed a bit below. It was beautiful. 

Teresa was great on this section. She was encouraging. She walked a lot more than she probably thought she would. The downhill was relentless. She would “suggest” that we run and I would say, “I don’t want to.” It hurt. Really, at this point, walking hurt, running hurt, standing hurt, sitting hurt. The goal was NOT to stop hurting. The goal was to finish!! Gosh, finally, after about the 5th time she “suggested,” I decided to move. I took some Tylenol. Maybe, that would take the edge off of the pain in my toes and quads.

Now, on to the next aid station at mile 90. MILE 90. 10 miles to go. I was doing it. It was so great to get to this aid station. We arrived here at 10:53 am. The aid station was off the trail, on a jeep road. We had 10 miles downhill. Thank goodness about 9 of it was on the jeep road/mountain bike trail. 

It felt better to run than to walk. It just took like 3 minutes to get started and for the ‘focus on the pain’ to go away. I planned for this. I told myself it would hurt at some point. This was that point.

Your questions, your anxiety should never revolve around whether or not you’re comfortable. If you want something bad enough then you know that being uncomfortable is an ingredient. What hurts now in the present is the very same thing that will transform your life down the road.

-Eddie Pinero

I asked Teresa to put us on a run/walk interval. We ran 5 minutes and walked 5 minutes for about 8-9 miles. This was great. This is when Teresa looked at me and said, “You know what Byron said on Facebook?”

Beyond proud of my wife, Elizabeth Redman McClain. She finished her first 100 mile trail race in 31:04 hours!!! Looks like she has about a 17 minute pace. That is just amazing given the terrain she had to run across. She is such an amazing woman!!! And she loves me!!!

We both started crying. We quickly got it back together. Oh dear! We finished the mountain bike trail and hit the pavement. Well, it was like San Francisco. Good grief!! Really? So STEEP. I walked a lot of this. Walked until I was one corner away from the inflatable finish line. Teresa peeled off to the right. I went straight. I crossed. I finished. I could stop running. 

Stay tuned for more. . .