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Race Recap: Savage Gulf Marathon 2017

 

The course will be the same as last year: Beginning and ending at the Stone Door Ranger Station, with 26.2 miles of the most brutal, unforgiving, rocky, steep terrain you could imagine in between.

The Savage Gulf Marathon fit perfectly on my training schedule in preparation for my April 22nd race. The weekend of Savage Gulf (SG), I had 31 miles on my training plan. I knew that SG would be a difficult event. It would feel like a moderate 50K. So rather than run in Percy Warner for 6 hours, SG it was!

A few fun facts from the day:

  • 4-5 slippery, swinging bridges to cross
  • 4-5 water crossings, enough water to get your feet wet
  • 62 degree high for the day
  • ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS. R O C K S.
  • 4 aid stations on course. Food/water/soda at the end.
  • wet, muddy course
  • 4330′
  • 29 men
  • 14 women

I’ll break this up by my selection of sections.

Miles 0-2.5 very runnable and non-technical. You had better start out running! I settled into the back of the pack. For this race, especially, I wanted to have the space to s l o w down on the rocks. The rocks were slippery and the trail was muddy and wet, due to rain.

Miles 2.5-5 so, so rocky. You head down the Stone Door, a steep, stone, staircase decent. The rocks were slippery. I was very cautious. I did not want to hurt my ankle. I was pretty discouraged at this point (mile 2.5!) because I had to walk this section. I continued to scale rocks until the first aid station around mile 6.3. My average pace from 0-6.3 was approximately 14.55.

Miles 6.8-11 was a climb up, moderate at times, steep for sections. SURPRISE! More rocks. Boulders. Teeter-Totter rocks. Medium rocks. My average pace for this section was 17:12.

Miles 11-18 for the first time in the race that I was able to run on the smaller rocks for a longer period of time. The last 2 miles down to aid station #3 at mile 18 was all runnable. I finally started to get in a better mental place. My average pace for this section was 15:50.

Miles 18-23.6 great runnable section was now gone, enter MORE rocks!! Oh my goodness. At this point, I was so over the rocks. You guys, the rocks were the trail. Good grief. Then from about mile 22.6 to 23.6 was the last steep climb out of the Savage Gulf. I was actually in good shape to hike this one. My heart was beating fast. It was like my body was generating energy to either breathe or keep my heart beating. I pushed the hike and kept my fingers crossed for the last 3 miles of the race!! My average pace for this section was 19:21.

Miles 23.6-26.2 RUNNABLE! I decided to see what I could do with the last 3 miles. It was great running. For the most part, NO MORE ROCKS. Definitely, not as technical. It was hard, but I pushed the pace. I worked very hard. My average pace for this section was 10:00. I was really stoked for that pace!

My stats: 6:57:33. #6 lady out of 14. #29 out of 43 total. 4,330′. (joyful exhale)

TN12126M-Elevation-SavageGulf

Running fills a need so we make fewer demands on others. Running reveals the roots of negative thinking, so the weeds can be pulled. Running reconnects the soul to the source, inspiring hope and creativity.

-Kristin Armstrong

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Longing for 2016

I have spent the majority of January thinking, anticipating, dreaming about running 100 miles in 2016. I have also spent most of January resting my body from my race in December. I’ve been running less and biking more, watch–less and watching more. I’m not lacking motivation. I’m not lacking heart. I’m finding joy in the rest and excitement as I look forward to training. I am looking forward to the journey to 100 miles.

To tell you the truth I’m longing. . .

longing for the darkness

longing for the elevation

longing for the wilderness

longing for the cold

longing for the heat

longing for the sunset

longing for the sunrise

longing for the feeling of exhaustion

longing for the feeling of elation

. . . for my heart to beat because of fear, for my heart to beat because I’m utterly tired, for my heart to beat because I AM A L I V E! I’m anticipating that running 100 miles will bring all these longings and more. It will not be easy. I may want to quit. BUT ‘easy’ and ‘quitting’ do not change the longing.

It was when I was happiest that I longed most. . . The sweetest think in all my life has been the longing. . . to find the place where all the beauty came from.

C. S. Lewis

 

Goodbye to you. . . 2015

2015 has been one of my favorite running years to date. I ran 5 official races this year, in this order, Dry Creek Marathon (February), Zion 100K (April), San Diego Marathon (June), Cumberland Plateau Stage Race (August) and Lookout Mountain 50 (December). The best part was that I spent countless hours putting in the work. It was all pure F-U-N. Here are some stats, highlights and books I read from 2015.

2015 Stats:

  • I ran a total of 2318 miles in 11 months (mid April to mid May was my down time. I rode the bike to recover after the 100K, when I did run, I did not wear a watch)
  • I ran an average of 48 miles a week.
  • I ran approximately 6.8 miles a day.
  • I ran 30 Half Marathons
  • I ran 10 Marathons
  • I ran a 100K
  • I ran a 50 mile race.
  • Right calf pull
  • left calf pull

Highlights:

  • Def my 100K in Zion, Utah. It was more than the distance. It was the friends who came to pace and crew. It really was a glimpse of heaven. . . laughter, fun, running, friends, food, just some of the best togetherness.
  • Running excursions to Frozen Head, Fiery Gizzard, Lookout Mountain x 3, Raccoon Mountain and Garrison Creek. Again, some of the BEST togetherness.
  • 1st place in my age group at Lookout Mountain, also a 50-mile PR by 1 hour and 20 minutes!
  • My track group. This is an awesome combo of road runners and trail runners. It is the best spent hour on Tuesday morning.

Books I read:

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  2. Fearless by Max Lucado
  3. Flow in Sports by Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi
  4. Unbreakable Runner by Murphy & MacKenzie
  5. Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? by Alex Hutchinson, Ph. D.
  6. Running For Women by Dr. Jason Karp Ph. D. and Carolyn S. Smith MD
  7. Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
  8. The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow, Ph. D.
  9. How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald
  10. Glory Days by Max Lucado
  11. Running Past Midnight by Molly Sheridan with Al Marquis

**My 3 favs: Flow in Sports & The Champion’s Mind & Glory Days

Books I look forward to reading in 2016:

  1. Training Essentials For Ultra Running by Jason Koop with Jim Rutberg
  2. Build Your Running Body by Pete Magill
  3. Running Your First Ultra by Krissy Moehl
  4. Work in Progress: An Unfinished Woman’s Guide To Grace by Kristin Armstrong

Good bye to you. . . 2015! I’m ending with my fav quote of the year.

Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did. Know when to let go and when to hold on tight. Stop rushing. Don’t be intimidated to say it like it is. Stop apologizing all the time. Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph. Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down. Stop giving your power away. Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it. Finally know who you are. -Kristin Armstrong

 

 

The B-A-L-A-N-C-E Beam

I remember the pink leotard that I wore with the diagonal turquoise stripes. It was very 80s. It had short, puffy sleeves, high cut legs and a scoop neck. I was 11. I was a tall, chubby girl and I took gymnastics. My fav apparatus? The balance beam.

To mount the beam, I would jump up so that my arms were straight and my hips were touching the side of the beam. I kicked one leg over and sat on the beam with my knees bent and my toes pointed on the beam, then, grabbed the beam in front of my toes to stand up. The key? Balance. To help maintain balance you focused your eyes on the end of the beam. I would add too that you had to have control of your center of gravity. The good news for me was that I had spotters and the skills I was learning kept me relatively safe.

There are many tools in the fitness world today that are used to challenge balance: bosu ball, exercise ball, balance board and even a rolled up towel. You can purposely put your body OUT of balance so that you can improve your balance. Most of the time, it is my emotional balance that is challenged.

I’m getting ready to start training for Zion 100K (62 miles). There will be doubt, darkness, adventure, hunger, thirst, fun, tears, smiles. . . gotta have balance, gotta be centered. I have a plan. I have a routine. I will practice it over and over. I know what I need to do to get there. I know what I need to do to execute. There will also be stress.  I am prepping to train my body to run long, longer, longest.  I need to center myself and prepare to practice balance.

I have decided that life is a constant bombardment of stressors that I am challenged to keep in balance. They definitely ‘ebb and flow’. I do have control over how much ‘ebb and flow’. I just finished reading a book about running by Dr. Phil Maffetone, called The Maffetone Method The Holistic, Low-Stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.  In chapter 2, Exercise and Stress, he suggests making a stress list, listing your physical, chemical and emotional stress on one sheet of paper.  Once your list is made, break that down into two columns, A (stress you can control) & B (stress you cannot control). I love this definition of stress from an article by “Psychology Today” online.

Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life.

Stress disturbs our balance. I am not sure why, at 43, I am discovering the importance of less stress and more balance, but I am. I think what I ask myself to do as a runner is tough. It can offset the balance of my household, the balance of my health, the balance of my mind. I’m going to make a list. I am going to circle the biggest 3 on my “A” list (per Dr. Maffetone). I think that might be where I land for now. Maffetone suggests work on improving those or eliminating them altogether. I think I will do well to list them and circle the big 3.

So, B-A-L-A-N-C-E. . .  keeping in mind that my point of reference for balance may be completely different than the next person.

 

 

 

Rock/Creek Women’s Trail Summit 2014

On June 2nd, I received this email from Erin Hannen and Dreama Campbell.

Due to the overwhelming response to the women’s trail running survey we sent out recently, we’ve decided to host the Rock/Creek Women’s Trail Running Summit. This women’s-only event will be dedicated to trail running, being outdoors, having fun, and discussing ways to encourage more women to hit the trails! 

We’ve gone through race results, volunteer lists, and survey contributors and have selected a few people we’d love to have join us… and you’re one of them! We think you’d enjoy this weekend in August, and we’d value your input to help make the trail running community in the Southeast one of the best!

Soon, you’ll receive an email from UltraSignup with an invitation to register for the event before it opens to the public on June 10th. Space will be very limited. The event page will have all of the details you’re looking for, from an itinerary to a pack list. Check it out, and we hope you can join us!

Women only? Trail running? Outdoors? Fun? Discussion? I did not even hesitate to sign up. From that moment, I was SO excited, not only because I was going to be a part of this but because I knew there were going to be some incredible, trail running women involved. Erin and Dreama invited women from the all over the southeast, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida. Prior to the Summit, each of us wrote a mini bio, which the Rock/Creek ladies compiled and sent to us before The Summit. It was kinda like I was going on a mini-vacation with 30+ celebrities!!!

Friday

I arrived about an hour early on Friday, because I am not the best with directions and sometimes, I get lost. 🙂 Soon after, the ladies from BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) arrived and I joined them for a run. We came back, cleaned up and rested while we waited for the other ladies. . . the rest of Friday was spent eating, getting to know one another via the “name game”, and prepping for Saturday’s run.

Saturday

We woke up and walked to the lake for yoga with Becky Cawood. We came back to the lodge to an amazing spread of food. The ladies who prepared the food left no detail incomplete. The food was fresh, the coffee was good and the presentation was magazine-worthy. With full stomachs, we set off to our first trail excursion. We had several hours to run. We could run between 7 1/2 and 15 miles. My friend, Mary and I chose 10. The first trail was a tough, point to point 7 1/2 miles. A rain shower for the last couple miles cooled all of us off. The second trail followed next to the Ocoee river. It was fun to run alongside the river and watch raft after raft go down the Ocoee.

Back to our cars and back to the lodge. Lunch was served. . .again, de-lish! The Rock/Creek ladies lined up many activities for us to chose from on Saturday afternoon, SUP (stand up paddle boarding), trail snacking, strength training for runners, stretching for runners, blogging and writing with Trail Running associate editor Yitka Winn and way finding and emergency preparedness. I wish I could have taken them all! I chose SUP, blogging and writing and trail snacks. I loved each session. I think my fav was the blogging and writing.

Dinner was next and the food kept getting better!! Our kitchen chefs prepared for us a baked potato bar. For dessert, they made an angel food cake with a lite chocolate mousse icing, A-MAZE-ING. After dinner, we got to the ‘heart’ of our time together. We spent the evening talking about getting more women involved in trail running, helping women to overcome their fears and what holds women back from racing on the trail. It was a good, deep and sometimes heated discussion.

Sunday

We woke up a bit more tired than Saturday but not less enthusiastic to get on the trail. We spent our first waking hours drinking some coffee and ‘assuming’ some yoga positions. Sunday’s yoga was a bit shorter and a bit less intense than Saturday. My favorite comment was from our instructor, Becky, “you guys can run 50-100 miles, but want an easier yoga session?” I guess we were not as relaxed or pliable as we are able to endure the physical “ups and downs” and emotional “highs and lows” of ultra trail running. 🙂

Another delicious breakfast and we were carpooling to our next trail head. I think this trail was my favorite of all three. It was 7 1/2 miles of very runnable trail. It was not technical. It was not overgrown. It was not hilly. It was the perfect finish to our time together on the trail. There was a beautiful waterfall to venture off and see, along the trail. This trail, I could have run again.

Finally, back to the lodge for a “potluck” of food from the weekend’s meals. I continue to talk about the food, but it was just that well prepared and presented. These ladies could cater and make some big dollars!! We finished lunch, packed and said our goodbyes.

It was not hard to say goodbye because I will see these women again. I will correspond with these women. Erin, Dreama, Ginny and Rina pulled off quite a successful event in my book. This will be hard to duplicate. We traveled from different places. Some of us have kids. Some of us do not. Some of us work. Some of us do not. We came together to talk about our love. There was not a conversation where you had to explain, in detail, “why” it is that you run for hours. Those were understood. It was just a time to relax and be together around a common passion.

Rock/Creek Trai Summit: Liz’s Top 10 

1. I loved the energy, spunk of the younger women.
2. I loved the energy, spunk of the older women, including me.
3. I loved every conversation.
4. I will not forget your name OR where you were sitting, based on the name game.
5. We are all beautiful.
6. I need to learn to NOT spoil the adventure of trail running. I will still make plans when I run, but you guys have shown me that I have to have a bit of unknown. I need to let go of the perfect scenario.
7. I need to stop saying, “I’m slow or you’re fast.”
8. Life will continue to press in. Let go of perfection. Choose adventure.
9. We each have much to give and pass on to other women.
10. It’s a great time to be a female trail/ultra runner!!

I still think about my time at the Summit. It was good. Can’t wait to see some of these faces soon.

Comments welcome!! Have you done something similar? Want to do something similar? 

 

 

 

Goodbye

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my friend
So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my friend

-“Keep your Eyes Open”, NEEDTOBREATHE

At the age of 42, I have said a lot of goodbyes. I’ve said goodbye to people and things. I’ve said goodbye to free time. I’ve said goodbye to my sanity. I’m getting ready to say goodbye to a friend, a friend that I have only known for a little over two years. Over the course of that time, we have run three 50K’s and one 50 mile race, not to mention countless hours a week training for these races. I mean HOURS. All the time would add up to DAYS. I’ll miss her. I will see her again.

Here is how we kept it together on the trail!!

1. We texted if we were running late. It was usually me, because one of her pet peeves is being late. OOPS!

2. We did not wear headphones.

3. We kept a pace that we were both comfortable with, with the occasional “pick up”. 🙂 She has a very consistent, even pace.

4. I TRIED not to be a conversation hog. This was tough for me. I always have something to say.

5. We took turns choosing the route. I will admit that I was kind of a ‘route hog’. I seemed to have very specific things in my head, which usually meant the hilliest routes we could do in the time allotted.

6. We did not invite someone else along, unless we asked each other first. The only exception to this rule was if we invited Stacie or Teresa. They were always welcome.

7. We suggested new running routes to each other.

8. I did not call her to suggest something “better”, like sleeping in. We motivated one another.

9. We signed up for races together. For me, these were LIFE CHANGING, LIFE CHALLENGING races. My heart was constantly on my sleeve. She had a ‘poker face’.

10. We allowed one another to make our own fashion statements. There must have been times when she laughed inside at all the Lululemon clothing I owned. She was more of a traditional trail running gal. 🙂

11. Hugs were necessary, especially after emotional races and hard times in life.