Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cumberland Trail 50K Race Report

This is way late, sorry!

Two years ago, I ran the Cumberland Trail 50K as my first trail ultra, at the time it was the most difficult and rewarding race I had ever run. Guess what? Nothing has changed in two years!

I drove up to Cove Lake State Park north of Knoxville the day before to pick up my packet and say hi to RD Susan and the rest of the gang. Then I checked into the Hampton Inn which was less than five miles from the start and grabbed some dinner.

Race morning arrived with perfect conditions. Cool temperatures, clear skies, and lots of masochists ready for some trail fun. It was still dark when we started, so after a quick briefing, we were sent on our way down the bike/running path. I quickly established my normal place at the back of the pack and after a couple of minutes, Leonard Martin joined me, having gotten a bit of a late start. We talked about not missing the initial turn onto the single track and easily saw the well marked turn. I'm very cautious when it comes to running trails in the dark, so Leonard soon pulled ahead and I was on my own.

About five minutes later I hear footsteps coming up behind me. These aren't fellow back-of-the-packer footsteps, these are fast runner footsteps. I step aside to let him pass, thinking it was another runner who had gotten a late start. Then I heard more footsteps and soon dozens of runners were passing me. What was going on? Apparently, the lead runner ran right by the initial turnoff, and since it was dark everyone just followed the headlamp ahead of them. Leonard and I were far enough off the back of the pack that we weren't following anyone and were actually in first and second place for about a mile. This was the first and probably last time I held the lead in an ultra.

Sunrise and the first aid station arrived quickly, but this meant that the climb up Cross Mountain was next. There is no false advertising about this course. From the website, part of the description reads: "The race takes you on a challenging, out-and-back route on the rugged New River section of the Cumberland Trail. This section crosses the high point of the trail, Cross Mountain, at over 3000’. Be prepared - this course could take up to twice your PR for a 50k. The climb up Cross Mountain is steep and will be slow." According to my Garmin data, my pace on this climb was 26 minutes/mile and my heartrate the highest of the entire day. The best way I can describe the climb to non-trail runners is to get on the stair-master, climb two steps at a time, and continue that pace for an hour. Oh yeah, and throw in slippery wet leaf-covered rocks and stream crossings while you're at it. I had to laugh at one point, I had passed a gal on this climb and looked back after a particularly brutal section. She was just standing there, looking at the section with an incredulous look.

At the end of the climb we were rewarded with another great aid station and a short, more runnable section. Then came the longest section between aid stations. It is over 6 miles and has a nasty climb on a very rugged, rutted, slippery "jeep trail". I use quotation marks, because I sure wouldn't want to drive a vehicle up that road. By this time the gal I had passed on Cross Mountain and passed me again and I was back in my familiar spot. After a final steep climb in which a rope would have been helpful, there was once again a welcome well-stocked aid station.

Next was the easy peasy section. Susan gave us a two mile gravel road and meadow trail section to recover a bit from the brutal climbs. Two years ago a big mama elk had camped out in the meadow and quietly observed all the crazy runners traipsing across her home. Unfortunately this year she didn't show. I soon reached the turn around spot, picked up my card to prove I had gotten there, and started back. I was about 15 minutes ahead of my pace from two years ago. On the way back, I saw Rob the sweeper and said hi and that I hoped I wouldn't see him too close behind me.

The downhills on the way back were almost as slow for me as the climbs were. The footing was treacherous in spots with the wet leaves and rocks and the descent down Cross Mountain was only a minute/mile faster than the climb had been. As I arrived at each aid station on the way back, I announced to the crew that the pre-sweep sweep had arrived and that Rob would be by shortly. I finally crossed the finish line in 9:50:26, DFL once again, but 26 minutes faster than two years ago.

If you are looking for a trail race that is both challenging and rewarding, consider putting this race on your calendar. It is very difficult, but the generous cutoff time makes it doable. In fact, there have been only three DNFs in the three year history of the race.

Thanks Susan for the incredible experience.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Ok, first of all, I owe you guys two race reports.

Second, I went to the grocery store today. The only thing worse than going to a grocery store the day before Thanksgiving is going to Walmart the day after Thanksgiving.

To add insult to injury the twelve year old checkout gal asked if I qualified for the senior discount!

To tide you over until I finish the race reports, I finished the Cumberland Trail 50K DFL, but my time was almost 30 minutes faster than it was two years ago. I DNFed the Javelina Jundred, but I did get a buckle for completing 100K.

Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pre Cumberland Trail Thoughts

First an update on the final Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run results. I covered an official 86.49 miles, a PR by over a mile and good for 6th place female and 20th overall out of 254 runners. The amazing Mike Morton ran an incredible 163.9 miles without a crew or pacer, less than two miles short of Scott Jurek's American record.

The Cumberland Trail 50K

Two years ago I ran this as my first trail ultra. I had run a couple of road 50Ks and had run a trail half marathon and thought it was time to step up. I had met RD Susan at the Hot To Trot 8 Hour Run earlier that year and as I was drinking wine and browsing the internet I saw that she was going to direct her first race. With a couple of glasses of wine clouding my brain, I thought, cool, I'll run this as my first trail ultra.

The next morning I went back to the website and read the route description. Oh. My. God.

There is over 8000 feet of climbing with the climb up Cross Mountain being 2000 feet in just 2.5 miles. That is a relentless 800 feet/mile for 2.5 miles.

I finished that race two years ago in a time of 10:16 and DFL.

Fast forward to this year.

I had an opening in my schedule this month and thought to myself, self, let's run the Cumberland Trail 50K again. I didn't even have the excuse of having drunk too much wine this time.

After my "hilly" trail 20 miler yesterday I thought I would revisit my Garmin data from two years ago. Oh. My. God. My average pace up Cross Mountain was a whopping 28 minutes/mile! My average heart rate during that climb was 161. For me, that is like 5K heart rate. Oh yea, I'm going to have fun next Saturday.

My goal is to beat my time from two years ago, we shall see.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Report

I have been putting off this report waiting for the official results, but I have some free time now so here it goes. I'll provide an update once the results are official.

This is the first year I ran at Hinson Lake and it quickly became one of my favorite events. (I am getting way too many favorite events on my list.) First of all, the entry fee is only TWENTY-FOUR dollars. For that $24 you get better swag than you get at a big city marathon.

Plus you get all the food you can eat, all the water and Gatorade you can drink, and all the ultra comraderie you could want for 24 hours. That's $1 an hour, I'd like to see a Competitor Group marathon with an entry fee of 3-5 dollars.

The course consisted of 1.52 mile loops around Hinson Lake. The path is sandy gravel with several wooden footbridges. There was one "hill" which was a couple of hundred yards long and maybe 15' gain in elevation. It was raining a bit at the start and as I was waiting in my car, I saw southeastern ultra good guy Bill Keane walking by. I lowered my window to say "hi" and he offered me one of his Pat Pending Green Powered Digital Lap Counters.

There is one drawback to the design, the operator needs to remember to move the ring from one finger to the next after each lap, which does become difficult around 2-4 AM.

The race started promptly at 8AM and although it was a bit crowded at the beginning, everyone quickly settled into place and we were on our way. There were a lot of GUTS and Darkside running cult members, so there were a lot of people lapping me that I knew.

The volunteers were all fantastic and the aid station was stocked with just about anything you might need. It seemed more like a picnic with some running.

That is not to say there weren't some incredible performances out there. Mike Morton put on a phenomenal display of athleticism. With the heat index approaching 90 degrees, Mike kept on pounding out the laps. Even with his superior effort, he took the time to encourage us plodders every time he passed us. One of the main reasons I wanted to wait for the official results is that I'm pretty sure he got within a couple of miles of Scott Jureck's American 24 Hour record. It was amazing to watch him run and I swear he picked up speed after 4 AM.

As I stated in my last post, I was going to attempt a PR. It was very humid so I started slower than normal, but I was able to maintain my pace for much longer. In my previous 24 Hour runs, I ended up walking most of the night, but this night I was able to run about 2 - 2.5 minutes out of every 5 minutes. I think this also helped reduce the severity of blisters. It took me 15 hours, but I did eventually make the leader board (I also had to stop and get my camera to take this picture).

At about 4 AM I asked the scoring table how many laps I needed to do to cover 85.5 miles (previous PR was 85.25 miles). I looked at the time remaining, my current pace, and how many laps I needed to do. Doing the math in my head, it was apparent that I would not make my PR. I decided to mosey along the next lap, change my socks one last time, then keep moving and get a nice 82-83 mile training run for the Javelina Jundred in November.


As I passed the timing table again, I saw that I still had 4 hours to go. I had misread the time by an hour on the last lap. Well crap, (I mean yea!) I can still make that PR, but I have to pick up my pace back to where it was. So I put my big girl panties back on, maintained the pace I needed, and ended up with an unofficial 86.4ish miles, a new PR!

I'll update this with my final mileage and the amazing Mike Morton's mileage when the official results are published.

I had an awesome time, and I hope to return again and again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Update

At the risk of jinxing myself, I have to say that my running has been really coming together the last couple of weeks. Ever since I DNF'ed Rocky Raccoon back in February, my running and races have not been where they were last year. I had a couple of nagging injuries that didn't keep me from running, but that did keep me from performing to my (albeit mediocre) potential. The injuries also kept me from putting in the miles I was putting in last year.

Well for some reason or other, all that changed about three weeks ago. The last two weeks I racked up my highest two training weeks (without a "training" ultra) ever, 71 and 84.5 miles. I also picked up my speed. Yesterday I ran a tempo run that seemed way too easy, my heartrate was the same as my easy run heartrate was just a month ago. Today I ran a trail run 6 minutes faster than I did last week, even with the temperature the same and the dew point higher.

I was just about ready to attribute my slowing down earlier in the year to getting older (which I still am), but this is giving me hope that there may still be a PR or two in my future.

The Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run is in just nine short days and yes, I'm going to be shooting for a PR!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm In!

Remember last year when the Boston Qualifier whiners were complaining because it sold out in eight hours or so? Well I squeaked into Umstead this afternoon. It sold out in THREE MINUTES!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Darkside Labor Day 26.2 Mile Fun Run

The cult I belong to (Darkside Running Club) puts on three free marathons for members every year. They are held on New Year's Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. The club supplies the water and Gatorade and the runners bring a box of cookies or bag of chips for the community aid station. Just as at previous events, I saw a lot of folks I knew and met a few folks I hadn't met yet.

The race started at 7 AM ish and fortunately the temperatures had cooled down quite a bit from earlier in the week. There was a bit of rain though, mostly in the form of drizzle, but the rain did get a little heavier for my last of five loops. There was a race for last place as a lot of runners were either doing this as #2 of a double marathon weekend or as part 2 of back to back long runs. One group of gals was doing a 30 second run, 30 second walk Galloway variation. That's a little too short for both the run and the walk for me. By the time you get to running speed its time to walk and vice versa. I used the Galloway method myself, but with 3.5 minutes running and 1.5 minutes walking. I managed to finish in a time with a 5 in front, 5:56. I took it slow and easy on purpose with the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run coming up in three short weeks and was happy with how my legs treated me.

Final note to self: Never ever EVER run a marathon or greater without prepping with Desitin, especially if its raining.

That is all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

This week I had some vacation time and no race on the schedule so I went to one of my favorite places, Lake Tahoe. When I lived in Salt Lake City I went out there several times during the year, but I haven't been out there since I moved to Georgia about five years ago. Also, the last time I was there, I wasn't a trail or ultra runner and since I'm thinking about maybe throwing my hat in the Western States lottery ring, I thought I should try some higher altitude running and see how my lungs handle the lack of oxygen.

I got to Lake Tahoe late on the first day and it was getting dark, so my first run was on the hotel treadmill. Not too bad, I took it easy and ran three miles about 30-60 seconds slower than my normal pace.

The next day I headed out to the Spooner Summit trailhead of the Tahoe Rim Trail. It was only a 12 mile drive from the hotel. When I got there a cross-country team was just finishing up their training run and they all had smiles on their faces. I decided to take the trail north and immediately the trail started climbing.

The trail is very runnable and could be run in road shoes. There were a couple of places where I could see glimpses of Lake Tahoe. The altitude didn't bother me too much, but I was slower than I am at sea level. I was only out there for about two hours because all I had with me was a 20-oz handheld. Next time I do this, I'm packing my hydration vest because I would have loved to have been out there a lot longer.

After I finished I joked with my online running buddy that I hadn't been eaten by any bears or mountain lions. Little did I know how that would affect me the next day.

The next morning while getting ready for my run I read this race report. Then on the way to the trailhead, I saw this sign that I hadn't noticed the day before.

This day I ran the Tahoe Rim Trail from the same trailhead, but this time I headed south.

The initial climb was much steeper for the first mile, but then it undulated with rolling ups and downs. The views on this portion of trail were much more spectacular. Unfortunately I opted to bring a 12-oz plastic water bottle instead of my camera so I didn't get any photos, but I was able to stay out there longer. About two miles into the run I saw some tracks. My wildlife track identification skills aren't very good, so it was either a very large dog or a mountain lion. Needless to say, I kept my eyes on the surrounding terrain for any signs of carnivorous wildlife. Even with that, I still had a huge grin on my face the entire time. I swear that alpine pines give off some kind of mood-altering chemicals. Most of the time I like running, but during these two runs I LOVED running.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hot 2 Trot Race Report

You know you are in for a hot day when you are sweating and the race hasn't even started yet.

The Hot 2 Trot is held at one of my favorite places to run, Sweetwater Creek State Park. The course consisted of 1.18 mile loops which included single track, jeep trail, a little bit of paved road, a lot of flat, some downhill, and a walking hill that the front runners ran. There were a few roots, but it was very runnable and trail shoes weren't a requirement. There was one aid station at the start/finish area that had everything you might need, including lots of ice.

The heat wasn't too bad at the beginning, there was some cloud cover and even a misting of light rain, but that just meant that the humidity was at 100%. It is definitely humid when your glasses fog up and the temperature is 80 degrees. I was making good time the first 3-4 hours and was realistically expecting to cover at least a 50K. There was one unexpected surprise at about the one hour mark. Jason was ahead of me on the hill when suddenly he stopped and yelled in pain. There was a yellow jacket nest near the trail and apparently they weren't happy with all the runners running through their neighborhood. I made it through this lap unscathed, but the next time up the hill I got zapped. I'd never been stung by a yellow jacket before. OMG they hurt! By the next lap RD Sarah and her sidekick were out there with some kind of bug bomb. Sarah made me RUN up the walking hill, though, so they could get some space between runners while they sprayed. I was afraid that the killer yellow jackets would just get pissed off, but I was unmolested for the next seven hours.

I stopped once to use the restroom (they had a port-pottie, but if you walked 5 yards off the course there was a restroom with flush toilets!) and once to change socks and shoes. At about the four hour mark the heat started getting to me and I slowed way down. At this point I knew I wouldn't be getting a 50K, but I kept on moving and wound up with 24 laps which is just over 28 miles.

After the race we had burgers and veggie-burgers and the awards were handed out. It was fun catching up with and congratulating everyone on their great efforts. There were some speedy folks out there. I really enjoy myself at GUTS events because I knew just about everyone who lapped me as well as all the volunteers.

Thanks Sarah and your crew, I had a fantastic time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting My Act Together - Week 1

Just a quick note on my progress. Getting my act together has three parts:

1. Lose 10 pounds. This first week I lost 2.4 pounds, 7.6 to go.

2. Run 50 miles a week. I ran 54.6 miles.

3. Speed work once a week. I ran 12 x 1/4 mile intervals on the treadmill.

So far, so good :)

I may have a bit of a set back this week when I go to Vegas. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2011 - The Year of DNF?

If you look on the right side of my blog you can see the races I've done. So far this year I've attempted 9 races of marathon or longer distance. THREE of those resulted in the dreaded DNF. I had never had a DNF until Rocky Raccoon this year and that seemed to start a mini-avalanche. How am I going to stop this from accelerating?

I will be the first to admit that my training hasn't been as intense this year as it was last year. Last year at this time I was running 50-70 miles a week. Right now a good week has me topping out at just under 50 miles. Last year I weighed about 5 pounds less than I do right now. Finally, I've tried some races that were more of a challenge.

The good news is, two of my next four races are impossible to DNF. They are time events, so as long as I complete one lap of the course, I'll be credited with a finish. Of course, I'd like to get at least an ultra distance while I'm out there. The other two races will both be challenges. The first is the Cumberland Trail 50k. It is a tough course that starts out with a 2000' climb, but it has fairly generous cutoffs. The other challenge will be the Javelina Jundred in November. I have finished this one, but no 100 mile race is a given.

Now, my plan. It's simple. Lose the weight I've gained plus a couple of extra pounds. Run more miles and get my average over 50 miles per week again. Try to do one "speed" workout every week which can be in the form of intervals, a tempo run, or hills.

The plan is simple, now I just have to get my act together.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Afton Trail Run Report

First of all, I want to thank the Race Director, John Storkamp, for the excellent planning and execution of this event. For the last 18 years this event has been held in Afton State Park. However, because of the political shenanigans happening in Minnesota, he didn't know if the park would be shut down until the day before the race. So John had to plan not one, but two 50K events simultaneously. Unfortunately, the state parks were shut down, and the race was moved to an alternate location, the Afton Alps ski area located right next to the state park. And no, the Afton Alps ski area is not a cross country ski venue. It is a bona fide downhill ski area with chair lifts and everything. Unfortunately for us runners, the lifts weren't operating and we had to walk or crawl up those hills.

The course John came up with was four loops for the 50K runners. There was very little flat running, most of it was up or down hill, a lot on mountain bike trails, some traversing across the ski slopes, and some climbing up and down the ski slopes. Without factoring in the weather, this was one of the most challenging courses I've run. With the warm temperatures and high humidity, the conditions were brutal. For comparison; last year's winning time was 3:48, this year, the winner took 4:30 to complete the course. The woman's winner last year was the same as this year's winner and her times were 4:24 and 5:13.

John gave us plenty of warning before the start and sent us on our way at 6:30 AM. I started in my usual spot of dead last. The first half of the first loop wasn't too bad, and at about the 2 mile point there was a water and ice aid station. Boy that ice felt good on the second and third loops. A little past the 4 mile point was a full service aid station with plenty of food selections, salt tabs, ice, water, HEED, Coke, and cheerful, encouraging (and lying) volunteers. As the day progressed, I found myself spending longer periods at this aid station. There were less than three miles from there to the start/finish aid station, but this section was the most brutal. About a mile from the end was a long steep climb, and after the downhill you could see the aid station. But no! The sadistic race director made us turn right and climb the steepest climb of the entire course. During my second loop I actually saw two guys on their third time up that hill physically sit down on the trail and take a breather.

I rank the difficulty of a course by how many times I call the race director a bastard. Many courses don't even merit a one bastard rating. This course merits a full five bastard ranking. John, that is meant as a compliment!

The cutoff time on the normal course is nine hours. I was well behind that pace, but I had heard at the aid stations that because of the difficulty of this alternate course the cutoff would be extended. When I was about two miles from the end of my third loop, I heard from one of the course officials that John would be sending the sweeps out at 2 PM, 7.5 hours after the start. I looked at my Garmin and saw that I probably wouldn't make it. I passed the start/finish area about 5 minutes after cutoff. Out loud I said, "darn, I can't continue", but inside I was shouting "thank God I don't have to do another loop!"

Overall I had a great time on a challenging course on a difficult day. Mr Garmin measured over 5000' of elevation gain during my 22+ miles. I'll be back again to try the "easy" course.

Finally, a couple of pictures.

The start/finish aid station area with a view towards the top of one of the ski slopes

Some, but not enough of the trail was easy peasy single-track.

Runners walking up the start of the last climb, you can't see the really steep part because it's to the right of those trees.

The view from the top of the last climb. What's that, you can't see the trail? That's because there is a steep drop off that I couldn't get a picture of because there was no way I was going to back track to get it in the picture.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


As I was driving to Sweetwater Creek State Park this morning, it occurred to me that a lot has changed in my running. Not that long ago, I went out of my way to avoid running hills and this morning I was driving specifically to go up and down hills.

My goal this morning was to do an Afton Trail Run simulation so I climbed and ran down Jack's Hill a total of seven times.

Here is the profile of one half of the Afton Trail Run:

Here is the profile of the run I did:

I had a great time. It wasn't too hot, but it was very humid and rained for about half the time I was out there. It rained just enough to keep the trail soft, but not enough to make it sloppy.

I was happy with my effort, just nine more days until the Afton Trail Run 50K!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FANS 24 Hour Race Report

What a great weekend. As the race director wrote in an email, they don't know if they are planning a running event or a family reunion. This was my second year doing this, and I feel like I'm part of the family and will be back for many more. The ages of the participants ranged from pre-teen kids to 70+ year old veterans. There were world class runners and some who had never run farther than a 5K or 10K. There were even families out there participating together including a woman walking with her daughter and granddaughter. There were many stories out there and 24 hours in which to share them. Here is my story. One word of caution, though, the blister picture is at the very end, so don't scroll all the way down if you are squeamish, I will provide another warning.

The race is run around Lake Nokomis just outside the MSP airport in Minnesota. The course is just over 2.4 miles long and starts with an out-and-back section so that the 50 mile and 100K splits are at the timing tent. After the timing tent, medical tent, aid station tent, and big tent for tentless runners is "Tent City". Many runners have crew that set up tents. My sister-in-law was my crew and had this tent set up for me.

My great-nephew was also there to help out for much of the afternoon.

Here are some pictures of the course. It is a public park area and the weather was great, so lots of people were out enjoying the day, swimming, catching rays on the beach, and cooking out.

There was one section that crossed a bridge next to a busy road. This got very hot during the day and everyone except the front-runners called this the walking bridge.

Two airplanes taking off from the MSP airport.

On the backside of the lake was this weird looking monstery sculpture thing. I just hoped it wouldn't start moving and talking to me at 2 AM.

Finally there was Mt Nokomis. Not so daunting in the beginning, but it grew as the day progressed.

I started out great and my knee lasted for about 15 miles. With aid station stops, I was averaging about 12-13 minute miles. Then the knee decided it had had enough and I was reduced to walking. Walking was great even with the temperature rising to about 85 degrees and I was averaging 16-17 minute miles. However, I think my foot moves differently in my shoe while walking vs running and I started developing blisters on the balls of my feet at about the 40 mile point. I wasn't about to quit however because they ring a cowbell for you when you hit 50 miles and I wanted to hear that cowbell. So, I kept moving, but at a much slower pace. We're talking 20-25 minute miles. I finally heard the cowbell around midnight and there were still 8 hours to go. I couldn't quit now. Besides, they also ring the cowbell at 100K, that was "only" five more times around the lake. So, I kept going, feeling the blisters getting larger and finally popping, and then growing some more, eventually starting to move up the side of my foot. Around 4 AM I hit 62 miles and called it a day. I napped in the tent for a couple of hours until my nephew and his girlfriend arrived to pack things up. We then went up to the Community Center for an awesome breakfast of eggs, sausage, hash browns, pineapple, strawberries, etc. There were lots of awards handed out and the overall winners of both the 12 hour and the 24 hour runs were women! Connie Gardner from Ohio won the 24 hour with 127.95 miles and Carolyn Smith won the 12 hour with 83.19 miles!

FINAL WARNING, here is the promised blister picture. Thankfully it is a little bit blurry, but do not scroll down if you are squeamish.

Yes, it is covering about 1/3 of my foot, but it feels fine now, just a little tender. I'm planning on a short 3 mile recovery run later today.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Preliminary FANS 24 Hour Report

I finished with 62 miles. Had to stop at 20 hours for blisters. Full report to follow with blister pics. (As a teaser, it took me 6 hours to work up the courage to take off my shoes and socks.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon Rant

Yesterday I got an invitation to pay $140 to run the Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon in December. If you look at the times though, you see that they shortened the cutoff time from the 5:30 they had last year. This year the cutoff time is 4 hours and 30 minutes. My fastest marathon time is 4:58. In just eight short years, 4:30 will be my Boston Marathon Qualifying time. If they had used this cutoff time last year, 47% of last year's finishers would not have finished. Never mind that half of the course is run through the industrial park section of town with lots of boring out and back sections. Oh, and I almost forgot, this quote is from the website: "The marathon and half marathon courses are as flat and festive as they come – perfect for runners and walkers of all ability levels."

I think I'll decline this invitation.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Darkside Memorial Day 26.2 Mile Fun Run

The running cult I belong to puts on three free marathons every year. I used this one as a training run for my 24 hour run coming up on Saturday. It was 70 degrees with a dew point of 70 at the start, so I knew it was going to be a hot one. There were about a dozen Darksiders that showed up and stunt-double Race Director Victor sent us on our way at 7 AM. The race consists of five 5+ mile loops on the Peachtree City golf cart paths. My first two loops were fine, but I was taking it nice and slow. On the third loop my right knee decided to start squawking and that combined with the rising temperature made me walk quite a bit of the third loop.

My knee was yelling at me by the time I finished the third loop, so I decided to call it quits. I dropped my bottles off in my car and got out my lawn chair to watch the other runners come through the aid station. By the time I finished my Diet Dr Pepper (about 15-20 minutes) I decided that I would go back out and walk a loop. After all, I would be walking quite a bit at the FANS 24 hour run. I was able to maintain about 16 minute miles while walking and about halfway through the fourth loop my knee felt just fine. Oh great, now I'll have to do the fifth loop and complete the marathon. When I got back to the aid station, I put all my stuff in my car so that Victor would be able to pack things up and I headed back out. I walked the entire fifth loop also and ended up walking it about two minutes faster than the previous loop. I checked the weather when I finished and the temperature was 86 degrees, the dew point was 72, and the heat index was 92. Victor had everything packed away when I finished so I headed to my car, drove home and emailed him my finish time.

I love Darkside marathons, they are so low key, they are negative key and its always nice to see the other cult members.

Everyone heading out on the first loop

Stunt-double Race Director Victor busily manning the aid station

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Running With John

I've known John for years and years. We met in a financial chatroom and 2-3 years ago we both started getting serious about running. While most of the room occupants talked stocks, we'd exchange instant messages about our growing obsessions with running. Well this weekend, work was taking me to Omaha and finally had a chance to run with my longtime virtual running buddy. He picked me up at the hotel and drove me to one of his favorite running spots, Lake Zorinsky. Once there I took a quick picture of us (why oh why do I always looks so dorky in self portraits?)

and we were on our way. John agreed to run at my slow ultra pace and we planned to be out there for about three hours. He is not at all intrigued by marathons or ultras, preferring to run 10Ks and half marathons, so this was going to be his longest, slowest run ever.

Here are some pictures along the running route around the lake. The lake was drained several months ago for a zebra mussel infestation.

After almost 8 miles we returned to the parking lot to refill water bottles and met with an unpleasant surprise.

I had a change of clothes inside a hotel laundry bag. Unfortunately inside the pockets of my jeans were my IPhone and a wallet with my driver's license, credit card, debit card, etc. They also took John's phone and his gym bag.

So, our run was cut short and I spent the next hour or so on his computer and home phone getting everything canceled. I'm guessing these crooks were just stupid kids and not professionals since they didn't even attempt to use the credit card but did try to use the debit card at an ATM without the PIN. Several hours later I remembered I might have had my Health Savings Account card in there, so I checked online and sure enough they had used that. Once again they showed their lack of imagination and it looks like instead of electronics, they bought beer, beef jerky, and cigarettes.

Overall a positive run with my virtual running buddy, plus I got to meet his wife again, along with their dogs Fergie and Lucy and new grandbaby Emerson. (I just realized I listed his dogs ahead of his grandbaby, does that make me a bad person?)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Miwok 100K - Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

Miwok is far and above my new favorite race. Although I missed cutoff at the turn-around by a whole bunch of minutes, I had the best time I’ve ever had at a race. And hey, what other race has a micro brewery whip up a batch of special IPA for it’s runners?

I knew I was going to have a difficult time making the first cutoff. You have to maintain a 14:36 pace to the 33.9 mile point, but then a 17:15 pace from there to the finish. I managed the first major climb and descent at the required pace, but I continued to lose pace as the number of climbs climbed. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here is what transpired and why I love this race so much.

A race this fantastic is obviously very popular, so popular in fact, that there is a lottery for entries. (I almost hesitated writing this report in glowing terms because one or two of my dozen or so readers might think to enter next year, lowering my chances of gaining entry again.) Fortune smiled on me and my name was selected and I was on my way.

I flew into SFO on Friday, and then drove up to the host hotel to pick up my bib. They don’t hand out the goodie bags ahead of time, so if you know your way around, there is no need to do this, you can just pick up your bib the morning of the race. The main reason I drove up was to reconnoiter the drive to the start. It’s a good thing I did, because even with having been there, I still made one wrong turn on race morning.

On race morning, I checked in, used the toilet facilities (flush toilets no less), said “hi” to Krissy Moehl who was right behind me in line and who had won the Red Mountain 50K I ran two weeks ago, and also met up with Susan and Rob, running friends from Tennessee. It was chilly at the start, but not cold, so I started out in shorts and short sleeved shirt. About 5:25 AM we walked down to the beach for some last minute instructions from the race director and then promptly at 5:40 AM we were off. The start is just 30 minutes prior to sunrise so there was no need for headlamps. The leaders and mid-packers sprinted off to get a prime place in line up the first single track climb while the rest of us trudged through the several hundred yards of sand. Even with walking, we still had to wait about 5 minutes to start up the first hill. Not long after that we were all sorted out and on our way. After the first relatively short single track section, we started the first major climb. One thing about climbs in California as compared to climbs in Georgia; in Georgia, there are lots of trees and you can’s see how far you are going to have to climb, in California, you can look all the way to the top and see the long line of tiny specks making their way up. During this stretch, we were on one of the few sections of road and the view was spectacular. We could see the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, and a cruise ship making its way into the Bay. Soon, I was finished with my first climb and descent and looking at my Garmin, I was at a 14:30 pace, even with the 5 minute wait at the trail start. Next was some single track, and then I was spilled back onto the beach for about a ¼ mile run (walk) in the sand and back to the start area and the first aid station (water and GuBrew only) at the 7.1 mile point.

I really can’t remember a whole lot about this next 4.0 mile section, but I’m sure it was scenic and had some climbing.

The third section was both my favorite and most hated section. It was the longest at 8.9 miles (my Garmin actually said 9.5 miles) and had two killer climbs. On the first of these climbs, I found myself sharing the trail with 70 year-young Hwa Ja Andrade. She has been doing ultras for years and looks and runs like a much younger runner (her calves look like they are carved out of granite). I want to be like her if I grow up. I was able to keep up with her on the climbs, but she would leave me in the dust on the descents. (I really do need to work on my downhill running) Somewhere around the 15 mile point was my favorite part of the course. It was a couple of miles of gentle downhill single track, going through meadows filled with wildflowers, funky looking woods (to me they looking like “Wizard of Oz” woods and I found myself chanting lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) and finally a section of redwood forest complete with giant trees and ferns. Of course, all good things must come to an end and soon I was on another monster climb to the Pan Toll aid station at mile 20.

By this time I realized that I was not going to make the cutoff at the 33.9 mile point. So even without intending to, I found that my pace slowed during the next 6.7 mile section. I was still moving well, but not as fast. There was a lot of running along the sides of grassy hills and about this time the leaders were on the way back and I was further slowed by stepping up off the trail to let them pass. Not too far back from the leaders was Ian Sharman running in an Elvis costume (he was the dude that ran an incredible 12:44 at Rocky Raccoon in February). We were high up and I could look down and see hawks circling looking for prey. One thing a little annoying about this section was the number of flies in this grassy area, they didn’t bite, but they did their best to try to fly in my eyes.

I got to the next aid station and announced my intention to continue the 7.2 miles to the turn-around aid station even though there was no way I was going to make cutoff. After grabbing a handful of food, I was on my way on my last miles on the incredibly beautiful course. I ran though some more redwood forest and this section was net downhill. The outside of my right knee started hurting a bit running downhill (I think I tweaked it a bit from the angle I was stepping off the trail for the front runners on the previous section). It was fun seeing all the runners who had made the cutoff on their return. About one mile from the aid station, I met the sweep coming my way. He told me the aid station was closed and packing up and that I had better hustle if I wanted a ride. I did pick up my pace as much as my knee allowed and soon saw the U-Haul truck. I yelled down “don’t leave without me!” and they waved back. Even though they were just about all packed up, they got me a Pepsi and water and we waited a couple of more minutes for a hurting runner I had passed about two miles earlier.

There were three of us late droppers and we all managed to squeeze into the cab of the U-Haul with the driver, “the Rocket”, who has been running ultras for 30 years. It was a tight fit, but Mr Rocket kept us entertained with ultra talk for the 20 minute ride to the Pan Toll aid station. As he drove the winding, switch-back road, we were all amazed that we had climbed that height via a different route. At the aid station, Mr Rocket found me a ride to the start/finish area with some friends of his. As I was waiting with them waiting for their runner, I started to get chilled. Using ultra runner ingenuity, I asked a volunteer for a garbage bag and made myself a makeshift poncho. While waiting, I got to see Susan and Rob again and wished them luck.

When I eventually got back to my car, I got my jacket, then caught the shuttle to the Finish area. There I saw my hill climbing friend, Hwa Ja Andrade. She had missed cutoff by less than 10 minutes, so we had a quick commiserating hug and then headed to get our goodie bags and some food. This race knows how to do swag. There was hardly any filler (as opposed to Rock-N-Roll marathon bags which are ALL filler) Included were a shirt, a fleece vest, a 6-pack of GU, a chocolate bar, a beanie, a ceramic dish, and a bottle of Miwok 100K Trail Ale.

The finish line food was also very good, I had a jalepeno Brat, macaroni salad and home-made cole slaw. While I was in the food line, Krissy Moehl came over and asked how my race went. In what other sport will the third place finisher make time to talk with a back of the packer?

Next year, if I’m selected in the lottery, I’m going to make this my “A” race. Then I’m going to work on both my uphill walking and my downhill running. That means I’ll be going out to Sweetwater Creek State Park at least once a week and go up and down Jack’s hill for 4-6 hours.

Until next year!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Camera Trail Trial

I like reading other blogs that have pictures, so for my birthday I bought myself a rugged light-weight camera to take with me to races. Earlier in the week I took it on a trial run on the trails of Sweetwater Creek State Park. Here is what I took pictures of:

Most of the trail is easy peasy trail like this

But, there are some rocky, rooty sections

And one monster rock to climb over

And one long uphill

View of abandoned factory ruins

I ran here for several months before I noticed this sign

I ran one loop with my camera and one loop without and discovered that taking pictures adds about 30 seconds/mile to my pace. Since I will be running close to cutoffs at Miwok, I won't be taking any pictures during the race, but I'll try to take some before and after.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Total Image 10K Report

Earlier this week when I saw that I was going to be in Manchester, NH for work, I looked to Mr Google for places to run. What do you know? There was going to be a 5K/10K race with the start/finish line no more than three blocks from my hotel. Since that was about as far as I was planning to run, I quickly signed up.

I walked to the start to pick up my bib, then ducked into Jillian's Billiards (the host pub) to stay warm and use the facilities. There were about 300 runners, 200 doing the 5K and 100 doing the 10K. We all started together with the 5K runners splitting off at about the 1 mile point. I stayed at the back of the pack, using the first three miles as a warm-up. The course was wonderful, just about a mile on roads, the rest of the race was on paved bicycle/running paths with some of it next to a river. Near the half-way point was a short steep hill that I walked up, the rest of the route was mostly flat and fast.

After about three miles (and coming down the backside of that hill) I picked up my speed and started picking off runners one by one. I ended up passing eleven runners and ran a significant negative split. The time for my first three miles was 34:17 and I ran the last 3.2 miles in 32:08.

After the race, Jillian's had a pretty good spread. Besides the standard water and bananas, there were veggies and dip, crackers and cheese, shrimp, and meatballs. So I stuck around for the awards and ate lunch. I knew there might be a chance of getting an age group award in a race this small. Lo and behold I won first prize in my age group! Ok, I was the only one in my age group, but hey, it still counts.

Final time 1:06:25

Monday, April 25, 2011

Red Mountain 50K Race Report

I signed up for this race because I was looking for a 50K to run as a training run before the Miwok 100K in two weeks. It's much easier to do a 6-8 hour training run when there are aid stations, volunteers, and other runners sharing the road with you. This weekend was also close to my birthday so when I found the Red Mountain 50K near St George which is less than a two hour drive from Vegas, I knew my birthday weekend plans were set.

Packet pickup was Friday night and the guest speaker was world class ultra-runner Krissy Moehl. She and Devon Crosby-Helms had just set the women's record for the Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon earlier that week!

Race start was at 6:05 AM, but before that we had to meet at the finish at 5 AM to board buses for the long drive to the start line. It was a little chilly at the finish, but the start line was 2000' higher elevation and it was almost cold. I'd guestimate the temperature was about 35. I immediately got into the porta-potti line. I looked behind me, and the gal behind me sure looked like Krissy, but I thought to myself, nah, she just set a record a couple of days ago, there's no way she'd be running in this little 50K. Now, days later, I realize that it was Krissy and I'm kicking myself for not say hi and congratulations and all the other stuff you mumble to rock stars.

We lined up at the start line and the race director attempted to play the Start Spangled Banner but encountered some technical difficulties, so instead, we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think I've done that since grade school and it was kind of cool. Right after that we were on our way. The sun wasn't up yet, so I used my light-weight headlamp for the first 30 minutes. I was also wearing a throw away sweat shirt I had bought at K-Mart the night before. My fingers were getting numb in the cold, so I just curled them up inside the sleeves.

This race is advertised as 12 miles of trail and 19 miles of road. The trail part is more gravel road than trail, but the scenery was spectacular. The course starts at about 5000' elevation and ends at about 3000'. Even though it is net downhill, there were still a couple of 200-300' climbs that got your heart pumping, especially when you come from near sea level.

Everything was going fairly smoothly until the 9 mile point. Apparently some vandals thought it would be fun to mess with the course markings. Not only did they remove the correct course markings, they placed new markings directing runners in the wrong direction. I ran about a quarter mile in the wrong direction when I came to a group of 12-15 runners near a knee deep stream crossing. Some of them had run over 2 miles and came to a T intersection with no markings telling them which way to go, so they had retraced their steps. A race official came by and helped us sort things out and we were soon all headed in the right direction. Sometimes it does pay to be slow, I only added an extra half mile to my race while the front runners added up to four.

Soon after, we were on the road section. Runners were given the opportunity to have their road shoes delivered to this aid station. I just ran the whole thing in my road shoes, since there wasn't really any "trail" trail that necessitated the use of trail shoes. I think I passed at least 5 people at this point who took time to change their shoes.

The road part was much like any road marathon, except that the aid stations were much better with lots of food and beverage choices and encouragement from the volunteers. Somewhere along here I found myself yo-yo-ing with another gal. We'd exchange a word, then go on our way, then see each other again. Eventually our paces matched up and we got to chat for a mile or two. Janice has been running ultras for over 20 years and she has run all the big mountainy 100 milers like Leadville, Western States, and Wasatch. It was fun sharing the road with her for a few miles. Eventually she did drop me as I took a little longer at an aid station.

Some time in here I passed a young dude who was having some difficulty. I offered a word of encouragement and then continued on my way. As I was googling for race results, I came across this blog. I have mixed feelings. I feel good about being called fit by a young man that I am old enough to be a momma to. But did he have to call me an old lady? No hard feelings Cory, but if I see you at another race and you are hurting, don't hold it against me if I pass you again, OK?

The day started heating up, so I was glad to see the finish line. In a pre-race email we were promised root beer floats, so for the last couple of miles that was all I could think about. Finally I saw the park, and just before the final turn I saw Jerry. Jerry is an online friend that I've met a couple of times in person and it was nice of him to show up for the finish.

All-in-all this is a fun race. If you are a road marathoner looking for a first ultra to make the transition, I'd highly recommend this race. The pluses are many: easy course, awesome scenery, great volunteers, well stocked aid stations, laid back atmosphere. The negatives: too much road for someone used to trails. (I can't believe this used-to-be-almost-exclusive-treadmill-runner just said that!)

Oh, the official results are on the website now, I finished in 6:51:26, 55th out of 65 finishers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I'm Baaaack! A Way Too Cool Race Report

Ok, I can admit it now. I was worried about being able to finish this race. Just five weeks prior I experienced my first DNF. I injured myself and wasn't able to run for 11 days after that. I was only able to log one 20 mile trail run about 10 days prior to the race. The cutoff time was 8:30 and my previous best for a trail 50K was 8:40 (that race did have a mile or so of bonus mileage).

I'll save you all the suspense and let you know I finished in 7:49:32. Here's a picture of me right before devouring my finishers award of the much sought after frog cupcake.

The weather Saturday was perfect. Temperature was in the 40's at the start, about 60 at the finish, with partly cloudy skies. The pre-race atmosphere was almost like a party and at 8 AM we were on our way. The first 1.5 miles are on road so there was plenty of room for everyone to space themselves out before hitting the trails. Just before we turned off the road, a dude in a gorilla suit was "terrorizing" the runners. Supposedly there was a guy in a banana suit somewhere on the course, but I never did see him.

Less than a mile into the trail running was the first stream crossing. Most of the runners slowed down to cross on the rocks to keep their feet dry, but some just splashed across the calf high stream. I attempted to do what most were doing and tried to cross on the rocks, but one wobbled as I stepped on it. Rather than trying to catch myself, I just accepted the inevitable and gracelessly sat down. So, less than two miles into the race I was soaked from my waist down. It was then I decided that I would just splash through any remaining stream crossings.

The single track trail was beautiful and mostly dry, but there were numerous muddy sections. These were only from 10 to 50 yards long, but they ranged from shoe-sucking-off mud to slick-as-snot mud. There were also lots of stream crossings, so after muddying up your shoes you could clean them off splashing through the stream.

This course is a figure-eight course, the first loop was an eight mile loop with no aid stations until you got back to the start/finish. The second loop was 23 miles, but with several aid stations. The longest distance between aid on this section was six miles, but to me, that section seemed the longest. It was from mile 15 to 21 and seemed to take forever. The next section included the climb up Goat Hill. I had heard horror stories about Goat Hill and thought I was prepared. If you look at the course profile view in my last post you can see a "little hill" right at the 26 mile point. Doesn't look like much, but notice that the line is nearly vertical? Well, even though it wasn't very long, it was about the steepest climb I've ever done without having handrails. I am proud of myself in that I managed to pass four people on the climb. (Of course my downhill running still sucks and they all managed to pass me on the following miles.) There was a most welcome aid station at the top of the hill and then there were only five miles to go.

I have to give a shout out to DryMax socks. There were several dozen stream crossings on this course with at least half a dozen being ankle to knee deep. I didn't get a single blister wearing these magical, moisture-sucking socks. (Maybe DryMax will send me some free socks now?)

At the finish line there was a crowd of people hanging around after their race, eating pizza, soup, and cupcakes and cheering on those finishing after them. The post-race food was wonderful, all supplied by local eating establishments. I didn't try the soup, but the pizza was fresh-out-of-the-oven good, even as late as I finished. And a frog cupcake as a finishers award is way better than any medal!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I'm On My Way Too Cool!

I did my 20 miler today and am happy with the results so I've reserved the motel and rental car. My pace was actually a bit faster than it was on my 10 miler last week and about 30 seconds/mile faster than the pace I'll need to maintain at the WTC 50k. I'm not kidding myself, this will be a difficult race because although my leg is back to about 98.5%, my conditioning is at about 85-90%. The first half of the course is easier than the trail I ran today, but the second half is much more difficult.

So my plan will be to bank some time during the first half and then try to hang on to meet the cutoffs. Final cutoff is 8.5 hours which is a 16:27 pace. I ran a 16:00 pace today for 20 miles so a finish here will definitely be a challenge, but I really really really want that frog cupcake that finishers get!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recovery House

Just saw this on the interwebs. A perfect house for folks recovering from hard race efforts...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Sorry folks on the waitlist for Way Too Cool, the odds of me making it to the start just increased to about 75%.

After Rocky Raccoon, I took a week off. I didn't run, I didn't bike, I didn't elliptical. I walked very slowly. Then I started doing some easy biking and ellipticaling (I just made up that word). Finally, 12 days after Rocky, I ran a whopping 10 minutes. I gradually increased that and the last couple of days I was able to run for an hour on the hotel treadmill. Obviously I didn't have a stress fracture, more than likely it was a deep muscle and/or bone bruise.

Then today I went on a wonderful ten mile trail run at Sweetwater State Park. I felt kind of stiff the first two to three miles, but gradually the stiffness went away and I was able to run normally. In fact, the second five miles was faster than the first five miles by about four minutes. I have lost some fitness during my time off though as my heart rate got higher than I'd like the last three miles.

I was very happy with what I was able to do today. If I can manage a 20 miler next week with no pain and at the same pace, I'll be on my Way Too Cool!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stress Fracture?

About two weeks before Rocky Raccoon, my left leg was feeling some pain in the quadriceps area. I told myself it was a muscle problem, but the back of my mind was thinking about the possibility of a stress fracture. However, it was taper time and with the reduced mileage, the discomfort wasn't getting any worse. Then I ran 89 miles on it and fell on it twice. I know that impact will not cause a stress fracture, but maybe it exacerbates it? Anyways, I had an officially diagnosed femoral neck stress fracture about nine years ago that had me on crutches for eight weeks. That time I just kept on running until the pain got so bad that I couldn't run and could barely walk. This time I'm going to treat it like a stress fracture early, while I can still do alternative cardio. I'm hoping this is a misdiagnosis and that it is only a deep muscle/bone bruise and that I can resume running after a week or two. Right now it looks like Way Too Cool is a 50/50 shot.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rocky Raccoon: A Tale of Two Races

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

I was ready, my long runs the four weeks prior to Rocky were the Atlanta FatAss 50K, a marathon, 19.5 miles on a hotel treadmill, and then one week prior an easy 15.4 miles on the trails at Sweetwater State Park. My left quad felt a little wonky after the treadmill session (hotel treadmills aren't always in the best condition), but other than being a little twingy in the morning, it did what I asked it to after about a two mile warm-up.

The Best of Times

This part is going to sound like it was written by a star-struck name-dropper, because that's what I was. I've mentioned before that Anton, Zach, Scott, Hal, and Karl were all expected to run. Oh, and a guy I had never heard of named Ian was also assigned a single digit bib.

Initially it looked like the most difficult part of the race was making it to the start line. A winter storm was hitting Texas shutting down roads and airports. Waiting for my flight at the Atlanta airport, I saw several other area runners, so we spent some of the delay time talking about past and future races. We had also heard and read some e-mails that several roads in the Houston area were ice covered and closed, but on final approach I could see that the traffic on I-45 was moving normally. So I picked up my rental car and headed north to Huntsville expecting that it might take awhile if conditions worsened as I drove. Fortunately the drive was uneventful and I made it in time pick up my packet, drop off my drop-bag, and eat the standard pre-race dinner of spaghetti. I also got a chance to say a quick "hi" to fellow bloggers Misty and Brian.

Race morning arrived after about 4 hours of good sleep and 4 hours of tossing and turning. I lubed up and dressed in layers since the temperature was about 20 degrees at the start. I got there about an hour before the start to get a good parking spot, check in, and drop off my main drop bag for the start/finish area. Then I got back in the car to stay warm. At 5:45, I used the restroom, started my Garmin, and headed to the start.

At 6 AM we were on our way. I started out walking because there were a lot of runners and I knew it would take awhile to sort everyone out. Besides, it was dark and I didn't want to trip over any of the infamous roots in the first mile. Running the first section, I found myself in the vicinity of Wendy from Mexico City. She had run this race several times and had beaten the winter storm by arriving in Houston on Tuesday. However, her husband with all the race gear was supposed to arrive on Friday. He didn't make it, so she was running in borrowed shoes and with borrowed gear. The first aid station arrived quickly at three miles and I didn't even need to refill bottles, just grabbed a couple of M&Ms and I was on my way. The second section was also a three mile section and like the one before it, had several sections of wooden boardwalk. These sections were covered with frost and were extremely slippery. We saw one gal who had taken a nasty spill and was out of the race with a badly sprained ankle. From then on I was walking those sections. As I got closer the the Dam Road aid station, I had my first look at the front runners. I was approaching my 6 mile point and they were near their 12 mile point. Zach Gingerich was leading by several hundred yards and there was a pack of about 4-6 runners behind, including Anton Krupicka, Scott Jurek, and Hal Koerner. I yelled out "go, Zach, go" as he went past and he either said, "thanks ma'am", or "thanks Jan". I was wearing my fleece Pine Mountain hat so my hearing was a bit muffled, so I'm telling myself he somehow knew my name. The next section was the longest one between aid stations, 6 miles and mostly one way traffic. On all loops this section seemed to take forever, especially since the 50 mile runners get to take a short-cut here. Finally, I returned back to Dam Road, and was on my way to the start/finish area. The next aid stations are after 3.5 miles and the start/finish area is 4.5 miles after that. On this next stretch there is a boring section of jeep road that has a couple of "hills". The hills aren't all that steep and I found myself trying to keep up with a very tall dude named Emmett. He had to be at least 6'6" tall. He was from California and had run both the Way Too Cool 50K and the Miwok 100K, two races that are on my schedule this year. So I spent a bit a time getting information about those courses. The next aid station was my favorite. They always seemed to have exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. Pancakes, quesadillas, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches were all on the list at various times during the day and night. Finally, I was on the final section. On the way in to the start/finish area is a 3 mile stretch of two-way traffic. As I was nearing the finish of my first loop, I saw the leaders on the start of their 3rd loop. Zach was still in the lead and Anton was still wearing his shirt. My pace was just about perfect for watching the men's race unfold. In fact, during the course of the day, I saw Anton and Hal a total of five times and even when the day had warmed up enough for me to run in shorts and short-sleeved shirt, Anton's shirt never did come off. Ok, back to my race. The aid station at the start/stop area was incredible. As I crossed the timing mat, a volunteer noted my number and asked if I needed my drop bag. I entered the tent and someone else grabbed my bottles to refill them. I sat down and by the time I had untied my shoes, the volunteer was sitting in front of me with my drop bag opened and helping with anything I needed help with including changing my race number from my cold weather running clothes and putting it on my shorts. I was in and out of there in eight minutes including a shoe and sock change, refilled bottles, and grabbing something to eat. I felt like a total rock star. As a point of comparison, at Javelina it took me 12 to 15 minutes to accomplish the same things without a "personal valet".

The next two loops were very much the same. It had warmed up nicely and I was able to run the second loop in shorts and a short sleeved shirt. The next time through the start/finish area I once again had the services of a "personal valet", changed shoes and socks again, picked up my headlamp and added a couple of layers since the sun would be setting soon. As I was doing this I heard a huge cheer. I didn't get a chance to see who it was, but my valet said it was a guy named Ian and he was in and out and starting on his fifth and final loop. About halfway out on my third loop I saw a runner on the way in with short curly dark hair wearing bib #6. He looked like he was running easily, smiling and chatting with his pacer. They looked to be two runners out for an easy 10 miles in the woods. They weren't anywhere close to where I was expecting to see Anton and Hal, so I shouted out a "good job" and thinking that this guy was way off the lead. Turns out this was Ian Sharman who was so far ahead that it looked like he was behind! He ended up smashing the course record by 30 minutes, finishing in an incredible 12:44 which for awhile was thought to be a trail 100 world record. Turns out it isn't but still an amazing run by someone I had never heard of before but who will be well known now.

The Worst of Times

Anytime there is an aircraft accident the NTSB investigates and most of the time they find that it wasn't just one thing that caused the crash, it was a chain of events and errors that caused it. Any break in the chain and the accident may have been prevented. Such was the case in my crash.

This was the first time I was running 100 miles without a pacer during the night. Since this is known as an "easy" course and there were lots of people running, I thought I would be all right. I thought I was moving well and I was well ahead of cutoff, but I had slowed quite a bit. Just like in my two previous races, I was mostly walking but without someone to talk to and push me, I was doing about 1-2 minutes per mile slower. Then, on the lonely Dam Road section, as I was putting my Clifshot Blok wrapper in my pocket, I caught a root and went down for the first time this race. I had my spare headlamp batteries in my left front pants pocket and they connected with my quad. (Remember the whiney quad from the treadmill run two weeks ago?) I slowly got up and tested my leg. It was difficult to walk, so I took two Ibuprophen and continued on. If the aid station had been a half mile away or less, I probably would have dropped from the race at that point. However, the aid station was 3 miles away and by the time I got there my quad had loosened up and I was walking normally with no pain (ok, no more pain than can be expected after 70 miles on your feet). It was later during this loop that I found myself on the jeep trail next to the gal running in borrowed shoes again. We were both without pacers and without even verbally agreeing on it, we paced each other for about three miles. We didn't talk much, but when one of us started lagging, the other kept moving making whoever had slowed pick the pace back up. Thank you, Wendy, for helping me out in that section. I finished the fourth loop over 30 minutes ahead of cutoff, but I would have to do the final loop faster than I had just done this last loop. I knew it was possible, because the sun would be coming up in less than two hours and from previous experience I knew things would get better. About 3/4 of a mile past the start/stop aid station, I was looking at my Garmin and trying to do math in my head to see what kind of pace I needed to maintain. When I looked up I saw a "Wrong Way" sign. I was only a couple of yards off course so I turned around, saw course markings, and was on my way again. About 10 minutes later I saw the lights of an aid station. Wait a minute, I should have at least another mile to go. As I got closer, I saw the big red numbers of the clock at the start/stop aid station. #&#*&*!!!!! When I had gone off the trail a couple of yards and turned around, I had started heading the wrong way and added a mile. I had been 30 minutes ahead of cutoff, now I was only 10 minutes ahead of cutoff. I took off running. In fact I was running at about the pace I ran my second loop and this was still in the dark. I told myself I could still do this but I couldn't afford to waste any time at the aid stations and I had to pick up my pace. I was in and out of the 3 mile aid station and about this time it was getting light. I took off my heavyduty headlamp and put it in my left front pocket. I was moving well, doing more running than walking (evidence that I had taken it way too easy during the night). About a mile from the Dam Road aid station I started planning what I needed to do in order to minimize my time there. Just then,


I went down and I went down hard. I was so tired at that point that I didn't even have time to raise my arms, and I broke the fall with my nose. I felt a sickening crunch and immediately thought "I'm done". I laid there flat for a minute or two, not moving. When I finally raised my head, blood was dripping from my nose. I used my gloves to apply pressure and stop the bleeding and then tried to get up. This is where the end of my race became absolute. I was able to roll myself over and sit up. Standing up was impossible. Remember my headlamp in my left front pocket? Remember me falling and hitting my quad with the spare batteries earlier that night? Well, the second point of contact after my nose was my quad and the headlamp with the ground. My quad flat-out quit at that point. I sat there in the middle of the trail for another several minutes until another runner and his pacer came by. They stopped and helped. By this time my nose had stopped bleeding and it hadn't swollen or anything, I think the sandy/loamy soil cushioned the impact a bit and the crunching I felt was just some cartilage moving around. It took both of them lifting me to get me on my feet because my quad had quit working. I could put very little weight on it. At this point I had another decision to make. I had already come to terms with the fact that my race was over, now I just had to get off the course. The next aid station was about a mile away, but it was a remote aid station and a "no drop" aid station. The aid station behind me was about two miles away, but by this time it was past that station's cutoff and they would probably already be packed up and gone. The third option was to take a "shortcut" to the next to last aid station about three miles away and drop there. Off I went on my own two legs with a quad that had quit working. It took almost two hours to get there and when I did and announced that I was dropping, they said "you've only got four miles to go!" They didn't know that I had skipped about 7 miles of the course. With my slow motion walk I had gotten quite chilled so I wrapped myself in blankets and waited for a ride to the finish line. When I got there I turned in my timing chip and bib, picked up my drop bag and drove back to the motel. When I stripped off my clothes to take a shower I saw a perfect imprint of my headlamp on my left thigh. You could see every detail, even the on/off switch.

This was taken several hours later and has already started to diffuse but you can see the battery pack, the cord and the headlamp itself.


I reached the psychological stopping point when I felt my nose crunch, but on the hike to the aid station I realized that I would have been able to continue with just that. The physical stopping point was when my quad quit working. Back at the motel I elevated it and made frequent, slow trips to the ice machine. Initially, I couldn't even bend the leg 90 degrees, which made draining blisters very difficult. Speaking of blisters, in previous races I would get monster blisters on the balls of my feet at the 70 mile point. This time the only blisters I had were under a couple of toenails, which are annoying but don't really slow me down like blisters on the bottom of my feet. I watched the "other" Super Bowl (the best Super Bowl had occurred on the trails Saturday) with my legs elevated and the left one iced. The next morning my leg was feeling better and I could bend it almost 120 degrees. This was good, because when I got back to Georgia I had to drive my car which has a manual transmission. Two days later I'd say my leg is at 50%. I can walk up stairs almost normally, but going down has to be done one step at a time. I'm going to take another two days off, then get back to running because the Way Too Cool 50K is in less than five weeks!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ready for Rocky

In less than 48 hours I will be starting my third 100 miler. On Saturday morning I will be toeing the line (more like lollygagging at the back) for the start of Rocky Raccoon. After I finished my first marathon two years ago and was wondering what was next, I came across this race report. Strangely, I was intrigued more than scared by the thought of continuing past the marathon distance. So, after several ultras, I am going to the scene of the crime, running the same ultra that Misty ran in that race report. The author will also be there, along with her husband and a lot of other ultra running celebrities. (Do names like Krupicka, Gingerich, Jurek, Koerner, Meltzer, Howard, Gardner, Perry ring any bells?) It should be a Super Bowl of 100 milers out there and with a loop course with several sections of two-way traffic, I'll have tickets on the 50-yard line.

Friday, January 28, 2011

PF Chang's Rock N Roll Arizona Marathon

Two years ago I ran this as my very first marathon. This year I came back to run it for a third time. My parents live in Minnesota, but spend their winters in Arizona, and the marathon is usually within a couple of days of my Mom's birthday. So it is an excellent opportunity to see family, celebrate my Mom's birthday, and run a marathon, all in the same weekend.

I met my brother and sister-in-law, John and Mary, at the airport because our flights got in at the same time. John's running buddy, Ryan, also came down this year to run the marathon and escape the winter cold. The days before the marathon were spent visiting, playing cards, watching Dad play shuffleboard (we even did the "wave" and earned steely eyed looks from the other competitors), carbo-loading, visiting my aunt in Tuscon, and climbing Camelback Mountain. I didn't make it to the top because I was slower and didn't want to get caught climbing down in the dark, but the views I did see were wonderful.

Dad contemplating his next shot

View from Camelback Mountain

At the expo I got to see one of my Javelina Jundred pacers and found out that I was a bad enough influence that she is going to run it herself this year! They had some good speakers at the expo this year, I got to hear Josh Cox, Frank Shorter, and Meb Keflezighi who were all very inspirational. I also stopped by the Brooks area and won a pair of earbuds that are the best earbuds ever.

My awesome Javelina Jundred pacer

I ran the marathon as a training run for Rocky Raccoon, taking walk breaks and enjoying the bands, cheering sections, and talking briefly with other runners. I knew Mom and Dad would be at their usual spot near the 22 mile marker, so as I got closer I recruited the half dozen or so runners near me to sing "Happy Birthday" to my Mom. She got a kick out of that and then ran a half block with me. The runners who sang with me also got a kick out of the Police guy who started yelling at my mom to get off the course. In fact they gave him a little grief which was appreciated. Mom turned 85 that day, what was he going to do, take away her birthday? (I totally stole that from this blog) Thank you anonymous runners for making my mom's day even better!

The finishers showing off our medals and free beers

Once again a great weekend, I'll be back for #4 next year.