Friday, December 30, 2011

Hellgate 100k, 2011

Hellgate 100K, 2011
Many people talked about how ‘special’ this race was… after awhile I already knew that I wanted to run it. The course sounded so challenging and scenic! After listening to Robert talk about his experiences there and going over some race reports from previous years, I was sold.
I knew I would have to train seriously for this one, not just because it was a 100k but more so because of some of the other aspects that make it so different than other races. Like the 12:01 am start- that throws ya off a bit! Of course you are up pretty much the whole day beforehand since you are at the camp, and there are other people there too, and practically everyone is talking about the race or previous ones or training and the energy around the place is electric!
The drive down was slightly cramped but a lot of fun. Temps were in the 40’s as Robert fired up his van, and then Cassie and Sean, Brad, Jodie and I piled in and headed east to Virginia. The drive took us about 14.5 hrs…we took turns driving and the time went by as we sailed through Illinois…Ohio…Indiana…Kentucky…West Virginia…ah, hello Virginia and your awesome mountains!
I had trained some with Robert for this race, and was glad that I did because many times our conversation would drift to Hellgate and I would learn a little more….I was a bit nervous and coming off of a dnf at Glacial I was pretty determined to get through this one, come hell or high water! And yes, both came.
The weather was perfect down there, we arrived to Camp Bethel and Robert kind of gave us the rundown of the place. Neat out buildings, with all kinds of landscaping around utilizing the creeks and natural spring fed pond to create scenic little waterfalls and guided little streams under decorative bridges…The main building where we stayed was simple and wide open inside the main part of it with rooms along the sides for sleeping which contained bunks. Showers were right there, and access to a fridge and micro (and yes, coffee makers!)
Friday morning Robert took us up the final section of the race which was a good climb up the side of the mountain. Took us about 45 minutes to walk it, Brad, Jodie and I took a little longer as we were taking pics. It was nice to get out in the woods and exercise a little, felt great!
After we returned to the camp Horton arrived. He was just as I remembered in the video that Jim Blanchard borrowed me where Horton runs the PCT from Mexico to Canada…full of energy, mind going a million miles an hour, always moving…nice to meet him. Brad and Robert went along with him to finish marking the trail and to help out doing whatever else needed doing.
More and more people began arriving as the day wore on, leading to many exciting conversations and a growing feeling of anticipation for the race. Cassie wound up sick the night before the race. She had flu like systems, and it made her so miserable that she had to drop from the race.

As the race drew nearer it was getting harder to find stuff to do…having the start at midnight really threw you off. I found myself pacing, then sitting, then pacing. It was mental torture! Should have brought a book…at least the dinner broke things up. The pre race dinner was set up home cooking style in a large room where everyone got to sit at these round tables. There was like 6 or so to a table, and they had pasta dishes and salad. I sat with Paul, the RD from the Ozark race and some others that had done Hellgate before and so dinner conversation was all about races, Hellgate, and of course poison oak.
Horton held a pre race meeting to discuss the race, and introduced some key helpers in the race (such as Robert!) so you started to get a feel for the history…he would call out the number of finishes and then those who had them would have to stand up. He would also make small talk of past mistakes people had made, and then make them stand up to…it was all good fun.
When it was time to go Jodie drove us (and Joe from Michigan) to the start. The full moon was already rising, which was wonderful to have running through the night!
Some gal sang the Canadian Anthem, and then we all sang the American National Anthem followed by a prayer led by Horton. And then it was go time.
This race has A LOT of climbing. Miles of climbs. It was wonderful having the moonlight because we could shut our headlamps off while walking up the gravel roads. Gave the eyes a nice break! I remember by mile 15 my hamstrings were already starting to get sore, and I was thinking man this is going to be a long day lol! It was awesome to be up close to the top of a mountain and then look back down the switchbacks and see all the headlights bobbing their way up…just surreal.
We came to the first creek-not so bad. I heard someone say “this is the creek before the creek” and I thought oh, it must get worse. They had had a lot of rain down there so there were plenty of spots where water was running across the trail that had made its way down the mountain. In fact there were spots where the water was coming right out of the mountain! Very cool. Until you were running in it and your feet were soaked ha-ha
When we came to the creek Horton had mentioned it was up to about my knees, rushing along pretty good. I was about half way across when I saw the photographer sitting on the bank in the dark and that was quite a startle! Made my way across and squished up the other side; long climb to dry out and then some more single track. There was a single track section in here that had a ton of leaves and I found out soon enough that the Altra Instincts have less than desirable traction on such surfaces. I was sliding all over the place through there, once I almost slid right off the trail and down the mountainside so mental note for next time!
Seeing Jodie at the aid stations was a good boost. She crewed for everyone in our group, and found her way from aid station to aid station all night. It is always nice having someone you know helping out there! Plus I always got to ask how everyone else was doing, since I was last in our group coming through after Brad got ahead of me. I still cannot believe he decided to go ahead with the race with no training for 2 months and rocked it! WTF?!
Throughout the race I talked with a few people who were finishing up the Beast Series…had one guy (SNIPER) who pointed out Telluride Mountain as we were climbing up a mountain beside it. Always cool to talk with local runners too, who fill ya in on all the history of the trail and ‘what those guys are doing with the dogs’ that kept passing me while they were going up the trail in their hunting trucks. The aid stations were great, manned by students from Horton’s classes. They were encouraging and as helpful as they could be. At aid station 4 I heard of people dropping already. All I could think about was my dnf at Glacial. Seriously, it haunted me every time I thought about how hard things were getting or how much this or that is starting to hurt or how much farther can this climb possibly go on? I mean the mountain is only so tall right? Ha-ha There was no way I was not finishing this race….
Through aid station 6 I felt ok, which was around 30-40 miles. Soon after this however I started to get bad inflammation in my feet and ankles, and things were kind of at a real low. I struggled through the next section, running with Drew, a guy from Richmond who I got to know pretty well while running the next few hours. At aid station 7 I knew I needed something.  I argued with myself about taking Ibuprophen for a few I look at it as a crutch. Finally I just made the decision that nothing else is going to take the inflammation down, nothing in your pack, nothing in your supplements, nothing else you got on ya. I asked Jodie to see if she could find me some at aid station 8. She did, and after briefly talking with the medic there he said it was ok since I was hydrating well and had no cramping issues. After taking it and about 3 miles or so down the trail, I could almost feel the swelling go down and I was back in business! Still hurt but at least I wasn’t hobbling along! The rest of the race was pretty smooth sailing…there are sections of this race where you swear it’s just been forever, and then there are sections that are so scenic that I wanted them to last forever. The view of the mountains was just awe inspiring, and reminds me why we trail runners do what we do! At night the lights from the cities in the valleys was amazing, the sun coming up was such a welcome sight, the brilliantly green moss on the rocks and some tree bases was neat to see- so much tied into this race.  I can see why everyone calls it a special event...Climbing the last hill, you already have a smile (at least I did, I believe the guy behind me was cursing) as you know the end is in reach. I remember getting to the point where I realized that I was going to finish, in less than 17 hours. Talk about ecstatic! My Garmin watch helped me to get through the longer parts since the mileage was always longer than what the course said or the people at the aid stations would say. It lasted until mile 64- the last hill. I couldn’t believe it when the ‘low battery’ alarm went off! “Stay with me!” I said aloud, this is it! Then it faded to a dull blank screen… Alas, technology will never have the guts that ultra runners do…crossing that finish line and shaking Horton’s hand was a real treat to my memory. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of Hellgate 2011, and now I understand why Robert keeps on coming back to this one.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do….

Breaking up is hard to do….
You never see it coming, or maybe you do but you don’t acknowledge it for what it is-the beginning of the end. I was at Glacial 50 mile and had no reason to think that I would be unable to finish. I was actually really confident although my weekly mileage had dropped to around 15 miles a week for the past 2 -3 weeks. Big mistake I guess...and then I ran a 10k the weekend before and really strained myself good-had bad shin splints for like 3 days, tore up my hip flexors a bit too. 10ks hurt, I needed to get back to ultras…
The thought comes to mind, "You can’t fake a 50".
In all reality, I should have dropped down to the 50k. I was running this like a 50k, hitting the turnaround at like 4:44...pretty fast for me. My hip flexor on my right leg started talking at mile 21, and that should have been the writing on the wall to slow it down some. Not sure if that would made any difference or not, but at around mile 25 the IT band was joining in on the conversation, getting more and more irritated the longer I ran. I was down to a hobble at mile 28 for all the down hills, and then by mile 31 I was hurting no matter what. I kept thinking back to this race last year, where I severely sprained my ankle at mile 4.5 and then ran the rest of the race and REALLY did a number on both legs. My right ankle took almost 8 months to recover from, and it is still not 100%. I ended up with bruscittis (spelling?) on my left lower leg right behind the achilles tendon, which became so inflamed I couldn’t even walk on it...hours of PT afterwards, rehabbing that thing back to be able to run...hours of pool walking, soaking, icing, etc. So all this is going through my head while the other part of my brain is trying to talk me into going on, finishing no matter what...even if I have to f@#$ng crawl in...
Saw Brad shortly before the turnaround. “Come get me,” he says…with a knowing smile…I thought about that, and realize there is no way I am getting anyone. I was shocked to come up on him at mile 27 or so, as he tells me he is dropping. He is thoroughly bummed, and I could see the strained look that I am sure I was wearing later. He says this is the first 50 mile he is unable to finish…I thought a lot about that over the next few miles.
I knew I couldn’t make the cut off anymore by mile 37. I was averaging 22 min miles with 13 to go. I thought about Hellgate, and how much I wanted to do that race. I thought about running in general, and how much an IT band issue can screw that up...I knew how the whole IT band works, the more inflamed it gets the more damage you are doing. I called it. Glacial and I were breaking up… I came over the hill to the aid stations at mile 37 and Julie Treder was standing there, I did the motion of one slitting their own throat...she frowned, me too. I explained my situation, feeling guilty the whole time like I was cheating on a midterm… As I told the person checking in the runners that I was dropping, it was almost surreal...I was still undecided! Oh man my stubborness is unbelievable! I saw Marty and Jodie there, both looked beat down. I told Jodie all she had to do was average 20 min miles and she was home. She nodded, already knowing that she was going back out. Marty looked like he just wanted this thing to be done! Ha ha oh man we all know that feeling! So off they went, and I plopped down on the grass. I was angry with myself for not going on, going through all the ‘what ifs’...still contemplating going back out...even though I KNEW it would have done me a lot more harm. I was injured, plain and simple. You see, what bothers me the most is the not knowing...well how MUCH harm? Would I still have healed up in time for Hellgate? I don't know...and I never will. I don't even know if I will even get accepted INTO Hellgate. That's the love of this game, you just never know what is going to happen out there, or when, or sometimes even why. It is truly the great unknown out on the trails. I went for a run Thursday in the rain, doing a slow black loop to feel everything out at IT pain, hip flexor a little sore. Overall it felt great. Glacial, we will be seeing you again next year. I learned some valuable lessons at this race. “Training is SO key”…and “Don’t get comfortable, cause that’s when things get uncomfortable…”
Congrats to all the finishers out there this year, this is a hard course in its own right. That's what brings me back...tough love.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring again...raceready?

So it has been awhile since I wrote on my blog so I am addressing that issue! Ran Chippewa 50k a couple weeks back. This was my one year anniversary for running ultras, since this was my first ultra last year...
Of course, this one went much better! Shaved off almost 30 min from last years time and also was able to see Jose finish his first ultra! So cool. I felt pretty good the whole time, still having some cramping issues that I cant quite figure out...I am taking plenty of salt and potassium and b vitamins and all that, must be in the muscles themselves??? Dont know...maybe I need to up my mileage. Running twice a week prob isnt enough when I am in the ultra season. I did BearTrax a week after that and felt great, setting a PR there of 1:41 for the 20k. Felt good. Now comes the real test...50 mile at Ice Age this coming Sat. I am nervous and excited to see what happens to me during a 50 miler...this race will take me to uncharted waters and that in itself is exciting, for "we do not begin to live until we leave our comfort zone". So true. And I will definitely be out of my comfort zone!
As far as school has been going its almost a wrap. I am done in September-then what? ha, I am trying to figure out how I can keep that going and still keep up with the bills. Its mainly the bankruptcy payments that are killing me- they are making me bankrupt! How does that work?
I wanted to take the Architecture Tech program at MATC because it acts as a transfer program into UWM. Now I find out that the classes are only offered during the day...bummer. Since I have two years left to pay on the Chap 13, I cannot afford to live and keep up with it and take day classes...however I am going to apply anyway, talk with the advisors, and try to find a way to keep moving in the direction I need to become an Architect. Some days I feel like I am already an Architect, just still in training...I guess that is because I made the realization that in this field I can pursue those things that I really love to do. So to me it makes perfect sense, like trail running!
I have pretty much a race planned for every month this summer. I like it when I get race ready, and can then just run races every month, recover, do a couple maintenance runs, and race again. Love being in that kind of shape! Soon the heat will be on and the bugs will be out, and then we will be racing the mosquitos!
This year I have begun to run down in the kettle a lot. I really enjoy those trails and the variety to be found down there. I have also met some new trail runners and have been fortunate to have people to do the longer runs with, always a blessing! It is hard to find people to wake up and run 20+ miles for some reason....
Live moves forward...and so we must follow suit.
I look back a year and am amazed at the distance covered...its just like an ultra. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will get there.
Till next time, rest easy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here comes spring...:)

So, it is March already. Last night we received another 3" of snow...many people are saying "Enough already!".

I feel as though lately when I am running I am chasing is so close it seems some days, and then so elusive the next. My winter training is starting to pick up now, Chippewa 50k is 6 weeks away...can't believe its been almost a year since my first ultra! Its like someone once said in the LPTR group, "it isnt the years, its the miles...". I am planning on attempting my first 50 miler this year at Ice Age. Actually a few of the people from the running group are, so it will be a 'collective' effort!
I learned a lot last year about not slowing down enough for your body to recover, and how important stretching is for your legs...I was humbled and excited to reach new heights with my running, and this year I hope to do the same. School has been keeping me very busy; and slims down the miles but I get out as often as I can- and plug in to the primal force of feet on trail. It is the time spent in nature that keeps me grounded, when the rest of the world may be spinning out of control or even just your own, the trail is there to beckon you to put down the worries and come out and play for awhile. When I am running everything is in motion, my body, my breath, my mind. All working in unison towards the simple goal of maintaining movement. So simple and yet having all those muscles working in unison as a single unit is awesome.
I have learned quite a bit this past year about letting life happen, and trying not to control it.It is truly beyond us; and how we scrutinize our time is down right ridiculous at times...its all about schedules, our schedules. Not the ancient movement of the ecosystems all around us, the very ones that we ourselves are a part of. Who even knows the seasons of the foods they are eating these days?
I am really hoping to learn some new foods this year, perhaps refine the diet a bit to better assist in my training. There are a lot of things changing, and it has been amusing and exciting watching them unravel just as it was to watch my orchid bloom this winter, as every year it does it is is unique. This year was no different, with the plant taking its own time to show off, leaving me with nothing to do but wait. When it happened, its timing was perfect...New Years Day. If only our timing could be so, if we were able to read natures watch a little better instead of our own...maybe we would be blooming a little more profoundly ourselves.
"Ships are safest in the ports, but that is not what ships are built for..." good thought to sleep on.