Goals for the next (marathon) training cycle

img_20161015_172000My husband and I took a road trip this past weekend for a fun weekend of hiking and hanging out with friends.  On the way, I asked him what upcoming goals he has for the future.  (Sidenote: they say the best marriages are those where the couple talks about the future together.) My husband’s response was like any normal person related to his hobbies and his career; mine however, are all running related. Haha.  (No, but really, there are always goals about being a good mom and wife, finally making it to work on time, and organizing my house.)

First, my big goal for this next training cycle is to run a sub 3 hour road marathon.  It gives me a knot in my stomach to even write that, but my coach believes in me, and I’ve gotten faster by running through pregnancy and now running post-partum, especially after training with my coach for my 100 mile race.  So, now I’ve put it in writing, and I can start chipping away at my big goal!

I’ve got my big goal, but in order to give myself the best chance of a successful training cycle, here are my three sub goals:

  1. Nutrition: reduce the processed food that I eat and reduce the sugar in my diet.  I am a chocolate bar-oholic.  I do pretty good throughout the day, but at night I eat a lot of candy.  Sugars increase inflammation, and I am already stressing my body enough with all of my running and strength training.  I’m kicking off this goal with the 7 day challenge to eat real food proposed by mskatieblaze here.
  2. Sleep: I have said this for a year now, but really, this time I mean it. My (one year old) baby is still waking up several times in the night. That means that I really need to get to bed earlier to get a semblance of good rest.  It’s a shame to not give my body time to repair and get stronger after all of my strength work and running.
  3. Stretching/foam rolling: This should be a no-brainer, but I know that I’m not alone in this struggle. We’d all rather get in just one more mile than cut the run short to do some foam rolling and stretching.  I just signed up for a program that sends me a new range of motion activity every day.  I’m excited to see how much it helps my performance and recovery.

What are your upcoming goals?

Race Report: PNC Atlanta 10 Miler

My husband and I signed up for the Triple Peach race series through the Atlanta Track Club img_20161023_135538in the beginning of the year, and the second of the three ATC races was held this past Sunday.  The series includes the Fourth of July AJC Peachtree Road Race 10k, the PNC Atlanta 10 Miler, and the Thanksgiving Half Marathon.  After just running the Yeti 100 at the end of September, I have been taking a mini break from running in October, focusing on cross training and strength work.  But I was curious to see what kind of speed my legs had in them after pushing my limits on a 100 mile race three weeks ago.

Plus, I am determining my next race goals, so I wanted to see what a sustainable fast pace would feel like.  I did not go into the 10 miler with a goal to “race”, but rather to get a feel for my legs to see if November would be practical to jump right back into training. On Saturday the day before the race, I “hiked” 5 hilly miles with the dog and stroller and then did 2.5 hours of strength work.  The PNC Atlanta 10 Miler was not a goal race, so I was not concerned about tired legs from the strength work.

We woke up the morning of the race, got dressed, and dropped the baby off with a babysitter. I pumped in the car, and then we sat in race day traffic trying to get into the parking deck at Atlantic Station, where the race start and finish were located.  Once parked, Jon and I ran to the start area with the hopes of finding porta potties on the way.  I wanted to try to go before the race started, but unfortunately, the lines were really long, and the porta potties were very poorly located right in the race line-up traffic.  Jon waited with me in line, and then we hurried to line up for the race as it was starting.

This race was a “self-seed” but we were so late that we ended up running with Wave C, not my first choice.  As soon as we lined up for the start of our wave, I realized that I had forgotten my music in the car.  I really love to run with music, especially if I am going to put forth effort on the run.  Given that we were starting with the C wave, I knew that this wasn’t going to be an A race anyway, so I shook it off and waited for the gun.

The weather was perfect for a fall run in the low 40s with sunshine.  The race started for our wave about 5 minutes after the first wave was released.  I raced ahead out of the crowd and pretty quickly reached the previous wave participants who had already reduced their paces to a jog or walk.  This course surprised me in how hilly it was, and I had a little more challenge weaving around other slower runners on the uphills in the beginning of the race.  Within a few miles, I was relatively unhindered by my wave start and did not have to weave quite as much as we all spread out.

For an early, cooler Sunday morning, crowd support was fantastic!  There were several posts with great cheerleaders dressed in different themes along the course.  Water and fuel were provided, but I did not pay attention to the frequency, as I did not need to hydrate or fuel for such a short distance in the cooler temps.

I felt strong for the entire race. It was hilly, but I enjoyed the hills.  I stopped looking at my paces on my watch because the ups and downs of the hills made paces so hard to track for an overall average, and I was really just focused on seeing how my legs felt, not how fast I could run.  I was putting forth effort, but I never felt like I was exerting for a race pace.

After just running 100 miles, 10 miles really does not seem like that far, even if it is with a greater intensity.  When we reached mile 9, I picked up the pace a little and finished strong.  I had no idea where my place among the females would be, as I started in Wave C.  After the race, I found out the results that I finished 8th overall female and 2nd in my age group.  My overall pace was 6:44 min/mile, which makes me feel more confident about my future race goals for the marathon.

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Overall, both my husband and I had a great time running the Atlanta 10 Miler.  10 miles is a middle distance right between trying to run really fast but still maintain some steam for endurance.  The ATC did a great job putting on the race, from packet pick-up to race execution.  My only complaint was that the porta potties were placed in a very bad location so that the lines were cramped near the start. It was our fault for arriving without time to spare. Life is very different with a baby but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Have you run your first fall race of the season yet?  Cooler temperatures are glorious!

Heart and Mind: Craving the right things

A couple of years ago I read the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkheurst, and it really influenced my thinking. I don’t think that I’m alone, especially amongst the runner population, when I recognize that there is something in me, a craving, that pushes me to keep chasing down the miles.  I love this quote, “God made us capable of craving so we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only one capable of satisfying them.”

During the month of October, I am focusing more on croimg_20161021_224000ss training and letting my body recover from my 100 mile race, so I thought it would also be a good time to make sure that my heart and mind are in a healthy spot too.  (I also feel a lot more motivation to stay healthy on all fronts now that I am raising a little girl who is watching my every move.) The book is primarily written with a focus on food, and I have definitely been there too.  Food can be the perfect salve to a long day, and my candy shelf in the pantry is proof that I don’t have much discipline in that area. (I love the quote that is listed at the end of this post–wow, so true!)

But in this season of my life, my “craving” has definitely been more about getting faster, running longer, and pushing my body harder.  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the physical satisfaction that I feel with running, but it is important to know your heart in these things.  My identity is not in running. My identity is in Christ.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has had issues with overindulging, whether it’s overindulging in food, exercise, or trying to keep the perfect house.  We were designed to crave, but those desires are meant to be focused on our Creator.  And when we get the cravings directed to the right Purpose, all of the other desires seem to fit into place too.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • The more we operate in the truth of who we are and the reality that we were made for more, the closer to God we’ll become.
  • Food isn’t sinful. But when food is what Satan holds up in front of us and says, “You’ll never be free from this battle.  You will always bounce from feeling deprived when you’re dieting to feeling guilty when you’re splurging. Victory isn’t possible.
  • Being ruled by something other than God diminishes our commitment and will make us feel increasingly distant from Him.
  • Yes, eating healthy and exercising get our bodies into better shape, but we were never supposed to get the satisfaction our souls desire from our looks.
  • Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • It is good for God’s people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for. When we are stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don’t recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on.
  • Some actions are not sinful in themselves, but they are not appropriate because they can control our lives and lead us away from God.
  • I was made for more than being stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat. I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices. I was made to be a victorious child of God.
  •  Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power.
  • Obviously, the core of Eve’s temptation was she wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil. But we can’t ignore the fact that the serpent used food as a tool in the process. If the very downfall of humanity was caused when Eve surrendered to a temptation to eat something she wasn’t supposed to eat, I do think our struggles with food are important to God.

This little baby is definitely watching my every move.  That’s a scary responsibility, but I’m thankful that God gave us wonderful friends and family to be part of our village.

Do you have a craving that you sometimes need to redirect? 

 

Protein bar recipe: when you know that you shouldn’t snack on candy bars

I’m the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth (my husband just came backIMG_20161013_082943.jpg from Costco, and my candy SHELF in the pantry has been replenished), but these homemade protein bars have been a great alternative to eating candy bars when I’m hungry.  Below is my go-to protein bar recipe.  There’s room to add or change some of the details according to your preferences. If you don’t take anything else away from this post, here’s my contribution–please consider never rolling another protein ball again.  Save yourself a ton of time and just press the “batter” into a pan, cut squares, and refrigerate.  🙂

I double the recipe and most of the time my husband and I go through both batches in a week.  If you don’t eat a double protein bar platter in a week like me (ha!), you can freeze what you don’t eat and save yourself the time of making weekly batches.

First, mix these ingredients:

  • 3 c oats
  • 1 c flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 c almond butter, peanut butter, or any other nut butter (below I have hazelnut butter and peanut butter)
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 2/3 c honey
  • ~1/4 c chia seeds (optional)
  • 6-8 scoops of protein powder (this ends up being about 1 1/2 c of protein powder.  Below I mixed vanilla whey and chocolate creatine)

Save these ingredients for later:

  • 12-16 pitted dates
  • ~1/2 cup dried tart cherry
  • ~1/4 c cocoa nibs (optional)
  • Can also add coconut flakes or any other healthy goodies

After mixing the ingredients, divide the contents (because a double batch does not fit in the processor) and put in the food processor.  Blend and then add 6-8 pitted dates and about 1/4  c of the tart cherries. The dates and cherries help hold the bars together.  You can substitute with something else, but make sure that its consistency is on the sticky side.

Once blended, press into a pan.  I like to use a ziplock bag on my hand instead of using a spoon.  I also started pressing bars into the pan instead of rolling into balls because it saves a ton of time and stores nicely.

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Next add cocoa nibs (of course this is optional).  I like to blend mine to chop them into smaller pieces.

Once you have the first half of the batch pressed into the bottom of the pan, you can go ahead and cut the squares or wait until later.  Add wax paper on top.  Blend the other half of protein bar mix and press on top of the wax paper.  Add the second portion of cocoa nibs on top and cut into squares.  You now have two layers of protein bars in one pan, thus saving time and space.

If you cut the bars into 6×10 portions for each batch, each bar is ~50 calories and 3 g of protein.  Refrigerate or freeze the bars and enjoy!

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(If you want to see pretty pictures of food (and tasty recipes), I suggest you check out Katie’s blog.)

Do you have a favorite special ingredient for your protein bites?

What recovery looks like after a 100 mile race

I’ve had a lot of very thoughtful people asking how I’m doing post 100 mile race.  It’s been almost two weeks since the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, and I feel fantastic. It’s the best img_20161001_034602feeling to have completed the race and to have enjoyed the experience so much (my race report can be read here).  It was such a special experience, and sharing such a big goal with my family was the most rewarding of all.  I attribute so much of my physical recovery to the training plan created by my coach.  The running that I did was solid, although pretty low mileage, and the strength training that was incorporated has made me feel stronger than ever before.

The first few days after the race: I finished the race early Saturday morning, and I only got a couple of hours of sleep Saturday night/morning.  My legs were pretty sore on Saturday, and when I was lying in bed, it was uncomfortable to get into the right position without something hurting.  By Sunday, I was still sore, but moving much better.  I barely felt sore on Monday, but I did notice that things like walking Maggie made my legs feel tired after less than a mile. The outside of my foot started hurting around mile 90 of the race, and it has been the slowest thing to feel healed.  Each day it feels better and better, so I think it will be good as new in no time.

I’m still breastfeeding (> one year now!), and I had worried that the race would affect my supply, but I’m having no issues with providing enough milk.  I’m still not sure what weaning will look like for us, but it will start happening slowly over the next few weeks/months.  I’m glad that the race did not speed up this process for us!

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How I’m helping my body recover:  On Monday after the race, I had a light sports massage to help my legs recover.  As for exercise, I took off completely on Saturday and Sunday, but I incorporated light cycling up to 20 minutes, plus our neighborhood Maggie walk all of last week.  By Saturday, I was up to an hour of hiking outside with the stroller and Maggie, plus strength work.  My body really feels completely normal, but I have not tried to run yet to see how my body responds to running.

I’d love to say that I am taking a lot of Epsom baths, but we just found out that the bathtub in our house leaks into the kitchen, so I’ll have to stick to soaking one foot at a time in my mini cooler.  haha.

I thought that I’d be starving after the race, but my appetite has stayed pretty normal.  Even though I am not working out as intensely as I used to, I’m still eating a lot and trying to get in good foods for healing.  We celebrated my birthday and Cadence’s birthday last weekend, so there is no shortage of cake!   I’ll try to get on a routine with less sugar after all of the cake is gone, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying the sweets.img_20161012_145403

My plan for October: Originally, the plan was to take off of running for two weeks, and add back strength work after one week of rest.  I’m pressing pause in October as far as training, but I’m looking at a potential January goal race.  With that plan, I want to let my body get as recovered as possible in October so I can hit November and December hard with training.  As much as I love running, this means that most of my October days will consist of cross training and strength work.  It’s nice to change things up after focused training for the 100 all summer, but I know that I’ll be ready to run come November!  I have a 10 mile race scheduled for October 23rd, and I have not decided yet if I will race it or just run it.

I’m still working out in October, but I have more expendable time with my family, and I am loving it.  I also don’t feel any pressure if I cut a workout or only finish half of my weights session.  My husband has been extremely supportive of every aspect of my 100 mile race, as well as my upcoming goals.  Marriage is so fun when you can share hopes and dreams with each other and support each other’s goals!

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Planking buddy

How do you recover after hard races?

Book Report: Fixing Your Feet

We all know that feet have a critical role in running, but in endurance running, feet problems can make a race miserable and potentially compromise the finish.  img_20161010_221749I read Fixing Your Feet by John Vonhof as preparation for my recent 100 mile race, and I understand why this book is like the bible for foot care.  It was actually a pretty interesting read, even though the topic was all about feet.  I recommend any endurance runner to add this book to the shelf for reference!

To start, just to give credit where credit is due–feet are pretty incredible.  The foot is comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons.  One of the most basic and most critical objectives of foot care is to reduce friction.  Heat, friction, and moisture all contribute to blisters, so reducing any of these factors helps keep feet healthy to the finish.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

PRE RACE PREPARATION:

  1. Trim toenails and file them smooth.  I always knew to keep toenails trim, but a great tip is to file the tops and edges of the toenails.
  2. Remove calluses with a callus file.  I always thought that calluses were a good thing, but they can actually create more opportunity for friction, thus leading to blisters.  Keeping feet soft and supple is most often the best option.
  3. Make sure that there is no lint in socks or shoes, and keep all lining smooth against the foot.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I’m guilty of feeling my sock bunched funny, yet continuing to run because I didn’t want to stop.  The author is also a big proponent of gaiters, but I have never worn them.  I have lots of runner friends who swear by them though!

RACE DAY:

  1. Apply a layer of lubricant. The book lists a lot of lubricant options, but my favorite is zinc oxide, which helps seal out wetness.  Check out Desitin or Butt Paste for easy zinc oxide lubricants.
  2. Make sure socks are smooth around feet with nothing that could rub.  Always img_20161009_155301avoid cotton socks.  Socks made from synthetic fabric breathe and wick away moisture from skin to the outer surface to evaporate.  The book recommends different sock brands and lists their attributes.  For my race, I ended up using Smartwool and Injinji.  I did have some blisters, but it was really quite minimal for the distance.  I actually really like Injinji socks more than I expected, and will probably stick to Injinji for all of my longer trail runs.
  3. Do not tie laces too tightly.

DURING THE RACE:

If a hot spot develops during a race, there are a few different options to try to reduce friction to the spot

  1. Apply a pad–moleskin is a great option.  Put a dab of lubricant or tissue over the blister so that the sticky part of the moleskin does not stick to the blister/hotspot
  2. Apply tape–the author recommends Kinesio Tex tape. Clean the area and then apply a toughening agent like the compound tincture of benzoin.
  3. Rub a dab of lubricant–this could be any lubricant such as vaseline, Bodyglide, or Desitin.  My favorite is Butt Paste because we already have it on hand for Cadence.
  4. Worst case, use an energy gel wrapper to reduce friction between the shoe, sock, and foot.

POST RACE:

  1. Soak in Epsom salts. If I’m traveling, I fill the bathtub and sit on the edge. If I’m at home, I have a little cooler that I dip one foot at a time in.
  2. Drain blisters if they are in a pressure area.  Be careful if there is blood in the blister not to get it infected.  Use proper care with sterilization.
  3. For swollen feet, elevate and ice.

WHAT’S IN MY ULTRA FOOT CARE KIT:img_20161010_221527

  1. Nail clippers
  2. Little scissors
  3. Nail file
  4. Tweezers
  5. Kinesio Tex Tape
  6. Tincture of Benzoin
  7. Butt Paste
  8. Vaseline
  9. Moleskin
  10. Wipes, preferably alcohol wipes (to clean feet of lubricant if applying tape)

 

Do you have any foot tricks that have worked well for you?

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Post- Boston Marathon Epsom Salt Bath!  Lost my first toenail to that race.

Race Report: Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

I hardly even know where to begin with a race report for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, as the race started for me way before Friday September 30th.  One thing that I have learned in running 100 miles is that you get to know your strengths and weaknesses pretty intimately through the journey.  You also get to know the people around you pretty closely, and I think that has been the most rewarding of all.  I have been surrounded by so much love and support on this journey, and I am so thankful to the people who helped make this such a rewarding and fun experience.Yeti map.PNGFirst of all, my husband supported my training program 100% from day 1, even with a newborn and a lot of other life demands.  My neighbors cheered me on as I ran up and down our streets with a hydration pack and a headlamp.  My co-workers listened to me talk about this race every day for months, and then they sat by their computers on race day to see the updates. I have so many running friends, both virtual and in my day-to-day life who helped encourage me.  My family was unwavering to keep my spirits high through training and race day.  And last but not least, the Yetis made this race absolutely spectacular.  I have never been surrounded by a group of people so generous with their time and resources, and it has been such a gift to have made so many new trail friends through this race.  Thank you Jason Green, for sharing your beautiful little town with us and helping us reach our goals!

THE DAY BEFORE: My husband, Jon, and I arrived in Abingdon, VA with my parents and Cadence (our ONE year old) on Thursday evening in time to check into our Airbnb and go to the packet pick-up. (Pictured below is our cute little Airbnb house and my mom sitting with Cadence on her one year birthday.)

Packet pick-up was at the Wolf Hills Brewery, which should give you a pretty good idea that the Yetis like to have fun. 🙂

I didn’t sleep great the night before the race, but that has been the story of my life for the last year since Cadence was born.  She didn’t go down until after 10 pm, and she woke up at 2:30 am to nurse.  My alarm went off at 5 am, and Jon and I started getting ready to head to the race.  It was so surreal to be loading up the car for race day!  Jon was going to drop me off at White Top Station for the 7 am start, and then he’d go back to the house to get everything and everyone ready to support me for the rest of the day (my hero!).

WHITE TOP TO ABINGDON, MILES 0-33.4: The race started just as it was getting light outside.  We all slowly started running downhill from White Top Station, and eventually everyone got into their respective pace groups.  I love the beginning of a trail run because generally you run with a pack of friends (old or new) and chat the whole time.  This was no exception as I ran beside friends from the start. Pictured below are my good trail buddies, Sam Terry and Jenny Nichols, who I met at the training run in June.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay with any one group for very long, as my stomach started giving me issues from the start (even before the race started), and I had to dip into the woods to take care of business.  Ultras are notorious for GI issues, but I do not know why I started having problems from the very first miles.  Either way, it was not a fun way to start the race, and I was starting to feel the effects of not having enough nutrition for a strong run.  My legs felt heavy and hard to keep my projected goal pace of 10:30 min/mile with all of my bathroom stops.  I kept thinking, “Really!?  This is not how I wanted my race to end.”  So much disappointment after all of my hard work in training. And so humbling!  But the trail community is great, and everyone commiserated with my sh*tty situation.  Haha. (Pictured below is the Damascus aid station.  We passed this aid station 3x, and it was glorious with two tables full of food and fire pits waiting to lure runners to comfort.)

When I passed through the Damascus aid station (mile 18), one of the kindest volunteers gave me some Immodium, and I quickly adopted a fueling strategy largely around a combination of Immodium and Pepto Bismal.  Luckily, I don’t think that my stomach issues were causing me to lose too many nutrients, and I soon was able to eat and drink more.  I continued to run down the trail with mile 33 as my goal, where I would see my crew for the first time. I knew that if I could get to them, they would at least share the burden of knowing that I was struggling so much. (Pictured below is my greeting committee at the Abingdon aid station.)

I made it to Abingdon (mile 33) to see my crew about 15 minutes later than my projected pace.  What joy to see my family!  My parents came to help crew so that they could watch Cadence while Jon took care of me.  I got to the aid station, changed socks, pumped, hugged the baby, popped a few pepto bismal pills, and felt like a new woman. They say that you shouldn’t have your parents crew for ultras because it is so hard for them to see you suffer.  I’ve got to say, my mom gave me a pep talk that turned my race around. Katie (my pacer for later in the race) and her family also arrived just in time to see me off to the next leg of the race.

ABINGDON TO WHITE TOP, MILES 33.4 TO 66.8: After I left the aid station at Abingdon, it was like a whole new race.  I was still working through stomach issues, but things were getting better, and I had a renewed energy and speed.  THIS is what I was waiting for.  I started clipping away at an 8-9 min/mile pace, which felt terrific.  For once, my legs felt like they didn’t have to put forth much effort, and I was watching the miles click away. Running fast in an ultra is typically a poor race plan because you can burn yourself out way too soon, but I felt like I was moving more economically at a faster pace, and economy saves energy.  I was able to enjoy the beautiful trails around me, and I felt happy and strong.  I always want to enjoy my races, and that is part of my motivation in training.  I was having a blast, and I felt like myself again.  Fellow runners who had seen me struggling during the first 33 miles were so encouraging as I ran along the course. (Pictured below is the trail and the famous Watauga Trestle bridge.  My new friend, Allen, is in front of me.  Allen ran a lot of ultras in the 80s, then took a break and returned to racing only recently.)

I ran through the Alvarado aid station (mile 42)  (thank you John Davenport for your ceaseless support!), and picked up new supplies at the Damascus aid station where we had our drop bags (mile 48).  As I was running away from Damascus, Sean Blanton (aka Run Bum, RD of my first ultra race) drove by and honked and yelled my name.  Something about having people know you and genuinely care about your success is so powerful.  I love the trail running community!  I was having a blast! (In the video below, I am running with my new friend, Tom.  Tom’s longest race before this was a 10k.  He ended up finishing 9th overall, which is incredible.)

My next stop was Straight Branch at mile 53, where I had planned to meet my crew again.  I had to pump through the race, so my designated meeting times were largely around pumping times.  I resupplied, pumped, and got to soak up love from my family and baby at these stops, and they were the treasures that kept me motivated and moving on.  I think that being a mom helps put everything into a new perspective, and it also makes you appreciate luxuries like running on the trails all day so much more.  I could not have experienced the fullness of it all without the support of my crew!

The next time that I would see my crew would be the top of White Top Station at mile 66, where I would pick up my new friend and pacer, Katie.  I had been looking forward to running with Katie since she signed on to pace me in August, and it made the miles between 53 and 66 seem to breeze by.  I ran through Taylor’s Valley, which is absolutely beautiful (as is every other part of this course), and up the steeper incline of Green Cove.  It started getting darker and cooler as I ascended to White Top.  I was slowing down in pace, but I was still feeling really strong and my nutrition was solid. (Pictured below are some of the scenes near Taylor Valley, including the red caboose aid station in the bottom left corner.)

I reached White Top Station just as it was getting dark.  My crew (Dad, Jon, and Katie) met me and went through the routine of resupplying my food and asking me the pertinent questions about my well-being.  I was really encouraged that my nutrition seemed to be spot on, even with breastfeeding, and my stomach issues seemed to finally be resolved after mile 66. I pumped for the last time and changed into warmer clothes.  Then Katie and I strapped on our headlamps and headed out for our run.  They had all seen a bear on the drive up to our stop, so we were sent off with lots of prayers and just a little bit more worry from my dad.

WHITE TOP TO ABINGDON, MILES 66.8 – 100.2: Running with Katie was so much fun, even at the 66+ mile mark when my legs were starting to feel tired.  She made the comment that she doesn’t get long uninterrupted blocks of time to just run anymore, as she is also a new mom.  Just like me, she squeezes in her training runs in the wee hours of the morning, or later at night. We both have super supportive husbands who help us pursue our hobbies, but there is something liberating about two girlfriends strapping on headlamps and running for hours through the dark on the trails.  We turned off our headlamps to look at the stars dancing in the dark sky, and I saw two shooting stars. Running with Katie helped break up the race monotony and gave me something to look forward to all day.  We ran from White Top to Damascus together, where we met up with Jon.  The miles didn’t fly by, but we exceeded our projected pace, taking walk breaks as my legs demanded.

We made it to Damascus around 11:45 pm to meet Jon and my dad.  Jon was ready to bring me on home!  It was beyond fulfilling to share the last 16 miles of this race with Jon.  He helped me get to this point for months of training and a full day of crewing, and now my husband, my champion, was there to help my tired legs push to the end. By this time, the fog had settled and visibility with the headlamp was only a few feet.

We stopped briefly at the Damascus aid station because it had at least three fires and tons of pie and other goodies.  Ultra aid stations and the volunteers are fantastic!  Then we were on our way!  I was on a run-walk pattern for the rest of the race with Jon.  I had projected a 14 minute pace for the last leg of the race, and we were able to exceed it throughout the run.  We passed a girl around the Alvarado aid station, and I later learned that she had been in 2nd place.  We also passed a few guys in the last 10 miles of the race.  Jon steadily led me to the finish, running about a foot in front of me and to the side so that it felt like he was pulling me along.  My foot started to hurt around mile 90, and my run was reduced to a shuffle, but my legs still felt like they had some power in them.  We ran a few 10 minute mile paces to put some distance between us and the runners we had passed, but the last two miles of the race were mostly comprised of hiking.

What bliss to finish!  Jon and I ran across the finish together at 3:44 am, with a finishing time of 20:44, and 2nd female, 7th overall runner. My dad was there to celebrate the moment with me, and my mom was a phone call away waiting with the baby.

I learned so much in running this race, and I had such a good time along the way.  As with any goal, the more you work toward it and the more people you have surrounding you, the more fun and rewarding it will be.  Thank you again to all of the fabulous and loving volunteers who made this race possible. Also thank you to all of my fellow runners who encouraged me along the trails. I am truly blessed, and I praise our Creator for giving me the ability to enjoy His creation.

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Does this make you want to sign up for a 100 mile race?  😉