Race Report: Gorge Waterfalls 100k

I don’t exactly know where to start with this race.  It didn’t go the way that I had hoped it would.   I’ve been in my head a lot with this one, and unfortunately, I think that is also what influenced my race performance.  Either way, these are the ones that help you grow the most, and I’ve certainly gained a lot of strength from this experience. I’m relatively new to the trail and ultra scene, and I think I doubled in experience by this one race alone.

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Photo Credit Glenn Tachiyama

Leading up

I was given entry into Gorge (thanks to my coach for pulling some strings) after I finished my sub 3 marathon in January, and my confidence was super high after achieving that goal on the first try.  My coach had absolute faith in me that I could perform well in the race and I have always seen good (fast) results with her training method.  So commenced a time of recovery from the marathon and then a pretty intense cycle of training for about two months.  At one point, my training plan had me doing 340 push-ups of IMG_20170214_182740.jpgdifferent variations 3x a week.  And that’s just the push-up portion of the workouts.  Needless to say, I spent what felt like every free moment trying to finish my workouts outside of work, baby, house, and husband.  But I didn’t miss a workout. I got stronger and I felt really solid on my runs.

The biggest tension wasn’t how hard the workouts were, but more how hard it was to take time away from my family.  My husband is truly my champion, and he makes working out so much easier for me by helping me incorporate Cadence whenever we can.  We would family hike for cross training, or he would sit with her in our basement workout room while I finished the 340 push-ups.  The biggest struggle since Cadence was born has always been getting away to the trails. But I did it all.  I didn’t miss a training session and I got in the extras as well as I could.

 

Arrival in Oregon

We arrived in Oregon on Friday afternoon in the midst of big storms and high winds.  Cadence was great, but anyone with a toddler can understand how hard it is to keep an 18 month old confined to one lap for 5.5 hours.  As soon as we got our rental car, we drove to Benson State Park to scope out the start line and we also purchased a parking ticket for the next day.  We checked into our hotel, got an early dinner, and I was in bed by 7 pm PST, which is really 10 pm EST.

Race Morning

I woke up at 2 am (5 am EST) and waited for my alarm to ring at 3 am.  I didn’t feel tired, my stomach was cooperating, and I felt like I was really prepared for the race. So many people had told me that the course was really runnable, and it’s “only” ~63 miles.  For all of you new momma’s out there, I am still breastfeeding Cadence, and so far, it’s not ever been an issue with my running.  She’s 18 months old, and we are down to mornings and nights now, so I knew that I wouldn’t have to pump during this race like I did during Hot to Trot and the Yeti 100.  We packed up the car at 4:45 am and headed to the park.  Parking wasn’t an issue at all (we had been told horror stories about long lines to park), and it was a pretty low-key check-in.  We waited in the car until about 5:40 am.  I got out, walked around, did some lunges to stretch and warmed up, and then waited for the RD James Varner to give final instructions and send us off.

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Course map provided by Rainshadow Running

Starting Out

I placed myself near the front because if I’ve learned anything in trail running, the mid and back pack move very slooooowly once you hit single track.  On the first little jaunt out of the park, I met a girl named Sara.  We briefly chatted and then started the ascent up the steepest climb of the race (until you go back up it again at the end of the race).  We were all in headlamps and rain jackets, and I was moving well in the front pack.  It didn’t take long to get warm and start to feel the effects of running up about 1600 feet of elevation gain in 2 miles.  I started out as one of the top female runners. Then about a mile up the mountain, 3 girls passed me.  Then one more.  And that’s when I started to think that they were stronger runners than me. I don’t know where this came from, as anyone who runs ultras knows that this is way too early in a race to determine who the leaders will be.  But there in that moment, I gave the race over to them.  Don’t get me wrong, I was surely working hard, but my head wasn’t in it anymore, and the head is pretty important for any type of performance.

Our headlamps were only needed for the first 20 minutes of the run, and mine was heavy and the rain jacket was hot.  And my legs were feeling tired from the climb.  Once we hit the downhill, things started feeling better, but I was aware that I didn’t feel fast and I started to feel discouraged.  I passed No Name aid station at mile 6 without stopping.  As beautiful as this course is, I didn’t like it very much at first.  The trail runs along the side of the mountain, and you can see the highway below and hear cars and trains.  I expected to be out in the wilderness, but we were always pretty close to civilization the whole time. (My opinion changed as I ran deeper into the fairy tale kingdom).

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Yeon Aid Station Mile 13 and Crew stop #1

The course is described as runnable, but there was about ~150-300+ ft of elevation gain within every mile, and that really pushed my fitness level.  Also, the course had a lot of rocks, roots, trees, and snow in its path, which is a big challenge to me.  The area had seen record winds and washouts, and this was clear by the incredible number of branches, trees, and detritus covering the ground.  About two miles before the Yeon aid station, we hit paved road, and that felt like heaven to my tired legs and beat up feet.

I had mapped for Jon to meet me three times along the course for crew, and I couldn’t wait to see him at Yeon.  My instructions to him had been that I didn’t want to waste any time at aid stations, so I asked him to help me get in and out as fast as I could.  When I got to Yeon, I was 5th female, and while Jon was helping me refill water and food, another girl passed through, making me 6th female.  Something in me just didn’t care.  My legs didn’t feel strong or fast, and I just didn’t think I had the ability to fight for a top spot.  Jon was kind of surprised, but he kept encouraging me and pushed me off on my way as any loving husband wearing a baby would do.

 

Cascade Locks Aid Station Mile 22 and a surprise crew visit #2

This is where the course started getting magical, and I decided that even if my body was letting me down (which I know sounds silly when the body to which I refer is carrying me 64 miles across tough terrain), I was going to enjoy the run.  I had been leap frogging with my new friend, Sara, and I found myself needing to talk to someone on the trails.  She was strong and carefree out there.  This was her therapy after going through some personal stuff the week prior, and her only expectation from the race was to let the run help heal some wounds. So naturally, we talked about boys and babies and futures.  And it really helped me get out of my emotional funk.  I fell twice during the race, and the second time during this section did a little damage to my knee, and I was aware of the swelling for the rest of the run.  In addition to the knee, my legs still felt heavier than they had ever felt in a race, but at least I wasn’t crying about it as I chatted with my new friend.

The aid stations were spaced further than I would have liked, not because I was running out of food, but because it is such a great way to check off miles when they come in smaller chunks.  I ran into the Cascade Locks aid station to find Jon there!  I had not mapped this as one of his stops, but he surprised me by showing up. Just what I needed!  At this point, it wasn’t just what I needed to buck up and compete, but rather just what I needed to not want to quit the race.  That’s how disappointed and disillusioned I felt about it.

The halfway point: Wyeth Aid Station mile ~31 and crew #3

I had to stop to pee in the woods after leaving Cascade Locks and I got passed by another girl while my pants were down.  I still wasn’t too far behind in the ranks, but I was slowing down.  We ran past several snow covered patches.  The RD had tried to dig out little paths for runners to use as footholds, and it really helped.  There were also sections of hill completely covered by moss covered boulders.  It was pretty magical, and I kept thinking of The Princess Bride when they ran through the boulders (only my prince was several miles away waiting for me with a baby and a honeystinger in hand).

I was at mile 25 when Jim Walmsley past me on his way to the finish in a record breaking time.  That was pretty incredible.  I passed two girls hiking with their dogs, and we joked.  It felt so good to laugh.  I realize now how tense I was for this race.

There were several creek crossings that required you to get your feet wet.  I have resigned myself to blisters on long runs, so I don’t mind wet feet.  The front runner girls passed me when I was at mile 29.5 on their way to the finish.  They were 1.5 miles ahead of me and looking tough.  It was pretty humbling to think that I could have or should have been running with them. Maybe on another day.

I ran into Wyeth at around 31 miles, and I was so happy to see Jon and Cadence.  They were both wet, bless their hearts, from waiting for me in the rain.  I was running way slower than my projected pace, so Jon was guessing my aid station appearances the best that he could while also taking care of a toddler. I resupplied, went to the bathroom, and reluctantly headed back out.  This race wasn’t ever going to end unless I kept moving.

Cascade Locks Aid Station Mile 40

I came into Cascade Locks wanting to find a porta potty.  I had to walk down a hill to find it, and it was occupied, so I decided to just keep moving and pee in the woods.  I actually prefer to go in the woods, so I think I just wasn’t thinking clearly.  In the meantime, another girl ran through and passed me.  I grabbed a PBJ and headed out of the aid station.  The frustrating thing is that I felt like I was running in slow motion.  Compared to the other runners, I was passing some people, and some people were passing me.  But I had been so successful in my training, and I had never felt this slow in a race.  A 13 minute mile feels like forever when you have 20+ miles left to go. And I was really trying. The elevation change was no joke (still), and I was moving as well as I could.  At this point I was truly thinking that I didn’t ever want to run again.  I was thinking through new hobbies that I might like to take up like yoga and wine.  Those activities sounded way more appealing and comfortable at this point of the race.

Yeon Aid Station Mile 49 and Crew #4

I switched watches on my way to Yeon, and either my watch was wrong, or the mile markers were off because I felt like I kept running and running without reaching this aid station.  I reached Jon and Cadence at Yeon, and Jon knew exactly how to talk to me and feed me.  Nutrition and hydration had not been a problem for me all day (at least something was going right), and I relied mostly on Honeystinger gels, chews, and waffles, with the occasional Clif or Bonkbreaker bar as my go-to food.  Seeing Cadence both filled me up and made it really hard to leave (because I knew that my new slow pace would mean it would be a long time before I saw them again).  Jon suggested that I take my headlamp with me *just in case*, and I couldn’t help but feel depressed that this was my new position.  I had expected to finish around 5 pm, not possibly getting back after dark.  Through it all, Jon was nothing but supportive (despite the fact that he had been baby wearing and driving all over Hwy 84 chasing me all day).

I left the aid station and started running the two miles of pavement back to the trail.  This time, it hurt a little bit more, but it felt good to actually see my paces in the 8s and 9s. The miles between Yeon and No Name felt like forever.

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Jon is trying his hardest to pump me up and help me get back out there.

No Name Aid Station Mile 56

Even though I didn’t stop for aid, there is something about reaching an aid station and seeing other people.  A lot of trail racing ends up being time solo on the trails.  Normally that is fine for me, but I was feeling more vulnerable during this race, and I welcomed seeing faces (unless it was a girl passing me, which was just depressing).

The volunteer at the aid station told me that it was just 6 miles to the finish, pretty much 3 up and 3 down.  My watch clocked a bit more than 6 miles to the finish, and those last miles were very hard!  We went back up the mountain at about 1600 feet elevation gain, and back down the mountain.  The switchbacks felt never ending, and I found the uphill actually more comfortable than the downhill. One final girl passed me on the downhill, and I didn’t have anything left in me to chase her down.

Finally reaching the finish was such a combination of emotions.  I was so disappointed in

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Jon is my hero ❤

this race.  I invested too much time in training for this to have been the result.  But I was also so happy to be finished and reunited with my family.   As always, Jon was my biggest cheerleader, and he took care of me by getting me pizza and introducing me to his new friends (while still wearing the baby).  I got to see my new friend, Sara, at the finish.  She came in 8th place about 30 minutes before me.

I ended up placing 12th female in 13:27 hours.  While this was not the way that I anticipated the race to go, I definitely learned a lot from it.  And, we got a nice little family vacation out of the deal.  Oregon is beautiful, and we thoroughly enjoyed sightseeing around Mt Hood and tasting wine at the local wineries.  I have a few more lessons learned, but I think I’ll save that for another post.  🙂

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Elevation profile by Rainshadow Running

 

About Brokenness

I was talking to my sister the other day about brokenness and how often it is not until we are in a state of brokenness before we truly allow God to work in our lives.  I’m not going to say that Gorge broke me, as that sounds a bit dramatic considering this is a hobby and I finished in a decent time as 12th female.  But the experience helped changed my perspective on a few things, and I came out a different person.  I’ll definitely learn from this one, and hopefully I’ll come out as a better runner (yes, I plan to run again despite what I was thinking around mile 40) and with a better understanding of my purpose.

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Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

Have you had a race that was really disappointing?  How did you grow from it?

Here is my Milestone Pod data:

And here is my split data (my watch had me going 65 miles and 14,000 feet elevation gain):

splits

Christmas Wish List: Silver white winters that melt into springs, These are a few of my favorite things

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I’d share some of my favorite running things. Maybe this can help serve as a gift guide (giving or receiving!).  I do not like to shop, so if I can order an item online, I will do that every time.  My running wardrobe is nothing fancy, so you won’t find a pair of $400 tights in this list.  Haha.  But there are a few things that have made running more enjoyable to me, and they are listed below.

  1. Apple Shuffle: I love to listen to fast beats while I run, but I do not like to us
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    Shuffle, Ultimate Direction Jenny vest

    e my phone for music.  Instead, my preference is the shuffle. Also, my favorite jam for running fast is MotionTraxx music with a bpm of 180 or more.

  2. Lacrosse balls: I’m a fan of foam rolling, but I’m an even bigger fan of lacrosse balls.  I ordered the pack that comes with two balls, and I keep one in my purse and the other in my bedroom. I use these balls daily to help work out tight spots, and they seem to get deeper than just a foam roller.  (If you are in the car, stick the ball under your hamstring and work away!  Safer if you are the passenger. 😉
  3. Flexibility: while you can’t really give someone flexibility, you can help them achieve their goals with a subscription to ROMWOD (range of motion workout of the day).  This is a $13.95/month service, so if you give it as a gift, be prepared to keep giving… and giving… But my husband and I have found that we feel so much better after completing the daily ~20 minute sessions of ROMWOD together.
  4. Milestone Pod: this is a new toy that I started to use, and the price of $24.95 is super reasonable to give as a gift to your favorite runner.  The gait data points are pretty cool, and any running junky will love it!
  5. Compression Socks: I like to wear compression socks after hard runs to help speed up recovery.  I’ve really noticed a difference!  Also compression socks are nice for speedwork days because they minimize the vibrations that your calves experience.  I like Pro Compression because they seem to have the best prices when accompanied by a discount code.
  6. Hydration Vest: I love my Ultimate Direction Jenny vest!  I’ve tried other vests, but this one fits the best to me.  I wore this vest for my 100 mile race, and it was perfect.  I do  not wear a vest for the shorter distances, but any trail runner who aspires to be outside for a couple of hours should invest in a good vest.  For shorter distances, I like a handheld.
  7. Running in the dark: two things that have made early mornings safer: my Nathan Streak vest and my cheap but good headlamp.  You can buy great expensive headlamps, or you can buy good cheap ones.  I’ve used this headlamp for both a 50 mile and a 100 mile race, and it served me well. It also does great on my early morning runs. The batteries need to be switched every ~4 hours for optimum brightness, but it is super bright and not too heavy for general running use.
  8. Fanny pack: ok, so not really a fanny pack, but a running belt is fantastic!  I started running with my phone after I got pregnant, and I now I like to have it in case I need the baby (or the other way around ;).  I use the SPIbelt, but I think any belt would be fine.  My belt is not water proof, and it will bounce when I go really fast,
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    Thule Urban Glide, Milestone Pod, Coast headlamp, clip safety lights

    but for most of my runs, it sits snugly around my waist. I can fit my phone and a couple of gels without a problem.

  9. Essential oils: There are several different uses for oils, from topical to aromatherapy. My favorite oils that I feel have helped me with running are aromatherapy with lavender (there are studies that show that lavender helps reduce cortisol levels), and melaleuca for skin abrasions (I have taken many falls on the trails, and this is my favorite!). I use doTerra, and I also like their Deep Blue product.  If you are looking for a kit, the athlete’s kit is my favorite.  Also, here is the diffuser that I use.
  10. Strength training: I love the Bosu Ball, medicine ball, and elastic bands for strength work.
  11. Thule Urban Glide: this would be a pretty expensive gift, but it is hands down the best running accompaniment (along with the baby!).  It is the smoothest stroller around, and it handles long distances and fast speeds.  Also look for the rain cover/windbreaker, snack tray, and console. These lights are also good to strap onto the bars of the stroller or these can clip to the stroller or clip to your clothes.
  12. Books: you guys know that I love love love reading.  Here are all of my favorite running books and reviews.  I also highly recommend Run Fast, Eat Slow.

Bonus: I do not use my RoadID bracelet very often anymore, but I had one made when I got pregnant and printed PREGNANT as my medical condition.  This was important to me in case I needed emergency attention so that the first responders wouldn’t give me anything that could harm the baby.  At some point, it becomes pretty obvious that you are pregnant, but in the first few weeks, sometimes it’s good to spell things out.

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Bosu ball + cute baby

Do you have any favorite running items that I can add to my list this year?

 

Race Report: Sawnee Showdown

I love running races as part of my training because it is always the boost that I need to be surrounded by other runners.  It also makes me push myself harder. Both of these elements were true this past Saturday when I ran the Sawnee Showdown 8.9 mile trail race. I signed up for Sawnee Showdown because some of my favorite trail friends had signed up, and the trail is right down the street from my old high school stomping grounds.

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This was the inaugural race, and the race director did a fabulous job, from communication to course marking and prizes.  The race started at 8 am, but I showed up at 7:15 to make sure that I could get parking.  Cadence has been congested (welcome to cold season!), so just like normal, I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before the race.

The sun was just coming up when I arrived, and it was stunning.  The wind was picking up and bringing a cold front with it.  The temps started in the mid-forties and continued to drop as the morning progressed, but it turned out to be perfect running weather.  The wind was also good to blow the forest fire smoke out of the area for the race.  I don’t remember smelling it at all.

The race started like most trail races where everyone walks into the parking lot, the RD gives a few instructions and then yells “GO” and we all file onto a single track.  I started near the front with some of my friends.  While this was not a goal race, I knew that I wanted to run at a good effort to justify using it as a training run.

From the start, it was apparent that we were in for a lot of elevation change and plenty of rocks!  The race started on the side of the park called the Indian seats,  which is thought to be a sacred site used by local Native American Cherokee and Creek tribes for ceremonial purposes.  I know that the view at the Indian Seats is spectacular, but I did not want to take the time to stop for a view.

I was the third female for the first 2-3 miles, following closely behind my new friend, Alexa.  The first female had blown by us in the first mile, and she quickly put distance between us.  I was moving fast, but my limiting factor was really the technical terrain.  There were a lot of rocks and roots on steep paths, and this was not a race that I wanted to sacrifice to an injury.

I pulled into second place while on the Indian seats side of the trail, and then we crossed the street to follow another bigger loop to the finish.  Someone had commented that the second loop was more rolling, but that was a lie!  It seemed pretty steep to me!  I love running on trails, but at one point, I started to wonder why I always have to push so hard in races.  It is a love/hate relationship, for sure!  I was not enjoying the pain of pushing, but there is always a high from the exertion.  I think I’m just wired to push and run hard.

For the rest of the race, I caught glimpses of the number one girl but then she would disappear around a corner.  At about mile 6, I was running with one of my good trail friends, Seth, who has paced me to strong finishes at several races now, and he encouraged me to try to catch number one.  We were able to close the gap, but then my foot caught a rock and I fell pretty hard, rolling and hitting my knee directly against a rock.  Stumbling, I got up and we kept running.  Seth had stopped to help me, which just goes to show how amazing trail friends are.  I didn’t lose much time, but I was definitely in more pain!  And as soon as the number one girl saw that we were close, she seemed to have no problem putting more distance between us. wp-1479871554885.jpg

So I finished in second place, and later found out that the top girl is a track athlete from Georgia Tech.  She definitely helped me run a faster race, and I’m thankful that she kept such a strong lead.  It turns out that the first place winner was awarded $200 and the second place winner was awarded $125.  That is more than I have ever won, and it’s pretty unheard of for a trail race!  I also won a raffle and was able to select my prize based on finishing time.  All of the prizes were really great, but I decided to go home with a big Yeti cooler!

Overall, this was a great morning with wonderful friends, a beautiful trail, and really nice prizes!

Do you always have to “race” the races?

Ultra Eating: Fueling for an Ultramaration

I learned a lot about nutrition and fueling by preparing for and running the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Everyone is unique, and different courses dictate different nutrition needs, but I’ve provided some guidelines that will help you best prepare for your race.  Remember the adage “We are an experiment of one” when reading through these guidelines.  What works for one person may not work as well for another. Testing your fueling plan during training is best, but always be prepared that race day may confront you with a new set of conditions.

The distance of an ultra is not always as important to consider, as much as the time that you will be out on the trails.  For a technical 50k, you could be out in the woods through lunch and dinner.  In ultras, one of the most important lessons is to eat early and eat often.  It’s also wise to take a gel within 30 minutes of the start of a race.  Then, continue to consume small amounts of nutrition about every 20-30 minutes.

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Cloudland Canyon 50 Miler

Well trained athletes can burn up to 600-1000 calories per hour of exertion.  However, our stomachs can only process about 200-400 calories/hour on the move. This number will vary based on the size of the runner, effort level, temperature, and how easy it is to process the food.  A typical athlete can store glycogen to fuel the demands of 90 minutes or less of activity.

fueling-properly

What types of foods to eat: the desire to consume food wanes the longer you are out on the trail.  That said, the food that you craved at mile 20 might sound very different to you by mile 66.  Conventional running fuel includes: gels, energy chews, sports bars, and sports drinks. Each of these products offer an option with caffeine and/or electrolytes. Gels are relatively easy for the body to digest.  The type of sugar depends on how quickly the energy lasts over time. Sugars like honey act quickly but wear off fast as well.  Maltodextrin offers a slower release of energy over a longer period of time.  During a run, most of your calories will come from carbohydrates.  Make sure to consume fluids with food so that absorption can be facilitated.

 

Aid station food can offer a good variety to the fuel that you packed in your drop bag (gels can get very old after hours of sucking on sugar).  Be careful trying new things, and don’t rely on the aid station to have your favorite trail snacks.  Examples of aid station fare include potatoes in salt, chips, m&ms, pie, brownies, soup, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich wedges, gatorade, and water.

I had stomach issues during the first ~half of the Yeti 100, and I’m not completely sure why.  The best I can explain is that it may have been nerves. Either way, I knew that it was important to continue eating and drinking.  Otherwise, I did not have any issues eating, but my desire for food started to diminish.  Many runners experience nausea toward the end of the race (another reason to front load the calories if you can).  Ginger chews and ginger ale are good remedies for an upset stomach.

Here is a troubleshooting table that may be helpful to share with your crew so they can help you if things start heading south:

ultra-troubleshooting

Below is an example of the food that I had planned for the Yeti 100. I also had a lot of different kinds of food packed in a bin for my crew to have available just in case I craved an Oreo or a potato chip.  I pumped/breastfed throughout the race, so I also calculated extra demand for calories to produce breastmilk. Toward the end of the race, the only things I could tolerate were Starbucks frappuccinos, Honey Stingers, and Cliff Shot Blocs.

yeti-nutrition

There are a lot of running books that have complete chapters on fueling for an ultra. Here are a few books that I recommend:

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Do you have any fun fueling stories?  Experiences are the best way to learn!

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?  😉