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?

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?  😉

Ready or not, here comes race day: preparing for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

I’m just about as ready as I can be for Race Day, and I feel strong as Friday approaches.  The reduced volume of training this week has given me extra time to make race day plans and go shopping for supplies.  This is my first 100 mile race, so I am sure that I will learn a lot about what I need and don’t need on the run.  I ran 33 miles of the Creeper Trail course in June on a training run, so that really helps as far as anticipating the terrain and elevation.  I know that I will learn a lot about limits on this course, as I push further than I’ve gone before, but thankfully, I will have family and friends (both in body and spirit) there with me to help!

I always pick a verse for my goal races instead of thinking of a mantra, and that helps me refocus and remember that God is in control, and as my Creator, He designed me to run for His glory.  I chose Isaiah 40:26 for this race because it is a reminder that out of all of humanity, God knows each one of us.  He created me to run and He knows my passions.  He also created my sweet little baby, not one of them is missing, and He loves her individually.

Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.

About the course:  You can see more about the course here.  In summary, this is an out and back, out again course, so I will run the same 33ish miles three times.  The trail is an old railroad bed, so it is mostly smooth and wide.  The elevation profile is like a tipped bowl, where most of the first 33 miles will be descending from White Top Station to Abingdon, then I’ll run back up and then down again.  The risk is that it is easy to go out fast downhill for the first 33 miles and bust your quads for the last 66+ miles. There are 5 aid stations that runners will pass multiple times due to the out and back nature of the course.  It is anticipated to be in the mid to upper 60s during the day and in the low 40s at night. I am told that White Top Station can feel downright cold and layers are necessary.

My crew and pacers: My husband is my number one support in every way, and he will be critical in helping me on race day, as he knows me better than anyone.  My parents are joining to help watch Cadence and crew during the day.  Finally, I have an awesome new speedy friend, Katie, who will be coming out with her husband and baby as well.  I met Katie through Instagram (@katyhaytay) when she was traveling to Atlanta.  She’s from Memphis, so this is no small commitment from her.  We went for a run together, bonded over running, babies, and Jesus, and the rest is history.  Actually, it’s not quite history yet, but it will be after she paces me through the night with a headlamp blazing the trail!

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Virtual friends who ended up real life friends!

How I expect for the day to go: For people unfamiliar with trail running or ultra marathons, there are a few things that are very different from road racing.  Endurance running most often involves a mix of running and fast hiking.  I won’t be running the whole time, but I would like to keep moving forward as quickly as reasonable.  I’ll carry my food and water with me in my hydration vest and restock at aid stations and when I meet with my crew (parents, Jon, and Katie).  The fuel that I plan to carry includes gels, shot blocs, pouches, and bars.  Plus, I have a variety of foods to eat when I meet with my crew and at the aid stations.  I plan to run a conservative pace in the beginning in the hopes of saving some juice in my legs to finish strong. There is a 30 hour cut-off, but it would be fun to finish earlier than that.

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Practicing runs with the hydration vest. I will miss her on the trail!

The plan is to see Cadence at least twice during the race, thanks to my parents who will be helping out. I will either need to feed her or pump.  Most likely, I’ll be pumping. I’ll meet with Katie at mile 66 to have her pace me for half of the remaining leg, and then I’ll pick up Jon to finish out the race.  I am so thankful for the team helping me run this race, and I am just about as excited to share it with them as I am to run my first 100. :)))

There will be race tracking about every quarter of the way that can be found here, and I’ll hopefully we’ll have enough cell signal for Jon to post a few updates to my Instagram account, @runningwithcadence.

Prep: This being my longest distance yet, I have spent a little extra time trying to map out what I’ll need each hour and mile of the course. I have planned out my fueling strategy, and I am aware that the digestive system works really differently when it is forced to operate on the run for this long of a duration. I purchased supplies over the weekend, including tape, etc just in case I have foot problems or anything else. On Monday I saw my fabulous medical massage person, and she did a final easy massage to keep things loose.  Most of my supplies are packed up in little baggies so that I can grab what I need quickly on the run when I meet my crew.

Any concerns:  I followed a training plan developed by my coach, and I feel strong going into this race.  I have one little place on my ankle that every once in a while gives me a little pain, but when it does hurt, it seems to go away once I start moving. 100 miles will be the real test!  Also, I had surgery in May, and I am always aware of the incision spot above my belly button

My biggest concern is that I am still breastfeeding, so my nutrients and hydration will be diverted to feed a baby.  Cadence turns one year old on Thursday, and I didn’t want for this race to dictate when I weaned.  She’s been waking up a lot in the night to eat lately, so my supply is not as diminished as I would have hoped by now.  Either way, she’s my number one priority, and breastfeeding is worth whatever happens on race day as a result. I also hope that she will let me get a little more sleep on Thursday night, as this past week has not been her best sleeping record.

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Travel: We will leave on Thursday late morning to go to our AirBNB house in Abingdon, VA.  There is a mandatory race meeting on Thursday at 7 pm, and the race starts at 7 am on Friday morning.  We’ll stay through Sunday morning before hitting the road again.

Ready or not, here comes race day!

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What is the longest race you have ever run?  Any tips for race day prep?