Monday, June 30, 2014

Get back up again

I've been trying to write this post for the last week but every time I start I think, "How can I possibly write this without sounding like a whiny baby?" But I give up, it's impossible. Sometimes it's OK to admit weakness.

After jumping into the Leadville Marathon a week and a half ago and spilling all of my cookies across the course, at the hotel, and in the gutter in front of Sean and Laura's Honda Element, it's taken longer than normal to bounce back. Since the race I've had only one run that felt good and I took a good digger at the end of it. I bashed up my knee pretty bad and it still makes me wince sometimes.

oozy and bruisey

If I'm honest with myself, I think I just don't want to bounce back. I want to take a break and rest. I just want to pace Cory at his races, go for some adventure runs, hike some peaks, anything besides run a 50 mile race this weekend. The other night we listened to a panel of elite runners talking about the Leadville 100 and they said you have to decide before the race that you are going to finish it no matter what. All I can think of is how many excuses I have to not finish the 50 in Moab on Saturday.

I really am excited for the adventure but I'm afraid and I feel like there are so many factors that are out of my control. In addition to how beat up my body is right now, I'm also supposed to get a visit from my "monthly friend" on race day... some might call her Flo the demon from hell. Enough said on that. I also have no control over the weather, which is supposed to be 100 degrees and partly sunny with no chance of any blessed rain. I just want a little break here! Running 50 miles is hard enough on it's own.

To sum this all up I am terrified for the holiday weekend. I crafted all my training this year around running my first 50 miler. The time has come and I don't feel ready mentally or physically. My training has been solid, but there's too many things that I have no control over and MAN do I like to be in control.

No matter what I am going to start the race. I'm going to run until I can't run anymore. And when I'm done I'll be really happy that at least I tried.

Adventures at Staunton State Park

Cory model

Poor slow marmots

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Leadville Marathon... seemed like a good idea at the time

It's been a stressful past couple of weeks. I've been working overtime at the bank and when not working I've been running or house shopping with Cory. Last week we put in an offer on a house and got accepted! We are so excited to be making our home by Green Mountain, but this next month is going to be a crazy one as we close on the house and I run my first 50-miler and Cory runs his first 100-miler.

So to make matters crazier I was feeling spontaneous and decided to sign up for the Leadville Marathon. Why would anyone want to run a tough marathon two weeks after a tough 50k? Well I was looking at my training plan and I was supposed to do a 25 mile training run anyway. It was my one Saturday off of work for the entire month of June. AND our friends, Chris and Colleen, offered up the extra bed in their hotel room. So why not? A few days before the race Siobhan gave me a heads up that there would be some course changes and by my reckoning it looked like it was going to add some vert. I'm not the best map reader so I tried not to think about it too much.

I drove up after work on Friday night, got everything organized, and went to bed pretty early. It was a chilly morning but I think everyone was preparing for a hot day. As I looked at the crowd I saw a lot of people with sleeveless tops and no extra layers. I had my armwarmers on and a shell packed away in my vest. Maybe I was a little over-prepared, but the announcer warned us all that there were 30 mph winds on top of Mosquito Pass. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. People told me the course was tough, but it hadn't really sunk in. My thought was that a course that was mostly jeep roads couldn't be that hard.

Let me go back and explain something. I suck at adjusting to altitude. Every family vacation that we took to Colorado since I was a baby involved me having altitude sickness. My dad still reminisces about the one time when I was a toddler and I started puking my brains out on top of Mt. Princeton. He put me in his lap and scooted down a snowfield to get me to a lower elevation. I have no memories of this incident, but my dad is surely bad-ass enough to have done it. Then there was the time that Cory and I were backpacking in the Sangres and just after making camp at 10,500 feet I started the non-stop hurling. We got to hike 10 miles down the mountain in the middle of the night. Just two weeks ago at the Dirty 30 near the course high point I remember telling Liz that I would never run a Leadville race because I get sick over 10,000 feet.

Why, two weeks later, did I end up at a race where the LOWEST elevation is above 10,000 feet? I am a stubborn person and I want my body to do what I tell it to do. As soon at the race got started my stomach was already sloshy and my legs felt heavy. We climbed almost 1,000 feet in the first two miles and I just tried to hold on to a pack of people. Then we had a 400 foot descent that I knew was going to feel like hell on the way back. After that we had a 1,400 foot climb from mile 3 to 5. At the top of that climb my stomach was angry and we hadn't even gotten to the hard stuff yet!

By the time we reconnected with the Heavy Half course, about 8 miles into our course, I knew that if I didn't eat something soon I was going to bonk. Sloshy stomach be damned, my bottle of Vitargo wasn't going to be enough to get me through the entire race. I took a salt tablet and then around mile 10 I took my first gel. I started seeing the runners doing the half marathon come back to me. Chris was in 4th and Colleen was in 4th for women. I kept going and got a hug from Phil. Shortly after I saw the men's marathon leaders blazing down the mountain... Timmy Parr and Mike Aish duking it out.

The farther up the mountain I went, the sicker I got. But the memory of DNFing at Mt. Werner was still too fresh in my mind to let it happen again. I kept expecting to see the women's leaders coming down, hoping it would be Siobhan, but there were so many people it was hard to tell who was doing the half and who was doing the full. Everyone looked miserable and it was so cold and windy! I had all my layers on and was still cold, but there were people who had nothing extra to wrap themselves in. I saw one guy with a plastic bag from the aid station wrapped around him.

I finally saw Siobhan and then Laura some minutes back. They both looked strong and I tried to channel their energy, but instead I ending up throwing up everything in my stomach. After wiping the vomit off my sunglasses I decided I was going to finish this damn thing no matter what. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and I finally started seeing people that I knew were only a few minutes in front of me so I knew I was near the top. When I got there, I snapped a pic and forced myself to start running. I was determined to enjoy the post-puke euphoria as long as I could.

From the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,200 feet

After getting to the aid station a few miles below Mosquito I still hadn't eaten anything since mile 10. One of the guys at the aid station said I looked cold and wrapped me up in the best hug ever! I thought maybe it would be ok to just not leave that aid station. He said that since I kept throwing up I should probably just eat half a gel and dial back the pace and that's when I snapped out of it. Screw that! I ate the whole gel and took off down the hill.

The rest of the race was a blur and I spent most of it thinking of ways to get out of my 50-miler in 3 weeks. I passed a lot of people and just tried to focus on keeping my stomach settled. At mile 20 we had a 900 foot climb that seemed to go on forever. And then at mile 23 we had that 400 foot climb that seemed way longer than it actually was. I tried to run as much of the uphills as possible and I passed at least a dozen people in the last 6 miles. I really wanted to finish under 6 hours, but I ended up with 6:05. All things considered, I was just happy to finish. I was telling myself to run this like a training run, but I was totally trashed. I compared the elevation gain that my Garmin reported to some people's race profiles from last year on Strava and it looks like the course had an extra 400-600 feet of gain this year.

Finish line photo. Thanks Phil Synder.

I thought I would feel better after finishing but that's when the real adventure began. So many of my favorite people were hanging out after the race but I felt like shit. After getting back to the hotel room and showering I threw up some more. I tried to eat and drink but I couldn't keep anything down. Cory was driving up after work so we could hike as a group the next day but right as we gathered outside of Mt. High Pies for some dinner I threw up again on the side of the street. At this point I had nothing left and I knew that the only thing that would make me feel better would be to get down in elevation.

I stubbornly tried to tell Cory that I would drive down by myself and that he should stay to hang out with people, but he would have none of that. Poor guy got to spend a total of 20 minutes in Leadville this weekend before having to drive his wife out of the mountains and force feed her Gatorade. After we got below Summit County I started feeling better. Today I am totally beat up and dehydrated. No run today. Still trying to think of ways to get out of the 50-miler...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Golden Gate Dirty 30 2014

This was the weirdest racing experience I've ever had. I keep looking back trying to pinpoint why everyone struggled so much yesterday and I have a hard time accounting for why everyone's times were slower... not a little bit slower, A LOT slower. It was hot and the course had an extra two miles, but that doesn't seem to explain why people ran 20 minutes to over an hour slower than their best times at this race.

The day started out a bit funky. For various reasons, participants weren't allowed to park at the starting line this year. We had to take a 10 minute bus ride from the county fairgrounds parking lot. Since it was going to take longer to get everyone to the start, the race start was pushed back until 7am instead of the typical 6am start time. Cory and I arrived at 5:45am to find a huge line of people waiting for the bus. We jumped in line, but when the bus came, not everyone could fit on it. So we waited 20 minutes for the next bus, which was supposed to be the last bus. During that time, about half the race participants showed up and got in line behind us. Needless to say more trips had to be made to get those people and the race didn't start until about 7:20am.

When the race started I knew I needed to get a good position before we got jammed onto the single track. Even though I was near the front, I still had to wait as a lined formed to get on the trail. The pace felt good and I knew people would spread out more as we crossed the creek. Even as we ran along the shaded creek bed, I started to get warm. Not a good sign. I kept expecting more people to come up and pass me, but I was pretty alone during this section. Compared to the stop and go line of last year, that was ok with me. When we got to the first aid station at mile 5 my water bottle was empty, which, for me, was unusual to go through that much water in so few miles.

The trail opens up to some double track after Aid 1 and I was starting to feel queasy. I dialed back the pace and let some people pass me. Amanda came rolling up next to me and even though I wanted run with her a bit, I just couldn't get my stomach to cooperate. Then came Siobhan and I was hoping so much to at least spend a few miles with her, but she was looking strong and I just let her go. But then I got the biggest surprise... CORY came up from behind me! He had followed a large group of guys who were just off the lead pack and they all went off course for a few miles.

The lost boys had taken a sharp left off the double track road and found some flagging that was part of the back-half of the course. Convinced that the flagging meant they were headed the right way, they followed it until they started heading up Windy Peak! Cory had run the course before in training, but he knew there were some course changes and thought it was possible they were doing the right thing. He tried to convince other guys to head back with him, but they wouldn't listen so he turned around on his own. He thinks he only added 3 miles, but the other guys added at least 5. Cory passed me at mile 7, but the other guys from that group didn't pass me until mile 15. This probably accounts for the fact that the 2nd place man finished in 4:49 and 3rd place finished almost an entire hour back. A lot of the guys that went off course just got discouraged and dropped out.

So back to my race. For a while I ran with Liz and that helped me take my mind off my stomach, but after we crossed Gap Road at about mile 10 I started feeling like I was going to throw up. I knew the worst was yet to come so I just tried to keep forcing food and electrolytes down. Then my hero, Colleen, sneaked up behind me, linked her arm with mine, and tried to get me to stop walking and start running. I tried to keep up with her until Aid 2 at mile 12 where she offered me an anti-nausea pill. I am not a pill popper... normally I resist taking ibuprofen or even daily vitamins. But these were desperate times and Colleen is a Nurse Practitioner so she knows her stuff.

When I mentally prepared for the race, I knew I was going to get sick on the Coyote trail climb and the Black Bear trail descent. It's the highest point of the course at over 9,000 feet and that just seems to be the elevation that does me in. I was disappointed that the nausea started sooner, but a few minutes after cresting the top of the Black Bear trail, the medicine started to kick in. I didn't feel great but as started the gnarly descent (the place where I bonked last year and about 50 people passed me), I started to pick people off.  My goal for the first half of the race was just to take care of myself - to make sure that I had taken in at least 270 calories and that I had drank enough water.

When I got to Aid 3, it was hot. Between every aid station I had run out of water. Fortunately I had a tiny back up flask that I filled in addition to my handheld. I had worn a cotton shirt so that it would hold moisture better and I doused myself with water. As I headed up the Horseshoe trail I told myself that it was a new race. As a treat, I had saved my music for this section that I had sucked on last year. Specifically I had been waiting to cue up this song. I normally can't stand country music but c'mon THIS SONG!! I charged up the hill and passed a lot of people. I felt so good.

The mental high ended shortly after we got to Frazer Meadow and picked up the new section of trail. Normally I am all about new single track but it added an extra two uphill miles to the course during my least favorite section during the hottest part of the day. It was carnage, I started picking off guys who were walking slower than a toddler. After we looped around Dude's fishing hole we started a rocky, ugly, uphill section. This is actually my least favorite part of the course, I just tend to repress the memory of it because I always feel like shit here. Everyone I passed had run out of water. Finally after getting to the double-track burro trail with a mile left to the aid station, I took my last swig of water and tried to power it in.

Right before I got to Aid 4 at mile 24ish, loud thunder rattled the sky. Two years ago, they had turned people back from Windy Peak (and an official race finish) due to storms and I became terrified that they were going to do it again. I had not come all this way to get turned back from the last climb. I hustled through Aid 4 and since I figured it was about to rain, I didn't douse myself with water. Big mistake since it didn't rain until after I finished.

Last year I felt awesome on the Windy Peak climb and I ran a lot of it. This year, I had the worst muscle cramps of my life. I had taken 5 salt tablets and drank as much water as possible but I was just so thirsty. My calves were completely shot and I kept getting spasms in my shins. I started using my hands to push off my thighs, but constantly bending over while pushing at a maximum effort made me feel like throwing up again.

As I descended Windy Peak, I really wanted a buddy to talk to. I had spent the day feeling pretty alone and normally I run with the cheery mid-pack men who are happy to talk, but I hadn't seemed to make many friends. My main goal in the last two miles was to not throw up, but these men kept stepping aside to let me pass them and then I felt pressured to keep up the pace. Shortly before Aid 5 I let myself look at my watch for the first time. I was convinced that based on my effort and based on the fact that I was definitely in the top 20 women, that I was on track to get a PR. I was shocked to see that, with two miles to go 7 hours 25 minutes (my time from last year) had already come and gone!

I tried not to get bummed, but it was pretty disheartening. I was really hoping to go sub-7 hours this year, but with the heat and the course changes, it just wasn't realistic. I finished in 7 hours 40 minutes in 18th place. Place-wise I finished 13 spots higher than last year. Of the women that passed me during the race, I passed most of them back. Of the people that started the race 1 out of 6 of them didn't finish. Even the girl who won was 25 minutes behind her winning time from last year.

Spirits seemed pretty low at the post-race party this year. Everyone was beat and most people were frustrated with their times, myself and Cory included. I was really proud of Cory for finishing the race despite his extra three miles, but he was really unhappy with his time and placement. I was really happy with my effort but I am scared shitless for my upcoming 50-miler next month in Moab, It's going to be hotter, with more miles between aid stations, and with even more mountainous terrain.

This race is always an adventure, but this year it was so damn hard. Here are the results if you are interested