Thursday, April 30, 2015

A good half and a great ultra.

It's race recap time again, cats and kittens! First of all, I ran the Salt Lake Half Marathon as half number 62 of my illustrious running career. I ran it last year and enjoyed it so I thought why not do it again? This year, there was nothing wrong with the race, I just made the silly decision to ride the train up to the packet pick up. This would not have been a problem if I hadn't missed my connecting Trax train. Oops. So all in all, a trip that would have been around 2.5 hours round trip ended up taking over 4 hours. I was not in a good mood at all by the time I got home. I was cursing the race and not feeling excited about waking up before the butt-crack of dawn to drive an hour and run. I should have known that the race was going to be great. Seriously, if I have stress and anxiety before a race, I tend to do pretty well.

I got up to Salt Lake nice and easy; there's no traffic at 4 a.m. I found a sweet parking spot 2 blocks from the finish line, caught the train to the start, and found a few of my friends at the start line. I was especially happy to see Jamie at the start, she was running the full marathon. We both had on a delightful array of Ink n' Burn and were happy to get on our way as the huge mass of people slowly made its way across the start line.
The only picture I took during the race. My best friend got married here, plus the sphinxes are neat.
The course starts out uphill, so it's easy to keep from going out too fast. I really just cruised through the race, feeling pretty nice the whole time. I was glad that I had cut back some of my training miles during the week leading up to the race. I wasn't planning on tapering but it really paid off. I was able to run this course 13 minutes faster than last year. Woooooo!
The medal is also a belt buckle.
I was happy this race went so well, it left me feeling confident about my 50K, the Snake River Island Hop, the coming weekend. I took off from work a little early on Thursday and my crew (my mom) and I headed up to Twin Falls, Idaho. We had dinner and I passed out pretty early. It had been a long day and I was full of chicken wings. Mmmmm.  Heading out of Twin Falls, the sky was overcast and it really made for a beautiful day of driving. There were a lot of animals out in the cooler weather. I saw a badger and quite a few pronghorn antelope.
Some gorgeous scenery on the drive.
We finally rolled into Pasco, Washington and I was excited to go see where I would be running. So we made our way over to the Ice Harbor Dam trail head to check out the trail.
The glorious Ice Harbor Dam.
After we checked out the area and got sufficiently stoked to be running the next day, we headed out the to RD's house to pick up my packet. Shir lives in a gorgeous area and it was such a nice drive out there. I didn't realize that Washington had such beautiful vineyards.

We made it back to the hotel and had some dinner. I kept my carb loading simple with a salad and a personal sized pizza. I spent the rest of the night foam rolling my legs. The car ride stiffened me up pretty well so I knew it was a necessary pain. I managed to get to bed perfectly on time and even slept really soundly. When my alarm went off, I was well rested and ready to run.
A gorgeous sunrise greeted us. 
There were pelicans flying over the river, which basically made my day. It was a very peaceful setting and it really helped to calm my nerves. 6:30 a.m. rolled around and we were off!
The scenery was so lovely. The rocks we ran on, not so much...
The field thinned out fairly quickly. I just settled in to a pace that was doable on the terrain. The terrain happened to be big gravel. It wasn't so bad at first but after the first hour, I was really starting to wish for some change in footing. I was also starving by the time I got to the first aid station at mile 4.5. My stomach was actually growling. So I spent far too long at the aid station, stuffing my face with potatoes. They were the potatoes of angels.
I loved this part. Having the water on both sides of the trail was fun.
It stayed overcast and the temperature cooperated better than I could have hoped for. I never got overheated, like in my last 50K. Heat is my nemesis. I kept a mantra going in my head to run smooth and easy. Every time I started feeling tired or frustrated with the gravel, I would remind myself to run smooth, run easy. That really helped. I also enjoyed Jason, a wonderful volunteer who was going up and down the course, taking time to run a bit with each of the runners. It was great to have some company in this small race. Don't get me wrong, I loved the size of the race. But a friendly face and some chatting helps lift tired spirits.
Lots of fun things to see along the course.
At the turn around point, I knew I had to do some blister control. I had packed my Trail Toes and extra socks into my drop bag, so I had what I needed to avert a crisis. There was a super helpful volunteer who took off my shoes for me. I never expected such service! It was seriously great to have so much help when I was feeling a bit beat up. I got the hot spots managed, and decided that a clean, dry shirt would also feel like heaven right about then, and I was right. I had the foresight to put an extra shirt in my drop bag too. I ate even more potatoes and then headed back down the trail.

I kept a decent pace for how bad my feet were feeling. I knew I could get the sub 8 hour time I was hoping for. I also know that I spend too long at the aid stations. That's something I really need to work on. But when there's delicious ham and bean soup at mile 18.5, you just have to stop and enjoy it! That soup may have saved my life. I think I let my electrolyte balance get off, and the salt in the soup made me feel like a million bucks. And all of the volunteers at the aid stations were so friendly and helpful. Besides the scenery, they were my favorite part of the race. When I only had 4.5 miles to go, the last aid station even had some lovely, cold, Coca-Cola for me. It was the Coke of angels.

I was pleased that I didn't have any rock bottom moments during this race. It was such a difference from my first 50K. With this being my fourth official ultra, and my 8th time running over the marathon distance, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of this. I have been putting so much of my time into training. It's been frustrating at times, extremely frustrating. But days where it all comes together let me know that it's been worth it.
Coming down the home stretch.
Look at that! Isn't that a pretty place to finish? I was glad to be almost done and I was surprised that my legs still had some pep in them. My feet were miserable, but my legs were okay! That is, until I decided that I would do a little leap at the finish line.
Right before the cramp of doom.
As I launched into my leap, the calf muscle of the leg on the ground there decided to cramp so hard that I couldn't even stand on that leg. Which made for an awkward and slightly embarrassing stumbling around dancing moment. Once I managed to right myself and not fall on my face, I received my lovely medal. I have an affinity for maps and the medal didn't disappoint.
We also got a cool bottle with a map of the area on it. Did I mention that I love maps?
All in all, it was a great race experience. My official finish time was 7:51:00, which is about an hour and twenty minutes faster than my first 50K. The gravel challenged me but didn't bring me down. I love getting a chance to run somewhere new, and the Snake River on the Columbia Plateau doesn't disappoint. If anyone is interested, the gear I used is as follows: Hoka Mafate trail shoes, Dirty Girl gaiters, Asics socks, Trail Toes for anti-chafing and blister prevention, Ink n Burn capris and short sleeve tech shirts, Nathan hydration pack, Tailwind (caffeinated raspberry flavor), and Honey Stingers gels and chews.

Even with such a successful effort, I'm still nervous about my first 50 miler coming up in June. I know that I can do the distance, I just don't know how long it's going to take me... I have 14 hours to finish. What I need to focus on will be not lingering at the aid stations. That could save me over an hour in a race that long. Anywho, stay tuned for the epic month of racing that May will bring. Until next time, happy running!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pickled Feet Ultra Report

The Pickled Feet 12 hour race was something else. I alternately enjoyed and despised it throughout the day. The despisement (I don't care that that isn't a word. Y'all should know by now that I make words up all the time in the name of bloggy goodness) has nothing to do with the race itself, the organizers, or the location. Those things were all quite wonderful. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

We (we is me and my mom, in case you were wondering) drove up to Meridian, Idaho the Friday before the race. It was a beautiful day to be road tripping. We had a nice, uneventful drive and checked into the hotel. I was thankful to find such comfortable beds there, since I knew I would need some comforting after 12 hours of running. We headed over to Eagle Island State Park to check out the scene and do a little setting up while there was still daylight. I was pleasantly surprised by the park. I had seen pictures of it online, but they really didn't do it justice. There were nice grassy areas, ponds, and rivers.

Some creepy cool old barns along the course.
The aid station was set up right by the bathrooms that had running water. I love running water, you guys. I was able to check in that night instead of having to do it in the morning, as well as set up my pop up canopy, which allowed me to sleep in a bit more on Saturday morning. We watched some of the runners that were participating in the 100 mile, 24, and 48 hour events, then we headed off to get some dinner.

The start/finish/aid area.

I was feeling so optimistic when we left the park. The weather forecast was showing partly cloudy skies with a high in the low 60's. How could it get any better?! We had dinner and settled into bed. I managed to get a fairly decent night's sleep. I'm slowly getting better at sleeping the night before a big race. That's a big deal. I don't think I even had the standard pre-race nightmare of missing my alarm.

We got to the park at 5 a.m. to finish setting out the things that I would need throughout the day. I had overdressed and ended up changing into short sleeves after we'd been there for just a few minutes. The sky was solid clouds and there was a warm breeze blowing. I didn't think too much of it at the time, but I should have. I attended the pre-race briefing and lined up with my fellow competitors. At 6 a.m., we were off, running through the darkness. The line thinned out fairly quickly and I just did my thing. The first hour was pretty uneventful. I finished my first two laps right about when I had expected to. It seemed a bit warm, but that would change and quickly.

While I was out on my third lap, the weather turned nasty. In another race report I read, it was described as "biblical" and I think that's the perfect way to describe it. All of the sudden, there was a shift in the wind, it got freezing cold, and rain started to fall. The wind then picked up and starting tearing off tree branches and kicking up dirt. I had gritty eyes and a sad face by the time I had made it around to the end of the lap. The sight that greeted me there was one of pure destruction. All of the tents that had been set up along the course were obliterated. My own pop up had been bent all out of shape and was laying on the ground in a heap. All of the things that I had brought, changes of clothes, shoes, snacks, chairs, everything was scattered around the ground. So of course, I had to do something about that. My mom had gone back to the hotel because I didn't figure I would need much support for the first half of the race.A very nice man who was crewing for another runner helped me clean everything up. When he realized that I was a runner and not a crew member, he told me to just go back out on the course and he would take care of the rest of it. I wish I could remember what his name was, he was so kind.
I enjoyed having the option of switching up the directions throughout the day.
So I grabbed my jacket and buff and headed back out onto the course. The problem was, that in stopping to clean things up, I had gotten very cold and wet. The jacket and buff helped somewhat, but I just seemed to keep getting colder. By the fifth hour, I started shaking so hard that it was difficult to stand. I ended up in the aid station under the heaters for about 20 minutes. I got some warm food and that helped too. I didn't end up taking my jacket off until hour 7. At that point, everything I was wearing was wet and cold. So I changed into my long sleeved tech shirt and then things were a little more comfortable.
Being very sad about the destruction. Also, way puffy and swollen looking. I was having a rough day.
Things got a little better for awhile. The sun was out and there were some new faces on the course because the 6 hour race started at noon. Although, seeing all the fresh, chipper faces kind of made me want to throw rocks at them because I was not feeling fresh and chipper myself. Every runner was very nice and it was fun to see them throughout the day. By hour 9, I was just power walking the laps. I couldn't really get the running thing to work very well. My hips did protest too much. But after walking a few laps, I was able to throw in some bits of running here and there, The important thing was to just keep moving. And that's what I did. I did my best to just keep on keeping on.
I don't know what I was thinking, okay?!
That about sums it up.
I was so happy when just before hour 11, they opened up the short loop so that we could bust out some easier laps and try to get the mileage up. I was feeling a bit better by this point (I had fueled up pretty well around hour 10 and that helped my mood considerably) and ran some pretty decent paced laps of the short loop. Then I walked some, ran some more, walked some more, and just kept trudging along until the last minutes of the race. I finished my last lap at 11:56:48 and I knew I would most likely not get one more lap in with that little time left. So that was that. My Garmin showed a distance of 40.32 miles, longer than the lap count of 39.20. But that makes sense with all the extra back and forth that happened going to the restrooms, aid heaters, etc.
A happy finish.
The race organizers had a post race dinner all cooked up for us when we were done. There was a lot of good food that I couldn't force my body to eat. I guess it wasn't feeling too hot after the day it had just had. I did manage to get some down and then it was time for the awards ceremony. I think this was my favorite part of the whole day. Every single runner of every single event was recognized by the race director. She personally handed out all the awards, which were very cool wooden plaques.
I love everything about this swag.
 I have never been recognized in a race before, since I never win or place. It was kind of magical. I ended up placing 19th out of 33 participants in the 12 hour race. I was really exited about that. It was better than I had thought it would be. And I was 7th place out of 17 women, something I did not expect at all. I get so down on myself for being a slower runner. But when it comes to stubbornly plodding along, I actually do alright. I'm really loving these timed events more and more each time I do one. I didn't hit my goal of 50 miles for the day, but that's alright. I really feel like I did the best that I could do for that day and I can be satisfied with that. Besides, I have a 50 miler in June that will get that distance checked off my list. I would love to do this event again next year, and I'm even contemplating entering the 48 hour option. Why not, since I'm giving the 48 hour a go at the Jackpot next February. I don't have a life anyway, so why not spend all my time training and running?!

Until next time, happy running!