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!