Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I ran 50 miles and didn't die.

I have survived that which I was not sure I would survive. My first 50 mile run was a success. Because I did not die. The amount of fear and anxiety I had leading up to the race was not an insignificant amount.
I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to acknowledge the fear, let myself really feel it. (Much like this cat with the vacuum.) Repressing the fear won't make it go away, so I had to take time to understand where it was coming from. I was able to come to terms with what I was about to do in time to begin to be excited about the challenge that lay before me.

We arrived in Montana without incident, checked into the hotel, then made our way to packet pick up. I handed over my two drop bags so that they would be waiting for me at miles 20 and 34. My brother was registered for the 12K, so we both got sweet swag bags. The Trail Rail Run people know how to put together a nice goody bag. There was huckleberry fudge, beef jerky, aluminum water bottles, discount coupons to local restaurants and gift shops, and the all important FREE huckleberry shake voucher.

On my way back into the hotel after dinner, I noticed an Idiots Running Club shirt hanging in a window of one of the rooms. I knew there would be 4 other Idiots running the race, so I was happy to have found one of them. I knocked on the door and met Coral, her husband, and their sweet dog. I would see quite a bit of the dog and husband through the race.

I made it though my morning without any trouble or panic attacks and headed across the street to get on the bus. All of the other runners were friendly and chatty while we waited to take off. Once the bus got going though, it was pretty loud and difficult to talk over. So most of us settled in for the ride and watched the pine trees whip by the windows.

The bus made a few wrong turns once we got off the freeway and I was starting to wonder if the race was meant to be. But we found the start line and gathered around the fire that was happily crackling along. I met another Idiot, Kathy, then we tried to joke about what we were about to do. (It was the first 50 miler for Kathy, Coral, and I. So there was quite a bit of trepidation there.) Before I knew it, the pre-race briefing was over and we were lining up.
The gun went off and our small band of crazies headed out onto the trail. It's a gradual uphill grind for the first 8 miles. Since I've been focusing on my climbing, and I always use the incline on the treadmill, I hadn't been too worried about that part. Too bad that part almost made me quit the race. Right from the beginning, I just didn't feel very good.

I just felt really tired. I couldn't seem to find my rhythm, my breathing was off. The incline felt steeper than I thought it would. I watched as all my competitors passed on by me, leaving me in the dust.
Look at those tiny specks. Those are people. Running much faster than I am.
I was the last runner before I'd gone two miles. Oh great. But really, I had figured that this would happen. I was feeling so awful at that point I didn't much mind though. It took me 2 hours to reach the top of that 8 mile climb. At multiple points in those two hours, I seriously considered dropping from the race. I knew that if I didn't get feeling better, there was no way I could make it through the full 50 miles. But I couldn't drop out of the race before I got to the aid station. So I had to keep going, at least until that point. Not wanting to have to pay for the search and rescue team they would have sent for me was the only thing that kept me going to that point.
I feel terrible. I should stop and take a picture. That'll help.
I finally made it to the aid station, they checked me in, and I headed to the port-a-potty. I often find myself in port-a-potties when I'm trying to pull myself together. It's like I need that closed off space and privacy to think about what I am going to do next. I had made it though the worst part of the race, I told myself. Get something to eat. See how you feel. I shambled over to the aid station and decided on a single serving sized bag of potato chips, a fun sized Snickers bar, and a cup of Coca-Cola. Once I had taken in the calories, I felt 100% better. I think I was already off on my salt ratio because the potato chips were like manna from heaven.

After the aid station, the course turned into a great stretch of downhill. Where I had been logging 15 minute miles on the way up, I was logging 12 minute and under miles for the next 4 miles. I was feeling like a whole new person and I started to think that I could actually make it through this crazy ordeal.
Tunnel! I had to use the flashlight on my phone to get through it. It was neat!

My "Ooh! A tunnel!"face. 
I was really beginning to enjoy the race, but by the time I reached 13 miles, I was pondering where that next darned aid station was. I was starting to think that somehow I had taken a wrong turn or something (which is really tough to do on this course). It turns out the aid station was just farther down that I had been told and I hit it at 14.5 miles. I enjoyed another Snickers bar and some watermelon. On my way out, I grabbed another handful of potato chips and ate as I walked. I am not one of those people who can run and eat at the same time. My stomach takes exception to that.

I was pleased to see that I was moving along well ahead of the cut off time for the 20 mile check in. I just had to be there by noon and I had about 30 minutes of cushion. I just kept motoring along and was still feeling so much better than I had earlier that day. The first two hand cyclists passed me between 16 and 17 miles in. That's tough stuff, right there. I was wholly impressed with the 5 of them that were there.
The Dominion Trestle! My favorite part of the course. 

It's a heck of a climb to get up to this point though. That's what power hiking is for, right?
I was so happy to have made it to the aid station before the cutoff, and extra happy because my first drop bag was there waiting for me with a 20 oz. bottle of Coke, some Slim Jims, and sunscreen. I ate up a bunch of orange slices, grabbed the Coke, transferred it to the bottle on my hydration pack, snapped into a Slim Jim, and headed back out from the aid station, after going through the second tunnel, of course.

It was at this point that I caught up to Coral. She was having some stomach issues that were slowing her down. I tried to lift her spirits as I passed, and it wouldn't be the last that we saw of each other that day. The miles to the next aid station passed by easily enough and as I checked in at mile 26, Coral's husband and dog were there. It was nice to see some friendly faces and chat for a bit. The man at the aid station was also very nice and helpful. He asked if my feet were doing alright, and at that point, they were. I told him I was on track for around a 13 hour finish and I was feeling great! It didn't take long for that all to change.

Around mile 30, I could feel a blister rising up on my right heel. No big deal, right? I have a drop bag with fresh socks and shoes at mile 34. The day was starting to take its toll on me though. We had gotten out of the shade since the sun was now straight up in the sky. And it got hot. So very hot. I slowed down so much in those 4 miles, the blister was really starting to scream at me, and I struggled through mile 33 so much more than I thought I would.

When I finally made it to the aid station, I found a chair and started to work on getting my feet to be happier. The blister was only about the size of a dime, but it was tight and angry. I took a pin from my bib to pop it (I hardly ever blister, so I didn't have a proper blister kit with me) but it wouldn't go down. So I coated it in Trail Toes, put on clean socks and a change of shoes, and hoped for the best. I spent far too long at this aid station. I was just trying to psych myself up to keep going for another 16 miles. I was still ahead of the cutoff, so that was good. I drank the rest of the pickle juice that I had packed with me, it works wonders on cramps, FYI, got more Coke in my bottle, ate some potatoes, and headed back out after my 15 minute intermission. This is where Coral caught me again. We stayed together for about a mile after the aid station. I had started feeling better again after getting my shoes changed so I ended up going at a slightly faster pace that Coral. So we said our goodbyes and good lucks.

At this point, I was implementing a run/walk ratio of .15 miles of walking with .10 miles of running. It really worked out well. I was able to keep that going reliably though about mile 47. When I rolled into the second to last aid station (7.5 miles to go), I knew that I was going to be cutting it close to the 14 hour time limit. I was on track to come in under, but just barely. And with 7.5 miles to go, anything could happen. So I asked the aid station volunteers if I would still get my finisher spike and jacket if I crossed the line just a few minutes late. They radioed the finish line and found out that would be fine. I didn't want to come in after the time limit if I could help it, but I was getting so freaked out about it that I needed some reassurance that a finish line would be there when I got there.

By now, I was tired, but at the same time, I was starting to feel exhilarated because I knew I was going to make it. My feet hurt, sure, but my legs were okay. The muscles were trained well enough to take me through to the end. When I reached the last aid station, I heard them radioing in that I had just checked in. I yelled to the radio operator "You tell them that I'm going to make it!". I ate more watermelon and headed out. I was within cell service range so I pulled out my phone to let my mom know that I was only 4 miles out. When I turned my phone on, it was flooded with text messages from my friends, cheering me on. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the supportive people I have in my life. I wouldn't let myself open all of them and read the messages while I still had 4 more miles to go. That would be my finish line treat.

I pushed through those last 4 miles, feeling so amazed that I was really doing it. I thought back through the day, about how I had wanted to drop out in the first 2 hours. The ups and downs of the day, floating around in my head. I was going to make it. Through it all, I had set out to do this and I hadn't given up. When I hit the junction where the trail turns to road, there was a man standing outside of his truck. I thought he was a volunteer, so I yelled to him "I'M GOING TO MAKE IT!!!" He looked a little confused, and that's when I realized he was just a random citizen, out enjoying the evening. But he was nice and our conversation was as follows: "That's great! How far?" "50 miles!!!" "Seriously?!" "Yes! And I'm going to make it!".

I saw Coral's husband again, running up the road to go meet her. And I yelled the same to him."I'M GOING TO MAKE IT!!!" This quickly became my mantra, as you can see. He cheered me on and I pushed through to the finish stretch. I started to get goosebumps when I hit the dirt path that would wind through the trees to the finish arch on the park's grass. They could see me coming and I heard them announce that I was going to beat the time limit! I gave it all I could, which felt fast, but in retrospect really wasn't.
I made it!!!

And then I cried like a baby.

2 seconds to spare, ladies and gentlemen. 2 seconds. 
I had done it. Over 50 miles in one day. I am honestly still trying to comprehend it over a week later. I was so thrilled to just sit down and take my shoes off. My mom was there to help remove my shoes, and when she did, oh boy. That little blister that I had had turned into a gigantic blister. And it had gained a twin on my other heel.

I think the blisters came from all the grit that got into my shoes on the trail. Gaiters can only keep out so much... While I sat there, people brought me food and chocolate milk, congratulated me, and I was able to meet the other two Idiots who had done the 50K, Crystal and Kathy. We were all waiting to welcome Coral to the finish, because, she too, was going to make it. We saw here coming to the end so we all gathered to make a human arch for her to run through. It was a most epic finish.
We are one badass group of ladies. 
I am so proud of everyone who competed out there today. My brother took first in his age group for the 12K; all of the Idiots finished what they set out to do. As I mentioned before, processing this feat has been a bit surreal. It's not always easy to find the words to express how it feels to make through something that I wasn't sure that I could.
I learned that first hand that day.
I am feeling so much more confident now about the things that I have planned for this year and next. I can do anything I set my mind to. And so can you. So can anyone. The thing that gets in our way the most, is ourselves. And now it's time for the swag shots!
The shirt is so cozy. You need cozy after 50 miles. 

The coveted finisher's jacket and railroad spike. 
So there you have it. I didn't die. And I even enjoyed myself for the majority of those 14 hours! I'm hoping I enjoy my 100K, 24 hour, and 48 hour races for the majority as well. The next race on the schedule is the Capitol Reef 50K, on July 11. That one is going to be gorgeous. Stay tuned for the next report, hopefully stating that I didn't die, yet again. Until then, happy running!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A marathon, a triathlon, and a half marathon all walk into a bar...

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been three events since my last blogging.

On May 30, I completed my 11th marathon, the Jordan River Marathon. This race was a big deal, because it was Jamie's last race to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs (which she did, in spectacular style, with cookies and everything).

Remember how the Ogden Marathon was so cold and wet? Well, this one was just the opposite. It was so hot for this race. By the first aid station, I was already pouring water over my head and dreading mid-day's arrival.
It may have been warm, but what a sunrise!
It was a pretty run along the river. I don't really run there much so it was nice to see some new scenery. The course was an out and back course, which I really didn't mind. The race was small enough that I was actually looking forward to seeing the other, faster runners on their way back. Plus, I got to go through my favorite aid station twice! I was happy to see that the aid station had Coca-Cola and ice. It was a little slice of heaven on a long hot run.
Not the worst place to be running.
For quite a while, I was pretty sure that I was in last place but it turned out that I beat 7 other people somehow... I really wasn't concerned about my pace, since I knew I had to run more after to get my 31 miles for the day. The only thing I didn't like was at the end, when I was very overheated and ready to be done, I still had to go past the finish arch and do a lap around the parking lot before I could be done. That was rough.
Commiserating with Jamie about the heat and having to go around again before I could be done.

FINALLY coming into the finish.
At the end of the race, we got free waffles from a very tasty waffle truck and then we were handed lots of extra stuff, hats, bananas, Dr. Pepper. We walked away with a nice haul of goodies, along with the sense of badassery that comes from completing a tough run.
Sassy, classy marathon ladies. 
The next weekend was our family triathlon, the Daybreak Triathlon, out in South Jordan. My brother, Alex, was our swimmer and my other brother, Jason, was our cyclist. We opted to tackle the Olympic distance and see how it went.

We got there with plenty of time to get marked and set up in the transition area. The lake looked nice and calm, but the dark clouds were ominous.
Getting ready to get in the water. Whee!
The skies did open up while the swimmers were in the water, but thankfully the rain had stopped by the time Alex was done and Jason needed to take off on the bike.
Swim! Swim for your life!

So happy to be done with the 1500 meter swim.

We switched the ankle timer and Jason took off!
 We got through the transition pretty smoothly and then set to work getting Alex peeled out of his wet suit. He started coughing up blood, which didn't seem like a good thing, so he went over to the paramedics. It turns out that he had gotten swimming induced pulmonary edema because the wet suit constricted his chest too much. They told him what to watch for and if it got worse, he would need to go to the hospital. Thankfully, it cleared up quickly and he's fine now.

I got all prepped and ready to run when Jason got back from the bike portion. The ride was supposed to be 26 miles, but his Garmin only showed close to 20... He followed the route perfectly and didn't miss any turns, so we don't quite know how it was so far off.
And he's back, time to switch the ankle timer and run!
It had actually warmed up considerably by the time Jason had finished, So I knew I would be running conservatively. Heat is my downfall. So I just set myself on cruise control and just focused on moving steady and keeping my heart rate from spiking too high.
Starting the first lap of the run. 
Because we had signed up for the Olympic distance, I had to do two laps around the lake to get the mileage in. It was supposed to be 6.2 miles, but the course was half a mile longer than that. I was pleased to see that my pace was dead on for the distance though. It's always satisfying when I can stick to a plan.
Finishing and happy to be done with another hot run.

Swim! Bike! Run!
It was another good experience for Team T-Rex and we're looking forward to doing more in the future. Alex is also thinking of doing some longer swim-only races, while Jason just registered for his first 60 mile bike event. It's safe to say, we're enjoying our chosen sports.

And lastly, yesterday, I completed my 65th half marathon, the Utah Valley half. I had done this one last year and enjoyed it, so why not again? It was a good last longish run before my 50 mile race next weekend. The best part of the race itself was the Boy Scout aid station. Those boy scouts put out quite a spread! There was a whole dutch oven meal if you wanted it. Since I've been training my body to eat during long runs, I've been getting so hungry during races. I was more than happy to grab up some dutch oven potatoes with bacon to help fuel me through the rest of the race.

I was also excited to meet two of my Daily Mile friends in real life, Jill and Wade. It's been so fun to meet more and more running friends through racing. We all had a good time yesterday and are looking forward to hanging out at more events.
I like running. Running is my favorite. 

Their slogan is 100% correct. 
So there you have it. Now I can fully concentrate of freaking out about the 50 miles I'm supposed to live through this coming Saturday. I've scheduled my massage, planned my drop bags, and had a couple of minor meltdowns, so I guess that means I'm as ready as I'll ever be? I'm really mostly worried about finishing in the time limit. I've pretty much figured out that I can go the distance, it's just a question of how long that will take me... And that's why timed events are my new favorite thing. Anyway, look forward to a detailed report of hopefully epic proportions in the near future.

Until then, happy running!