Sunday, May 29, 2016

The May race report!

I'm so proactive on this race report that I'm doing it before the end of the month. So basically, I am winning at life. I do have one more race for this month, but it's just a free little local 10K for Memorial Day. I don't know that anything crazy will happen during it, but I'll be sure to report on it if I find a dead body or something else runners are known to do.
I took a break for the first weekend of May so that I could support Scott in running a half marathon at his pace instead of mine. As his significant coacher, I was very curious to know what he could really do. It turns out, he can run a half marathon roughly an hour faster than I can. It was most impressive.
Coming in at a speedy 1:43 and change.
The next weekend, we headed down to Vernal for my favorite half marathon, the Dino Half. I've run this race every year since it began. I have a three minute window of time that I finish this race in every year, too. I was happy to keep that trend going this year.

The weather was perfect, which was a nice change from all of the stormy races I'd been having. The hotel catered to their running guests by serving breakfast earlier than usual. It was nice to have an actual breakfasty breakfast before a race for once. Most of the time I'm eating a package of Poptarts or a peanut butter sandwich in the car on the way to the start.
I got these for the mornings when I can't choose between one or the other. 
The race started and we were off. Scott made a habit of jumping over the cones along the race course. There were an awful lot of cones along this course, so by the end he was starting to regret his life choices. I was just trying to keep moving forward, neglecting the up and down jumping motion. We finished up the race and got a little fuel to head back out on the race course. We had told our friend, Cevan, that we'd come back up to keep him company while he swept the course.
Photo credit: Cevan Skinner.
We ended up with an extra 3.5 miles for the day. In my mind, that little extra is TOTALLY going to help me survive Bear Lake.
Half marathon rock stars. 
The medals for this race are always incredible.
Swag from the race. As always, great stuff!

I was feeling pretty ready to run the Ogden Marathon the next weekend. And then I got sick. Throat burning, fever and sniffles, sick. I left work early on Wednesday to try and get over the worst of it. And by Friday, I was thinking that I was feeling well enough to tackle the race without much difficulty. I am so funny sometimes.

So I meet Jamie at the bus loading area and we head up to the start. Last year, it poured rain the entire race. I figured there was no way that it could do that two years in a row, but I made myself a trash bag poncho just in case. And it's a goof thing, too, because when we got off of the bus, the rain was already coming down.
Trying to be marathon mermaids in our space blankets and trash bags. Photo credit Jamie Eckles. 
We sat around getting rained on for over an hour and a half waiting for the race to start. I was doing my best to try and stay positive about running in the rain. After all, I had my trusty trash bag. Sure, I was starting to feel sniffley again, and my throat was starting to feel raw again. But I had my trash bag! My head was soaked. But I had my trash bag!

The race started and right away, I could tell that things felt weird. My body was really struggling, my breathing wouldn't settle. But I had my trash bag, so I just kept going. I actually HAD to keep going so that I didn't freeze to death. The trash bag was keeping the rain off of most of me, but my jacket collar was wicking water down onto the rest of me. So I was plenty wet. At least it helped keep the wind from cutting through too badly.

I couldn't see my watch because it was buried under my jacket sleeve. So I just tried to run by feel, and my feel wasn't good. I was only walking through the aid stations because if I tried walking at any other point, I would start to shiver. I hit the half mark at about 3:02, which seemed too slow for how nice the course is. It's a lot of downhill so I knew that something was not quite right. There were people dropping out at various aid stations due to the weather. But I am a stubborn gal, so I just kept slogging along.

I thought I was doing much better than I was. I didn't feel that I had slowed as much as I had. I was just pushing the best that I could, to keep warm. The weather finally did break and I was able to feel some sunshine warming my black plastic trash bag. I kept it on for a few miles, not trusting that the sun would stick around. But after I started steaming in my trash bag, I decided to let it go.

I was happy to feel some warmth finally, but I was really feeling drained. Since I didn't have to keep running to keep from freezing, I ended up walking much of those last 4 miles. My breathing felt rough and my heart rate was not where I wanted it. By the time I came into the finish, a new storm cell was rolling in and I got pelted by a little more rain before making it to the end.
Not feeling fine, at all. At least it looks like I'm moving alright. 
Scott, his son, and my mom were all waiting at the finish so that we could go have our celebratory meal at Rovali's Italian restaurant. As we sat down and began to eat, I could barely get anything down. My body wasn't having it. It let me sip on my hot chocolate and eat my minestone soup, but I had to do it slow. I haven't had eating issues after a race since my first few marathons. I tried to eat my lasagna but I could only get a few bites in.
The rain ate my race bib.
By the time we made it home from the race, it was clear to me that I was still sick. Really sick. I had developed a wicked cough that is still with me as I write this. But I had another marathon to run, and so I did!

The Jordan River marathon was yesterday. I had been out late the night before, watching Scott's band play a rockin' show.
If we're not running, we're rocking.
I managed to get three and a half hours of sleep before the race. No big deal, right? I had gotten decent sleep the whole week before, so I should have been fine. But, surprise surprise, I wasn't! I am playing a game right now that I call "sick or allergies?".  Basically, it's me trying to figure out if I am still sick or if my allergies are so bad that I feel like I'm dying.

The race had 86 people in in. That means that when it started, everyone else took off at break-neck speed and left me plodding along behind. No big deal, it's not the first time and it won't be the last. I tried to keep a positive attitude, but I felt horrible, physically, so it wasn't easy. I spent most of this race all by myself. One lone girl, race bib pinned on, zombie shuffling her way down the trail. I hoped that there were still racers up ahead of me, so that the regular trail users would know I was actually in a race and not just playing dress up.

Scott had driven to the finish and was going to get his miles in for the day by running up the trail to meet me and then running with me until the end. He ended up with 2 more miles than he needed because of how far behind I was. I was 16 minutes behind where I should have been when he caught up to me, and it got worse from there. I was only able to shuffle out 15-16 minute miles. Everything in my body was rebelling. My stomach was resisting my attempts to eat my gels. My lungs were resisting attempts to breathe. It ended up taking me 6:32:39 to finish. By some miracle, I beat two people. Don't ask me how it happened, because I honestly don't know.
Smiling because I am done and don't have to run anymore. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
We went out for our post race meal, and I had the same stomach issues that I had after Ogden. I kept feeling nauseous. I would eat a couple of bites and have to stop so that it didn't come back up. I was completely and utterly exhausted and even my beloved queso and chips couldn't save me. If I could have gotten more of it in me, maybe it could have.
Two shirts from this race, the bottom one is amazing. The running party is the best party. 
So after weeks of feeling like I'm going to die while running, I should really find out which ailment it is I am suffering from. Allergies? Possibly. Sick? Possibly. My cough isn't going away, so it may be time for a trip to the doctor. But we all know that runners are no good at going to the doctor when something is wrong.
If I don't go, I don't have to ignore them when they say "no running allowed".
So that brings y'all up to speed on my month of "racing". It's a loose term at this point. June is going to be nuts, so hold on for that train wreck. Until next time, happy running!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The April race report

So now that May is 2/3rds over, I am finally getting around to writing about the races I ran in April. I'm really trying to get caught up, I am. Writing has never been an easy thing for me to do, so getting myself to sit down and get it done is always a struggle.

But here we go! The first race that I ran in April was the Behind the Rocks 30K. I enjoy any chance to head to Moab, and running a race there is always a pleasure. Behind the Rocks was no exception. I had never been to the area where the Behind the Rocks trail is. The area isn't well advertised and that's not at all a bad thing. I just wish that the dudes on 4-wheelers didn't know where it was...

The race started out on a hard packed dirt road, but turned to slick rock, single track, with more dirt roads interspersed. The weather was ideal, the scenery was lovely, the runners were friendly. The trail was mostly well marked, although I did miss a turn a time or two on the slick rock, but was able to correct my course before I got too far off.

I had been sick for most of the week before the race, but that never stops me from showing up to run when it's race day. I felt alright for the first couple of miles. The new scenery helped to keep my mind off of the tiredness I was feeling. But by mile 7, I was feeling pretty awful. I was just really drained, so I mostly just walked. I didn't start feeling better until mile 18, Since the race was only just over 19 miles, I got to enjoy that last little bit, at least.
The famous stopping my watch shot.
I really enjoyed the race itself. The organization was good, the swag was nice, the course was a good kind of challenging. It would have been nice to feel better during it, but that's nobody's fault but mine.
My first ever finisher cowbell.
The next race that I ran was the Salt Lake Marathon. I had run the half marathon at this event the past two years, but Jamie had talked me into doing the full this year. I wasn't really looking forward to it, since road marathons always stress me out. (So why do I keep doing them?!) The first few miles went by pretty well, then I tanked pretty hard around mile 6, which is a weird time to bonk in a marathon. I was worried that I wouldn't make it through the whole thing. I had started to consider dropping to the half instead of turning off at the split for the full. But around mile 10, things started to feel better so I decided to give it a shot. I'm glad that I did, because I felt better and better as the race went on.

I ended up finishing with my third fastest marathon time, ever. My splits were incredibly even for once. The second half of my race was very nearly as fast as the first. That never happens to me.
Photos courtesy of Scott M. Stringham. I have no idea why I'm pulling a face that looks like Beaker from the Muppets.
Marathon #15.
I was registered for the West Mountain Marathon the very next week. I realized when I arrived at the start line that this would be my first time running marathons on back to back weekends. I was feeling pretty prepared though, since Salt Lake went so well. The weather was not looking good on race morning, so much so that the race director changed the course to an out and back instead of a loop so that he could keep track of the racers better.

I had prepared for the weather by making myself a rain shell out of a trash bag. I'd seen runners do this before and it seemed to work for them.
Some shots from the course. 
The sky looked like it was going to let loose any second, but the race started and we were off. As we ticked off the first couple of miles, some blue sky started appearing in the west. I'm a Utah native, so  I know not to trust the weather, ever. So I kept my trusty trash bag rain coat on until mile 11. I only took it off then because the sun was roasting me alive in that black plastic. But I was wearing my elastic race number belt, so I tucked it into the back of the belt and ran with it for another few miles, just to be safe.

The weather decided to be pretty nice, for those first 13.1 miles before the turn around. At the turn around, we got hit full in the face with wind gusts that hit 30 miles per hour.
It looks so peaceful. But the wind was about to give us hell.
The wind kept up for the entire second half of the race. I had been feeling alright for the whole race, and I did manage to pass a couple of people in the last bit. But the wind had really taken its toll by the last couple of miles. Scott had run up the course to meet me, and get some of his miles in for the day. I'm sure he enjoyed the choice words I had to say every time a gust hit us. I still managed to finish the race only 5 minutes slower that I did at Salt Lake the week before.
Close to the finish now, photo courtesy of Scott M. Stringham.
It was a pretty little race, and I didn't mind the course change because things always look different on the way back.
Marathon #16.
The next weekend, I was supposed to run the Salt Flats 50k. I had signed up for it quite a while ago and had forgotten the very important fact that the race was on a Friday and not a Saturday... Oops. So I had booked my hotel for the wrong night, asked for the wrong time off of work, and all that.

Scott and I had already made plans to have dinner with his friends, who live out in Wendover, so we decided we were still going to take the trip anyway. I emailed the race director about my mistake and asked if he needed any volunteers for Saturday, since the 100 miler would still be going on. The race director was really nice and offered to roll my registration over to next year.

We made the trek out to Wendover, had a lovely time with Scott's friends, got a nice 10 miler in the next morning before heading out to take over the last aid station for the 100 miler.
Hiding out in the car while wind gusts and rain battered the aid station. Photo by  Scott M. Stringham.
Once we got to Wendover, I didn't feel so bad about not getting to run it. The rain had gone non-stop basically all week leading up to race day and the Salt Flats had been turned into a lake. A lot of people had to drop from the race due to the elements. I was happy to help the runners that were left finish up their race.  It was really neat to see them come though at mile 95 and see their determination to finish those last 5 miles, even with all they'd been through.

I'll do a May race report after my race next weekend (hopefully). I need to have everything caught up so that the Bear Lake triple will get its own blow by blow, because it's not going to be pretty.

Until next time, happy running!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I forget that I have a blog...

I have been so busy the last little bit, that I completely forgot that I have a blog that I should be writing in. I'm working too much, and not running or writing enough. I also got engaged three weeks ago, (WHAT. That's so crazy, I know.) so there has been a lot of wedding stuff thrown in to the mix.

I've got 5 new races to report on, but I'll just tackle two in this post and the others next week (hopefully). I ran the Zion Half Marathon again this year. I tried something novel this time. I tried running the whole thing without walking. Okay, I did stop and walk for a moment to take my jacket off and one moment to refill my water bottle at mile 5. But other than those two tiny moments, I ran the whole thing!  And guess what. My time was SLOWER than last year's where I let myself take walk breaks. Lesson learned.
Photo courtesy of Jamie Eckles. 
The week after Zion, I ran the Monument Valley 50K. I was nervous at first about this race. The race Director is Matt Gun, and he doesn't do easy races. I wasn't sure that I was recovered enough from Jackpot and that my training might have been less than ideal for this race. But once we got down to Monument Valley, I knew I wouldn't be dropping to the half. I needed to run the 50K, just to see all of the incredible scenery up close and personal.
Mitten Butte, right outside my cabin door.
Packet pick up was held in a hogan, the pre-race briefing included a Navajo sunset prayer ceremony and some traditional songs.
White corn flour being used for the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Scott M. Stringham.
We wrapped up the evening by eating Navajo tacos and watching the stars come out over the gorgeous desert landscape.

Race morning dawned and we headed to the start line for the sunrise prayer ceremony and the start of the 50K. Scott was running in the half marathon that started an hour later, but he came with me to the start of my race to see me off. After getting me on my way, he was able to wait for his race start in a hogan to stay warm.
Sunrise with the Mitten Buttes, just before the start.
The first couple of miles of the race are on a hard packed dirt road that leads past the main formations of the park. As the sun kept coming up, the red rocks began to glow in the morning light.
A view of the Three Sisters formation.
The firs few miles went along pleasantly. The surroundings were breathtaking and it made it so easy to forget that I was running. After the first aid station stop, we headed out on a single track trail called the red loop. Every turn of a corner on this loop brought another amazing sight,

The single track was not too technical, and it made for some very enjoyable running. Towards the end of the loop, the sand started, But it wasn't too bad just yet. Another stop into the aid station and I was out on the white loop. The white loop was my favorite loop, except for the sheer amount of sand that we had to run through, This loop had all of the arches and windows of the race.

By mile 15, we'd been running through deep sand for hours. I had to stop and dump the sand out of my shoes. So much had gotten in that it felt like I had sand orthotics in my shoes. I thought dumping out the sand would have made more of a difference but by mile 18, there was just as much sand in them. I didn't feel like stopping and dumping them out again so I finished the race with piles of sand in my shoes.

I should have put more water in my pack at the second aid stop, because I ran out of water around mile 17 and had to go another 30 minutes without anything to drink. By the time I made it back to the aid station, it felt like my tongue was how it is in the cartoons where the character sticks out their tongue and there's a cow skull and cactus on it.

I spent quite a bit of time at the aid station, getting rehydrated and fueling up. I think I overdid it a bit because my stomach was a little unhappy for a couple of miles as I headed out on the last loop, the blue loop. The blue loop started with a hard packed dirt road that turned off into a sandy single track trail. MORE SAND. I was starting to develop Post Traumatic Sand Disorder.
Oh sure, it looks innocent. But try running 20 or so miles in it and then decide.
This is the only part of the race where I hit a slump. I was feeling gross because of overdoing at the aid station, the sand was slowing me down, and I knew that the giant 1500 foot climb up the mesa was still to come. So from about mile 20 to 22, I was pretty grumpy. But then, the sand ended and we got to go back to packed dirt road until the climb started. I started feeling better and got some good running in on the road.

The climb up the mesa was a very narrow trail, strewn with big rocks that liked to move around when you stepped on them. There were runners coming up and going down, so it made for a lot of stopping and stepping off to the side to let people pass.

A view from the climb up.
This is the only part of the race that I had specifically trained for. I knew that this climb was going to come after I was already starting to feel fatigued, so I had been doing an hour on the stair climber at the gym after my session with my trainer. I taught my body to climb even when it was tired, and it paid off. I kept a steady hike going up the mesa and ended up passing quite a few people.

When I got to the top, the views were breathtaking. It was totally worth it. Also at the top, the trail was incredibly runnable. Nice soft single track, not sand.

There's the finish line! Somewhere in that speck of civilization.
I hit the turn around, punched my bib with the hole punch to prove that I'd made it, and turned around to head back down. I was feeling great at this point, since the hardest part was over and it would be less than 10 miles to the end. I cruised along the top of the mesa to start my descent. There were still a good number of runners coming up the mesa, some 50K runners, some 50 milers.

Coming back down was actually just as difficult as going up, due to the steepness and all of the giant rocks. You couldn't just bomb down the trail because too many of the rocks would slide out from under you. Plus with the other runners coming up, it was just too dangerous to go crazy on the way down. I made it down without too many scary slips of the feet and made some good time back on the dirt road. The only problem with the white loop is that is wasn't really a loop, it was an out and back, so I had to go through that damn sandy single track again. I had hit the end of my sand tolerance and just trudged through it until I hit the road back to the aid station.

I just grabbed a cup of Coke with ice on my way through and asked how far it was to the finish. I couldn't remember if the race was a long 50K or closer to the standard distance. I was ecstatic to hear that there were only 3 more miles to go until the finish. I knew I was going to come in well under the cut off time, and it was all dirt road back to the finish line.

I took off down the road at a decent pace and was able to hold it pretty steady until some of the steeper bits. I hiked up the steep parts, ran the downs and flats, and was in pretty good spirits for that last chunk of the race. Scott and my mom were waiting at the finish line. He had a great race in the half, finishing in the top 10%.
Scott finishing his race, looking strong!
Excited to have finished a tough race!
I finished! It was tough and beautiful and can we come back next year?!
I relaxed at the finish line for awhile with my Scott and my mom. We chatted with some other finishers and took some great photos. If this race isn't on your list, I think you should add it. It's a challenge, but the cut off times are generous. It took me 10 hour and 14 minutes to complete this race, but that was 46 minutes ahead of the cut off. The Ultra Adventures crew puts on an amazing event. They take great care of you at the aid stations (bacon quesadillas, anyone?). The location couldn't be beat. And we wrapped up our trip by participating in a sweat lodge ceremony.
Hanging out by the hogans.
I love the ceramic mug!
I can honestly say that this race is my favorite that I have ever done. I hope that I am able to go back again next year. Scott says that he would love to run the 50K next year so that he can see more of the park. The half marathon runs the red loop and the Wildcat Trail but misses the climb and all the arches, But in those 14 miles, he had his favorite running experience to date as well.

I promise to try and write about the other 3 races very shortly and get back on track with regular reports. But until then, happy running!