Sunday, November 27, 2016

November Race Report

Perhaps the title to this episode of blogging should be "Running Ultras Without Proper Training" or something to that effect. But I would hate to advocate for that sort of nonsense.
Back on Memorial Day, Scott and I were waiting for the start of the 10K that we were running that morning when an email came in from Mad Moose Events, promoting their Dead Horse Ultra event in November. There was a 30K, 50K, and 50 mile option. I told Scott I would like to do the 30K. He was feeling much more ambitious that day and talked me into running the 50K instead. His reasoning was that he will already have run a marathon by that point, so why not just run an ultra? I've created a monster.

So life happened, as you've all read about in the blogs since May, and to make a long story short, we weren't quite ready to tackle 30ish miles through the desert. A couple of weeks before the race, I had attempted to do a back to back long run weekend with 10 miles on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. The 10 went fine, the 20 imploded just before 11 miles and I made Scott come pick me up and take me home. Then we had a 15 miler the week before the race where my body betrayed me and I had to spend an embarrassingly long time in a gas station bathroom. I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic about the 50K after all that.

We made it down to Moab and arrived at packet pick up with 5 minutes to spare before it ended for the night. They did have packet pick up available race morning, but I always feel better if I have my stuff the night before. After we checked into the hotel, we met up with Jamie for dinner at Zax. We had talked Jamie and our other friend, Polli, into running the 50K as well.

We arrived to a chilly start line, but there was a variety of hot beverages to be had while we waited for the starting gun.
It's c-c-c-cold. But gorgeous. Photo courtesy of Jamie Eckles. 
The race starts right off sending the runners straight up the Gemini Bridges road, so there was very little running on my part early on. I don't run straight up anything very well.
Making my way up, slowly. Very slowly. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
It took a few miles of climbing before things leveled out and we were able to start making up some time. After about an hour, it was time to fuel, but I was having a really hard time getting the Lara Bar to go down. It's not that my stomach was upset, but I wanted to gag every time I took a bite. So I gave up trying to eat it and waited for the aid station. I knew we were close, so I wasn't too worried about getting caught in too much of a calorie deficit. I was able to drink Coke and eat potato chips at the aid station without feeling like gagging, so that was a good sign. I grabbed some candy to take with me as we continued on and that went down fine as well.
Feeling good now that the trail is flatter and the sun is warming us up. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
We started knocking out some decently paced miles after that. The sun was up and making things much more pleasant, temperature wise. And then we got lost. Both of us missed a big yellow sign with an arrow on it and we kept heading down the double track dirt road instead of veering off onto the slick rock trail like we were supposed to. I stopped for a moment and looked around "There aren't any blue trail markers here.". To which Scott replied "But there's footprints.". So we kept going, all the while I'm lamenting the lack of trail markers. We finally spotted a group of runners up ahead. The only problem was that they were running towards us, and not away from us. As they ran past, they told us to turn around, that they were lost. I knew it. We had been seeing markers about every 50 feet and then to not see any for that long meant we were off track. So we headed back the way we came, found the turn, and continued on the proper way. We added just over half a mile extra to our race. I was just glad it wasn't more.
Back on track, enjoying nature's wonders. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
As we approached the second aid station, there were quite a few people spectating and cheering. One guy sure looked a lot like Scott Jurek. I didn't think much of it, besides thinking that he looked a lot like Scott Jurek. Then the lady at the aid station, who was cooking up delicious quesadillas, casually mentioned that it WAS Scott Jurek.  So then we all freaked out and fan-girled for a moment. "Scott Jurek said we were looking good! Eeeeeee!".
There was a man taking pictures. Thank you, man taking pictures.

Scott (my Scott, not Jurek) running along like it's no big deal.

I wolfed down quesadillas and potato chips with wonton abandon. I was still having difficulty with eating the bars I had brought, but the real food at the aid stations was going down fine. We headed back up the trail, slowly winding our way gradually up to the middle aid station. It was over 7 miles from the last aid station and I was starting to curse the distance. Aid stations are wonderful little oases and I always find myself wishing there were more of them in ultras.

We finally reached the aid station that marked the halfway point. We refilled our packs, applied more sunscreen, drank copious amounts of Coke, munched down more potato chips, and headed back out. We knew that we'd be going mostly downhill until the end, with the exception of a little steep uphill around mile 28. So we tried to take advantage of gravity helping us out, and we did pretty well, for a while.
Trail running heaven. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
We made it to the only cutoff with an hour and a half to spare. It's not that we were moving at a terrific pace or anything, the race just had generous cutoff times. Once we made it through the check point at mile 21, we knew we were going to make it just fine. Which was good, because at this point, the slick rock was starting to take its toll.
After a while, the slick rock makes you want to die. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.

Slick rock is fun to run on, for a bit. But after, say 20 or so miles, it starts to make your feet and knees wish that you weren't running on slick rock. We were starting to long for the double track dirt road again. When we finally made it back to the road, we let out actual cheers of joy. We hit the last aid station and knew there was only 4.5 miles to go. Unfortunately, more of it was uphill than we had realized it was going to be, so it was slow going those last miles. We were both pretty wiped out at that point (probably from that whole lack of training thing). But we slogged along and eventually made it to the finish line.
And we weren't even last. Photo courtesy of Jamie Eckles. 
So basically what we can all learn from this is that you can train sporadically and half-assedly and still finish a 50K, provided the time limits are generous and you have a high pain tolerance. That's not really a good take away... maybe use this as a cautionary tale to inspire more training if an event is on the horizon?
Cautionary swag, from my 5th 50K.

If that's not cautionary enough, you can now imagine running a half marathon 4 days after a 50K that you weren't ready for. I'll give you a little insight on how that goes.

I run the Thankful 13 every year on Thanksgiving. I find it's a nice way to start the holiday and give me an excuse to eat ALL the food at Thanksgiving dinner. Because I always think I am going to be ready for the things that I sign up for, I didn't think much of it being a mere 4 days after my 50K. I should have really put more thought into this whole thing...

Scott was signed up for the 5K, so he could run really fast and win awards and stuff, which he did, placing third in his age group. Meanwhile, I was out trudging through 13.1 miles of cold, sore miles. It was pretty, though.
It was worth taking my gloves off once, to get this shot.
I felt okay for maybe 2 miles total of this race. The rest of it felt like I had run a 50K in the desert the Saturday before. My hamstrings were throwing a royal fit, my knees were crying, and my lungs kept trying to leave my body. It was good times. But I'm too stubborn to quit, so I crept towards the finish line at a snail's pace. Scott was waiting to run with me to the finish. I crossed the line in 3:04:54, which I think is my slowest finish on that course. All that matters is that I made it though. Medals matter.
Half marathon #85, wrapped up.
I've got one last race lined up for the year. Thank goodness it's all about eating and having a good time. Y'all should check out the Baker's Dozen half and get signed up if you can. It's the perfect way to wrap up the season.

Until then, happy running!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The rest of October race report!

It's time for the rest of the race reporting for October. After the St. George Marathon, I got a couple of weeks to try and recover/get ready to run a stupid hard race out at the Dugway Proving Grounds. This is a very unique race. You have to pass a background check before they'll even let you on the base to run.

Dugway is basically in the middle of nowhere. It took nearly two hours of driving to get there. But when we arrived, it was actually a very pretty place.
And the sunrise was stunning. 
Scott and I were in for the 30K. There was also a 5K, 10K, 20K, and 50K happening out there as well. Due to the difficulty of the courses, the father the distance, the less people were running. There was a grand total of 11 people in the 30K. ELEVEN whole people. So I knew that I was going to be last. And since Scott insisted on running with me, that meant he would also be last.
Back of the packin' in the sunrise. Photo courtesy of Scott M. Stringham
The course started off fairly easy, and I was feeling alright to start with. Until just after mile 4 when I tripped on a rock and took my first ever fall during a trail run. Whee!  I wasn't too badly hurt, it was mostly just a shock. I did just kind of lay there in the dirt for a minute, trying to decide if I was broken, but eventually I got up and dusted myself off.  I found out that running after taking a fall is kind of difficult for me. I was overly cautious for the next few miles. I kept stopping to walk even though the terrain wasn't bad because I was nervous about falling again.

I finally calmed down and got my act together just in time for the course to get stupid hard. So there was 4000 feet of climbing in the 30K. That's a lot of feet, you guys. And I was smack dab in the middle of the (insert swear word of choice here) Whole 30 program. I basically had no energy and wanted to die by the time we started climbing up Scorpion Tail and then the Widow Maker. The race director has a sense of humor and all the points of interest and climbs had names.
I want to believe. 
There we are in front of Dugway Stonehenge, with some other choice shots of the course. Photo courtesy of Scott M. Stringham. 
As we were slogging up the relentless climbs, the people from the shorter distances started passing us like we were standing still. I guess one can be pretty peppy when one is only running 3 or 6 miles. There was a colonel from the base running the 10K and he was giving everyone within shouting distance inspiring pep talks. "THIS IS YOUR COURSE OUT HERE TODAY! YOU ENJOY IT!"

I was trying to enjoy it, but being completely drained and malnutritioned, I instead started writing depressing songs in my head and gave myself a band name. Look for an album of melancholy running and hunger songs from Heather's Body and the Sadness coming out sometime when I actually learn to play an instrument.
This would make some sweet album art. Photo courtesy of Scott M. Stringham. 
After about four hours, we completed the first 11 miles of the course. Unfortunately, that meant we had made it back to the start/finish line and had to head out for another loop. It's so cruel to lead your runners to the end, just to make them head out for more. The people from the shorter distances were finishing up and receiving their medals. One of the volunteers asked if we were done, we said no. Then he asked if we wanted to be done. That's a dangerous question. OF COURSE I FRIGGING WANTED TO BE DONE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME I AM LITERALLY DYING.  We politely declined his offer to be done and refilled our packs to get ready for the last loop.

They had cold Gatorade at the start/finish aid station and even though it's not Whole 30 approved, I knew I needed some. My fingers were swollen and it was getting difficult to bend them. That's not a good thing, in case y'all were wondering. So I drank that Gatorade and felt no guilt because I'm fairly certain it's the only reason that I made it though the last 9 miles. I definitely had a boost in my mood after drinking it. We even managed the ri-friggin-diculous climbs up Scorpion Tail and Widow Maker faster than on our first loop. It was a running miracle.
Jabba the Rock endorses Gatorade. 
After the tough climbs, we got to slytherin down the other side of the mountain.
Side note and fun fact: see that burlap sack behind the sign there? That means there's an "unexploded ordinance" there. During the pre-race briefing, the race director told us to watch out for things that could blow you to smithereens, aka unexploded ordinances. He said that they had marked the ones that they had found with bags, and if we were to find any, we were supposed to build a cairn by them and move on. So not only did I need to worry about snakes and tripping and falling on my face, but also possibly getting blown sky high. And because my brain was so carb starved, I had the hardest time remembering what the "o"word the race director had used in naming them. So I kept making up new "o" words to call them. "Hey Scott, do you think that's a regular cairn, or one marking an unexploded origami? Unexploded orthodontist? Opthamologist? Organism? Oregano?", and so forth. It was an entertaining way to pass the time while remaining aware that we could die at any moment.

We made it to the finish line in just under 7 hours total. That's basically a 20 minute mile average... But we didn't get blown up, and to my surprise, I received an award for second in my age group. Make no mistake, Scott and I were dead last, but there were only two women in my age group. They had 6" shells that had been fired there on the base as the age group awards. Unfortunately for Scott, his age group was nearly half the field and he was fifth in his age group, so he didn't receive any military debris. He did win a pair of super sweet running socks in the raffle though, so we both came away with a little something extra.
Shell, medal with a UAV on it, and comfy shirt with course map. They had some nice swag.
We had just one week to recover from Dugway before we ran the Haunted Half. In my mind, I was thrilled to have a downhill half marathon coming up. Then race day arrived and it wasn't nearly as magical as my daydreaming had lead me to believe it would be. First of all, we had to sit in the very back seat of the bus. This is super fun when you're a little kid. It is not super fun when you're an adult and the bus is going up a winding canyon. The back of the bus gets a lot of extra swerve going on. Secondly, the bus driver got lost. So I got to spend nearly twice as long getting motion sick in the back of the bus.

When we finally made it to the start, I was ready to puke my guts out. Getting off the bus was the only thing I wanted in the world right then. So of course, they made us sit on the bus for approximately forever before they could pull up five feet to let us out. Once I was free of my bussy prison, we met up with Jamie, Tennille, and Teresa. Jamie and Tennille were dressed as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Teresa was decked out in exercising ghosts, Scott was a mideaval warrior, and I was in my muscle suit.
Photo courtesy of Jamie Eckles. 
The muscle suit made people yell things like "Go Titan!", which confused the crap out of me until later that day when I found about about this thing called "Attack on Titan".
So I guess I'm this dude now. 
There was one family that kept following their runner throughout the race. Their runner must have been just behind us, because we saw them probably six different times during the race. The little girl in the group lost her mind each time she saw me. "GO FEMALE TITAN! WOOOOOO!". At least I could bring her some joy as I slogged my way through that half marathon.

There was no joy for me, since I was 2/3rds of the way through the Whole 30 program and had yet to feel any benefit from it. I was a broken shell of a human being (well, a broken shell covered in muscle print fabric) by the end. We squeaked in just under three hours for a course that should have taken half an hour less. Scott enjoyed it though, because he could eat what he wanted and is super good at running anyway.
Trying not to die on my end, enjoying the lovely day on his end.
And thus I finished half marathon number 84. You'd think they'd start getting easier or something...
Great shirt and medal this year.

Close up of the medal detail.
So there you have it. October was a rough month. But I finished the Whole 30 program last week so maybe I can get back to feeling like myself again. I have the Dead Horse 50K this weekend, which of course I'm completely unprepared for. My training runs have been absolute crap thanks to cutting out nearly everything my body loves for 30 days. Maybe I can eat enough carbs between now and Saturday to fake my way through another ultra. Stay tuned to find out! Until then, happy running!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

St. George Marathon Race Report!

Now that it's November, I guess I can finally get around to writing about the races of October. I am finally all settled in my new house with couches and internet and everything, so I'm out of excuses. But because I want to give them their proper due, I'll just go over one race here and then the other two in another post later this week.

October kicked off with the St. George Marathon. I was certainly not ready to run a marathon, since I have been at level zero in my running for months now. But hey, who am I to waste a race entry? I was mostly certain that I could beat the cutoff at mile 23. So Jamie and I, plus another of Jamie's running pals, headed down to southern Utah for some marathoning fun.
You have to stop in Beaver on the way to St. George. It's mandatory. Photo courtesy of Jamie Eckles.
After we made it to packet pick up, chatted with legendary ultra runner Cory Reese, and ate our weight in breakfast foods at the Cracker Barrel, we headed down to Mesquite, Nevada. The hotels in St. George on marathon weekend are pretty pricey, so we were staying with another friend of Jamie's that lives in Mesquite.

Staying in Mesquite meant that we would be waking up around 2:30 a.m. to get back to St. George in time for the bus loading. Yay. I've run plenty of races with sleep deprivation so what's one more?

I didn't need sleep. Honest. Photo courtesy of Jamie. 
I guess I should talk a little bit about my level zero state before I get into how this race went. I have been having issues with my heart rate being ridiculously high. Like over 180 during my long runs. Needless to say, that's been concerning. I do believe I have a handle on the issue now, but I certainly didn't when it was time to run St. George. Now back to the race.

I started out super conservative, checking my heart rate obsessively. Any time it got over 160, I would walk to bring it back down. I wasn't making the greatest progress, but at least I was moving forward. I did my best to keep calm thoughts in my head. No need to add negative thoughts and stress to my situation. I knew that would just make my heart rate go up. I saw my nemesis cruise on past me, and I had a moment of panic. My nemesis had never beaten me in a race before, but it seemed like today might be the day.
I knew that worrying about someone else's race wasn't going to help me with mine, so I went full on zen and just let it go. What right did I have to think I could beat someone who'd been doing the work when I hadn't? Humble zen, ladies and gentlemen.
Once I decided that I needed to worry about only myself, I was able to enjoy the scenery. The St. George Marathon is a large race, so I was never by myself. There were always people around and they were all friendly and pleasant. So we back-of-the-packers would take turns passing each other, stopping to walk, take pictures, and get Icy Hot slathered on us by the ample body of volunteers.
It really is a pretty marathon course. 
I kept an eye on my heart rate and the cutoff time and knew I was going to be okay. By some miracle, I was moving fast enough to make it on time to mile 23. I wasn't feeling great. I wasn't feeling good. I was surviving. But around mile 20, something happened. I don't know if it was muscle memory finally kicking in, or some blessing from a benevolent running god, but I started to feel good. Then good turned into great.

I had run/walked/wogged 20 pretty crappy miles and now, all of the sudden, I felt like I could run forever. So I ran with it (pun intended). I never know how long these feel good bouts will last so I try to take advantage as long as I can. I was running my fastest miles of the day and it was sweet. I made the cutoff with about 25 minutes to spare!

Just after the aid station at mile 24, I started to walk as I tried to dig my chapstick out of my water bottle pocket. As I did so, I saw my nemesis coming from behind me. Somehow, I had passed him and not seen him. I immediately forgot about my need for chapstick and took off running. There were only two miles to go. I could do this. I could keep my unblemished record and beat him again. I rarely get competitive with my running, you guys. Because basically everyone runs faster than I do. But in races where my nemesis is involved, I get extra motivated.

My feeling good kept up all the way to the end and I crossed the finish line with a smile on my facea and ahead of he-who-I-always-try-to-beat. It's so nice to end on a high note. I know that for me, if I end a race feeling good, even if it's just the last mile, I will always think fondly of the race.
Swag from marathon #23. How have I run 23 marathons?! That's weird.
Some of you may remember that I mentioned having a plan for improving my training in my last post. That plan involved getting my nutrition sorted out. So on October 11, I started the Whole 30 program. I'm on day 23 and I'm still waiting for it to be awesome. Because let's be honest, not eating dairy, grains, sugar, and everything that you love, sucks. It sucks big time. It's the biggest suck that ever sucked a suck. I guess you guys get the gist of how I feel about it.

But in all seriousness, it's supposed to be making me feel better. Everyone keeps telling me to keep with it. It's going to be worth it. Blah blah blah. I'll stick with it, since I've made it this far. Quitting now would be like dropping out of a marathon at mile 25. I've added some vitamin B supplements to help with the overwhelming depression that's been the highlight of this eating plan. I am also more tired than I have ever been. Like ever. I get home from work and I'm ready to pass out and never wake up again. The only good thing that's happened on this program, and I can't say for certain if it's even correlated, is that my resting heart rate is finally back down to 55. It hasn't been that low in months.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for the Dugway and Haunted Half report coming soon! Until then, happy running! And eat some carbs for me, while you're at it.