Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grandma's and a coach!

Hi guys, how's it going? Long time, no blog! I still promise a Superior 100 run through but an update first!

So here we are, four days out from Grandma's and guess what? I'm running it again! It's been four years since the last time I ran Grandma's and three years since my last road marathon. More importantly, though, and what made me decide to sign up again, it's been ten years since my first marathon! Ten! So I felt like I should commemorate by running it again, even though I made a face every time I mentioned it :) Originally, I figured I would just run it for fun however, here's what I've been up to this spring - I went and got a coach!

It feels a bit weird still telling that to people. Who am I to get a coach? It all happened kind of quickly, really, but I think mostly things just fell into place at the right time. I had already been pondering making the splurge of a coach if I got into Western States, to help make sure I could be completely ready for it. I didn't get into Western States (no surprise there, as a first time lottery entry, I would have been shocked if I DID get in) but I have a good friend who has a coach. We would run together during the beginning of the year and the more she talked about her workouts and coach, the more I felt ready to do this NOW. I clearly did an okay job training myself for Superior since I was strong throughout the race and finished happy. But maybe I actually didn't do a great job, since I tore my knee 80ish miles in. So goal number one and my main drive for getting a coach is making sure I am the best prepared for Wasatch that I can be. I don't want to hurt my knee again and want to make sure that if something like that happens, it won't be because I've got muscles that are weak or I did something stupid in training. Goal number two (right now anyway) is to see how fast I can run Voyageur in 2017 or really, just a generic goal of "let's see how fast I can be with some help." On top of everything, it was getting late into February and it was time for me to start upping my long runs again but I just didn't seem to be doing it on my own and so some extra motivation sounded good too. So I met with a guy and decided to give it a go and I've been an athlete of Superior Performance since mid-March and have been loving it! Mostly what he has me doing involves things I already knew how to do but had stopped doing on my own (weight lifting) or didn't know how to really incorporate what I knew into 100 mile training (thresholds, speed workouts, etc). It's been great to have a plan to follow again and paying someone helps hold you more accountable for getting your ass out the door when you're on a trip with family but still need your long runs in.

So I've been running a lot of miles and running a lot of fast miles. I ran Chippewa Moraine 50K in April as a have fun race with no taper, figuring I'd be breaking my Ultra-PR streak from last year but hey, that couldn't last forever, right?

Except I ended up racing really well and getting an 11 minute PR and a 17 minute course PR (Chippewa can be a surprisingly hard course to run well on) with a 6:03!

And I came away knowing I could have broken six hours had I pushed harder from the turn around. Very awesome! While I had only been with my coach for just over a month at the time, so maybe it was too early to say that it helped a ton already, but at least having a coach was clearly not being detrimental to my running!

My main race of the year is Wasatch 100 (in September) but I decided in talking with Jason (my coach) to make Grandma's a B race and see how my speed is. So, here we are! It's weird going into Grandma's without stressing about it. I'd love to be fast but if things don't line up or my legs aren't good for short/fast again yet, that's fine too. I've been doing lots of speed work but none of it is marathon pace specific so I don't have a good feel for my pace, which makes me unsure of what my legs are going to think of things. It's looking like it'll be warm, but that's okay. It's not looking like 90s and high humidity so I've done worse, right? I'll be wearing shorts that will hold my inhaler, just in case. I'm excited to take my "new" (since my last road marathon) ultra toughness into roads and see what kind of difference that makes in the mental game in the second half.

Monday, January 18, 2016

2015 in quick review!

2015 was an amazing running year! Be forewarned - there are way too many exclamation points ahead.

I ran a PR in every ultra I ran (because finishing your first 100 counts as setting a PR, right?)! I ran two adventure races (ie, not in my own backyard)! I finished my first 100 mile! I was able to go on what was essentially a week long running and relaxing vacation out west with my husband!

100K - Miwok in April in California. An almost an hour and a half PR! An amazing fun travel race with friends and my first solo 100K (no pacer, no crew)! This race is super runnable and not at all technical with a finish cut-off that required an hour PR if I wanted to make it. My wheels came off HARD heading down a sixish mile downhill to the 49 mile aid station. Up next was turning around and heading right back up that six miles to an aid station with a cutoff. I'd have to move faster uphill than I did downhill in order to make it. There was no way I was coming even close to making that cutoff but after less than ten minutes of sitting/laying down and getting my legs and head back (and NOT eating soup despite the promise that that aid station would have some), I grabbed a long sleeve and extra gel for the slog up and headed out anyway, figuring it made for good time on feet for Superior. I made the cutoff by two minutes and found some amazing strength of mind and body that was definitely needed with Superior coming in the fall. I then made it to the finish with 23 minutes to spare and an hour and a half PR. This picture is from mile 59/60/somewhere in there when I was flying and feeling amazing again!! It's taken by Glenn Tachiyama and I found it very necessary to pay for this photo so I could have it!

50 Mile - Voyageur in July. An exactly 40 minute PR in nasty hot temperatures! I ran smart, took some risks, and didn't let the heat get to me. This awesome finish came complete with a gorgeous top ten mug (9th woman!)! I really need to get a better picture of it.

50K - Rampage the Roots in August in Montana. A few second PR! But, this was following an awesome, high mileage, mountain miles, training week. At some altitude and in some gross smoke at the beginning. And after about 20 minutes of sleep since I spent the night making a great spontaneous decision to help crew a friend doing the 100 mile, which resulted in laying on the side of the road with my eyes closed lots but with little actual sleep. As well as making an effort to NOT be racing hard until the last few miles. Here I am immediately post finish.

100 Mile - Superior 100 in September. This will get its own post, I promise. Because it's too awesome to not relate - you'll be amazed at my lack of remembering of details, though. I guess when you're going for 36 hours, it's okay to not remember exactly when something happened, including if it happened to be light or dark out at the time of said thing happening :) Anyway, the only real goal was the finish. If pushed to name something, I had a fast sounding A goal based on my Voyageur and Wild Duluth times, a B goal based on simply beating the sun on day two, and a C goal of running any time under cutoff that didn't start with 37:something. So C goal accomplished (36:34) after tearing my left meniscus somewhere in the mile 75-80 range. Details to follow. In the meantime, enjoy what's probably my favorite picture from the race. Taken by Kelly Doyle at mile 90ish, while we're coming down from Carlton Peak.

So an amazing running year for me! I'm excited that I finally seem to be figuring out this ultra thing and have the years of base mileage to start running them faster. This year I already have a brutal sounding adventure 100K planned in July - just north of Rocky Mountain National Park. Apparently it's mostly not on any actual trail, with a bunch of creek crossings, and a 24 hour cutoff. Bonus that it's a qualifier for Western States, if I decide to keep putting in for that lottery. Happy trails to you! You'll be seeing more blogging from me this year.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Here comes Miwok!

It's almost Miwok time! I'm super excited - I feel well trained and ready to go! I'm not a crazy high mileage person and can remember not so long ago when I was excited to get mileage in the 40s. I had a step back week this training cycle that was in the 40s! I cranked out a minute plus PR in an 8K and everything feels strong and ready to go.

There was some last minute momentary excitement when it was announced that the Forest Service wanted us off the trails by 8 pm, leaving us with 15 hours but the race director was able to fight back and it's back to a 15:30 cutoff. This gives runners another 30ish second per mile and for me, it was a good mental boost, too. I had decided to not be worried about a 15 hour cutoff so how could I possibly be worried about a 15:30? I even got a last test of my breathing a couple of weeks ago. We had some suddenly hot weather (almost 80 degrees!) and it was my last good long run. Around mile 16 or 17, I started to feeling my breathing issues coming on and by mile 18, my breathing was ramping up pretty bad. For some reason, I decided to wait to use my inhaler until Ron and I reached our water drop. Of course, by that point, I had to sit for a bit and while my inhaler calmed things down, it didn't work completely and I had to walk another mile or more and the rest of the run, my breathing felt like it did at mile 16/17. However! Once I got home, I realized that the reason the inhaler only partially work was due to . . . operator error : ) So! Now I know to use the thing as soon as symptoms start (instead of waiting for it to get bad) and I know the right way to use the silly thing, too.

I'll be flying out to San Francisco and doing the race whirlwind style since I don't have a lot of vacation. Which means flying out Friday morning (and leaving Duluth ass early so I can take the shuttle and not worry about driving home Sunday night) and flying back Sunday! Since I'll be doing little but sleeping and running, I'm able to fit everything into a carry-on + "personal item." Now, I was a bit concerned about this at first since I tend to pack my running clothes on the heavy side, one of everything style.. What if it suddenly decides to be 30 degrees and raining? What if it decides on 80 and sunny with no warning either way??? How do I pack for all contingencies AND fit my Nathan pack AND shoes AND potential drop bags in one backpack? No worries, though, I was able to pack one of everything with plenty of space.

I almost don't dare talk about the weather since that's sure to jinx things up, but it's looking lovely so far. The highs are in the mid to high 60s. That makes me super happy, but I know I'll be okay regardless of the weather. I'm hoping for not fog so we have the gorgeous views it looks like we'll have!

If you're interested in tracking me, it looks as though UltraLive will be doing tracking through the aid stations. So head to: http://www.ultralive.net/miwok/webcast.php (for some reason, I'm having issues making the link clickable). I'm number 66. Race starts at 5 am San Francisco time, so 7 am Minnesota time. Keep in mind that these won't be instant chip timing updates - updates will depend on volunteers having internet coverage and typing everything in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ramblings on my ultra family

The ultra running family is an amazing group of people. We just lost an incredible member of our family in Aaron Buffington this morning. I didn't know him super well but I felt like I did and I'm taking the news hard. He was part of the ultra family and something in that just bonds you together. A friend of his started a fundraising page for him, as he had been fighting cancer for over a year and you can imagine the medical bills can't be cheap. We smashed past the original goal in the first day. A week later, it's sailed past $10,000. Because trail runners are amazing, caring people. The last time I saw Aaron was at Sawtooth. His brother was running the 50 mile Saturday morning but Aaron was at the start of the 100 mile Friday morning and I saw him in the middle of the night sometime at Crosby-Manitou. He'd been feeling more tired lately but here he was, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere because his ultra family was here and he wanted to see them and cheer them on. I wouldn't have even seen him had my runner not decided he didn't need me to pace right away. We had a lovely chat and I left feeling like he was going to be okay. I sent him a card just last week and he responded with such a nice, selfless message back.

When I was interviewed for a "one year past the Boston bombing" article, the guy from the paper talked about how he heard from other runners that there had been this sense of increased belonging and togetherness in the time since. He was asking if I noticed and felt the same way. I didn't have a good answer for him and there wasn't a good way to express it at the time without sounding like a jerk (and I'm not sure it's coming out right now, either) but this belonging, this togetherness, that's just how it always is with my ultra family. And it doesn't depend on speed or distance or gender or social status or even if you happen to be injured or doubting your desire or ability to run ultras. Aaron was part of that and I wish we could have spent some hours together on the trail in the coming years.

He's left behind a wife and a two year old son. Here is Stephanie's message from this morning: "Aaron lost his 13-month fight with stage 4 kidney cancer at 4:50 this morning. The race is over; he sprinted to the finish line. Tomorrow is our 11-year "dating" anniversary. Aaron stopped letting me celebrate it after we got married, but today, I celebrate and honor him and our 11 years together."

Aaron, I'm glad you sprinted it in and are free of your pain and worry.

If you feel so inclined, Stephanie will still need help with medical expenses and you can donate here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Miwok 100K and 17 ultras

Everyone knows how I make race decisions, right? It tends to take a while. If I had a dollar for every time I talked myself in or out of doing Wild Duluth 100K, I could buy some new trail shoes. Seriously folks, it was so ridiculous I was laughing at myself. For new races, I like to know everything I can about a race, before I commit. I like to read race reports and check out weather. What's the terrain? How much is single track? Who do I know who's done it before? Etc, etc.

So, recently I've been looking at my plans for next year. Sawtooth is there in September but I wanted something else longer before that. I decided I don't want to have another go at 100 miles until Sawtooth - Wild Duluth gave me the confidence I had been looking for when I planned Kettle last year, so that meant looking for a 100K, if possible. The thing is, 100Ks aren't super easy to find. I'd been thinking about Black Hills for a few years but hadn't realized until recently that they had a 100K option, so this looked like a good opportunity to finally head to that race. And then Black Hills announced that they were dropping their 100K distance. Argh. Apparently, I had decided more firmly on this option than I thought, as the announcement made me pretty peeved for a while and back to the drawing board I went. I found a couple races I was interested in and was looking to round up some friends to join in when a friend facebooked me on a Tuesday night and said "Hey, here's a 100K I'll be at. There's a lottery that closes at midnight tonight, you should sign up!" I was not-shockingly a bit uncertain. I thought it sounded like a good idea but . . . Things to know, first! Things to look up! I can't make a snap adventure race decision! She finally told me, "Stop being so analytical and sign up!" I did end up waiting until the next day since it turned out the lottery didn't close until Wednesday but had push come to shove, I would have signed up Tuesday.

So! My first big race of the year - Miwok 100K on May 3. No looking up of every detail! No gathering a posse of friends to join in! I guess that fits the spirit of an adventure race better, huh? Lottery names were drawn on that Friday and not only did I get in but so did my friend and her husband and another friend of theirs. So at least I'll have a couple people I know out there with me. There were about 900 people in the lottery and just shy of 500 allowed in, if I remember right, so chances weren't too bad at all. My first solo 100k (I ran Wild Duluth without a pacer but I had crew). It's looking absolutely beautiful from everything I've seen. A bit exposed so it might be my first chance of the year to test my inhaler one more time but I've also heard that running the course backwards from last year will get us through the super exposed sections first and into the redwoods when it's getting hotter. It's a 15:30 cutoff, which is a bit scary but I feel better about it when I think about Wild Duluth from this year.

Part of the lottery registration process for Miwok was to give a number of how many ultras you've raced. And not a general number 1-5, 5-10 etc, they wanted exact! Though, I imagine approximations are just fine but I realized I had no idea how many I'd done, which meant I had to go count them out. So - if you count Sawtooth, T-bunk, and Kettle (which I do since they were all around 50 miles) I'm at 17! Holy cow. And I've only been running ultras since Wild Duluth 2010. I keep recounting because that number can't be right, but it is. So here's to many more happy miles in 2015!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


So! Breathing! It's a good thing, I highly recommend the practice. Especially while running.

The Monday after Kettle, I knew I needed to make an appointment and I still didn't feel quite right. The problem, of course, being that noone is going to feel quite right after 50-something miles and three hours of hyperventilating. Anyway, my doctor is awesome and she was able to fit me in right on Monday, just in case something serious was going on. Crew extraordinaire Lisa agreed to come with me, which was super helpful since she can speak doctor talk and had been there to witness what was going on during the race. The consensus there was that it sure sounded like asthma. A bizarre form of exercise induced asthma. So I was prescribed an inhaler and we scheduled a spirometry test to confirm.

I went in for that in the middle of a day. There was lots of breathing into a doo-hickie that measured the amount of air being moved. Pushing air out fast, pushing air out long, taking a quick breath in, etc, etc. Then they had me inhale a bunch of Albuterol (what the inhaler is) and do some of the tests again to see if I had better results. A fascinating side effect of a boat-load of Albtuerol is becoming super hyper and shaky. And by super hyper and shaky, I mean, can't-really-type-hands-are-shaking-so-hard shaky and super-hard-to-concentrate-on-doing-just-one-thing inability to concentrate. Needless to say, it was an amusing rest of the day at work and I made my coworkers giggle at me a lot. So the results of that test came back and . . . negative for asthma. Hm.

A couple weeks after this test, I did a 42 mile run with friends. It was not a hot day at all (chilly and foggy) but it was rather humid. I brought my inhaler along just in case and was super paranoid about increases in breathing around the 30 mile mark (oh my god! I'm breathing awfully hard! Oh, right - I'm going uphill) but ultimately had no need for an inhaler. Which meant I must need humidity AND heat for 30 miles for this to kick in.

Next up was another test called a methacholine challenge where I did some basic breathing tests and then they tried to induce an attack. I was a little nervous about this at first just because the idea of inducing an asthma attack didn't sound like fun. Then I remembered, oh yeah, I spent 3+ hours stumbling down the trail in what appears to be a full on asthma attack, what is there to be nervous about with inducing it in a doctor's office? Apparently, this test is generally not the first one ordered because a positive result doesn't necessarily mean you have asthma but a negative does generally mean you don't have it so it can help to rule things out. This was right before Voyageur so I was hoping for results before the race. My doctor gave me the green light to do the race as long as I was comfortable so I was planning on doing it, regardless. The test itself involved some baseline measurements and then inhaling increasing amounts of irritants several times while repeating some breathing tests. Then they had you take Albuterol (though happily, not as much as the first test) and repeat tests. I didn't notice any sort of difference throughout the test which I decided was a good thing but then decided maybe they didn't mean to really induce something and it was all going to be measurable but not noticeable different. Happily, results came back fairly quickly as . . . negative for asthma. Hmmm, again.

So, Voyageur time. I do still plan to do a brief race report but - my breathing issues started right on cue around mile 27, on my way back to Magney. This time, I noticed that my fingers were going tingly BEFORE my breathing was picking up too much, which I filed away as interesting. I suffered a bit through the next section, moving quite slowly and walking most of the way down Skyline. When I came into Beck's, my breathing was high but not Kettle level hyperventilating yet. I decided to try my inhaler. It wasn't supposed to work, since I was testing negative for asthma but I figured it wasn't like it was going to hurt and I was super frustrated. Lo and behold, it worked. Almost instantly! Double hmmmmmmmm. I also decided during Voyageur to not run Sawtooth until I had some sort of a handle of what was going on. Voyageur did at least help me know for sure that this isn't a weird psychological thing since I had no reason to be stressed/worked up/under pressure at Voyageur. I knew going in that I would treat it as a test of things and that it was a good race to do so at since it had lots of aid stations and I would know people at every one of them.

Next up was a echo stress test to rule out any sort of heart related cause. This was SUPER neat since I got to watch them do an ultrasound on my heart for a good 20 minutes straight. SO COOL! Then they put me on a treadmill and increased the speed and incline by bits while hooked up to an EKG, the goal being to go until you couldn't keep going. The guy getting things started mentioned that a normal athletic 30-something women goes for about ten-twelve minutes and that it would max out after 16 minutes. Now I had a challenge! I did in fact make it to the 16 minute mark, which I felt oddly proud about. Then it was back to the ultrasound to take some more images while the heart was fired up to see if anything was functioning differently. The EKG girls told me they didn't see anything abnormal but the ultrasound woman was rather nonverbal, which I know they're supposed to be but I was so hoping to come out of the test knowing something without having to wait for the cardiologist to read everything and report back. In the end, there was nothing abnormal there, which was fabulous.

Then it was to a pulmonologist, who wasn't super helpful. He said there was another test I could do but he figured I would test normal on that too. I mentioned that the breathing tests I had done before had specified that I couldn't eat/drink x number of hours before the test. I questioned if he knew how necessary that was since it would be great if I could run 30 miles and THEN come into the lab for tests. He thought that was a great idea. So now the lab is willing to schedule me late in the day and have me come up the back stairs, skip the registration, and head right in. The problem with this (beyond needing to time a 30ish mile run to end at an exact time, oi!) being that this was in mid-September, they need at least a week notice to schedule the appointment (which is totally reasonable), and I need a hot/humid day to assure this isn't a waste of time. So that's not going to happen until next year if I decide to do it at all.

The last test of the year, then, was Wild Duluth 100K. It was gorgeous day out. Not hot, not humid, but it was a long race, so that would give me some data. I carried my inhaler just in case but I had no breathing issues, huzzah! Which means this isn't anything to do with something I might be doing differently on race day vs training. Though, another long race in nice conditions would be good to solidify that.

So! It requires heat AND humidity (though, to what degree, I don't know) and it needs around 30 miles to kick in. I'm calling it a bizarre form of exercise induced asthma that just has very specific conditions it needs to kick in. It makes sense to me that it's not showing up on lab tests because the lab tests aren't replicating the conditions (which is why doing a test post 30 mile run would be great). So for now, I'll carry around the inhaler just in case and go from there. I would like one more hot/humid run where my issues kick in so I can test the inhaler one more time before deciding for sure that's what I'm dealing with. I'll keep you updated if I learn anything new, though I don't expect much over the winter.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kettle: A photo esay

I very much owe everyone a Kettle post, huh? It was a frustrating result but mostly I haven't posted simply because I haven't taken the time to sit down and type. So now what you get is a lovely photo essay. Most photos courtesy of my awesome friend and crew, Lisa.

I loved the start of Kettle. There are lots of runners but the first seven miles are on ski trails so there's plenty of room for spreading out before the single track. I loved to watch the people in front/around of me all run down a hill and in unison walk up the next hill. I settled in with "Pink Girl" (she had a pink skirt on) and we chatted for a few miles before I took a quick pit stop. I found Wayne and we enjoyed a tasty pastry snack from the first (crewless) aid station before he made me go ahead. As we hopped onto single track, I was already getting a bit alarmed at how hot it was feeling - the sun was blazing and I was trying not to be concerned about how that boded for later on. I had forgotten that the predictions were for the sun to go behind clouds mid-morning and stay there and that is, in fact, what happened!

First main aid station at Bluff! I came in with Brian Woods, who is a stellar guy and great to run with.

Goofy looking picture of me. I'm wearing arm sleeves because it was sort of chilly at the start. Also, I had gotten myself so used to wearing them as an extra layer of heat when trying to get used to heat that it was hard to remember that I could take them off since this was the race I was trying to get used to heat for :) So I rolled them down my arms and then ditched them here.

Coming into Emma Carlin. Behind me (though not in the picture) is a girl who had crew who would come down the trail a good quarter mile or more. He'd find out what she wanted and hoot and holler for her the entire way in. It was amusing since I only was with her a couple times and he'd cheer a little for the other people around her, too.

This crew guy also asked what her strategy was for the upcoming meadows section. She said she figured she'd run for 15 minutes segments and then take a walk break. He insisted she run for no more than ten minutes and preferably eight at a time. This was great to overhear as I promptly decided to take a similar plan and run for no more than ten minutes at one go since I had also been warned of how taking the Meadows too hard will come back to bite you. I had no idea what to expect out of them and was braced for some nasty exposed miles.

Coming into Hwy 67 - after the Death Meadows (that's what they're labeled on the race shirt map). For your reference here is a Kettle newbie guide to the Death Meadows, in three sections. Part One: This isn't bad. There's hardly any meadow, actually, just that first part. Maybe it's only bad when it's really hot out? I'll stick to my plan, though. No more than ten minutes at a time, even if it's flat. Part Two: Okay, I can see how this would suck in open sun but it's really not bad today. Rather pretty, in fact. I'll still keep to my run/walk plan, though, because everyone warns about this section. Heck, I can see where they could have made the trail go to make it worse, at least we aren't just going back and forth across it. Part Three: OH MY GOD. LONGEST THREE MILES EVER. In this weather, though, a person was easily able to laugh at how silly it felt (and I did with a guy who was near me - turns we were both feeling like it was a never ending section) but only because we had a nicely cloudy sky.

Coming into 67, I was all smiles. I also requested that Lisa refill my gel flask without adding ginger ale this time. Which got me a confused Lisa since she, in fact, had not added ginger ale at Emma Carlin. Fascinating. I would discover later (not even during the race, I don't think) that adding a particular flavor of gel makes it taste vaguely of ginger ale. Generally not a bad thing, just not what I was looking for then. But I was so sure that there was ginger ale in there, it was very surprising to hear that there wasn't.

Here I come into ZZ. This little section was lined with pinwheels, which made me smile. It was also guarded by a women holding a pinwheel. Since we turned left to do a tiny out and back to the aid station she was there to make sure people were going the right direction. This next section is a little cruel. From ZZ, your crew walks about 200 yards down the trail to Scuppernong. Meanwhile, you turn around and run a 5 mile almost loop of mostly ski trail to get there. Ski trail which butts up against a campground right about the time a person might be needing to duck into the woods again . . . Stupid campsites.

Scuppernong. The start of my problems. Or rather, just before Scuppernong. As I was coming into this aid station, I noticed my breathing was picking up rather more than necessary and was a bit alarmed. I took my time at this aid station (also the turn around for section one). The top of my left foot had been bothering me for a bit, too, and I figured I just had dirt or something in there and rubbing around. So I took the shoe off. Nope. What I had instead was some sort of impressive looking heat rash which I really wish I had taken a picture of. By the end of my race my feet, ankles, and knee (where I had a thorn stuck in there from Wednesday's run) were all very impressively hived up. So not actually heat rash but some sort of allergic reaction. In any case, this is what was around my ankles at Sawtooth and I put it down to my gaiters but clearly that's not the problem. We're thinking it might be related to my breathing symptoms since they've been coming together. Anyway, I left my shoe off and walked around the aid station barefoot since it felt better to air it out. Much to the great amusement of Lisa and Marcus. So I sat down and ate some and then went on my way.

This section was not good. I was starting to hyperventilate quite solidly, which induced some panic over not wanting it to happen again. I sat down on a log until I calmed down. Granted, the breathing was still bad but at least I was calm about it and not making it worse. Somewhere in the single track, Wayne caught up to me and continued to cruise along. He was in for a fabulous race and I was impressed with how strong he was running the single track since he claims to hate the stuff. I'm on to you now, Wayne! So here I am, climbing a little hill coming back to ZZ. Despite my inability to breath, you'll notice I seem to be laughing. Off camera was Marcus telling me to run up the hill and me promptly making a rude gesture with my middle finger. So I had to sit down at ZZ for much longer than I wanted, in order to get my breathing down. They were also out of ice except for one large and very solid chunk. So Lisa wrapped it up in my buff and that went around my neck and lasted for most of the next ten miles.

I think this picture is from Maranda. I spent the next two mile short section focusing on moving but not pushing and hoping to drop my breathing down that way. This was a bummer since this is a super fun little smoothish dirt section that was uphill on the way out and I had been looking forward to cruising down it. I kept things easy, though, and that worked really well.

I came back into Hwy 67 feeling a ton better. Breathing was pretty much under control and I was hopefully that I was able to drive it away.

There were also beautiful blue butterflies floating around at Hwy 67.

At Hwy 67, they had a large tupperware box filled with water and a wash cloth so I took my shoes and socks off to air out my hived up feet and washed everything down. Arms, face, legs. And then the wonderful Maranda says to me, "Do you mind if I wash your feet?" I couldn't figure out how to respond to that - of course you can but why on earth would you want to? So here I am all drowned rat but really feeling quite lovely to have the sweat and sunscreen rinsed off for a bit.

It was good to start the next section feeling more refreshed because with the second pass through the Meadows came a low. The first section was okay. I filled up on ice in the hat but the neck ice buff was going strong. In the second section my legs started feeling tired and I saw on the water table while refilling my hat ice. In the third section, I came to a point where I was very suddenly unable to handle ANYTHING. Grump, grump. Then the mosquitoes hit. I had on a tank top and a Nathan and those damn bugs were finding all the bare skin that I couldn't reach to swat them away. I ended up taking off my ice buff since all the ice was gone and I was heading down the trail, whipping the thing back and forth across my back and my shoulders and my legs, trying to keep the bugs away. I was not the only person doing this, which only marginally made me feel better. At one point, close to the end, I was so frustrated with everything that I had these little frustration tears just leaking out of my eyes. So very sad. Now, coming into Emma Carlin, you parallel a road for about 100 meters and then you cross it to get to the parking lot where the aid station is in. So coming up to the road, I saw Lisa and told her, "I can't handle ANYTHING right now." She reponds, "You can handle Rick" and points down the road to . . . Rick waiting for me!!!

Now, Rick was in the area but he was there for a wedding and thus I didn't expect to see him until maybe the finish the next day, if he was able to get away. It was so fabulous to see him at Emma! He helped me get covered in bug spray and reminded me how much I wanted this finish and it was just a fabulous treat to have him there.

Around this time Lisa made a comment along of the lines of, "I'm going to take pictures of you even when you feel crappy" except that made me laugh and somewhat spoiled her crappy-feeling-Sam picture.

Lots of bug spray. Though, funny enough, the next section was not buggy at all. Maybe I repelled bugs for a 20 mile radius. Or maybe I was too busy being unable to breath to notice a bug problem.

So. Here we are at Emma Carlin. 8.2 miles to Bluff. 3.2 miles to the unmanned aid station, Horseriders. I picked up my trusty pacer, Marcus, and we headed on our way. By the time we made it to Horseriders, I was already uncontrollably hyperventilating. Marcus had me try laying down on a picnic table bench there and it seemed to help maybe a little but then it plateaued out so I was just laying there getting rained on and cold and not breathing right while someone else was trying to poach my pacer to go down the road for a cell signal. We took off again, to prevent Marcus from being stollen and figuring we weren't getting any closer just laying here. After all, it's only 5 miles to Bluff, I'll be fine.

The next bit took a really long time. The 8.2 miles took me 3 hours and 47 minutes for a stellar average of 27 minute miles which means much slower than that by the end since I was able to run for at least some of the first miles. I couldn't get my breathing under control. Eventually I was wheezing with every breath. Sitting didn't help. Trying to take slow, guided breaths didn't help - I could take a couple in a row max but then I was definitely not getting enough air and had to go back to rapid breathing. We were moving so slow that Marcus could text Lisa in the dark behind me. I remember there being an issue with my handheld because I had forgotten to switch the batteries and I think I switched to holding my headlamp? I don't remember a lot of the timeline here, stuff is a bit mussed up in my head.

Throughout a lot of this section, I was hearing music that was following us. No really, Marcus could hear it too! I first thought it was maybe the aid station despite the rational part of my brain saying they wouldn't let them have music that loud this late. Ha. Not even close to it being the aid station. It was acting like it was a van driving a road that paralleled the course - it never got closer or farther away, though it did change directions. I'm curious what the trail was doing (it had to be winding something crazy there) because we decided it had to be a bar with a band that we just weren't getting far enough away from. It seemed to mock me and my attempts to be moving forward. I swore at it a couple times. I might have yelled at it.

Eventually a couple people passed us and I just couldn't believe there were still people behind us - we hadn't seen anyone for what felt like hours. We HAD to be close to Bluff. Then I saw glow sticks! That HAD to be the aid station! Why else would there be glow sticks? Huzzah! Wait - hmmmm. No aid station to be seen, just a road crossing and more glow sticks on the other side of the road. Okay, no problem, the aid station must be just over there on the other side. We saw a van parked on the road with a clipboarded woman inside, taking tally of runners. A smart person would have asked if we were almost there and then begged a ride if we weren't. I think I was just so sure that we were right there. Except we weren't. The glow sticks ended and we weren't there yet. We were moving so slow but I just couldn't move my legs faster - lack of oxygen to muscles? My fingers were tingly. No big deal. However, my entire face was tingling - forehead, temples, all of it. That hadn't happened at Sawtooth, probably because I only had to deal with it for less than an hour instead of more than three hours.

At one point I didn't know how I was going to make it out of there. It just didn't seem feasible to keep moving. We'd never get there moving so slow. This wasn't a panicked thought but more of a sad, confused thought that came out loud. But moving was the only option so I stood back up and we kept on. Marcus was a great friend in here. Slogging along behind me. Being a shoulder when I needed one. Helping me change lights. Trying to get me to run downhills even though all I could do was slowly move down them.

Eventually we made it in. I got to sit down for good. I'm told it took a solid two hours for my breathing to come back down, at which point, I was sort of ready to go again. Sort of. Seeing as how a walk to the port-a-potties (50 feet, maybe) ramped my breathing back up, it was good I had sensible people stop me from doing more than joke about heading back out. I believe Marcus said he wasn't going that pace for another 7 miles and he wasn't letting me back out without him.

So that's that. It was good, at least, to have witnesses in the form of Marcus and Lisa to my bizarre issues. This summer has been a lot of different tests, which I will talk about next post. Which I promise comes sooner than three months from now : ) The summer has also been full of lots of good running, though.

55.6 miles so at least I made it over halfway this time. Up next is Wild Duluth 100K, since I decided to forgo Sawtooth until I figure things out.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Today's Run

Today's run was rough. I've been exhausted all week, though I did manage a decent paced last NMTC run on Wednesday. Otherwise I've been drowsy at work and practically falling asleep driving home. I wanted to run today since both Cedar and I needed one so we headed out the door and up the hill to the SHT. I can cut through the alley to the Middle School road, hit the back end of the reservoir, and be on the SHT in minutes.

Oof, I was tired out there. I haven't gone that slow on the trail since . . . oh wait, last week : ) But I let it be and just enjoyed my time and it wasn't nearly as slow as last week. There was lots of walking up anything hill-like and enjoying breathing in the delicious air - heavy with lilacs and assorted flowering trees and bushes like only early June can be. The woods were strangely night-time sounding, which was lovely, too. We headed out for half an hour and the way back felt much looser and easier but still tired. A good time in the woods, overall.

Don't worry, a race report is coming but just now, it's past time for bed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Three days!

Three days!

Today was my last run before Saturday. It being Wednesday, I talked myself into running the NMTC race, convinced I could do it slow. Luckily, I had friends to help me keep true to that! Before the race, I helped with parking cars and thus prevented myself from getting tempted to do a warm up. It also let me bounce around some and let some of my hyper energy out with some air traffic control arm waving. I ran with Andrea and Lisa and was NOT ALLOWED to pass Lisa. Between being hyper and running for fun, I babbled up a blue storm pretty much the whole way but had a great time.

So. Every piece of running clothing I could possibly desire to bring is washed and ready for packing. I have a lovely spreadsheet to direct my packing. Which is more or less - BRING FOUR OF EVERY PIECE OF CLOTHING JUST IN CASE but a tich more organized . . .

Should anyone desire, Kettle has a sort of tracking system here. It'll list when I come into aid stations with 13 updates plus the finish. I'll be running somewhere between 26 and 30 hours.

I have two good friends who are coming down with me, Lisa and Marcus, who will crew and pace. I have a few friends in the race itself, too, that will be great to see in the out and backs. I feel strong, rested, and ready. Let's do this! Rar!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Spring Superior 50K

Holy crap, guys. One week to Kettle! I'm feeling strong, I'm feeling prepared, and right now, I'm feeling antsy! Another week of taper, oh man. To distract myself, let's give you a short rundown of my last race - Spring Superior 50K.

Since Superior was a perfect three weeks out from Kettle the plan was to use it as a last good long run weekend. So no taper and no attempts to really push a pace. Actually, just this year have I either finally realized or finally gotten to the point that I DO have a difference in pace between long runs and races, which is a very neat revelation for me. I did have a bit of a rest the week before, which was nice, as I pushed my rest week back a week so I could make it coincide with Fishing Opener so I wouldn't have to worry about a double long run at the cabin.

I started the race trying very hard to stay reigned in and just run a relaxed pace, not letting anyone else push my pace. I was walking a little more than I felt like I would have had I been pushing. Though, I quickly discovered that it was ten times easier to run through every mud hole than walk through. And there were a LOT of mud holes . . . I was thinking in the back of my head that I would like even splits but decided to wait until I actually hit the turnaround and go from there. The turnaround came and I felt great. I LOVE out and backs - I love seeing everyone and I get such a lift in spirits from it. Which means Kettle should be fabulous since it's made up of two out and backs - right?

So the way back was quite good. I felt good, nothing was seizing and my stomach was cooperating. A possibly related new thing this go round was it being my first full race using the Lisa/Ron gel method - putting two gels into a small flask and having them premixed with water. Then just sipping on it as I go, making sure to get at least half down in an hour. I also managed to refill it on the go, so I'll definitely be using that method at Kettle. When I got back to Oberg (the last aid station, 7.5ish miles from the end), I realized I might have a chance at an even split so I figured I would be okay to push the pace for the last section. I charged up Moose Mountain pretty good, trying to strike a balance between moving fast and keeping the heart rate not redlining since the point was to be recovered for a run the next day. I was passing people (something I've never really done in the second half of a 50K!) and starting thinking that I was placed fairly decently. I didn't pay any attention to the number of women I saw coming at me at the turnaround so I only had a general feel for things. I knew I was doing well when this woman (who was walking for no particular reason) turns around and saw me. Her eyes got HUGE and she took off at a sprint leaving me giggling behind her. Because really - if you were walking before and now you're sprinting and we still have a mile and a half to go, then there's no doubt I was going to get her. I've never had someone react that way before! When I passed her, she asked how old I was and was relieved to hear we weren't in the same age group.

I came strong into the finish and felt fine immediately afterward. In fact, I might have made a bee line for the computers that were set up to check your results . . . 5th woman for me! I am super happy with that result! Spring Superior was exactly what I needed - a good long run on the SHT that went well. Good training for the legs, good boost for the mind.