Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Javelina Jundred—Let's Get Gritty!

When polling 100-mile runners about which race was the one not to miss, the Javelina Jundred kept appearing at the top of the list for the fun and experience factors. It is the largest 100 mile party run in the desert including a disco dance floor and music an Jackass Junction (JJ) aid station (10 miles from the start). Halloween costumes are optional and there is great aid station support staff at all stations (Coyote, Rattlesnake and Jeadquarters).

Plus, 300 more runners between the 100k race and a newly added boozy Jackass Trail night race which participants have a choice of  1-2 loops of the 19.45 miles with stopping at JJ aid station to hang out and then finish it into the finish for second half.

The start of tent and canopy set up Friday morning.
Jeadquarters is a lit-up village creating a bigger celebratory atmosphere made up of music, floating bubbles, quality food, a crew and pacer quarter mile loop with tents, canopies, and an energized staff that makes it seem like they are full throttle every time you see them—which is 5 loops ran washing machine style and 30 hours of go, go, go!

This was my "A" race for good reasons. Experiencing the desert beauty, trails and multitude of challenges was going to be completely new, and my a run buddy, Evie, was all in as well.


Pre-race start before the swelling … Sharon, Evie, myself, Sue and Hannah



I KNEW THESE FACTS GOING IN:

7900 feet of total ascend and descend
Which made me shake my head when those that have run it talked about how it is very runnable and relatively flat...

Then, where is the elevation coming from? Javelina does take place at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, after all. I  prepared myself mentally and physically for more of a kickass course than those with amnesia could remember. I thought of the Kettle Moraine that also is about 7,800 feet,  with it's "silent killer" hills that blow out quads slowly and severely punished my IT band over the edge last June being unbendable at mile 50. I spent the summer rehabbing the injury with PT and had worked in the strength training from that experience to prevent that same outcome.


Arizona HEAT and no shade
Which is downplayed when people say, "well it's dry heat, not humidity." But this race is notorious for being in the 90s! That is still running in full sun through a day-and-a-half for a middle pack runner like me.

In prepping for the heat and ways to stay cool, I came across Orange Mud Ice Sleeves as a recommendation from another runner. They were the key to cooling down from aid station to aid station where I would fill the two pockets with ice and the ice would melt completely over the next 4-6 miles.

Although I had read about the fluid recommendations from loop to loop on the races website, I thought they were too low. I know on a warm day I need 2 liters of fluid for every 20 miles. I needed to be out of water my the time I returned to headquarters or be filling more on course, which I did end up filling on course and drinking 12-14 liters throughout the race.

Wearing our filled ice hats....toot, toot!! 
We also used Ice Caps which are filled with ice through a pocket on the top and closed with a drawstring. Our crew thought we looked like railroad conductors and the jokes kept flying…toot, toot… choo, choo, choo, choo…

One flaw in this hat is that the ice tends to melt and is absorbed by the brim and then drips off the  front instead of on your head. Time to time I would just hold it on my head to feel the cold.



Last year, 51% finished
That really isn't a great percentage for such a "runnable" race. From the reports I had read and podcasts I listened to, those that had pushed too hard in the first loop and into the second became part of the carnage of very ill, and cramped individuals to be seen in that second loop.

So many issues can occur with lack of fuel and dehydration including cramping, dizziness, and my nemesis—nausea. After running the Lighthouse 100 in 2017 in Northern Michigan with the temperature in 90s plus high humidity, I was anticipating some major heat issues as well as my feet and hands painfully swelling.

The more research I did, the more it became evident that:
• the first 22.3 mile loop I needed to just be steady and learn the course
• the second 19.45 mile  loop I needed to be slowed down
• the 3rd and 4th 19.45 mile loops I needed to make up some time
• the 5th 19.45 mile loop I needed to survive and would be in sun again

Because the the mass of more than 600 runners at the 100 mile start line, this year they set up two waves to alleviate congestion on the trail.

Wave 1: would start 10 minutes earlier with the goal of being under 24 hours for a larger belt buckle.

Wave 2: would be the rest of the bunch. There was no way I was going to even try to hang in that first wave. In my mind, many of these people may be after a 20 hour finish and being around people going out too hard would make me anxious and push myself too hard. Plus, I was going to be out there with Evie, my run buddy also in the race, enjoying the trip around the loops as best we could for at least three of them until we had pacers join in the last two.

I have a history with nausea in 100 milers
There are several things that can cause this issue including:
heat
sugar
dehydration
• too much caffeine
• exertion

Things I worked in to prevent it:
 low regulated sugar with no caffeine in my water pack using Grape Roctane energy drink (bonus that this year it was at the aid stations with other liquid energy!)
 avocado on every loop at head quarters from my crew
 FBomb nut packs for fuel
 Muir Energy Almond for fuel (the new batch I received was too bitter, so I only ate 2!)
 ginger tabs which I did use one
 boiled potatoes throughout the race—a complex carb instead of sugars
 bean burrito slices at aid stations 
 grilled cheese quarter sandwiches off aid station
 SaltStick Fastchews which I carried
 Liquid IV drank one every 20 miles for 500mg of salt and some sugar 
 SPARK from Advocate drink for caffeine every 20 miles (I did not drink this mile 80 as I was afraid I was getting an irritated stomach. Maybe it would have woke me up more but I didn't want to chance it.)
 JJ drop bag had placed 6 coconut waters and 8 MaMa Chia packs which I consumed all the water plus more each 20 miles
 consistently be able to use the restroom to prove I'm not dehydrated 


WHAT WAS SURPRISING:

Come with your people 
The most grand surprise was that that two of mine and Evie's favorite people and run buddies decided to come with us about a month before the race to crew and pace!! EEK! If you have ever tried to run 100 miles on your own non-assisted or even 20, it can get lonely. And if you cave during a dark moment it can mean a DNF. The mind is so powerful in an ultra to push through suffering to reach a goal and it has to be. But when you have a support crew or pacers, you can change your focus, zero in on your "why" as well as they can remind you when you forget—and honestly is is so much more enjoyable as I learned in Grindstone a couple years ago.

Hannah's first Marathon
(Me, Evie, Hannah and Sue)
We started running on the weekends with Sue and Hannah about a year ago for enjoyment and each with personal goals. We were flexible to run the distance we individually needed and let's face it, its a very social group. Although Sue will tell you that we do runners math too often and say 8 miles which translates to 12 miles. We frequently ran with up to seven women in our area throughout the summer. It made the miles tick by and we enjoyed some laughs. Plus, last year Hannah was going for her first half marathon and we quickly encouraged a larger goal (because she is could do it!) of a full marathon the next month. She achieved it with us there following her progress. Running is contagious, supportive and can be creative.

Sue invited a new friend along on this Javelina adventure, and with Evie's sister living in Arizona adding two friends, our crew and pace team was looking like the perfect pack set up to succeed.


Not everyone likes to rock out 
Loop one after Coyote aid station with my hands still normal.
During the first loop we were getting to know the course. Leaving headquarters the first loop leads left on a white powder sand that runs along ledges and hidden rocks beneath it. The course rolls in and out of wash out areas that are sometime more fish bowl gravel like and harder to run through at the bottom. Eyes stay on the trail and cacti that is everywhere with breaks of running and walking quickly up short climbs. We took in the beauty on those flat moments and were surprised at how green the desert could be. I kept thinking that this felt like an overgrown golf course in the flattest section. Gradually the course goes up and into a rocky ankle twister section where the ground breaks and one needs to be aware in the last three miles before JJ aid station—the most challenging in the 19.45 mile loop. We clocked about 3 hours to climb to the peak. Then we traversed down in a more runnable section of rolling hills back to headquarters, but not in the first loop which has an added couple miles of delight.


It helps me to hear about the course by someone who has ran it while we are running it. I think their memory comes back better being in it again. We briefly met two runners including one who famously dresses as Fred Flintstone. I wish I remembered their names, but I too have amnesia. They relayed that the worse part of the race was going to be the added section with switchbacks in this first loop which would be very rocky and challenging. "You'll be glad when it's over," one of them said before parting ways.

When we entered that section, it was as they had stated—rocky. The trail went up and around some peaks on ledges and spiraled as well. Not really what I call switchbacks. Surprisingly, I absolutely loved it. I imagined this as an easier section of Grindstone or Superior. Wow, runnable!!

I felt like a kid on a playground and ran through most of it, hiking quickly up the inclines and excited to ask another runner what he thought of it. He relayed that he was NOT ready for this terrain at all and didn't look too well. He later dropped on the second loop. It was around this point I saw a person being carried off the course by medical personnel. This would be one of two people I saw lifted out on a stretcher while on the trail.

Some of the ledges were smaller and tighter as well and a couple women on bicycles came through fast around the corners not caring at all that people were running in a race. This was the one annoyance of the day time running—fast riders zipping close without even an announcement from behind that they are coming through.

It was getting hot and I was out of water in the last mile and told myself to keep moving and get into headquarters. Although I had refilled my pack at JJ, it wasn't enough. I noted to myself not to let this happen again. 


Second loop is a Motha! 
Evie and I had planned to take the second loop slower with more walking (hiking like a badass when we could), but we still needed to think about time, because we would have to be running down the most technical section after JJ station (mile 10). It was in the 90s (without us being aware of the actual number) and that heat wore on our energy level, as well as those ice sleeves were empty each time we arrived at an aid station. Again the "AHHHH!!" of being able to refill them was refreshing.

I had a very angry set of blisters coming on the outside of my heals by the time we arrived at JJ. I pre-taped them hoping to prevent this from happening, but that just seems to be my story. My feet are going to blister and peel. I was popping them with a pin I brought through the tape that wasn't going to come off without removing the skin. The seats in the station were filling up with runners not looking as cheerful as earlier with some in need of assistance. Evie helped one young man next to me with pickle juice and I gave him some of my SaltStick Fastchews because he said he had never been cramped up before in his ankles and calfs—hope he made it out of there.


Breaking up is hard to do 
We rolled in from that second loop and the sun was coming down. Evie's sister was able to come out on the 3rd loop instead of the 4th because we were a little behind and since we had 5 pacers instead of 4, we could separate if needed. I led the way out with the intent to make up time. We ultimately separated after the first aid station and I was feeling really good with the sun now down and focusing on getting to Hannah at the end of the next 16 miles so she could come out and play. I have participated in enough races that being prepared for anything and everything is the only way to succeed—just think of the one next task at a time whether its an aid station or a person I need to get to. Prepare to be alone at some point with just a thought to get me to the next point.

In this loop, the Jackass Night Trail run started and a mob of people wearing decorative lights, and costumes swept by into the JJ station. They were a fun group and the party was happening. One young woman was covered head to toe in sequins like a Solid Gold dancer. Wearing sequins in the 80s, I had to ask her if it itched. She answered that she itched absolutely everywhere! LOL!

My mission in this party station was to eat, drink coconut water and get out without getting cold or too cooled down. I reminisced about my pacer buddy in Wisconsin to keep me company while in route to Hannah. Darkness can be a friend in the dessert. By this point, I think I was running with the mob of the more sane JJ trail runners that were not drinking in the last 8 miles to headquarters. I met one runner who brought me in the last 3 miles with conversation who was surprised and concerned at how these young runners would make it back safely in this challenging course with cacti everywhere....you and me both!!


Liar, Liar… 
It is incredible to have support out there in a quest like this, even if it's a lie. Hannah said later that the crews in the village matched their runners personality whether they were having fun or completely freaking out and yelling when their runner came in. Mine was there to make me succeed and their energy flowed. They followed the guidelines of happy little angels I had planned out for them; from my fueling needs to how to keep me moving and where their attitudes needed to be in different situations, as well as taking care of themselves through the day and night. Cliff notes so to speak.

We laughed about the list of details the night before with Lisa, who was new to this ultra world, and she had pointed out some of the hilariousness of not knowing what I was talking about such as:

Refill my water pack with Roctane unless I request Tailwind naked, and add ice to
my sleeves, hat and buff in day.


But I knew this pack had me. When I came in for loop 4, I picked up Hannah and needed to meet the cut-off to be back and on the course with Sue by 8 a.m.. I had banked some time on that 3rd loop and my intent was to keep it moving in the dark since I would be in the heat again on the last loop through.

Pre-race start with Hannah.
Though it was quite memorable to see some JJ runners walking sideways and having difficulty stumbling back into headquarters through the desert, I'll remember this adventure more with Hannah and I barreling down rock in the safest manor possible and stepping side to side with lights of other runners coming towards us. It was her first real trail experience and she was in the dark doing it well. Or, maybe faking it for my sake. Running down the rockiest section in the dark made it a whole new experience and like a new trail for me. Every so often, one of us would jam a rock with our foot and just keep on keeping on without a complaint. Hannah convincingly told me something close to this is the best experience of her life. Later she told me how that might have been true, it was also harder than any marathon. There were a few swear words to describe it particularly when she was asked by another crew member right afterwards. See? Perfect little liar.


Nothing to see here 
Swelling, swelling, swelling
 the further I went...
Hamburger Helper
hands with just a knuckle. 
Hannah and I ran in that last mile of loop 4 like it was the finish and we were going to win. One other runner was whistling in excitement as we made the turns in passing several runners in. Hannah had been giving me some pacing times and we were running a less than 12 minute miles around the ledges along the powdered sand and hidden rocks. I am not sure where that zip came from, but my legs felt heavy for the first time when I went back on the course with Sue, which may have been from my lack of caffeine. I didn't take in any in before heading back out as my stomach was feeling unsettled with all the pounding of fluids, pickles, bean burrito slices, avocado, Liquid IVs, etc. throughout the day. My hands had swollen to look like the Handburger Helper character from the 80s, and my skin was tight from retaining a lot of fluid. I might have swollen enough to look like I gained 10lbs through out the race.

The Farewell Tour
Sue and I set out to see the sunrise and she took some photos. When she pointed the camera at me at Coyote station, I decided that it would be a farewell tour to say my goodbyes to the course. They were serving pancakes at this time and while it was warm, it was not so tasty. Everything began tasting acidy—even the gingerale and coke at the stations. We proceeded on and decided that the ice sleeves needed to go on at the next station as it was getting hot again. When you're from Michigan and in Arizona running with no shade, it's always hot. Don't do something dumb like leave those ice sleeves at headquarters. I repeat, do not make such dumbass mistakes.

Heading to some rocks so I can add some excitement for my pacer and bleed.

Moving our way to JJ aid station we were just starting the rocky section at mile 85. Going down hill, my foot finally caught a rock and I went flying forward down to the ground, and for the first time in my life I hit my head on a rock! The blood was instantly in front of me dripping on the dirt, rocks and down my face. I let Sue know that this wasn't going to be good before she could see it. For someone who doesn't do well with the sight of blood, she became a specialist in a matter of minutes. I was so grateful she was there. I had a gash above my eye next to my eyebrow. We applied pressure with her neck gator, and I had remembered the blister kit in my pack was ready to to go. I asked her to access if we could clean with tailwind, use the blister pad and cover this since it wasn't necessary to DNF and I wanted to get through the last two stations unnoticed to finish this. I know it sounds like an immature move, but having trained for months, pass DNFs, and the finish in my grasp, I just couldn't let it go. I was here to finish it and not make excuses. What the heck?! Kiss my arse, DNF rock! I hadn't blacked out, become dizzy or had any concussion signs, and so we agreed that if I felt dizzy we were done. Honestly, there was no way I wanted to hit a cactus next! The blister patch covered the gash and we covered that with my neck gator and hat—looking just a little more dorky at this race was wrapping up well. I didn't think that was possible, but is surely was.

Arriving at JJ station I cleaned my hands and gator with water, ate a little and Sue helped me wrestle the sleeves on my ginormous club hands which was a struggle. It was like putting on pants two sizes too small, but we did it! I can only imagine a video of seeing someone else do this.

This day, even more bicyclists were out shredding up the trail and flying by without warning—not a great experience after 90 miles. I began thinking that this event wouldn't be over until I was hit by a bicyclist traveling at full speed or possibly my pacer on the ground in a cactus.

We were on the last 10 mile stretch and we kept up with our run/walk pattern and started seeing a lot more runners and pacers hiking it in slowly or hobbling with what I imagined was their feet in blister hell. One guy was walking on the heels of the back of his shoes. I knew I must of had a nail come completely off since that toe didn't hurt anymore and a few others were crying out along with my blistered heels still nagging. The pain at the bottom of my feet ached hard and felt like I had been running on rock barefoot for hours. I kept telling myself the same thing thoughout the race, "Get over this shit. Slam through it." Just another piece of me made from other tough races and now this one.

Sue hinted about the next 100 mile race and I talked about running 50s for the next year. She laughed and later reiterated my crazy thoughts of running 50s after this race. It took 17 hours after the end of this race to want to sign up again. That's a good race!

About two miles out from the finish a man stood waving the belt buckle and yelling, "This is waiting for you! Go get it!" I looked at Sue and remarked, "That looks tiny and nobody out here persevering for that. It's about the finish of 100 miles." Although I look at a buckle or medal and can reflect on a particular race, it's always the journey, people and finish that makes me feel attached to it—even the volunteers which were so genuinely caring in this race contributed to the vibe. The buckle may be the sign that I finished, but it's never my why to finish and I can discard it too easily. I placed a thought of my kids in my head and knew that they would feel proud when this was accomplished, and finishing would solidify that I indeed "got this" 100 mile race. That "why" was so much stronger and grew which each step.

High five to Lisa before entering the celebration
 finish last quarter mile. And, sporting my stylish
head wrap to cover the damage.
Looking around, most of the runners we saw and passed in that last 10 miles were woman. I don't think it's because we women are slower. I think it's because we survive when things get hard and painful. We bite down, and maybe problem solved this particular race better. Or maybe, those of us still moving forward didn't go out thinking this was happening in under 24hours.

When we finally approached the entrance to headquarters camp finish line and saw our gang waiting, about 5 bicyclist came flying at us. Surely, I felt this was it. We are not leaving until one of us is hit and on the ground and I am just a quarter mile from the finish line.

Sue and Evie ran with me for that last time through the camp and to the timers where I crossed the line with the race director still going full party mode and announcing.
100 mile finisher 29:05
2018: 61% finisher rate

When asked what it feels like to finish such an adventure, my mind reflects on how big the picture really is and what it feels like to experience all the pieces coming together—not only from this adventure and training session including PT, but all the steps including failures and successes that came before to shape this journey and make it worthy of finishing. Finishing 100 miles is a gritty, grande supreme success!

Put your hands in the air like you really do care … running and screaming, that's the only way to finish 100 miles.

100 miles of badass mother runner, a new scar and a trip to Urgent Care to be glued.
Note: Not all head wounds are equal. I would never keep going in a race if I thought my life was in danger.  
Belt buckle to remind me of the many lessons and people of Javelina.

My feet and gators at the end. Gators—another "must" for the desert.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Freestyling It for a Zippier, Healthier and Happier 2018


If gaining weight was was an Olympic sport, I would dominate. While watching season 2 of  Fit to Fat to Fit  as I was running on my treadmill, I found it ridiculous that a couple elite fitness trainers couldn't gain the 30% bodyweight they needed to gain. "Oh, what should I eat?" Really? Hire me to advise you. Those are results I can produce.

The show is based on the premise that by gaining weight over a period of a few months and not being able to workout at all, that the individual will become a much better trainer while losing it in the following four months and becoming fit again with an unhealthy client. Most of the trainers have never been overweight and out of shape in their lives! Gasp! Please tell me your woes. No, just don't.

The mental and physical changes are radical, but this season I was a little disappointed that gaining the weight was a struggle for a couple of them. They obviously weren't getting into the spirit of things like homemade cinnamon rolls, chocolate covered turtles, frosted sugar cookies, black forest cake, lasagna, linguini with alfredo sauce, pizza, french loaf bread smothered with olives, mayo & cheese, and cocktails like margaritas and sangria just for starters. Heck, I ate all of that and gained back 10 pounds of the 5 I had lost over a couple months in three weeks time and I was still running 40 miles a week.

As entertaining as that show is, this is my reality. I have spent the last few months in a slump and completely unmotivated without a true training plan or big adventure in view. Just stuffing my face and enjoying the taste and mingling of the holidays with a lack motivation. Seriously, I can help you increase your weight, call now.






Each year January brings in my, "Oh, shit! Get it together!" panic mode because I am officially three weeks into an ultra running training plan if I want to run a race in late May or early June, which I usually do. It's a good thing I kept running through the slump.

So I have officially hit my reset button and registered for not one, but two 100 mile races for 2018 with both have a 100k cut off time. This year I am going for the fun as well as the beat thrive:

• Kettle Moraine 100, WI 
Time to conquer this little beast with it's silent killer hills. Vendetta time. The biggest perk being able to spend time with my lucky charms Krista and Evie and possible other crewers/pacers. 

Javelina Jundred, AZ
Noted by others who have participated in it as the one to do for a good time with costume encouraged. Maybe I'll even see Catra Corbett on the course!


Javelina Jundred with Catra Corbett, center.


I know I haven't written much about my medical tests on my lungs and heart, but after my Grindstone experience with breathing, heart rate and feeling in credibly sick issues, I went to my doctor and had things checked out. My tests came in as healthy (win, win!), although my asthma has increased and I was placed on a steroid inhaler which seems to be working better. I have also change up my running to heart rate training. Which means I am running slower and having to walk to lower my heart rate to 135 bpm. The results I am looking for include running longer and faster with less stress on my heart and lungs. People that heart rate train also have less injury. Not to say that I'm not climbing on the Jacob's ladder. That is a challenging higher heart rate workout.

And my weight gain? I am embracing Weight Watcher's (WW) Freestyle™ plan that came out in early December. Yeah, I know. Here I go again exploring yet another diet change. I'm someone who did try very low carb and high fat eating for 9 months while tracking calories and saw some pretty slow but significant weight loss. However, I didn't experience huge performance results from a very restrictive diet other than feeling better running lighter and feeling like mind was a littler clearer after three weeks. I am looking forward to feeling that again, only sooner. This WW plan has more variety and less torture over tracking and restrictions. I am creating a lot more interesting homemade dishes that my family is enjoying along with me. I've even made my own yogurt a few times following this YouTube video below.



I am finding recipes online with high ratings that look like they will tickle my tastebuds and can be altered to have less points or even zero. Like this recipe for Indian Spiced Red Lentil & Chicken Soup. I have made it true to the recipe as well as ommitting the coconut milk and vegetable oil to save points. Once Upon a Chef has been one of my favorite resources for powerfully flavored recipes for several years.

Freestyle™ is incredibly easy and healthy with a list of more than 200 free foods I don't have to track while others are tracked in an app. Some of these non-tracked, or free foods, include: beans and lentils, skinless chicken breast, fish, nonfat unsweetened yogurt, vegetables and eggs. The key however is not to stuff one's self. I think I have proven over the years that too many calories is just too many. One question I have ask myself when I want to eat more or out or the food point range, is "Will this help me get to my goal?" If the answer is "No", then I most likely don't go there and consider if I am really hungry and substitute one of the zero point food options.

Have you ever heated frozen berries in the microwave? It tastes like pie filling when it comes out and cuts my craving for dessert. I'm down 9 lbs in three weeks. I assume some of it is water weight so I'm not going to get overly excited yet. I'm expecting a slowdown soon as I keep pressing on into 2018.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Life is a Grindstone

A friend of mine sent me this message and image before this year's Grindstone100.
I'm still an imperfect diamond in the rough and may always be:
Thinking of you Jill! Remember this quote and remember you're made from the toughest
and most badass stuff there is!! You got this!!


Disappointment is difficult.

It is disheartening to train so many hours and miles upon miles, pushing through early dark mornings before anyone else is awake, run strenuous hill repeats and stairs in the evening, climb the Jacob's Ladder a couple days of the week to 3,000 feet, and all part of working relentlessly for a solid goal to finish Grindstone100 during their warmest and most humid race event ever — and yet be so very far away from the goal.

For many, it was possibly their near perfect race. For some of us ... not at all. I was in and out of sickness for 10 hours of the race and missed the hard cut-off by 20 minutes at only 37 miles in and about 8,000 feet ascend. Those numbers suck ass and could break me if  all I take in account are those numbers. If I forget just what I was feeling and the hold that really had on me. If I forget the physical limitations that occurred.

View from parking area.
The truth: I was at a slow pace by the time I hit the cutoff and unable to run with gut cramps, and heaving every mile. It was ridiculous. What was wrong with my body?! My calorie intake was a total of 133 calories an hour by the end. I had fallen WAY behind because of the nausea and was gagging on Huma gels. Was this a real WALL I was hitting? Being that the Director announced Tailwind was on the course, I removed my spare bags from my pack so I could carry less. BAD CALL. Stupid, stupid, stupid...they were out of it when I arrive at the second aid station and in need of it. Judging from my pee color later, I was VERY dehydrated as well from sweating and breathing heavily.THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME.

The truth: My breathing had been off for most of the time and it is something I need to take more seriously. My mind went back and forth in its own obstacle course of misery from… "What the hell is going on? I am so sick of being sick! Why the F do I want to do this?" To thoughts in the brief moments of non nausea of… "Hell yeah, I love trail, the woods, lots of rocks and climbs in the moonlight with flickers of headlamps moving ahead of me in the distance, with the sounds of animals in route and leaves snapping. Take in every ounce to enjoy this moment! Maybe I can still make cut-off! These aid station workers were right to put me back out there and I am grateful that they acted as my crew!"

This year's Grindstone adventure was not the epic adventure I had looked forward to. On one hand it really, really sucked, and yet I had to make lemonade out of it and go for a hike later in the day and enjoy Virginia's mountains with my husband since I had dragged him out there. I didn't cry about the outcome. I was still stunned with the short jaunt through the woods — I mean highly technical rock hell hole that the first 22 miles is and the sluggish next 16 miles. This was my husband and mine first time away together since having kids 11 years ago. My day completely changed unexpectedly and it's something I tell my kids they have to adapt for. It's something that ultra delivers every time.

I wonder how the man in the fetal position, sick on the side of the trail spent his day. Or, the other two guys who doubled back down the trail hurling felt about their race. I imagine, just as disappointed as me. Sometimes, there is no recovery and waiting it out doesn't work in your time frame.

Ultra running is my hobby. Yes, this is what I do for fun. Participating is such an endurance demanding sport means not everyday is going to be in my favor, and it's going to be a commitment. It's going to be hard. And the lessons learned sometimes hit me over the head. I am in this for the long haul, not a one and done mindset in the least. I can't even imagine! But I am licking my mental wounds because they are there and real.

So when I talked to my mountain, it replied back, "Not the way you want it today."

When I do cross that line again, I am going to appreciate it so much more. I let myself mourn for one week in this disappointment of this race outcome, and today I hit the road again however it grinds me up. Breath in, breath out…with one foot in front of the other.

Larger rock traversing that I actually enjoyed the most between mile 31 and 37. Grateful for this section.
View from road heading to Charlottesville on Sunday.
How symbolic: my cracked Grindstone cookie. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lighthouse100: I AM THE STORM




From my BAMR (Bad Ass Mother Runner) friend, Freedom.

I am not sure anything could have prepared me more for running in the Lighthouse100. Maybe if I was running in Florida or somewhere else hot that gets humid as well, I would have been a little more mentally equipped for the surprise heat wave we received in Northern Michigan June 10th and 11th. We originally expected high 60s to low 70s in the day, but it turned out that mother nature had another plan to make sure this race had extra challenges with temps reaching more than 90 degrees and 30-40 mph winds that just blew hot air around. Add on the fact that this course is mostly in full sun and on asphalt, and that heats up at least 120 degrees coming off the pavement, and you have the perfect condition for a DNF served sunny side up.

But what's really different when every ultra course I have been on asks the same question? "Do you have what it takes to get to the finish line? Can you adapt?"

Fortunately my run buddy and I had one mission—to finish this Motha. So when Dave Krupski, the race director, warned several times for runners to slow their role during the hottest part of the day (noon to 6p.m.), we knew we already had that speed down and would be doing what was necessary. Finishing is winning in ever sense of the saying when it comes to ultra, especially 1-0-0 miles.

The Lighthouse100 is a new Michigan race introduced for 2017. It is currently the second 100 mile course in the state—offering a 50 mile option as well. Basically in my backyard, I was ecstatic to see it pop up as I was considering going back to the Kettle Moraine with Evie around the same date. She would be attempting her first 100 miler. With a race this close we figured we could have it crewed or paced easily.

Magnet for the crew to tag cars.
Evie's sister, Sharon, flew in to crew as well as Krista who was with me at Grindstone and had met through Another Mother Runner at Ragnar D.C. We had our two ace crew captains taken care of. This race allows pacers to drop on at any part of the course which I hadn't encountered before. There was enough interest in participants to start dropping pacers on at mile 10 and having one to two pacers between the two of us the rest of the way — one long party train that's an all-nighter. Our plan was to stay together. We had found great active tanks by Fellow Flowers with a strength driven poem line I had seen before and decided to call ourselves the Storm Chasers. Our crew would be following and meeting us every five miles. In essence, chasing the storm.



I am the STORM: Sharon, Evie, myself and Krista.
Dave Krupski, race director, shows us the prized buckle pre-race. 
Although I have participated in other 100 mile races, they have always been on trail. This is not the mountain climbing, root and rocky obstacle course like GrindStone or Superior. It's only 3,241 feet ascending compared to 23,000 of a trail race like GrindStone. This opened a whole new world for me. The Lighthouse100 is a road race. Which means more pounding and faster expected times for finishing. This was not part of the appeal for me. A trail race has natural changes in pace and muscle usage from hiking up a hill, running down, running on flats, and maneuvering through areas that are just non-runnable with roots and rocks or on the side of a hill. In order to switch up our muscle use and give ourselves some rest early on, we decide to run it in intervals of 5/1—meaning five minutes of running and one minute of faster walking. We implemented this on our long runs about two and a half months out from the race.



Race Day: Let's get to it

I really can't say I was nervous or on edge about this race. I tried to soak it in the most I could and stay in the moment. After three non-finishes, my nerves don't get the best of me. I even slept pretty well at the Michigan Inn & Lodge in Petoskey—great price, nice rooms and lots of extras. I think this place is under-rated. It's located about 5 miles from the start. The only downfall was the loud men who carried on a little late outside our room. They were definitely NOT running 100 miles the next day. Thank goodness I had ear plugs with me!

We started out the race by touching the Petoskey lighthouse, walked back to the start line and waited for the official countdown with 71 runners. Unlike trail races, people were running instead of walking over the start line. Evie and I had met another runner during our training 50 mile run on the Tart Trail in Traverse City. We ended up running with him during the race for about 45 miles. One of the reasons I love ultra races is because kindred spirits run them and conversations are easy between runners. There were no port-a-potties in this race, so we stopped in at a gas station and Flap Jack Shack (which was busy) during that first 20 miles. We kept our pace controlled, and Sharon stepped on the course at about mile 10. With so much talking I decided I needed to play some tunes to keep my own mouth from running and to slow my heart rate. It was going to be a long race and I didn't want to lose too much energy early on.

Karen pacing.
We picked up Karen at mile 20 and it was beginning to get hot with full sun and no shade cover. I had told our crew the day before that I didn't want to hear anything about the temperature. To me anything over 80 is hot, so lets not talk about the temperatures at all. I'll just convince myself the peak is 84 degrees. As much as I had wanted Karen at the end of this race because I know she can push me through rough miles to finish, it worked out well that she was there on some of the more difficult hot miles. We watched as two runners ran up the rolling heated asphalt hills right next to us as we hiked it, and had the same thoughts and mouthed the words, "What the heck?" Not only would I not run up a hill in an ultra race, but not in the heat unless it was a mad dash to the finish to make a cut-off.

Right on cue, our pace dropped around noon when the heat rose. In my mind, I just knew that some people would want to push too much being a road race and under estimating the humidity and the effects of how ling this journey would be. However, Evie and I knew that our slow run was going to be what ever it had to be to make it through. The heat was rising up from the pavement as well. I sensed the struggle in both Evie and our new running friend. I felt it too. It was now the heat talking for us and we had a little more walk. If we hit any shade at all our pace picked up for that pocket. Although it was windy throughout the race, it blew hot air around and was better than no wind at all. There were reports of 30-40 mph winds.

Avocado love:
I must have eaten three of these.
I was experiencing some shin pain early on — something gifted to me from our asphalt 50 mile training run — and I asked Sharon to look up taping techniques and she tried taping me up when we saw her at the next 5 mile marker. The tape fell off almost immediately, and then again at the next 5 mile marker. The spot she had located was perfect, if only the tape would stay on. It was after the third time that we pulled out the duct-tape on course and wrapped it around my leg. That stuck! So when we pulled back in to the next station we added more which would last the entire journey —visually marking me as the girl with the pink duct-tape leg. At about mile 45, our running friend picked up his pacer and went on, and we exchanged Karen for Sean, whom I knew in college. It's amazing the support we received when we just asked for it. We had put the word out on Facebook (FB) and had quite a few people willing to step in and pace. Torch Lake was a more pleasant run with some shade, lake views and beautiful homes. We caught up in conversation, and he even mentioned that this looked like a race that he might want to consider next year. As we approached the 50 mile aid station we saw a runner walking quite slowly and asked how he was. He said he was dropping. Evie yelled out, "Don't do it!" He indeed did drop though. And judging from the Ironman tattoo on his leg, he was a tough athlete. Bummer. I wish we could have pulled him along to go as far as he could until time ran out.
Sean stepping on to pace at mile 45.

At Mile 52 I aided a couple blisters, changed my socks and found that my other shoes would not go on my feet without pain. My feet had swollen too much. I changed my inserts from the other shoes and continued with the shoes that I had been running in. Evie was having some discomfort and retaining from possibly all the Tailwind we had been drinking. The assistant director, Ethan Olds, advised her to switch to water for a while, which worked out well for her. I switch to more water too as I was feeling it too. However, by mile 55 I was feeling a little nauseated. I started eating small Ginger Rescue tablets that I had on me. Here we go, again. The one mantra that had repeatedly crossed my mind in the past came back, "No Surrender."

My beautiful friend right after she hit
her top mileage at mile 52. Everything
after this is gravy, right?
Sharon pulled up to hand us our lights and vests since 9pm was approaching. She said there was a surprise waiting at mile 60 for me. With that, I became motivated to move a little faster. I knew my kids and husband must be there in Elk Rapids. I was so happy to see them as we came in and the spark and excitement in their eyes pumped me up. I gave them a stinky, sweaty hug. We had several new people there to greet us. as well Kendra had a pop-up tent waiting for us to change in. It was perfect! We exchanged our wet clothes for dry and headed out with Rachael after fueling again. I hugged my family goodbye until the last couple miles where they would be meeting me. My husband said to have a good night. That's right, time to get through the night.

To change our clothes: sweet pop-up tent via Kendra. 
Seeing my family at mile 60 and heading out again.
 They were beaming.










As we headed off into the falling sun and darkness, the moon was large and orange. Racheal kept pointing out the qualities of the night, while Evie and I just couldn't cool down and kept moving.
Time to get moving and rip off these layers because
we keep overheating within a few steps.

Vehicles were moving particularly fast and roaring their engines with a couple going back and forth which was a little unnerving. We continually moved off the road and into the gravel. By mile 65, I was having stronger nausea. I kept eating Mamma Chia squeezes, raspberry HUMA gels, and avocado. Those things seemed to go down. We drank a SPARK every 10 to 20 miles throughout the race for some added vitamins and caffeine. I never really did feel sleepy or tired. Evie told me to go on at some part of the race, and I barked back, "No."

Our next pacers, Kristi and Casey stepped on with lots of energy and conversation.They kept us on course and entertained in the dark quite well, and had checked out their route before hand. I think their section was a little harder to find the roads, but the course was marked with blinking blue lights to help guide us which was reassuring. By the time we arrived at mile 70, I had Krista join me a little early. I was still feeling ill and wanted her there, which proved to be a good call. I was feeling a little emotional, and she read me messages of encouragement from our BAMRs of our Another Mother Ragnar Relay Team and GrindStone SKOCHF (Special Kind of Crazy Hall of Fame) tribe.

Evie and I looked at each other in the light of the aid station car lights and I could tell that NEITHER of us was about to say anything about dropping. I just kept thinking, "Do not say it! Don't you say it." We kept getting up. No Surrender. 

I knew my feet were becoming liquid blister pads and my big toe was really going to be a sight by the time it was released from this shoe. I just couldn't do anything about it now. I couldn't allow myself to dwell, when everything else was functional ... besides my occasional dry heave on the side of the road. If you want it, you have to slam it down and claim it in pain and be undeniable. That is one thing I have learned from ultra. Faith means unwavering when wanting something this big.

This is about the same time that when we would sit at the aid station, we would get a chill, and then be sweating within 1/16 of a mile when we got back on the road/path. When we finally hit the Tart Trail in Traverse City it seemed really dark. We saw quite a bit of wildlife including a porcupine (which Krista jump a little on the Tart Trail but enjoyed), deer, fox and I don't know what else, since I had to turn on some tunes to stay motivated and just look ahead as Traverse City slept. Evie and I were running behind Krista and Annalise—who was switching on and off with Dani. Our pacers did an amazing job staying positive, aiding us at stations and even working on our knotted shoulders and necks which hurt in the early morning from carrying 2 liters the entire time. It became hard to determine what things hurt more, and again I didn't want to think about it. That's ultra.

As we headed closer to the last HARD cut-off on East Bay, I had a feeling of "almost there" with 20 miles to go. My nausea was lifting and the birds were chirping. We would be heading out on to the Bayshore Marathon route and it was a good familiarity. Again, there were no rest rooms and I walked an extra distance to the East Bay park facilities only to find them locked. Inside my mind I was actually on my knees shaking my fists at the sky. "For the love!" In reality. I walked back to the aid station to set out on the official course. My feet were barking.

Back on course, the sun came up along the beautiful drive of bay and homes. Mile 85 Evie began to slow and was becoming more tired. Her feet were hurting too of course. I don't think either of us were talking much so the pacers held the conversation. She said again to just go on. Sharon said, "You are going to finish. It's just a matter of when."

That word "when" played in my head. In the next couple miles I started to feel an urgency to see my family soon and my pace picked up a little. Kendra pulled up and let us know that it was about 3 miles to the 91 mile marker at the fire house. One of the Zwitty race workers pulled up and handed us water if we needed it. I felt a surge, and at the same time it was getting hot again. We were in full sun once more. It was the longest 4 miles of rolling road hills, and there is where I lost Evie a ways back with her pacer. The only thing I worried about was heat exhaustion. Actually being physically incapable of finishing. That would stink. The fact that I could think about it, meant that I was alright.

I reached the firehouse with a real restroom. Hallelujah! I then took care of my fueling, and my family pulled in to find me. Hell yeah, mile 91. Again, pure joy in their faces made me feel a little less of a mess, because this was really happening. I proceeded with my daughter for a little ways and then my son. Run/walk again. I wish I could freeze those movements of excitement on their faces. They were so joyful. By mile 90-something I just wanted it over. This was a feeling I expected would come. No DNF today. I thought about how pissed I would be at myself if I DNFed this race. The death of a dream. People DNF for personal reasons and acts of nature and it's alright. I've been there three times with always a tremendous obstacle. But sore feet and heat was not going to be mine. Slam my foot down again.

Going by some residential homes, an elder man hobbled out with some waters for Kendra and I. How very sweet. I would have hugged him if I didn't know I was a stinky disaster and he'd regret bringing that water. Other racers were heading home from the finish with their crews of decorated cars with numbers — honking, rolling down their windows to chat up some encouraging words and waving at us. I knew we were some of the last survivors. Finishing is winning in every sense when it comes to an ultra. It isn't a puffed up false to make one feel better. It isn't a participation trophy. It's grit and TRUTH. So no matter where we came in, I wanted to cross that finish line. I knew Evie wouldn't be stopping with me out there. Kendra's husband kept us informed about where we each were.

Dash to the finish with my girl.
Last mile: Just where the heck is this finish line?? I could see the little group around a corner—my kids and husband. I switched to the other side of the road where there was some shade and they brought me in, while I kept telling my daughter to get out of the poison ivy. Yep, still a mom and how many times do I have to say it until she stops running in it? Three … three times is the magic number.

My husband and son ran ahead when we finally got close to the finish. I grabbed my daughter's hand and ran for it. Ethan Olds was waiting there with arms up and the clock was still going. 30 hours / 18 minutes. That is my "Hell yeah, Mother Fucker" moment that I couldn't say out loud because … children.

Evie came in at 30 hour / 53 minutes. We did it! Evie had told our new runner friend on that training 50 mile run last month when we met him, that he was looking at the last two finishers, and he laughed … we all did. But we were serious and I couldn't be more proud. My feet however, were destroyed with heat rash and blisters. There is no doubt in my mind that more people would have finished if not for the surprise record hottest day of the year.

The buckle award for 100 milers.
The Stats:
70 toed the line to start
22 drops
48 finishers
70% overall finish (which is an outstanding percentage)

Would I do it again?
Absolutely! The Zwitty team puts on a great race and is very encouraging to see the participants finish. We saw Ethan Olds at several stations throughout the race and he was enthusiastic and helpful with advice. I had emailed Dave Krupski several times prior to the race and he replied within a couple hours and encouraged interaction. This race is extremely accessible for crews and pacers—going through several small vacation towns. Note: Next year they are reversing the course to end in Petoskey. That could feel all new again and does lend it's self for runners not from the area to quickly make their way to their hotel.

Hell yeah! It's an INKnBURN finish of Run or Die.
With Krista my crew leader that had my back 100% for 100 miles. I am so grateful.
I think I am retaining 10 lbs in this photo of fluid. My hands were THICK with the rest of me!


Some fun stuff:

Crew vehicle with banner that followed us
with our numbers (not shown here).

Customized side of hats with
the Lighthouse100

Front of our 4 hats with Dorothy running.
She is an adventurer.