October 6, 2015

Swiftwater 50k Race Recap: My 2nd attempt to run a really long way.

"Pacing in an ultra is about leaving enough in the bank to last you to the end. There is a golden rule of ultra pacing, or at least an old adage: If you think you are starting the race slow, then slow down even more."-Hal Koerner
These are wise words I wish I had read before running on Saturday!

Regardless of not taking Hal Koerner's advice, I still had an unforgettable day, finished my second ultra, Swiftwater50k, with a PR and and enjoyed miles and miles of beauty along the North Umpqua river in Douglas county, Oregon.

Beautiful photos by Steven Mortinson, (used with permission) stevenmortinson.com

Here's how events played out.

Pre race:
I am especially grateful to my parents who were able to watch my 3 boys while my husband is doing some out of town training, so I could race. I am so blessed to have 2 sets of very generous grandparents for them. Without them, I would not get to do events like this.
I dropped the boys off at their house the night before so I could get a good night's sleep.

I arrived a half an hour early to the 6 am shuttle and had a little time to rest and get my things together for the van. I had already had coffee, a small breakfast burrito (egg and sausage) before 5:30 and ate a Kashi bar at about 6:15.

The race shuttle was a clean van that took us upriver to Horseshoe Bend campground. On the way I chatted with a new friend, Angela, about the UCC shooting that took place on Thursday in the county seat, Roseburg. It's very hard to put something like that out of your mind and be excited to race.

There are still so many people in pain and shock over it here, it almost felt wrong to be racing. I was glad that "the Joe's" (race directors Joe and Johanna Blanchard) had a moment of silence before the race to honor the victims.

Start to Aid station2
As the race started, we took off on a short section of paved road to meet the singletrack that would comprise 99% of the race. I found my legs feeling quite fresh, and I contribute that to some excellent email advice I got from a respected friend regarding her own 50k taper last year.

I was surprised, given the entrants list I had seen, that there weren't more women in front of me at the start. There were several ultra ladies (and men) who were highly ranked. But now I know why they weren't there. They are smarter than I am!
sidenote: Honestly, I hadn't given much thought to pace. I just wanted to run by feel. And after my first ultra, I wanted to go out a bit harder this time. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
Somehow I found myself comfortable running upriver in the 9 minute mile range (about 2-3 minutes/mile faster than my usual easy training pace on the NUT), I stopped to take off my arm sleeves and a woman ran by, who commented, "Yeah, this is about the time those things come off." (Later I would learn her name is Amber Singh). At this point there was just Amber ahead of me, and about 5 or 6 guys (but I can't be certain on that).

When we got to the first aid station (around mile 5), I didn't stop, but drank from my bottles and cruised through the turnaround, where the first woman was drinking. She caught up to me and started chatting with me. It was then that I realized I was running too fast to talk and run at the same time! I let her go, and by mile 8 she was out of sight.

Watch... as she leaves us all in her dust!
photo graciously supplied by stevenmortinson.com
Aid station 2 - Aid station 3
When I hit aid station 2, I took more from my bottles (one had water, the other had agave/lemon juice/water/salt) and passed right though.  I walked much of the hill just past the aid station and then started running again.

The trail started to get a bit trickier with rocks, roots, one big log, and ups and downs for creeks. At about mile 10 I started to struggle mentally. I knew I had to slow down. With more than 20 miles left to run, it was not a good time to start feeling tired. My legs still felt good, but overall fatigue was creeping in.

Somewhere between aid station 2 and 3, I made a stop, and it was miles later that I realized that I had somehow burst open the peanut butter/jam/honey baggie in my front vest pack pocket (you may recall my recent fueling post). It was oozing out of my pack. So, for a mile or two I ran down the trail picking large, damp (we had a little rain before the race), leaves, and tried to wipe a sticky mess off of my front pocket before it got all over me.

I ate some from the baggie before I disposed of it in an "environmentally friendly" manner. Then I licked what I could off of my Garmin and my arm. This accounts for a few slower, but very tasty, miles.
Right before the peanut butter ziploc bag blew up?, smiling because I still have about 20 miles to go...
Photo by Steven Mortinson

The section between aid station 3 and 4 is a bit of a blur but I know I filled my water bottle back up and also picked up 3 gu chomps and ate them over the next segment.

Aid station 4- the BIG hills
At aid station 4, I decided I did not need any of the extra stuff I had dropped "just in case" (including a full change of clothes due to rain). I also dropped my hat there. The volunteers at the table were friendly and helpful. I drank some water from a cup and then moved on.

The next segment, Mott, is nice for running fast on, (except for the slippery rocks near the end) . I mustered what I could and ran my best, knowing there was still 14 miles to go.

When I emerged at the next aid station right before the Tioga segment, I knew I would finish, but still had so far to go- an 8 mile segment, plus a 1 mile stretch to the finish line.

I was still in second place for women, somehow, but my fast start would catch up with me here.

I know this intense climbing section because I ran it several times in training -RAN up and down all the hills, every one of them! However, after racing 23 miles.. I knew where the hills were and was not looking forward to them. Furthermore, I was worried about being caught. I had passed a few men, but I knew there were women behind me. I just didn't know how far back.

Every once in a while, I looked behind me and saw an orange shirt through the trees. The orange shirt kept me from walking, but my legs weren't too peppy anymore. They were downright drained.

It was one stream crossing after another: Run down, cross a bridge, run up. Run along a ridge for a bit, then down, then across a bridge, then back up. Get the idea?
I was trying to keep the orange shirt from closing in on me, but I was struggling to do it.

Maybe around mile 26, the orange shirt finally caught me. It was Kelly Dreibelbis. Her feet were moving at a nice steady rhythm, consistent and pushing up hills. I had been fighting some nausea, and overcame it, but seeing her float by made me realize how much other people must have held back at the start.

To the extra aid station

I was still in 3rd for women, but man I hate being passed late in a race.
There were 5 miles left to endure, and I was conversing with myself, "Why did you want to run an ultra? This thing has to end. Just get to the end."

Another woman was fast on my heels within a few minutes. I recognized her from the start of the race as Tiffany Carson. She signed up last minute and flew out from NY with her hubby Stephen England, to do her first ultra. I waved her past me not realizing there was an aid station just ahead of us. She was cheerful, smiling, and looked very fresh.

I stopped for a water refill (and a break) while Tiffany powered past me up the toughest stretch of hills on the course.

The last aid station to the end
I walked a little, and jogged maybe 10 feet up a mile of hill. Then once I was over the hill, I started to run. A few steps later I plopped down on the side of the trail and dumped out a tiny rock that had been in my shoe for who knows how long.

With about 5k left, I did not feel like getting up. I really wanted to just take a nap.
(I have heard of this in hundred milers, but not 50ks. Maybe I should try a hundred!)

About the moment I got my shoe back on, over the hill came another female.
 "Oh NO." I said to myself. "Here we go again. The whole dang race is going to pass me".

But rather than try to pass, the sweet angel of a girl, Melissa Tucker, asked how I was doing. I might have whined a bit at this point, but I started running with all I had left.

I had the nerve to ask her age (without really looking at her face), and when she told me 32, I might have let out a whoop. I still had a chance at being the first master female!

Melissa's optimism was refreshing and carried me through to the end. She even said she wouldn't pass me, because she made her goal. She must have felt pretty sorry for me! haha.

As we entered the finish chute, Melissa kept her promise and we finished 4th and 5th females with only a second between us: 5:46:01, 5:46:02. I gave her a BIG hug and thanked her for talking with me and running with me when it was hardest. I wish the best for her in all her ultra adventures!

Post race
Immediately I went over to the cooler and cracked open a cold coke. I drank all of it in probably 15 seconds. It was so good, and I am NOT a soda drinker. Then I went to the table where my drop bag was sitting and found the sleeping bag I brought. I threw it on the ground and laid down on it. Everything hurt, but I was just so happy to be done running.

A barbecue was well under way since the first men, Nathan Stroh and Gerad Dean, arrived in 4:24:50, also only a second apart. I reunited with Amber who finished 3rd overall, and first woman in 4:59:50!   Also, I learned that Kelly and Tiffany finished strong in 5:35 and 5:39.

Awards were presented and I was given a pair of shoes and a bottle of wine for finishing first master female, and also received a very special and unexpected award, a hand painted rock with the words "Top Douglas County Finisher 2015"

As I ate, my body loosened up a bit. I sneaked into the nearby Susan Creek campground and took a hot shower, which helped a lot, and came back to see a new instagram friend, Didi Clark, finish her second ultra. I hope she knows how proud I am of her, because with anywhere from 4300ft to 7300ft of climbing (depending on whose watch you go by), this one was NO easy course.

I have no idea why anyone ever wants to run an ultra. It is so painful! But already, my wheels are turning, thinking of what I could do better if I did another 50k.
There must be something wrong with me!

October 4, 2015

Signs I saw driving home from the 50k.

Thursday's events may have moved to page 2, but not in Douglas County.

I am still thankful to live here.

September 21, 2015

Google "50k Training plan," please?

It's probably not a good idea to start looking for a 50k training plan with 2 weeks until your race, but that's what I was doing this morning.

Having signed up for an October 3rd event, I just wanted to see if I could actually get in some long trail runs and "sort of train" for the distance without hurting myself this time.

So far, so good. Fingers crossed!

Really, I was just looking for a taper plan, not a full plan. The full plan is already (mostly) executed as best I could, since I decided about three months ago that I might be able to increase my long run just long enough to squeak into this one.

And squeak, I will... though not without a few incredible long runs!
My running partners are good sports. Here's Rachel looking out at the North Umpqua and Crater Lake Highway. It's not a bad spot for a 22 mile trail run.

A little speed -bump on the trail.

There are some very low water crossings this year.
Photo by Rachel Miller

Lots of climbing on the last section!
Photo by Rachel Miller

The river provides a nice ice bath after a long run. Trust me.. it's still cold in September.
Photo by Rachel Miller

I've got 12 days left and don't think I will be doing anything too long between now and October 3rd.

I feel better prepared for this 50k than for the first one I did, which is a good thing, but I still feel like I am missing the mileage. However, it is hard to tell just how much I need, vs. how much it takes to tip the scales of injury. Even if I absolutely rock this race, my finish time could be worse than last year's because it's a much harder course.

If you have any tips for how much to taper.. with a max week of 50 miles and the last long run being 22 miles, 19 days before your race, leave me a comment ☺ Otherwise, I'll just keep winging it. 

Crazy lady!!
The view from Mt. Pisgah (short, steep run) about 5 minutes before a downpour soaked me.
Photo by a kind random stranger

September 15, 2015

Long run drinking and fueling experiments

I've been trying some new things out for fuel lately and thought I'd share!

Most of my runs I don't really need to worry about fueling, just water. This summer was exceptionally hot and dry, so I brought water on almost every run. And that's OK with me; my pack gives extra room for carrying my phone and camera, keys, etc..

However, with all the longer runs I have been doing recently, fueling has been essential. 
It's just not going to be pretty if you are running all day on the trails and don't have anything to keep you going. 

I believe sugar is essential (carb), though some might prefer to add fats or protein to fuel with. The bottom line is that you need SOMETHING out there.. Figuring what the right combination of "something" is- that part can be tricky.

My personal observation is that in a race where you expect to run the whole thing without using the restroom (big potty, here!), it's best done on strictly non-fiber carbs (gels, sports drinks, beans, chews, etc..). This is best for races under 5-6 hours. 

Fiber and protein (i.e. bars, meat sticks, trail butter, real food), these things are known to cause "big potty". They also redirect your blood from elsewhere in the body to your stomach for digestion, and will lead to a stop or two in many people's races. They also, however, provide energy to keep a runner going longer and that is why ultra runners must have them if they are running for hours on end. (Only going on research here, since my longest run ever was not quite 6 hours).

After running out of some prepackaged bars, I decided that my 5 hour runs would need some alternative fuel, and I went to the kitchen to see what I could whip up. 

This is what I came up with:

September 6, 2015

Hood to Coast- (short version).

How is it possible that someone could live in Oregon, be a runner for any length of time, and never run in the Hood to Coast relay?

Somehow I've managed to escape being part of it until this year, as a master's runner, when I was asked a few months in advance if I'd like to join a team.

I thought about saying no, but

August 18, 2015

Long runs, a Relay, and a Fall Ultra!

I've switched gears again with running.
Earlier in the year I thought I might spend all summer working on speed and try to get back into 10k PR shape. After a few races in the spring, I decided that might be beyond my reach right now- -not impossible, just not something I have time to sacrifice for, with multiple runs a day, multiple showers a day, and all the PT needed.
Plus, there are goodies. 
It's hard to give up goodies.

Besides that, someone went and organized a 50k race on one of my favorite (and closest) singletrack trails. I wasn't crazy enought to run a 100k going upriver, but how could I turn down a 50k that finishes going down the North Umpqua river? I said goodbye to shorter runs and more speedwork, and hello to long runs.

I've missed running long.

July 31, 2015

Ladybug run 10k Race recap

Two friends reconnect through running
A few years ago, a friend of mine from high school, Liz Dooley, was a beginning runner. Somehow she found my blog and started asking me questions about running...
After checking her blogging profile I noticed Liz had her own blog- but her blog was different.
It was a blog about her pregnancy and her daughter who had been diagnosed in the womb with a birth defect called CDH.
Friends reunited
Photo by Andy Akenson - Flickr
I began to read a bit, but the stories were heartbreaking. They were stories of surgeries, lung problems, babies on ventilators...
I felt there was little I could do to help, but reading her posts helped me to see her unbelievable faith in God for taking her through the journey of a risky pregnancy and very scary adventure as a parent.


I figured since it's 104f outside, I might as well dust off my blog.

Here are a few short updates:

  1. I am running.. and not injured. 
  2. This blog thing is great. But when I set it down for a few days, I don't quite know where to pick it up again. How much do I try to catch up on? How much should I just skip? 
  3. I ran the first 7 1/2 months of 2015 in shoes from 2014 or older. And I did NOT die.. (see #1)
  4. I have been racing- not my BEST racing, but racing decently enough to win some prizes. I just haven't been able to get to the write-ups in a timely fashion. Maybe I will go back over them. Or maybe I won't. That sounds like a lot of work.
  5. My husband's new job has opened my eyes a bit. While I still enjoy running and blogging, as well as taking pics and sharing them, I want to support him fully. That means maintaining my sanity (through running) and also being available to take care of his needs and the needs of my family better than I have in the past. 

No pics today. You can go to instagram for those.. I've been putting in some time over there.

So: How have you been?
What have I missed?
Is this thing still working?

April 14, 2015

Shotgun Trail Blast ~ 2nd race, 2nd win of 2015, and course record!?

After volunteering at the Shotgun Trail Blast  in 2013 I knew I would be back to run at least one of the race distances in beautiful Marcola, Oregon.

The year I volunteered I was unable to run due to plantar fasciitis; but it gave me a fair glimpse of what the trails were like while stationed at an aid table, serving gels, on a wooded muddy switchback.

This year, the 5k race

March 11, 2015

Salmon River Trail

I really don't need any excuse to go trail running, but sometimes it helps to have one readily available before you try to make a three hour trip to run with friends in a non-race situation.

Heck. I don't even get to drive three hours to race usually!

But I won't complain, because I have some pretty awesome runs right out my front door. ☺

Conveniently, a lady runner I had met via blogs had