Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I survived my first ultra! ~ MRTR 50k race report

Life lesson learned:
If anything, this race proved to me that unconventional training can still lead to a lot of fun, if I am willing to have a good attitude and be realistic about things.

I chose McKenzie River Trail Run 50k as my first ultra because it is close to home and it looked like an "easy" race for a newbie. If an ultra can be "easy".. 
The course is net downhill, and has a lot of fun rolling action through trees, by waterfalls, and over log bridges. The bulk of the race is more technical than I expected and stayed surprisingly that way until the last 10k. It is very gentle in regards to elevation gains, though.

A little background
Leading up to the event, I had no idea if my body was healed or not from an injury (hip flexor strain or tendonitis? from a very hilly 23 mi trail run 2 weeks prior). Things were looking positive, but my last run before the event was only 3 miles, 6 days before the race! Would I be healthy to do this? I had no idea.

My plan was to run conservatively to begin with. Any outcome was possible, but I knew I had better give myself the best shot possible at just completing 31 miles... In my experience it doesn't usually get less painful as you run.

The night before the race, my parents were gracious enough to let me stay at their place in Eugene (THANKS MOM AND DAD!) while my husband took care of the boys at home.  It was a little farther from Blue River than I realized, but my dad drove up following me in my car to work out the point to point shuttle. 

We left a little after 5 am, and made a stop at the coffee drive-through. Then we drove about an hour and 15 min to drop my car off at the McKenzie River Ranger Station (finish line area). About 20 minutes later we arrived at the race start, I said good bye to my dad,  and I picked up my packet with just a few minutes to arrange my drop bag and get to the start.

The lines to the porta-potties were busy! But, it was a non-issue for me at that point. I scanned the group of wiry and well-geared people at the start, and located my running partners, Kristen and Stacie. They were doing their pre-race routines. I wished I had a little more time to warm up and stretch a bit, but figured I could do so later if I needed to. (The joys of a no-pressure race!)

 Fast people up front for a 54F start! It would be 87F at the finish.

After a few words about heat, hydration and being smart, the race started.
In the first mile there was quite a scramble as runners jostled for positions to avoid being bottle-necked on single track. Unlike other races I have participated in, I moved out of the way!! ☺

There was a woman in cheetah-print gaiters walking all the uphills in that first mile. She seemed like she might be experienced, so I got in behind her and started talking to her. It seems this "walking the beginning through the technical sections (i.e. sharp lava rocks)" got her some decent race times, (5- 5.5 hours) the last 3 times, so I stayed with her, letting people pass us on the left.

Karen Louise was my angel in the early stage of the race! 
(This section of pavement was very short- less than a mile)

Near mile three I got stung 6 times by yellow jackets. So did several other people, though. And in an odd way, it gave us something to pass the time talking about. (Something's better than nothing!) Another mile later, I saw Stacie, one of my running partners, as we ran past each other. She took a more confident start and had maybe a mile lead on me already. It was good to see her face!

When Karen Louise fell on the lava (like many other runners), and cut her hand, her race changed instantly. We had to part ways at the first aid station so she could get bandaged up, which takes maybe 15 minutes. Given the choice, I would prefer bee stings over falling on lava!

It must have been around mile 10 that I started to feel confident my hip was going to be OK. Still, I wanted to stick to my plan and run cautiously. With 20 miles left to go, I didn't think it was safe to push things. I stopped at the second aid station (Carmen Reservoir 11.2 mi) and a lovely young girl volunteer refilled one of my bottles with Gu Brew. I began to run more of the uphills, but I still kept the whole first 16 miles very easy. 

Most of the route up to this point had been a mix of dirt path and/or lava. There were plenty of roots, and even the more "runnable" sections required focus to keep from tripping. 

Some of the sections of trail that were easier to run.

Between the second and third aid stations, I started to take in a few solids in the form of few pickle slices I had packed in a baggie, which tasted great, but smelled like garlic!

And then at the Trail Bridge (mile 16.7) aid station, I ate some salt and vinegar chips (Lays Stackers, which are addictive and FANTASTIC), and watermelon slices I had in my drop bag. There was no need for me to pack these treats, because this aid station was fully stocked!! I regret not taking photos of it all. However, this was a long stop for me, and I was no longer trying take any photos at this point.

My foot was a little sore from a mysterious injury months ago, so while at Trail Bridge, I put a pair of OTC arch supports inside my Lone Peak2's. This was a last minute decision. I love my Altra Lone Peak2 shoes for their durability and traction, as well as toe space. I thought making a change like the inserts would work like switching shoes to prevent hot spots, and give my super-high arches some assistance.  The arch supports lifted me up and made me a little unstable. Then I turned my ankle (to the outside) and felt it sharp in my foot where it's been hurting... I think I know how I got hurt 11 weeks ago (Aha moment!!) Eventually my foot calmed down and I was able to start running faster for the last 15 miles. 

Running with pickles still in my pack and a goofy grin that says, "I don't care how slow I am. I'm running!"
Photo used with permission, Thanks to Thomas Moser Photography 

I don't even remember the 4th aid station at Deer Creek (mile 21.8) I think I just ran through it.

The best part about this race, besides just enjoying my day and taking in the scenery, had to be the fact that I was running a faster second half. I had forgotten how GOOD it feels to reel people in during the end of a long race. I made my A goal!

When I got to the last aid station, Buck Bridge (mile 25.1), I realized I might be able to beat 6 hours. I had 10k left to run, and about an hour to do it in. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, except I had ran 25 miles already! 

After gulping down a couple of cups of Coke (the best thing ever at the end of a long race!), I decided I would make every effort to run faster. At what pace? I have no idea. Probably my fastest feeling 10 minute miles ever!
My watch must have gotten bumped, because it got stuck at 5:29:27 while running in this last stretch, and had lost the signal long before that. When I figured out my watch was stopped I could only guess how far I had left to run. 

Though I was still passing runners, (and cyclists going the other direction), there was a woman, a beautiful masters runner, and we were staying rather close together. It was her second 50k and she really wanted to beat 6 hours. But she wanted me in front and let me pace her ☺.  After a bit I slowed for a minute on an uphill and let her pass me. It's one of the few times I was happy to have someone pass at the end of the race. After I regained my strength from the break, I picked things up and made it my mission to keep her in sight.

The finish line was a tease!
There were multiple small signs leading up to it, and i just wanted to see the end. 

One sign read "You paid for this?" and another said "almost there!" but there were at least 2 more signs before I saw the finish line! 

Finally, I heard the shouts and was able to cross the line in 5:57:32. Not bad for walking and taking pictures in the first half! Plenty of room to improve there, but I was grateful to be done with the longest run of my life.

After the race
First I looked for an easy way down to the river. But there was none! Then I walked to the car, feeling a bit queasy for running hard at the end, and found some warm (unopened) Chobani yogurt and ate it. 
Somehow that helped a bit. 

I found my river spot after a short drive, and sat in the COLDEST water I have ever been in (for about 30 seconds)!

A little while later I arrived at St. Benedict's Lodge for a shower, and ate everything I could fit on a plate!

Post race lunch: Chicken, black beans, chips, cilantro, lettuce, hot sauce, lime, sour cream, salsa, chips, soda- As much as I wanted! 
My appetite came back quickly. (There were also tortillas and rice, but I didn't get any)

Runners also received long-sleeve hooded T-shirts with a nice design, and a bottle of McKenzie River Red wine. Since I don't drink, I gave the wine to my mom. 

I saw some items on the table and decided to purchase them ~ 2008 MRTR gaiters! Score!


Would I Recommend this race?
Resoundingly, YES! (unless you are allergic to bees/yellow jackets/hornets)
The entire race was well-organized, email reminders were sent out, as well as posts made in the Facebook page. Aid stations were well stocked (at least at the middle of the pack) with drink and also S-caps, first aid, and lots of food at the later stations. For $65, this is a great deal!

If you are interested in MRTR, join the facebook group or go to and add it to the watch list. The race is capped at 200 and there is a lottery in the spring to enter.
Also, prepare to get lodging near the race, or camp, unless you want to drive 90 minutes.

I think I did pretty well!
I mostly survived on gels, water and Gu Brew. I drank early on. And I would guess I drank about 48 oz. (The cool morning and shade helped with that). I took a gel at every aid station, or thereabouts (there were 5), and took one S cap (salts) at the first aid station. I didn't realize I was getting sloshy until I finished, so next time I'll try to eat a bar early.

Faith stuff:
I did a fair amount of praying while I ran. I find that prayer helps me to disconnect from thinking too much about running, but likewise, running helps me to focus and pray. 

If you requested prayer from me, you got it by name! If I got your comment late, you have still been prayed for, just during my recovery time ☺ I also felt covered in prayer and greatly appreciate those who were praying for me. Thank you, if that was you! God definitely answered prayer for my hip!

Overall, I was very pleased at how both my feet and legs held up. The main fatigue I had was in my upper glutes, which felt similar to when I run long after not running long in many weeks. I credit the fact that my legs held up so well to a few things: a) I walked early and often.. even a little on the uphills near the end,  b) I took the time off to heal my hip flexor, but c) I did the longer training runs on trails, and  d) God's healing power urged on by friends.

I trained very little for this race, except the long run.
Looking back over my scattered log, I'm amazed at how little I actually ran in the last 2 months. Perhaps if I had stayed away from speed work earlier on in my training (4 months out) I might have had a much bigger mileage base. But then again, it would have been hard to run according to my original plan, even if I was uninjured, since my hubby was gone more than half the time this summer.

I may never be a speedy ultra runner. 
There certainly is room for me to improve in the 50k. (Lots.)
But, I had a heck of a time learning the ropes!

And yes...
I'm already looking at tackling another one! ☺.


I ran this race, and will be running the rest in 2014 to raise funds for CDH awareness. Generous readers may donate to the cause -> HERE 

*For another take on MRTR go read Sassy Molassy 

Friday, September 5, 2014

All My Eggs are in One Basket and I'm Shooting for 50k from the Hip. MRTR tomorrow!

McKenzie River Trail Run is Saturday! 
I know, because I got an email reminder about bib numbers, bees, hotel shuttles, how not to get lost, and most importantly- where the food is after the race.

Am I panicked?
I've been through that over the last few days and am now past it. Dropping all three boys off at school for the first time ever has allowed lots of time to over-think things. ☺

I have asked myself a few times this week, "Why did I

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Adventures: part1

The summer has just rolled by, but not without a few excursions.

We've been making the most of our opportunities to enjoy the 3 months of dry weather we get here in southwest Oregon.

My other half has been largely out of town, which has made ultra training..

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pacing Tips: How to have a FUN marathon with a Friend

On Sunday, I had the privilege of running a marathon alongside a friend of mine from college. It was her first shot at 26.2, and she asked me months ago if I would run Eugene Marathon with her. We hadn't seen each other in maybe 20 years!

This was not a decision I made lightly, because a marathon is a BIG deal- and a FIRST marathon is a very big deal. If I hadn't been training for a 50k (or another marathon after this), I probably would have said no, and offered any other help I could have to her. But, the timing was good, and I wanted her to experience all the joy and reward of completing the distance with confidence.

We had a great time together. She finished in what I believe to be a fantastic first marathon pace, with a smile on her face. It was HARD, but worth it. And for me, it was refreshing to use my experience and confidence of running marathons before to help a friend have a successful race. In many ways this was more rewarding than chasing down a PR.

If you think you'd like to pace a friend, here are some tips that might be useful:

Discuss goals ahead of time.
Get an idea of your friend's racing goal. Will she be happy just to reach the end? Is this person VERY time goal focused?

Find out the person's training paces and most recent race times- if possible. Ideally, their racing times for a half marathon would slightly slower than you run your easier log runs. You don't want to be an anchor! You also don't want to be the one needing aid along the course.

Train for the distance. Seriously. 
Do you want to jump from a 10 mile long run to 26.2 and see what happens? It's not going to be pretty.
I put in a 20 miler 12 days before this race, and a 17 miler 3 weeks before that. Mileage between those runs was scant. I knew the long runs were critical, and that was the bare minimum I'd try to get away with.

Create a pacing strategy with the other runner. 
Heather had been doing her research and planned to go out slower and speed up if she felt good.   She did not want to walk, so we went out easy to try to keep that from happening at the end. Negative splits were the goal, but we ended up with pretty even splits. The only times we walked were to stop for water and one porta-potty visit. She did fantastic! 

Bring extra stuff!
Plan to be a pack mule. Your friend will appreciate having you nearby if you can supply water, extra gels, headphones ☺, in addition to encouragement.
I wore 48 ounces of fluids, carried 4 gels and had extra headphones, but forgot I had them until mile 20. Her cordless headphones died early on and she could have used mine if I had remembered! We were both drinking from aid stations and off of my bottles towards the end.

Use your Garmin and have a backup.
My Garmin has been dying slowly. It gave up at mile 8. Luckily I had started an app on my phone as backup, and knew about what time the race started, but the mile splits were all off. The pace band was good to have!

Encourage good / frequent fueling and hydration. 
Ask her if she needs a drink, or fuel. At mile 8.. Have you fueled yet? No?! We probably should!

Stay positive and look for distractions.
Point out the funny signs, or costumes. Make sure she takes in all the surroundings. You should be feeling good because this is your easy pace. Keep an eye and ear out for things that will motivate or lighten the run with humor.
One of the best things that happened at mile 22 was running into a facebook friend, Shannon Price. He is actually a professional pacer for the Cliff Bar company and was out for a long jog! He shared how GREAT Heather was doing, and related a story about how badly his first marathon went. It certainly brightened our run up at that moment!

Be flexible
Sometimes things just don't go as planned. Your friend might have a bad day, or YOU might. Discuss what to do if either of you is having a really bad, or REALLY GOOD race.
We talked about it before the race, and I was sure to let Heather know that if she was having a super race and I could not keep up, I wanted her to leave me behind! I also knew that no matter how bad it went for her, I would stay with her. (I didn't say this, but I hope she knew!)

Call in the reserves!
If possible, you can surprise your friend by having family or friends at a few spots to cheer. It is possible that the racer didn't ask anyone to do that! What a nice surprise it is when you recognize a face in the toughest sections.
I asked my dad to wait at mile 21 with watermelon slices for us. I grabbed them as we went by and handed one to Heather. At first she wasn't sure (not in the plan!) but then she tasted it.. It was a tasty mile!

Plan to do the talking, but don't be annoying. Also.. check your running math.
Whatever you do. Don't announce that there is only 5k left to go at mile 22. That will get you noticed and not in a good way!

Be an encourager! As you get close to the finish, remind your friend how close it is. If things get hard, have a few kind words to offer. Know ahead of time what to draw on for inspiration.
Heather was running to raise funds for a friend with cancer. If it got tough, we would consider how much tougher things could be.

Cool your jets, Turbo. This is not the time to decide you want to beat your friend. Do not make wild attempts to pass everyone near you at the finish line. This is not your moment, it is hers!

SMILE for the cameras! And remind her too!! There will be a few.

I LOVE the shots of Heather as she crossed the finish line. All the pain is gone from her face and it is sheer JOY at being a MARATHONER.

My first official marathon in 2 years , Heather's first EVER! 
(Shoes: AltrOne²)

For many reasons, I will treasure my 4:09 marathon finish more than the others.  If you are thinking of pacing a friend, or get the chance by accident, I highly encourage you to take the opportunity to party at your friend's pace. You won't regret it!

I ran this race, and will be running the rest in 2014 to raise funds for CDH awareness. Generous readers may donate to the cause -> HERE 

Have you ever paced a friend before in a race? 
What else would you suggest in addition to these tips?

Congratulations!! One of my readers is a VERY lucky winner today :) 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest Pack 2 Review -> WIN ONE! :)

Trail photo at BigK Guest Ranch by running friend, Laning Leo Davis.

I have been excited about the Orange Mud company since I first learned of them. They make the first bottle style of running pack I came across (the Hydraquiver ~ REVIEW HERE). I had a waist belt before that, but it was prone to leaks and I grew tired of it dripping