Thursday, April 28, 2011

Disconnect


Last week my friend Jenn posted an article from the NY Times entitled "Ahem! Are you talking to me?: Keep your thumbs still when I am talking to you". It is a fantastic article and confirmed for me, once again, that being present, connecting deeply with those around you and focusing on what is truly important is what life is all about.

I was in St.George working diligently away on the patio with Krissy when I read this article. We had finished all of our planning for R2R2R and needed to get our work done so we could focus our energies on running on Tuesday. When I started my own business, I implemented a few things that keep me focused on my work when I am working such as Rescue Time and StayFocused so I would not invent things to do (like checking facebook or reading blogs) to avoid the important tasks. I feel like I have successfully decreased my frivolous internet surfing when I have important work to do and yet, I realized that I wasn't going far enough. I was being focused in my work, but still distracted in daily life.

I feel like most everyone I know is way to tethered to their phones, their emails, facebooks and twitter accounts. I realized after reading the 4HWW that I had fallen into that trap and was missing out on a lot of the good stuff in life, the real connections, because I was too busy trying to keep up with the endless stream of information. It was a bad habit and I had decided to kick it. When I read this article, it sunk in that I didn't just need to do it for myself, I needed to do it for those around me. I don't want to be rude to my friends, I don't want to make them feel that they aren't valued and I definitely don't want to affirm that pulling out our phones mid-sentence is ever a proper thing to do.

Life unplugged: dinner with family.

Before I went to St.George, I was making small steps towards breaking this habit-looking into getting rid of my iPhone, spending less leisure time on the internet, etc. When I was in St. George, I was able to see the real benefit of unplugging. I made a conscious effort not to tote my phone with me to the dinner table or when I was interacting with new and old friends. Instead, every night Krissy, Bryce and Melanie and I lingered over homemade dinners and talked for hours. I had several incredible and deep conversations with each of them before retiring to bed for further contemplation. We even shared some beautiful moments messing around on the guitar, piano and singing songs that I haven't thought of since I went to Flying Horseshoe Ranch as a kid. When I got around to looking on the internet or my phone, I had missed nothing. Instead, I had deep rich meaningful interactions, thoughts and felt completely present.

There are beautiful things all around, if you'd just look up from your phone!

I noticed subsequently how easy it was to leave it behind (the internet and phone) and refocus on more meaningful things. Even if that just means reading a book instead of a blog. Writing a recipe instead of drooling over photos of food. Calling a friend instead of posting on their facebook. Lingering at the dinner table with family and friends. I am not arguing that we should completely abandon technology or live a disconnected life. Instead, I am suggesting that we should reshift the balance. Find the reconnection to the life in front of us, instead of the virtual one at our fingertips.

I think one of the things I have always loved about long distance running is the inherent disconnection. The disconnection from the constant bombardment of information and the reconnection to the present moment. Running with friends and training partners makes you fully present to them and they to you. Running by yourself brings you back into yourself. When people ask me what I think about when running such long distances, I can only answer "whatever is present to me at that particular moment". Krissy asked me when we were running the R2R2R if I ever wrote my blog posts in my head while running the race and I definitely have that sensation. However, its not that I am actually writing a blog in my head, it is that I am hyper conscious of my own narrative stream of the present, I am talking myself through whatever I am facing. My blogs rarely reflect things the way they would if those moments and thoughts were captured in time. Running makes me present inherently. There have been plenty of times when I have tried to turn off my brain or get out of the moment, but I simply cannot. I absolutely love that. And like a lot of lessons in running, I try to model this in the rest of my life.

The more I disconnect, the more real and beautiful the world seems. I feel genuine connections. I feel inspired daily. I feel reinvigorated and curious. I feel more at ease and less frantic. I feel like I am becoming the person I want to be and living the life I want to lead. It may seem like a small thing, it may seem like a huge ridiculous thing, but I've come to think about it this way: as the years pass and life flicks by in an instant, what will I remember? I will remember the good people I've met and the bonds I've created. I will be filled with memories of time spent doing things I loved. I will value the life I lived which was rich and full. I will remember the real life I had when I unplugged and disconnected.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Fastest Known Time for Women

On January 21st, I sent a short email to my friend Krissy entitled "need for speed". It simply said: I think one of these days you and I should work together to do the FKT at R2R2R. She wrote back "heck yeah, let's make it happen". And so began an adventure. We found a date that worked for us, planned and prepped and got ready to make our attempt on April 19th, 2011. Our time goal: sub 9:25 (Emily Baer held the record at 9:25, set in 2003)


Girl's weekend R2R2R Oct 2009


It was not the first time Krissy and I ran the Canyon together. In October 2009, Krissy, Ellen, Monica and I met up to run the R2R2R together in a fun, take a lot of pictures and have a blast way. It was so much fun. We took our time, stopped lots, took pictures, laughed, ate snickers and lemonade at Phantom Ranch, finishing in 12 hours (returning via Bright Angel).


Krissy and I would be doing a different kind of run. Where our first canyon run was focused on fun and smiles, our Fastest Known Time attempt was about teamwork, efficiency and running fast. I have been very intrigued in doing long trail runs (like the John Muir Trail) and going after various fastest known times on trails. This would be my first foray into the arena. Fastest Known Times are records set on various established trails and usually have a standardized start/finish spot and route. In the case of Rim to Rim to Rim the route takes you from the South Kaibab Trail to North Kaibab to South Kaibab totaling 42 miles and 11,000 feet of ascent.




Between January and April, Krissy and I made our plans, went about our business and prepared to rendevous in St. George with amazing friends from UltrAspire. As the date approached, I was nervous, naturally. When we planned this adventure, my late winter/ early spring plans included qualifying for the OT at Houston (January 31), then running Lake Sonoma 50 mile, hopping over to France for Salomon Advanced Week, then running R2R2R with Krissy. Well, clearly it didn't work out that way. 


I ran Houston and didn't make the OT then I ran LA marathon (3/20/2011) and made the Olympic Trials. Less than 3 weeks later, I was toeing the line at Mad City 100k (4/9/2011) in order to earn a spot on this years 100k Team USA. I ran a PR by 13 minutes, won the national championship and punched my ticket to the WC100k in the Netherlands in September. Needlesstosay, each of those races left me feeling a bit underprepared in my training for such intense ascent and descent as we would encounter at the Grand Canyon and also made me feel hesitant that I would be recovered from a road 100k in less than 9 days. 9 days from Mad City to Rim to Rim to Rim. I haven't had time to even post a blog since Mad City, let alone rest or recover. In fact, in between I worked my busiest week yet as a personal chef. It is an exciting time in my life and even when it is exhausting it is still thrilling.


The hosts with the most: Bryce and Melanie.


On Saturday (4/16/2011), after giving an hour long presentation on food and trail running for the Presidio 10, I hopped on a plane to St.George, Utah to meet up with Krissy and Bryce and Melanie Thatcher (of UltrAspire). Bryce and Melanie were amazing hosts for Krissy and I. They provided us with use of their truck to get down to the Grand Canyon including a nice setup in the back of the truck for an amazing nights sleep before the run. They were absolutely key in making this experience a fantastic one. I am blessed to have met such wonderful folks and have them as part of our experience.


For the remainder of the weekend, we fueled up, relaxed, sorted our gear and finalized our details. My Salomon teammate Ted Russel had run the R2R2R on Friday and Krissy managed to debrief with him on Sunday when he gave us the lowdown on the snow levels (none!!!) and where the water was on.


Krissy with our special treats from Monica. Snickers and Lemonade!


On Monday, Krissy and I got in the truck and made the 5 hour + haul down to the South Rim where we had a serious of fortuitous events. First, Krissy realized she had forgotten her annual parks pass which would have gotten us in for free but when we arrived at the gate we were delighted to learn it was still Free National Parks week, so we didn't have to pay to enter the park. Next, we hadn't been able to get a room in the park and planned to camp in the back of the truck instead. When we arrived at the campsite, it said there were no spots available. We were asking the ranger a question about parking for the morning (where we could stash our truck) and secondarily asked if there were any spots available despite what the sign says. The ranger perked up and said "you are in luck" and we were able to get a spot to park our truck, Matt Hart's truck (he ran down with us to Phantom Ranch to video us) and even better we had neighboring campsites that let Jim of Elite Creators, who drove down to take video of us, park his truck in their site. If Monday's luck was any indication of how things were going to go, we were going to be in good shape.


Part of setting a FKT is making sure you are able to provide as much proof as possible of your run. We were excited to have Matt and Jim there and were delighted at the finish when Melanie and Bryce surprised us as well. Krissy and I made sure we set up our verification from the start including: 


From the Fastest Known Times website
How do you establish a speed record?
  • Announce your intentions in advance. Like a true gentleman (ahem, ladies), pay your respects to those who came before you, and tell them what you intend to attempt and when. (We posted of the FKT website and Krissy called Emily Baer)
  • Be an open book. Invite anyone to come and watch or, better yet, participate. This makes your effort more fun and any result more believable. (We had Matt, Jim, Bryce and Melanie- the more the merrier)
  • Record your event. Write down everything immediately upon completion. Memory doesn't count. (welcome to my blog, we also posted on FKT website)


Inspiration from Roch Horton on the drive to the start

Krissy and I woke up after a good nights sleep at 4:30am and got ready to hit Kaibab Trail at precisely 6am. We had our breakfast concoctions, double checked our gear and were at the trailhead with ample time to enjoy the first morning light. Matt and Jim had their cameras on us as we watched time tick towards 6am sharp. I also had my handheld Sanyon HD video camera with me and recording our time stamps to make sure that once we were out of Phantom Rance that we still were able to document and verify our time stamps with video and pictures. We wouldn't be stopping for fun photos or to admire the scenery this time though.


I came into this run with some (ok A LOT) trepidation. Despite the fact that Krissy and I run exceptionally well together and seem to naturally buoy one another, I was afraid that my fatigue from my other two events in close time would slow me down. I was afraid that my road training and minimal vertical in training with the exception of one weekend two weeks before was leaving me unprepared. Running with a partner after such a goal as this requires a special skill and a delicate balancing act. I didn't want to be made to feel like a weak partner or that I was letting her down (an experience I have had in the past- not with Krissy). I wanted to pull my weight and do my part. We had communicated well before the run about my feelings and she just kept saying, "I'm just going to try and keep up with those marathon legs of yours". I knew she'd be hauling me on the ups and I (hopefully) could take us down in one piece and hammer the very runnable grades. We are truly a dynamic duo. That said, I was also not at my best and didn't want to lean to heavily on her or slow her down. When running with a partner, you are not just thinking about how you feel and what you are doing, you are thinking about how your running effects your partner and what you can do to help the team and bolster the other person. I wanted to be at my best for her and for us. I wanted us to get that FKT, bad. I knew she did too. I just knew that I was going to have to work hard for it.

Start of the FKT

6am we stepped off the top of the rim and began our descent. It is steep, it is technical, it is freaking beautiful. My hat immediately blew off my head in a huge gust of wind and I felt like a total amateur trying to get my camera back in my pocket. But once I got over my technical difficulties, I settled into an easy lope behind Krissy. Each step down and down, through time, through history into the earth. The early morning light was perfect, the air cool and I tried to take in the immensity and beauty. Matt ran down with us, videoing us as we fly through corners and over gigantic cuts in the earth, switchbacks that zigged and zagged back and forth. You lost 4700 feet in the 6 miles to the river. We were to the river in 55 minutes and scooted quickly into Phantom ranch a mile later in 1:03. Phantom Ranch was our slowest transition of the day. Krissy filled our bottles and I used the bathroom which required filling and refilling a giant bucket to flush the toliet. 7 minutes later we were out of there and began gradual climb up to the north rim. 


Krissy and I took turns pulling up this section. We both felt like we were working hard but moving well and the little incline we definitely felt. It was plenty warm early and I had lingering self-doubt. As we ran along the canyon wall towards the North Rim, I said, "Ok, I have to say this out loud. I am really freaked out right now about the thought of having to go back up South Kaibab". It is steep and I couldn't deny as I descended that I wasn't worried about having enough in the tank to get myself safely out. Krissy soothed my mind and I focused on taking my calories, hydrating and taking in my salts. 

Arriving Phantom Ranch

Roaring Springs "Artist House"

Krissy and I were all business. We didn't chat, we didn't laugh or joke, though we carried lightness in our hearts- we just focused. We made it to our second water stop at the roaring springs "artist house" aka the basketball court in 2:23. It was mile 15 and not even 9 am, the heat was setting in. After the "house" the real climbing begins taking it toll and making you work. You get nearly 2/3rds of the climbing to the North Rim's almost 6,000 feet at this point. The North Rim climb is still much easier than the South, but that is relative. It is a grunt and my legs rebelled a bit. I started to cramp on some of the steeper steps and had to settle into a hard walk. Krissy let me set the pace despite the fact she was feeling good. I was frustrated with myself but Krissy kept encouraging me and being patient with me. She kept saying, "I know you girl, you bounce back". And in a short matter of time, I did. I took a hyper Vespa and a more calories and I finally felt good as we inched our way closer and closer. We passed through the familiar tunnel less than 2 miles from the top and got excited at the thought of being inbound! We passed a work crew then saw a solo R2R2R runner on her way back.

North Rim

Oh how sweet it was to be on the way back. Even though I was still meditating on the remaining climb, I knew I had 14 miles of steep downhill or slight downhill before then and I was looking forward to not having to work so hard for a while. We took a video with the sign, told some hikers about what we were doing and asked them to take our picture. 4:29 at the North Rim We hustled off and spent less than 3-4 minutes at the top. It felt good to change gears and I was happy that my legs weren't feeling worked from the first downhill. I was hoping that I would have legs to "do my job" and take us hard down back to Phantom. I figured we could take nearly an hour off our ascent time without breaking ourselves but I was going to put as much effort out there to ensure we didn't have to cut it close on the final ascent. I was tired, I was hurting, I was swirling in my own head. I decided to focus on my job and switched off my brain. The initial descent is quite steep and technical so I encouraged us to not rush and hurt ourselves. I kept the pace backed off to make sure that after the "house" when things became super runnable that we had our running legs. We passed a shirtless runner with only a single bottle (we ran into him in Flag the next day, his name was Cameron from Auburn). We passed the solo female runner and said hello. As we passed, she said, "hey are you Devon?" I said yes. Then she said (though I didn't hear it, Krissy did), "You are the Banshee!" Krissy relayed this along to me and I had to laugh. We introduced ourselves and her name was Tracy, she was running the R2R2R to celebrate her 40th birthday! Rock on fellow runners!

On the downhills, I didn't feel as good I would like and the intermittent hills made my legs cramp and go wild. And my mind went wild with it. I was feeling more and more intimidated by our final climb up South Kaibab. I spoke up and told Krissy that if I didn't start feeling better, I was going to make her leave me at the River. She immediately said no, that my safety was more important. I told her that I could make it out of the canyon, I just wanted to sacrifice myself for the goal. I felt like I was slowing her down.  I felt like I was holding Krissy up, I felt worried that I physically was beyond my limit and would have to crawl out of the canyon inch by inch. I told her I would insist and that I didn't want this to be about me. We ran in silence for a while and then she said, "it's not about me, it's about us. I am not leaving you". I put it out of my head as much as I could. We powered along, I pushed and pushed. Krissy told me she was in the pain cave and we fell silent working our way along the canyon wall and rive back towards Phantom Ranch. It was hot but there was an occasional cool strong gust of wind that kept us moving forward. I drank a great deal, ate more gels, took salts on the half hour interval.  I was hurting. Hurting in a way that made me wonder if I was just going to sit down and take a nap at Phantom Ranch. It is a dark, scary place when you are 5,000 feet below where you need to go. I was encouraged only by how hard I could run at that point but I could feel my energy leaving me. I was hoping, praying, and wishing just to make it to Phantom Ranch, then I would start hitting the FRS and caffeinated gels. There I hoped that I would be able to find my next gear.


Instead, the wheels suddenly went flying off. Less than 1/4 mile outside of Phantom, Krissy took the lead and told me to just tuck in but I hit the wall. I was so deep in the pain cave that I couldn't get myself under control. I wheezed and shuffled and we finally made it into Phantom Ranch in 6:50. We had just under 2:35 minutes to make it 7 miles to the finish from Phantom, 1 of which is relatively flat. I had a defining moment. I knew that we could still make it. Krissy knew we could still make it. I was on the ropes and the moment was upon me whether I was going to give up and let go of our goal or dig perhaps deeper than I ever have, cast off everything else and squeeze every last drop out. I could quit or I could fight. F that, I am a fighter. I focused on just continuing to move forward. I wouldn't stop. 

Krissy had told me earlier in the day that South Kaibab wasn't runnable for her either, so I knew that to be the best teammate I could be, I just needed to follow her feet and match her march up the hill. We ran to the bridge, crossed through the tunnel and began the hardest climb of my life. On our first trip to the canyon, we had gone up Bright Angel which is longer, but has more water and is a more forgiving grade. Krissy and I had been able to run a significant amount of it. South Kaibab is not so generous. We were going to have to work for it.


The first steps up the hill nearly stopped me in my tracks. Cramp, cramp, cramp. "This is a death march". I gasped aloud. My fight was fighting back. Krissy encouraged me, supported me and I relentless forward movement. Each step got better, I wouldn't stop moving. I put my hands on my knees and slumped forward, using my entire body to climb. I followed Krissy's feet up. We encouraged one another and were pulled towards the top like their was a magnet at the top (thanks Roch).


South Kaibab is an amazingly beautiful trail. The switchbacks are carved into the side of steep faces and you can look out into the entire canyon unfolding below you. Step, step, step. We released primal growls, grunts and deep heaving breathes. Upward. I fell into a rhythm and knew we would make it out. We started to see more and more people and I knew we were getting closer and closer. The more people, the closer to the top. We even found our running legs on small flatter sections and it felt really good to change to a running stride. I focused on draining my hydration pack to lighten my load instead of drinking from my bottles. I focused on taking in my Saltsticks and calories frequently as my body battled the effort, the depletion, the lack of recovery, the altitude. We caught up to a hiker dude who stepped off the trail for us as he ascended but then he pretty much immediately passed us back moving easily. He made a comment about working a full day and still moving that fast and that fired us up. Krissy said she really wanted to beat him up the hill after that comment. I wanted to as well but knew I wasn't ready to push any harder. I was red lining, I was at my max. 


"Are you Krissy?" One solo hiker asked. "Yes" Krissy responded. "Great work, keep going. Melanie told me to encourage you guys. Go girls". Both Krissy and I had had an idea that Bryce and Melanie would come down but we both nearly cried with joy moments later when we heard them cheering from high above. Their energy drew us up, pulled us to the top. 

Krissy and I are actually in this picture. Yeah for crazy nice cameras!
A few miles from the top.



We hit the 1.5 mile shelter (where there is no water) and the hiker dude was resting there. He said, "27 minutes to the top and you are rockstars". I looked at my watch, it read 8:43. I smiled and said, "if we make it to the top in 27 minutes we will be rockstars". We could still do it. It was the first time in the entire climb that I could actually believe that we could still make the record. 





Bryce and Melanie told the hikers on the trail to watch for us and what we were doing and the majority of the hikers we passed offered amazing encouragement. 
The trail was pretty crowded on this perfect early afternoon day and we were buoyed by each encouragement, each "wow good work", each "superwomen!!!". Krissy pulled me up the hill, pressing forward and I worked as hard as I could to keep up. Bryce and Melanie cheered and rallied us on, taking amazing photos and documenting our every step. We hit the steep switchbacks and glimpsed the top. We could see the promise land, we could hear Matt and Jim waiting at the top yelling. I found my final gear, pushing through cramping, fatigue, fear. Our steps matched one another and we zigged and zagged through the final switchbacks, up and out. 

Finish at the South Rim



9:12:29. We had done it. We had broken the record and established a new women's fastest known times on one of the crown jewels of FKTs.  More importantly, we had done it together. We had worked together, we took our opposite strengths, we took our intensely strong bond of friendship and we turned ourself into a machine. 



This run is not easy. Even if I hadn't just run LA and Mad City and had plenty of specific training, it is not easy. It is a beast. I swore to Krissy on the final ascent that I would never come back again (even though I already have my next trip planned with Nathan, Brett, Larissa and Sarah in October), I know I will. I know that the Canyon invokes that kind of response from me because I still have more to learn from it. I have more fight to give it. I learned a great deal of how deep I can dig, I think I can dig even deeper. I learned how much my body has to give even when I don't think I have anything left. I faced some demons and self-doubt and realized that there are things that I still need to mourn and forgive.

I know that I couldn't have accomplished this goal without Krissy. She was my rock. She went with me into some dark spaces and helped pulled me out. She was patient, kind and wonderful. Even though much of those 9 hours was spent in silence, I think our friendship deepened like the canyon we crossed (twice) and I know that I have a true friend who always has my back. 



I have no idea how long our record will stand. In a lot of ways, I hope we inspire a challenge to more women to get out and get after FKTs. Krissy and I pushed each other to elevate our game and hopefully our run will inspire others to elevate theirs. The record doesn't matter in the end, the journey does and we did it. We did it together. 

Krissy, Bryce, me, Melanie, Matt and Jim

I am so grateful for our wonderful supporters- Bryce, Melanie, Jim and Matt. It really made my experience to have you be a part of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Read Krissy's run report here.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mad City 100k National Championship Race Report

A week before Mad City, chasing gazelles up and down mountains.

With LA marathon only three weeks ago, one might think that I would be back to regular running by now, feeling recovered after taking a few weeks easy. Ha, have you met me? Instead of having time to bask in the awesome feeling of success brought on by reaching my goal and qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I was trying to power recover/taper and also acclimatize to sleeping at altitude in our new Hypoxico altitude tent. I immediately started sleeping at altitude after LA and it took me until the middle of last week to finally wake up and feel like I had actually slept. If I was just in recovery, this wouldn't really matter but such was not the case as this past weekend I lined up to race the Mad City 100k USATF 100k National Championships to attempt to requalify for the 100k national team. This was an insane idea, I know, but I one of my main goals for the year was to race in the Netherlands as part of Team USA in the 100k. I thought I was already qualified with my Tussey 50 mile time, but found out a few weeks before LA that I was not. My coach advised me strongly to run Mad City to secure my spot, even though we both knew it would not be ideal since I haven't run over 26.2 miles since November and haven't run more than 50k since Tussey last year. In other words, I would be doing no training for Mad City. LA marathon was my most important goal, so I did not let Mad City enter my mind until after I crossed the finish line there.

Apparently, 2000 foot rocky ascents in less than 2 miles are excellent for taper

After LA, I was feeling pretty good. My legs and body recovered pretty well considering how hard I ran. The Thursday after LA, I was even back running with the ninjas feeling pretty spry and powering up the big long climbs. With less than three weeks between LA and Mad City, I really only had time to cobble together a few runs, throw in a few strides and focus on getting as rested and recovered as possible. At least in theory. The reality is that I ran hard and fast with a great group on Mt. Tam 6 days post- LA for a friend's birthday (think 8 minute pace up railroad grade) and ran nearly 60 miles that week. Then followed that with an 80 mile week that included a nearly 40 mile weekend with huge climbs and descents with a seriously fast crew of displaced Lake Sonoma 50 mile runners (who's race was cancelled due to flooding). It was one of the most fun weekends of running I've ever experienced but things like a 2,000 foot rocky ascent are not exactly the type of activities one should do 1 week out from running a road 100k and just 2 weeks after a marathon. With the lack of sleep, I started my final taper week not sure of what to expect from Mad City. I don't think I expected much. I hadn't had time to think about the race, let alone get jazzed for it. I think I had mentally exhausted myself through highly motivating myself for Houston/LA races. Mad City all I could do was get to the start line and hope I made it through the day. I packed my bags and flew off to Madison on Thursday and got ready to get loopy on Saturday.

Early on, still in my long sleeve (source)

Race

Before the race, I focused on the details of things I could control and spent very little time actually thinking through the race. I got my fuel plan together, made a pace chart for time, checked the weather over and over and over (since it kept changing-threatening high temps and thunderstorms) and got my crew bag together for Beth (the baker's sister) and Mike, who drove up from Illinois with the best cheerleader ever (Ellie, their 1 year old). I worried over my shoe selection and finally decided to wear my KSwiss Kwicky Blade Lights even though I had not run more than 8 miles at a time in them. I was considering wearing the same shoes I wore for Tussey but the reality was, they were a tab smaller (which means less room for swelling feet) and I hadn't really been wearing them either. I made up a drop bag for the start with the alternate pair, just in case. The night before the race, I met up with Beth and Mike at their hotel, made myself an awesome dinner of herb roasted potatoes and onions, skirt steak and salad and hit the hay early. As I lay there, I didn't have any of that "I am racing tomorrow" feeling. When I forced myself to think about it, all I could think was "I have no idea how I am going to mentally wrap my mind around running for 8+ hours". I woke up at 4:45am, had my gluten free oats with peanut butter, coffee and soon Todd Braje and I were off to the start together (we stayed at the same amazing host house- Thanks Suzie!!). 

Webcast: Participant Image
Pre-race mug shot.

The race is pretty low key. 10- 10k loops around the Arb and Lake Wingra. There were 30 participants in the 100k race which has served as the 100k road national championship for the past few years (including 2007 when I ran it the first time). However, most of those 30 participants were gunning for a fast or faster time including lots of hopefuls for this years 100k national team. The men's field was stacked would certainly go out fast. I didn't know much about the women's field except that Pam Smith was coming to try and qualify for the team. I was happy there was at least one other woman in the field going for a qualifier since it meant I had hope for having someone to run with. Actually, I thought she would smoke me since I was feeling not recovered/tapered at all.

We arrived at the start parked in the nearly empty parking lot and got our bottles and drop bags arranged at the start/finish area. Todd did some warming up and I sat in the car and watched the clock inch towards the 6:30 am start time. I figured I would warm up in the first few laps. The last thing I wanted to do was get hyped before such a long race. My biggest fear going into the race was that my target pace would feel too easy and I would run to fast at the start and burn out in the later laps. I had written my 10k lap splits on my hand and the word "patience" to remind me that I should not run any faster than the splits. My goal time was about 8:10 which Howard, my coach, thought would be sufficient enough to secure my spot on the team. I had 8 hour pace on my hand because it was just less math. I knew that the course record was 8 hours run the year before by my friend and teammate Meghan Arbogast. My 100k PR is 7:59 so I figured there was no way I would PR but the spilts were suppose to stop me from overreaching. 

With a few minutes to go, I stepped out into the cool morning air, did a few hip swings and walked over to the start. There was no time for me to think or get nervous, we were off with a ready, set, go. My strategy with loop courses is always to break it down mentally into digestible chunks. I tell myself just make it to 50k, then coast into 80k and then my favorite part is the hammer drop of the last two laps. I like to close a race hard, so the last 20k I look forward to. As I predicted the men's field went out strong and I settled into pace with a few runners with Pam just a bit ahead of me. 

Pam and I running together. photo: James Mills, Madison Examiner

She and I would be soon running together and spent the majority of the first 6 loops in relatively close contact together. We chatted a bunch and focused on just being steady and running together. In all of my world championship experiences, I have run at least the first 50k with the company of a teammate and I find it is the best way to pass the time. I was really glad to have the company and felt Pam and I worked well together. Occasionally, she would lose me as I stopped pretty much every other lap for a bathroom break, but I would accelerate a bit to catch her because it was more fun to run next to someone than 150 meters behind them. 

Making an awesome face while getting the handoff from Beth

Each lap, I would come around and Beth would be waiting for me with a waterbottle swap and a Gu and  Vespa. I carried a small 8 ounce water bottle and finished it easily every loop. It wasn't too warm so it was the perfect amount for me. I focused on my plan: GU every 45 minutes, Saltstick every 1 hour, Vespa JR every 1.5 hours. The first few laps were faster than my 8 hour splits, each lap was 47 or under including a 45:56 on lap 4. I felt good, my legs were not feeling pounded at all, my energy was good. I will say, I think that the lack of recovery served me well because the 7:30 pace felt just right instead of incredibly slow. I think my absent recovery kept me physically reined in which was nice so I didn't have to mentally do it. 


Round and round we went. I passed the 50k mark in 3:53 which was 7 minutes ahead of CR record pace. I kept telling myself to focus on my time and chill the heck out. I didn't feel like I was pressing though and I didn't feel tired, so I just kept running. In a loop course, I just start mentally pulling myself along from one landmark to the next to break up the loop. I could feel myself mentally fatiguing though my physical energy was fine. By the 50k mark, I was full out funky. I was having a "crisis of motivation". I just suddenly could not for the life of me figure out why I was running this race. I decided that my coach had pressured me into it and I didn't really want to be there. I was feeling like a petulant child and complained to Pam that I wasn't sure I was self-motivated to be there at around the 55k marker. She responded, "well, if you didn't want to be here at least a little bit, you wouldn't be here" and ran off as I eased my pace back a bit hoping that maybe an easier pace would make me more into it. By the time I came into the start/finish area at 60k, I said to Beth and Sam (Chad Rickleff's wife- another 100k teammate) "I need some motivation!!!! I am not into this!". Sam told me just to chill out and focus on my time. I took my sweet time going through the start/finish area and was 30 seconds back from Pam. I started my 7th loop, took an FRS chew from my pocket and hoped that a dose of caffeine might change my mind. I could feel my mind start to lift, I realized that I would soon be on my favorite laps and was less than a marathon from the finish. I knew that I just had to get enough momentum to get out of the 7th loop and I would find my killer instinct. Thanks to the FRS, I found it about 65k and I swallowed up the distance between Pam and I pulling along side her on the small climb up to the mile 4.2 aid station. I told her I appreciated her comment because she was right: if I didn't want to be there, I wouldn't have been there. I did want to be there and I definitely wanted to qualify for the team. She said she was feeling a bit tired and I tried to encourage her along. I was speeding up though and left her behind shortly after the aid station.

I came into the start/finish line and said, "I've stopped being a punk! I was just being a punk!". I knew I was about to turn into a machine. Even though, when I stopped to think about it, I had 18 miles remaining, I felt like I was launching my kick. I was easily maintaining my pace and had to start holding myself back in my 8th and 9th loops so I didn't get to crazy. I was still way ahead of my spilts on my hand and I started to actually consider that I might not only make the team, but win the national championship and set the course record.

I was shocked how good my legs felt. I just kept cranking, smoothly and comfortably. I zoomed around and finally made it to 90k. I wasn't sure how far up I was on Pam but I knew I couldn't take any chances. I went through the start/finish in 7:01 and got ready to hammer it home. I could hear the announcer when Pam came into the start/finish, I was 3 minutes up and knew that was not enough to rest on my laurels. I took an extra caffeine gel at the start of the loop to not take any chances bonking. I passed once more by each significant marker that had pulled me through each loop, thanking the volunteers and the spectators including one awesome lady who stood at the top of a one of the longer hills and cheered us up for the entirety of the second half of the race. It was awesome. I got to the 5k marker and saw I was on pace for my fastest lap and I felt myself growing stronger and stronger. I was excited and I was happy. I was present and enjoying the moment. It is a cool feeling to go far beyond what you thought you could. I grabbed a sip of coke at the final aid station and zoomed down the small hill on the other side. The "Arb" was my favorite part, I had about 2.2 miles to go. "Less than 18 minutes until I am done, less then 15 minutes until I am done, less than 10 minutes until I am done". I could see the start/finish through the trees, even though it is 5 minutes away. I pushed, I cranked, I extended myself. My body, surprisingly, let me.
video


I hit the finishing stretch and gave it a nice kick up. I could see the finishline, I checked over my shoulder a couple of times before allowing myself a smile, a huge goofy grin as I barreled into the finish line in 7:46:33. National Champion in the 100k, a new huge PR in the 100k (and in the 50 mile with a 6:17 split) and an automatic qualifier for the 100k Team USA! (Also turns out it was the 11th fastest time for an American women in the 100k-cool!)




They immediately presented me with medals, a giant crystal trophy, gift certificate and winnings. I walked around a bit with Beth and Ellie to make sure I didn't cramp up. It felt so great to be done. I almost couldn't believe what I had just done. I just ran 13 minutes faster than my 100k PR and I felt great! How is that possible! I changed my clothes and talked to the men's winner Andy Henshaw. He had run a blazing 6:47, won and qualified for the team! He came over to (re-) introduce himself after I finished because he had been the guy that I death marched out of the Canyons with at WS before be both dropped. He had hurt himself and my kidneys were shutting down, it was so nice to meet again on such a better day for both of us. And seriously, he averaged a minute per mile faster than me for the entire distance. He is a beast!!!

I hung out at the finish for a while, cheered in Pam who came in well under the old course record as well in 7:53 and enjoyed the sunshine which was (thankfully) just poking out. Beth, Mike and I headed over to the Old Fashioned for a late celebratory lunch and it really made my day to be able to spend some good time with them.


Split Calculations
CheckpointMileageTimePace  DistanceTimePace 
1st Loop - 10 Km 6.214 47:04.5  7:34.5 
2nd Loop - 20 Km 12.427 1:34:15.5  7:35.1  6.21 47:11.0  7:35.7 
3rd Loop - 30 Km 18.641 2:20:49.9  7:33.3  6.21 46:34.4  7:29.7 
4th Loop - 40 Km 24.855 3:06:46.3  7:30.9  6.21 45:56.4  7:23.6 
5th Loop - 50 Km 31.069 3:53:12.5  7:30.4  6.21 46:26.2  7:28.4 
6th Loop - 60 Km 37.282 4:40:48.7  7:31.9  6.21 47:36.2  7:39.7 
7th Loop - 70 Km 43.496 5:26:51.3  7:30.9  6.21 46:02.7  7:24.6 
8th Loop - 80 Km 49.710 6:14:16.6  7:31.8  6.21 47:25.3  7:37.9 
9th Loop - 90 Km 55.923 7:01:25.9  7:32.2  6.21 47:09.3  7:35.4 
10th Loop - 100 Km 62.137 7:46:33.4  7:30.5  6.21 45:07.5  7:15.7 


It was a whirlwind weekend. I flew back to San Francisco crazy early Sunday morning. Before I could even think about it, the amazing experience, the sheer gravity was slipping through my fingers. In some ways as I write this blog post, it feels like it is something that I experienced in a dream. I am so excited to once again be a part of Team USA and represent at the 100k Worlds in the Netherlands in September. I am curious to see what I can do. In the end, I am glad I took a chance to run this race, it was an insane idea but it worked out. I would like to say that I am kicking me feet up and enjoying some well-deserved recovery time, but the reality of the situation is, I am on to the next adventure in just another week! And I couldn't be more excited. Thank goodness I don't seem to be that sore!

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