Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recap & What's been happening

It been almost 1 month since the end of the SLAM and I am back in the full swing of regular life. On my way back to our place after just finishing Wasatch in my deep fatigue when asked what's next I said, "I am retired". For the first time after the conclusion of a big event I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do with running, I was content with retirement. However I knew within 4 short days of being home in Portland I would be boarding another plane with Stacey and crew for her race, AC100M. My duties for her event were to be main crew person and if I was up for it I would also pace her from mile 55 to 62. She didn't have a pacer from 62-75 which are much more critical miles so I said I would give it a try and the worst thing that could happen is she would leave me in the dust. Thinking that would be a great mental boost for her to say she had dropped her pacer I was eager to help her out. For the first 7 miles of my pacing duties I felt great but for the last 8 I could feel my legs and was thinking about all the Last Great Racers who where out on the challenging AC100 course just one week after the gruelling Wasatch, WOW. I honestly don't know if I could have done it, a big congratulations to all that did. Darin paced Stacey for the last 25 miles and he wrote about it on his blog.

For finishing the SLAM we received this really neat eagle trophy, a shirt and a small pin. There were 11 people who made it through all four races but only two woman. I was pretty pumped to be done and the memories I have are so cool. For the last month I have been reminiscing about the entire process and all the good laughs we all had. It was a ton of work but really wasn't that hard. I think once I had made the commitment to see it through in the best form I could it was a done deal. I went into the SLAM with a very specific plan on how I would approach all the races and for the most part I executed it exactly. There were things that came up along the way that changed but all for the better and I think I gave it my best effort. I learned a ton along the way about myself, my friends and just basic life stuff. Nothing earth shattering and not everything I learned was new; some of the things just affirmed what I had already thought but I took away some new lessons.

My SLAM plan was to train like crazy for WS100M as if it was the only race I was going to run all year and run that race as hard as I could. Once WS100M was over I planned to recover nicely and putz through Vermont 100M, using all the allowed time if necessary in order to save myself for Leadville. I wanted to go under 25 hours at Leadville because I knew I had a shot and I was planning on acclimating as much as I could. I know I don't do well at altitude and I knew I couldn't run well there without spending the time acclimating. I also knew I wouldn't be doing this every summer so I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity. After Leadville I planned to just get through Wasatch. I knew the Wasatch course well and I also knew I would have 3 100M races on my legs so if I needed the 36 hours I was going to take it.

Everything was in place, I trained very hard for WS100M and I thought I had a really good chance of going under 23 hours there. Unfortunately the day did not go well from mile 30-72 and I battled stomach issues like never before. I did not take enough salt, in fact I took none, not unusual for me but with the increased intensity I was running and the fact that I don't like raspberry G2O cost me. I was lucky enough to get sick at mile 72 and release the beach ball in my stomach. From 72-100 I ran well enough to get under 24. My SLAM plan was not on course but since my WS100M performance was weak I recovered very fast. As Vermont approached I felt a ton of apprehension since I have never run a 100M race back to back and it was a fast course. I knew I could get under 30 hours but I felt the uneasiness of the unknowing. I had no big plans for Vermont except to soak up the environment and enjoy the day which meant my crew got a break from my normal craziness. The day turned out to be amazing and I slowed myself down all day wondering when the big truck was going to hit me. Walking on purpose to save myself from the unknown doom that I was sure was just around the corner was a very new move for me. I talked to the horseback riders, I goofed around in the aid stations and to top it off I refused to run for last 5 miles! I told Stacey I was saving myself for Leadville :). I was just thrilled to be under 24 hours and to do 21:36 was unbelievable. More perplexing was how good I felt as if I hadn't run any races before Vermont, even better was how fast I bounced back.

I was so stoked about Leadville and now that Vermont was over and I survived it eased my apprehension. I had more confidence about my 25 hour goal. Leadville went just as planned and I got under 25 hours but felt like I was running against the clock all day! With only 2 weeks at 10,000 feet the race I had was the best I could have done, I don't feel like I left anything on the trail. The lessons of the prior two hundreds were so valuable and all of the highs and lows of WS100M and Vermont100M were felt during Leadville. Since I ran Leadville with so much focus and effort I thought my recovery would be very slow and with Wasatch only 3 weeks away I was concerned about how hard race day might be. Fortunately I recovered even fast after Leadville than I did after WS and Vermont, all very surprising but welcomed.

Since Wasatch was the last one I had nothing to loose....leave it all on the trail. I chose to run the race without my heart rate monitor to police my effort. I figured the worst thing that could happen is I have to slow down and take more time. As the race unfolded I felt better and better. Again the lessons learned from the prior races came in to play from solving poor digestion to dealing with fatigued muscles.

I think the strategy I had going into the SLAM was a good one. The plan to run hard at two events and get through the other two gave me focus but also a release. Focus for two big events and just fun and easiness for the others. I believe there was an unconscious aspect that held me back on all the races that did not exist at Wasatch. Being in the moment at each event I would not have said this but now, after Wasatch I know there was always a little voice in my head saying, "your not done yet, don't blow it". Would I have done it differently, NO! The plan gave me better results than I could have ever dreamed up.

As I mentioned above I learned a few things this summer. First and foremost my family and friends gave and gave unselfishly all summer with nothing but huge smiles and lots of warmth. They were so amazing, pacing, traveling, laminating pace charts, preparing race foods, cleaning up after me, taking care of Alex, getting directions, bringing me things I forgot, checking on me while I was away, motivating me....the list just goes on and on. All summer I felt very lucky and blessed to be friends with such great people. I learned that these people are unique and special and I hope I am just as good to them.

Many people do the SLAM and everyone does it differently but for me to attempt this was a big deal. I have worked hard in the last 3 years to improve my running times and learn how to run a 100 race well but in reality I am just an average person and running 4 100 races in 12 weeks was huge for me and my family. Planning was a big deal figuring out how to continue to function as a family and still do this. I was reminded how communicating and planning can make or break a goal when it involves so many other people. Bill and I sat down months before WS to map out the whole SLAM and that was so valuable. When the time came calendars with trips and plans were guiding us to the next stop with no hiccups or surprises. All of this in turn gave me the opportunity to visualize what the summer would be like. Since I had no idea how my body would respond I prepared for the worst. I had time to think about recovery and what that would like, what would I eat and what things could I do to speed my recovery. I was lucky that Stacey is LMT so she would massage my legs right after my runs and then again the next day which made a huge difference. I took lots of immune booster vitamins, drank a ton of water, took a few ice baths, got 3 pedicures and tried to get a ton of sleep. Planning gave me the freedom to focus and enjoy the adventure...there is nothing like it :).

I felt like I got stronger with each race and who knows if I was getting physically stronger or simply mentally tougher. I definitely think I am physically stronger but the mental aspect of my races got much more of a workout. I have always considered myself somewhat mentally tough but I have my moments and can be very much a wimp. After WS100M I learned more about fueling than I could have imagined but more than that I learned the power of being in the moment. Taking stock in what is going on in my race at that very moment, not thinking so far ahead. Being mindful of how my body was responding to what I was putting in and the subsequent energy high and lows. I got to practice what it was like to run in pain. I thought I knew how to deal with discomfort but now I really know...Wasatch taught me that but because of my other races I had better coping skills. I learned how to shut out the noise in my head that is not useful and focus more internally on what's happening. With races being so close together I got to practice everything I did poorly in the prior races while it was still fresh in my mind. I can honestly say I don't think I repeated any of my mistakes because they were so fresh and I was mindful of them. In the past I think I have been pretty good at learning from my mistakes but this was rapid fire learning and generally when things are really fresh you don't forget :).

The biggest lesson I learned from the SLAM was the value of recovery. I have recovery runs and days off planned during training but not enough. I obviously perform better with more recovery because that's all I did this summer.....race & recover. I had no idea how fatigued I really was during training but with so much forced recovery I was itching to run. I couldn't wait to get back out there and milked all the running I was able to do in between events. There was no dragging my behind out the door and no lack luster workouts because I was so rested. Now the challenge will be to remember this lesson when it comes time to train again and I have to say this will be very hard for me.:).

For the last month I have been doing just a bit of running and a lot of weight training. With 8 weeks out of the weight room I was feeling nervous about getting back into it, sort of starting from scratch. I have lost a lot of muscle mass in my upper body but that might have been a good thing for my running. I think I lost a total of 4 pounds over the summer and I suspect half of it was muscle mass. Since I have been back the biggest weakness I noticed was my lower abdominals and back! They are really weak but the funny thing is I thought they were weak before....well now they are really weak! I have been running about 5 days a week but nothing very taxing, lots of runs with friends just chatting and getting caught up. I am going to the gorge on Monday's and it's nice to be back. Trisha and I went for a 2 hour run up Angels Rest and around. I have also been doing 1 hour on the treadmill on a random hill setting and that has been fun.

Next year.......I sent in my application for WS100M and Micheal told me I have a problem :). He means this in a good way. I can't seem to let that race go and move on :). I think it's because I don't feel like I have never run it very well and once I get the feeling I had a good day there I will move on. As all of you know the chances of getting in are slim so I have lots of other things looming in my brain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wasatch 100M!

The Stats:
230 starters and 160 finisher's
Time: 27:57:23
Place 26th of 160, 3rd female
Zero blisters and still have my toenails :)

On Thursday evening before bed I grabbed my book "Running Within" by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott. I just opened the book to read a random section and was surprised to find the chapter on dealing with pain and fatigue staring back at me. I got a good chuckle and thought it couldn't get much more appropriate for my last race of the SLAM. It refreshed my memory but more importantly the information really sunk in my brain and I wondered if the techniques they suggested would really work during Wasatch on Saturday.

Friday morning I went for a 30 minute run with some strides before I picked up Bill, Alex, Stacey, Micheal and Andy at the airport. The run was awesome and I felt really revved up, probably one of my best pre-race shake down runs. It gave me confidence my body was ready to tackle the course and that I would at least make it through the race and could most likely break 30 hours. Friday was a fast and furious day with a race meeting, drop bags, eating dinner, getting to our room, driving to the start and getting to bed early.

3:15 came quickly and I ate a bagel with cream cheese, yogurt, drank a bit of coffee and 25 oz of Hydrate. We left at 4:15 and arrived to a bustling crowd of runners and only 2 port-a-potties, the lines were way to long. I lined up in the top 3rd knowing we would immediately be on single track trail for 4 miles of gradual climbing before we turned and headed straight up the hill. I got in a pocket with 4 other runners all of us keeping a good pace and gaped by the leaders and the rest of the racers. This was nice because the dust can be bad on this 4 miles and with the fires from Montana the air was already grey, with added dust my lungs would have been screaming. As we gradually climb the first 4 miles on wonderful single track we can see the city lights from the suburbs outside of Salt Lake City and I can't believe how high up we are already. The first climb on the Wasatch course is about 5000 feet in 11 miles with the last 2 miles being gruellingly steep and the high point on this section is about 9300 feet. I felt pretty good on most of the climb but when we reached the steep step ups I could feel the cumulative effects of the SLAM on my quads. I knew my climbing would not be great due to the lack of practice this year but the deep fatigue I felt in my legs at mile 11 was concerning. Though I wasn't thrilled with the reality of less than stellar climbing I wasn't freaked out either, I guess I assumed at some point this summer I would feel all the racing. Once we crest the top of Chinscraper we continue traversing on the ridge up and down to the the first aid station at Grobbins Corner (mile 13.2). At the aid station I added 10 oz of water to my bladder for the 5 mile section to Francis Peak. From Grobbins the race takes us on a nice piece of single track which gradually heads downhill but it's very rocky. I wrote in a previous post about the fact that I haven't done much running on technical trails so I would begin my training for that type of running at Wasatch :). Well.....at mile 14 the training began and I just started to get in a groove and with only a few twists and turns on my feet I got the hang of it. I made good time on this 2 miles and felt more confident about the trail. After that lovely single track we pop onto a dirt road for 4 miles, all downhill into Francis Peak (mile 18.6) where I see my crew for the first time. I came in about 10 minutes ahead of my 29:18 pace chart making up all my time on the downhill and none on the first climb. I was feeling good and had been eating like I planned, drinking a lot of liquids. With just handhelds and pockets jammed with gels I was off to Bountiful B (mile 23.8). After leaving Francis we head behind the mountains on more two track road in which quads and other off road vehicles frequent leaving the road chewed up and very rocky. It must have been hunting season as gun shots were being fired as we traversed the ridge and passed many off road vehicles equipped with guns and bows. This section of Wasatch is my least favorite because the trail is more like a moose trail winding through the woods with constant steep ups and downs. It was hard to get into any kind of running groove with the constant changes in the terrain along with the sideways slant of the trail. Again I felt the lack luster climbing but managed to hold my own with crowd. I arrived at Bountiful B (mile 23.8) about 13 minutes ahead of schedule meaning I made ground on the previous section, hard to believe considering I felt like I was moving slow. At Bountiful Stacey walked with me through the aid station and said I was around 8th woman, I was surprised I was that far up in the crowd and that gave me more confidence. I left Bountiful with my small Nathan Pack and two handhelds. I was not going to see my crew until Big Mountain (mile 39.2) and traditionally I have not done well in this section they call The Sessions and Swallow Rocks. The Sessions is simply various sessions of up and downs, all short but rather steep, rocky and all on single track trail. Swallow rocks area is filled with much better running if you have downhill legs and feel confident on the steep rocky trails. In the past I have pooped out here and not done well in The Sessions section but made up for it in the Swallow Rocks area. I was planning on today's performance being no different. At this point I had re-trained myself how to run on rocky downhills but my climbing was not that good especially on the very steep stuff.

Leaving Bountiful I let the fatigue I was feeling just be there and I refused to give in to it knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do but continue to fuel and move. The more I ran the less fatigued I felt, probably because running gave me sense of acomplishment whereas just walking gave me far too much time to dwell. I thought about my recent read on pain and fatigue and it helped a lot! I just accepted it as part of the process and instead of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged I focused on being ahead of pace, 8th woman and finishing the SLAM. During the next 15 miles I worked hard and began to catch a lot people. There were a few miles when I felt on fire which really refreshing and I milked those moments like never before knowing I would have lower ones later. This is the race in which I got to experience the great highs and good lows, all the other SLAM races were uneventful in that manner.

Arriving at Big Mountain (mile 39.2) around 20 minutes ahead of plan was awesome! My pace chart was aggressive in the front half because in order for me to get under 30 hours I had to push from start to finish at my fitness level, not even taking into account the 3 100M races my legs were wearing. Coming into Big Mountain feeling good and with 20 minutes in the bank was fabulous. Alex was always my greeter at the aid station entrance, snapping pictures and saying, "Mom how do you feel?, you're doing great". Having him there so engaged and smiling really warmed my heart and made want to work harder. At Big Mountain I weighed in and was 2 pounds up, great.....not too far up. I spent a good 3 minutes getting all my stuff, conversing with my crew and left with my small Nathan Pack and two handhelds.

This section from Big Mountain to Lamb's Canyon is always hot. It's in the heat of day in an exposed area and we lose a lot of elevation. You would think this would be a great section to really tear it up. The trail lacks the normal amount of rocks, is not full of steep climbs and if you have it together it's runnable. I knew I had to stay focused an run every step I could to make my splits but about 5 minutes after leaving my crew I started to feel nauseous, yikes! My brain was working over time trying to troubleshoot the issue: My weight was fine....I have been eating but not over eating.....I have been drinking a good combination of G2O and water.....I have been religious about electrolytes....this is the same feeling I had at mile 40 at WS, I NEED MORE SALT! I downed 4 salt tablets then waited for about 20 minutes then downed a 4X sodium Gel and drank G2O all the way to Alexander Springs (mile 47.3), I arrived 2 minutes off my section split. I felt like I need to pee so I pulled over and all that came out was a bit of urine and blood....that's not good, I am dehydrated! Wow, that came on fast. I didn't panic because I remember Scott telling me I if that ever happened to just pound the fluids and it will be fine, it's just the bladder walls rubbing together because it's too empty. Okay, little voice in my head......I will do as you say. At the aid station I drank one cup of water, one cup of Sprite and left with two full bottles of water. Within about 20 minutes I started feeling a bit better and the sensation to pee when I couldn't went away....sheeeeeeshh....dodged a bullet there. I picked up the pace in the this hot open section and made my way to Lamb's (mile 53) arriving 22 minutes ahead of pace.

At Lamb's Bill joined the crew after he finished the Mid Mountain Marathon in Park City and it was nice to see him but he looked concerned when I discussed my issues. I knew I was back on track with my hydration but when I weighed in at Lamb's I was down 3 pounds, come on........! I ignored the scale and filled my crew in on my situation as we made our way across the road. I took a moment here to pull myself together, get some soup and noodles in, drink some hydrate and a Red Bull. I knew what was ahead of me and I have never arrived at Upper Big Water (mile 61.5) with my stomach and because of that I would bomb from there to Brighton (mile 74) which is such a waist because it's a good section of running with gradual climbs on superb trail. I told them I was better but I had to keep it together on this next section....I WANTED TO COME INTO UBW (mile 61.5) WITH MY STOMACH!

Stacey paced me from Lamb's up and over to Upper Big Water. She of course pushed me hard and forced me to run some of the ups. I was working hard but was conscience of my gut, checking in by feeling my stomach to see if it was hard, puffed out or sunken in. This is a good way for me to tell how things are moving in there. At this point I am 7th female but the leaders are way ahead, I knew there was a lot race left and I always plan to put more work in the back half but 7th was a great place for me and I wasn't worried about that, just 30 hours. We booked it to the top of Lamb's and started out descent with plenty of daylight left. That's a good sign for a 30 hour finish at Wasatch. We got down in a good time but I wasn't flying. At the bottom we pop onto the paved road from hell, it goes for at least 3 miles and has one of those nagging uphill grades where you want to walk but you should run. I ran about 90% of the road which is great for me but I had to stay extremely focused and battle with my brain telling me to walk. It began to get dark here so even though I wasn't cold I put on my long sleeve shirt for preventative reasons. At Wasatch a lot people get hypothermia and when they finally realize they are cold it's too late, they are frozen and it can take hours for them to get warm. This preventative action was a smart move on my part because Upper Big Water is very cold and when I arrived everyone was dressed like they were going cross country skiing.

Stacey and I held pace on the Lamb's section and I knew that was a feat because for some reason I seem to always do well on that split so it was aggressive in the first place. Holding the pace there was good enough for me but the best part is: I ARRIVED AT UPW WITH MY STOMACH! I was psyched, it was first time and therefore only good things were going to happen.

Micheal and I left UPW fast and we moved like the wind in this section passing a couple more people on the trail but many more inside the aid station. Micheal worked me hard and I complied. I was breathing very hard so I knew we were making good time. The night time weather was awesome, not a cloud in the sky and tons of stars as far as the eye could see. I took all my clothes with me knowing we were heading back up to 9800 feet on an open ridge where the wind can be fierce and cold but for now all I needed were shorts and two long sleeve shirts. I did put on my beanie hat for about a half and hour but then it was too warm. We made it up to Desolation Lake (66.8) shaving another 10 minutes off my plan, YES! A quick refill on my water tank, some broth, a half a banana and we were out of there. The next section up to Scott's Peak is some of my favorite trail but as you travel along the Wasatch Crest Trail you can see the Scott's Peak (mile 70.6) aid station from 3 miles and it can get you excited just to be discouraged when it never arrives. Having this information helps! I saw it and just giggled to myself. From UPW (mile 61.5) to Scott's Peak (mile 70.6) we climb over 3000 feet then we descend down 1700 feet into Brighten Lodge (mile 74). Again we made good time to Scott's Peak taking another 5 minutes off my pace chart putting me 33 minutes ahead.

I needed nothing at Scott's Peak so we were off to Brighton and I was on top of the world maintaining my stomach with gels every 20 to 30 minutes, some banana, broth and ton of water to keep the concentration level under 10%. After Scott's Peak we travel down a two track road that is less than smooth but with Micheal 10 feet in front of me guiding me to path of least resistance we were moving and passing people. We reached the paved road fast and I just knew were were going gain time. Once on the 3 mile paved road we really pushed and I had my music on very load keeping a close eye on Micheal and any ques he gave for oncoming traffic. Lots of runners were not doing well down this steep paved road and I felt for them because I have been one of them and knowing what's ahead and not feeling well coming into Brighton (mile 74) is awful. I call Brighton Lodge the Wasatch Vortex, it sucks you in and you don't get out alive if you give into the warm comforts of the lodge. On my crew card I wrote a big note saying "GET ME OUT OF THAT LODGE". Stacey decided to set up my stuff outside even though you have to go in to check in/out and get weighed. We came into Brighton making up 13 minutes on my split from Scott's Peak (mile 70.6) to (74.0), just crazy running and that put me at 45 minutes up on my 29:18 plan. I dumped my pack for Stacey to re-stock while I hustled into to lodge for weighing. I walked in and Bill sees me and says, "what are you doing here"? I said, "Hi honey, surprised to see me"? He looked shocked and ran out the door as I jumped on the scale. My weight read 125 and they said good job. With a perplexed look on my face I said, "189 out"! 125 is 12 pounds up, and I knew it wasn't right but the fact that they said good job was just crazy but I wasn't about to hang around and discuss, I knew it was wrong.

I was on fire here and couldn't wait to do the last 25 miles, I knew it was a grueling 25 miles and takes runners with my fitness about 9 hours to complete. I got my stuff and Micheal and I are off for the big climb to Point Supreme, the high point of the course at 10,300. I have never left Brighton feeling this good and so alive. This just gave me endless amounts of confidence, kept me focused and helped me deal with any pain or fatigue I was experiencing. I had been pretty good at ignoring all the soreness in my legs but after a short discussion with Micheal I decided to take an Aleve right after we left the Scott's Peak (mile 70.6) aid station to take the edge off. I was worried it might mess with now happy stomach and was apprehensive but it ended up being fine.

Just as I was putting my pack on I see what I think is a woman leaving the lodge to begin the climb, this spurred me on and Micheal and I ran/walked as much as I could passing her within 5 minutes of leaving. I continued on strong, leap frogging with another guy and his pacer all the way up to Point Supreme where they left me in the dust on the very steep and rugged downhill. My legs lacked any static contraction to help me scoot down this stuff. I need to see video of the lead runners going down this, it just doesn't seem possible but they must be flying down it. Micheal tried to help me with advice but my legs were just shaky and I was laughing at my clumsiness. This downhill is full of scree like shale and there is no stable place to put your foot let alone run and stay up right. I slid and slipped all the way down this 2.5 mile monster knowing this is just the beginning on some amazing trails. I was giving myself a talk, "pull it together girl...get your legs under you or this will be a long night". The talk helped and once we made it out of the scree trail and onto to anything that had dirt I moved well.

Finally at Ant Knolls (mile 80.1) and making up another 15 minutes on my predicted split now giving me a finish time of 28:14 if I can hold on. Besides the normal....I have run 80 miles stuff....I felt really good continueing to eat every 30 minutes, drinking plenty of fluids and taking more salt than I ever had before. The 4X sodium gels work really well for me but I was also taking in broth at aid stations and a couple of salt tabs. From Ant Knolls to Pole Line Pass (mile 83.2) is 3.2 miles of awesome running. The trail winds through the high Aspen groves and is actually not too rocky or hilly in comparison. We ran this hard catching the two guys that dusted my on the scree drop. They worked hard to keep up with us but after about 1 miles they let us go. Coming into Pole Line Pass (83.2) I hear a girl say, "174 out". I tap Micheal on the shoulder and we are quiet coming in whispering, "189 in". We have a drop bag here so we quickly re-supply which takes about 2.5 minutes and we leave on the hunt. I don't know why but I felt so eager to catch a girl, not how I normally run 100M races but at this moment I felt like I had enough in me to play the race game. Micheal could tell I felt like hunting so we took off for the pursuit.

This section to Rock Springs is along a ridgeline and mostly downhill. I crank up my headphones and we are cookin down the trail. About 10 minutes later I see lights in the distance as they bounce through the Aspen's and I tell Micheal if we pass we need to be sure I can hold it so if we need to hang back until I am ready then let's do so. Yeah right! We come up on them and try to go in cognito but they flash their lights on my number and boom we are racing. OMG, this is hard, playing trail poker....can I hold this...they are chasing me. Then all of the sudden another set of lights but they were moving really slow, again we pass in disquise and it's another gal but she is not doing well and just lets me by. I ask Micheal if we gapped the two woman yet because I am about to go red line here and see just says, "keep running, not yet". I don't know if I can hold them off on the climbs but he doesn't care, he just say's, "keep pushing". Now it's been 15 minutes of this sprint and we are approaching more lights. We are coming up on them fast and stealth and with our same plan of trying to pass in disquise we are busted when Susan Brozic says, "Ronda is that you?" Yes, I reply. We continue running for our lives all the way to Rock Springs (mile 87.2). No one light in sight behind us but we waist no time re-fueling and I ask the aid station captain what's next and he say's "The Grunt, The Plunge and The Dive". Hello.......that's just not right, I had forgotten all three of those treats came in the next 5.7 miles.

Right after the aid station we begin The Grunt which is a very steep uphill that left me grunting for sure. We can hear voices behind us, one guy and one girl. Micheal is still making me work hard and I think I must have asked him 100 times who it is and all he says is, "move it"! The Dive and The Plunge are just that....a steep dive down and then another plunge downhill both on slipping scree. I struggled here, I couldn't get me feet to stay under me no matter what I tried, my legs just didn't have the strength to hold the static contraction. Quivering like crazy I tried to stay focused and get down it upright and in one piece. I am sure I used some choice words while Micheal just stood about 20 feet ahead of me with his light guiding my feet. The rest of this 5.7 mile section is no better, it was the gift that just kept giving and the voices behind us would close in on the downhill scree but when we got to a climb or and roller we would lose them. This went on all the way to Pot Bottom (mile 93.0) until a guy passed us but no woman. We lost 10 minutes on this section alone so it was good thing we had done well prior. At this point I was 1:24 minutes ahead of my 29:18 pace chart, 30 hours was a done deal but could I hold 3rd place?

Micheal ran ahead into Pot Bottom, grabbed our drop bags, unloaded all the extra clothing we had for the night and I stuffed my pack in and took just one hand held and gels. We had 6.9 miles to go with a gradual climb, a very rocky downhill road, a blazing fast single track and then 1 mile of paved road to the finish. I was feeling kind of out of it when we left the aid station. I was tired and low on energy so I drank some Coke, ate a 4X sodium double caffiene gel.....how's that for a fully loaded food item! I tried to get my legs moving by shuffling and trying to run which helped a lot. My quads were so sore, tired, a bit swollen and my feet felt bruised. I blocked all of this because sometimes at the end of a race I tend to sit back and take it in, thinking about all my pain but again my Thursday night reading helped get my mind back on task.....keep that girl off my tail. It was fully light out by now so I could see behind me and there was no one. Micheal and I are climbing the road and he says, "Hey there's a moose"! Sure enough down below in a meadow is a male moose with a huge rack.....pretty cool!

We see a runner and pacer ahead so we try to catch them on the rocky road which was killing my seemingly bruised feet. As we approach they pick up the pace and I can't hold it but I didn't give up knowing we were almost to the nice easy single track. We come to a junction with the road continuing on the right and a trail on the left, which way? No markers were in sight but the guys continued on down the road but I knew it wasn't right. Micheal ran down the road looking for markers while I went down the single track looking, nothing. I hike back up and Micheal yells for me to come down and I do but I just know it's not right. We start running down the road more and still no markers. I see a neighborhood appearing and this road is going to dump us right into it's streets. I stop and insist we are not going the right way and just as we were walking up the hill here comes another runner and we tell him we need to take the trail instead. We scramble back up in a panic and I just skirt across the field and bump right into the trail. Micheal says, "should we take it"? I respond as I am tearing down it.....YES! All the while I have two things going on in my head, will I make it under 28 hours and did that other woman get through before we realized our error? I am focused and Micheal is worried but I know we are on the right path when finally we see markers....all is good. I am filled with emotions, giggling out loud and causing Micheal to turn around and look at me strange. I am laughing and crying at the same time, I am just so excited to be done and finishing strong. I can't believe all the support and help I have received.....all these emotions were bubbling up as we crested the hill which leads us to the finish line. Screaming the whole way through the field to finish line where we are greeted by Bill, Alex and Stacey all just as emotional. Not to mention the director of the SLAM and the Wasatch 100M RD giving me hugs and concrats on a job well done.

After we showered and rested we headed back to the finish line to find our friend Andy Kumeda. We kept a close eye on where he was and it was going to be close for him to make the 36 hour cutoff. We had lunch at the Blue Boar Inn while we watched runners finishing between 34-36 hours and Stacey and I were struck by their grit and determination, we have been there and it's way harder! These folks are really tough and they define it for me, sticking it out in the hot sun on day two, so determined to make the finish. Since I have been there I was getting pretty chocked up as we cheered them on knowing all they had been through and all they have accomplished makes my 27:57 look easy. Hats off folks!

BTW - Andy sprinted to the finish with 2 minutes to spare! We were stoked!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

2 days to go, Yeah!

The last couple of days I sought out trails that were at the highest elevation I could find. I drove up Guardsman's Pass which is just behind Park City and Deer Valley and parked at the high point. There was a dirt road that headed up the ridge towards Mill Creek so I decided to take it and see where it went. Within about 3 minutes I was given a choice either continue up the dirt road or take a trail to my left, I chose the trail. It headed up and over a steep little hill then descended right on to the Wasatch 100M course! I was pretty excited to have connected the dots and be on familiar terrain. To top it off, I looked ahead and see a runner. He was doing hill repeats on the road up to Scott's Peak. I was right behind him but he had his headphones so loud he didn't hear me and I was behind him for about 1 mile. I giggled thinking I am glad I am not a cougar because I tried to give the gentleman warnings that I was right behind him about to pass but he did not hear a thing. I waited until we reached the top before I passed him and that's when it became clear he was doing repeats. He stopped and we chatted for just a couple of minutes and he is doing Wasatch as well. I continued on the ridge towards Scott's Peak (mile 72) and he went down for another session. I was thinking, here I am doing a 90 minute moderate run and he is doing hill repeats....I wonder if that helps you remain revved up for the event. The elevation on this run ranged from 9,600 to 9,800 feet and I felt really good, rested and most of all acclimated. No that I didn't feel the elevation but it didn't bother me at all.

Today I headed back to same area and explored some other trails. I only had 1 hour of easy exercise so I didn't get very far but thought I might as well take advantage of the thin air since it is so close. I was really cold on the ridge this morning so it reminded me that I will for sure need tights from dusk to dawn on this course. Once home I immediately made sure I had them ready from Upper Big Water. I figured if it's cold in at 10 a.m. it's going to be freezing at 2 a.m. The forecasted weather for race day is perfect and if it's accurate it will awesome. I have been so lucky thus far with the weather, a cool WS100, a non-humid Vermont, a perfectly clear day at Leadville. I will keep my fingers crossed for a dry Wasatch.
Yesterday I worked on my crew bags and finalized my race plan. I had already prepared a pace chart, corresponding fuel plan and bought all my supplies. All I need to do was organize it for my crew, create a couple of drop bags and mentally run through the day. A table of chaos got turned into a well thought out plan. Now all I have to do is run, enjoy the day on my favorite course and savor the last race of the SLAM.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mile 75 from Mile 35 - Not so far away!

Here is a view of mile 75 from mile 35 on the Wasatch course. Cathrine's Pass is located just to the left of the biggest bump on the grassy hill, almost smack dab in the middle of the picture. Today I was running for 2.5 hours on the section near Swallow Rocks and Big Mountain just before the thunder storm hit. The weather is so unpredictable this time of year but one thing for sure is it will be hot when the sun is out and most likely you will get wet at some point, maybe even see some good hail.

I was wondering if any of the acclimation I had from the Leadville training would still be in my body when I arrived in Utah on Saturday. They say it all goes away after 14 days at sea level. I spent one week after Leadville between 3000-6000 but after that it was 400 feet. I am at 7,800 feet right now and I think I might still have some additional red blood cells to draw from. Yesterday (Sat.) I ran for 90 minutes mostly in 3A , 20 min. in 3B and it wasn't bad. Today I had 2.5 hours of training time and went running between 8,000 and 8,600, I could feel it just a bit but not nearly as bad as normal. The true test is a sprint up the stairs, do I see stars, is my breathing very labored at the top, do the legs feel heavy? Those are the questions I asked myself as I did the test sprint and though I did feel heavy lungs there were no stars and the legs were just a bit heavy.

While I was running this morning I saw a ton of moose prints so I kept a sharp eye out but nothing, only hunters. These hunters (at least that's what I think they were) were dressed in camouflage clothes, carrying backpacks and some sort of weapon that looked like a bow and arrow only much more serious. They were pleasant and looked happy to be coming out of the woods, I wondered if they were hunting moose? As I was driving up East Canyon I noticed the signs that said "No Dogs". I have seen these signs all over the course from miles 35 to 70. All the canyon areas don't allow dogs because it's a watershed. It seemed strange to me because of the abundant number of people and wildlife that roam the areas, no dogs in such a large amount of wilderness is different.
As I was making my way through my last training run of the season I was thinking about the Wasatch course and all the things I will encounter. The Wasatch is by far the most rugged and challenging of the SLAM courses and a couple of things this race will offer is one, a second sunrise and two technical downhills. So far I haven't seen a second sunrise while doing the SLAM. I came close at Leadville but managed to be asleep before the sun rose but not here, I will for sure see the next day and will be well into the second morning before I am done. More caffeine....that's how I will combat the desire to sleep :). I think being awake that long is tough and all the folks that do this regularly are very tough! It gets pretty warm here very fast, at least that's what I remember from running this course before. As you head into the finish you loose elevation and the heat starts to set in feeling doubly warm after the freezing temperatures of the prior night.

The other thing Wasatch is going to bring is the relentless technical downhills. Gone are the nice gradual freeway trails of WS100 and Leadville and there is only about 3 miles of road on this course. The rocks on the Wasatch course are the kind that follow you down the trail when your foot rolls off them. They're small and unattached to the ground, they blend into the dirt because they are the same color and you cannot avoid them. My technical running is not what it has been in the past. To run well on technical steep trails takes lots of practice and if you plan on being good at these types of descents in the late stages of your race it requires great quad strength. I think quad confidence is the most important skill/strength a good technical downhill runner can have. What I mean by this is at mile 75 when you know in your mind that your quads will hold or support your stride when taking the downhills strong. Every step needs to be an unconscious art of falling without falling and that means your quads have to hold. If you hesitate to think about your steps when your legs are tired it's mostly because you don't have the confidence your legs will hold on the fast turnover required on a steep downhill. Being light on your feet and barely touching down is also a learned skill but if you don't have the quad strength your light, efficient stride will not be enough. The technical aspects of Wasatch will be very challenging because I have not practiced any technical downhill running this year. Do I have the quad strength necessary for the last 25 miles of this course....I don't know. I figure by the time I get to mile 75 I will have had a good 20 hours of practice. :)

I have been very lucky with my feet thus far in the SLAM. No blisters, no taping, no changing shoes or socks, not even a re-tire of laces. Will I get to continue my steak with my feet?????? Wasatch will be a real test! Stacey did this course in 2005 and had zero blisters and no problems with her feet so I am going to remember that as my legs and feet twist and turn with all terrain.

I am excited!!! I can't wait for Friday to pick up Bill, Alex, Stacey, Micheal and Andy. Andy and I will be running Wasatch while Bill runs the Mid-Mountain Marathon and Stacey, Micheal and Alex crew. Stacey will be tapering for AC100M so she will only be running with me from mile 55 to 62 and Micheal will be stuck with me from 62 to the finish.