Monday, July 28, 2008


Well, I did it, finally. After last year's injury 6 weeks before the race and this year's pre-boston marathon injury, I made it not only to the START line of WR50 but also to the FINISH line. There are 2 things I thought about before the race. 1) Expect the unexpected and 2) Embrace the unexpected. The night before the race at the pasta dinner, Glenn looked over at me as Scott was going over the aid stations and more course info and said "you look nervous". I said, " I AM, but also excited". Then Glenn said something to me that carried through the race, he said, "tomorrow you are going to learn so much". And he was right, I did.
I didn't get much sleep the night before and was wide awake at 3 AM. I finally got out of bed at 4 AM and tried to eat, drink and stretch. My folks and I left Crystal Mountain at 5:45 AM and headed to the start. About half way there, ( only a 15 minute drive), a sudden surge of nervousness hit me. More so than I had felt the night before, but I decided to use that energy to think about finishing the race and having fun. As soon as we pulled into Buck Creek starting area, I checked in and looked for Glenn. I could not start the race without seeing him. He is the one who has given me the most confidence and training experience to start and finish WR. So, I found him and we talked and then I headed to the start. My parents were there and they would be my crew people for the long day. I was trying not to look nervous when they took my photo at the start, but I don't know how well I masked it.
There were several other peeps there who were running this race as their first 50-miler as well, so we bonded in the brief moments before the start. As Scott, (RD) was giving us the last minute details, I decided to just take in the whole thing and have fun, do the best I could; there was no turning back now. Then bam-we started. And off we went! My nerves went away...and I ran and ran and ran.

I got to the first aid station in 35 minutes and didn't need anything so I kept running up to Ranger Creek. At Ranger Creek there was water only and I filled up. The volunteers had camped overnight there. They spent hours carrying gallons of water up the 12 miles on the trail for the runners to fill up. What awesome people to do such a thing! I was running with about 4 people who were also doing their first 50-miler and so we chatted a bit here and there and the next thing I know....I'm at Corral Pass already, mile 16.9. On the way to Corral Pass, the faster runners were already making their way back to Ranger Creek. It was so impressive to see how fast these people were running. It was also inspiring to become a better runner. I ate and drank a bit at Corral Pass aid station and was off back to Ranger Creek with my iPOD playing some great music. I saw Glenn and it looked like he was having a fun time taking photos. (like this one).I got to Ranger Creek and was feeling great. From Ranger Creek, mile 22, to Buck Creek, mile 27.2, it's literally all down hill. I thought I'd be a little conservative here as to baby my leg and if all went well, I could maybe make up some time on the last 13 miles. I long descent is beautiful and fun. It's a bunch of switchbacks with small creeks and a waterfall and the sun was dancing through the trees. I made it to Buck Creek and re-fueled. I had planned what I thought I would need at each aid station and crew access spot. Here, I thought I would need another bottle of water and one of Cliff drink. And some Red Bull. My parents had been waiting for me to arrive and had everything ready for me, but I was finding my actually needs might be different from my presumed needs. I took some sips of Red Bull and then added the rest to my bottle of Cliff. My legs still felt pretty good. I headed to the Suntop trail and began the 8+ mile climb. This is where things started to become a struggle. I had envisioned that the last 13 miles, in particular the last 6.5, would be the most difficult and this is where I envisioned I would struggle most mentally. HOWEVER, I was wrong. As I started climbed up to Suntop, I became so nauseous and so tired and so out of breath when just walking. Every time I thought about drinking any Cliff, my stomach just turned. Every time I thought about eating something, my stomach turned. Every time I thought about running the runnable parts, my body was telling me NO. But each runnable section I would run and I thought, hum, this doesn't feel so bad, and then I would stop to walk the steep parts and I would feel so sick and wobbly. I crossed paths with a mountain biker who was encouraging me and I had a brief conversation with him which I don't really remember. I thought my problem was that I didn't have enough water in me and that I had too much electrolyte. Surely this must of been it. So at the Fawn Ridge Aid station, mile 31, I asked for tums. They had reggae music playing and a hula theme going on, which I appreciated as I hadn't seen anyone for a while and I could not listen to my iPOD for some reason. I took some tums and then a sip of coke and thought, surely this will cure me. HOWEVER, it did not and I continued to struggle walking slower and slower and wondering how I would finish. I knew that I was in better shape than this, that I shouldn't feel like this because I was physically and mentally prepared. So I just kept trying to figure out what my body needed in order for it to do what I had been preparing it for. At one point while running, I got a cramp in my stomach. This rarely happens. I looked down at my fingers and they didn't even look like my own hands, my fingers were so puffy. OOOHHHHH, I bet I NEED salt! This must be it...I need salt. So I took one salt tab and things started feeling a bit better. Then I took another one right before I saw Glenn at the near top of Suntop, (he took this photo too). I was feeling somewhat better but I hadn't eaten in over 2 hours and I hadn't drank much either and I know that isn't such a good thing. When I reached Suntop, all I wanted was water and potato chips. I grabbed a handful and the very nice volunteers filled up my bottles with water and I was off down the long logging road. Within the first mile, I felt like a new person. My body was beginning to pick up and I didn't feel like I had a dark cloud looming above me or that I had weights on my ankles or a heart with only half of it's capacity. Some of the peeps that passed me on the uphill I passed on the downhill and I was feeling steady and strong. When I reached the final aid station, mile 44, (my lucky number!) my parents were there with what I had asked them to have ready for me, water in one bottle and Red Bull mixed with Cliff drink in the other. They were so sweet to have whatever I needed in the back of the car and so happy for me that I would finally finish this race I've had my heart set on for well over a year now. All I wanted was water. I still hadn't really eaten anything, although I was trying to, but at this point, I only had 6 miles left and I knew I would finish. Whatever it takes....
So, I checked in at the final aid station and ran that last 6 miles as strong as I could and as fast as I could. I had thought that I would be feeling so differently during this section but I think that the 9 miles spent trying to figure out what my body needed saved my legs some. Some of the people who passed me on the downhill I passed in this last section. So I just kept running from orange ribbon to orange ribbon and the next thing I know, I've made it to the finish. People were cheering and clapping for all the runners and it was overwhelming, yet welcomed at the same time, as I had just spent so much time in my own head. I was so happy to finish. Wow.

After about a half hour, Glenn took me to the river to soak my legs. I did NOT want to go b/c I was already cold. But I went. At first I was being whiny about getting in, then I was happy to sit there and recap the whole race to Glenn in the 15 minutes I soaked in the river.

So, I did learn quite a bit and I am looking forward to testing this new found knowledge in another 50-miler. I think the most important thing I learned was to be grateful to make it to the start line and the finish line and to accept that no matter what I think I need during an endurance event, those needs could change easily and experience will tell me how to take care of my body so I can let it do what I've trained it to do, hence, I don't control the race, it controls me and I work with that.
(photos-G. Tachiyama)
Special thanks to my folks for being there!


gtach said... rock!

looking forward to many, many more adventures with you and struthie!

Struthie, the ultra dog! said...

mom! what a badass!

thank you for not taking me on that run!!!

Motivator said...

That is quite a run for a Lady, M'Lady. Very impressive, great moving amazing story--love the pics that accompany the runs. INSPIRING too. I agree with Struthie, you ARE a badass!

Um, also, I thought your outfit was tres chic: baby blue sleeveless fitted top with those arm warmers, I may do an ultra just for he fashion!!

kendrara said...

You look so strong! One of my favorite things about the proliferation of blogs is being able to see how similar our experiences can be. I sympathized with so much of what you were saying! Especially the spending so long inside your own head and then at the finish you have to interact with everyone, and it's kind of a harsh transition even though of course it's great, too. Gosh, you did so much RIGHT in your first 50 miler...and even though G is to be credited a ton for that, like he even says, it was all up to you during the actual race. So, incredible job, ALM. I'll bet your nausea will be cured by hourly S caps and you'll be shaving a half hour just by that alone!

Hallie said...

way to be ALM!! you rocked the course and figured out the answers to your hydration/nutrition challenge; not always the easiest thing to do in the heat of the moment. i know this is just the start of your running dreams!

i also think your outfit is very cute! is that a new shirt?

*tc said...

Allison, very nice run and great blog! Thanks for taking us along the trail with you.

I saw you "skipping" over to G before the race. It made me smile. You've got gold there lady. Hang on to it.

RE: Fast people. Don't think I won't remember what you told me at the finish line ... you'll be with us next year. Listen to your body and treat it right - you'll be there.

Interesting what you said about presumed versus actual needs. In ultras, your actual needs can and will change at every turn. Good to be flexible on this one.

RE: Salt. If you feel like you're behind, you can take more than one (test in training of course). When I've forgotten salt, I'll take 2. It should help you recover quicker. Another idea - if you regularly wear a ring, pay attention to the "spinning" of the ring or lack thereof. If you don't wear a ring, pay attention to the "tightness" of you hands as they bend. For me, I notice that I subconsciously open and close my fists when they're tight - a tale-tale sign I need salt.

Take care and hope to see you out there.

- t

Chad said...

Nice work B. I know all too well the troubles of nutrition during such a long event. Have I told you about my home-brew energy gel? It's packed with vitamins, sodium and potassium, and, unfortunately, flavor. By the way, Cliff drink is good, but I haven't used it since I discovered CarboRocket:

Next year I suggest you try the Wasatch 100.

Struthie, the ultra dog! said...

c'mon mom! hurry up already! how long do i have to wait for the next one??? my friends are going to be soooo jealous when they see how i got to play in the snow!!!


"may all beings be happy & free [like me]!"