Sunday, November 8, 2009

The First Stormy Weekend of the Season

When I was a kid, my mother told me you can tell how far away a storm is by counting the seconds in between the lightening and thunder. I also remember this from the movie Poltergeist. This weekend there was lots of thunder and lightening and rain and wind. Lots of wind! Lots of rain! And more thunder and lightening than I have ever experienced in the 16 years I have lived in Seattle. Poor Struth was scared. And when Struth is scared, he doesn't hide, he barks and barks and barks. So it was a loud weekend at times at home.

But as luck would have it, I had 2 perfect runs. The first I managed to hit the weather on the mark. I seemed to have picked the perfect hour for running. It did not rain and it was warm enough. Gloves and hat and vest and no complaints. The second I managed a 2 hour run with no rain. It was plenty windy alright. Even if I was able to talk, literally, the wind would have prevented me from projecting anything audible. It's like you open your mouth to say something and literally, the wind blows it back inside. However, I was trying so hard to keep up with Owen on the run that I could not talk anyway. He was putting the hurt on me and I was responding as best as I could. In the end, I was able to keep up with him. I was a zombie for about 3 hours afterward, but it was worth it. I managed to keep it together to do grocery shopping and make a delicious potato and leek soup with homemade biscuits. I was asleep by 11 PM though.....what can I say, I'm not 21 anymore.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Carkeek 12 Hour

Carkeek 12 run turned out to be a significant day for me. I hadn't thought too much about this run as it is pretty low key and a timed race instead of a distance race. I had prepared myself for very bad weather, rain,rain and more rain and then some cold weather with some more rain. I had packed with me lots of extra clothes and the idea that if my hands were freezing and I was super wet for most of the day, that I could stop after running 40 miles but would love to get in 50. It feels like it has been a long time since I have run an ultra or run on the trails or been excited about either of these. I've been running, but on the road and preparing for Seattle Marathon so trying to run at a faster pace. Running for 12 hours sounded like 100 mile training again and I wasn't mentally on top of my game in that respect. So I chose not to think too much about it. When the alarm went off at 4 AM, I hit the snooze. It went off again and I said to myself, well, it's now or never. So, I got up, Owen and I walked the dogs, I didn't eat breakfast and Owen and I drove to Carkeek for the 6 AM start. As Owen and I were out with the dogs before the race, I was thinking that it was only 2 months ago that we ran Cascade Crest yet it seemed so much longer. Getting up in the dark seemed foreign to me but familiar at the same time. Then I started to feel like I was excited about running long on the trails, like my motivation for trail running was on the rise.

We got to Carkeek and it was cold and windy and we were all huddled around the bonfire. We had a brief race meeting and we were off, running the ~2 mile loop with ~500ft of elevation gain per loop. We started with headlamps and followed glow sticks, but after 3 loops, I ditched my headlamp and had to change my shirt because it was so warm and balmy. I was running by myself and after a few more loops I put my iPOD on. The course was very familiar by now and I had established where I would allow myself to walk and were I could run. There were stairs throughout the course, some were designated walk areas for me, others I felt very comfortable running. I was feeling great, maybe the best I've felt since CCC100. I quickly lost count of how many laps I had done and refused to look at my watch. I felt like I do when I am running on a treadmill; just set the dial and put the towel over the display and keep going. It's a real mental challenge. After some time, I came up on Owen. We said hello, chit chatted a bit and I asked him if he wanted to run together. He said no, I should just go ahead, he was comfortable with his pace. So, off I went. I was still feeling so good, keeping up with my designated running areas and my designated walking areas. Once I caught up to Owen again, I thought I would look at my watch, 6 hours had gone by, we were half way done. I choose not to think about the fact that I was only half was done. I keep going, running solo and felt myself slipping a bit but still able to keep up with the goals I had set for myself. And around and around I went. I was headed for another loop and was walking up the stairs and onto one of the steep parts. Shawn was coming up on me and she said, 'Allison, it looks like your calf is ready to pop!' That was weird because I was just thinking that my calf was starting to tug. I made it through about half of that loop before...POP....goes the weasel. What the hell was that? My calf felt like it just stopped working and I was instantly limping. I tried to gently stretch it without success. I limped through the rest of the lap. When I got back to the aid station, I saw Terry and "Sue" (halloween costume of a guy who's name I forget) and earlier I had told them that I was really training for Seattle Marathon. They told me to not run more than 45 miles because it wouldn't be beneficial for running a fast marathon. This was something that Owen and I had talked about. How far is far enough or how long is long enough to find a balance between feeling satisfied in this 12 hour run and being able to train efficiently for the marathon. We had not figured that out yet. So when I saw Terry and Sue, they were surprised I was still running. I used the thought that maybe running too far today would be detrimental to the rest of my marathon training to convince myself that it was ok to quit. The next 30 minutes added up to be a mini melt down. I stopped and tried to stretch my calf. I tried to gently massage it but to no avail. It hurt to put pressure on it. I kept going back and forth in my head the pros and cons of quitting at this point. I decided to wait for Owen to loop around and decided what to do from there. I was bummed out because I was running so well and all of a sudden I was in pain and wasn't sure if I ran more I would do more damage or if I should push through. When Owen looped around, he was surprised to see me. He ate a bit and I told him what happened. He said, why don't you do a slow lap with me. Turns out, he had twisted his ankle and jarred his knee in the 3rd loop and had been running on it ever since. Essentially, he had been running with a bum knee and at a pace slower than what he had planned on for over 6 hours. What a champ. No wonder he did not want to run with me, it was making sense now. At this point, my melt down was in full motion. I wanted to quit. I didn't know what to do, was it stupid to run in pain? Was this an injury or was this just pain from running for almost 9 hours? Would I be a wimp if I quit or was I being smart? After 9 hours, it was a hard decision to make, it's not as if this was a 50 mile race and my goal was to run 50 miles, this was a 12 hour run in which I hadn't fully decided how long I would run. Yet I know myself and I knew I would not feel satisfied if I did not run the full 12 hours. Owen had decided that since he had to run slower than usual on account of his knee that he would run the full 12 hours after he decided that he woud not be doing more damage if he ran slow. He convinced me to run a slow loop with him and assess the situation from there. So I did. I dod a loop with him, both of us hobbling in one way or another. One more loop turned into one more loop, which turned in to one more, etc. We ran the full 12 hours, well, 11 hrs and 50 minutes, no time for a full loop in 10 minutes, and I completed 28 loops, just under 55 miles and Owen completed 26 loops, just under 51 miles. He was second male overall and I was first female and tied Van's course record. We won some good North Face swag as well. I really owe it to Owen for keeping me in the game. I hadn't realized until later that I was having a mini melt down and that it took a lot of mental tenacity to keep going once I realized that I wasn't going to do more harm to myself if I kept running. At least that is the conclusion I came to yesterday and today my calf is sore, but on the mend. I came home and took an ice bath. My legs are pretty tight and achy today and it is a feeling I haven't had for awhile and I realize that I miss it and feel motivated again to hit the trails and do some more races. But most importantly, I took myself to another level with regards to keep on keeping on in the midst of a mental struggle. Another example of the peaks and valley's of this sport. I finished on a peak and ran through a pretty deep valley. Of all this that happened during the 12 hours, the thing I feel the best about is that I kept going. I will remember this for next time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Joys of Recovery!

Pre Cascade Crest:

Post Cascade Crest:

Yikes! Amazingly, my feet did not hurt during Cascade Crest. Well, other than how one might expect feet would feel after running on the for 25 hours and covering 100 miles, tired, ready to be let out of my trail shoes and be soaked in some cold water. I am lucky I didn't have substantial blisters or severe foot pain. That being said, the state of my feet and ankles less than 24 hours after the race was absolutely incredible. Everyone said my feet would swell, but in all honesty, I didn't think they would be that bad and for days on end. I don't think they went back to "normal" for almost 4 days.
Another interesting sensation that I had was the inability to feel comfortable sitting or standing for any period of time. I thought I'd just want to sit down or lay down for days. But, in reality, going from sitting to standing was difficult because I was wobbly. Once stabilized on my feet, I couldn't stay standing for too long before I had to sit back down. Then after a short period of time, I'd have to stand again. Repeat endlessly for 2 days. I also thought sleeping would not be a problem as I had missed I don't sound all whiney and unappreciative of being able to start and finish Cascade Crest. I would not trade any of the discomfort I felt while recovering. It is all part of the experience and all part of the run.
It has taken me longer to recover from Cascade Crest than any other race, of course, and since it was my "A" race, I have really enjoyed relaxing and hanging out and not doing all that much with regards to running and training. My parents whisked me off to Leavenworth right after the race and that was awesome. We hung out and ate bratwurst, drank beer and ate ice cream, found a swimming hole to soak in and then took naps on the shore. It was so relaxing and just what I needed to kick start my recovery. They went back to North Carolina and I had to return to work and normal life. But without all the running, I found the time to try new recipes, clean up my house, spend time reading and sleeping in. has been so lovely.
Owen and I had planned to go away for the weekend and NOT bring our running shoes. We did manage to take a trip to Whidbey Island to visit some friends but we did bring our running shoes, I just couldn't help it, I love running. So off we went to Whidbey Island to relax with the dogs, friends, meet new friends and enjoy having to plans and flying by the seat of our pants.

We stopped off at Double Bluff Beach and took the dogs. They ran and swam and ran and swam and barked and chased birds.

We also went for a canoe ride with Anne, Shamus and Eric and then had dinner on the beach. Shamus is about the cutest kid I have ever met. It was fun spending time with him.

We also visited the house of other friends who have beautiful art studios, horses, beautiful gardens and many many motorcycles. It was awesome to do different things and be around so many creative people. One of Owen's friends made us Cascade Crest awards. I was so touched to get this really cool piece of art as an award! It has a little "100" in it and on the back it says my name and time, how thoughtful! I met some really fun and creative people throughout the weekend. Eric had a BBQ and I had a great time hanging out with the kids, the dogs and the adults while eating good food. If only Struth would have stayed out of the fish pond!

Tomorrow is Cle ELum 50k. I'm looking forward to just going out there and running for fun, no pressure, just some fun trail running.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cascade Crest Classic 100M!

CCC 100M was an amazing experience. Since it's a local race, I knew a lot of people either running or volunteering (THANKS to the volunteers!!) and it was great to see everyone at aid stations, on the trails and at the finish. My parents even came from North Carolina in support. My parent's neighbor came out from North Carolina with 7 other ultra runners to run CCC. I had run with some of them previously while in North Carolina so it was great seeing all them on the trail as well.

My plan was to divide the race up by aid stations. My goal was to run under 28 hours and I thought that if I was having a good day, I could run somewhere near the 26 hour mark. I decided this by just looking at past results and seeing where I might fall into that mix. My concern was I would go out too fast and just be knackered by the half way mark. I was also a bit concerned that I would have breathing issues as I did at White River 50 so I was sure to have my inhaler with me at all times and easily locatable.

The first climb up to Goat Peak went well, I knew what to expect and so I enjoyed the climb. I talked to a few people and once it spread out I tuned out to my ipod. At the first aid station, mile 11, I was right on track with the splits I had guessed for myself. As I checked off each aid station, I was getting more and more ahead of my target times. I was a bit concerned I was going out too fast, but I felt very relaxed. I was very fortunate to run behind Ronda for some early miles. Ronda is quite an accomplished runner, and an accomplished 100 mile runner at that. I knew running behind her wouldn't last long, but it was a confidence builder to stay with her for some miles. She wound up placing 2nd woman! When I got to Stampede Pass, mile 33, Jess was there to hand me my loaded camelback and headlamp. My parents were there cheering me on. I was still feeling very relaxed. It was here that I had caught up to Owen and we ran together until mile 53 at Hyak. That was awesome. We kept a very steady pace walking some on the uphills and cruising the rest. The PCT is absolutely gorgeous! The trails were in great shape and very runnable. The views were somewhat diluted by the fog and mist. But it was typical Pacific Northwest weather as so it was very comforting. We really lucked out with the weather. It didn't rain, it was cooler temperatures, warm throughout the night and warmer the next day, almost hot really.

We got to Hyak at about 10:30 PM. We thought we would have made it a little quicker, but the re-route that goes over the ski mountain instead of the the 2 miles thru the tunnel was pretty rowdy! It was steep and rocky and technical and maneuvering this through the dark was what seemed at the time frustrating. At times, it seemed almost un-walkable. I nicknamed this part the REAL trail from hell. But eventually, that little journey was over and we running thru tiny streets lined with cabins. People were out on their decks having cocktails and cheering in the runners. It was a nice change of pace from the cursing we were doing while twisting our ankles on the re-route. Once we cruised into Hyak, we took a few minutes there and then headed out to Lake Kachees and the original trail from hell. Owen had met up with his pacer and they were off, off into the darkness not to be seen again until Thorpe Mt. Jess, my awesome pacer and crew person started with me here. I was feeling a bit funky, tired, out of it, as if in a dream. But that all went away within 15 minutes and we were running up and down and putting our hands over our headlamps to get a good view of all the stars out that night. It was a beautiful night. Warm, clear and I had good company. We hit the trail from hell, made it through that, then began walking really fast, (or what seemed fast) up from Mineral Creek, mile 73 to No Name Ridge, mile 80. It was during this stretch that the sun came up. Oh how lucky I felt to be watching the sun come up. It was so amazing, I had watched the sun set and the moon rise and now the sun rise. I would run another 100 miler just for this experience again.

Once we got to No Name Ridge aid station, I knew the next 8 mile stretch to French Cabin would be difficult; the cardiac needles and the beautiful Thorp Mt. I have run these cardiac needles before, several times. So I knew what to expect. I expected short steep climbs. However, I had never experienced these short steep climbs with 80 miles on my legs. This section was tough for me, it felt as if I wasn't not making much progress moving forward with the occasional slip to the side due to lack of forward motion. I figured I had slowed down too much here but was not discouraged. And as it turned out, I didn't slow down in comparison. It's always important to remember that everyone is experiencing something similar. Everyone is tired, everyone is struggling to some degree, so why should my experience be much different? This thought is somewhat comforting to me. As hard as though climbs were, the scenery was tenfold in beauty. The views were spectacular and I did make sure that I looked around and took in the beauty. After all, this is one of the main reasons I run trails. As Jess and I were headed up to Thorp Mt, we came across Owen and his pacer Brock. It was so good to see Owen, I thought I would not see him until the finish. We said hi, checked in, and kept running.

Once I got to French Cabin, mile 88, I knew the next 8 mile stretch was long and gradually becoming technical, or what could be perceived as technical by me in my physical and mental state of being. I felt good still, as good as I expected, but my feet were a bit slow in response to what my eyes saw and I was a bit sloppy. I just followed Jess's feet until the last aid station, MILE 95.5! I could hardly believe I had made it that far. It was very exciting. I saw my parents there and Jeanine. Jeanine ran the last 5 miles with Jess and I and once we hit pavement I knew I had a belt buckle coming to me. Unless I was hit by a car or struck by lightening, I knew I was about to finish. We got to the railroad tracks and I just wanted to see the finish line. It wasn't quite in view and I was getting antsy to cross that line. As soon as I saw it, I just was amazed I had made it. I really had the sense that literally, all my hard work had paid off and it was well worth it. It is such a good feeling when you set a goal, work hard to achieve it, enjoy the process and feel the reward. I wound up coming in at 25 hours and 13 minutes, well ahead of my expectations. Although I was quite euphoric at the end and remember very little of the brief conversations I had right after crossing the finish line, it was great to be surrounded by some many friends and family. Owen came in right after me and he had a 5.5 HOUR PR from last year! WOW!
Thought I'd have more photos of the course, but I didn't have my camera. Jess took some great ones, tired to post them here but I couldn't. So here's finishing photos!

This was really a first class event. Charlie, RD, does an amazing job and putting on this event. And his wife is due in just 2 weeks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thinking Like An Ultra-Runner

A few years ago when I started running and trail running, I had just finished my first half marathon trail run and was bloody and satisfied. I heard people talking about finishing their recent 50-miler and thought to myself, wow, that seems so daunting and impossible to me, I WANT TO DO IT! I love running on the trails, especially with my dog, and I love challenges, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to satisfy both of those desires. In 2008, I finished my first 50-mile trail run. I checked that off the list and could only think, what next? What other runs/races do I want to do? As I was meeting more and more people in the ultrarunning community I saw my chance to pace a friend in his first 100 mile run. I ran the last 50 miles with him and when he finished, he looked so elated I could only imagine the satisfaction he was feeling. I thought to myself, could I do that? Could I run 100 miles? Well, it's definitely worth trying. Another challenge, another opportunity to push myself physically and mentally and see where that takes me. I have had my doubts, but deep down, I know it is something I want to experience. No time like the present.
In February, I signed up and got into Cascade Crest 100 miler. It seems like these 7 months of training have flew by and now, in less than 2 weeks, I will have my opportunity to run 100 miles. It seems like a natural progression to me, it seems like a worthy goal to have, it seems like a sane thing to do and it certainly sounds good to me.

I realise this is not an endeavour that everyone wants to take on and that is respectable. Some people might say that running 100 miles or even more is extreme, but I don't see it that way, I simply see it as a challenge in which I want to put myself to the test.
The ways in which I have noticed that I have changed my thinking from being a casual runner to a runner who has been training for a 100 miler have recently become more apparent. Some are funnier than others, but none-the-less, I've noticed a few things. Among my ultra-running friends, these things seem normal but to some, it's not something to think about because they have other aspirations. For example, last Sunday I went to Discovery Park with my friend Jeanine do run a few loops. When we were done, she was meeting up with another friend there to walk around Discovery Park. Her friend, Maggie, is married to a very accomplished ultra runner. I was talking to her about trying to find these hand held bottle holders that I wanted for the 100-miler. She told me about these hand held bottle holders that hold 4 gels, and easily. I'm thinking; WOW! 4 GELS! And you don't have to cram them in either! That sounds magnificent!. She says, 'It's funny the things my husband gets excited about, he called me into the kitchen and was so excited to show me that he could fit 4 gels into one bottle holder with ease. He really was very excited about it.' I had to laugh at myself because I thought that was exciting news too. Then she went on to say that she was at an aid station at about mile 80 in some 100 miler and this guy approaches the aid station just continually puking for the 15 yards leading up to the aid station. She thought he'd probably drop as he was puking, but no, he continued AND he finished the race. He was driven. I thought to myself, yes, I would have kept trying too, that makes sense to me. When I was pulled out of White River last month on a medical, I was disappointed because I would have kept going, I would have just tried to recover and move on. But, the medical people there thought otherwise. And maybe that was a bit nuts of me, but in the moment, I just didn't want to stop, I wanted to finish. But I have learned that in long distances, being successful can mean a lot of things. It can mean being fast with a PR, it can mean finishing despite many setbacks or it can mean knowing your limits that day and respecting your body and mind.
Yesterday at work a co-worker came up to me and said, 'hey, I hear you are a runner. Have you heard of a running race that is 135 miles and takes place in really hot conditions, something with a "bad" in it?' Oh, right, I said, Badwater. Yes I've heard of it. And he says, 'would you do that? I mean that is just crazy and it is not healthy. Those people who do that are out of their minds.' Well, I said, lots of people do it and they live to tell about it. Then he says, "these are the people that we should be sending to Mars, and if they don't come back, well, then...and he just shrugs his shoulders. Imagine that, my co-worker thinks that people who run Badwater are so crazy that they can be sacrificed in the name of research. He went on to say that if I got any crazy ideas about running Badwater, he would most certainly talk me out of it. I didn't reply, just went back to work. I was speechless.
So what does all this mean? Well, it means that I am excited about Cascade Crest. It means that I have found my niche in doing what I love to do and that trail running is one of the things that brings the best out of me.

I am looking forward to running through the night and watching to sun come up. I'm looking forward to seeing where this experience takes me physically and mentally. I am a little nervous too...I admit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The "F" Word

It finally happened to me. I knew it would eventually, but it seemed to come sooner than I thought. Last year around this time, I was not anxiously awaiting this to happen, but as the year came around again and I circled the sun another time, it was inevitable. I turned 40. And I can honestly say, the day exceeded my expectations. I had a great day rolling in the new year with my friends. The day started out with drinking coffee and eating pastries on the way to the trails with Owen and Struth meeting up with Jess and Van. Jess had planned out a 40k run at Cougar.
I was the Birthday Girl for the Day.

The run was fun, it was hot hot hot. But we found ways to distract ourselves and keep laughing.

The day was planned and was full, no time to stop. We finished the run, headed back to town and got ready for the appetizer party at Owen's studio, ParlorF Tattoo. When I got to his studio, there was the design for my birthday tattoo and a bunch of flowers sitting on the tattoo chair. The design was amazing. I had told Owen some of things I'd like in a tattoo...and he captured the essence of exactly what I was looking for. I am not bias when I say that Owen is a very unique and talented artist.
Well, I was pretty nervous getting my first tattoo. This is the most permanent thing I've ever done, oh how scary. I was amazed at all the funny things I thought of while it was being done. If i were to go into detail about that, I know I would bore you to tears. Suffice it to say, it was a unique experience.

People started showing up to the studio about an hour into the tattoo. At that point, the rest of the appetizer time at the studio was a bit of a blur. I didn't really talk to anyone for that long and yet there were so many people I wanted to talk to. Owen's patents showed up with a balloon and all the girls had a crush on Owen's dad, he's pretty cute. Then Owen's sister and niece showed up as well and I was overwhelmed with all the people that came to help celebrate my birthday.
After the tattoo and appetizers, the party continued. Some of us headed to my favorite Japanese restaurant Maneki for sushi and more in a tatami room. I stuffed my face, it had been a long time since I'd been to Maneki. After dinner, Sara, who is famous for making cookies, made the "40" cookie. It was delicious and perfectly baked, and also devoured.
So overall, I m not in shock that 40 has come, I think it was harder knowing it was coming. A really, age is just a number. I have health, family, great friends, a boyfriend who made the day very special for me and of course, the perfect dog. What more could I ask for?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Up and Going

I am up and going in a couple of different ways. First of all, I moved last month. I have been living in the same place for about 5 years. I love my neighborhood and being able to walk to work in about 15 minutes is something I did not want to give up. So I moved 2 doors down and then make a right and 2 doors down again. The parking where I live is hard to get most of the day and so I wound up carrying everything over either by hand or with a hand truck. That was a long process but it was best that way because it made me go through all my stuff and figure out what I was willing to carry over and what I wasn't. After 5 years, I had accumulated far more than I thought was possible. When all was said and done, I had made 4 car-loads of stuff, ( I have a wagon by the way) of things to donate to good will. I had about 4 or 5 car-loads of things that I just left out on the grass while I was moving that was taken by people just walking by. Now, I have a home that is has much less clutter and I hope to keep it that way. Fingers crossed. It's hard to change! I have my own private back porch now and so Struth is having the summer of his life, being outside, albeit on a porch, for most of the day. He still goes out on a lot of training runs with me, but with the summer heat, I do have to be conscious of what water is available for him and if I should take him. Maybe I need to get him his own camel back. I am sure that wouldn't go over well with him....

Anyway. . . I digress. I finally have access to Internet at home again, which means I get to take more photos and post them. I can also update this damn blog on some kind of regular basis.

I am also up and going with all this training for Cascade Crest Classic 100. After North Face 50 miler and Lake Youngs Ultra the following weekend, I took a bit of a hiatus from the trails. It was much needed. I did some road runs, (oh the roads...) and some cross training and some sleeping and one of my favorite things... BAKING! Once a week of that was done, I had a flame to my butt again and was ready to hit the trails again. Phew.

Mount Si repeats, that was next in the process of CCC100 training. Ah, Mount Si. A physical and mental challenge.

Last Saturday Owen and I headed out to North Bend to go up and down Mt. Si twice. We ran up the 4 miles with about 4000 ft of elevation gain in just over an hour. Owen was a few minutes faster on the up. Mt. Si is a very popular hike and I expected to see lots of people there. I was a little surprised at how many I actually did see, LOTS. I had my iPOD on the whole way with my head down in suffer-mode and didn't say much to the other people on the trail besides "hi" and "thanks" when I was passing. Then we ran down. Oh it is so fun to run down.... ! That is until someone takes a spill. Owen wiped out and somersaulted. I saw his face almost the whole time he was skidding. It's so weird to see someone fall like that and see their face. It all seemed to be in slow motion. He was looking towards the direction he was falling and seemed quite calculated in where he was headed as he slid down the trail. When he had stopped skidding, he jumped up and said, "I'm ok, let's go." Ok then....back down we went but a bit of a less aggressive pace. On the way up the first time, I was thinking, oh man! I DO NOT want to go up this thing again, I can't really, I just can't do it, it's too much. On the way down I was thinking, oh man! I hope Owen says he doesn't want to go up again. But, my hopes were diverted. As much as I didn't want to run up to the top again, even more I didn't want to say, "I can't." So, up we headed. It was a mental struggle I think more than a physical one. I had my iPOD on and I was using all my mental tricks to get me to the top. All the while thinking, what would I be doing right now if I wasn't doing this? WHY am I doing this? What is really driving me here? Then a song would come on and I would feel more energized for a few minutes and then head down again. Repeat....Next thing I know, I'm at the top again. Wow, where did the time go? Or shall I ask, where did I go? An hour went by and it was like I was in a different consciousness. I do like that, I have to admit. I can't get there in regular old life. Laundry just doesn't cut it. So a few minutes of rest and down we went. I felt more beat up than doing 12 summits and this only took me 3.5 hours. Um....

Well, for about 3 days after the Mt. Si repeat, if I touched my quad, I felt it, it hurt. I hadn't been that sore for a while. I suppose that means it was beneficial. With that rationalization, Owen and I headed up on Thursday for more Mt. Si. A much different experience. Going up the first time was not so bad. Down was awesome. Then it was time to go up again. I don't know what happened to me. I was mentally prepared this time, but apparently, I had some physical limitations. I'm not sure why but I have some ideas that I will experiment with. I could only make it up 2 miles before the problems hit, hyperventilating, my entire body sweating and shaking. As much as I was determined to get up there a second time, I had to be smarter than that and call it a day. I caught my breathe, enjoyed the trees, talked with some people on the trails and the jogged down easy. It took me a few hours to feel "normal" again, but I recovered and am ready to do it again. Next week...I'm headed back up there. Physical and mental capabilities in check.

In the meantime, I can ponder the ratio of mental to physical power and how it fluctuates from day to day. It's important to be adaptable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

North Face 50 miler

The North Face 50 miler was a very interesting day. First of all, we planned on leaving Seattle at 2 AM in order to get to Bellingham in time to check in and have a few minutes to prepare for the 5 AM race start. It's hard to go to bed before 10 PM even if I know I am setting the alarm at 1 AM. I tried to plan to be in bed by 9 PM, but by the time my day was coming to an end and I had packed all my things for the race, I looked at the clock and it was 10 PM. I thought to myself, it seem real weird that I will be running 50 miles starting in 7 hours....So I got into bed and promptly fell asleep. My alarm went off at 1 AM and I got out of bed, made some tea, chocked down some toast and headed out the door to Owen's where John was picking us up. I was walking over there at 1:50 AM, bar closing time. In the heart of Capital Hill, the streets were busy with lots of people staggering to their cars and talking really load about how much fun they were having and it all seemed so surreal. In 3 hours, I would be running 50 miles and the day was just ending for most of these people who were sharing the sidewalks with me.
John arrived and was a zombie. He had about 1 hour of sleep and so he layed down in the back and Owen drove and I sat in the front seat, Brock sat in the middle seat of the Eurovan. We started driving up to Bellingham and about half way there I'm feeling car sick. I had Owen pull over and I had to get out and get sick. I got back in the car and we drove about 10 more minutes and I had to have him pull over again. I felt awful and again, I'm thinking in less than 3 hours, I really have to exert myself and I feel terrible. Mind over matter....
We arrive at the start and get our numbers. At least I have a 4 in my number, I love the number 4. We get ready and chit chat with friends and the next thing you know, it's countdown time....3-2-1, go. Less excited, I could not be. I was wondering if my stomach would hold out, I was wondering if I would be able to eat and I was just planning on having a training run that would not make me so sore that I would be worthless the following week for training. I ran the first 11 miles on and off with Owen or Van. They were good company and made me forget my stomach was still a bit upset. By the time we left the AS at mile 11, I was feeling more confident that my stomach would not be an issue. So, Owen and I ran some together until we got to the Ridge Trail which is pretty technical with lots of short and steep ups and downs. Owen got ahead of me here and I just plugged along with my iPOD and staying steady. On the next longer decent, I caught up to Owen and from here, we ran the rest of the race together. We were in the same boat, not feeling great, not feeling bad, not wanting to push it to the limits, but wanting put in a good solid effort. We both tuned out with our iPODS and ran at a good pace stopping and eating at all the aid stations. I was feeling quite relaxed really. I had planned on a 12 hour day and so that was my mind frame, 12 hours of good solid running on the trails.
We got to mile 30 and I was in a bit of a lull. We saw another runner, Jeff, who told me that I was the 4th woman. I was really surprised by this. He also said she was a good distance ahead of me but if I was motivated by 3rd place prize money, then I should get on it. Prize money? I didn't even know there was prize money for the top 3. I didn't really even entertain the idea...I was content to keep going at the same pace and didn't feel like I had any get up and go. I was in the lull and was fine being there.
A few miles before the AS at mile 42, we were running a fun downhill section. I saw a woman in front of us and realised that this was the 3rd place woman. I thought I could have a chance at placing 3rd. So, according to Owen who was just paces behind me, I took off running downhill like a bat out of hell. He had no idea that I had cranked my music and felt a moment of fresh legs. He ran down with me and we greeted and passed the 3rd place woman. I was feeling pretty good about this time and thanks to some head banger music on my iPOD, I was feeling motivated to try to stay in 3rd. When we got to the AS about 1-2 miles later, Owen gave me some good advise, he said, run the rest of the way steady and don't blow up, there is still 8 more miles. So, for the last 8 miles, we ran strong and steady together, him leading the way. There is a very brutal and rowdy climb at about mile 45 that literally took my breath away. It took me some time to recover from that one. That was just plain torturous to have such terrain that late in the game. Although, seemed like Owen was not having the difficultly I was, he was like a damn billy goat getting up there.
The last AS was at mile 47.5. 2-1/2 more miles, pretty much downhill on the logging road with the last bit on technical single track. As we came around the corner to the finish line, I thought, wow, I might really have come in 3rd! We crossed the finish line at 10 hours and 18 minutes. I soon found out that indeed I was third and had won some prize money. That has never happened to me IN MY LIFE! Alison Hanks was 2nd overall and Jamie Donaldson was 1st.
The day really took me by surprise and a great surprise at that. It was also quite relaxing and I think I learned a thing or 2 about how to approach these runs. Each time I do one, I'm amazed at the things I learn about the sport and about myself. Everyone seemed to have a great time, literally and figuratively.
All the meanwhile, the San Diego 100 miler was going on and while we all were hanging out and enjoying our post race buzz, Jess, Jonathon, Linda and Joe, and many others I don't know, were still grinding it out. Congratulations to all of them for great performances!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Elusive 12 Summits

Um, well I have attempted 12 summits 4 times. I have run it successfully only 1 time. ONE TIME! The first time I attempted it, one of the people I went with bonked pretty bad so we had to cut part of it out and go back the most direct route. The second time, it was a success, partly due to other people that knew the way. The 3rd time, there was too much snow and had to turn around and now this time, we were "re-routed" and had dropped the water in the wrong spot and had to run on the road until we found it. Leaving the water untouched was not an option as it was super hot and we were all pretty much out of water. Good thing we did not bring the dogs as they would have suffered big time in the heat.
It all started off just fine. We made it all the way to the 5th summit without directional difficulty.
We first realized we were lost when the terrain looked very unfamiliar despite going the way the map had instructed. Also, we could not find the 6th summit. The map said, "look for a stump." No seriously, I must have seen many many stumps and none of them looked like they led to the 6th summit. Once we got to a clear cut section that looked completely foreign to me, we turned around and ran back and took the other fork. We ran on that for awhile and then heard a fairly busy highway, HWY 18. John and Owen knew seeing HWY 18 was not a good sign for staying on course, but I have no sense of direction and once you get me out of Seattle, I don't know my way around or what direction Auburn is or Kent, or Renton. We started heading up following the power lines and until John spotted a hidden trail that said, "Tiger Mt. Trail." More excited, I could not be for it was headed down and the power line route was headed steeply uphill. Once we were running on it, it looked vaguely familiar but then came across another fork in the road and wondered which way to go....but I found some handy dandy spectacles and so we were all set, pretty much. We did eventually make it to the correct water drop but only to realise that we had dropped the water in another location, sigh. So we ran/walked on the road for awhile until we found our oasis. Once we did get to the water, we were joined by a pair of siblings, probably about 10 and 13 years old who were fascinated by our running gear. The 13 year old girl was particularly fascinated with Owen's tattoo's and referred to them as "hella tight." They were kind enough to throw away our empties at their house which was just down the road. And they were really excited to get their photo taken.
After we refueled, we didn't really know where we were but followed the trail leading up and back towards the start, miles away. Eventually found our way thanks to 2 dudes on motorcycles/dirt bikes who told us it was a LONG way back to High Point and some luck. Although we didn't hit 12 summits, we managed about 40 miles with still quite a bit of climbing. A good run and getting "lost" was actually a highlight. It was quite an adventure. Here we are at the last summit!
Then down we went running pretty hard the last 3 miles to the parking lot. Great adventure for a hot sunny Friday!
I didn't realise how tired I was until I got home. I had to tell Struth that I was at the dentist all day long because I didn't want him to know I was trail running without him. I mean, with a face as cute as this one, it's really hard to know I've disappointed my dog by not taking him with me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I got at Miwok

Besides running a well organised and fabulous 100K course, there are other things I took away from Miwok. Of course there was the cool shirt, (not pictured), which will come in handy if the weather every warms up, it's like May-vember here in Seattle. Included in the swag bag was a local brewed Miwok Beer with pint glass, a very spacious grocery/after running/misc bag;
a running hat;
and a copy of the latest issue of UltraRunning magazine featuring an article on trail running with dogs and one of the featured dogs is none other than Struth! He is Struthie the Ultra Dog, having run lots of 50k's with me and other long training runs. My faithful companion.

What WASN'T in the swag bag, but which I did acquire is a lovely case of poison oak which has been keeping me up at night and generally making me pretty uncomfortable.

However, after I drink this Miwok beer, maybe I'll feel better....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Miwok-ed, Mi-Ran and Mi-finished

I've heard the views at Miwok are amazing and it is one of the more beautiful runs. Being from the northwest, there are quite a few beautiful runs here and I was looking forward to seeing some new scenery. Well, we all checked the weather incessantly the days and night before Miwok on Saturday and it didn't appear there would be too much of a view; rain was in the forecast for at least part of the day. Oh well, those of us traveling from Seattle to San Fransisco for Miwok are quite used to this type of weather. That being said, I was looking forward to warmer weather and some sun but reality presented itself in the form of rain, fog, wind and then some more rain fog and wind. However, I really can't complain and I hope it doesn't sound like I am. The day was awesome and the race was awesome. The volunteers were perfect and the race was very well organized. I'd do this race again and again.
Of course I was super nervous having never run this distance before. The night before was restless and I kept dreaming the same dream over and over again. I dreamt that we were late to the start, couldn't find the starting line despite people yelling at us with a bullhorn "OVER HERE!" Once we started we were a full 30 minutes behind and I could not catch up with a single person. The aid stations were in people's houses and we would have to sit at people's kitchen tables for turkey sandwiches before heading back out to the next aid station. At one point I was running next to a parked car and for the life of me, could not move past it. It was at this point in my dream that I became somewhat conscious and said to myself, "you know this is just a dream right? There is no way an aid station would be in some one's kitchen and that you couldn't run past a parked car in under 30 minutes." So I would wake up, look at the clock and think to myself, "man! I am never going to fall asleep!" Repeat....until the alarm went off at 3:30 AM.
I figured I wouldn't get a restful night's sleep, so I was prepared with lots of good night's sleep earlier in the week.
We got to the race at about 5:20 or so with a 5:40 start. It was still pretty dark but quickly becoming dusk and soon enough, before we hit the second mile, it was light. Having never run this distance before and with only one 50-miler under my belt, I really didn't know what to expect with regards to time and pacing strategy. After looking at previous results, I had made 3 goals for myself, besides to have fun. The first was to finish, the second was to finish in under 14 hours and the 3rd was to finish in under 13 hours. I thought that if I was having a good day, I could run 12:15-12:30.
I hit Tennessee Valley AS, (mile 12) in about 2 hours and was feeling pretty good. It was starting to drizzle and I had started listening to my iPOD about an hour previous. On the way to Pan Toll AS, via Muir Beach AS, the rain and wind had picked up. It was so foggy that I couldn't see more than 25-35 yards in front of me. I didn't really mind, it's not like I really knew that course so with each step, the course was revealed to me. It was a real mystery and with many many miles in front of me, a mystery kept my mind busy. The 6 or so miles before Pan Toll were pretty rowdy. The wind was really picking up and so I just cranked my iPOD and really, I was feeling pretty good. I knew it would be a muddy mess on the way back, but that wasn't for hours so why think about it. I hit Pan Toll, ~mile 21, and I was at 4 hours. I overheard a few people say they were dropping. I was feeling kinda fired up with being 1/3 of the way done and got my drop bag and reloaded with delicious gu's in my water bottle holders. Off I went, onto Bolinas AS. Wow, the rain was really picking up here and I was thankful that it was not too cold.
(this photo courtesy of Victoria Folks)
I was running alone at this point. I hadn't seen anyone in a while and the people at the aid station were a welcomed distraction in my head. I fueled up and onward I went, mostly downhill, to the turn-around, Randall Trail, mile 35. I have never taken an Advil in a race, but my hips were really quite sore, an issue I have been dealing with the past 10 days, so I decided to take 2 Advil. At the turn around I was feeling pretty good but kind of anxious about what the last 27 miles might bring. I hadn't run more than a 50k in a race since last July and so I felt as though I was reaching uncharted territory. I remember Owen telling me to look for people running my pace and try to stick with them. I had been running behind a woman who looked tough for the last 3 or 4 miles so I thought, well, maybe I can stick with her for a while and see how that goes. I was behind her until we hit Bolinas AS station again, mile ~mile 43. I refueled and then continued to run behind her. I turned off my iPOD in case we were going to have a conversation. I didn't want to be annoying and run right behind her, yet I wanted to run behind her for pacing and even if we never said a word, for company. We talked a little, she told me her name was Betsy. We chit-chatted while we ran in the most windy part of the course. It wasn't even single track, it was more like 1/2 track with a slant and it was muddy and slippery, and IT band irritation waiting to happen. But thankfully, that did not happen. We hit mile 50 and as I approached the aid station I hear..."ALLISON!!!!" I'm thinking....WTH? Who is this? Well, it was my dear friend Annie and her boyfriend Mark who had showed up to the race despite the weather. What troopers and an amazing lift to my spirits! This is what they sat through....
I thought I might change my shirt because I could tell I was chaffing under my arms. But I saw that Betsy was cruising through the AS so I didn't want to get too far behind her so I said hi to Annie and Mark, refueled and was on my way. I was at 9:17 for 50-miles and thought I had a chance of doing a good time. So, I ate my 2-quarters of PB&J with a small piece of banana and ran behind Betsy. I was feeling pretty fatigued at this point. I don't know if this is where she told me that she would be running her 10th Wasatch this year and her 9th Hardrock or if she told me that before, but I knew I was running behind one tough chick with lots of experience. So I stayed with her the best I could. As we approached mile 55, we were talking about all kinds of things. We were at 10:24. With 7 miles to go, I was wondering if I could make it in under 12 hours. She gave me 2 Anica tabs to help my fatigued muscles and gave me some good pointers in how to train for a 100-miler. She was absolutely amazing and I felt so lucky to be running with her. As we approached the last AS, there was a slight uphill on the road. I don't think I would have run that if she was not running it, I was just focused on staying with her great company. At the last AS, Tennessee Valley, with 3.8 miles to go, I was knackered. I ate a bunch of watermelon. I had never felt this fatigued before and the uphill route that I saw in front of me looked so daunting. At times I was pressing on my legs as I stepped up in the hopes that it would make the climb easier. Who knows if that was effective or not, but I was still moving forward to maybe it did. As we got to a lesser grade climb, Betsy turned to me and said, "shuffle with me." So shuffle we did. We shuffled at what felt like a crawl. If I was alone, I wonder if I would have shuffled or walked. Her experience and company was price-less to me at this point, so I followed her the best I could. As we approached the top, I could hear the finish line. OMG! The finish line! As we crested the top, I could see the tent and finish line and that it was downhill, all downhill to the finish. As we were running down, I heard someone yelling into the bullhorn, "11:53!". Wow, I was going to finish in under 12 hours. Betsy was a few steps in front of me so she waved me on to run side by side so we would finish together. We did, we crossed the finish line together at 11:55 with high fives and hugs. I was just so appreciative of her company and her expertise. I didn't know I had that in me....and with a little inspiration, I found out I did. Betsy gave me her number so we can go on some runs when she comes to Seattle next. I later looked up Wasatch and saw that she has won it 5 times, including last year. I knew I was running with a bad ass, but WOW, she is SUCH a bad ass. And a very genuine person as well. Wish I had a finish line photo, but I don't. But here are a few race photos of other things.
Jonathon and I after the race cheering people on.
Linda finishing with her best time and just right there behind her, after a 100-miler only 3 weeks prior is Jess finishing!
I had such a great time and can I just say that I have never been so sore as I was the next day in my life. It was well worth it. Everyone did great and now it's time to recover and eat lots of good food and sleep.
next up: Watershed 12 hour run! (yikes)