2018 WSER

DEA459B0-E4AE-406B-B905-CF25B7861690If you’ve been following along on my journey you’d know that here I am, at the end of a fantastic 6 month ride.  From getting into the lottery in December, to having a head injury in March and not knowing when/if I’d be able to run, to finally realizing my dream of running from Squaw to Auburn!

As I lay here post race I’m finally able to process it all.  I love the training, so I can’t say that it was hard to get here. I mean, I trained hard, and spent many hours alone on trails and in the gym, but I also had many wonderful people supporting me along the way, even if they weren’t running with me, they were helping me in other ways.

On Saturday morning we lined up at 5 am. I wasn’t as nervous as I’ve been at some other races.  Not sure if I’m getting used to pre race jitters or if I just knew that I’d prepared as well as I could with the things I could control. I don’t have altitude or mountains or desert, but I did all the things I could do to prepare myself for them.

We started up the mountain from Squaw at exactly 5 am. The climb is long enough and wide enough that the field can spread out.  I hiked with Jasmine from PA for a while as the sun rose.

Up the escarpment I felt like a rock star with all the cameras and cheering. Down the backside I managed to twist my ankle, ugh already?!  I shook it off mentally and continued.

Soon I came upon Fiona, from Australia, and chatted with her for sometime.  Coach Meghan caught up to us just before mile 24. We all got into Duncan Canyon together but Meghan and I left together while the other women would catch up soon after.

I let them go up the next climb, wanting to run my own pace and not get caught up in chatting or someone else’s pace too soon.  I was moving nice and easy and controlled around a 13 min pace. I wasn’t worried because I knew I’d be saving myself for the heat of the canyons and the more runnable trail at lower elevation.

I mostly ran alone through Robinson, then into the canyons.  As long as I kept the ice going and my clothes wet I wasn’t bothered by the heat.  One bottle was dedicated to keeping myself wet while the others were for hydration.

I stopped, for what I thought would only be a few minutes to take care of a blister, but the great John Vonhof of Fixing your Feet, decided 5 needed to be taped.  This was the first time I got a little anxious during the race.  I very much appreciated his professional blister job, but had a race to get back to   Fortunately it gave my crew Brian a chance to work on my ankle and hip from falling at mile 4.4B912B49-6DB8-4501-B13D-08B96BCBA2FB

once taped up and worked out I was back and headed to Bath road where I knew my pacer would be.  With my left side fixed by Brian I would make up lots of time on this next section, finally feeling like my ankle was solid again.

I ran up Bath road and into Foresthill ready to race!  In my mind I was going to catch everyone, in reality after about an hour of running my stomach started to act up.  It had been fine the whole race so I hadn’t taken anything for it.  I looked for my immodium but it wasn’t in my pack.  Uh oh.  This section I had some great moments followed by some upset stomach moments, but I knew I was catching people so I kept it up.

We reached the river just after dark and crossed with the help of many great volunteers.  Have I mentioned how amazing the volunteers are?

let me pause my story here and explain.  If you’ve never run states before it’s like having your own personal concierge at each station. As you neared the aid station someone would radio ahead that you were coming so the volunteers would be expecting you.  They would know your name, where you were from and one would personally help you out.  It was amazing!

Anyway, back to the race.  By now I was heading up to green gate where I’d finally get my headlamp, yea, I forgot to grab it at Foresthill.

From green gate on my stomach got weirder and weirder.  I had to walk more, if I pushed too hard I’d gag.  I didn’t want to get on the puke train, because often there’s no getting off and it just eats up time and energy, leaving you dehydrated and miserable.  So I straddled the line of running just hard enough but not too hard as to puke.

Somewhere near the ALT aid station my pacer, Jordan, said something to the effect of, “ so there are mountain lions out here, ya? I just saw one, let’s pick up the pace.”   I thought perhaps it was a tactic to get me moving, but I could tell he was tense and not joking.  Adrenaline moved me into that aid station!

The final miles were bonky.  At some point I wasn’t sure if I’d go under 24, but I mustered what energy I had left and got myself in just under 23 hours!

I was so happy to see my husband at Robie, and my crew and relatives at the finish!

Wow, the end of a multi year journey, I’d finally run Western States! (And have the toe blisters still to prove it!)

 

Thank you to all my family for putting up with my nonstop WSER talk, especially Drew, my friends who ran with me, adventured with me, talked me down when I got scared.  Meghan for her royal coaching.  Balance Movement Studio for getting me strong and also for crewing!  Jordan for pacing, Sam for coming out and crewing and making sure the crew was fed and taken care of.  Lily Trotters compression socks for so much recovery!  Orange mud for making great hydration packs and all of you for your support and kind words!!

 

 

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WSER: A Decade+ of Not Giving up

Last night we had some major thunderstorms that shook me awake from deep inside a dream. I must have been dreaming about the past decade and my running that’s gotten me to running my dream race.

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In 2006 I was working as a muralist around DC and after one last frightful fall off of some scaffolding onto my back, I threw out my back during my morning run so badly that I couldn’t straighten up and had to walk home bent over in half.   I couldn’t work, couldn’t run, couldn’t breathe without pain. It was early spring and I was getting married in August and I was worried I’d be using some help to walk down the isle.  There I was, in my early 20s, full of energy, creativity, and life and couldn’t move.  I had no health insurance so I put off going to a specialist for a few weeks.  Eventually I found a back specialist that would take cash and I set up and appointment.  After some X-rays I was told, “give up running, take up swimming, your hips and pelvis are pretty deformed, probably always have been.”  I was crushed.  I thought back to all those years of hip pain in my teens that I just suffered through thinking it was growing pains.  No. The hip sockets were deformed, I had been born with my leg twisted backwards but the foot was braced as an infant and corrected, though apparently not my pelvis.  For months I was crushed.  Unable to work and in a deep depression I drove the 8 hours home to my parents in Boston and re-evaluated my life.  Being active and running and painting and seeking out adventures has always been my passion. What now?

Long story short, I found some postnatal pelvic specialists who encouraged me to press on with Physical Therapy and strengthening exercises.  That November, with my newly wed husband cheering me on,  I ran a 3 hour marathon.  In 2006, I learned that giving up on dreams isn’t how I would live my life. If there’s a will, I’m going to find a way!(PC: Joe Mccladdie)2D221C41-A2FF-49CC-843E-4B9D9FF83564

My subconscious brought it all back to me last night while I was sleeping because I have been having major imposter syndrome this taper.  Why do I deserve to run this, who do I think I am even suggesting I can be competitive with those amazing women?  I’m feeling like a fraud.

This March I had a freak accident and fell down some steps backwards onto my head.  I had sustained a concussion and was unable to do much of anything for a month.   Once I got the go ahead, however,  I was right back to it in April.  I did have a few weeks of self pity, wondering if I’d be able to train well for States, but I persisted, wanting to toe the line very badly.

Fortunately, every time I hit a low or want to give up, I can remember how I got here, my head reminds me; “remember you couldn’t walk in March 2006 and ran your first marathon that November in 3 hours, only after deciding to train with 7 weeks?!  You can do anything you put your heart into.”

Lo and behold this morning Irunfar put out their #wser predictions and way at the bottom, in small print was my name.  Someone else may think that I’m at least partly deserving of lining up with the elites in two weeks!

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Since 2006 I have run dozens of races, more than 20 ultras, 5 100s and many, many thousands of miles;  the lesson here of course is 1) get a second opinion 2) surround yourself with “yes you can” people— people that want to help you achieve your dreams. 3) marry/partner with someone who believes in you and your dreams.

 

A little about me from A Rabbit interview

https://www.runinrabbit.com/blogs/rabbit-chatter/rachel-kelley-western-states-2018

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Western States Memorial Day Part Three

With 50 Miles (and I would soon discover poison oak) on our legs from the two days pervious I wasn’t sure how the final day would feel.

The day was already heating up, and I was optimistic for some heat training finally.  The first day had been rainy and cool, the second was comfortable, and now Monday was finally warm.

The section we would run on Monday was basically the final 20+ miles of the course; from the river, over no hands bridge, and finally to the track in Auburn.

Our Airbnb was only .25 miles from the track so we walked to the meeting place and boarded the busses.  This ride was long and winding, so we didn’t begin the run until after 9am.  This section I found several similarly paced runners to run with, it was like camp.  Finally as you’re finding your place it’s almost time to go home. 🙂 running with Camelia Mayfield and Kate Elliott we goofed off and took lots of pictures on the section, all hoping that we would be running this section in the dark on race day.D0AE477C-1DAD-4F3D-9908-FC2E31FD8AD28C52824C-6812-4CB7-8A06-68DA183FC41EA0DFE9E9-EEBC-4271-ACA7-5DD7DC6896BFC27A1A2F-3F0B-4DF6-B041-3AA23165DCB112670019-580E-4DF2-84E6-8EAA0070E6E106FE0C5A-04EE-4384-9A50-E34AE80CC7B56B6BA7AC-AD02-42CD-82B9-4AAAA50E75B2This final section was fairly runnable and mostly downhill, except for the few miles uphill to the finish after No Hands Bridge.

We ran up the street and around the corner to the track.  The day was done, the miles were run, friendships had been made, and we’ll #seeyouinsquaw!

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Thanks to my husband for taking care of thing at home while I was away, and for Lily Trotters socks for keeping my legs feeling compressed and good every night after the run!

Western States Memorial Day Weekend Part Two

I didn’t explain in the first post, this training run covers the final 70 miles of the Western States Endurance Run.  The first 30 miles is usually still covered in snow, and is part of the Squaw Valley ski mountain so its still open to skiers in early May if the late snow pack is still good.

Memorial  Day training weekend breaks up the 70 miles into roughly 30, 20, 20 on each day.

The second day we met back at Foresthill once again and would run from there to the river, where we will cross on race day.  This section leaves the road and turns onto some technical single track that eventually gives way to some beautiful, fast, non technical downhill.  It eventually flattened out and became sandy as it followed along the river.

The run began downhill with some technical sections and a few small creek crossings.  Because I had started at a leisurely pace we were stuck behind several long trains of casual runners. This didn’t feel great on my stiff from yesterday’s effort quads, but once I maneuvered around and could run my own pace everything felt better.  Passing through the aid station I could see that ahead was some beautifully runnable downhill and I let out a cry of glee and I ran down.  (Note to beast coast runners, while there is still plenty of technical running, the trails are straight and fast feeling.)559F5EC2-6969-4EDE-A11A-6A57E4B3D897

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At the river we were shown where the crossing on race day would be and were encouraged to cool off in the river.  From that spot we climbed 2 miles up (not on the actual race course)to where the buses would take us back to our cars.  Also where a fun bbq and massages were.  I realized it was already day two: time was flying by- so I opted to hike the section and take in the expansive views of the river.  Once up top I grabbed a burger, but decided one more mile repeat up the hill would be a good idea.  Afterwards Jackie and I got home and after a shower we both immediately put on our Lily Trotters compressions socks to recover for the next day!8C380F73-CCF3-4AA7-82B6-9F1AE92BBD3B

Western States Training Weekend (Part 1)

Three days of running the Western States course with aid stations, drop offs and new friends, what a fantastic way to spend a long weekend

Admittedly I started to get nervous before heading out to Sacramento;  what if I was disappointingly slow?  What if the altitude, even though not terribly high, bothered me, what if what if?   I was feeling like it was going to be a measure of my training, but coming so close to the race that if I didn’t measure up then it would be too late to do much about it.  It made me sweat a little thinking about it the Thursday before I flew out. 

Up at 3am and out the door for an early morning flight.  I had a layover in FL where I knew my sister in law would be getting engaged soon.   I hoped the storm would hold off for their celebration. 

Arriving in Sacramento we had a little rental car detour but after a few hours we were in Auburn.  The woman whose airBNB we stayed at was delighted to have some states runners staying.  She told us She had some top ten women stay several years in a row.  Gotta soak up that good top ten juju!

I was fortunate to room with Jackie Merritt, last years F7 who was nice enough to fill my head with all sorts of things to help plan for a good race

We dropped our luggage and walked to the finish, and then back up the course towards Robie Point.  It was an overcast day, very different from the typical race day weather.  As I got my first glimpses of the course my excitement grew. 

That night I slept well, but only because 15 hours of travel will make me tired.  

Day 1 of camp

We woke up and hopped into the car to drive to Foresthill where check in was.  RD Craig Thornley told us a little about the section we were going to run that day.  It was chilly with a chance of rain, another atypical weather day. 

The bus ride up the mountains I spent chatting with Jackie and trying to ignore my anxiety.  The busses dropped us and we all just began down the hill.  I was told there was usually snow this Tim of year, at least in patches, however this year there wasn’t a spec of snow.  Quickly we happened upon Camelia Mayfield who had just raced her way in with a golden ticket from Lake Sonoma.  It would be her very first 100 mile race.  The three of us continued downhill chatting and enjoying the cool weather.  Eventually we lost Jackie, somehow we missed each other pausing at different times to adjust/pee.  The rest of the run I kept wondering where she was, I thought she was ahead while she was actually behind after several pee breaks slowing her down.  

The miles flew by with Camelia and eventually Ian Sharman, who she knew from Bend.  He had lots of good information to share and the two of us soaked up his wisdom as best as we could. 

Just before we arrived at Foresthill we caught up to a group of women who had run WSER several times by top ten automatic entry, my coach Meghan was part of this group.  She had a big smile and hug for me as we all ran into the finish together. Some of them continued for more miles.  The rest of us stopped for the day.

After jackie finished we packed up and drove back to Auburn where we ate and got into bed fairly early, still feeling like we were on east coast time.

Western States Training: Fast Forward to 6 weeks left

The last few weeks have flown by as I have been feeling like I needed to play a lot of running catch up….and therefore neglecting this blog.

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As you may know if you have followed this blog March was mostly spent bedridden healing from a concussion.

April was a jump start back into training with Bull Run Run 50 as a training run.   It all felt great for about a 50k, I was on pace to better my previous time, and then the brain wheels fell off.   I started feeling like I had tunnel vision and just kind of weird.  Fortunately Sophie Speidel caught up with me shortly after I hit this unhappy place….if you don’t know her, she’s a really fast masters runner from VA.  She was also using BRR as a training run, and her wise words helped reel me back from pondering a dnf.   I switched mentally from the mindset of “race if you can,” to “you have only been back for 2 weeks, if you finish this 50 miles it will be a great training run to have under you” and decided that hiking/running it in was the new goal.    My take away from BRR was twofold.  Spending a month in bed isn’t great for racing, but if you have been consistent with your training in the months leading up to inactivity you can still cover the miles–just maybe not perhaps at the race pace you would have liked.  Thanks coach Meghan Laws for keeping me in shape!  The second part was that maybe using races that I have previously won as a training run isn’t my thing…there was too much expectation going into the run already knowing that I had finished it almost two hours faster 5 years ago.

Once I got over my little BRR ego burst, the rest of April went pretty smoothly.   The weekend after BRR I was back to 20/15,t then 30/20,  then 40/10 on April 28.  This run was an interesting run, super fun, quite the adventure.

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Promise Land fell on the same day, so I thought to myself “what a great opportunity to run long, and maybe see some friends running, and use the aid station at the top of Apple Orchard Mtn.”  Bethany Patterson had recommended this route for WSER training months ago, and I finally had the chance to get up there and run that section of the AT.

I woke up that morning and drove the 3 hours up to Lynchburg VA, arriving mid morning and ready to go!  The run started at the James River bridge and went up into the James River Wilderness before climbing through the Thunder Ridge Wilderness and then up to Apple Orchard Mountain at 4,208.   There is an aid station near here, but I had a hard time finding it.  First I was taking in the view from the top and continued down Apple Orchard Mtn, when I realized I was supposed to take the gravel road down from the peak instead….then I saw markings for the race course, and headed down that the wrong way for several miles….finally I got it right, 22 miles later—just as the aid station was packing up!  So much for watching my friends run, but I was super happy for the water and coke they supplied me with before they packed up.   Because I had been noodling around at the top for so many hours, I was off my projected time estimate, so in order to get back down before sunset, I hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway so I could ZOOM back to a slightly closer-to-my-car trailhead.  After a few miles of very runnable slightly downhill road I caught the trailhead at Petites Gap, gaining me more daylight speedier miles.   From Petites Gap there was just under 10 mile back to the car.   I choose this section of the AT for its gradual climbs, and more runnable trail.  The AT can be notorious for slow going rocky, rooty miles….this section was quite runnable.   I got back to my car long before sunset, hopped in and got home by 9pm.   Just in time for bed!  Things I learned from this trip.  I don’t always read texts well when I’m running.  I should always drop water.   DONT FORGET YOUR WATER FILTER.   <—  that!  My husband so lovingly bought me a water purifier, I brought the bottle, but forgot the filter.  There was a lot of running water and pretty falls I could have filtered for water.   Oh well, I had several backup plans, like…get a ride from the aid station worker,  hitch-hike?  Ask a through hiker for their filter? Not the best options, but I never felt like I was actually in trouble.  Plus my (new) phone has a long battery life, and plenty of cell service up on the BRP.  I finished with 38+ miles and 8,434 ft of gain (and descent since I had to come back down the same way) and happy adventure legs!

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The following weekend was a family vacation to Hilton Head Island where I relaxed, ran a little, chased my nephew around, and caught my niece’s chest cold….blah!  Good thing the rest of this week has been recovery!

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