Monthly Archives: October 2014

Are you feeling lucky; Are lotteries in ultras the best way to manage growing interest?

My first ever ultra was Uwharrie Mountain Run in 2012.  Sign up began at 7 am, and was online.  Several of my training partners were hoping to run it as well, so I was thrilled to run my first ultra with friends.  I set my alarm to make sure I was up, knowing it filled up fast.  I pushed back my morning run so I could hover around my computer waiting for 7 am, my fingers itching.
Lottery Test
7am came and I immediately jumped onto my did everyone else apparently.  The screen froze…NO!  Suddenly my inbox notification started chiming with new emails.  It was several friends on our trail running listserv, also panicking.  Questions like, “did I get in?  Did it accept my credit card twice?” were coming in from several other people sharing in my confusion.
It turns out we crashed the server, I did get in, and the next year the race switched from first-come-first-serve to a lottery system.
The growing number of ultra participants in a blessing and a curse.  It is really inspiring to see so many people take the leap from marathoning to ultra-marathoning.  According to in 2013 that number was 69,573.

What that means for races, however, is that while new ones are popping up everywhere,  tried and true races are having to deal with how to include everyone.


So the question becomes, whats the best way to deal with this?   How can RDs make sure everyone is included?  How about a lottery?
I believe that lotteries are on of the most fair ways of trying to include both newbies and veterans.  One of the oldest 100 mile races does it best.  The Western States Endurance run.  For lack of a better comparison, its the Boston Marathon of the ultra community.  Its been around the longest, it has made names for several individuals, it draws people back every year.  Not only for the competition, but for the camaraderie, the community, the scenery, and its exceptional organization.The details for the Western States lottery can be found here, the RD and board of directors work really hard to make their lottery as fair as they can.  If you look through their history they have tweaked their lottery processes several times.

First come first serve race entry is becoming harder to find.  Another popular race that I have run, in the mid atlantic, is Bull Run Run organized by the Virgina Happy Trails.  This was my first encounter with a lottery system, and I have to say it was much easier than rushing to my computer and panicking while trying to hit refresh on my computer.  Their system is similar to WESR, however, rather than random names pulled they use the DOW in an interesting way.  During the period that their application is open, each person who fills out an application will be given a unique, randomly-generated number from 0 to 999. Once a number is issued, it will not be used again. The starting number is determined by using the least three significant digits of the closing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) as it is normally displayed. The date of the DOW will be specified before entry begins.
I know the lottery system isn’t always perfect for everyone.  I have friends who have put in for WESR several years in a row, and still have never gotten in, while others get in on their first try.
If you are still unconvinced that races are trying their best to make sure people are included, many will allow people to volunteer one year, for entry in the next.
Of course, if you are just unlucky in lotteries from time to time, fat-asses and smaller low key races that don’t fill can still be found around the country.
As for me, fingers crossed…this is my first year putting in for the WSER lottery!

Off Season.

So, last time I was on here I was deep in my post 100 “greys” (not blues, as I mentioned in the previous post.)   As per usual, those feeling have passed, I have been out on the trials just enjoying the fall, running no longer than 2 hours a day.   The colors are back, and just in time for enjoying the changing fall foliage.

Its been nice, actually.  I haven’t run in the dark all fall, instead I have been enjoying sunrises from the comfort of my bed.  Part of me feels like a slacker, but the other part is welcoming a little break in training.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited Emmitt, my whippet/mix, is.  He is thrilled that I’m not focusing on training, so I can focus on taking him on trail runs instead!

That’s not to say that I haven’t been planning my racing calendar for 2015, or even obsessing about my training plan (for when I start training again..)

Instead I have been doing several things I tend to put off when training;

House projects! Caulking and painting the exterior

Cooking, I have been making a lot of soups from scratch lately.

Having lazy weekends, laying around on the couch with my husband and watching movies.

Yoga, biking, and core work that I neglect when I am running lots.

I have also been trying to decide what races I want to put in for 2015.  I plan to put in for WSER, maybe Bull Run Run, and Mogollon Monster in AZ late Sept.

What do you fill your time with when you are on your off season?

The post 100 Blues…

I always wonder about that saying, “I have the blues.”  I never really feel blue, I love the color blue, I equate it with cool and tranquility.  What I have are the greys.  My world is grey, just kind of there, sort of drab.

Its fall and the leaves are changing beautiful colors all around me, but getting out there to enjoy them is the hard part.   I opt to stay in bed with the dog until I have to get up and go to work.

It always leads me to the “chicken or the egg” question, but for me the answer is obvious.  I have always had emotional ups and downs, not manic or depressive…but seasonal, or after an exciting event.  Growing up in New England the shorter days, the longer time spend indoors always made me want to crawl into bed and not get out.

Sometimes I think to myself that we cannot really experience true elation with out also feeling true depression.  Maybe I am wrong and this is something I just tell myself, but I seem to not be alone.  Many other athletes/people feel the same things.  My running friends all know about the post race blues…but somehow we are still drawn to the events, we keep coming back to them over and over.

I posted this today on Facebook, and in return someone sent me this video, it is quite fitting and illustrates my mood exactly.  My black dog is sitting next to me right now.


A lot of people have been talking about the connection to depression and ultra running lately.  Rob Krar bravely put out a video just last week about his battle with depression, and how ultra racing can be so uplifting…meanwhile he knows that dark let down is just around the corner.

That is how I feel.  GS100 is over, the planning, the excitement, the training, its all behind me now.  I’m tired, but does this tiredness just mean that I have let me guard down, does it mean that this is how I really feel deep down…like the world is bleak?

I have both ignored and embraced this black dog of my subconscious.  In the past embracing it has meant a few days in bed, but eventually it comes out in creative ways.  Currently it is coming out through my fingers as they hit the keyboard, other times it comes out through them on a canvas; creating an emotionally charged painting.  I think I have been pushing them down for over a year now, I haven’t been painting or writing much, just numbing myself with training and focusing everything on training.

Perhaps I should welcome the re-arrival of my black dog. He is introspective and sensitive.  I know he will leave as suddenly as he came.

Do the rest of you deal with this let down after your endurance events? Major life events?

In a way it feels good to let go and let the gray wash over me.  The colors must come back eventually.  I should go and ready my canvas in my art room, its best to capture them on paper once they flood back!


Grindstone 100 Reflections

I’m actually not sure where to start with this.  The days after a 100 mile race can seem like the strangest time warp.  This time, last week I was somewhere around mile 70 on the course.  Since then it feels like months have gone by.

Before I start, please keep in mind that I am usually a very upbeat positive person.  Many of my friends would say that I usually look for the silver lining in everything.  I had started this race report looking for all the positives, but decided it wasn’t an accurate portrayal of how I felt in the moment.  I have read and re-read this post a dozen times.

While I was in that hole we endurance athletes sometimes find ourselves in, I was somehow still aware of how lucky I was to be out there, how lucky I am to have a husband and crew/friends who would stay up for 40 hours just to see me through a race.  I did see the amazing mountains, and even through the mental pain I saw beauty of the struggle and the wonder of nature.   This race was the strange dichotomy of me, someone who believes in the power of the positive, but still has that dark depressed side that lives deep in my soul.

People say that each 100 mile race is a learning experience all in itself.  Not only do you learn about running, but you also learn about the type of person you are.  I like to think that this race speaks of the person I am.  I finished even though I had a very off day.   I hope it shows that I am that kind of person that recognizes when things get tough, the answer isn’t to sit down and give up, its to change your strategy and get back out there.  Follow through, as well as being flexible is important in racing and life.

I guess I will begin this tale at the start of my day last Friday.

Friday morning, 6 am, I’m up and walking the dog.  It was a beautiful cool morning and it was nice to stretch my legs a bit.  I decided that one last walk over to my parents would be good for him, and me.   I had slept a full 9 hours the night unprecedented event for me the day before a race.  Usually I am so well tapered and rested I barely shut my eyes, but Thursday night I had been tired.  Not quite recovered from being ill a week ago, I tried to put it out of my head, I had been looking forward to Grindstone since May 2013 when I first signed up.

My parents hugged me and wished me good luck as my husband pulled up the driveway with the rest of the dog’s overnight things.

We backed out of the driveway and headed up to Swoope, VA arriving just in time for the pre-race briefing at noon.


Can you find my mass of curly hair?

After the briefing we all went back to our cars, where I had hoped to take a little nap in the field.  Mother nature had other plans, and it began raining hard so we all got into the car to wait for the 6pm start instead.  This was the first hit to my attitude, dark, ugly clouds with no place to meditate beforehand.

Even still, I was pretty psyched at the start.  I saw many familiar faces and got to chat a bit with the famous Sophie Spiedel.  She had some words of encouragement, and a hug for me before I headed off.

My husband trying to get a picture of my pig tails while my crew master, ET captured it.

It was raining at the start, but wasn’t hard enough to really notice.  I lined up next to a running buddy, Balto.   He had run Grindstone a few times before, never really having a great race, this was his come back and he was focused and ready. (By the way he crushed his last finish time, finishing in an amazing 23:23..I couldn’t have been happier for him!!)

Balto is out front in the Green, I’m right behind, my red compression socks poking out.

We struck out together, at the back of the front pack and headed towards Elliot’s Knob.  In the last 2 years I have run this course back and forth, piece by piece and felt like I knew it as well as anyone else out there.  The first aid station is just as you cross the street leaving the boy scout camp grounds.  I paused for some water, and turned on my head lamp for the 4 mile climb up to the top.  The rain was still coming down, as we headed up the fog was coming in as well.  When we hit the very steep road to the top I could barely see a few inches in front of me.  I don’t have good night vision to begin with, and the thick fog was starting to make me feel a bit claustrophobic, and somehow annoyed.

“Is this how the whole night is going to be?” I thought to myself, “I need a little attitude adjustment, this Debbie downer stuff isn’t me!” I tired to put the negative thoughts out of my head.   Its just very unlike me not to be happy and smiling when I run. Running is always my bliss.

Next I did something I never do during a race; I put in headphones, well headphone.  I don’t like listening to music because I like to be aware and able to hear someone wanting to pass on the trail.  I like to have all my senses alert on the trail, plus the sound of rain through the trees is always really nice.  I had to do something about the grumpy-ness that was creeping in.  The music helped and I got into a rhythm.

My stomach still hadn’t quite settled from before at the Barkley Fall Classic, so I had brought all my own foods.  I’m also gluten intolerant and was really sad to realize that all the soups at the aid station had gluten.  Bummer for me….  By the time I had reached the first aid station where I saw my crew I had barely eaten a thing for 3 hours and was starving!  All I could think about was getting “food in my mouth.” Which is apparently what I repeated to my crew a few times.  After getting some avocado and potato and some other things down, I had settled down and headed quickly back out of the aid station.

What awaited me next was quite unpleasant.  Usually its just 3 easy rolling uphill miles, no big deal, but suddenly I had to GO!  There really isn’t anywhere to hop off trail during this section…so lets just say the next few miles were uncomfortable.  I hiked with Robin a bit, and eventually let her go as I finally found a place to step off trail.   I slipped to second place…

Getting weighed at North River Gap, while eating of course.

The next several miles continued on the same way, hike a bit, stop off trail.  I actually started to feel really good going up that long 7 mile climb from the North River Gap aid station.  Maybe moving hard uphill diverted enough blood from my gut that I could finally stop squatting!  I heard some familiar voices behind me, and decided to hook onto the back of a group of runners I knew.  I recognized Marc Griffin’s voice through the darkness, and happily followed their group up.

I stopped at the top again, where it leveled out, and Marc et al continued on.  I didn’t realize that another Altra Ambassador and super friendly guy, Nicklaus Combs had also stopped and the two of us found ourselves alone one the trail.  We hiked and chatted all the way up to the top, and then to the turn around. It was really nice running some miles with him and it lifted my spirits.

At the turn around I got some soup from my crew, and finally changed out of my wet things.  The temperature had stayed comfortable all night, but as the sun rose, the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped sharply on top of the mountain.  I mentally groaned a bit, but tried to keep it to myself.

Nic and I near the turn around.

I picked up my pacer, Ringo, and Nic left us at the next aid station.  Eventually I found myself back at the top of the climb I had been hours earlier with Marc and Nicklaus. Time to go down.  Now, downhill is usually my forte, but not today.  My legs weren’t feeling tired, but they were feeling hollow, just empty of any energy.  I love love running down hill and being forced to shuffle, hike down this really fun hill was setting me back to my second low point of the race.  I was frustrated, hungry, and dehydrated.  I told myself that whole way down, when I got to the next aid station (mile 66) I was dropping.  Sometimes I try to do a little math in my head, just to see where I am mentally.  I couldn’t for the life of me do any multiplication tables! oops, not enough calories!

I got into the aid station, got weighed (I was 7 lbs less than I was the night before) I whispered to my husband “I can’t do any math..what the heck is 7×7 its been driving me crazy for 4 miles, maybe I should drop!?”

He pulled out a chair and fetched me some home made broth someone had made from scratch. YUM! Finally some broth I could drink.  I must have had 4 cups of it, and then a banana-strawberry smoothie.  It was the most I had eaten in nearly 17 hours.  I started to come out of my brain fog.  Meanwhile, I noticed out of the corner of my eye I had slipped from 4th to 5th place.  Annie was looking good, and I know she had been running smart all day, I was happy for her!

A very serious looking husband getting ready to pace.

I was ready to go again…not gonna quit! The way back is so easy, right?  Ringo and my husband made a plan to see him at the next aid station, where Ringo would end his pacing duties, and I could get another smoothie now that my stomach was ready to accept food again.

Ringo and I made our way along, back to that 3 mile stretch where my stomach problems had first started.  Now I was running down it, rather than fighting stomach pains up it…into the aid station we came…but there was no husband?!   I had been running for that next smoothie, and there was none!  I know, this shouldn’t have been a big deal..I should be able to roll with things. But at mile 70 with only a few hundred calories in me, I was bummed.  I had some soda and a banana, and headed back out.

I put my music back on again.  I noticed that I was starting to drop my pacer a bit (he later said he had some back spasms) but the little mental boost you get from dropping your pacer was just the boost I needed.  Finally we arrived and found my husband! YAY food!  These last 14 miles he was going to pace.  I had wanted him to stay and wait for my dropped pacer though…so I started out alone.  A few minutes later he caught up. Ringo had gotten into the a/s ok.

I may have whined about the cold here a bit.  I knew I was so close, but I was getting so cold too!  Soon, this view definitely perked me up:

Elliot’s, nice fall colors!

As we emerged from the woods onto the road the view from Elliott’s Know was great!  I paused a bit, happy to hit that section in the day light!

The last 9 miles were a bit of a blur.  Now my stomach was finally ok and my legs were ready to run (hello legs, where were you the last 40 miles?!)  I decided that I was going to hold onto 5th now.  I had no idea where anyone else was along the course at this point.  I put my head down and ran, and ran, walked the few uphill or very technical slippery rock sections, and ran.  We got to the final aid station just before heading back into the boy scout camp as the sun was just setting.

I had some more coconut water and left as fast as I could.  The last time I had seen Annie, woman #4, she had been looking strong so I figured there was no way I was catching her, as a matter of fact I thought she was just about finishing as the sun set.  With this in mind, I still wanted to hold my position as best as possible.  I passed a few guys in the next section going into the boy scout camp.  I KNEW this section..or at least I did in the daylight.  I was running with a purpose now, I was so, so tired.  I couldn’t feel how tired I was while in motion, but every time I paused to look for a reflector I could feel how close to the edge of sleep I was.

Me and the RD, Clark with my crew at the finish. Smiling, you bet!

After 26:23 hours of running, 40 hours of being awake, and 40 miles of pit stops I was finally done!  And smiling still!  I know I had been through lots of emotional ups and downs, but the bottom line is, I love running, really.  Very few things make me smile bigger.  So I hadn’t hit my goal time of 24 hours..shit happens…haha! (I can laugh about that now)  I had finished, and finished in a decent time for this course.  Looking back I realize it wasn’t just learning that I need more liquid fuel for races, and better tapers…but that sometimes, even when you are down, you have friends and family that can help pick you up.  Once over that hurdle, where you seem like nothing can get better…it does.  Persistence is a blessing, and those who persist are rewarded in their efforts.  Oh ya, and by holding onto 5th place I scored a really nice top finisher’s jacket from Patagonia.

If you live in the mid-Atlantic this is a MUST do race!  The volunteers are superb, most of them ultra-runners themselves, the scenery is spectacular, and the people that run the race, and RD the race make you feel like part of their ultra-family.

Big thanks to RD Clark Zealand, thanks to all the volunteers, thanks to all the VHTRs people that made all this running up in VA all summer so much fun! Thanks to my crew for putting up with my ups and downs, and trying to feed me 😉 Thanks to all my family and friends who were at home sending emails and texts and checking on my progress online.

This has been the best and worst 100 so far, lots of learning, a bit of disappointment, but I am proud of myself for sticking with it and not letting a bad day turn into a DNF. (of course with that said, this is only my 2nd 100, and I am already looking for my next!)

DNS continued…

Geoff was up on time and dressed, I was dressed and ready to go as well.  I decided on the off chance (fat chance) that my stomach would start to move again, I would just get ready and dressed like I was going to run anyway.

As we arrived at Frozen Head State Park, I could tell Geoff was ready!  His excitement was palatable.  I wandered off to the finish line asking if I had a major dehydration problem if there was in fact a quick way back to the starting line.  At worst I thought I could hike to the first aid station and then hike my way back, looking at the map last night I realized that no matter where I decided to quit, I would still have to physically get myself back out of the forest.  This was confirmed by a nurse at the finish line.   (As a matter of fact someone broke their ankle out on the course and had to be air lifted out because the trails are so hard to navigate.)

Ringo (geoff Scott) Ready to GO, at the start.

Not wanting to be that runner who was already 2 days dehydrated, and decided to risk other people rescuing her because she passed out somewhere in back country trails, I grabbed some extra clothes and went to find Mike Dobies.   Remembering he had said he was volunteering, I thought I could lend a hand somehow.  I hiked up the road with him, and Joe Fejes!  (how cool!)  Joe does mostly track or timed events, but even he couldn’t resist a day in the woods with old friends.   After they went on their way, I hiked back to the park office and hitched a ride over to aid station 2/3.

To my surprise Carl Laniak was the a/s captain, we didn’t get to chat much about his Barkley adventures, but it was good to meet him anyway.   Besides, this aid station kept me quite entertained all day.   The front half of the runners knew what they had gotten themselves into, their faces all painted in determination, barely said a word as they filled their water bottle.  Our aid station advertised itself as being mile 12/18 (because you leave from the aid station and loop back again to it.)  The front half of the racers were mentally prepared, the back half, however, noticed quite loudly that their garmins had much higher mileage readings.  I guess some people aren’t aware of Horton or Laz miles..?

It was really fun to chat with the runners, and the local high school football team that was there helping.

Ringo (Geoff Scott) with his bottle at the ready, and his duct tape shin protectors, just before RatJaw.

I stayed past Ringo coming and leaving, waiting till almost every runner was through, and then hopped onto quitters road back to the finish to try to see Ringo at the next aid station.

Of course through out all the excitement I had forgotten how woozy and dehydrated I was, and I ate it…hard on that little technical trail.  I got a little dizzy, miss stepped and rolled my way down a few steep feet on some rocks.  It left me quite bruised and even more embarrassed…fortunately there was no one around to see my epic-1-mile-an-hour-run-fall.

I missed Ringo though the next aid station, so I continued my jog to the start/finish and tried to drink a bit of a smoothie and take a small nap.  I ended up, instead, watching all the finishers.  It was so nice to see all the hard core women roll through, all beat up, and cut up from the briars..but always a smile on their faces!


Though I was unable to participate in the Barkley Fall Classic, I still left TN with a smile on my face.  There is nothing like a good trail adventure, with some good trail folk.

I’m so glad to have met Mike, Joe, Dan, and Carl “out there.”  Hopefully next year I will be back, on the other side of the aid station table next time!

My bib# that never was…

My First DNS, and Dealing with Dissapointment

Thursday afternoon I was packed up, and ready to go.  I was so excited to be running the inaugural Barkley Fall Classic, and couldn’t wait to get out to the mountains. My friend, Geoff, pulled into my driveway just before 2pm, and we were off on our adventure.

I first heard about the Barkley in 2011, when I first started trail running.  One of the guys in my trail running club, Joe Lea, was preparing for Barkley that spring, he finished the “fun run” of 60 miles and brought back some great stories.  Between his stories, and Geoff’s stories from the early 2000’s Barkley started growing into a mythic tale in my head.

I dream big, but knew from their tales The Barkley was way more than out of my reach, so when I heard about the BFC50k I thought it was my chance to get a little taste!

6 of us signed up last spring in a rush to be part of this new race, though as the summer progressed many of my friends ended up unable to run it.  In the last week it was down to 3 of us, the day before 2 of us, and that morning I decided to pull the plug after not having been able to really eat or drink the few days prior..but I digress…

So back in the car on Thursday, as we drove through Asheville, I stared to feel “funny.”  I pushed it out of my head and told myself it was just nerves.  We stopped overnight in Knoxville, TN.  Friday morning we were up and off to Frozen Head State Park to do a little recon.

Geoff had run the Barkley in 2000, and 2001 so on the ride over we hypothesized which parts of the Barkley would be part of the BFC50k.  We were almost sure Rat Jaw would be in it, so we drove straight to the nearest pull out and hiked to Rat Jaw.  No surprise, there was Laz’s arrow marking the turn towards the power lines.

Geoff and I hiked our way over to the base of it, he looked up, and chuckled softly.  What greeted us was 6 feet of very dense, very thick brush, and saw briars…all.the.way.up.  “Well, in the early spring the foliage is much less dense,” he pondered while he started looking for a route through, around, across and somehow up the hill.  We eventually decided that by the time we arrived some of the front runners would have beaten down a path to take, or a path not to take.

We hiked back to the car wishing it was already time for packet pick up so we could find out what the route really would be.  Since we still had 3 hours until packet pickup we went to find food, and I napped..hoping I could sleep off the yuck I felt.

Eventually time to get our packets and maps arrived and we headed over right away.  As we entered the basement of the hall, immediately Mike Dobies recognized Geoff.  We chatted with him and found that he wouldn’t be running, but was going to be the check point and bib punch after the first aid station.  I listened to them reminisce about the “old days” of trail running.  As we sat, Dan Baglione came over.  At 84 he was picking up his bib and getting ready for whatever awaited him on the trail.   He is an incredibly optimistic and intelligent man, and I was really lucky to spend some time listening to his tales from “out there.”

That night I was up, tossing and turning…it wasn’t nerves, it was worse…it was whatever GI issue that has been plaguing me for the last 3 years.  I won’t get into the details, and I will stop here for now…

To be continued…

Random Taper thoughts…

So I am sitting here thinking about my taper and wondering why do I do this? Why do we all do this?  I think about the hours spent running, driving to the mountains to run, planning trips…

And then I remember all the places running has taken me.  Every place I have lived, or visited I have seen places and things that so many others don’t experience because they don’t get out and travel by foot to explore the path less traveled.

I have seen sunrise in Italy in the foothills as I passed along vineyards, I have experienced the quiet dark that only happens in the middle of the night in the woods.  I have seen countless fields, farms and orchards…and yes, cows break out from time to time and don’t always run away when you run towards them.

Sunrises in the desert are one of my favorite things I have experienced while running, and early morning runs along the beach with my dog while he half heartedly chases sand pipers makes my heart full.

I’m sure we have all heard the ubiquitous “you run 100 miles, I don’t even like to drive 100 miles..”  Often I want to reply, ” I don’t like driving that far either, you miss so many little things..that’s why I run it.”  Being passive in a car verses active outside, I choose being present and active every time.