Monthly Archives: August 2017

Waldo 100k Race Report

Waldo 100k is a local, yet very well put on gem of a race held at the Willamette Valley Ski area in Oregon; between Eugene and Bend. It would be my first west coast race, and I was excited to finally meet my coach, Megan, who also ran it.

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Yay finish!

 

Immediately upon entering the forest from Eugene the smell of campfire filled our noses and car.  Wildfires are not an unusual sight in this part of the country in August; which was somehow both thrilling and terrifying to me.  I have never run near any wildfires, never mind race with several burning.

With the throng of eclipse viewers pouring into the area, we decided to fly in on Wednesday and happily missed most of the crazyness at the airport.

The race rolls mostly between 5,000 and 6,000 ft with the high point close to 8,000 ft, and there are supposed to be amazing views of Waldo lake, its namesake.  Unfortunately with the smoke, I only caught a few glimpses of the lake.  Though the many smaller lakes that run close to the course were amazing!  It gains 11,000+ ft of gain over 62 miles.  There are a handful of steep climbs, but overall the ups and downs were somewhere between runnable and a hard hike up.

The race began at 5am, and immediately heads up one of the ski runs.  This climb is one of the climbs that averaged over 15% grade and lasts two miles before a 5 mile decent.  Most people were prepared for a long hike and we all settled into the uphill grind.  Fortunately I had read in other race reports that this section (as well as many others) is very dry and dusty, which it was, and I was thankful for my shoe gaiters that kept all the dust and grit out of my shoes all day!  I never needed a sock change because of them!  Thanks Carson Footwear!

From the low point at 4,800ft it climbs up to Fuji Mountain at 7,200ft over the next 6 miles, this section there was an out and back up to the top of Fuji Mountain and it was nice to see all the runners.  There is an early start for runners who choose, they began at 3am, and this was where we started to catch them.  The nice thing about this race is anywhere there was an out and back, or a strange turn there was a volunteer who had hiked out and was waiting for all of us so they could direct us the correct way.  It was actually really nice to have them there, no only to direct us, but they were really excited to be there and cheered us all on, even early in the morning!

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Coming into an A/S and filling my Orange Mud pack (and wow, are those my muscular legs?!)

 

Almost all of the course could be broken up to sections of 6 miles from here on (roughly 6 miles anyway.). 6 miles up, 6 miles down was the rhythm I seemed to fall into, and my strava confirms this.  https://www.strava.com/activities/1144129157

The terrain of the course was all runnable, aside from the tops of several of the climbs- they got rocky, but nothing too technical. For the most part it was a dirt packed course with few obstacles.  I think the hardest part for me was the mental grind of the long, not very steep 6 mile uphill sections.  There is nothing like that around to train on.  Looking back on my training I would have set my treadmill at 6-9% incline for 6-7 miles and just practiced doing that.  Downhill for 6 miles wasn’t a problem at all.  By mile 25 I was dying–dying for some steep hands-on-knees-east-coast-short hills climbs..there were none until Maiden Peak at mile 52 or so.  Of course by the time I got there my mouth and throat felt like an ashtray, and I was feeling the altitude.

Altitude at 5-7,000ft is weird; when you come from 400ft.  For me it isn’t headache producing, its more like dehydration, and I can’t get enough oxygen to my legs…they want to go…but couldn’t.  Actually, while my legs were sore afterwards, what hurt most was my intercostal muscles working hard to get my lungs to expand as much as they could.  I wasn’t out of breath, I was just really wanting to take deep breaths to get in as much oxygen as possible with each inhalation.

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Still able to be silly at mile 20 heading out of the Twins A/S

 

As the day wore on, by mile 30 I was hitting a low.  It was hot, and I had been spending the morning passing people on the downhill, and then getting passed back on the uphill as I would strain for enough oxygen.  The volunteers at this aid station were really great, as well as my husband and best friend from college!  I got ice in my hat–nope, brain freeze, and ice in a bandanna on my neck—ahh just right!   I do have to say, this was one of the first races I have run where I actually ran with people.  Usually I am in no man’s land and don’t see anyone for 80% of my races.  It was nice to have targets ahead to try to catch all day.

Coming into the aid station at mile 44 my crew had heard there was a woman on the trail just before the a/s having trouble with nausea, so I was surprised to see Brian in the middle of the trail looking for me.  Fortunately it wasn’t me!  I had a tiny bit of upset stomach in the heat of the open trail from mile 30-36 but it had passed pretty quickly once I stopped eating for a bit and gave my stomach a break from digesting.

Brian ran me into the aid station, and then I realized he was still with me even a few minutes out of the aid station.  I welcomed the company as he updated me on everything that had happened while they were at the aid station.  This aid station is at the end of a long lollypop so he was there while I ran from mile 27 to 44.  This aid station was a walk into aid station, so my crew had split and dropped him off early to hike in.  By the time I got there ET had joined him too.  His company was really nice and we trotted downhill, catching and passing people as we went.  Soon I realized he had forgotten any sort of hydration pack in our excitement, so he soon had to turn around, and off I went to hunt the people who ran too fast at the start.

By mile 40 I knew I was somewhere in the top 10, but the trouble I had with breathing I hadn’t asked any of my crew what place I was in.  I saw all the women who were ahead of me at the out and back going up and down Fuji Mountain, so I guessed I was 6th or 7th.  I was pretty close to that guess.  I had been in 7th for most of the day.  6th place and I had been trading spots since mile 30something.

The hike up to Maiden Peak at mile 52 should have made me jump for joy–finally a steep grinding 2-3 mile uphill.  Then I realized I was going up into even less air.  Bummer.  Hiking I actually couldn’t feel any of the affects of the higher elevation, but when I tried to run I could tell I was higher than I was used to.  I put my head down, and my hands on my knees and just worked up that hill.  A few men and their pacers passed me(I passed them back on the technical downhill on the other side.). This was another short out and back to the very top of Maiden Peak.   The trail became very sandy with large pumice stones at the top.  It was quite interesting, and I made a note not to fall on the way down because pumice is really sharp.  Up at the top I was so happy I hugged the volunteers!  I knew that the last 10 miles were downhill to the finish and I would actually be able to run.  I choose my steps carefully starting back through the pumice field at the top, but welcomed the downhill with some gleeful shouts.  I passed the guys who had passed me on the way up–finally some technical, steep downhill!

I ran into the final aid station with a big smile on my face and #6 female on my mind.  This aid station was quite entertaining, there was a guy in a hula skirt with a coconut bra serving almond milk out of a coconut.  It was offered to me, and I shrugged and said “sure, why not, only a few more miles to go,” while I downed it to their cheers.  I recognized Craig Thornley and Scott Wolf who told me to the next woman was just ahead. I thanked them and continued on…smelling the barn.

7 more miles to go..down…down..down…so runnable once I got lower!  I felt like I was flying, and then I saw her, she was still hiking the uphills, but I knew there was no time to hike…only time to run!  I paused to chat with her briefly before passing her…6th….I continued looking for more runners as I got lower and felt more oxygen going to my legs.  This section connects back to the Pacific Crest Trail and I was coming upon all the thru hikers.  I usually worry a bit in the last few miles that I have taken a wrong turn (even though there was no way I could have gone wrong) so I started asking the hikers if they had seen other runners, the answer was of course yes…which I knew…but there was no way I wanted to be wrong so close to the finish.

I missed the 13 hour finish by 3 minutes..boo.   My husband and the rest of the crew know by now that if there is anything I am good at, its a downhill finish.  Somehow I can just shut everything out for the last 5-10 miles of any race if its downhill and just GO.  The updates along the course were so spot on at each aid station that my crew knew exactly when I hit the top of Maiden Peak and were placing bets on how much faster I would pick up the pace downhill to the finish.   There was a finish in 12:55 guessed, 12:57, and my husband at 13:03….guess who guessed right.  Thanks DK 😉

While I was slower than I had hoped, I can’t say enough good things about this race.  I know they have been hosting it for many years and it shows- they have it down to a science.  This course is made for the trail runner who can run 85% and hike the few steep sections.  In hindsight I might have tried some sauna heat training to see if it would help with the slight altitude, I assume that running all summer in 100% humidity would do the trick, but perhaps not?

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YAY finish line hug from my best college friend, Steph, who drove all the way there from Portland, even after a 5 hour detour around the fires! Thanks! xoxo

 

I want to thank my crew of course!  Drew, ET, Brian, and Steph!  It meant a lot to me to have you all there!

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Next day breakfast yum! Thank you crew friends!  PC: Elizabeth Towe

 

I also want to thank my sponsors who continue to believe in me:

  • Carson Footwear, shoes and gaiters. (use code wisp for a discount)
  • Lily Trotters: compression socks I wore before and after for flying, driving, and recovery!  Oh, and for all the post race hiking!
  • Rabbit for their really awesome shorts!  Oh the pockets!!  I had trash pockets, gel pockets, handy wipe pockets, I even had a pocket dedicated to beef jerkey…yep you read that right, beef jerkey!
  • Orange Mud, I used the Endurance pack the whole race! (Code wispfriends)
  • Balanced Movement Studio where Brian and Elizabeth keep me strong and injury free.

My coach Megan Laws (Arbogast) for her coaching and also for expanding my racing horizons and encouraging me to enter more competitive races that are out of my comfort zone!

And of course Rainshadow Running, and all the volunteers, ski patrol etc.  Your enthusiasm and helpfulness were bright sparks in my sometimes dark ultra moments!

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Choosing a Pacer and Crew; Also known as your 100 Mile Caregivers #hurryupandwait

Recently I have seen a lot of talk about how to be a pacer and/or how to choose a pacer so I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experience from past 100 milers and also talk about Crew too, since I have been on both sides many times.

RUNNERS

So you have signed up for your first 100, you have trained for weeks and weeks, your taper is close so you start to create a race plan, but realize you’d like crew and pacers!  What to do?  First, congratulations on getting this far and staying healthy!  Next: do you want crew and pacers?  I love to share my experience with others close to me, but I have run 100s both with and without pacers and have survived either way. 🙂

  • pros; company, a second brain to remind you to eat, someone to talk to, someone you can rely on when you start to hallucinate, another pair of eyes to find trail markers in the dark, a pacer can have a fresher memory for directions, also for some people it might be comforting to have someone there in case of wild life run ins.
  • cons; there can be personality conflicts, maybe you like being alone, maybe your pacer isn’t in shape and now you are dropping them, perhaps your pacer can’t stand to see you suffering and is trying to talk you out of dropping now,  worrying about someone else paying for travel to a race they aren’t actually racing.
  • Hopefully with some forethought you can avoid most of the cons.

Once you have decided you would like a pacer there are things to think about like the person’s fitness, your personalities, your goals, also who can afford to travel to your race.

  • Personality; this is usually where I pick training partners, we have already shared many miles together so I already know that we can be alone in the dark when the weather is crappy and we will still get along.  In addition to this, sometimes no matter how much you love your spouse or parent, its often hard for family to see you suffer…so perhaps keeping family to crewing or pacing the last few miles is best because there will be SUFFERING!
  • Fitness; again training partners.  How far do you want a pacer?  If you have a few you can worry less about their fitness and break up sections with a different person each section.  Picking someone your pace or slightly faster is good, but remember if you pick your super fast marathon friend they might not be able to keep up with mountain climbing, hiking….fast running and hiking are two different skill sets, choose someone who is able to do the terrain.
  • goals; make sure you communicate your goals clearly before the race.  I jokingly talk about having a “safe” word because I instruct my crew and pacers to push me if they notice I am slacking.  At the same time, if your goal is just to do nothing stupid and finish, make sure your pacer knows so when they start “cracking the whip” and when you resist there’s no surprise.  After DNFing a 100 mile I still needed to finish one to keep a ticket in the Western States lottery, but the only race left was 3 weeks post 100 blow up, where I made it 70+ miles before dropping.  In that case I let both my crew and pacers know that I was literally going to be taking it much easier than ever because it was just my “do nothing stupid, just get across the line for Western States lottery.”. That way my crew and pacers knew that I would be much slower than the year that I’d raced the same 100 and that was my goal; there would be no speed, no need to push, and no crew wondering why it was taking so much longer..was I hurt, lost? nope…just enjoying the miles and being zen.
  • Travel and the cost associated;  As much fun as it is to have friends come along, it also costs them money to travel to your event.  This is probably something to discuss when signing up for a race beforehand if you want a specific friend to crew or pace.  I do try to pay for lodging and a meal for my crew and pacers.

Have a plan for your crew and pacers to make things a little easier for them.  I have a friend who will put together a whole binder full of maps, and notes, food needs, and estimated times in and out of each aid station.  This may sound like overkill, but honestly, its great for your crew to have so they know when to expect you at each aid station.   Things may change during the race, paces may slow down, but a general outline and directions to each aid station take much of the panic and burden off of your crew to figure out your race prep.   Also you crew will know the distances between each aid station and can calculate your actual paces so they know if they should worry if you get off pace, or if you are moving faster they can be prepared earlier at the aid station.  Have an A, B, C goal and time splits worked out for them.   You can also write out your nutritional needs that you expect to want at each aid station, or what hydration packs you want and when.

I try to keep a list of equipment that is in my bag available so there isn’t confusion as to what item is where:  pink windbreaker in the blue bag, for example.

People seem to also be concerned about running or pacing at night.  If you trained correctly for your 100 mile race you have already done some night runs and have figured out your headlamp/night needs.  For instance, I run with two headlamps, one on my head, one around my waist…it helps with my depth perception.  Other people like a handheld, or just one on their head.  If you are pacing at night, same goes for you…practice running at night after a long day of work.  Running after a full day of work will simulate (somewhat) being tired and having to run in the dark.  Trial and error I have found that I don’t need caffeine to stay awake at night, it usually just makes me have a BM, but I know plenty of people that need caffeine to get them through until the morning.   Another thing about doing an overnight run is that you get to experience the full spectrum of it, the sun setting, the sun rising.  Most people get a boost as the sun rises, and feel low at night.  Plan for that, know that your pace will slow in the dark.

Another thing about night, its hard to see your crew in the dark, have a plan of how you will find them, maybe you have a red chair and they hang a headlamp on it with a shirt or banner or have a sign you can keep an eye out for.  My friend will turn his red light on his headlamp and I will be able to find them in the dark.  (also since I wear two headlamps they can usually spot me easily.)

Lastly, be kind to your crew.  I know you love them and they love you and when blood sugar gets low and you hurt its easy to lash out, let them know beforehand as well as after how much you appreciate their selflessness.

CREW AND PACERS

Your favorite running friend has asked you to be part of your crew and pace!  Yay, but now what?

  • Pre plan: hopefully your runner already has a plan, but if not, get together with them (not on the trail) and discuss what their race plan and goals are so you can be on the same page.
  • Goals and expectations: what do they expect their goal time to be?  What do they expect from you?
  • Read and learn:  Read up on the race’s rules.  Most are the same, but some are more strict about pacers.  Most races don’t care if you are in front or behind or beside as long as you are a few paces away from your runner, but some races want you behind.  Mule-ing is a no-no, though perhaps your runner forgot chapstick and you have some, know what the rules are for borrowing gear or even food.  Know the rules about aid stations.  Some happily plan to feed both race and pacer, others only have food enough for the runners so plan accordingly.
  • Expect the unexpected: Puke, getting lost, batteries dying, rain, hail, mud, bathroom stops.  Plan and pack your own gear as if you are going to be hiking/slow running for many hours.  Also remember, you are usually joining someone who has already run 50 or more miles, so dress like you are going to be death marching.  You may be able to run an 8 min pace, but your runner maybe trucking along at 20 +min, dress like you’re slow walking, and take off layers if your runner is able to move well again.   The first time my husband joined me to pace it was like final 16 miles of Grindstone 100.  We have shared many 15 mile runs together but as he joined me I noticed two things, one he had no hydration/food, and two no jacket and we were going up,up,up into the wind and night was coming quickly.  I very clearly told him to run as fast as he could and get food, water, and a jacket because my usual pace was slowed down to a hike as we were going up to one of the highest points on the course and 15 miles would be taking much longer than he was thinking… and no, I wasn’t sharing my jacket 😉
  • Be prepared to watch your runner melt down/be elated/zone out:  Are you a parent?  Don’t be surprised if your tough as nails best friend suddenly becomes a whining, needy child at some point in the race.  Lack of sleep and calories do funny things to people.  Some get giddy and silly, others weepy, petulant and downright stubborn.
  • Bribery; again with the child comparison, if you can break down the race into smaller parts and bribe your runner it can help them from being overwhelmed.  “Lets run this next 5 minute section, and once we get 5 min of running in, we can walk,” or “lets hike this climb hard, and then take it easy on the downhill.” Keep them motivated to move, bribe them with “letting them take it easy in a few minutes” often if they get moving they will feel better.
  • Give them options, but not many.  Keep it simple.  “hey runner, you need to eat, its been 30 min since you took in any calories…I have this bar A or this bar B, you need to pick one.”  Asking “do you want a sandwich, a snickers, a doughnut, candy, etc” can be overwhelming and take up time.  Give them fewer options and make it easier on them.  Making choices 80 miles into a race takes up a lot of brain power and can cost time and add stress.
  • Keep an eye on your nutrition as well as theirs.  Eat when they eat, don’t forget to drink.
  • If they are having a rough patch, be patient, it will most likely pass….also when it doubt…”hey runner, I have this bar A or this bar B for you to eat”  Many times a little calorie boost can help.  Many emotions can unexpectedly come up late in a race, let them get it out of their system and them move on, don’t act shocked or weirded out…what happens during a 100, stays on the course!
  • Keep them entertained.  My very first 100 my friend read a bunch of articles before the race and told me all about them, it was interesting, It took my mind off of things, and I didn’t need to actually respond if I didn’t want to.  It helped the miles tick by.
  • Be positive and supportive.  No matter how slowly your runner is moving, be sure to keep positive.  I mean com’on, they have made it 70, 80, 90 miles that’s impressive even if they are slogging it in.  Don’t remind them of your sub 3 hour marathon, tell them how proud of them you are., help them remember that they are amazing for getting to where they are.
  • Have patience, Ultra crewing/pacing is all about patience.  There is a reason people say crewing can be summed up on the phrase, “hurry up and wait.”  You rush to the aid station, set up your runners gear, and wait, and wait, and wait for them to come.  Even once they have come sometimes you continue to wait while they nap, or eat, or whatever it is they are doing.  However, don’t let them linger too long in each aid station, don’t rush them so they forget something important, but don’t let them dilly dally…keep and eye on cut off times!!  <—– that an important one, know the cut off times, and make sure your runner is staying ahead of them, and most important, do NOT let them time out at an aid station (unless they mean to, and yes that has happened to someone who will remain nameless..)

Two other things about crews, pick a crew captain.  You’ve heard of too many cooks in the kitchen, its also true in crewing.  Before the race, let your crew know who is the crew chief and make sure everyone understand that person is the person with the final word.  My friend ET is always my captain, she’s organized, can read maps, good at trouble shooting, is anal about being at aid stations on time, and has crewed almost every one of my 100milers…she knows what’s up and I trust her.  It just eliminates any crew confusion, I usually talk to her the most so she knows all the ins and outs of my race, even though she’s never run a 100, she’s still the best!  This segues nicely into my next comment about crew, while its fantastic to have someone that’s run every 100 miler from mountains to roads, not everyone knows that person, someone who is good at trouble shooting, isn’t afraid of bodily fluids or scared of nasty feet, dirty clothes, spiders, snakes, and other things that go bump in the night is just as good.  There are plenty resources to read up about 100 mile experiences and someone who is willing to look up things like, what is a sign of hypothermia, dehydration, how do I deal with blisters etc can be every bit as good as a veteran in a pinch.

Let me share two pacer stories as an illustration of what has helped me out in different races.

One pacer attribute that sticks out in my mind is the encouragement I have received in really low spots.  Two times come to mind.  The first was in  the last 15 miles of my first 100, Pinhoti 100.  Earlier in the race I wasn’t ready to be pushed, and I had gotten mad at my pacer who was trying to push me along at mile 60, I just wasn’t ready to “race” yet, and I switched pacers to one who was more relaxed.  However, in the final 15 miles I knew it was time to put my head down, and I asked my friend to join again and push me in.  I knew that no matter how down on myself I got he would just push and push and ignore my stubborn lack of confidence that creeps in when I get tired.  He was confident I could run it in, so when we were too fast and missed my crew at an aid station  I got worried and started to linger and wait for my crew, he confidentially told me we would see them at the finish and we needed to get going. The last 5 miles were HARD, my brain wanted to stop, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Physically I was fine to run, and he could tell that, and he kept creeping the pace a bit faster and faster…telling me we only had a mile left (with probably more like 3) so I would push harder.  I was so excited to run a sub 23 hour race my very first 100, and without someone else’s belief in my ability I might have decided to walk.  I have kept that in my head ever since and instead of walking when I don’t feel confident, I remember the sub 8 pace I ran for the last 6 miles of my first 100.

The second was in a 100k, it was my first time at the distance and while the course was runnable I wasn’t sure that I should/could run it all.  It was 7 laps and by lap 5 I had picked up a pacer. This lap sucked.   It had turned cold and rainy and the course had become nasty, sloppy, slick mud, but my ever positive pacer kept me steady.  He had broken the course up into thirds and was talking me through it.  Lap 4-5 were the “just hold steady” laps, in the middle, not the start, not close enough to finish..kind of stale, but steady.  When we got to lap 6 he reminded me that we were in the last 3rd of the race when the real race begins and now was time to put my head down and grind, and then lap 7 he was like “this is the victory lap…leave everything out there on the course!” Thanks to him I won my first 100k.  Sometimes just having someone believe in you and not letting the self doubt creep in is just the thing that gets you to a break through performance.

On the other side of the crew/pace table, several years ago I helped crew and pace several friends at a very wet all day rainy mud slog of a race that was an out and back 25 miles 4 times so the puddles were crazy towards the end of the 100.  There was a lot of sock changing and foot washing and diaper cream reapplying going on and everyone’s feet were pretty gross.  Suck it up buttercup, I still have friends to this day remind me of how great it was that I was so professional about cleaning their feet and liberally applying the cream, even between their toes.  Sounds gross, and it was, but it was what saved many of their feet.  Don’t hesitate and be squeamish about ultra feet, they stink and often only have 7 toes, but that is part of being crew.

Honestly, pacing and crewing someone is such a fun, and amazing act of selflessness.  If you are prepared, and know the rules, the course, remember to dress appropriately, aren’t too thin skinned, good at trouble shooting and feed yourself as well as your runner you are going to have an experience of a lifetime!