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Cruel Jewel 50 2017: using a bad race at the start of the season for future racing gains.

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Leaving mile 31, feeling great!

 

Back in Feb I ran Black Canyon 100k and had a disappointing day.  I can’t blame anyone but myself coupled with a touch of bad luck, however, what I did do was listen and take what that race was telling me and fix the problems.

The first problem I started to address was some wacky gait pattern.  My best guess is that when I fell and gave myself a concussion last August and then ran Run Rabbit Run 105 mile race just 19 days later with complete bed rest between the fall and the race I picked up, and reinforced a weird tight limp I had from the fall.  Things that REALLY hurt during Black Canyon had just started to hurt during Run Rabbit Run.  Clearly training through the pain and hoping that I could correct my gait myself wasn’t working, so after the race I started visiting Brian Beatty at Balanced Movement Therapy on a regular basis to address this problem.

Second problem: nutrition.  I have been ultra running since 2013 and the right fuel plan has been ever elusive.  When I first started ultra running I was a vegan, which was actually great for recovery, but I just don’t build muscle, so I was really tiny and not very powerful.  In 2015 I added meat back into my diet, being aware of where the meat was from, and if it was raised responsibly and with out hormones.  I gained some strength, but still had energy highs and lows(crashes) during races.   My friend, Sam, recommended the book ROAR this past March, which really helped me gain a lot of insight to fueling and recovery for women.  Its a book specifically for female endurance athletes.  It addresses the different hormone changes throughout a woman’s cycle and how different times of the month need different fueling strategies.  A lightbulb went on for me!  Training got better, I changed my hydration strategy, I ate more protein after exercises, added in good carbs during high hormone times, and I gained muscle, and got leaner.  I weigh much more than I did back in 2013 as a vegan, but look fitter and trim, no more weird skinny fat around my middle.

I also stopped trying to drink my calories; separate food from hydration.  I found that Skratch works best for my hydration needs.  THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING!  I wasn’t bonking due to low calories, I am pretty sure I’m an awesome fat burner while at ultra pace…I was DEHYDRATED all along!! So how did this all help?  Well, even with unseasonably hot weather, and a nice stretch of pavement mid day, I stayed hydrated THE WHOLE RACE! (read no energy dips!) I didn’t eat any more than usual, I think I ate one beef jerky stick, 3 or 4 picky bars, bone broth I made, and also a home made smoothie at mile 30 a few chips, a salted potato, and some gummy bears.  Not a lot of calories, but I felt really great.

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All of us at the start

 

So if you’re here for a race report, the course is the same as it was in 2015, with the finish being slightly altered due to some down trees. You can read my race report from 2015 here.  I was a few minutes behind my 2015 pace into the first crewed aid station at mile 25, but I stayed positive, being mindful that there was so much more race ahead, and it would eventually cool down.  The mid day heat was HOT and I felt feverish around noon.  Fortunately this is where my crew had an ice bandana for me that helped immensely.

The first half of the race is the “runnable” half, while the second half is where the technical steep climbs come in.  I switched out my Orange Mud Hydraquiver, for the Endurance pack because the time between aid stations would get much longer and I didn’t want to get dehydrated so late in the day.

As I ran the “dragon spine” or the Duncan Ridge Trail, I remember exactly where things went bad for me previously, but this time I felt strong and ran all the sections I had opted to hike the last time.

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Getting a little encouragement butt slap from my honey.

The last 8ish miles are straight up Coosa Bald for a mile with no switch backs, and then back down over rocks and roots for roughly 5 miles to a water stop, and then more gently up for 2 miles and back down for a downhill finish into Vogel State Park.  This is where I picked up time.  I was feeling awesome! I ran/hiked up to the top of Coosa, paused at the top and braced myself for the long downhill.  By this point my quads were TOAST.  Coming out of Black Canyon I had aggravated my Achilles tendon so during training I was more conservative so I didn’t do any downhill training.  I put my head down and told myself from there on I was going to suck it up- ignore my quads and run–and run I did…down the hill, pausing once or twice to make sure I was going the right way.  I didn’t stop at the water stop, just cruised right by smelling the barn…in 2015 I think I mostly hiked from the water stop to the finish, I was not going to do that again.  Just as I ran over the bridge here the wind picked up, and I saw a tree fall over to the left of me….like I needed any more motivation to keep running.  The cold rain felt amazing, and the thunder and lightening made my hair stand up.

I didn’t once look at the time on my watch after cresting Coosa, 11+ hours had passed. I knew I wanted to better my last Cruel Jewel time of 13:33, I actually stopped and told myself here that I could do it if I just went for it, and I did!  I was shocked to see the blinking red lights of the finish line clock through the driving rain still under 13 hours!  I was ecstatic!

12:57!  36 minutes faster than my last CJ50, and 33 minutes better than the women’s CR of 13:30!  First place female and 3rd overall!  The rain continued into the night, and stopping only as the sun rose. We stayed up to watch every last Trailhead finish. Congratulations to you all!

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12:57 New Course Record!

 

I have to give thanks here to Carson Footwear and Everett’s support, Orange Mud and Josh for the hydration packs! Big thanks to my coach Meghan Arbogast too!

Also, to ET and her lucky crew pants.  I so appreciate having you there to boss me around, to Liz for her first 50–you were awesome!  Thanks for the fun birthday weekend, and for the training runs.  Thanks to Brian and your magic PT, thanks Lawst, Galoot, Nymf, Riff, Kyle, Elliott, Steep, and Tim for getting in on the weekend fun. Congratulations on your races as well(and for your crewing)!  Saving the biggest thanks to Drew and Emmitt, thanks for being my guys and supporting me. love you!

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Sometimes the Compromise is Better

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When I began ultra running, a handful of years ago, it became a point of contention between my husband and myself.  So many hours dedicated to running, early mornings, sometimes overnight, races that were to places that had no interesting vacation appeal, and often with people my husband didn’t know well.

He often lamented, “where does this fit into OUR life, how does this make US more connected?” I had thrown myself headlong into the sport and with vise like mental determination I was putting forth every extra spare moment into running, or lifting, or going to the mountains.

The answer was, it wasn’t.

I also think this is not uncommon for ultra running families.  Sometimes compromise is hard, sometimes figuring out how to include your family into your sport is difficult.  We already have jobs that keep us apart most of the day, now we are planning weekend/week long trips that keep us emotionally disconnected?  That’s always a recipe for disaster.

We are both very stubborn, and at some point we got so annoyed with each other that we would just shut down whenever it came to race planning.  That was 4 years ago, and I have learned a lot since then.

Now to get where I’m going with this….

This winter I got shut out of the Western States 100 lottery, then then Hardrock 100 Lottery, so I put in for CCC, a 100k that runs around Mt Blanc in Europe, and I GOT IN!!  I was thrilled and terrified all at the same time.  Thrilled and terrified are my favorite emotions when I sign up for a race, they are like my race peanutbutter and Jelly combination;  If I’m both terrified and excited than its for sure a good race that I am looking forward to.

My husband had agreed to me putting in my name for the lottery, but when I got in I realized he had done so with hesitation, (and probably figured my lottery bad luck would continue anyway.)

He tried to act excited, I tried to pretend that my excitement could carry the both of us to Europe in August.  I came to realize that wasn’t the case.  So I readjusted my head, and thought, how can I pick a schedule that would include him.

So what have I learned in the last 4 years?  Compromise!!!   What is the point of being excited for a race when the person that I love is miserable thinking about the time and the travel and not being about to do the touristy things we’d like to do while in Europe.  I looked at how much time and money going to Europe would cost; the race plus our one year vacation, and proposed instead of one big expensive trip we could have a few less expensive trips in the US.

This made for a very happy husband.

So instead of Europe here is my 2017 schedule:

  • Cruel Jewel 50 May GA–my birthday weekend we will go with friends
  • HardRock 100 trip (I am not in the race, but will be there to watch, and volunteer) CO
  • Waldo 100k OR- our best friend from college, my cousin, and his aunt will figure into this trip
  • Javalina 100K AZ-plus a trip back to UofA where we met

 

This schedule makes me just as excited as a trip to Europe and Drew is happy and included as well; total WIN-WIN!!

Now my races won’t just be about me.  When we are at Waldo we can visit our west coast family that we see so rarely.  When we go to Javalina we can visit Tuscon, where we met in college.  Drew has wanted to go back for a visit for several years now.

Now the answer to the question, “how does this benefit US,” has changed from, “its my race-come along for the ride-” to  “lets do something fun as a family and have an US” vacation.  A little running for me, and family and vacationing for him!

 

Black Canyon 100k: A Lesson in Trouble Shooting

Did you ever have one of those races where it seems just as you fix one problem a new one crops up?

That was Black Canyon for me.

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This is not a bit@h and moan blog, but rather an acknowledgement of my slowly evolving ability to ‘fix” my ultra problems mid race and still finish top 10.

I wrote a typical description of the race that I’ll probably post later, but this is my trouble shooting race report.

Problem: You trained, packed, and wrote a race plan for a race that was point to point with a lot of net downhill and for hot, dry temperatures.  The Wednesday before the race the weather report calls for high winds, lots of rain and cold.  This in Arizona speak means flooding and the course gets switched to an out and back.

Solution: rewrite your whole race plan, unpack and repack your bag like its Noah’s Ark, two pairs of shoes, two jackets, two hats, two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks, two Orange Mud Packs for the chance of a wardrobe malfunction, or costume change mid run. Brace yourself for cold and wet, try not to be sad that your mini vacation to see the sun is a bust.

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Problem: You go out for race warm up strides and you return and can’t find your crew anywhere with you race gear.

Solution: Act like a child who has lost their parent.  Ask adults around you if they saw your crew.  Poke your head into the mens room looking for crew.  Check the port-o-John lines out in the rain, wander the halls of the school, keep returning to agreed upon meeting place.  Finally find the RD with minutes to spare and ask him to make an announcement over the PA that there is a small child lost in the mall looking for her mom…I mean crew 😉

Problem: Shoe sucking, slippery, ankle deep, mud that acts like ankle weights on the bottoms of your shoes.

Solution: Roll with it, everyone else is.  Run in the stream that’s forming on the side of the trail to keep the sticking mud to a minimum.  Laugh out loud several times at the irony of the situation.

Problem: Crap, you mixed your Vfuel incorrectly and its too watered down and you are peeing every hour!!

Solution:  Down salt tabs like a champ in hopes that it will help you retain some fluid. Roll every potato you eat in salt like its a sugar covered doughnut. Finally slow the peeing at mile 40ish..

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Problem: Its only mile 19 and your “Achilles heel'” literally your Achilles is getting stiff so you have been favoring it and now your ITB is really sore and tight.

Solution:  I don’t do this often but I took Advil.  I had the forethought to pack two in my pack, and was thankful for some ITB relief.

Problem: At mile 20 when you switched your pack you assumed there was some sort of food in it, the only thing in it was a chocolate bar and crew wouldn’t be back around again for another 20 miles.

Solution: Bonk first be, annoyed with yourself, get over it.  Then make every bit of that chocolate bar count! Get in front of a line of guys that would help push you the next 7 miles to the aid station ahead, and than GOD that you decided at the last minute to pack a drop back with one coconut water and two bars!  Also fill your pockets with oranges and bananas from the A/S while pretending you are Joey Chestnut at the Nathan Hot Dog eating contest

Problem: Ouch you fell on that really sore ITB right on a pointy rock.

Solution: See above, Advil. Laugh again that you are now covered in mud.

Problem: Now you have to go back uphill

Solution: Actually this wasn’t a problem, by mile 30 I had caught up on calories and going uphill was helping me keep warm and took a lot of pressure off my ITB.  I moved up quite a few positions on the back half of the race. (Of course most of the people I passed were guys, the ladies all ran very smart races.)

Problem: Your shoes are just so heavy and saturated with mud in them.

Solution: Get out Noah’s Ark Bag and change shoes at mile 42 when you see your crew again! Feel like a million bucks!

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Some of the contents of Noah’s Ark

 

Problem: You are going back up out of the canyon into the clouds and the temp is dropping drastically, while its been raining the last 9 hours on you and you’re getting cold to the bone but know that you have that 7 mile stretch of deep muddy hell and wind and it might get dark before you finish.

Solution: Even though you let 9th get away, you jump into the aid station to get out of the wind and start stripping off every wet piece of clothing while your husband looks at you like,” have you no decency woman?” and helps you get all new clothes on.

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Problem: You just lost all those calories you forced down at that final aid station.

Solution: Suck it up buttercup, there is no time for dilly dallying… its COLD!

(The good and the bad about that was I never saw 9th again, the positive was that I didn’t end up hypothermic as I have in the past.  The stream from the beginning of the race had now turned into an ice cold river up past my ankles and there was no way around it.)

Finish happy, wet and shivering- top 10 ain’t bad.

Problem post race: Ugh, more contents of your stomach coming up.

Solution: if you are crew, pull over and finish your pizza while you hope your runner doesn’t fall out into the rain.  If you are the runner, wake up at 3am STARVING, microwave your salmon that the mini fridge froze, make the room smell like fish. Pass back out with happier belly and confused crew.No automatic alt text available.

 

SO there you have it. My very first Golden Ticket race. Though this race didn’t end as I had hoped, I still feel pretty good about finishing top ten with all the thinking on my feet I had to do.  Though I have been ultra running for several years I really only run 2ish races a year so each race is still a learning experience for me.

Thanks so much for the support from my sponsors Carson Footwear and Orange Mud! Thanks Coach Meghan for pushing me and for helping me be this prepared.

Thanks to Jamil Cory, Aravaipa Running and all the volunteers that stuck it out to help us commit crazy running acts in the rainy desert.

Thanks, of course, to my very good looking crew 😉

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The Lonely Road of the UltraRunner

I read lots of articles daily about running, as I am a person who has sole focus when I commit to a thing.  Articles about hill training, or long runs, or pacing, strength training, about doping, and all sorts of other things that make up our wonderful sport.  But few on what happens when you really commit yourself to a training plan and a desire to excel in a field.  What happens when your training plan no longer allows you to just show up and run with your local running group because you have an important workout the day that they all meet, and the usual 5-6 mile jaunt through the woods isn’t what’s on your plan for the day?  Want the real world truth?

Solitude.

Solitude is what happens.  If its an LSD it can be hours alone with your thoughts.  Perhaps if its a speed workout you’re brain is too occupied trying to remember how many laps you have done in the mile repeat, and then how many mile repeats you have just completed, oh… and don’t forget keeping an eye on that pace/split you are supposed to hit.  In reality those brain occupying, pain inducing workouts are becoming somewhat of a relief to my over-thinking solitary brain.

Do I miss my social running buddies, yes.  Do I feel guilty when I show up at coffee or a morning run on a rare day that I don’t have an important workout and I am greeted with “where have you been,” “you do still exist”–of course.  Do I wish I could be everywhere and have everything– don’t we all?  Instead I have traded in my early morning social runs (so I am not a night time zombie and can actually have a conversation with my husband) for mid morning runs–or even sometimes sneaking in an after work run.  I have prioritized getting adequate sleep, and recovery (and of course work and family.)   And yes, I miss you all!

Do I regret this?  Not really.  I’m not driven by overstretching myself and trying to squeeze everything in.  I don’t feel compelled to give into the societal pressure that tells me I need to do everything, please everyone.   I realize I cant.   When I’m all in- I’m all in.  I’m a person that when I choose to focus on something important to me I am able to let go of regrets.  I realize that most of my life is a consequence of choices I make, and the rest I can’t control–so what is there to regret?

I thrive on single minded-ness.  When I have a few things on my plate that I put as much of myself into that I can.  And I do.  Spreading myself thin doesn’t make me satisfied.  I don’t want to be a jack of all trades, I want to be a master of few things that are important to me.  So right now running, running fast, and uninjured is my free time desire so my single minded-ness has altered my journey onto a path of solitude — for the moment.

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Looking Ahead to 2017; new art direction, and Something new from Carson Footwear

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For many, January signifies a time to start planning the next full year.  For me, Lotteries have made my year planning occur the Thanksgiving before the new year.  So January is just when I make sure my ducks are in a row for my first race of the 2017 season.

This year I was shut out of both lotteries I put in for; Western States 100 and Hardrock Hundred.  OUCH! Because I was on a roll of being rejected from lotteries I entered one more; CCC in France since I probably can’t really afford to go, and I most likely won’t get in.  I just figured what the heck!

For the year, so far I have Black Canyon 100k, maybe a spring race?  Grayson Highlands? Quest for the Crest? Promise land?  Then summer hopefully San Juan Solstice. Fall; CCC??! Waldo? And then something local in the winter…Hellgate 100k? Mountain Masochist 50?  As you can tell I am having commitment problems currently. Oh, and FOMO. Why are there so many fun races?!  I should probably sprinkle in a trail marathon here and there… any suggestions?!

So as January is here I am already mid way through my training cycle for Black Canyon 100k.  I have started working with Meghan Arbogast, and the change to my usual training has been both challenging and refreshing!  In all honesty I’m a bit of a control freak about my own running, and thought it would be hard to give up and go with someone else’s plan for me– but the reality is its been pretty freeing.  I don’t need a lot of motivation, just someone who can answer my questions, and thinks up new workouts for me to try.  She’s been really great, and I am hopeful working together will help take my racing one step further.  I like to do the best I can!

In other news, I have been testing out some new things for Carson Footwearhttp://www.carsonfootwear.com/  Sometimes just a small change can make a huge difference.  I was having some achy foot pain in distances over 45 miles where I am on lots of gravel or pointy rocks.  I mentioned this to Everett, and ever since he’s been hard at work testing out new sockliners and very light-weight rock guards.  He’s been sending me some here and there, and each time its like he’s getting closer.  The shoes don’t need to be changed, and for nontechnical trail they are perfect as is…. but for foot bruising-rocky ultras the new insert he’s putting together are awesome!   Soft underfoot yet somehow still firm and springy.  They can’t be ordered just yet–as they are still in production and testing, but I’m excited to share this little news now.  Look for them to be available in the spring of 2017!

Also, I have been brushing up on my digital design skills recently, wanting to get back to a little design work here and there.  If you need a design, logo, photo editing, or painting… send me an email! rbellkelley4@gmail.com

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Just a peek at a race poster

Alt Shoe Review: Topo ST-2(women’s)

This summer I ran a 50 miler all on road.  Why you may ask? Well,  there is no real good answer, but in trying to find a pair of minimal shoes I liked to race in, I ended up finding the Topo Athletic ST-2s.Image result for topo athletic st-2

I went on a hunt for zero drop, minimal shoes for this race.  I always run trails in my zero drop Carson Footwear shoes, so I figured why wouldn’t I also run roads in the same shoe fit.

The search for me started by first trying to find a straight lasted female shoe. I’m not sure why there are so few straight lasted shoes, but I went through all the big box shoes, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, almost all had curved lasts.  I look for a shoe that is shaped the way my foot is, and my foot sure isn’t curved!  It came down to Topo Athletic shoes, and Skora shoes(but these seemed a bit more curved..) and a few others.

I saw the Topo Athletic Fli-lyte road shoe on sale online so I ordered them just to see what they were like.  After a few long runs I didn’t love them and decided they were “too much shoe for me.” Meaning what, meaning that I am used to an upper with very minimal overlay, a soft heel cup, and flexible sole.  The shoe was just too, sturdy, if you will.

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Fli-Lyte

I could see a heavier footstriker wearing these, but since I am 105lbs these shoes were just too stiff.  The heel cup was too structured and felt odd, I was looking for something a little more free and flexible, giving me the ability to move in a way that is natural to my gait cycle.

 

Someone saw my review of the Fli-lyte and suggested I try Topo Athletic’s newest shoe the ST-2.  So I did, unfortunately I got them a day before my 50 miler so I didn’t wear them for it.  I like to stick to the rule of no new things right before a race.

This shoe was totally different than the Fli-lyte and much more in line with what I look for in a shoe.  Zero drop, good toe off, minimal breathable upper, even the heel cup is constructed more like a tri shoe.  Very flexible-not to mention light too!  I really am enjoying this shoe immensely!

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Straight lasted, just like my foot!

 

For those who think that minimal shoes are too firm and not comfortable, these have 5mm of foot bed, plus 16mm of total stack height, which still allows for ground feel and flexibility while still soft under foot-though not squishy.  A bonus, for me anyway, is that the sock liner or foot bed can be removed.  I sometimes want a firmer feel under foot and like to take the sock liner out, or put in a different one.  In the Fli-lite it was glued in, so a removable sock liner in the ST-2 makes me happy.

I got them in July, its now October, and have put several 100s of miles on them with little to no wear to the upper, the white part of the sole (seen above) is the only thing that has worn.  Its a softer material that allows for the natural foot motion.  I think its a good compromise of flexibility and softness for how long it lasts though.  Originally I thought the minimal upper construction would wear out first, but they have stood the test of time, as well as a lot of travel all over the west/southwest during the month of September. (Not just on roads but some trail also, which I think accounts for some of the wear on the white part of the shoe.)

At the beginning of September I ran a 100 mile trail race and used them both before and after the race running around on the road.  Their soft upper was great for post race sore feet, as was the comfortable toe box.  After the race I took them with me on a month long trip around the west (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and back to Colorado) as my road running shoe, and sometimes non technical trail shoe.  Another plus I discovered while traveling is that with its flexibility its able to pack down really well into my already overstuffed luggage.

So let’s get into the details of this shoe;

  • A size 7 Women’s shoe (I wear 6.5) weighs 5.6 OZ
  • Its a zero drop shoe, with an anatomical toe box (read real room for your toes to naturally spread when you push off.)
  • 4 mm of rubber outsole-which was nice and grippy on wet pavement.
  • 7mm of footbed
  • 5mm of footbed, totaling 16mm of stack height-which is sort of in my sweet spot for a shoe.  Anywhere between 15-22 mm stack height seems to give a nice low ride of control.  Too much stack height and I feel like I’m tottering around, and worry about ankle twisting.
  • The uppers are a breathable knit fabric that give it a second skin feel, and the printed upper pattern eliminates seams to rub on, and also reduces weight.

Who these shoes are for; Because I am already very comfortable running hundreds of miles in zero drop shoes I would, and have worn them for all sorts of road runs, tempo, hill workouts, and long runs.  If you are someone who usually wears a shoe with elevation in the heel-like any other zero drop shoe -I would caution that you to test them out and get used to the zero drop before taking them on a high mileage spin.  Going from a shoe with a high heel to toe drop, it can make your calfs sore at first.    I asked Topo Athletic who they saw using this shoe and they responded that the ST stands for Speed Trainer and that it would be used for track workouts or as a racing shoe.  They also said that for people who are used to minimal shoes they have gotten feedback that many love them for marathon racing.

Even if you aren’t planning on going 100% into the minimal shoe thing, I would still recommend these as a shoe to throw into your shoe rotation as a foot strengthening shoe.  I am a big proponent of injury free training and racing, and I think an important part of that is making sure you are keeping your feet and the smaller muscles in your lower leg strong, as well as the larger gluteal muscles that we work out with hill repeats, lungs, squats, etc.

The overlay isn’t really overlay in the sense that its a sewn upper, its printed right into the mesh upper giving a bit more structure to the shoe, but very minimally.

 

All around I like these shoes quite a bit, I can’t find any negatives actually. Their low stack height also makes them good shoes for weightlifting at the gym, nice and stable.  Truth be told I don’t wear shoes for their appearance, but I would say these shoes are pretty cute and go well with jeans casually around town, they also come in black with raspberry trim.

 

 

Run Rabbit Run Race Report 2016

It has been almost 3 weeks that I have been processing Run Rabbit Run 100, so its finally time to write a blog post.  I apologize, its written as though I threw up every memory onto a page, which is sort of what happened. I like raw, unedited race reports though…I hope you do too.

Fantastic crew at the start (minus Drew)

The story really starts 2.5 weeks out from RRR.  I decided to do a shake out speed run on the trials..just an easy 4 miles. 1 mile from the house I caught a toe under a root, rather than holding and just pulling my leg, it broke as I was aiming to launch myself over a waist high fallen tree… as it let go I slammed my opposite knee into the tree and flipped me over it landing on the back of my head. At least that’s how I can work it out going back to the area.  I don’t remember landing, I don’t remember getting up.  I remember just thinking I had hit my knee and shin so hard they immediately blew up and I had to hobble home.
I must have talked to some people and then fallen asleep because a few friends of mine a day later knew I had fallen, and I didn’t remember telling them.  I think for the next few days there are holes in my memory. I finally went to the doc, who told me under no circumstances should I run 100 miles at altitude… but I should be ok to fly in a week. I then talked to a PT who deals with head trauma and he seemed less concerned.  Told me to lay around so my brain could stop moving and the headaches would go away.  So my taper mostly consisted of napping and laying on the couch and meditating…. for three weeks.  I finally ran the Wednesday before RRR and decided the world didn’t spin anymore when I moved so I would be ok.  I do think that my head was more sensitive to altitude than normal, but I’ll get to that later.

with a little help from my friends

So Ringo and I headed up to northern CO to exchange Cari for Gumbi and meet Drew, ET and gyro in Steamboat(our fantastic crew).  Gumbi would end up pacing Ringo 60 miles, and the rest would be my wonderful crew for all 105 miles!
The weather was clear for the race, sunny and warm during the day(80s), and cold at night(20s/teens depending on elevation).
Ringo started at 8 am and I followed at noon in the Hare division.
There was a slight change to the start, due to a mud slide on one of the ski slopes we hike up, so thinking we were going on more single track than normal, not 2 miles into the race I realized we were off course…. oh well, no need to panic yet, it was just the first 30 min of the race.
Most people hiked the steep incline, a few tried to run it.  I distinctly remember one guy who was expending so much energy trying to wave around people, I KNEW I’d either be passing him again, or he would drop.  At mile 45 I saw a headlamp heading back towards me, I called out that it was the wrong direction… it was afore mentioned runner heading back to drop at the previous aid station.
Anyway, the aspens were pretty great, the sky a clear blue and I continued to head up to 10,500 to long lake.  Long lake was a little out and back and I could see I was toward the back of the pack, but not far behind a large group of runners.  Remembering my drop last year, I not only had LOTS of warm clothes, but I also kept to my own pace and didn’t worry where I was.  I also remembered that around mile 30 I would start catching the Tortoises too, so no worries.
Ok, so maybe this is TMI but this is something that we female 100 milers deal with- PMS during races.  Mostly I just had to stop quite often feeling like my bladder/colon was full all race long-kind of a pain, but ya deal with it.
Anyway, down fish creek falls I caught a few people-Monica was one of these runners.  A runner from Washington state who would play leapfrog with me the entire way, slowing at higher altitude but speeding up at lower altitudes, just like me.
I hadn’t really seen many people up to this point, so when I finally saw Drew it was really nice.  The Hare division allows no pacers or poles, so many of us spend the entire race mostly alone, however, there is a 4 mile road section that doesn’t have a shoulder so they allow a safety runner to accompany you to make sure traffic is aware you are there.  This is about mile 15-21 and then again back up in the dark around mile 42ish.
Coming into Olympian Hall I was having some knee pain, probably leftover from the fall a few weeks before.  In a matter of minutes Gyro worked his magic , having me make sure to rotate over my hip, and for the rest of the 80+ miles my knee gave me absolutely no problems-THANKS GYRO!!
Et made sure to feed and refuel me because I would have no aid or water for the next 10 miles.  This is my favorite part, nice single track trails and rolling hills from mile 21-42, low enough that I could actually run it all, I think its all between 6,500-8,500 feet… perfect for running!  The night was cool, but not cold at that point and the full moon was AMAZING! It was so bright a few times I looked into he trees thinking it was someone’s super bright headlamp on a switchback ahead.

Coming into mile 30-Cow Creek AS

I saw them again at mile 30sih for more food and my headlamp.
The section from 30-42 went along uneventfully, just me and the night, illuminated by the moon.
Back to Olympian hall at mile 42 there was discussion about how many clothes to put on me.  The problem is that from 42-50sih you hike really hard going up from 6,500 to a little over 10k and in the middle of the night.  Working hard over rocks that are big enough I need my arms to hoist me up in places so I create a lot of heat. There is no drop bag in this section, and the aid station is at mile 52 and is flattish enough that in those two miles you can get hypothermic really fast-this is exactly what happens to sage Canaday in this section, he ran in just a light jacket and was warm until just a few miles from the aid station… got cold… and dropped.
I put up little resistance as they dressed me like Randy from the Christmas Story” I can’t put my arms down.” I of course took it all off as I powered up fish creek falls until mile 50 as the moisture froze on the plants around me, all of my clothes went right back on.  I had on heavy winter tights that are wind proof over my quads, over that a down skirt, and then my puffy and a hat and mittens.  Unlike last year when I got into that aid station shaking so violently I couldn’t put on clothes, I waddled in nice and warm, grabbing some broth and an orange, leaving behind several very cold and nauseated runners. This is mile 52 and 10,100 feet and people were feeling the elevation, effort and cold.

Me? or Randy from a Christmas Story all bundled up.

mile 52-57 roll uphill to a little over 10,500.  This is the aid station that I sat at last year for 40 minutes trying to gather my brain and get warmed up. No problems this year, aside from not wanting to eat at all from mile 53-65 (all at higher altitude). Again I saw no one on this section.
mile 57-65.5 is all downhill. Though it was supposed to be 8 miles, it was much closer to 10 (the race works out to 105 miles and this was where the mileage gets stretched) I would say I had a bit of a low moment for those two miles where I thought the aid station should have been-but not bad.  I tried to eat when I saw Drew at 65.5 but didn’t get much down.  I knew the sun would start to rise soon and I was again taking off layers, but we plunge down to a low section where a lot of the cold air sits, so I didn’t want to really take everything off.  Just a few minutes from mile 70+ I ran into RIngo and Gumbi moving well.  This is another out and back so I knew they were less than 15 minutes ahead of me… but I needed to take off my clothes and change into warm weather pants because the next section was an exposed uphill section that got HOT!

Ringo and Gumbi just 15 minutes ahead!

Lucky for Ringo I took my time at that station- but in the back of my head I was still hunting them, looking for them around each corner as we hiked back up to 10,600 and mile 83.  From mile 83 to mile 100 the course weaves through forest and fields up above 10,500 on single track.  I was so focused going uphill for those 15 or so miles in the heat that I didn’t drink much and arrived really dehydrated.  Not sunburned though, I forgot my hat but had chapstick with SPF 30–so I might have rubbed that stick all over my face…mmm cherry scented face.
Monica rejoined me in this aid station. I offered that we were both going to struggle in the high altitude since we were both from sea level and that maybe working together we would feel better.  So from 83-90+ we hiked, gasped for air, and shared running stories.  Somewhere around here was when I started coughing up, what I assume to be, was part of my lungs..pinkish foam.  Many of the other runners were having the same problem, coming into the aid stations hoarse from the dry very dusty thin air. I told myself not to worry, only a dozen more miles to go, and lung cells regenerate pretty quickly!
Somewhere after this aid station..mile 93 or so I let Monica go. My coughing was getting worse and I was finally really slowing down-a lot.  My head hurt, my chest hurt, I was wheezing, oh and still wasn’t drinking.  For the first time in a race my hands were SO swollen.  This is also where the 50 mile racers merge onto the course with us and start passing us.  A bit disheartening but they were all nice and encouraging.  I got some water from one runner who looked at my hands and said –you are so dehydrated.  A 27 hour finish slipped away, a 28 hour finish did as well. I sat a bit gasping for air and allowing a second or two to feel bad for myself before getting back up and hiking uphill again.  Before this race I decided it was time to practice more mental aspects of racing 100 miles.  I found a good meditation guide that teaches to just clear your mind, don’t allow thoughts to hang around because it takes effort to continue positive self talk, and often its a fight to keep negative thoughts out so this was really the first time I actually let myself think and feel bad.
 Finally around mile 98 the last aid station at 10,600 feet came into view.  I collapsed into a chair finally there and asked for some tailwind.  Something I have never drank but I was depleted.  I got a bowl of it from a volunteer and downed it, as I eyed my watch. Shit- I had 50 minutes to make it the last 6.5 miles downhill to get a buckle.

Go get it!

The official cut off time for everyone is 36 hours-32 for the Hares, and 30 for hares that want a buckle and there was NO WAY I was going home without a damn buckle again!!!! (Last year I didn’t dress warm enough and dropped at mile 70 unable to warm up.)  I took a deep breath and told myself that the pain of running downhill for 6+ miles on a paved road would soon be forgotten once I had that buckle in my hands!
I put my head down and ran!! I passed Monica who had left me 6 miles earlier, I passed tortoises, I passed 50 milers..down down down down…I don’t need those quads..right?  I passed one tortoise who looked at me, then realizing I was a hare he looked at his watch and called…” yea you had better run… you can make it, but it will be by the skin of your teeth!”
The wide road turned into single track and I started to wonder where the damn finish line was!? You really couldn’t see it until the last few hundred yards, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how much farther, I had less than 10 minutes.  Suddenly I came out into a field and saw Gumbi and Ringo… with a slap on the back I passed him calling out “see you at the finish.”
The watch I had on was new, and too big and as I ran downhill it was bothering me a lot so I took it off and stuffed it into a pocket, so I thought I only had seconds left… and picked up the pace, driving my knees harder.  I saw ET, heard Gyro and saw the finish line.

Mile 105 with the finish line in sight!

There is an official hugger at the finish line-this wonderfully excited volunteer that coordinates much of the race… she opened her arms and said “you got this, right here”…I basically leaped into her open arms and let my legs turn to jelly. I had less than 5 minutes to spare.  Fred, one of the CO-RDs remembered me from last year….I mean how many women from NC sign up for the Hare division of that race….I will tell you, according to him- only me so far.
He asked how I felt to get the sub 30 buckle and all I could think to say was, “so great that I’m going to puke,’. Ha (I held it in for another 3 hours or so though). Those who know me know I am great for post race spewage
I didn’t get to see Ringo finish, as I needed Drew to help me walk around after.  We mostly just went back to the room and after rinsing off 105 miles of sweat dust, and probably drool 😉 I very happily passed out, not to wake until 5 am the next morning.
Thank you so much ET, Gyro, Drew and Gumbi!  I am so glad you all were there, as well as your lucky crew pants ET! I wouldn’t have made it under the cut off with out you wearing them! 😉 You guys took such great care of me before, during and after!! I am so lucky!
Also thanks so much to Carson Footwear ( http://carsonfootwear.com/ )  Orange Mud and Balanced Movement for supporting my racing! http://www.orangemud.com/
I finished in 29:56 107th overall of 203 finishers
A total of 121 dropped
Ringo finished 166th in 33:58, winning a spot for next year!

Me and Ringo with our buckles, fantastic husband photobomb!

And though I conquered that beast, or bunny, deep down I still want to come back and better my time, I know I can!
I would absolutely recommend this race to anyone.  Its a great challenge, its the perfect time of year when the aspen trees start to turn.  The RDs and Volunteer coordinator really put their hearts into it, and most of the money raised by this event all goes to different local charities, which is really great!
Its super easy for crew because you basically run into and out of town so your crew doesn’t need to travel very far at all leaving plenty of time for their self care, and naps even.
Steamboat is a fun mountain town, I would also suggest post race that you visit the natural hot springs for a soak after.  They have hot and cold pools which is great to get your circulation going again.
Hope you enjoyed my little race report… hop on friends!

Sub 30 buckle, YES!