Pigeon and had the pleasure of having Miss P and Not Chris join us (at least for the start) of our WS Training Run adventure. Pigeon and I always go into this run looking to create some laughter and enjoy the day on some of our favorite trails.
This year, Not Chris wanted to join us as he is quickly getting the ultra bug after his run at Ruck a Chuck back in March. He was totally smitten with all things Western States before having even stepped foot into the Canyons … this was his first time running in the Western States Canyons and they did not disappoint!
With our non-drought very wet winter, the start of the training run had to be altered quite a bit to deal with the still heavy snow residing at Robinson Flat.
We were lucky enough to get a ride from Not Chris’s lovely wife so as to avoid taking the bus from Foresthill (with 300 other amazing runners). This made our start a tad bit easier as we had to really navigate over some heavy snow covered areas.
We basically had to run an extra 4 miles because the car couldn’t even make it to the Robinson Flat camp ground starting area. We just accepted it and did our best not to fall down. I think in total, we probably ran about 7 or 8 miles on snow before actually getting to the Western States Trail (we had to run a side route because the snow was so bad).
Once we were on dirt though, we started to get into a groove. I felt a little bad for Not Chris because of our detour at the start, he missed all the amazing views including Pucker Point. I guess he’ll just have to join us again next year! 😉
As usual, I had a little tummy trouble at the start. I am not sure what it is about this training run but I struggle for the first few miles every single year! Ah well. Luckily I am used to it by now and I know that it eventually sorts itself out and truth be told, it isn’t enough for me to lose any excitement about this day.
There were these giant pine cones at the start of the trail (see above photo) and my kids are obsessed with collecting them. I snapped this pic to send to them. I got scolded for not carrying this thing the entire day. 🙂
The four us just ran and chatted most of the time. Easing into the day, trying to find our groove. Pigeon and I shared past stories from our previous runs with Miss P and Not Chris.
Soon we hit the descent down towards Swinging Bridge. Miss P and Not Chris enjoyed this section and took off. I was content to just go easy and enjoy my day.
We regrouped at Swinging Bridge and introduced Not Chris to the infamous Devil’s Thumb!
As we started our climb, a lot of the elite runners from the bus had caught us and were beginning to pass us on our way up the Thumb which is always pretty cool.
Not Chris took off. I was a little worried about him going up and out too fast. I had warned him that there are 36 switch backs to Devil’s Thumb. I love this climb, I always have. It was also beginning to get warm which can really make this climb harder the higher up you get. I eventually lost sight of Not Chris.
When I made it to the top of Devil’s I didn’t see Not Chris. I had assumed that he had followed Miss P to the aid-station which wasn’t too far off and that he must have been in need of fuel after that climb. I was bummed he wasn’t at the top though because I wanted to make sure that he actually SAW the thumb rock, the reason this climb is named what it is. I am a nerd like that. 🙂 Sadly, he missed the rock but he was in need of fuel so I get it. Again, I guess we’ll have to take him back out there some day. 🙂
I took a seat at the top of Devil’s and waited for Pigeon to arrive. As I sat there, Magda Boulet reached the top, smiled at me and asked if I was “ok” and if I needed anything. Super sweet! I assured her that I was fine and that I was just waiting for a friend. I LOVE how sweet all ultra runners are, no matter their level or status. Magda is one runner who I adore and follow. I hope she kicks butt at States this year!
Pigeon and I found Not Chris at the Pump aid-station with cheeks full of food like a squirrel! 🙂 He had a smile on his face and I think was having one helluva day so far.
We left the aid-station and made our way down to the bottom of El Dorado Canyon, another fun downhill section. I love this section of trail and Pigeon knows it. During our Canyons 100k training runs, I would blow this section up and today was no exception. I took off and caught up to Not Chris and Miss P.
At the bottom, we dunked our bandannas and hats in the cold river to tried to cool off before the climb up to Michigan Bluff.
Not Chris and I climbed up to Michigan Bluff together. We were in a pack with some guys just making conversation. Not Chris moved from in front of me to behind me. About two minutes later I hear, “I need a pep talk.” 🙂
He had hit his wall as so many others have on this very climb. Three miles up is tough in the heat. Luckily we had just reached a clearing that gave us the most spectacular view.
I made him stop, “Look at that. Not many people in this world will see this view. Just soak it in. We’re in no rush.”
We made it to Michigan Bluff and made a beeline for the aid-station.
I knew Pigeon would understand where we were when she crested the hill off the trail. Not Chris needed some fuel. I needed a refill and we were both eager to stand in some shade after that climb.
After the aid-station, we regrouped and then made our way down the road. We were all in good spirits knowing that we had about 6 miles left on the day. I knew the next section was pretty sunny and less exciting since it’s just a dirt road essentially. The real fun would not begin until we started the descent down Volcano and hit the creek crossing.
This is the same creek crossing from my Canyons 100k run four weeks earlier. It was way less crowded and the water way less strong. The two ropes were still there though.
Not Chris and I were busy dunking ourselves into the cool creek when Pigeon made her way down. Nothing like a refreshing stream to cool you off before you climb out of another canyon!
I forgot just how much trail there was from the crossing until we hit Bath Road. I think Not Chris was expecting to get out of the stream and hit the road for our final climb. Oops. 🙂
I could sense he was tired but his adrenaline and excitement was prevailing. We waited for Pigeon at the gate and we all hiked up Bath Road together.
We ran together down Foresthill Road until we reached the school and had our wristband’s officially cut. We were done! Not Chris had not only run his very first Western States Training Run, he had also just ran 33 miles for the first time for FUN in a non-race situation! 🙂 He had only run one 50k prior to this day (Ruck-A-Chuck – which is a race on the other portion of the WS Trail). He’s official now, he’s one of us. Running 33 miles for the pure the fun of it? Yup, he’s smitten.
No matter what I do or what I run prior to this weekend each year, whether it was Quicksilver 100k last year, or Canyons 100k this year – I somehow find the energy and enthusiasm to still enjoy this day.
There is just something so innately special and magical about this trail, about this race. I am looking forward to June 24th and watching many friends have their adventures, their dreams, their goals unfold in 24 to 30 hours at The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.
The Tuesday after I finished Canyons, I hopped on a plane and flew to D.C. for my training. The plane ride left me with time to sit and recap the race in my head with the intentions of blogging while I was there. It happened, eventually (read my race report here).
Most of my time in D.C. however was spent soaking up SO MUCH information and meeting 25 of the loveliest attendees ever. Over 90 people had applied and 26 were selected. We had someone from Ireland and someone from China! It was amazing and to sit in a room with that many like-mined, empowered and energized people was unbelievable. Everyone was eager to learn and our instructors were hands-down some of the most intelligent and kindhearted people on Earth.
Every morning, I would leave my hotel and walk the .4 of a mile to PCRM and the Barnard Medical Center. The weather was gorgeous and the walk was easy. Each morning they provided us with a plant-based breakfast! It was delicious.
PCRM is the only nonprofit organization in the country that provides nutrition and cooking classes that focus on disease prevention and survival. It is 100% evidence based. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. Neal Barnard and has been growing and educating ever since.
Dr. Barnard spoke on our very first day. He truly has a heart of gold and a passion for animal rights and health.
In addition to his talk, we had some lectures on administrative stuff, a full-on cooking demonstration and a panel discussion where we were free to ask four PCRM dietitians anything we wanted! The last class of the first day however, was one of my most favorite!
The last class was called, Teaching for Understanding: What to say and how to say it so that your students truly learn. It was phenomenal! By full admission, I am a terrible public speaker so I am always looking for ways to improve. This class gave us plenty to think about and techniques to implement when we are conducting classes. I loved it.
The second day started even earlier than the first and once again, a full breakfast was provided.
The second day of the training consisted of an introduction into the many different classes we will be allowed to teach.
There is a curriculum for Cancer (Food for Life: Cancer Project – Acquire knowledge about the link between diet and cancer) and one for Diabetes (Food for Life: Diabetes Initiative – Learn more about the benefits of a plant-based nutrition approach for diabetes and prevention) in addition to so many more!
You get the idea … the possibilities and topics to teach are plentiful and best of all life saving.
We also had to perform our very own cooking demonstration in front of the group and our instructors. Afterwards, we were critiqued and given ways to improve or enhance our class.
Not going to lie, that was a little nerve wracking but I think it was imperative to give us a sense of what we will be doing when we return home.
The group at PCRM thought of everything. They answered our questions and they helped us navigate the endless opportunities we might be able to find using our new found skills and tools.
PCRM gets nothing in return mind you. Their only hope is that we, as Food for Life instructors go forth and teach! The more people we can reach across the world, the better.
With over one million people being diagnosed with cancer and 25 million people being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in the United States each year – The Food for Life program is an innovative approach to a medical challenge.
So what is my plan? What is my agenda now that I am a Food for Life Instructor? Well for starters, I still have to study all the books, curriculum and information we received while at the training. I do have some ideas rolling around in my head though. I think to start, I’ll do a pilot program with a small group just so that I can get my “feet wet” and my materials ready.
Regardless, the fire has been lit and I am eager to get teaching! There is so much power behind food. There is no denying that it directly correlates to our health and well being. I think everyone knows and understands this but I also think, they could use a friend … a helping hand … a TEACHER to help them traverse what may seem like a difficult road ahead. I hope to be that person.
If I had listened to all the signs the Universe was throwing at me, this race should never have happened.
Last year when I ran the Quicksilver 100k, I promised myself that I would run another 100k and push myself just a little bit harder. I finished Quicksilver with a lot left in my tank. I wanted another shot at a 100k, not just as a Western States Qualifier (though that was a bonus), but to prove to myself that I could run and run a little bit stronger.
However, I quickly realized that once training for Canyons started, I was struggling. A small bit of running-burnout combined with the disappearance of my morning running crew (injuries and life happened – not their fault) and the onset of one of the wettest coldest winters we’ve had in a while, I was left trying to motivate myself to run at 4:30 am on weekdays in the pouring rain all alone.
So for the first time ever, I reached out and found myself a coach. I have never had a running coach before. Not one that gave me one on one attention and wrote a plan designed specifically for me and my busy family life.
I admit, it was definitely a hard adjustment for me at first. As much as I really liked not having to “plan” my runs each day … I had to trust that HIS plan was better than MINE. I’ve had a fairly successful trail running career thus far, and giving up (what seemed like) total control, was hard for me. I had to have faith that what he designed, would work. Trust me, there were times I questioned it and emailed him asking him “why” or “when” I can do certain things. He was awesome. Always responding instantly and calming my nerves, I just kept doing what he told me to do.
So when I rolled my ankle pretty severely on the last long run, two weeks out from race day, I panicked. Pigeon and I had been pounding out the miles in the canyons every single weekend for what seemed like forever. One weekend it was super hot. The very next weekend it snowed! And it hailed. And it snowed some more!
We never quite reached the mileage we intended each weekend because of either the weather or because the trails were in terrible condition due to all the mud slides and trees that were down.
On top of all of that, I had some major work stuff happening AND Peanut and Squeaker started their swim season. OH! And The Peanut also turned 9 and Jersey Dad came out for a visit. My life was a train running at full speed and I really didn’t see any signs of it slowing down.
So when I rolled my ankle, I quickly emailed my miracle worker and friend at Elite Spinal and Sports Care. Dr. Lau is used to my emails by now and we have known each other well before kids came into our lives. He got me in and fixed me up good as new.
Then, the Sunday before race day, my back went out. Like really out. Spasms and stuff. I could barely walk at the Peanut’s birthday shindig let alone think about running.
Again, I reached out to Dr. Lau and told him what was going on. I assured him that I had done NOTHING to warrant the pain. So on a random evening, I told the girls they were not going to swim practice and I dragged them and Jersey Dad to my emergency appointment in hopes that 4 days before I was to toe the line, Dr. Lau could do something to help me.
When the Friday before the race arrived, I was feeling about 80% of normal. Definitely not 100%. Luckily I was able to work from home that day and I had planned to drive up to Auburn for packet pick up. Instead, the morning started out with two massive screws in my car tire. Awesome.
Despite all the obstacles and signs, I was still hell bent on starting the race. Internally, I accepted that my day might not unfold as I wanted. That the training I have put forth all season, might be for nothing if my body didn’t cooperate.
I packed my drop bags, set out my gear and went to bed early on Friday evening unsure of what the next day would bring.
The race started at 5:30 am at the old Foresthill Elementary School. I woke up at 2:00 am without an alarm. I was anxious. My friend Stonegate had offered to take me to the start of the race which was super nice considering she had to be at my house at 3:15 am.
However, when 3:15 arrived .. then 3:20 and then 3:25 and Stonegate wasn’t there and wasn’t answering my texts, I started to panic a little. I love Stonegate she is an amazing friend and one of the things we have in common, is that we’re always on time … or early, especially for races. I had no other choice but to jump into action and shuffle some cars and my gear around so that I could drive myself to the start. As it turns out, Stonegate didn’t hear her alarm. She felt terrible and still feels terrible, despite that I keep telling her it is okay and that it really makes for great blog material. 🙂
That little adrenaline rush of panic quickly turned into ease as I realized driving myself and listening to some pump up music, was just what I needed after all. I got to the start in plenty of time, parked near Pigeon and waited.
When 5:30 neared, Pigeon and I gathered at the starting line. I had quickly filled her in on all the drama I had faced that week and the status of my back. I told her that I was hoping to stick with her the first half and see how things go.
For this race, the 50k and 100k runners start at the same time. I have to say, that’s my only complaint with this race. The race is amazing, the volunteers are awesome but the crowds and conga-lines on these narrow trails, really turned me off.
I started with a mini-headlamp as the sun had not fully come up yet. Pigeon and I settled into a nice pace. The race starts out on the pavement and then you turn right and make the descent down towards Volcano Creek. It wasn’t that cold either. The day was expected to heat up quite fast. I started in a tank top and arm sleeves which I took off pretty quick.
As soon as we hit the dirt, the conga-lines started. We’d been warned that the Volcano Creek crossing was strong and that they had set up two ropes to help us cross as well as provided course marshals to assist us.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the crossing wasn’t as “raging” as I had expected. It came up to my knees but that was the start of us runners having wet feet … something that would last almost the entire day.
The first aid-station was Michigan Bluff (Mile 6.2). We knew that we’d see Miss P and Pearls volunteering there as well. I tried to stop and use the porta-potty here but the line was too long and Pigeon gave me that look like “Dude, we can’t wait.” So we passed on any fuel and headed down toward El Dorado Creek.
This down section is pretty fun. You can really pick up the pace here and make up time because it is almost 3 miles of total downhill. However, we were stuck running behind a line of runners so you are sort of left at whatever pace the lead runner is setting.
When we got to the bottom, I had to dip off the trail and take care of mother nature. Pigeon just continued on.
The El Dorado Creek aid-station (Mile 9.0) was hopping. I didn’t grab anything here but I did pull some things out of my pack to eat on the long brutal climb out.
I wanted to catch up to Pigeon so I ran up for a bit passing runners. Finally I saw her and I settled into a nice hike. I noticed that I was feeling okay. My breathing was better and my back felt good. I love climbing and have had some really good moments on this exact climb during training.
When we reached the top Pigeon and I reconnected. We both felt fine. We started running.
The next aid-station was The Pump (Mile 13.5) and they had huge blow up unicorns and all kinds of fun stuff here. The volunteers were awesome and were quick to help you refill whatever you needed.
I refilled my water bottle and soon Pigeon and I were headed towards Devil’s Thumb. I have to say, the volunteers that came out and cleaned up the trails the weekend prior did an amazing job. The trails were not nearly as torn up as they had been during training. A lot of the downed trees had been cleared.
When I reached the top of Devil’s Thumb I was excited. I settled in with a group of guys who were just bombing the downhill. My friend Roger was in this group and he always makes things fun. The pace felt great to me so I stuck with it. It was frustrating here because you had lots of runners climbing out so you were constantly moving to the side or stopping to let them pass. The trail isn’t that wide mind you, so often times you’re standing in a poison oak bush letting someone by.
On the switchbacks I couldn’t see Pigeon but I knew she had to be close. Finally we reached the bottom of the Thumb and had to grab a bracelet as proof that we went all way down. Then, we turned right around and started climbing back out. Devil’s Thumb has 36 switch backs. It’s a brutal climb and it was definitely starting to get warm.
I saw Pigeon on the turn around, she was not far behind me at all. I just put one foot in front of the other and power climbed my way out.
When I reached the top, I was eager to get to the aid-station at The Pump again (Mile 18.5). I was hot and I wanted something salty. I figured I’d see Pigeon when she made it there herself. However, I never did see her again again until much later in the race.
I grabbed what I needed at The Pump and started walking out. Then I started running. Despite the climbing I had done, I felt pretty good and I was looking forward to the descent down to El Dorado Creek. I’d been killing this section in training lately and I was eager to take off the brakes and just let gravity take me down.
At the bottom of El Dorado Creek (Mile 23.0) I didn’t stay long. I grabbed something to drink and then power hiked as I ate. Once again, I found myself in a line of guys all climbing about the same pace.
When I reached Michigan Bluff Aid-Station (Mile 25.8) I said “hi” to Miss P and Pearls again. I refilled on some stuff and started out. It was definitely getting hot out and I couldn’t wait to revisit that creek crossing again to cool off.
The next aid-station is back at Foresthill, where we started (Mile 32.0). I ran into Diane Hanes from the Folsom Lake Trail Running Series here. Diane asked, “Where is your crew?” I just said, “I don’t have one! But I have a drop bag!” She found my drop bag and helped me refill my pack. I noticed that I had arrived at that aid-station slightly before my predicted arrival time which made me feel good.
I barely spent more than 5 minutes there and was back out running. The second half of the race was a section I had not done since I had run Ruck-A-Chuck back in March.
This section of the course was for 100k runners only so the amount of traffic on these trails was minimal. In fact, I often found myself alone much of this section.
At one point, I came to a pretty heavy flowing stream crossing. I stepped in and relished in the cold water for a minute. Taking my bandanna, I dunked it in the water. THEN! I had an amazing idea, WHY NOT DUNK MY HAT!? So bent down to dunk my hat in the icy cold water when all of a sudden, my foot slipped! And as if it was in slow motion I saw my whole body go UP and then come down. I was flat on my back in the middle of this heavy flow of water. The only thing sticking out of the water was my head! I died laughing and there was NO ONE around to witness it. I knew Pigeon would have died laughing at me. 🙂
I got up and kept running.
Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 35.5) – such a sweet and friendly aid-station. Again, I didn’t stay long. The one thought that kept entering my mind during this whole run was that I would have to come back on these same trails later to get to the finish. That was a mental hurdle of sorts.
Cal 2 Aid-Station (Mile 40.5) I knew was the last aid-station before the turn around and the longest between stretches (7 miles to the next aid). I also knew that it had a decent down hill portion to it combined with a nice gnarly climb and some sandy trails.
By the time I was about 3 miles from the turn around spot and the Rucky Chucky Aid-Station (Mile 47.8) I had run out of water in my pack. I still had this yucky tasting warm water in my water bottle if things got desperate.
When the single track dumps you out onto the fire road, I thought the aid-station would never come. Every runner I passed seemed to tell me it was “one mile out still.” I was anxious to get there because Stonegate promised to be there with some ice (I was so thirsty!).
True to her word, she was there with ice and a plethora of fresh cold beverages for me to choose from. She made me laugh and that is what I needed I think. Just a little boost of energy. Someone to tell me that I was doing a ‘good job’ and to keep going.
I was probably there maybe 5 minutes? Back out on the fire road I went, ready to finish this thing. On my way out, I ran into Pigeon. She looked okay and said she was ‘fine’ but she didn’t have her usual spark. I knew she didn’t want to bring me down by telling me she wasn’t feeling well. As it turns out, she dropped from stomach issues when she got to Rucky Chucky (which was an aid-station full of carnage).
I decided the only way to finish this was to keep moving. Run any flats that I could, all the downs and keep moving firmly on the up hills.
When I reached the long climb to Cal 2 (Mile 55.1) I was overcome with a sense of strength. I hiked that climb like it was nothing. I stopped at the aid-station quickly for a drink and then headed back out. I wasted no time. I knew in my head that I only had 8.5 miles at this point until I was done with this beast.
The section between Cal 2 and Cal 1 is something of a miracle for me. I am not sure what happened or what occurred exactly, but I was overcome with a surge of energy. I started running. Not just shuffling, but actually running. I was doing some 8:30/9:00 minute miles here. What the heck?!
I passed some guys and as one guy moved to the side he said, “Holy crap! You are running really strong right now! Wow!” I just told him that I was “ready to be done” and he said, “So am I but I can’t get my legs to do what yours are doing! You go!”
That just fueled my fire. I kept going. It was getting darker by the minute but I waited until the very last glimpse of light before I put my headlamp on. I’ve never truly run “at night” … I have run in the dark with friends, but never “in a race” so to speak.
Eyes straight forward. Any rustling to the side of me I ignored and attributed as a squirrel. 🙂
I wanted, I needed to get to the Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 60.1). The bonus of running at night, is that you can see the aid-station lights through the trees so you can have a sense of hope that they are near.
When I got there, I simply dumped out all of the trash in my pack and left. 3.5 miles to finish. I could do this! I knew I had cell coverage here so on my hike out, I texted Vans who had been chilling with Squeaker at the finish line since earlier that evening.
I told him that I was about 3.5 miles from the finish but that it was an uphill climb to get there. I texted Stonegate who immediately texted me back with some pump up kick a$$ motivation.
Then, I put my phone away and got to work climbing. No stopping. No slow moving. Hike girl! Just hike!
I passed a few runners on my way out. When I reached the pavement, I knew I was done. I knew that I had enough in my tank to get to me to that finish line. I started to run and I encouraged the guy who I had been chatting with to join me. He said, “No thanks. I am going to hike this one in.” Fair enough, it had been a long day. I said my goodbye and I ran!
The road through town was dark, very dark. I saw the finish up ahead. I actually had to ask for directions because I wasn’t sure where the arch was exactly. I heard Vans say, “That’s her! That’s her!”
I crossed that finish line and threw up a fist-pump! I effing did it! And I finished well under the time I had expected to finish. I was just over 16 hours which was pretty sweet in my book, especially after the recent weeks that I have had.
What a day and what a race. When I finished, I felt good. I mean I was tired, but I was able to walk and change and heck, I had to even drive myself home! 🙂
I am normally a person who listens to all the signs the Universe sends out. I truly believe things happen in life for a reason. Despite all the obstacles I faced leading up to this race, I think I was tested for a reason. They weren’t signs to deter me from starting, they were signs to see if I was tough enough to endure what is considered one helluva difficult race. 63.6 miles and over 15,000 feet of elevation on hot terrain.
I couldn’t have done so without the support of my coach, my friends, my running partners and my family. I think Vans may have been a little afraid of what the day might turn into based on how I had been feeling, but he remained my biggest supporter, my strongest friend and without him, I am not sure I would have finished.
A quick side note, that he’ll kill me for sharing, but Vans stuck TONS of little personalized notes of encouragement and jokes throughout my pack. Whenever I went into a pocket, I’d find a new note. They were stuck in my drop bags, my pack and even in some of my food pouches! 🙂 That alone, gave me more energy than I think he realizes.
I truly am a lucky girl. I am looking forward to some R&R now. My calendar isn’t empty by any stretch but what I do have on there, is for pure enjoyment only. I’ve missed running trails for fun. I’ve missed running and exploring and soaking up nature without an agenda, a goal, a specified mileage.
I want to run free of obligations. I want to run and laugh with friends and support those who are gearing up for bigger and better things. For me, I am content to just be.
I really enjoy STR events because they are fun, low-key, well marked races and they typically really challenge you (which I like) and they often are on trails that you wouldn’t normally find yourself on, which I also really like.
The Ruck a Chuck 50k is entirely on the Western States trail, which is pretty awesome in and of itself.
First let me start off by saying, I was bad blogger this race. I took only one photo the entire day! So all photos in this recap are from STR and Chasqui Runner (THANK YOU!) and from Not Chris.
The day started with my Garmin dying. I’ve been having charging issues and needless to say, it was going to be a Timex kind of day for me. Which is fine, it was just kind of a bummer to not have my mileage, pace or elevation at the end of this race.
Not Chris however did have his Garmin and he was running his very first 50k! He’s been running well and if we’re honest, he really didn’t officially even “train” for this race, he just kept his mileage up. He’s a stud.
The parking at Driver’s Flat is limited so Pigeon and I carpooled to the start and were able to score a spot and chill.
The weather was warmer and dry and having remembered last year how humid it was out there, I started this year in a tank top. So glad that I did.
Love seeing so many familiar faces at these races. Lots of good people. I even met a few people that I “know” from social media only and that was super cool.
Paulo gathered us at the starting arch, gave us some final instructions and then passed the megaphone off to a friend to count us down.
We were off and running the 3 miles down the road to the river. Last year I remember really blowing this section up, yelling at myself and then stopping to use the restroom at the bottom as a way to calm myself down.
This year we flew down (Not Chris said we ran a sub 8) but it didn’t feel like we were flying super fast. I did tell Not Chris that we’d have to stop at the restroom at the bottom. I didn’t share with him yet that I’ve been battling an unsettled tummy for the last two days. I hated to stop but it was unavoidable.
Our plan was to stick together all day. His main goal was to finish feeling really good and to fuel better than he did at FOURmidable. My goal was to not race. I was supposed to “jog” nice and easy – Not Chris’s job was to make sure I did that.
After our bathroom stop we continued on. I noticed that for some reason, it was hard for me to breathe. The trees and flowers have really been blooming lately and man, have my allergies felt it. It felt like I only had one working lung instead of two.
Not Chris was LOVING the views and the raging river on our right. He was mesmerized by it all. I love when people get to see new trails for the first time.
We settled into a run and then hit the single track section and so the climbing began.
The course is very runnable. The trails were much clearer (the over grown grass section was gone) but in some sections, it seems the rocks have multiplied.
I tried to just focused on running and hiking. My lungs took a while to come to life but they did eventually. My stomach however, was always just one step away from being a problem.
Not Chris and I bypassed the first aid-station (mile 2.7) and the next one wasn’t for another 7.5 miles. We chatted along the way, having a good time and enjoying the day.
Everything was so green and pretty! The flowers were in bloom and the ticks were out. That was the one thing that I was super nervous about but hey, that’s mother nature for ya!
When we made it to the Cal 2 aid-station (mile 10.2) we couldn’t help but laugh. They were the happiest bunch of volunteers! The aid-station was fully stocked with everything you could need (including beer and shots) and they were cracking jokes. I almost didn’t want to leave … Not Chris I think was overwhelmed as he took some time at this aid-station. 🙂
On our way to Cal 1 we ran into a fellow co-worker of ours, Brad Rogers. The three of us chatted for a bit about work and running. Then I ran into Shavi! Shavi and I have never really met but we have many mutual friends so I said “hi” and introduced myself.
The down into Cal 1 (mile 14.6) is pretty steep but I knew that once we reached the bottom, aid would be close. Last year the race was shortened due to a rain storm and the aid-station was our turn-around. THIS year, we had to run past the aid-station a mile, grab a wrist band and return to the aid-station.
Not Chris and I barely stopped at the aid-station. As we were reaching the turn-around spot, we ran into lots of friends on their return. It was such an energy boost with lots of whooping and hollering.
Not Chris let out a bit “WHOO HOO” when we reached the bucket holding our wrist bands. We grabbed ours and headed back, eager to get to the Cal 1 aid-station (mile 16.6).
Once through we started our climb out. The section leading back is a gorgeous single track that’s super runnable and boy did we run! Last year this was the section where I ran into my Tommy Lee Jones friend Roger. Funny enough, I ran into Roger within the first 3 miles or so during this race and he laughed remembering last year’s brutal run and how he helped me push to score a nice finish. This time I said, “Don’t even think about it Roger!” 🙂
At one point, I think I was hallucinating as I told Not Chris that I saw the Cal 2 aid-station through the trees. Not sure what the heck I saw but it sure wasn’t the aid-station! 🙂
When we finally did come up on Cal 2 (mile 21) I was looking forward to the sections ahead. The descent out of Cal 2 is super fun. A switch back down that can really give you a boost of energy. Before we left the aid-station though, we laughed with the volunteers again. They were a riot, they told us to give them a good “YELP” review. 🙂
Not Chris took the lead and down we flew. I was no where near the speed I was last year as my ankle (that I tweaked the weekend prior) was starting to bark at me, a lot. Still, I think we ran down pretty well, excited to be on our way home.
Not Chris was thrilled because he ran his farthest distance ever on this down hill. Followed by his first ever marathon distance when we hit 26.2.
At one point on our way back we passed a guy on the trail and he said, “Trailmomma?!” and I turned and said, “Yea!” He said, “Hi!” So whoever that was (I missed the name on your bib), you totally made my day! 🙂 It also made Not Chris laugh … “Did that guy just call you Trailmomma?” 🙂 I hope you had a great race too!
When we hit the fire road that runs along the river, I was feeling a little bit better tummy-wise (though still bloated – started the race that way but what are you gonna do?) but I was also having some swelling issues. My fingers had started swelling as I was starting to retain water. I stopped consuming anything salty and luckily, there wasn’t much farther to run. The temps were humid and it even sprinkled on us a bit but it was still warm. Warmer than I think I anticipated and ultimately was a bit behind in my hydration.
We reached the final aid-station at Gate 101 (mile 28.5) and prepared ourselves for the climb out. It’s a nice long climb up a dirt fire road. We started out hiking, neither one of us eager to run. Then, as we both tend to get, we got bored and would pick “trees” to run to. “Okay, run to that second big tree! Now, run to that tree on the left!” Do what you have to do to move.
We turned a corner and I noticed a speed sign that was just littered with bullet holes. We both were looking it, talking about it when I turned my head right and saw the arches! “Hey!!! Look! HA! Let’s go!”
The finish line totally took us by surprise! We both started running and smiling.
I saw all of Not Chris’s family off to the side and they were cheering for him. Even his dog looked like he was cheering!
Woo hoo! We crossed the finish line smiling. We both had reached our goals, but I was beyond proud of him. He has the potential to run much harder than he did and I know he will some day, but it was so nice to watch him reach his goal and to see his family there at the finish witness it too.
Another awesome 50k in the books. Thanks Single Track Running for a great event, a challenging course and a well executed race.
Thanks Not Chris for keeping me company all day. You looked strong, ran well, kept me moving and my mind off my stomach. Man, the bloating and the swelling was not fun but that is what these training runs are all about right? They make us stronger. They help us figure out what we need to work on. I’ve been super lucky the last few years to have some stellar uncomplicated runs and races. I can’t always rely on the fact that everything will be perfect, but I can rely on myself and my ability to problem solve as I go.
As it turns out, Not Chris ended up second in his age group and I ended up third in mine! Woot woot! I’ll take that. 🙂
And a shout out to my hubby Vans, as he also raced this weekend on Sunday and he also came in third at a gnarly (muddy) mountain bike race in Cool.
Overall, a great weekend. I raced Saturday morning, Vans raced Sunday morning and our girls had their swim team clinic on Sunday afternoon. Perfection.
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the fourth race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.
How can it be March already? Time sure does fly when you are having fun and boy am I having FUN! I am not even sure where to begin my excitement is so over the top right now.
So let’s start at the beginning shall we?
Depending on how long you have known me, you might not know that I have been plant-based for almost 23 years. Maybe not entirely 100% whole foods and oil-free plant-based for ALL of those 23 years, but definitely sans meat in anyway shape or form.
With that said, despite my long history of being plant-based, I still seek out information. I don’t have a degree in nutrition. I am not a doctor. If I could do things over in life, I might have gone in a different career route but I don’t regret one single day of my college education.
So despite knowing what I know, I always feel better when I can fully educate myself on the latest science behind the benefits of a plant-based diet. That’s why more often then not, you’ll find my nose in the latest book (just finished The Cheese Trap by Dr. Neal Barnard – a MUST read)…
… as well as attending a conference or taking some kind of certification to further bolster what I know deep down inside is right for the human body. I just feel more confident explaining and advising others, when I can tell them that I know what I know not just from experience, but from thoroughly studying and educating myself on the topic.
I do this because I love it. I do this because I live it. But more importantly, I do this because I want OTHERS to live it and love it too and I want them to have faith in what I am teaching them. Am I an expert? No, of course not but I am living proof that one can fully function as an ultra endurance athlete, a full-time working mom and basically a real person eating a 100% plant-based oil-free diet. I am not weak. I am not wasting away from a protein deficiency.
Way back in September I started the grueling application process. Application, resume, references, videos … followed by phone interviews and back ground checks etc. PCRM only selects 25-30 people a year (globally) to attend (100 or so apply) and this year, I am one of few selected!
This May, I will fly to Washington D.C. for an intensive 3 day training at PCRM. They will teach us everything that we need to know (8 different kinds of curriculum) so that we can come back and in turn, educate others. 🙂
You may wonder, “What does she do for a living? This must be part of her job then.” Well, the answer to that is no and now, yes … stay with me here.
My full-time job is not in wellness. Not one bit. I do all this plant-based stuff (like my cooking demos) because I like to do it and want to do it.
Fast forward to early February wherein my employer’s CEO gave a speech in which he stressed that he wanted to focus on his wellness and the wellness of our company.
His message had great intentions and excited a lot of people but they didn’t sit well with me. So I opened my big plant-based mouth and sent him a long email. Long story short, we had lunch at his request. Just the two of us, in his office and we discussed his wellness, the wellness of our company and the wellness of our country. It was a long lunch.
Just in that discussion alone, he saw my passion. He saw it and he told me, he wanted to utilize it.
So I am going to Washington, D.C. to get certified even further in Plant-Based Nutrition and Education. When I return, I can use my new certification to teach all kinds of classes AND best of all, I can use my certification to help motivate my fellow employees!
I love my company, I do, but for a very long time I have been frustrated by just how unhealthy we really are (in varying degrees). I am excited to be able to share my passion at work with those I interact with on a daily basis.
Of course I have a full plate between now and early May. Races, birthdays, swim team among other things (like further developing my YouTube Channel). Yet, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is who I am. I love being busy and I love helping others heal.