The October love is still flowing strong. This past weekend was no exception. We squeezed in a lot!
The weekend started off with the school’s Harvest Festival on Friday night. I am giving the PTA props because they made some changes to the festival and it was well done. Vans helped with some set up too.
Saturday we found ourselves at the Loving Lane event down in Sacramento. Sally Edwards, aka the Head Heart is a dear friend of ours. Her nephew Lane Edwards was in a terrible accident about two years ago and was left with a C4 spinal fracture which has left him unable to walk.
Lane is defying all odds with the help of a huge team of trainers who are supporting his efforts to be able to walk again, on his own two feet.
We attended his event to help support LovingLane.org which is enabling Lane to continue with his therapy. Check out his website www.lovinglane.org and see how you can help.
Also attending Lane’s event was Pinkhouse, our 97 (soon to be 98 in December) year old friend who contributed by doing an indoor cycling ride for Lane! How is that for inspiration!?
Sunday morning came bright and early for us after the great day we had at Loving Lane.
Coach Nikon invited Vans and myself to come out to his race AND he told us to bring our girls. He said that he and his daughter the Cheetah, would watch them while Vans and I ran. How absolutely perfect (and nice) is that?!
I ran the half marathon and Vans ran the 10k. My race started first. After a few announcements from Coach Nikon, I was off and running.
The 10k runners followed yellow and black checkered ribbons while the half marathon runners followed pink and black striped. The course was well marked with ribbons and with flour on the ground. If you got lost, you clearly were not paying any attention.
I should note that Vans does not run much if at all. He’s probably run once this entire month. Needless to say, he was pretty stoked to find out that he was the winner of the 10k.
He was also pretty tired and really did not enjoy the uphill finish! ha!
He had a blast though and loved the challenging course. Hmm, maybe I’ll sign him up for the half next year?? 😉
My race was fun. I ran hard and had a great first half. Second half, after climbing the old dam hill, I slowly started running out of steam.
There was a young(er) girl who passed me at one point and who I stayed behind the entire second half of the race. She was running super strong.
She stopped at the last aid-station, about 1.7 from the finish and I grabbed her arm and said, “Nope. Come on! This is your race. You’ve got this, let’s go!” She followed and took the lead.
She asked if I wanted to pass and I told her no, this race was hers as she had been a super strong steady runner the whole day.
We turned a corner and saw the final stretch to the finish. It was completely up hill!!! I had been running steady for the last 3 or 4 miles with no walking … seeing that hill just knocked the wind out of me!
Vans snapped that photo as I was cresting the hill. I was giving Coach Nikon the evil eye with a bit of Jersey-attitude for throwing that darn hill in at the finish. FYI – You had to run the hill because EVERYONE was watching and cheering at the top. 🙂
It was a FANTASTIC race. Such a gorgeous day and a very well run event with amazing volunteers!
We chilled at the finish line laughing and chatting with friends. We didn’t really want to leave ….
but alas, we had promised the girls a trip to Apple Hill to get pumpkins since next week is Halloween. Where is time going?!
We stopped quickly at an orchard to get pumpkins, apples and look at the all the vendor booths. Squeaker found her happy place at a booth that sold tutus and fairy wings.
Next stop, was at our dear friends winery. Our peaceful happy place. The girls just love it here and so do we.
The girls run around playing while Vans and I chat with the owners and our friends, Ann and Paul (in between masses of people visiting the winery of course).
October is always an insane month for them. It is the busiest time of year actually. Vans and I are low maintenance and happy to sit and enjoy the views. We also love to help them out when they need it, carrying boxes, empty glasses or whatever they need. It makes us happy to help.
Needless to say, I am bummed this is the last week of October. It has been one amazing month and I have been so blessed and over-joyed with all that we have been a part of this month.
Next weekend is my plant-based cooking class and I am super excited about that. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, November isn’t looking too shabby at the moment. My trail-girls, Stonegate and Burning Girl and I have a little road trip adventure coming up which should be fun!
So when sign ups came for the 2016 Headlands Trail Marathon we both jumped at the chance, not really thinking too much about our fitness level and mileage.
I have had a few longer runs under my belt recently, nothing more than 15 miles or so though. Stonegate however, had not really run much more than 7 since her 50 mile race back in April. Still, we went into this run looking for fun and adventure. Pure and simple. No expectations. No agenda.
We arrived in Mill Valley late afternoon on Friday. We bummed around town a bit checking out the shops and planning our post-race meal location for the next day. This town is absolutely adorable. We crashed at our friend Mill Valley’s place just as we had last year. We made her a plant-based dinner in exchange for two comfy beds to crash in pre-race and a nice shower post-race. We are super lucky to have her and she is one of THE nicest people I have ever met.
Saturday at 4 am my alarm started blaring and we began getting ready. We arrived at the race start pretty early. We sat in the car until race registration opened up and we could go get our bibs and use the restrooms.
The race start is steps, literally, from the ocean. The temps were breezy and cold but the salt water air was a refreshing change from the pollen and smoke filled air of the central valley.
When race time neared, we headed back down eager to get the day started. While milling about waiting for the pre-race meeting, we ran into Miss P and Pearls (named for her Pearl Izumi shoe obsession – which by the way, she’s super sad the shoe has been discontinued, but she’ll always have her nickname!).
While also hanging around, we noticed two people wearing shirts that said VEGAN in super large lettering. Of course I had to say something. I sort of walked over and said, “Awesome shirt! Woo Hoo, go vegan!” The conversation started and we all talked about being plant-based and learned that Vegan Skott, who was from Boston, was running the Headlands Hundred! Rachel, his crew, was assisting him. Super sweet people!
The race director jumped on top of the water fountain and gave us a little pre-race briefing. After that, we lined up at the start.
Different from last year, the marathon started at the same time as the 100, 50 and 75 mile races but instead of going right, we went left to tack on an extra mile to make our distance equal 26.2.
There seemed to be a lot more marathoners this year than last year. You spread out pretty easily though so there is no stepping on feet or anything but it does take a minute or two to get some space.
My legs felt a bit heavy from the start. They had not quite woken up yet and I hoped that the sensation would eventually fade otherwise it would be a super long day.
I knew it wouldn’t fade right away though because the start of this race is up hill. Like REALLY up hill, for quite a while with very little break. Like hands on hips hiking straight into the fog up hill.
The central Valley allergies were still present. My chest felt tight and my right eye started watering. Stonegate affectionately started calling it my “leaky eye.” It was annoying but we kept hiking.
A quarter of the way up, we noticed something moving on the side of the trail. None of the other runners seemed to see it. It was a coyote! It had been at the start and now, it had run up the hillside and was watching us runners run by. It blew me away that no one else seemed to notice, or maybe they didn’t care. We stopped and took photos. Of course. 🙂
Unlike last year, the fog never seemed to dissipate. Last year we were rewarded with some amazing views of the ocean from the top of the hill but not this year. This year, we saw fog and lots of it.
Still we ran the flats and hiked the up hills stopping to take goofy photos along the way.
The fog also didn’t deter us from taking photos on amazing cliffs overlooking the ocean.
When we reached the aid-station at Muir Beach, for some reason I glanced up and saw that someone had placed a plastic pig on top of this sign hanging from a lamp post.
Because I am a dork, I pointed it out to Stonegate and the whole aid-station heard and they all started laughing wondering why this plastic pig was just sitting there. I assumed it was kind of a weird treasure hunt game thing. 🙂 Only I would notice something as random as that.
After that aid-station we were back on the trails hiking back up hill. One of the things I told Vegan Skott before the race had started was that he might enjoy the many “eco-systems” that we’ll get to run thru throughout the day.
Maybe “eco-system” isn’t the right word but it is the best way to describe running from a cliff beach like setting into something that looks like it belongs in a rain forest!
These “rain-forest” sections are my absolute favorite. It brings a huge smile to our faces and often draws out an “Awe yea” or “Look at this!” from one of us.
From the rain-forest eco-system you are then thrust into an urban/city-like touristy eco-system as the trail has you running high above the freeway one minute and then down below the Golden Gate Bridge the next.
You run a paved road down until you are underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s kind of crazy. The aid-station is at the bottom and this year it was closer to the bridge. Stonegate and I stopped and added some water to our pack. This was about mile 20 here.
We got to see Vegan Skott arrive. Rachel, his crew had this mini-van that was full of plant-based food and she invited us to have anything inside that we wanted. She also offered to get us coffee to have at the finish. This girl is crazy sweet. We wished her well and told her we’d see her at the finish.
As we were making our way back up the hill, we looked to our left and did a double take. A bunch of people were gathered around this guy who appeared to have the largest gold chain and what looked like a gold roll of toilet paper hanging from it??!!! He was also rapping … about being under the Golden Gate Bridge. They were apparently shooting a rap video?! It was the craziest thing and totally unexpected!
We climbed back up the way we had come. Slower now, as it was uphill and there were still runners coming down. The trail leads you back across the windiest section of the race. Last year Stonegate almost lost her visor. This year she was prepared and she held it in her hand. The trail even has ropes on either side to keep you safe.
Back across the we went. Stonegate I think was starting to feel a bit off at this point. The girl hasn’t run more than 7 miles so I don’t blame her. I think her stomach had decided it was done. She battled some nausea the last few miles or so.
We would run and then stop to walk. She urged me to go on without and I wasn’t quite sure that was a good idea. This race wasn’t about time or performance but at the same time, sometimes when you are not feeling well, the best thing is to be left alone.
So I told her, “Let’s run some. If you need to stop again, I will just keep going. Don’t feel you have to rush to the finish or anything though.” So with about 2-ish miles to go, she stopped again and I continued on.
I have to say, those were the longest two miles ever. My legs had regained some energy somewhere along the run, I think back on the “rain-forest” trail so I had some pep in my step. I ran and cheered on all the ultra-runners who were coming back up to start their second loop of the race.
The trail along the ocean was pretty but never ending. You had the ocean to your left and a parking lot to your right. Lots of spectators were standing about which was nice as they cheered for you as you ran by.
Finally, I made the turn to the finish. There wasn’t much hoopla. A few claps from people but boy did it feel nice to be done! Stonegate finished not long after either. We’d made it, we finished the Headlands Marathon despite our lack of training.
We chatted with Miss P and Pearls for a bit. Said hi to Rachel and wished Vegan Skott well on the rest of his race. As it turns out, he didn’t finish the 100 but stopped at mile 50. Having only trained in Boston, that was one tough 100 to try and run. Kudos Skott!
Stonegate wanted to jet out of there as we had to get cleaned up, eat and hit the road so that we could be home for the last concert in the park with our families.
Overall, it was a great day. The cool temps were great compared to the warmer temperature last year but I did miss seeing the views just a bit.
I am super lucky to have Stonegate who is open to adventure on a moment’s notice. She dug deep on this one and finished. Not sure if this will be on our calendar for next year. We love visiting with Mill Valley but maybe we’ll pick a different race? Who knows, but no matter what, it’s always an adventure.
It is a road race, not a trail race which meant I had to dust off my road shoes and hoped they still fit.
The morning was a bit chaotic so I ended up leaving the house solo and letting Vans and the girls sleep in. The plan was for the Peanut and Squeaker to run the kid’s free half mile race when my race was over. There was no reason to wake them up at the crack of dawn to drive down and wait.
Having left the house much later than I wanted, I arrived at Rio Americano High School, parked the car, RAN to the race area, picked up my race bib and schwag bag and then ran BACK to the car to put that all away. I then pinned on my number and raced to the starting area with about six minutes to spare. Whew!
The race started and I just tried to find a groove. I had no expectations for this race. I haven’t been running regularly enough nor have I done any speed work. I just decided to let whatever happen, happen and hope I lived to blog about it.
Mile 1 (8:13 pace) : Okay, that’s probably about as fast as I will be able to manage today…that’s fine. Good pace.
Mile 2 (8:14 pace) : Yup. Hey look there is Allyson! She’s running strong.
Mile 3 (8:00 pace) : Okay. That’s okay. Still seems manageable. You tend to run faster when chatting with people.
Mile 4 (7:51 pace) : Hmm, that was quite a jump but it is because I am running past my old house and while I know Vans and the girls won’t be there, I always speed up here thinking I’ll see them. Settle down.
Mile 5 (7:58 pace) : Yup, slowing back down. Uh oh! What’s that? A giant turkey?! Oh geez, not again!
Mile 6 (7:49 pace) : Your pace is faster only because of the turkey, I am blaming the turkey on this one. Where did he go?
Mile 7 (7:58 pace) : Is that them!? Is that my family?! No. Man, there are a lot of tall skinny guys who have cute blonde little girls out on this course.
Mile 8 (7:47 pace) : Just hang with these two guys. You’ve been behind them all day and they are setting a nice pace. BEEP BEEP! Hey! Look! It’s Vans and the girls! They made it. Now just stay steady. Don’t go crazy.
Mile 9 (7:52 pace) : What!? My pace guys are pulling away! They must not want to be “chicked” at the last minute haha. Come on, you can do it, pick up the pace. Move past this group but keep it steady, you still have a mile to go.
Mile 10 (7:49 pace) : There they are! I see my family! They made it! Woo hoo you did it! Now don’t hurl, whatever you do, don’t hurl! Your kids are watching!
While I hadn’t set out to race this by any means, I did end up with a 17 second PR! Whoo hoo. I ended the race 6th in my age group (out of 60) and a sub 8 pace (per my Garmin – official race results have me at about 8 mins).
After my race was the kid’s 1/2 mile free fun run on the track. Both the Peanut and Squeaker showed up ready to run. Squeaker’s best friend from her old daycare also joined them and it is total cuteness from here on out!
Ready set go! They all took off!
Squeaker blew me away. She kept a great starting pace while all the other kiddos took off like a bat outta hell. Eventually, all the speedsters slowed down realizing that two laps, is kinda hard!
Even the Peanut was winded and tired but not Squeaker! That girl just kept going!
When they completed their two laps, Squeaker said, “Can we do it again!?” 🙂
And they did. She and her BFF walk/ran another two laps around the track bringing their distance to a full mile! She’s five! 🙂
It was so adorable to watch. I hope that we can get these three together again soon for another run.
The rest of Sunday was spent visiting with an old friend of Van’s and then home for a nice family afternoon.
I was pretty hungry after my race and only had a few random things in the fridge.
I took some left over rice that we had in the fridge and I threw it in a pan with some lime juice and some veggie broth and cooked until warmed through. I added a bunch of cilantro and cooked it a little longer. I then layered the bowl. Steamed kale with vinegar on the bottom, my cilantro lime rice in the middle followed by some oil free roasted onions and zucchini. Some salsa to finish and voila, an easy homemade post race meal that really hit the spot.
I do say that was a perfect Sunday after a weekend of traveling.
“About 53 miles into the race is the aid-station called Tina’s Den. It is home to four female mountain lions who like to hang out there. Two days ago, one of the cougars scared away a few mountain bikers. Don’t worry though, just don’t be last.”
That’s essentially all I heard during the pre-race briefing from the Quicksilver Race Director on Saturday. Not exactly comforting news before I am about to begin my first ever 100k race.
While I haven’t written much about it on here, it was evident beginning back in January that I have been training for something …. something big. I wanted to run a 100k and not just any 100k, I wanted to run the Quicksilver 100k.
Last year everyone I knew did that race, including Pigeon because it was a Western States 100 mile qualifying race. I wanted to run it because I wanted to conquer that distance and I loved all the race photos from everyone last year. The chance to qualify was just icing on top for me.
Earlier this year, I raced two very challenging 50ks (one in February and the other in March) and that set the tone for my training. Going into Quicksilver with its 13,000 feet of elevation, I felt ready to climb but I was uneasy about the distance.
So sit back, grab a beer or cup of tea and read on if you care to see how my race unfolds (warning: it is LONG) or if you want to see a million photos, feel free to skim. 🙂
With its 4:30 am start time and the half-ish hour drive to the start, Quicksilver definitely taught me a few things about being flexible with my morning routine. I woke up at 2:15 am, ate and finalized my drop bags. I have never used drop bags before. This was totally new to me. You can tell it was new to me too because I used Star Wars lunch boxes that I got free from Target as two of my four drop bags! I also used two Dylan Flinchum RockOn Foundation bags as my other two because if anyone can boost my spirits, it’s that little boy and his family back in New Jersey.
I even taped a photo of my girls in one of them to give me a boost late in the race.
After that little “pep-talk” by the Race Director, we were off and running in the dark. I had my lights with me and everyone around me had headlamps so visibility wasn’t an issue. Pigeon and I ran into Miss P who was also running her first 100k.
The race starts with a pretty good climb and everyone is reduced to a solid hike in the dark. Miss P and I chatted a bit on the way up which was nice. Eventually though, everyone spread out. Pigeon and I just ran. Our plan had been to run the race together. She knew the splits she wanted or needed in order to get a Western States qualification. I was content to run with her because I was unsure as to how the day would unfold having never approached this distance OR this type of elevation before and of course running with a friend for that long is always nice.
Soon the sun was rising and the views started to appear around us. It was pretty amazing and the temperature was nice and cool. I started in shorts and a tank top never needing anything more.
One thing to note about this race is that there are a lot of “lollypop” loops in it. Picture a lollypop at the end of stick. To get the mileage we needed, we’d run up a trail, do a loop and then run back down the same trail passing runners. I noticed early on that we’d pass a lot of the runners coming down from the loop but none when it was our turn to descend. It was clear that we were the back of the pack. This unnerved me a bit as it is something I am not used to but I also knew there were many more miles to the day and that anything could change at a moment’s notice.
A few times Pigeon and I found ourselves behind some runners that I wanted to pass but I wasn’t sure how she was feeling so we devised a “code” for those situations. We’d ask each other, “How is your foot?” And if we said, “good” we’d pass and if we said, “not good” we needed another moment. This situation actually only came into play once during the race. Pigeon asked me “How is your foot?” and I said, “What are you talking about? My foot is fine!” Hahaha I had completely forgotten about our little plan.
Hicks #1 Aid-Station (mile 7) was first. I had a drop bag here but didn’t need it. I did take advantage of the restrooms. We both did. The volunteers were so nice and cheerful. They were very eager to help. Pigeon grabbed some more apple sauces from her drop bag.
We left Hicks and headed towards Bald Mountain. I remember feeling pretty good. Nothing was bothering me and the trails were rocky but not too technical.
Soon we approached Bald Mountain Aid-Station (mile 12.2). It was another lollypop type loop. You run past the aid-station to this beautiful cliff area, grabbed a purple rubber band to prove that you did the full loop and then back to the aid-station. We didn’t stop long here other than to use the restroom again.
After Bald Mountain we ran a short down hill followed by a pretty nice climb to get to Kennedy 1 Aid-Station (mile 18.9). Again, no drop bags for us but I noticed the aid-station was pretty bare bones. Not much to offer runners. I was fine with what I had been consuming thus far which was mostly fruit leather, some jelly beans (on the climbs) and my homemade Engine 2 Peanut Butter Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. We did refill our packs here though and discovered that the water at the aid-stations tasted like rubberized chlorine! UGH! It was barely drinkable and we had to run 5.4 miles to the next aid-station with that water.
After Kennedy however, we ran DOWN and by down, I mean far down. Still, I was feeling okay. I was worried about my left knee going into this race as it tends to not like a lot of steep down hills but so far, it was behaving just fine.
When we reached Lexington Aid-Station (mile 24.2) I was feeling good. Pigeon’s wife Missouri and son were at this aid-station as was Miss P’s pacer, Christine. It’s always nice to see people you know and have them give you a good pep talk. We also had drop bags here.
We both dumped our packs and refilled them with our own water. I dug into my drop bag for the first time and swapped out a few things, grabbed some more cookies and dumped the apple sauces as they weren’t working for me.
We left Lexington and headed for the longest biggest climb of the day, Dog Meat Hill. I have seen the photos of this climb, but none of them do it justice. This is one brutally long fully exposed climb. We were lucky in that it was overcast most of the time but it was definitely warm out there.
However, I was just in awe of the views and the trail itself. I did my thing and power hiked up every hill taking photos whenever I could. I’d wait for Pigeon at the top and then we’d repeat it again and again.
I had overheard a guy talking about how this is the hardest climb in the race and that nothing in the second half of the race compares. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear right then. It gave me a little boost that once we were done with this beast, things would be easier.
When we finally finished Dog Meat, we arrived at Kennedy 2 Aid-Station (mile 31.1). I mentioned to Pigeon that we had completed a 50k! She didn’t seem amused. She’d been battling some tummy issues along the way which is never very fun in a race.
When we reached the aid-station, they had nothing. Pigeon wanted a Coke or a turkey avocado sandwich desperately and they had none. I think this hit her pretty hard and knocked her spirits down quite a bit. Her mood had been quiet thus far but I could sense her go a little deeper into a dark spot.
I just tried my best to keep hiking and chatting when I could, hoping I wasn’t bothering her too much. Eventually, I told her that we had to just let it go. We couldn’t rely on the aid-stations at this point, they’ve proven to be pretty useless in the quantity of fuel provided and we’d have to make do. I knew we were heading back to Hicks 2 Aid-Station and I knew we had drop bags there. I tried to get her to focus on that.
Her stomach just wouldn’t let up though. Once we reached Hicks 2 Aid-Station (mile 36.4) we both used the restroom and then attacked our drop bags. I grabbed a few more things here including some Advil. My right knee (not my left knee as I mentioned earlier) had started to really bark on the long descent from Kennedy to Hicks. So much so that at one point, it literally gave way and Pigeon almost had to catch me from cratering to the ground. At Hicks 2, I took 2 Advil. I didn’t want to but I had no choice at this point.
From Hicks we ran towards Hacienda Aid-Station (mile 39.3) which was a little hard to stomach because Hacienda is where my car was parked!!! Yes, I had to run past my own car to get to the aid-station! That’s just cruel right?
The nice part about this section of the course though is that the distances between aid-stations were cut in half essentially which means, the next one after Hacienda was Mockingbird, just 3.1 miles away. Although Mockingbird was also the finish area so you have to run past the finish arch to go another 20 miles … again cruel.
Pigeon needed the restroom at Hacienda. I talked to the volunteers and took some pebbles out of my shoe. When we were finally back on the trail running, I reminded her that we were on our way to her wife and son. We had to do some climbing to get there, but I assured her it would be worth it.
She was in her dark spot I think again. She snapped at me once about starting to run, which is fine, I get it, when you hurt you hurt. I wasn’t offended. I mentioned something about the time and trying to qualify and she shot back that she was already well aware. Up until that point, I hadn’t really been focusing too much on the time. It was on our way to Hacienda I think that I started calculating the math in my head with the pace that we’d been going and realized, our chances of qualifying for Western States was slipping away. I battled in my head with what to do.
The dilemma in my head was broken by the sights and sounds of Mockingbird Aid-Station (mile 42.9). I needed this boost. As I ran in, I told Missouri that Pigeon was hurting a bit, her tummy was just not happy. I had a drop bag here so I swapped out some things and I grabbed some cream for my knee. I applied some but I wanted to run with it just in case. The Advil had kicked in by now and the knee was feeling much better. As we left Mockingbird, I turned my phone on (it was on airplane mode most of the race) and I texted Stonegate and Vans that we had 20 miles left in the race and that any chances of qualifying were starting to slip away.
While I had been texting, a bunch of texts from earlier in the day came in, one of them was from my Peanut. My girls had a mock swim meet that day and my Peanut had sent me this:
That gave me such a boost. It got my thoughts running again. My little girl didn’t give up today. I shouldn’t either.
From Mockingbird to Bull Run 1 it’s up hill. We did not have to climb the huge rock pile that the Quicksilver race is known for but instead, they rerouted us an extra quarter mile. What’s an extra quarter of a mile in a 62 mile race?
I powered up the climbs but instead of waiting at the top for Pigeon like I had been, I wanted to keep moving. So on the downs, I’d slow down a bit hoping she’d catch up and she usually did.
We reached Bull Run 1 Aid-Station (mile 46.1) and we ran a weird little lollypop thing again. Pigeon and I ran that together. I think she was starting to get her mojo back because she said, “Hey, do you want to try for it? We have 15 miles to go and about 3.5 hours, we can push it. Want to go for broke?” I was just thrilled she had her spirit back! “Sure! Of course!” I said. Pigeon was coming back! She then said, “Okay, we’ll take turns pulling each other. I’ll go first!” She took off running down hill and I was hot on her heels behind her.
About five minutes later, she turned and said, “Ok, your turn!” and she let me pass. I never looked back. It was if a fire had been ignited within me, one that had been burning all along but I was too afraid let to come out.
Since Mockingbird I had been thinking, a lot. I thought about the time, about the race and about this course. Sure this race was a Western States Qualifier and while not my only reason for running, I had ran so much today that I wanted it. I wanted it bad. Pigeon is running Tahoe Rim 100 in July. I hated thinking this but I knew she had a second qualifying chance down the road. This, this race was my ONLY chance. So, I ran. I ran hard.
I passed runner after runner. I passed runners sitting on the ground. I passed pacers urging their runners to just take another step. I ran uphill. I ran down hill. I entered the scariest freakiest single track trail I have ever seen in my life. It led to Tina’s Den (remember Tina the mountain lion from the beginning of this post?) … I can see why Tina and her friends like to hang out there! I was too afraid to stop to be honest that I just high-tailed it as fast as I could.
You finally get dumped onto a road. A volunteer said, “It’s a mile down that road and then turn left and the aid-station is about a half mile from there.” What he failed to tell me is that it was like a half-mile UP hill but whatever. As I had made the left turn, I saw this woman jumping up and down on a rock.
I thought she was waving to the guy in front of me who didn’t look too enthused to see her. In my head I was like, “Man what a jerk!” Little did I know it was Stonegate!!! She had raced the 2.5 hours from home to catch me at mile 53!!!!! She was a sight for sore eyes!
She hiked with me to the aid-station. We got there and they were dry. Nothing left. I had a drop bag but my stomach did not want much. Stonegate refilled my pack with ice cold water without me even taking it off. THAT is what I wanted. I told her that I had left Pigeon and that if she sees her to tell her how sorry I was and that I really wanted to push. I felt bad for leaving her.
Stonegate encouraged me and reminded me that Pigeon will understand and that she would WANT me to go. So, I went. Less than 9 miles to the finish and I was racing the clock with a lot of uphill between us.
After Tina’s Den (luckily I saw NO mountain lions) it’s a good uphill climb to get to Enriquita Aid-Station (mile 55.8). I ran quite a bit of this uphill. I channeled my training runs up Stagecoach and just pushed. Every so often, I’d hike and then I’d run again.
At Enriquita Aid-Station I didn’t even stop and instead made a sharp right hand turn and went down this gully of a trail with terrible footing. Never mind there are runners hiking their way up too so it was a bit of a mess. When you reached the bottom, you had to read a sign (Read?! You want me to read and comprehend right now?). The sign said that in order to prove that you made it to the bottom of the hill, you had to hole punch your bib and show the volunteers at the top.
Um, the hole punch was attached to a cord that was ridiculously short! So after 56 miles, you have to try and stand on one leg while lifting your other leg, and hole punch your bib. Lordy!
I did it and then I ran my bum back up that hill. Just before reaching the top, I saw Pigeon making her way down. I hooted and hollered for her and she hooted and hollered for me and told me to just GO!
After reaching the top of Enriquita again, I ran towards Bull Run 2 Aid-station (mile 58.8), the final aid-station before the finish. It just happened to be completely up hill. I had to hike. There were moments where I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I couldn’t eat anything. I wasn’t sure if it was from how hard I was pushing myself or from nerves of being on the edge of not making the cut off.
When I got to Bull-Run 2, I was sprinting, or at least I felt like I was sprinting.
The volunteers went wild when I came through! “Just 3.5 miles to go! You got this! Run just like that and don’t stop and you will qualify!” Wait, can they not SEE the big hill down the road that I have to go up in a minute? They want me to run like this, up that?! I had to laugh, it was funny.
I kept having these mini dialogs in my head pleading that there would be no more “rollers” and then I saw a sign that said, “Just a few more rollers and you’re at the finish!” I just want to note, you don’t SEE these “rollers” on the map or elevation chart but holy cow, were they ever there!
I pushed and pushed. I passed runner after runner. I was cutting every corner I ran around even if it meant cutting in front of another runner. Soon, it was all downhill. I pleaded with my knee not to flare up (it hadn’t make a squeak since Mockingbird). Other runners cheered me on. Hikers on their way up cheered me on and told me I was close. The sky to my left was insanely gorgeous with the sun setting and I wanted to stop and take a photo SO bad but I didn’t dare!
Finally I saw the finish. I heard Stonegate first, “You got this girl! Just up this hill!” Which made me laugh out loud! Another freaking hill! I heard Missouri and Christine (Miss P’s pacer) cheering. I was so overcome with joy and happiness. I had made it! I qualified! I made it with about 20 minutes to spare (my time was 15:38). I was done.
Five months of training was over in one day. It was totally worth it. My friends congratulated me and then asked where Pigeon was. I told them I left her on the way to Tina’s Den. I said she’s behind me but I am not sure how far.
Pigeon came in a short time later. She too qualified for Western States with just minutes to spare! She gutted it out and ran her butt off to get to that finish line. I am proud of how deep she dug to do it.
As it turns out, she wasn’t upset at me for leaving and was happy that I qualified. That’s how friends work, especially trail friends. We support each other.
Overall, I feel pretty good. I have some soreness and I stiffen when I sit too long but my heart is full. I feel like I set out to conquer something, something I’ve thought about for a while, and I did it. I worked hard for it, very hard.
Not sure what is next. I have a few training runs planned as I am pacing Pigeon at Tahoe Rim Trail in July so I have to be ready for that.
I definitely plan to rest though and let my body recover. I owe it that. It did everything I asked of it this season and I am grateful. So I will enjoy some down time with my two amazing little swimmers.
This was only supposed to be a training run and then Tommy Lee Jones started egging me on, lighting that internal fire that is always simmering inside and the rest was history including an uphill battle to the finish.
On Saturday it dumped rain all day; a lot of rain. So much so that Paulo, the Race Director emailed all participants AND sent out a Facebook blast detailing that the race course had changed due to the condition of the road/trails. Uh-oh. Now instead of starting at the bottom near the river, we were to start at the top in the upper parking lot area of Driver’s Flat. They also had to adjust the back end of the course to account for the three mile difference at the start. Ultimately, the course ended up being shortened by a mile or so which is better than the alternative which was lengthening it by three miles. (Good call Paulo!) 🙂
When I arrived at the starting area, I was a dork and basically was the first person there. Stonegate (like the great trail friend she is) had offered to drive me but she couldn’t wait all day and I did not want Vans and the girls hanging out in the mud and rain forcing me to run and finish faster. This was a training run after all remember?
So upon arrival I got out and asked Paulo if he needed any help. Why not put me to use right? He had me start handing out bibs to the runners as they arrived. This turned out to be great because I finally was able to put names to faces! I finally met Clint, a fellow plant-powered runner and Facebook face (Hi CLINT!!) and a few other runners.
Soon it was almost go-time and of course the skies opened up and dumped rain for few minutes. I second guessed my out-fit choice and changed my top at the last minute (tip: always go with your first instinct). We gathered at the start where Paulo did a quick pre-race briefing reminding us that we were to follow pink ribbons. He also told us where the NEW turn around spot and aid-station was located.
They counted us down and we were off! Everyone started running the long three mile downhill and were all commenting on how brutal this will be on the return, at the end of the race.
BUZZ!!! (my watch) Mile 1 – 8:30 Uh oh, that’s a bit fast, slow it down, don’t blow out your quads on the first mile.
BUZZ!!! Mile 2 – 8:30 Grrr, I thought I slowed it down!? Okay, look there’s a bathroom! Go use that restroom over there and that will help slow you down and push you farther back in the pack.
When I emerged from the bathroom I just continued running along the river. I stopped a few times to take some photos (the only photos I took all day – stick with me and you’ll see why).
Two girls were in front of me were talking. Eventually they moved over and let me pass. Then we hit some up hills and I heard them chatting away, so I let them pass. I just needed quiet as I was trying to get a sense of how my body was feeling. I just couldn’t find my groove.
Roughly at mile 10 we entered the second aid-station at Cal-2.
The volunteer yells out my bib number AND yells out that I am fourth female and that number three is still in the aid-station. “Oh don’t tell me that!? It’s too early to tell me that!”
Sit tight girl. This is a training run. Do not go and chase it. Let.it.go!
I let three other women pass me out of that aid-station. I refused to go chase it. I was letting it go. However, while I was in this conga line of three women and one older gentleman leading the way, I couldn’t get my stride right. There was plenty of climbing and I was hiking a lot but I would either end up on their tail or I would slow down to the point of walking. It just didn’t feel right. The next aid-station was the turn-around and I just wanted to get there.
Soon we started seeing the lead runners on the return. First female went by and DANG she looked strong! She was flying. Second and Third females came by a little bit later and gosh darn it, it if wasn’t the two nice chatty women I let pass me earlier … the voices started again …
That could have been you. You were up there. Now you are 7th! Shut up! Training run remember!?
It was a SUPER steep down to the aid-station (mile 14 ish) at Cal 1. I ran in and realized there was nothing that I wanted. The volunteer asked me my bib number first since I was at the table and the other three women were filling their bottles. I told her my number and left.
That was tricky girl. Are you trying to get ahead or are you starting to race? Just getting ahead. That’s all. I am sure they will catch me.
Soon I came upon Roger. Ahh, Roger. Many trail runners know Roger. He is a great guy and a great runner. I met Roger a few years ago at Diane’s Thursday night race series. Roger and I used to push each other out on the course. Roger, if you don’t know him, sounds (and kinda looks) like Tommy Lee Jones. I kid you not, his voice is amazing and if you didn’t know it, you would think Tommy Lee Jones is running with you. It makes me smile every time I hear him.
ROGER: Hey Pam, you want by me?
ME: Nope, I just want to get some distance between me and those ladies back there.
Roger just chuckled. I should have known then with that innocent sounding chuckle, what was about to unfold.
Roger and I ran steady and strong for a very long stretch. It was probably my longest stretch of running the entire day. I FINALLY started to feel my groove, after 15+ miles.
All of a sudden, Roger stops and moves to the side.
ME: What are you doing? Dude, you are pulling me!
ROGER: Look, there’s number three. Go get her. You got this!
ME: (sigh) DAMN YOU ROGER! Damn you!
Roger chuckled his devilish chuckle again. 🙂
Off I go in front of Roger running steady. We knew the aid-station was coming up very soon. I just really wanted to get to there. The third place girl, (her name was Stephanie), let me pass. Roger checked in with her. I knew she was tired because when I was running behind her earlier in the day, she had said she had run 17 miles the day before marking the very course were running right now. My heart ached for her, she is clearly a VERY strong runner.
We all enter the aid-station, I reach for a cup and I feel someone pushing me sideways …
ROGER: Go! Get out of here. Go!
ME: What the?!! Okay okay …
I took off like I stole something. The next two to three miles were a steady but technical downhill. I had not been opening up my down hills this entire race, but now, I did.
BUZZ! Mile 20 – 9:25 Legs feel good. Tummy is a bit off, but I feel good.
BUZZ! Mile 21 – 9:21 Please god, let me have gained enough distance to keep this lead. Who am I kidding, if I could just bomb that, so can everyone else. Run, just run!
The next stretch was the longest between aid-stations again, something like 7.5 miles I think and that last aid-station would be the final aid before the dreaded three mile climb to the finish.
I just ran and ran. I had even moved ahead of Roger by quite a bit and then he’d catch me and pump me up some more. He even went so far as to tell me that he thinks I could catch female #2. HA! Funny man that Roger.
Finally I reached the section I affectionately called Tick Trail – it was so over grown with long grass and weeds that you couldn’t even see the trail and I imagined with every step, all these ticks jumping onto my legs. THAT made me run faster let me tell you!
Finally, I was dumped back onto the fire road that I knew led to the final aid-station. However, it took FOREVER it seemed until I got there.
VOLUNTEERS: Hey! Looking strong, what do you need?
ME: Can you please just douse my bandana in cold water? How far to the finish?
VOLUNTEERS: About 2.7 to 3 miles, unfortunately all up hill.
I silently groaned a little bit but there was nowhere to go but up to get this done. Off I ran and then I hiked. I tried power hiking. Pigeon was in my head. She had texted me earlier that morning to “power hike that last hill like a bear is chasing you!” Well, as it turns out, there WAS a bear about to chase me!
ROGER: Hey, there is a chick behind me.
ME: What!? No! You aren’t just saying that to get me to run up this hill are you?!
ROGER: Nope, she surprised me by coming up quick behind me at that last aid-station.
ME: Son of a B!*%$! I didn’t set out for this Roger!
ROGER: Well, don’t kill yourself but you got this!
Off I ran, my legs barely moving, shaking with every single step that I took. Last weekend I climbed 3 miles with Stonegate, motivating her up that hill. I used the same tactics on myself …
Okay girl, run to that rock. You can run to that rock and then walk. Just get ahead every chance you can.
I rounded a corner and something caught my eye ….
Holy crap! You caught the number two girl! Hmmm, she doesn’t look THAT far ahead … Nope, forget it. Focus on the girl behind you. You’re barely hanging in.
I am not kidding when I say this hill took FOR-FREAKING-EVER to climb. I passed one guy.
GUY: Hi! (being all friendly and nice despite huffing and puffing) One helluva way to finish huh?
ME: Can you look behind me please. Is there a girl there?
GUY: Nope. I see nobody.
ME: Good. Thanks.
Off I ran. Or I thought I was running. As I reached the top of that switchback I turned and saw her, the girl that was in front of me when I ran in that conga line of girls earlier in the day. She looked strong even then. She looked like she should have been running in front of those girls. She also looked like she wasn’t struggling one bit on that hill we were on.
Move it! Come on! Run, run a stretch now to get ahead! Come on legs! Stop shaking and run!
Female #2 turned and looked at me and then started to run too. The chase, it seemed was on, everyone was trying to get up that hill as fast as possible. I wanted to yell out to the number two girl and say, “It’s okay! I don’t care about #2! I just want to keep #3!” But come on, if I had gotten close enough …. 🙂
I kept straining to hear music. That’s a cue to all the finish lines right? But it occurred to me that there might not BE music at the finish.
Oh no, don’t rely on the music! But how will I know where the finish is? I can’t see it! All I see are these damn hills in front of me!
I had to laugh. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t super smiley but I wasn’t angry and laughing is the best way for me to release tension. What else am I going to do on a monster climb like this?
Then, I see two men standing there. They don’t look like hikers; they look like guys who hang out at finish lines (yes, that’s how my head works in moment’s like these). I reach them, I see female #2 ahead of me and I ask them …
ME: How far?
THEM: Not far, 100 yards.
ME: 100 yards?! (In my head it was as if they had told me it was 100 more miles)
THEM: Up that hill!
ME: (internally) Come on! PUSH!!!!
Finally, I see the finish arch. I see Paulo running around with his camera. I see female #2 pushing as hard as she can, she’s about 10 yards in front of me. I am running as hard as I possibly can. Everyone is cheering!
Oh no, are they cheering because they think I am going to catch her OR are they cheering because the girl behind me has finally caught me and is going to do a sneak attack to the finish line?!!
Talk about paranoia! Haha
RUNNNNN PAM RUNNNNNN!!!!
Finally, I cross the finish line and RD Paulo comes over. I think he doesn’t know whether to high-five me or give me a hug and all I want to do is lay down. I bend over and he kind of escorts me gingerly to some chairs, female number two was in the same state, bent over, legs shaking.
Holy crap, you did it. You made it. You climbed that beast. What the hell man!? I thought this was a training run!? 😉
One minute later, female #4 crosses the finish line. Wow, what a day.
Roger was next and I had enough strength in my legs to get up, cheer as loud as I could and give that crazy man a hug and say thank you. Again, thank you Roger for your support, encouragement and for giving me the pep talks I needed. I could not have done it without you.
So, the final verdict was Third Place Female overall (I was less than 20 seconds behind second) and first in my age group. The course was shortened so I could not go by time but I think I might have had a decent 50k time overall – so long as it wasn’t a four mile hill climb to the finish instead of three. The race (according to my Garmin) also had 7,548 ft of elevation to it. Wow.
Unfortunately, I didn’t stay too long at the finish as I had to jet home. I didn’t want to miss taking my favorite seven year old to her swim clinic lesson. Originally I didn’t think I would be able to make it but I guess with a finish like that, I had some extra time. 😉
So what worked and what didn’t? (Sorry, hang with me, the end of this monstrosity is near).
First, I tried my home-made plant-based fuel that I blogged about. I knew going into it, that it was too salty. When I tried it during the race, it just was not going to happen. It also had the texture of muffin batter something I was NOT going for in the creation process. Back to the drawing board on that.
Overall, I was not handling anything but fruity sweet flavors which is not my normal. I brought a gluten free almond butter and honey sandwich with me but the gluten free bread is SO dense that I almost choked eating it. I managed one square and left the rest for the drive home.
I need to work on the calorie consumption as I don’t think, looking back, I consumed a whole ton on this run. I had my usual go-to items like fruit leather, applesauce and jelly-beans (for that quick rush). I may go back to making muffins. They pack a good 300 calories per muffin but they require time to eat but since I am not racing my next race, I should have some time. 😉
Overall, I am happy. It wasn’t what I set out to do but I am happy that I was able to pull it together in the end and really push myself especially when at times, I didn’t think I had anything left to push. I feel good. The muscles are not too sore (yet). I still feel a little dehydrated and I need a few more hours of catch-up sleep. That’s the only downfall of having an ultra on a Sunday, as Monday it was back to work/school for the whole family.
Tis the life of a trail running mama I guess! Thanks for reading, I know this was incredibly long, but the good ones usually are.
I want to also thank all the volunteers who were part of this race. From marking the course in a rain storm the day before to being out there on the course the day of the race. Also my fellow trail runners were all super friendly and supportive cheering everyone on their way back to the finish. Love this community! SingleTrack Running put on another great race. Thank you!
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the second race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.