Have you ever had a race on your calendar that you absolutely dreaded? I never have until Sunday, April 27th. I was signed up to do the Miners Revenge Trail Marathon and when I signed up I was super stoked to run this race mainly because the Race Director is my old coach and friend, Coach Nikon. But life seemed to hijack the month of April on me and I felt like I was driving a car that I had no control over on a busy highway. Going in the wrong direction.
The birthday party was on Saturday and Miners Revenge was on Sunday. When I came home from the party on Saturday I was beat. I might have fallen asleep standing up at one point I can’t be sure. My legs felt like heavy weights and my whole body just sighed with exhaustion. The last thing I wanted to do was pack my race vest with fuel, gather my post race clothes and prepare my mind for 26.2 miles on the trails. Very hilly trails mind you.
So instead, the Trailmomma family went to Whole Foods for dinner and to listen to a friend’s husband play guitar and singÂ (he is awesome, so if you are local check him out here).Â Um, yea, probably not the wisest of choices to go to the Bier Garten but hey, I was a full of poor decisions leading up to the race, why stop now? I behaved myself though and ate and drank well.
When we arrived home from Whole FoodsÂ we had to get the kids to bed and I hopped into bed myself, after 8 pm. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned a lot and got up a few times. I just had a lot on my mind, mostly the race and also the day’s events.
When my alarm went off I was already awake. I just didn’t have a great night of sleep and my whole body just felt tired. Great. If that doesn’t send the mind into a negative tail spin I don’t know what will.
Luckily my body cooperated most of the morning as I got things organized. Pigeon and Missouri were picking me up at 5:30 which was a lot later than they usually pick me up for races so I had no excuses for being late. They surprised me by arriving a bit early but soon we were on our way driving the long windy road to Cool.
They humor between these two will make anyone smile so it was nice to ride to the race with some laughter. When we arrived, Coach Nikon gave us a clue as to where to park so we were not stuck on the Haul Road (the only location of parking for the race).
We parked and chilled. We did our usual pre-race routine of eating what we normally eat, using the porta potties and justÂ relaxing ourÂ bodies and mindsÂ in the car. Â I also had to pick up my race packet. Instead of a t-shirt, the race schwag was a duffel bag! Sa-weet!!! I have a million raceÂ shirts that I don’t wear but a bag?! Awesome!
On one of our trips to the bathroom, Coach Nikon stopped us. He told us that the course was tough, as in REALLY tough. A few have mentioned that it may be TOO tough actually with some really gnarly climbs on both loops. I have to say, this didn’t ease my already less than stellar excitement for the race but I do appreciate his honesty. 🙂
Soon it was time to get dressed and head to the start line. It was chilly but not too bad. The forecast called for some clouds and rain but I knew that once I was running that I would get warm. Missouri was a true crew person and she took our warm up jackets from us just before we headed to the starting line.
I believe Coach Nikon said there were only about 144 people total for the event whichÂ consisted of aÂ half marathon, a full marathon and a marathon relay. 44 of those runners were doing the full marathon and there was a chance that some, if not most, might drop to the half once they came through the 13.1 mile check point.
The race itself was basically a figure 8 with the “middle” being the parking lotÂ Â (aka the mile 13 aid-station).
Before the race start, Coach Nikon had us all line upÂ as he gave us a little pep talk and some additional information about the course.
He told us about the massive amounts of poison oak, the fact that one of our aid-stations had moved to the bottom of a climb instead of the top (best thing ever!) and he wished us luck. When the horn (?) went off, we started running.
Pigeon has been steady in her training to date. Me? Not so much. The sky was an ominous gray color but luckily it wasn’t raining. On the first loop we had both the half marathoners and full marathoners all running together on some very tight single track trails. It definitely felt like a race.
Pigeon and I just ran. We had agreed prior to the race that this was a nice “training run” for her and a chance for me to pace her but as soon as we started, I knew this was going to be a challenge for me. My head and heart were just not in it.
Eventually the crowd thinned out a bit. Pigeon was bombing the down hills and I wasn’t too far behind. The ankle has improved tremendously since surgery so I feel better but the ground was muddy andÂ tacky and the rocks slippery which always makes me a bit nervous.
We were just running along the trails talking when we could, letting some of the half marathoner’s pass us when eventually Miss P and Poison Oak came up behind us and ran with us for a ways. It felt like a Saturday training run … almost. I couldn’t lose the feeling that I was running too slow for everyone behind me.
Soon we approached the first climb that seemed to go on for ever and ever! Pigeon took off, she was ahead of me to begin withÂ so I just put one foot in front of the other and kept moving.
When you reach the top of this VERY long climb, you have a turn around. So as you are climbing this monstrosity, you have runners coming down cheering for you and telling you that it isn’t much further to the top. Some were even honest enough to share that coming down was much easier than going up. I am not kidding when I say, this climb felt like it went on forever.
On the way down I lost Pigeon completely. She was on fire and I was battling the same IT band issues I had the second half of the American River 50 mile race. Of course this set my mood off even more since we were only on the first loop and I was battling knee pain on the downhills.
When we reached the aid-station, they knew that I was running with Pigeon and they told me that she hadÂ stopped to use the bathroom which was great because I needed to use it as well. It made me feel better to reconnect with her again. I was also happy to see that we really only had 3 more miles until we were back at the parking lot and were alreadyÂ half way done with the race.
I will not lie, I had entertained thoughts of dropping down to the half marathon a few timesÂ but I knew deep down that I could notÂ leave Pigeon nor did I want to. She kept believing in me and I was trying to dig deep and find my mojo to turn my race around.
I was wearing my heart rate monitor for the first half of the race. I dropped it at the half way point because it was starting to fall off but it was really informative having it on for the first loop. Looking back, my heart rate was steady, never spiking too much, not even on the climbs. It wasn’t low either.Â Â It just read my usual marathon pace heart rate which tells me that I was having a mental battle and not a physical one. If I was over trained or battling a cold, my heart rate would be super low or super high, not even and steady. It was clear, my issues were mental and I needed to overcome this and quick.
As we came through the half way pointÂ aid-station, Coach Nikon greeted us with his usual bellow and laugh. No matter how down you are, his smile and positivityÂ are infectious. Missouri was there as well. Pigeon was in and out of this aid-station not wanting to stop. She knew that if I had a moment to sit, that I might not continue. So less than 5 minutes for a quick fuel up and we started our second loop.
If I can say anything about this race, it would be that it totally felt like two DIFFERENT races when we started the second loop. I have run one marathon wherein I have had to do two loops (two of the same loops at that). I used the same jedi-mind trick here wherein basically I “ended” the first race andÂ just started a new race in my head.Â The Miners Revenge course is two different loops whichÂ helped meÂ create that feeling of aÂ “new race,” veryÂ easy. With the half marathoners finishing at the parking lot, we felt almost as if we were completely alone on the second loop. It felt like a true training run between Pigeon and myself.
We had crossed a few streams on the first loop but it was nothing compared to what we had to cross on the second loop. It was on the second loop that Pigeon and I had some fun.
Before we really started diving into the stream crossings, someone thoughtfully placed this board across the trail so we wouldn’t get wet.
Pigeon and I approached the board like it was made of oil. We both cautiously crossed it and then stopped to laugh. Pigeon agreed to go back and recross so that I could get a photo.
I enjoyed this. We were running but we were no longer racing. We were having fun which is what running trails is all about for me. Occasionally Pigeon would pick out a runner ahead and tell me we need to get close to that person but for the most part, we ran and we laughed.
I was still battling my demons but they were subsiding slowly and surely. I decided to let go of eating the bars I normally eat and I started consuming gels. I don’t really enjoy them but I was just tired of the solid food. I haven’t used gels in a long while. I don’t carry them so I was stuck with the variety of gels provided on the race course as well as the potato chips they had as well. This wasn’t an ultra so the aid-stations had minimal food (rightly so) but they had gels and potato chips and boy did those salty potato chips taste great.
All the food aside, it was time to start swimming. Our first stream crossing was upon us and it was probably the deepest of the day.
The second loop had a lot more fire road type trails compared to single trackÂ and it just seemed easier. The views were gorgeous too. My mood was clearly starting to come around.
There was one major climb on the second loop, it was about 2.25 miles long but before we reached that we had to descend quite bit and my knees were not loving this section. Pigeon was flying and I felt like I had a peg leg.
When we got to the bottom of the hill it got really warm and sticky. We felt like we were in the middle of no where. It was kind of creepy. We saw a few runners ahead of us so we just kept moving.
Pigeon was great. She was doing everything she could to get me back to my happy Trailmomma self. I was coming around. The closer and closer we got to the finish, I felt better and better.
The last few miles of the race are gorgeous. The sky was darkening and it looked as if a Â storm was coming. I think that made the trails even more beautiful.
When we passed our last aid-station at mile 24 (ish), I felt great. I am not sure why, maybe it was the adrenaline kicking in that we only had about 2 miles to go, but I really started running. Soon we connected with the fire road, the same fire road that Way Too Cool finishes on and I knew we were on the home stretch.
Vans, the girls and Jersey Dad were all supposed to be at the finish. Â I was a bit worried because the race took us a lot longer than I had anticipated due to all the intense climbing.
When we entered the fire road straight-away before the finish, I could see two little blonde heads ringing a cow bell up ahead with a big birthday balloon and my heart just filled with joy and my eyes teared up just a bit. My girls were cheering for me!
As Pigeon and I rounded the curve, I high-fived my girls! I started sprinting and turned to find Pigeon “where are you?” I yelled. She was quick to be by my side as we sprinted full force to through the finish!
I could be wrong, but I would venture to guess that it was probably the best finish of the race. 🙂 We laughed, we hugged and we posed with our Race Director,Â Coach Nikon.
This was my 7th marathon and the first time Jersey Dad has ever seen me finish a super long tough race. I wish the weather had been a bit warmer for him but he gave me a tentative hug (poison oak) after the race. My little Squeaker hugged me and softly said, “Congratulations Mama.” 🙂
This was probably my toughest race to date. The course itself was tough but mentally, I have never felt so low in a race and I can definitely attribute my low energy to the busy schedule I had leading up to the race. Yet, it makes me kind of proud that I was able to power through to finish. I don’t think I would have done so if it had not been for Pigeon. She believed in me, more than I did in myself at times and that is what friends and runner partners are for really. Even Vans thought I would drop down and only do the half.
Nope. I rallied. Overall, I felt okay. My tummy didn’t have any issues. MyÂ fueling, although completely different than I have done in any other race, seemed okay and never really caused any problems. I do think the gray skies didn’t help my mood as I tend to like things a bit sunnier, but running this same race in warm weather would have been pretty harsh as there were many exposed sections of trail.
My knee pain is an issue. It would alternate between knees. The left would hurt on the down hills and the right would hurt on the uphills. I need to work on my IT bands I guess. I did take some Aleve during the second loop but honestly, I didn’t really touch the pain in my knees at all.
I plan to do a post about recovery soon. I have a lot to say about that actually but I also have a few other posts in the works so be on the look out.
I have another small race on my calendar and a few big training runs with Pigeon as she continues on her training schedule for TRT100. Miners Revenge was my last big “paid for” race of the season but I have a few training runs lined up that will make for some interesting posts.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and I will say that this race proved that for me. I also think I under estimated this race quite a bit thinking that I had just ran 50 miles 3 weeks prior so running only 26.2 should have been easy… right? It might have been if I had treated my body properly with rest, proper nutrition and sleep. Live and learn and boy did I learn a lot. Thanks Pigeon for your support and thank youÂ Coach Nikon for one helluva race!
I don’t even know where to being with this race report. Much like my 2010 AR50 Race Report this will be lengthy and full of photos so grab a nice cup of tea and settle in.
To begin this story, I have to go back to Tuesday evening when I saw Dr. Lau at Elite Spinal & Sports Care for my usual pre-race tune up. I felt great upon leaving and was finally getting excited about the race ahead. Fast forward to Wednesday morning when I woke up to screaming lower back pain. I could barely put weight on my right leg let alone bend over. I emailed Dr. Lau and he gave me some “homework” to do over the next two days with instructions to call him if I am not ‘tip top’ by Friday morning.
Friday morning I woke up to significantly less pain but still a mild soreness that seemed to inhibit certain movements. I emailed Dr. Lau and received a phone call almost instantly. He had arranged for me to come in early that afternoon.
When I left his office and headed to packet pick up, I felt quite a bit better and had a lot more mobility in my back and right leg. Packet pick up really got my energy up. The blood was flowing and I finally had my bib in hand … it was game on now.
The race schwag has GREATLY improved since 2010. Since thenÂ Patagonia has become a major sponsor of the race which means a much nicer race shirt.
When Squeaker and I arrived home from packet pickup, Vans and the Peanut were not home yet. I quickly got to work on boiling some red potatoes as I wanted to pack them into baggies with salt to have as some additional fuel along the course.
The minute Vans and Peanut arrived home I got busy cooking dinner as we had to race to a nearby soccer field for the Peanut’s first soccer practice. It was a beautiful (but chilly) evening.
I was on my feet a lot and the practice did not end until after 7 pm. By the time we got home and I was in bed it was well after 8 pm which is okay as I kind of tossed and turned a bit anyway. The race nerves were building.
When my alarm went off at 4 am I jumped out of bed. Â I took a quick assessment of my body and I noticed my back pain was still lingering a bit but not unbearable. I dressed, threw my hair into ponytail and headed out to the kitchen.
My pre-race fueling has changed quite a bit. I no longer need 2 hours to consume a bowl of oatmeal before my race which is kind of nice as it allows for a little more sleeping time. I did take 2 tylenol because I remembered that I had done that in 2010 and with my lingering pain I figured it might not be a bad idea.
Since I had packed my bags the night before, I was ready to go in a short amount of time. Pigeon and Missouri were coming to pick me up at 4:40 am. I had to load their car with what I needed at Beals Point (mile 24.31) as that would be my own personal aid-station.
This year I didn’t have a major crew like I had in 2010. I had more support than I thought I did though going into the race, which turned out to be a really nice surprise along the way as you will see. Before I left the house I had packed our car with my post-race bag, the lawn chairs we’d need and provided a list to Vans of what to bring in terms of my post-race fuel that I had sitting ready to go in the fridge. Pretty organized if I do say so myself.
Pigeon and Missouri arrived and we were off …. driving the whole one mile to the starting line. 🙂
The American River 50 Mile race decided to change its course this year. When I ran it in 2010 it started down in Sacramento by Sac State, which was one mile from my house. That year, Miss P and I ran the 1 mile to the start. One of the main reasons for me wanting to try the race again this year is the fact that they changed the starting location to El Dorado Hills, just one mile from my new home. I figured it was fate that this race keeps following me so I had to give it a shot. 🙂
We arrived about an hour before race start. Pigeon and I quickly made use of the portable bathrooms (a few times actually) and I also ate my pre-race fuel. Soon, it was time to line up at the starting line!
The race was so large this year (over 1,000 runners) that the race directors had us start in two waves. Pigeon and I were in wave 1 which started at 6:00 am (wave 2 started at 6:15). It was pretty dark at the start and Pigeon had a handheld light and I had one of my knuckle lights.
As usual, there isn’t too much hoopla at the race start. They generally start on time and when the horn blows, we all sort of start off in a shuffle. Everyone had some kind of light so we really didn’t need our lights all that much but it was helpful in spots.
The start takes us up the long paved drive of Browns Marina, which was about a mile long I would guess until we hit the trail. I say “I guess” because this year, this race, I decided NOT to wear my Garmin. This felt extremely weird to me but also freeing at times. Instead, I wore just a regular stopwatch. My reason for not wearing a Garmin is that basically it would have died about half way through the race as the battery doesn’t last a long time. With a stopwatch I could at least gauge my time but not my distance. Definitely a different experience for me.
We hit the trails of Browns Ravine which Pigeon and I have run quite a few times throughout our training. This is my turf. My territory so I was just cruising along behind a bunch of runners. All of a sudden I feel as if I am leading a small train of people. I just kept running, hiking up some of the steeper climbs. Occasionally I would try and look behind me to see if Pigeon was still on my tail. Sometimes she was and sometimes she wasn’t and then I heard it…turkeys. Gobble gobble gobble off to my left. I called out for Pigeon but she wasn’t close enough to me yet to hear me. When she did get close I asked, “did you hear that?! Turkeys!” and she simply replied, “You’ll be fine. They are far away.”
Finally we popped out of the trail and onto the levee. The day was gorgeous, the views of Folsom Lake as the sun was rising behind us was just breath taking. Pigeon came up along side of me and tells me that I just blew through that last section pretty fast. “You do realize you are running 50 miles right?” Ha! I told her it’s my spot, I am used to running that section quickly but I am smart and we settled into a nice pace along the levee looking out at Folsom Lake.
We were both looking forward to getting to the first aid-station at mile 5 which was the Fleet Feet Aid-Station at Folsom Point. Here we could both hand off our lights and my arm warmers. I told Pigeon that I had to use the bathroom but that it wasn’t quite urgent yet. Folsom Point has real bathrooms but the lines were long so I opted to keep going knowing Pigeon doesn’t like to slow down.
We left Folsom Point and hit the pavement running over Folsom Lake Crossing.
Pigeon and I had run this same section a few weeks earlier. As annoying as it was running past all the cars on the crossing, the views to our right were pretty spectacular.
We followed the bike path down until it connected with the portion that takes you under the road and down towards Folsom. This stretch of the race we would see again when running back towards Beals Point except at that time, it will be UP hill and not down.
Pigeon and I just cruised along. I didn’t have my music in yet as I was just totally soaking up the race, the views and the moment. I noticed that my left knee was achy and my back was still a little sore, but I just decided to let it go.
We ran over the foot bridge in Folsom and then hopped onto a section of trails I had never been on before. Pigeon and I knew that our last aid-station was mile 5 and that our next one was not until Willow Creek at mile 12.77. That’s quite a distance between aid-stations. Not that we needed much but we noticed that there were plenty of convenient places where there could have been an aid-station.
Pigeon started getting quiet on me. She’s not a talker to begin with when running but generally she stays near my side and we’ll talk occasionally. We were barely two hours into the run and she was backing off which isn’t like her so I knew something was up. She mentioned something about her PerpeteumÂ drink mix and that her gels were stuck together in her pack because her baggie of drink mix was open and had spilled.
I put in my headphones and started listening to the music. I can listen to music and run when I am on a paved section like a bike trail (which is kind of boring). I had a great string of songs come through my shuffle that really had me getting excited and even singing (sorry other runners).
Finally I knew that we were quickly approaching Willow Creek (almost 2 hours into our run). I turned to Pigeon and told her that I was planning to use the bathroom at the aid-station and knowing that she doesn’t like to slow down or wait much in races, I told her that I was going to sprint ahead so she would not have to wait but I did say “wait for me!” It was too early for me be running solo.
So I sprinted. Yup, I just started booking it towards the aid-station over the bridge down the trail. The Willow Creek aid-station was the Bufffalo Chips aid-station (my old running group) but I was too focused on getting to the bathrooms so Pigeon wouldn’t have to wait that I just bypassed everything. The bathrooms were far from the aid-station.
When I came out I saw Pigeon standing by the trail. I am not sure how long she waited but as soon as she saw me, we started running again. I didn’t get any water at that aid-station or fuel. Luckily in addition to the two 10 ounces bottles on the front of my pack, I have a hydration bladder in the back that had about a liter of water in it which was great because after Willow Creek, the next aid-station (Main Bar) was not until mile 16.98 which was still about 4.21 miles away and it was getting warm and my bottles were empty.
We finally reached the CSUS Acquatic Center and crossed over Hazel Bridge. I was feeling great at this point. I couldn’t wait to get to the bluffs at Hazel and see the views. However, in 2010 there used to be an aid-station at this spot but apparently they moved it a few years ago to Main Bar. I was really looking forward to getting some water here and taking off my shoes as they had boulders pebbles in them while Pigeon used a bathroom.
But nope, no aid, no water. I did take off my shoe though. Pigeon told me she wasn’t feeling well. She needed to find a spot to go to the bathroom. She was also dry heaving at this point as well.
I felt bad for her but I was loving the day so far. The weather was perfect, the views were gorgeous and we were FINALLY on our way headed back towards Beals Point on our way toward Auburn.
There is just something that turns on mentally in your head when you know you are running towards the direction that will take you home instead of away.
Pigeon told me she needed to stop and I told her that I’d walk a bit and wait. She ducked off onto a side trail (got a surprise from a mountain biker too) while I waited. When she came out she looked better. Not great, but better.
We continued running the bike trail until it was time to duck off onto the trails again after the Main Bar Aid-Station where I filled up my bottles. The volunteers were rocking out to some 80s music which got me excited.
Then it was back up to the bluffs again. Once again, Pigeon was not looking great. She was dry heaving occasionally and told me that she wanted to dump her Perpetuem mix and start drinking coke. We were only 17 or so miles into the race. I tried to offer her the idea of dumping her mix and drinking water and having real food first before resorting to cola. My only concern is that it was getting quite warm and cola will dehydrate you. She wanted easy liquid calories and I wanted to preserve whatever hydration she had left. With all the dry heaving and pit-stops she was quickly losing electrolytes. Cola would only hurt that, not help.
As we got off the dirt trails and back onto the pavement, Pigeon told me she had to make another stop. I walked a bit then ran as I heard the Negro Bar aid-station up ahead (mile 20.18). I knew that Diane from Breakout Fitness would be there and I was really itching to see a familiar face and smile.
It was great to talk with her and chat a bit. I told her that the last two miles I had a side stitch and it was slowing me down but just stopping there for a bit, the pain went away. Diane asked me where Pigeon was and I told her she was having a tough time and was behind me. I told her that I would wait there until she came into the aid-station. I chatted with a few other of the Folsom Lake Trail Runners until I saw Pigeon making her way in. I ran to her and grabbed her bottle from her. I told her that I was going to dump it, rinse it and fill it with cola like she wanted.
This is a big aid-station and it was very busy so I just hopped behind the table and started filling her bottle up with a 2 liter of coke that I had found sitting there. The guy behind the table kind of looked at me funny as no one is supposed to have pacers this early and I clearly looked like a pacer or crew person helping their runner.
Soon we were off and headed to Beals Point (mile 24.31). In previous races, Beals is typically the half way point but with the new course, it was only 24 miles or so. I didn’t care. I knew that Missouri would be there as well as TiggerT!!!! I needed some familiar faces and smiles and the energy at Beals is pretty exciting too.
Pigeon was doing okay. She was running but she still wasn’t feeling great. She told me to run ahead as we both knew we were approaching Beals. I love to run up the hill to Beals. Most of the runners walk it but I like to run it as the adrenaline of just coming into that aid-station is enough to propel me.
I crested the hill at Beals saw the balloon arches and heard my name being called over the PA system. I saw a group of friends including Miss P cheering me on. Then I saw Missouri waving me over to where she had set up some chairs and my little aid-station.
I told her that Pigeon was having some issues and would need some help when she came in. I quickly sat and changed my socks, refilled my bottles and got to town eating my potatoes. I also took off my shuffle and music. Soon TiggerT arrived and I handed her my camera. 🙂
Pigeon had arranged to have Killer Kuni be her pacer from Beals Point to the finish. Kuni is an ultra running phenom and is actually running the Hard Rock 100 miler in a two weeks. Kuni was on my original ultra team back in 2010. He is just the nicest guy and his wife Dasie is one of the nicest people in the ultra running community. They know how to crew a runner especially one that needs some help.
When Pigeon was ready to go, the three of us (Pigeon, Kuni and myself) headed off towards the trail. At the last minute, Pigeon said she needed to use the bathroom again. I looked at Kuni and told him that I’d go on ahead and would see them when they caught up.
This section of the trail is a little different than it was in 2010. We ran on the levee towards Cavitt and then dipped onto the trails. I was still solo at this point. I had walked a little on the levee looking back behind me waiting for Pigeon and Kuni to reach me but they never came.
I did have some thoughts that perhaps something had happened to Pigeon when she was in the bathroom. What if she dropped? I was worried about her and her current state but I knew she was tough. I also knew with me being ahead of her that it would fuel her desire to not give up.
I ran Cavitt like I always do. Running the downs and running some of the up hills. Normally I can run these up hills with no problems but the legs were feeling a little bit tired but I had passed the half way point.
While I was leisurely running along waiting for Pigeon to catch up, I took some photos and sort of assessed how I was feeling.
My aches and pains were mostly in my feet and knees but nothing too terrible. My stomach felt fine which surprised me as I am usually the one with tummy troubles. I kept using my watch as my guide and taking a salt tab almost every hour depending on how I was hydrating and feeling at the time.
The temps were definitely rising especially on Cavitt which is a mostly exposed fire road. This concerned me as Pigeon and the heat don’t mix and if she wasn’t feeling well already …. I was worried the heat would get to her.
I just kept running passing a few people here and there. There was also a triathlon going on at the same time which really made things interesting as you were trying to navigate the trail with mountain bikers and other runners coming at you at various times.
I started to feel a little low on fuel here. I had just eaten at Beals but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was slowly getting a little more tired than I should be at this point. I just kept going though. I hopped on the tail of a couple of girls, one of whom was the pacer. She was yelling at her runner to drink and to eat. I was kind of laughing and even told the runner she had a kick butt pacer for taking care of her.
All of a sudden I hear, “Hey Hey Hey!” Low and behold it was Pigeon and Kuni and they were running like they stole something! She had come back to life!!! I quickly hopped on their tail passing the girls in front of us.
We continued passing runner after runner. I called out to Kuni “What did you do to her? And can you do it to me?!” Pigeon was back and she was on fire.
We were approaching Granite Bay Aid-Station (29.45) and we saw Missouri and TiggerT. They asked us if we needed anything and we said no. I really wanted the real aid-station table to fill up and see what they had but out of the corner of my eye I spotted Vans!!! He surprised me by being at the aid station!
I was so happy to see him. Squeaker was asleep in the car near by and the Peanut was at a birthday party for the time being. It really made my day to see his face and I think he was surprised as to how good I looked and felt.
We chatted for a bit and then he goes, “What is in your ear?” I touched my ear and sure enough, I had removed my headphones at Beals but my Yurbud was still stuck in my ear! I had been running the entire time with this big blue rubber thing sticking out of my ear. You can see it in the above photo. Trailmomma dork!
But soon it was time to say goodbye to Vans. He was going to try and make it to the Rattlesnake aid-station. I was worried he wouldn’t get any parking there. Yes, these are the things I worry about when running.
So off we went, with Pigeon leading our train followed by Kuni and myself taking up the caboose. Their pace was pretty fast and I told Kuni that. He agreed that she was really running fast at this point. I knew I would not be able to keep up for another 20 miles but I hung on as best I could.
Pigeon was still drinking the coke she had in her bottle and seemed to be fueling on gels. Kuni would help out from time to time and was pretty aware of what she needed.Â At one point, about 6 hours and 20 minutes into our run we passed a few runners and one girl called out as I passed “I read your blog! Thank you!” That TOTALLY made my day. Thank you to that runner who reads my blog! I wish I had gotten your name!!
This section through Granite Bay was new to the course this year. It involved some gnarly trails that went up and down and once again, we dodged a few mountain bikers coming along the trail head on. There were also lots of conga lines through this section. Pigeon would find an opening and jet through it with the two of us hot on her tail.
I was feeling okay but I was worried it was too fast too soon, at least for me. I was having a hard time keeping up with them as I kept getting stuck behind a line of runners and then would have to sprint to keep up. I scolded myself for playing such a game. What did it matter? I didn’t need to kill myself trying to keep up with them but I wanted to. I was afraid that if Pigeon got too far ahead that when she got to Rattlesnake, Missouri would have her in and out and then TiggerT would be left there waiting for me but my personal little aid-station would be with Missouri which really didn’t matter since it was a full aid-station anyway. I think mentally I was starting to break just a little at this point. Which I quickly realized since most of the day I had been pretty happy. I checked myself and called in my secret weapon.
You see, on my right wrist I wore my RockOn Dylan Flinchum Foundation green bracelet. I wore it for specifically for moments like this. Dylan and his family are close to my heart. I grew up with Dylan’s dad and his brother is one of my very best friends. Dylan can’t run and will never run 50 miles but he is one strong amazingly tough little 5 year old. I looked at my wrist and I instantly had more strength. Just thinking about Dylan lifted my spirits and kept me moving. I never touched that dark place again. One foot in front of the other was all I needed, nothing else mattered.
Buzzards Cove aid-station (34.67) is an express aid-station meaning they only have water, soda and ice cream. Yes, ice cream. I had finally caught up to Pigeon and Kuni at this point and Kuni was enjoying some of the ice cream. Around the 7 hour mark I finally took 2 Advil. I was hoping it would help minimize some of the aches I was feeling and give me more power to keep up.
It was at this point that I started missing my Garmin. The signs at each aid-station told you what the mileage was to the next aid-station but I’d always forget. I knew that if I could get to the Rattlesnake aid-station and pick up TiggerT my pacer for the last 10 miles, I’d feel better, less pressure.
However, somewhere around mile 37 I am guessing, in an effort to stick with Kuni and Pigeon yet again as they passed a sea of runners, I tripped and somersaulted down the trail. The runner in front of me must have heard the thud as he ran back in a panic and tried to help me up (since I was upside down). I thanked him and then basically laughed at myself. If that wasn’t a sign that my legs were pretty tired, I don’t know what was!
I decided to let Pigeon and Kuni go. I hoped that I would catch them at the Horseshoe Bar aid-station (38.14) and catch them I did! The two of them looked like two kids in a candy store playing with a bucket of water and some sponges! When I crested the hill into the aid-station, Pigeon called out “Trailmomma come cool off!” I yelled back, “I fell!” and then they saw the blood streaks running down my leg. Pigeoned tried to rinse off my cut while Kuni squeezed a nice ice cold sponge over my neck and back. Wow, that will wake you up!
Off we went again. I didn’t really have time to grab much at the aid-station and I think these too brief stops are what killed me later on. As we left the aid-station and ran down the hill, my right knee (the one I had cut) gave out a little and proceeded to ache. Great. Hopefully that Advil I took will kick in soon.
Once again I lost Pigeon and Kuni and was running by myself. No other runners were near me. I would occasionally see one or two through the trees or I would catch glimpses of Pigeon and Kuni’s yellow shirts but I let them go. I was on my way to the Rattlesnake aid-station and I knew I would see Vans and TiggerT.
Rattlesnake Bar aid-station (40.94) had also changed since I last remember and even from last year because I had paced Pigeon from here to the finish. The race directors had us running down this hill with oncoming runners leaving the aid-station going up. It was rather annoying actually because the trail was not easy to descend (especially with a bum knee) and the runners coming up were just as tired. It was also sort of a bummer to realize that I would have to climb up that hill in a few minutes too.
Pigeon and Kuni were just finishing up at the aid-station when I arrived. They were off and running again. I chatted with Vans a bit and Squeaker was awake finally!
She was a little upset because I wouldn’t let her hug me. The poison oak along the trail was out in full force. We were running through bushes of it at times trying to side step branches that reached all the way across the trail.
With Pigeon and Kuni already gone, I had Dasie and Missouri all to myself! 🙂 Missouri asked if she could do anything and I asked her to fill my water bottles (aka jugs) with the water that I had in my cooler (it was electrolyte water). She did and with my hands full of food, Missouri had to put my jugs back in my vest for me. 🙂 We have a running joke here about my “jugs” and so this just had us both laughing out loud. What I forgot to tell Missouri later on though is that she never CLOSED my jugs so when I started running they started squirting up into my face. I laughed so hard. Humor is such a great relief.
At this point I realized I was close on time if I wanted to try and break my 2010 time for this race. I looked at TiggerT and said “I no longer care about my time. I just want to get it done and stay happy.” I saw lots of other running friends at this aid-station too which was a real spirit lifter. I always knew that if I could make it to this aid-station, that I would finish but I also didn’t want to be out there too long either.
Having TiggerT with me was so nice. I had pretty much been running by myself after I had lost Kuni and Pigeon on the trail. Just having someone to talk to when running can take your mind off of things. I handed TiggerT my camera and told her to go to town and boy did she ever! The photos from here on out are courtesy of TiggerT!
I jumped on the train of a runner and his pacer. The pacer was talking nonstop which kind of bugged me but I sort of just kept running. He asked if I wanted to pass and I said no. I wanted to but I didn’t know if I had the strength to keep going without having them pass me again later.
TiggerT asked how I felt and what was hurting. I told her my knee was really hurting me but mostly on the down hills and even then it wasn’t constant. It felt like a tired out old IT Band issue which I have dealt with before.
Finally, I did end up passing the boys and I just took off. I had some pent-up energy I guess so I started running. I wanted to be done. In hind sight, I should have passed them earlier on. Oh well.
Finally TiggerT and I reached Dowdin’s Post aid-station (43.93) which I had completely forgotten existed until TiggerT told me there was one aid before we reached Last Gasp (47.56).
At each of the aid-stations the volunteers place funny signs leading you to the aid-station. Usually I read them and most of them I have heard before like: “May the Course be with You” and “Blisters are Battle Scars” etc. But we passed one sign that literally had me laugh out loud! It read, “This seemed like a good idea … last month.” Oh boy was that so true! 🙂 I love these little pick me ups.
What was really neat was the fact that TiggerT had not been on some of these trails before so these sights were all new to her. She also has never paced someone at an ultra before. She has been to an aid-station and seen her crazy-ultra friends come through, but she’s never fully participated in one quite the way she did during AR50. I enjoyed seeing her face take in some of the sights and sounds.
From Dowdin’s aid-station to Last Gasp it was only 3.64 miles. The one thing I recall during those last 3.5 miles most were butterflies! I don’t know exactly what kind of butterflies they were but they were black and they were huge! They would just buzz right by your head or in front of your feet! Once again, I thought of Dylan. The rare disease that he has and the foundation looking for a cure, has a logo of a butterfly. Once again, Dylan’s strength propelled me.
Before you get to Last Gasp aid-station (47.56) you have to climb this steep gravel road (above photo). Just a few weeks ago, Pigeon and I ran this section but it had been wet from rain. Now it was loose and annoying.
I had to warn TiggerT about the Last Gasp aid-station. It is run by a bunch of boys … who are typically shirtless. I happen to enjoy this aid-station quite a bit but this year the boys were wearing tights! TiggerT LOVED this and of course had to take photos. 🙂
I had to laugh at her. She was out of water but was too busy taking photos to fill up first.
I am glad she remembered to fill up her water bottles before we started off up the hill again.
TiggerT was great. She was taking photos and chatting with me. She never pushed. I would say “let’s run to that sign” and we would. My back was really starting to hurt with the incline of the hill but I kept going.
TiggerT realized on this section that my knee was still a little bloody from my fall and she made me stop so she could get a photo. Stop? Okay, fine by me!
Boy was I glad that I had TiggerT with me on this hill. One foot in front of the other I just kept hiking and running when I could.
Finally, we saw the last mile maker. One mile to go. One mile until I could see my family. I wanted to run so bad. I wanted to run hard but my legs were not connected to my brain at this point.
And then I saw the giant frog. Yes, frog. I don’t recall him being here in 2010 or even last year, but boy was I glad to see him!
Mr. Frog was pointing to the turn where I would reach the tiny hill of death. This little tiny hill just about killed me in 2010 and when I ran it a few weeks ago with Pigeon, I pushed hard to run the entire thing. This year I ran about 3/4 of the way up pushing hard.
When I crested the hill the fans were all cheering. I knew all I had to do was run one tiny little hill to the parking, NOT trip over the curb as I ran onto grass and then just run the perimeter of the overlook until I got to the finish line.
I told TiggerT she should run on the outside of the cones, through the parking lot and that I’d see her at the finish line! I knew that a PR was out of the question but still I sprinted my way around the side-walk running through the arch as they called out my name.
10 hours and 33 minutes was my time. In 2010, on a different course, I ran it in 10 hours and 26 minutes. As Pigeon pointed out to me later, it is technically a new PR since it was a new course. I’ll take that reasoning. 🙂 I also realized that I used up quite a bit of time in the first half of the race where as if I had not stopped, I may have been a bit closer. It doesn’t really matter. I am just happy I finished!
When I crossed the finish line Diane was right there smiling and soon after Vans, the girls and TiggerT were there too!
I felt pretty good. Of course I was sore and walking kind of funny but I was so happy. I have always wanted to run this race again just to prove to myself that I could. Not sure I’ll do it again any time soon, as I really enjoy the 50K distance but I guess I can never say never huh? Vans knows something else is always up my sleeve.
I want to thank Missouri and Pigeon for their continued support both on and off the trails. I could not have done this race without your help.
Thank you to Kuni and Dasie as well for your support throughout the race. I always say, some of the nicest people in the world are trail runners.
Thank you to my two beautiful girls who I love more than anything in this world. I know you don’t understand now, but I hope some day you will and maybe you’ll be proud of your crazy Trailmomma. Thanks to Vans, my love for always allowing me to do these crazy things and for being my rock.
My girls and Vans make me laugh and they support me through these crazy things. I am very lucky.
Now two days later, I am happy to say I feel pretty good. The sore muscles are almost gone and the only problem that remains is my lower back pain. I am planning to rest up a bit more, stretch and do what I can to minimize the pain because there are more trail adventures ahead for the Trailmomma family! So stay tuned!
I don’t really even know where to begin with this race report. The last time I ran Way Too Cool was in 2010. You can read that race report here. That race was four years and 1 Squeaker ago. It was my first ever ultra and I had been running with a training group to prepare. This year, this race, everything was different.
Six months ago I had ankle surgery. This race was barely a glimmer in my mind at the time but I knew I wanted to run it again but I wasn’t sure if I could. After running CIM, I decided I could give it a shot knowing that running on trails with a bum ankle is way different then running on pavement.
With Pigeon by my side as my training partner every (other) weekend, I really hoped that I would gain the fitness that I needed to finish. And finish I did! Let’s get this race report moving! Warning, LOTS of photos ahead (and it is pretty long).
The day started off really early. I woke up at 4:30, dressed and waited in the garage for Pigeon and Missouri to arrive. The parking situation at WTC is a little crazy and getting a spot IN the parking lot vs on the haul road is ideal for many reasons.
When we arrived at the race, Pigeon and I got out and walked over to pick up our race packets. I didn’t realize that this was the 25th anniversary for Way Too Cool so that was pretty sweet. We got a neat bag (above photo), a nice shirt and a towel included in our schwag bag.
Our parking spot was pretty ideal. We were situated between my old training coaches Coach Nikon and Captain Kirk! That was a good sign in my book.
After multiple trips to the bathroom, a weak effort at trying to nap and a lot of laughter with Pigeon and Missouri, it was time to get ready for the race. I was feeling anxious. The race started at 8 am but we had arrived at the parking lot about 2 hours prior. For me, this throws a minor loop into my usual pre-race routine but it wasn’t too bad. I was able to eat my usual pre-race fuel and had packed all I needed and more.
As we were getting ready, I noticed that Pigeon was putting on her iShuffle. She usually runs with music, at least one ear bud in. For trails, I do not. In fact, I hardly ever run with music because I like to listen to the sounds of the race around me. It helps me enjoy the experience even more. However, I had packed my iShuffle because I thought I might listen to it in the car and that maybe I would want it for the race as a distraction. It was definitely a distraction as you’ll see later.
We knew the day was going to be really warm. It was predicted to reach the mid 70s and be sunny. I started the race wearing my usual Athleta running skirt and tank top and threw on some arm warmers which ended up being useless about 10 minutes into the race.
The race start was broken up into waves. The amount of people signed up for this race has grown tremendously the last few years and to accommodate the numbers, the race directors had to create wave starts. Pigeon and I were in wave 1 which is exactly where we wanted to be.
After a quick Happy Birthday Way Too Cool we were off and running up the paved road. The course compared to 2010 is different. The first 8 miles this year go up the road and we do a loop that takes us back through the parking lot.
The road was pretty boring except that there were hundreds of cars along the side of the road. People were dropping stuff at their cars left and right (or using them as shields as they went to the bathroom). Â At the very top of the hill we hit the single track trail that took us down …. to our first major obstacle and what would set the tone for the day…
These crossings wouldn’t be so bad except that it isn’t just dirt on the bottom. Underneath all that water are slippery jagged rocks of all sizes. You had to be very careful where you placed your foot IF you could see through the water.
Getting the first crossing over with was fun. Everyone was yelling and laughing. All the newbie runners were getting wet within the first mile and it was awesome.
Running with wet feet isn’t so bad. It actually feels quite nice on your joints and your feet typically don’t stay wet for long … unless there is mud, which there was a lot of in this race.
It was through these parts that I started experimenting with wearing my headphones and listening to my music. I put one bud in my ear, ran a couple of yards and almost killed myself. Nope! No way. I am not talented enough to listen to music, focus on the trail and my foot placement and not break a bone. So I took the bud out of my ear and then it was bothering me so as I was running I was trying to unfeed the headphone wires from under my shirt and just carry the darn thing. I was also carrying my arm warmers at this point. I knew we’d see Missouri at mile 8 or so. It was just annoying having all that in my hands.
These 8 miles were fun except for the long lines of people we’d be stuck behind and all the slippery mud we had to run through. It takes a lot of energy to prevent yourself from falling and I could instantly feel my calves and the muscles surrounding my ankle tensing up as I was running through these patches.
Once you are tired of being covered in mud, you come to another crossing!
As I was taking this photo I looked to my right and I see one of our fellow runners taking photos of all of us crossing. He laughed when he saw me taking photos so he took a photo of me taking a photo!
As we were running towards the parking lot there were lots of people lining the sides of the trail cheering for us. Initially I did not think I would like running through the finish area (you know, that mental game) but it was so early on in the race, that I actually think it helped me.
To me, it was like a new race. Pigeon and I have parked in this lot many times and have started our run from here. So in a way, I just thought of it as one of our training runs. I was also finally able to hand off my stuff to Missouri here. Thanks!!!
Once we ran through the lot and crossed the road, ran under the finish arch and back onto the trail we noticed it was a mud fest right in the finish shoot. That would be fun later for sure!
Pigeon and I just cruised along this section. Up and down the hills of the fire road until we came to the trail. I was feeling okay. This rocky section combined with the mud really started playing around with my achilles and the muscles surrounding my bum ankle.
On this stretch I overheard a conversation that had me laughing in my head (see, it pays to not wear ear buds). The guy and girl behind me had just met and were talking. The Way Too Cool race mascot is a huge frog and when you finish, you get an awesome froggie cupcake (that my girls love). I never once thought anything of it until I heard what this guy was saying ….
Guy: We’re coming up on the frog section!
Girl: Frog section?
Guy: Wait for it …
(ribbit ribbit ribbit times a million)
Girl: Oh yea!
Guy: The frogs say cupcake ….
(ribbit ribbit turns into cupcake cupcake cupcake)
Sure enough, the sound of all the millions of little frogs croaking together, sounded as if they are saying cupcake! I was totally smiling ear to ear and giggling in my head. Trail runs bring out the funniest of stories sometimes.
Soon we approached the downhill section that Pigeon loves. She turns to me and says “I need to make a pit-stop. I’ll catch up.” At first I was totally confused and I stopped. I realized here that I had not eaten a single thing so I grabbed some Picky Bar pieces out of my pack and started eating. Then I realized that I too had to make a pitstop or would need to in the near future. I also remembered that not far down the trail we’d cross Highway 49 where there would be a porta potty.
I know Pigeon. I know she could bomb that descent so I took off myself and made it to the porta potty after crossing highway 49. She passed me and we decided that I could catch up (there was an aid station in the middle too).
Sure enough I caught her on the rocky quarry road that parallels the river. We hiked a bit and laughed at our situation and then started running. Quarry road is rather boring. It is a fire road that is kind of annoying really. It has rocks and just goes up and down .. up and down. You either pass or get passed by a lot of people on this road.
But soon were back on the trails where the fun really begins!
Pigeon took the lead for pretty much the entire run sometimes leading a line of people. One thing I noticed this year was that many runners behind us never spoke up. Generally when you want to pass, I typically say “when you have a moment, I’d like to pass” or if you see a clearing you say “on your left” but no one did that. Either they truly didn’t want to pass or they would pass in a very dangerous spot and seem totally annoyed! It was starting to bug me a little bit.
Around mile 17 I was contemplating taking an Aleve. The pain in my achilles was starting to bug me and it was also migrating up my calf and starting to feel more like a cramp. I took a salt tab and on a climb, I dug an Aleve out of my pack and took that with some more Picky Bar pieces. I was willing to risk the tummy ache from the Aleve in an effort to calm the pain in my leg.
Boy am I glad that I took that! Within 20 minutes I started feeling like a million dollars. I had energy, I had strength and I really was hanging close to Pigeon’s tail finally happy to be cruising along easily. I was in such a good mood that I started laughing when I saw this sign …
If you are from New Jersey like myself, you will understand. Hoboken New Jersey has quite the reputation. Hoboken Creek however was another fairly large crossing.
It was pretty rocky and slippery underneath. That guy in the photo was icing his knee. We offered him some pain meds but he said he preferred the nice cold stream instead.
After that we hit a warm sunny patch that felt like we were running through a sauna. The temps were definitely warming up and I was taking more salt that I have in a long time in an effort to keep the cramping in my calves at bay.
Miles 17 to 25 I felt like a million dollars. The whole body felt great. My fueling felt fine although I probably could have squeezed in a little more calories but overall I felt great. Then we reached the infamous Goat Hill. I had sort of forgotten about Goat Hill.
Prior to the hill we’d been running in a long line of runners and I was too busy listening to the women behind me talk non stop the last 5 miles, to really notice that the hill was coming. Granted I was in a zone and pretty quiet but their talking just seemed to bug me. Pigeon was really quiet and I could tell was hurting by the way she was running.
As we were approaching Goat Hill I did something new. I am not a gel person but I had a Honey Stinger gel that I had picked up from work and decided to try it. Ugh, not a wise choice right before you climb the beast that is Goat Hill. Luckily, I kept it down.
By the time we reached the top (9 minutes later) I was toast. I really needed a recovery break here to just catch my breath, stretch my calves and maybe take in a little food but Pigeon was off and running and so was I.
These next few miles though are so pretty with some amazing views. I really wanted to take my camera out quite a few times but I was in the middle of a long line, we were so close to being done and I was watching my steps to make sure I didn’t fall.
Pretty much the last 4 miles of the race are a blur. I just wanted to be done and in hind sight, I should have taken in some food along the way. I usually ate at whatever aid station we came upon. Pigeon was drinking coke which was more like crack because she came alive after having been in a very visible down session earlier.
Her enthusiasm is infectious though (to most – some runners didn’t appreciate it haha). When I started hearing the cars that were on highway 49 I was happy. I knew we only had to cross 49 and then run the long mile UP towards the finish.
We crossed 49 and reached the aid-station they have there and some how I was confused. I wanted to get food but the ladies were grabbing at my water bottles and one lady was telling the other lady to put Gu Brew in my other bottle. I was trying desperately to tell her no, I don’t want that in there, just water and the one lady just handed me a cup of Gu Brew (which I drank) and the other lady had my bottles but I had my lids … it was just confusing. Pigeon was downing more soda and looking at me like “let’s go” so I just started running. It was all a blur. But, I ran.
We hiked up the crazy rocky section and I have to say, I really dislike this section. For someone who has an ankle that doesn’t bend well at all combined with some cramping calves, this section realllllly sucked.
Pigeon was just yelling at me “come on!” and “you can do this!” and in my head I wanted to scream at her but I know what she was doing. She was trying to motivate me. She wanted me to get my PR (personal record) so she was pushing. Generally when I am pushed, I do the opposite and back off. I don’t like being pushed but internally I wanted to be done with this last mile so bad that I just kept moving and praying that my calf wouldn’t seize up on me.
Finally we hit the rolling hills and Pigeon was just pushing and pushing. Then we hit the straight away and I all I wanted to do was just run this and even said, “this is good enough” in terms of my pace but Pigeon pushed even harder, “no it’s not.” Finally we made the curve towards the finish shoot and I all I wanted to do was sprint and avoid the mud so I sprinted …. then Pigeon sprinted. We crossed the finish at the exact same time! I can’t wait to see the finishers photos when they post them as I am sure our faces were hilarious.
As I cross the finish I am handed a medal by this adorable little blonde girl … who I realize is the Peanut! I am totally spent and baffled at how my daughter is handing out medals to the runners … she then runs off and I am left standing there alone trying to find Vans and Squeaker.
After the race I cleaned up, changed and hung out with Vans, the girls, Pigeon and a lot of the Fleet Feet crew. It was nice to relax after the race and let the girls enjoy my hard earned cup cake.
TiggerT was also out there showing support. It was a great day. The weather was great (warm but great) and despite the mud and water, everyone had a lot of fun.
The Way Too Cool course is not an easy 50K in my opinion. Our finish time was 6 hours and 14 minutes which is about 16 minutes faster than I did it in 2010 (granted a different course too). There is a lot of climbing out there on this course and combined with the mud and water, it could make things interesting.
I am happy with the race overall. I am pleased with my gear. My Jenny Vesta was fantastic and so far I am in love with it. The muddy ground made everything soft so the usual pain that I have in the ball of my foot was nonexistent during the race. I continue to love fueling with Picky Bars broken up into little pieces in my bag. Towards the end of the race I was running low so at one of the aid-stations I grabbed a potato and some M&Ms (not sure why, my hand just went there). I also use ginger chews from Trader Joes on the run in-between when my mouth is dry or my tummy is starting to feel off. Those work great although they can be hard to chew so be careful not to use them on a tough up hill. 🙂
Things that didn’t work or that I didn’t like so much was clearly running with my iShuffle and headphones. That was a big fail for me. No big deal, I much prefer the sounds and sights around me. Taking the Honey Stinger gel was not a hit for me. I thought it would give me a faster rush of energy and additional electrolytes but I just don’t love that gel consistency. The twinges in my achilles and ankle are a new(er) sensation for me. I tried going for a post race recovery run and only made it about a block before I decided to turn around and head home. I didn’t want my gait to change compensating for the ankle so I just called it a day and will try again tomorrow after some rest, icing and rolling.
Mostly I am happy. Everything else feels great today (the day after the race). However, I need to wrap my head around running the American River 50 miler in 4 weeks. Luckily my Cornell class is over. The stress that filled my week is also gone (knock on wood) so from here on out, I need to just focus what I can do to help my body be better for AR50.
Three months and 3 days ago I had my ankle surgery and today I ran the California International Marathon.Â Â A few weeks ago, this was not my plan. A few weeks ago I Â thought about perhaps running 13 maybe 15 miles of it and then calling a friend to come and pick me up.
What changed? I am not really sure. I think when Pigeon and I ran our 14 miles in Auburn I felt a little stronger and more confident but at the same time, I had finished that run in some ankle discomfort. Then we went to Tahoe for Thanksgiving and I had some decent 5 mile runs on the road and figured, “Why the heck not? Why not start the race and just see what happens?”
When my friend and running buddy, TiggerT offered to get my packet and give me a ride to start she joked that doing all of that would require that I run all 26.2 miles with her as she had not had the best training either for the marathon.
The day before the race I had attended the Western States Lottery in Auburn and then I traveled up to Apple Hill with the family to find a Christmas Tree … in the snow.
It was a wonderfully cold and wet day that resulted in a larger than life tree that is currently taking over our living room.
I went to bed immediately after the girls and had probably one of the most restful sleeps I have had in a while. I woke up at 4 am feeling rested and excited about the race. I dressed and made my way to the kitchen to have my bowl of oatmeal and tiny cup of coffee.
Soon TiggerT arrived with a truck full of trouble friends. It was 24 degrees outside. That.is.cold for this area. Super cold. Luckily I found our goodwill pile in the garage at the last-minute and discovered an old pair of yoga pants that I was going to toss. I grabbed them and cut the ankles a bit so they’d fit over my running shoes.
I have to admit, TiggerT had the whole morning of CIM dialed down complete with multiple porta potty stops. Eventually we found ourselves near the starting line ready to go. The first mile was pretty uneventful. I never stripped any of my layers the entire race because the temps never seemed to rise very much.
Mile 3 is when insanity started. All the aid-stations were sheets of black ice. We’d approach them running only to slide about 3 feet trying eagerly not to fall. I saw quite a few men slip feet in the air landing flat on their backs. I heard that a few people fell and hit their heads. It was brutal. At one of the aid-stations I slipped while walking and holding my water cup only to have the water fly up and up and out of my cup and land on my head. The lady next to me laughed. I did too.
By mile 13 the bottoms of my feet hurt. It felt like I had no padding on the bottoms of my feet. It was not the feeling I wanted to have that early in the race but I couldn’t help but notice that my ankle was doing great.
At one point we caught up with one of TiggerT’s friends and ran with her. She mentioned to me that the bottoms of her feet were killing her too and for some reason, that made feel a lot better. My shoes are pretty new so the only explanation is that perhaps it was lack of training (imagine that).
I took two Tylenol around mile 15 hoping that might help the pain. A lot of the in-between miles TiggerT and her friend would be chatting away to waving to people they knew. I kept fairly quiet trying hard not to go into a mental zone but I was doing an internal check to see if perhaps I might pull off and call a friend to pick me up.
The next thing I know we are at mile 20. The miles truly flew by and we walked through almost every water station (at my request) as it seemed to break up the monotony as well as keep us safe during the icy conditions. Mile 20 is a special mile. Not only is the aid-station near my old house but Vans and the girls had surprised me by being there!! It was the lift I needed. I don’t think I would have quit (who quits with 6 miles to go!?) but it made it much easier to continue having seen them.
The last six miles of CIM are brutal though. You start running through a neighborhood where the streets are numbered so of course mentally you are looking at the street numbers counting down. This year I was smart and never once looked at the street numbers, not even through the downtown stretch (okay, maybe I looked once and it was bad idea).
I believe around mile 24 I turned to TiggerT and said “Tell me a story. I don’t care what, but tell me a story.” TiggerT came to my rescue and told me a story about running in Boston. You have to love her. At one point she turned to me and said “are we stopping for water?” and I was like, “no! no more stopping” and we pretty much jammed to the finish.
Soon the turn towards the Capital was there and we cruised into the finish. Our unofficial time was 4:30. That is by far my worst marathon time but I had a good time and I finished feeling okay. I still feel okay. Of course I am a little bit stiff and tomorrow may be a whole different story but today is a good day. This was my 5th CIM and my 6th marathon total and while I don’t recommend running one without training, I am kind of on a high that I actually did it. The body is an amazing thing and often times you can find strength when you thought you had none and sometimes, that takes having an awesome friend believe in you.
As I reported in my last post, we were in Tahoe for our 9 year wedding anniversary. Instead of running the Emerald Bay Half Marathon, I changed my entry to the Lake Tahoe 5K. My doctor told me that I should be fine to walk the 5K when I told her I was considering it at my post-surgery follow-up appointment. She had given me the “ok” to start running then. I knew it would be hard mentally for me to even attempt walking this race and not run it. I started running on the track near my house a little bit at first and running in the mornings before attending Breakout Fitness but I had the itch to run. Bad.
When Vans and I attended the expo to pick up our race packets, I could see that the 5K field was small, very small. That is when I knew I wanted this race. I didnâ€™t say too much about it. I joked that I could probably â€˜winâ€™ the whole thing as it there were not a lot of people at packet pick up but inside I was really considering racing it. Still, I knew that might be foolish and that I had to just play it by ear. Let pain be my guide is what my doctor had told me. The problem is, I have a high tolerance for pain.
Vans had his bike race on Saturday and then Saturday evening we sort of did a hodge-podge dinner as we were tired of going out to eat. I wasnâ€™t feeling 100% but I made sure I was hydrated. We had quite a few evenings of Happy Hour at the hotel leading up to our races that I was craving coconut water each day trying to replenish my electrolytes.
Sunday morning came and we loaded the car. Vans was going to drop me off at the 5K start and drive to the finish (it was a point to point race). The wind was flying and it was a little chilly at the start but not too bad.
Side note here, this will probably be the first of many posts where I talk about Athleta. I do not work for Athleta nor am I associated with them in anyway. I just happen to buy a lot of their clothes (usually on sale but not always). For this race, I was dressed head to toe in an Athleta outfit and Iâ€™ll be honest when I tell you what works and what doesnâ€™t work when it comes to running. I am generally quite particular about my workout clothes.Â My top was the Kenton Burnout Top and my running skirt was the printed Swagger Skort (the solid color is on sale right now). I love this skort for so many reasons but mostly because it is super cute, very flattering and does not ride up when running. I have not run in it for anything longer than 7 miles but when I have it has worked great. In Tahoe, the temperature was in the 40s during my race and I really appreciated having a shirt with thumbholes while waiting around at the starting line however, once the race started, I got hot. This top is warm! Granted I also had on a vest (Brooks) to cut the wind. I probably didnâ€™t need both but once the race was over, again it was nice having the thumb holes.
Back to the race. Standing around at the starting line I noticed that the field looked small and that many peopled looked like they were out for a Sunday stroll instead of a race. There were a few women who looked serious though. I never think I look serious though and I just stood off to the side and tried to stretch and warm my muscles as much as I could. Everything felt stiff and foreign to me.
The start was very unassuming except for the guy that said â€œgoâ€ also had a huge rifle in his hand that blasted my ear drums when he fired it. As I took off running I noticed that four or five guys were sprinting pretty darn fast. I slowed my pace a little bit as I didnâ€™t want to get caught up too fast. There was one girl who was in front of me and I silently made her my rabbit.
I passed my rabbit somewhere between miles 1 and 2. The course was on a paved bike trail and fairly flat. I noticed that my ankle felt great. My lungs on the other hand were burning like crazy. I was not wearing a watch at all because I had not planned on really running. It felt really nice to just let go and run not knowing my pace.
After I passed my rabbit I made a promise to myself that I would not turn around and look to see if she was close. I knew that if I turned around that I might see she was way far back and then would slow my own pace down OR I would see her right on my tail and try and push too hard to stay in front.
The course at one point got a little bit confusing. The arrows disappeared and there were no aid stations left. I saw a man walking along the road and I asked if I was going the right way. He said yes and that I would turn left shortly up the road. When I turned left down the drive to Pope Beach I realized my lungs hurt so bad that if I had to go another mile I might hurl.
I rounded a corner and I saw Vans and the girls walking towards the finish line. He turned and saw me and then tried to get the girls cheer for me.
As I was passing him he yelled to me “Um, first female! FIRST FEMALE! RUN! RUN FAST!” Of course I thought that someone was behind me so I tried hard to add some extra fuel to the fire but my lungs were having none of it. I passed through the finish line and luckily did not hurl on the teenage girl handing me my medal.
My girls ran up to me and congratulated me. They wanted to see my medal. The Peanut was quick to tell me that Vans’s medal was bigger. Love that girl.
The race director came up to me to tell me that he had a special prize for me and to not go anywhere meanwhile a nice woman came by with two kids in a double jogger and asked if we wanted her to take our photo so it would look like we vacationed together.
Eventually the race director gathered myself and the first male winner and presented us with a large “trophy” that was in the shape of Lake Tahoe.
My “big” award (pst, way bigger than Vans’s)
The guy doing the announcing interviewed the first male and female briefly in front of the (very) small crowd. We had to then wait around for the age group awards. I give my girls credit, they played on the beach and hung around even though it was a little windy and chilly outside.
The truth of the matter is, this 5K is not as big a deal as it sounds. The field was quite small. I was 7th overall, first in my age group and first female however my pace was an 8 minute mile. Typically an 8 minute mile does NOT win a 5K. Ever. But I am not diminishing my win or discrediting it at all because I do think running an 8 minute mile 3 weeks post ankle surgery is pretty impressive.
Two weeks ago I was wearing a boot that reached up to my knee. The body is an amazing thing and I am grateful for the way in which mine healed from surgery and for the way it continues to surprise me each day by getting stronger. To be truthful, I’ve had a few twinges of pain when walking and/or running this week but not until more than a week after the race so I don’t necessarily think it is related to running but perhaps something I am doing incorrectly at Breakout Fitness Folsom. I am going to pay more attention to our movements this week.
October is my favorite month so I hope you all can take the time to enjoy the leaves turning colors, the awesome smell in the air and just the beauty that surrounds us each day.