Tag Archives: 50K

RUCK A CHUCK 50k RACE REPORT

Much like last year, this was only supposed to be training run. Last year’s Ruck a Chuck turned into a battle for the finish (read that report here), this year was a little bit different ….

ruck

Once again, Paulo and the crew over at Single Track Running, put on a stellar event. This is the second event of theirs that I have done in the last month.

I really enjoy STR events because they are fun, low-key, well marked races and they typically really challenge you (which I like) and they often are on trails that you wouldn’t normally find yourself on, which I also really like.

The Ruck a Chuck 50k is entirely on the Western States trail, which is pretty awesome in and of itself.

First let me start off by saying, I was bad blogger this race. I took only one photo the entire day! So all photos in this recap are from STR and Chasqui Runner (THANK YOU!) and from Not Chris.

The day started with my Garmin dying. I’ve been having charging issues and needless to say, it was going to be a Timex kind of day for me. Which is fine, it was just kind of a bummer to not have my mileage, pace or elevation at the end of this race.

Not Chris however did have his Garmin and he was running his very first 50k! He’s been running well and if we’re honest, he really didn’t officially even “train” for this race, he just kept his mileage up. He’s a stud.

The parking at Driver’s Flat is limited so Pigeon and I carpooled to the start and were able to score a spot and chill.

The weather was warmer and dry and having remembered last year how humid it was out there, I started this year in a tank top. So glad that I did.

Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
Photo Credit : Casqui Runner

Love seeing so many familiar faces at these races. Lots of good people. I even met a few people that I “know” from social media only and that was super cool.

Paulo gathered us at the starting arch, gave us some final instructions and then passed the megaphone off to a friend to count us down.

We were off and running the 3 miles down the road to the river. Last year I remember really blowing this section up, yelling at myself and then stopping to use the restroom at the bottom as a way to calm myself down.

This year we flew down (Not Chris said we ran a sub 8) but it didn’t feel like we were flying super fast. I did tell Not Chris that we’d have to stop at the restroom at the bottom. I didn’t share with him yet that I’ve been battling an unsettled tummy for the last two days.  I hated to stop but it was unavoidable.

Photo credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo credit : Chasqui Runner

Our plan was to stick together all day. His main goal was to finish feeling really good and to fuel better than he did at FOURmidable. My goal was to not race. I was supposed to “jog” nice and easy – Not Chris’s job was to make sure I did that.

After our bathroom stop we continued on. I noticed that for some reason, it was hard for me to breathe. The trees and flowers have really been blooming lately and man, have my allergies felt it.  It felt like I only had one working lung instead of two.

Not Chris was LOVING the views and the raging river on our right. He was mesmerized by it all. I love when people get to see new trails for the first time.

Stream crossing! Photo Credit: Chasqui Runner
Stream crossing!
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

We settled into a run and then hit the single track section and so the climbing began.

Profile from Single Track Running
Profile from Single Track Running

The course is very runnable. The trails were much clearer (the over grown grass section was gone) but in some sections, it seems the rocks have multiplied.

I tried to just focused on running and hiking. My lungs took a while to come to life but they did eventually. My stomach however, was always just one step away from being a problem.

Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

Not Chris and I bypassed the first aid-station (mile 2.7)  and the next one wasn’t for another 7.5 miles. We chatted along the way, having a good time and enjoying the day.

Everything was so green and pretty! The flowers were in bloom and the ticks were out. That was the one thing that I was super nervous about but hey, that’s mother nature for ya!

Pigeon Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Pigeon
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

When we made it to the Cal 2 aid-station (mile 10.2) we couldn’t help but laugh. They were the happiest bunch of volunteers! The aid-station was fully stocked with everything you could need (including beer and shots) and they were cracking jokes. I almost didn’t want to leave … Not Chris I think was overwhelmed as he took some time at this aid-station. 🙂

On our way to Cal 1 we ran into a fellow co-worker of ours, Brad Rogers. The three of us chatted for a bit about work and running. Then I ran into Shavi! Shavi and I have never really met but we have many mutual friends so I said “hi” and introduced myself.

The down into Cal 1 (mile 14.6) is pretty steep but I knew that once we reached the bottom, aid would be close. Last year the race was shortened due to a rain storm and the aid-station was our turn-around. THIS year, we had to run past the aid-station a mile, grab a wrist band and return to the aid-station.

Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

Not Chris and I barely stopped at the aid-station. As we were reaching the turn-around spot, we ran into lots of friends on their return. It was such an energy boost with lots of whooping and hollering.

Not Chris let out a bit “WHOO HOO” when we reached the bucket holding our wrist bands. We grabbed ours and headed back, eager to get to the Cal 1 aid-station (mile 16.6).

Once through we started our climb out. The section leading back is a gorgeous single track that’s super runnable and boy did we run! Last year this was the section where I ran into my Tommy Lee Jones friend Roger. Funny enough, I ran into Roger within the first 3 miles or so during this race and he laughed remembering last year’s brutal run and how he helped me push to score a nice finish. This time I said, “Don’t even think about it Roger!” 🙂

At one point, I think I was hallucinating as I told Not Chris that I saw the Cal 2 aid-station through the trees. Not sure what the heck I saw but it sure wasn’t the aid-station! 🙂

When we finally did come up on Cal 2 (mile 21) I was looking forward to the sections ahead. The descent out of Cal 2 is super fun. A switch back down that can really give you a boost of energy. Before we left the aid-station though, we laughed with the volunteers again. They were a riot, they told us to give them a good “YELP” review. 🙂

Photo Credit : Me
Photo Credit : Me

Not Chris took the lead and down we flew. I was no where near the speed I was last year as my ankle (that I tweaked the weekend prior) was starting to bark at me, a lot. Still, I think we ran down pretty well, excited to be on our way home.

Not Chris was thrilled because he ran his farthest distance ever on this down hill. Followed by his first ever marathon distance when we hit 26.2.

At one point on our way back we passed a guy on the trail and he said, “Trailmomma?!” and I turned and said, “Yea!” He said, “Hi!” So whoever that was (I missed the name on your bib), you totally  made my day! 🙂 It also made Not Chris laugh … “Did that guy just call you Trailmomma?” 🙂  I hope you had a great race too!

Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

When we hit the fire road that runs along the river, I was feeling a little bit better tummy-wise (though still bloated – started the race that way but what are you gonna do?) but I was also having some swelling issues. My fingers had started swelling as I was starting to retain water. I stopped consuming anything salty and luckily, there wasn’t much farther to run. The temps were humid and it even sprinkled on us a bit but it was still warm. Warmer than I think I anticipated and ultimately was a bit behind in my hydration.

LOVE this photo of Pigeon Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
LOVE this photo of Pigeon
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

We reached the final aid-station at Gate 101 (mile 28.5) and prepared ourselves for the climb out. It’s a nice long climb up a dirt fire road. We started out hiking, neither one of us eager to run. Then, as we both tend to get, we got bored and would pick “trees” to run to. “Okay, run to that second big tree! Now, run to that tree on the left!” Do what you have to do to move.

We turned a corner and I noticed a speed sign that was just littered with bullet holes. We both were looking it, talking about it when I turned my head right and saw the arches! “Hey!!! Look! HA! Let’s go!”

The finish line totally took us by surprise! We both started running and smiling.

Photo by : Not Chris's Family
Photo credit : Not Chris’s Family

I saw all of Not Chris’s family off to the side and they were cheering for him. Even his dog looked like he was cheering!

He did it! Photo Credit : Not Chris's Family
He did it! (that’s his dog too)
Photo Credit : Not Chris’s Family

Woo hoo! We crossed the finish line smiling. We both had reached our goals, but I was beyond proud of him. He has the potential to run much harder than he did and I know he will some day, but it was so nice to watch him reach his goal and to see his family there at the finish witness it too.

SO happy for him! Photo Credit : Not Chris's Family
SO happy for him!
Photo Credit : Not Chris’s Family

Another awesome 50k in the books. Thanks Single Track Running for a great event, a challenging course and a well executed race.

Thanks Not Chris for keeping me company all day. You looked strong, ran well, kept me moving and my mind off my stomach. Man, the bloating and the swelling was not fun but that is what these training runs are all about right? They make us stronger. They help us figure out what we need to work on. I’ve been super lucky the last  few years to have some stellar uncomplicated runs and races. I can’t always rely on the fact that everything will be perfect, but I can rely on myself and my ability to problem solve as I go.

Swollen and bloated by happy. Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Swollen and bloated but happy.
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

As it turns out, Not Chris ended up second in his age group and I ended up third in mine! Woot woot! I’ll take that. 🙂

And a shout out to my hubby Vans, as he also raced this weekend on Sunday and he also came in third at a gnarly (muddy) mountain bike race in Cool.

Two very muddy boys! Photo Credit : Me
Two very muddy boys!
Photo Credit : Me

Overall, a great weekend. I raced Saturday morning, Vans raced Sunday morning and our girls had their swim team clinic on Sunday afternoon. Perfection.

Cheers to Third Place Parents! Photo Credit : Me
Cheers to Third Place Parents!
Photo Credit : Me

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the fourth race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events. 

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RUCK A CHUCK 50K RACE REPORT

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.

Photo from Single Track Running's
Photo from SingleTrack Running

When I signed up for SingleTrack Running’s Ruck a Chuck 50k a few months ago, I knew that I would be pacing Stonegate 25 miles of her 50 mile run the weekend prior. I told myself that is the perfect way to work two long runs into the month. The plan was to go nice and easy to work the legs and to get some elevation training in (the race initially boasted 6500 ft of elevation).

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).

So pretty
So pretty

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.

Photo credit: SingleTrack Running - This is between miles 4 and 5 I think - we crossed two of these streams in each direction..
Photo credit: SingleTrack Running – This is between miles 4 and 5 I think – we crossed two of these streams in each direction.

Roughly at mile 10 we entered the second aid-station at Cal-2.

Photo credit: SingleTrack Running - It was a long climb to that aid-station.
Photo credit: SingleTrack Running – It was a long climb to that aid-station.

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.

2

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.

This is Roger aka Tommy Lee Jones
Photo Credit: SingleTrack Running – This is Roger aka Tommy Lee Jones

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.

4

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.

My wooden trophies.
My wooden trophies.

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.

Race profile from my Garmin
Race profile from my Garmin
My Garmin said 7,548 ft of elevation - others apparently said otherwise?
My Garmin said 7,548 ft of elevation – others apparently said otherwise?

Here is what the finish looked like in photos (all four photos that follow are credited to SingleTrack Running’s Facebook page):

She is second place female - that SPEC behind her is me. :)
This is the second place female – that SPEC behind her is me. :)
Oh my god, I don't think I can make it! haha
Oh my god, I don’t think I can make it! haha
First I shoot Paulo a death look - Dude that was some race!
First I shoot Paulo a death look – Dude that was some race!
Then I smile. Holy crap, I am done.
Then I smile. Holy crap, I am done.

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. 😉

My Swimmer Girl
My Swimmer Girl

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.

Kinda cool to see my name listed.
Kinda cool to see my name listed.

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!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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. 

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FOURMIDABLE 50K RACE REPORT (What a freaking race!)

A FOURmidable Start
A FOURmidable Start

Saturday was my first race of the 2016 season and it definitely was a race to remember. So settle in and grab a drink, this is doozy of a report. 🙂

I chose Single Track Running’s FOURmidable 50K because I thought it would be a good indicator of where I am in my training so far. It touted a high elevation and a tough course. I have never run one of their races before but I knew the general area where I would be running … or so I thought.

If you’ve been following me, you know that I spend almost every weekend in Auburn and/or Cool running these trails with my friends. Up and down K2. Up and down Cardiac. Up and down the hill to the Overlook. I’ve done it all countless times but when you string so many climbs together in one single day? Woah, talk about a death march!

My girls.
My girls.

I am truly a lucky girl because I have two amazing friends who offered to drive me to the start of the race and send me off with laughter, hugs and positive vibes.

Hugs!
Hugs!

I honestly don’t think I could have had a better start to a race. It meant more to me than they will ever know. I was calm, I was happy and I had no stress because of their generosity and friendship. Pigeon was texting me all morning as well, sending advice and good juju too.

The start was chilly but I could tell it was going to be a warm day. I was worried that I should have gone with a tank top instead of a t-shirt, ah well, too late to worry about that now.

The starting area was gorgeous. A beautiful fog was layering over the valley making for the most amazing views for the start of a race.

Or very cool Ninja poses by Stonegate
Perfect for very cool Ninja poses by Stonegate

There was a bit of confusion at the start as it was hard to hear Paulo, the Race Director talk over the loud speaker. There were four distances to this race and they started at different times. The 50k and half marathon started at 8 am and the 35.5k and 13k started five minutes later. I know that some of the 35k people didn’t understand that (despite countless emails detailing the day’s starting times) and they ended up starting with some of us 50k runners.

Off and Running! Thanks Stonegate for the photo!
Off and Running! Thanks Stonegate for the photo!

Paulo counted us down and I was off and running. I didn’t really look around me to see how large of a crowd it was because it was combining two distances (remember I started with the half marathoners too).

Off we ran DOWN the Damn Hill, the same hill that I have had to run UP for the American River 50 mile race so many times. As I was running, I realized I was going at a pretty good clip. It was downhill after all. A girl came up next to me and told me that she really liked my hat. 🙂

I said thanks and just kept running. My watch buzzed and I looked down, Mile 1 = 8:46 pace. Woah. That’s pretty fast when I have 30 more miles to go … I told myself to be careful. I just felt good. Everyone was flying granted most were probably doing the half marathon. Whoops.

Watch buzzes a mile later … 8:45 …. um…what are you doing!? Then we get thrown onto some single track trails that wind us down towards the very bottom of Cardiac and that’s when it all came to a halt.

My legs felt like jell-o when I started climbing. My breathing was labored. My body felt tired. All I kept thinking was “What in the heck?! See! You went out too fast!” But I just kept climbing. I didn’t push the pace. Luckily I was solo on the climb most of the way so no pressure from behind or in front.

Eventually though, a few people caught up to me and I let them pass … that deflated me a little but I just kept telling myself, you have miles and miles to go.

When we reached what I thought was the top of Cardiac, the spot where my friends and I usually stop, catch our breath and continue on down the canal..but instead, we kept climbing. Cardiac apparently, goes even HIGHER than I knew was possible. Geez. But it was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous!

That was the first of the “FOUR”midable climbs in the race. That is what I kept telling myself. Just count the climbs and you’ll be fine.

After cardiac we wind our way back to the starting area for the first aid-station. I was in and out in about 15 seconds. I didn’t need much. I threw out some trash and that was it.

Then we dipped onto some trails that I have never run before that take you down and under the Auburn Damn Overlook. It was beautiful. I was just beaming!

Then we were dumped back onto the Western States Trail and were on our way to No Hands Bridge. I found myself behind this girl who was flying whooping and hollering down the trail. Her energy was infectious! I latched onto her tail and flew down to the bridge running a 9 minute mile. She of course, was only running the half.

No Hands Bridge, mile 9.2 aid-station – in and out less than 20 seconds. Instead I hiked up towards K2 eating what I brought in my pack.

The climb up K2 (the second of the FOURmidable climbs) was not nearly as fast as it had been last weekend but it was steady. One foot in front of the other. At the top, where I normally stop with my girls and take a breather, I realized I couldn’t stop. I had to keep going. There was one girl who literally ran up K2. I was floored.

I texted my friends … and they texted me back with this … causing me to crack up while climbing K2, thanks girls!

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Again when I thought we would go one way, the course had us going a different way. What fun! I was trying to figure out where the heck we were and if I had been on these trails before. I was definitely by myself. Some guys had passed me and then kept going. Finally I reached the Knickerbocker Aid-station (mile 13.0). I asked the volunteer (who was super nice) which way the 50k runners go because at this point, we had some 35k runners with us (the ones who started at the wrong time).

The volunteer pointed across the street and said, “Well, you’re going to do a little four mile loop and then come back to us here and then go that way.” Inside I laughed, “a little four mile loop?” … I knew what that meant … the third of the FOURmidable climbs, Old Auburn Damn Hill … another brutal climb.

It was getting warm and fast. The girl from the first mile had caught up to me and we ran together for a while chatting. I also ran into TrailTurtle Shannon who I haven’t seen out on the trails in a long time. Always a pleasure seeing her.

Hat Girl started telling me that she is out here twice a week climbing Damn Hill and K2 while her daughter is in school. She said she saw a “nest” out here a few weeks ago that was HUGE. I was like, “What kind of nest?” Thinking it was going to be a bees or wasps.

Humans could fit in that nest!
Humans could fit in that nest!

Nope, she meant a bird’s nest that was SO large, a couple of humans could actually fit inside. What in the hell?! I stopped to take a photo when she showed me, and she took off! ha Sneaky sneaky. 🙂

She was quite a ways ahead of me up the climb. When we reached the aid-station (mile 17.6), I think she saw that I didn’t really stay long. Less than 20 seconds and I was out, walking and eating. She was quick to join me.

She ran off up ahead while I was content to eat and hike some. Eventually I caught up to her and another girl (the one who ran up K2) and they moved to let me pass. So I did.

But Hat Girl was quick to stay with me. She left the girl she was with and was behind me. I have to say, I have never been on these trails before. I knew we were in Cool but I had no idea where we were. Some of it was the Way Too Cool course but some of it took us off where I don’t think I have been before. I could see highway 49 and it felt like I was in the backyard of the homes that lined the highway. Crazy!

This was the LONGEST stretch between aid-stations and I had no idea at the time, that it was that far. Seeing that aid-station tent off in the distance at the fire-station in Cool was a HUGE relief. Thank goodness.

I had a burst of energy. Not only because of the aid-station, but because I knew that I was on my way to the finish. I’ve run this route (again, or so I thought) a million times and I was anxious to get to that downhill section that leads back to No Hands Bridge.

At the aid-station (mile 23) this girl dressed head to toe in pink came up behind Hat Girl and I and said, “You two are hard to catch! I ‘ve been chasing you girls forever!” I laughed and then she took off! I probably stayed the longest at this aid-station, mostly because they were so chatty (really it was probably 30 seconds). Off I went and Hat Girl was right with me.

When we reached the section where we normally turn right to head back down towards No Hands, the course had us going straight. WHAT??!! My heart screamed inside a bit. Noooooo! I wanted to turn RIGHT! Whhhhyyyyy! Straight we went. We eventually came back around but man, that was a hard detour to swallow.

Pink Girl was gone. Hat girl was with me. We reached the downhill section that I have been bombing lately and I turned to her and said, “This is the section I have been waiting for!” Poof, I was gone. I had a enough juice in the legs and I just motored. My average on this section was an 8:50 mile (and it was muddy).

I caught up to Pink Girl who was not backing down as she took off even faster. We were both talking as we were running about how awesome this section is!

We reached No Hands and the aid-station (mile 26.8) and I threw away some trash. Pink Girl I noticed didn’t even stop. She handed a water bottle to her family and left without grabbing anything. I grabbed a cup downed it and then started eating and walking across No Hands. I texted Vans to tell him that I had  4 miles left and that it would take me an hour.

I put my phone away and started running. I eventually passed Pink Girl who it looked like was finally taking a moment to eat. I passed her and said that I’d probably see her again soon.

I just felt, good … so I kept running on all the flats. I’d stop and power hike when I’d feel like my legs were about to fall off, and then the sensation would pass and I’d start running again. The trails were FILLED with people hiking and carrying strollers and they didn’t quite know trail etiquette.

Run walk run walk up and up and up I climbed. I heard a noise behind  me and I turned and there was Pink Girl! “Girl!” I said, “You just come out of no where! Man you are killing it today!” She laughed and said she had no business trying to keep up with me but this girl was strong. We talked for a bit.

She said that the downhill section we had just bombed took a bit too much out of her.  She was also a mom of 3 and had been up all night the night before with her youngest who was sick and that all 3 of her kids had been sick during the week. Geez, I can’t imagine how she runs when her whole family is healthy!

I took off running and she said she wasn’t there yet. I thought for sure I would see her again. Back towards the Overlook we were climbing but just as we were supposed to go right, the course had us go left onto a trail that I have never in all my times running out there noticed before! Where are we going!?

It was an awesome single track and there was a guy in front of me. Trying to take advantage of the down again I picked up the pace. I joked that while I loved this course change, it scared me … what goes down must come back up …and we were going very steeply down towards the river.

The guy let me pass him and then finally, I turned a corner and saw it, the massive climb with various runners sprinkled way up high. Holy moly. We have to climb that to get to the finish?!

At first I felt strong and then my legs started to shake and feel weak. I kept thinking about the guy behind me but eventually I think he even stopped because I no longer heard him. One foot in front of the other I told myself. I remembered Vans’s note to me this morning ….

Just Keep Going!
Just Keep Going!

Just keep going! So I did. Hands on knees hiking – I kept trying to stay up right to help my breathing be better but dang was this a climb! Then, I heard it … someone yelling!!! That means we were close. We had to be close!

Boom, a little boost of energy and I was climbing a bit harder …. I knew my family was there, I knew it and I wanted to get there fast. The guy behind me had mentioned earlier that we were on track to be sub 6 hours. I refused to look at my watch when he said it but I glanced down while climbing and knew it wouldn’t happen, not with this climb.

My Girls at the finish! Waiting for me!
My Girls at the finish! Waiting for me!

Finally I reached the top, saw my girls and Vans and almost melted. I had to run a few more yards to the finish. Everyone was cheering and my legs just felt unattached to my body! I finished! From my watch, it looks like I PR’d with 6 hour and 8 minutes (Official Results say 6 hours and 9 minutes).

I was handed a very cool wooden medal and told to go pick out a hat or a beanie … how cool!!!

As I was doing that, I saw Paulo, the race director. When I got near him I said, “I don’t know whether to hug you or hit you!” 🙂 But he got a hug and he said, “Congrats! Third female!” and he handed me this cool wooden award.

“What? No!” I said, “You have to be mistaken.” He said they just checked and I was third female! After all that battling with Pink Girl and Hat Girl, I ended up being third. So many times when they got ahead of me I just said to myself, “Forget it, let it go, just run your race.” And you know what, I did. I did run my race and it apparently worked! I was also first in my age group. 🙂

My cool trucker hat, wooden medal and wooden award. Very creative.
My cool trucker hat, wooden medal and wooden award. Very creative.

This race was incredible. Definitely one of the hardest, if not THE hardest 50k I have done. Mt. Tam 50k is probably the next closest but I do think FOURmidable may have been a smidgen harder.

Course Profile
Course Profile

The course was well marked. There were sections where you really had to pay attention otherwise you might miss a turn but overall, it was extremely well executed. I am a little bummed because there was a ton vegan food at the finish and I didn’t have ANY of it. 🙁 I completely forgot and was busy with my family.

Course map. We went everywhere!
Course map. We went everywhere!

I worked my butt off training for this race knowing there was a lot of climbing. I also know that I need to keep up that amount of climbing if not double for what lies ahead.

As always, I will post my recovery meal but know that post race is always an exception in my world. Our fridge is on empty in terms of food this weekend and since Vans and the girls were at the finish, Vans had a little something up his sleeve … with a little help from me too …

Cafe Nectar to go while sipping some wine from Casque on their patio.
Cafe Nectar to go while sipping some wine from Casque on their patio.

Two vegan tempeh tacos and one vegan chorizo taco (for Vans) complete with two wonderful glasses of Syrah as the girls played off in the distance as the sun was setting. Perfection. #goodhusband

Sorry, I know this was the longest race report ever. Hey, it was the first race of the season, give me some slack. 🙂 It is not every day when I PR in a 50k AND get 3rd female. I am still blown away and completely blessed by all the wonderful people in my life. Thanks for reading!

The two real prizes in my life!
The two real prizes in my life!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with Single Track Running at all and was not paid or compensated at all for writing this report. They truly put on a stellar event. 

 

 

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SALMON FALLS 50K RACE REPORT

Well the day finally came. I have been talking about running the Salmon Falls 50k over these last few blog posts and yesterday was the day.

I will warn you now, this post may be a bit long and I have TONS of photos but none of which were taken from me during the race. All of them are compliments of Vans and his awesomeness as being the best race husband and dad ever. This post is for him because without him yesterday, I may not have smiled half as much as I did. I needed him yesterday and he was there 110%.

You know how when you hear a lot of hype about something and you inadvertently build high expectations about it? That’s how my training has been. I felt ready. I felt trained. Yet come race day, not everything happened the way I had envisioned it. Isn’t that always the way?

For the first time, in a very long time, I had a great night of sleep. Squeaker didn’t wake me up throughout the night as she had these last few weeks. I went to bed at a decent time and I woke up a half hour before my alarm was set to go off. I was excited.

The weather was unpredictable. The entire week the forecasters had said it was going to rain on race day. It rained the night before which meant the trails were going to be muddy but it also didn’t rain for very long … so there was hope that things would be semi dry for race day. The temps were colder than they have been but I decided to go with what I have been wearing for almost all of my runs these last few months. My “uniform” so to speak.

Pigeon was set to arrive at my house where Stonegate would pick us up and take us to the race start. Stonegate is running Way Too Cool next weekend and we were lucky to have her chauffeur services to the start. Tri-Girl also met at my house as she had decided to sign up for the race.

The race is a point to point starting at Magnolia Ranch. There were strict parking or rather NO parking rules. Stonegate got us there in plenty of time. We were able to enter the main parking lot and hop out of the car to register with Coach Nikon, the Race Director. It is always great seeing his smiling sarcastic face first thing in the morning before a race. His races are always a class act and well put together. He has probably the best volunteers around too and you can’t have a good race without great volunteers.

After signing in, Pigeon and I hopped back into Stongate’s car while Tri-Girl decided to get into the mile long porta-potty line. This gave us a good reason to sit in the lot waiting for her. The park rangers were there and we were watching. Unfortunately, the line was not moving super fast and so Stonegate had to move the car to across the street. Long story short, we kept missing Tri-Girl as she was trying to get back to the car. Poor Stonegate probably drove back and forth about a million and two times trying to find her, drop us off and then drop her off. :) We saw so many awesome trail friends at the start. This race was full of smiling friendly faces. It was so nice to say hi, get hugs and catch up with everyone.

I was starting to get excited and a bit nervous. At some point during all of this pre-race waiting, I heard something that unfortunately I let get into my head. This person didn’t mean any harm or ill will at all. My head just operates in a certain way and my brain reacted (or maybe over-reacted?) and went into over drive. This would haunt me for most of the race and cause me to battle internally over and over with myself. I was trying to will myself out of the negative mental spiral I was putting myself into but combined with all the other little things that didn’t go as planned, it made for a long and interesting experience out there.

Finally, Coach Nikon had us gather at the start. I loved the low-keyness to the race. He gave us a pre-race briefing and pep talk in Coach Nikon fashion. He said, “We used over 9 rolls of tape to mark this course in addition to trail chalk. If you get lost, I want to know how you did it.” 🙂

He counted down and we were off. I would venture to guess there was close to 180 people in the race. While not large, it still made for an interesting start jockeying for position on the very wide trail. There were some puddles and mud and then all of a sudden, we were at our first shin high stream crossing. We were not even at one mile yet! That’s how you start a race!

It starts with a pretty good up hill climb with some switch backs along the way.  Pigeon, Tri-Girl and I were close together. We saw some friends along the way like Miss P and we all sort of ran together trying to get out of the congestion a bit. For some reason, the congestion was bugging me. I like to have space and there was none at this point. I was also starting to feel my stomach sloshing around a bit. Uh-oh. That is not what I wanted right off the bat.

I climbed, ran and hiked hard. There were some good down sections too. Tri-Girl took off. Pigeon and I tried to conserve our legs and our energy knowing what was to come. This is where my brain started taking over again. I could not shake my thoughts so I ran, harder. Pigeon told me not to go chasing some girl down the hill. She knew I was itching to just open it up but it was too soon.

The trails are gorgeous through these sections. I truly wished I had my camera. At some point, we caught up to and passed Tri-Girl. Running the downs and trying to hike the ups. As Pigeon and I were running there was this guy next to us who started talking about “the hill.” He was worried, “It is the biggest hill in the race. You have to walk it. It is huge.” This got Pigeon in a bit of worrisome state as she had not been on these trails prior to the race. She’s only run a certain section of the course. She turns to me, “How big of a hill? Like a Diamond Peak hill?” I told her, no and that she’s already climbed it once before. He was talking about the hill that was at the first aid-station by Cronin Ranch. It was a hill but it was a long gradual hill and she has climbed far worse in her days. It was also at this point that I looked down at my garmin watch and realized it wasn’t working. At all. I had no time no mileage. Crap! I tend to use the time feature often when it comes to fueling. I had forgotten to power it down and then restart it before the race. Again, something I didn’t plan on happening.

However, I knew we were getting close to the aid-station (4.43 miles into the race). I turned to Pigeon and told her my tummy was not happy. She told me to sprint ahead and go use the bathroom that we remembered was at this particular aid-station. So I did. I sprinted like I was on fire. I ran so hard trying to get ahead and when I reached the aid-station and all the wonderful volunteers who were so ready to help me, I ran right past them. They looked confused but they must have figured out I was going to use the bathroom except the bathroom was SO FAR AWAY. I am not talking a couple of yards, I am talking VERY far away. I was sprinting my little heart out and then just started freaking out that it was too far. When I turned back to look at the aid-station, Pigeon was just getting there. Forget it. If I had continued on, I would have been so far behind. Instead, I turned around. I convinced myself that I would just make it to the next aid-station.

When I finally reached the aid-station Pigeon was talking to the volunteers. Pigeon said, “that’s Trailmomma!” A lovely woman smiled at me and said, “Hi Trailmomma! This is Dizzy!” pointing to another runner. I have to apologize to these two, I was so confused. I thought at first, she was telling me that this guy was dizzy. However, she was trying to tell me that both of them read my blog and follow me and that his name is listed as Dizzy in my followers list! Dizzy I am SO sorry! I must have looked totally confused. So I want to give a shout out to Dizzy and that super wonderful volunteer whose name I did not catch who follow me! Thank you SO much for being out there yesterday and thank you for following all my crazy running stories! 🙂

Next it was time to climb Pedro Hill, the big hill that other runner was worried about. I just put my head down and climbed. I’ve been working on my climbing over the last few months and it has been paying off. I finally feel strong when I climb (most of the time).

Battling the demons in my head and the alien in my stomach, I just climbed and climbed. We finally reached the top with its amazing views and started running the nice long down stretch. What goes up, must come down.

The next aid-station was at mile 7 (Norton Ravine) but there was no bathroom. The next aid-station after that where there WAS a bathroom was at Skunk Hollow but that was 5.8 miles and a lot of rolling hills away.

This is where my brain took over. There are some pretty good climbs and some technical sections during these 5.8 miles. I was not in the mood for chit chat. I pulled ahead of Pigeon and just hiked the up hills hard or even ran some of them. I ran the downs pretty hard too. It was almost as if I was trying to kill the negative thoughts through my head. My  tummy felt better when I was running compared to when I had to stop and hike. I just motored.

For a while, Pigeon was not behind me. I couldn’t even see her. My legs felt good and strong which bothered me because I felt I could have run even better if I wasn’t dealing with that alien in my tummy. At one point you get to a switch back area and I could see Pigeon. I looked down at her and she looked up at me and I mouthed the word, “bathroom” and she goes, “is that’s whats going on?” 🙂 That made me laugh. Pigeon and I know each other well out on the trail. She is training for a 100 mile race in July. Yesterday was a training run for her, not a race. She needed to get the miles in AND be able to run today on tired legs. For me, she knew I was excited about this race. Us separating in races doesn’t happen often but it goes without saying that both of us supports the other one no matter what. If one of us is running strong, the other lets it go and supports her 100%.

So I was gone. I wanted to get to Skunk Hollow (mile 12.8) and I wanted to get there fast. I blew down the Red Dragon faster than I ever have in a training run. Some guy got frustrated with me being behind him and stopped to let me pass. I apologized for being on his tail. 🙂

I could hear the aid-station ahead of me. I could hear the cheers. I also knew there were real bathrooms there! But first, I had the first of many surprises out on the trail!

My girls!
My girls!

Vans surprised me by having the girls on the trail! They were a sight for sore eyes for sure!

I have to stop for hugs!
I have to stop for hugs!
Hug for the Squeaker!
Hug for the Squeaker!

Vans asked me where Pigeon was and I told him that she was behind me somewhere and that I had to use the bathroom fast. I left them on the trail and headed to the aid-station. I went straight to the bathroom and when I came out I saw Missouri and JCM there with smiles and a sign.

I saw Tri-Girl leave the aid-station and make her way up the hill. I saw quite a few friends here too and stopped to chat. They all asked me where Pigeon was. Finally Pigeon came in and made a bee-line to the bathrooms as well.

I see Pigeon coming in but apparently I needed more hugs.
I see Pigeon coming in but apparently I needed more hugs.

I stayed at this aid-station talking to Vans and the girls and few other friends for quite a bit. Pigeon had to say hi to Missouri and JCM and fuel as well.

My girls!
My girls!

We were told it was raining at the finish and that the storm was moving our way. It was getting colder and darker for sure and the rain was spitting at a us a little bit, but not too bad. Pigeon and I left the aid-station together. She told me that I had killed that first section and I told her I was fueled by the demon in my head and the alien in my stomach. While I felt better, my tummy was definitely not having a good day and continued to be a worry for me the rest of the race.

Pigeon and I crossed the Salmon Falls bridge over to Sweetwater and back onto the trail. I entered the trail first and again some how pulled ahead. The next aid-station was 4.1 miles away. The trails of Sweetwater are well, pretty darn sweet. VERY runnable with a lot of rolling hills. I just was cruising again. On auto pilot basically, feeling strong and full of emotion. I came up behind a guy wearing a yellow racing jersey. I was so far in my head at this point that I pulled one of the biggest rookie moves ever when it comes to trail running. I followed the jersey instead of the ribbons. What happens when you do that? You go off course. Yup, I got lost. I was zoning and running hard and followed this guy and had a guy behind me follow me. When I heard the road I knew we had made a mistake. Both of the guys were in doubt and swore up and down that there were no ribbons. A hiker told us that yes we did miss a turn and we had to run back. The guys were in doubt. I was angry and told them, yes we missed a turn and just bolted ahead of them running my heart out to find the course again. I was probably a good 10 minutes ahead of Pigeon and when I finally found the course and saw the stream I was supposed to cross earlier (and about 100 ribbons mind you) I called out to her. She turned and looked so perplexed. “What are you doing behind me?”

The moment I realized I had made a wrong turn and basically ran a mile or so out of my way, I deflated. Every ounce of energy that I had, just let out like one big giant sigh. I was done. I was tired of fighting the demon in my head which was not allowing me to enjoy my day. I was tired of my stomach not settling itself no matter what I tried. Now I had to come to terms with the fact that I had run off course and added a mile to my day. Mentally I was done. I let Pigeon get in front and I just followed her legs up the trail. I was tired. I was beat. This was not the day I wanted and truly, I had no one to blame but myself 100%.

Pigeon carried me for a bit. I just needed to check out. We laughed about the fact that I got lost after Coach Nikon’s pre-race speech and I laughed that there really were about 100 ribbons indicating the turn that I had somehow missed. I couldn’t dwell on stuff. I had to let go. I was finally starting to let go of that demon, that pressure that I had put on myself from the start.

The next aid was at mile 16.9, more than halfway through the race. We saw Captain Kirk and Wonder Woman at this aid-station. Always great to see their smiling faces. Captain Kirk laughed that I had gotten lost. He knew the guy who had led me astray. 🙂

After the aid-station, the next one would be 6.9 miles away. The largest stretch between aid-stations of the race. Finally feeling like I had freed myself a bit from the pressure I had put myself under and from trying to control the things I could not control, I let go and tried to enjoy what was left of my race.

I spy ...
I spy …

Little did I know, that Vans would be my superhero. He knows these trails very well from mountain biking and he knew just where to go to find me.

IMG_7039

I was running behind Pigeon when I heard her yell, “Hey!” I looked up and saw two smiling faces that just melted my heart and gave me a boost.

More trail hugs!
More trail hugs!

My girls were having quite the adventure on the trails all day and were always happy to come give me a hug when they saw me.

Pigeon even said they were giving her a boost too. Post race, I heard from quite a few runners that my two smiling angels actually gave a lot of runners a boost. I love my trail cheerleaders!

IMG_7030

Vans was awesome as well. I told him I was not feeling 100% but that I was doing okay. I told him it wasn’t the day I had planned but it was still a great day.

Time to take off again.
Time to take off again.

One thing to note, besides being beautiful single track trails they were also poison oak infested trails! It was everywhere. I used to not be able to pick out poison oak, but these leaves were SO red that it was impossible not to see it.

Pigeon and I continued on. We’d play leap frog with a couple of runners. I was still feeling deflated and content to take up the caboose. My left knee was starting to bug me. We still had a long way to go too.

At one point as I was running behind Pigeon I saw some movement on the trail in front of her. TURKEYS! Three of them to be precise. Pigeon started running, clapping and yelling “gobble gobble gobble” and she scared those turkeys right off the trail for me. Thank goodness I wasn’t in the lead at this point as I might have completely freaked out. Thanks Pigeon!!

Exploring the trails
Exploring the trails

I was trying to fuel the best I could despite the alien in my tummy starting to wake up again. It was always there but it was starting to get antsy again and I was trying to ignore it.

Trail running littles!
Trail running littles!

For fuel I had brought a ton of options with me. I had two baggies with salted potatoes. I had my favorite Picky Bars broken in to pieces. I had salted plantain chips and I had ProBar Bolts just in case. I also had (somewhere in my pack) chocolate covered espresso beans which I never even touched.

Ribbon stealers?
Ribbon stealers?

These next few miles were rollers again and Pigeon was pushing the pace a bit. I didn’t mind. It felt good to mentally check out and let someone else dictate what I had to do. Again, I heard her yell “Hey there!”

My people!
My people!

More hugs, hellos and another boost of energy for my heart and brain. These smiling faces brought so much happiness to me it made me realize that I needed to let go of what I had battled so much on the first half the race.

Bye Bye Mommy!
Bye Bye Mommy!

I knew that Pigeon and I were approaching Spanish House which is a section that I have run many times. I wasn’t quite sure where the next aid-station was, and without my garmin I had no idea where we were mileage wise.

Future trail runner?
Future trail runner?

I was starting to feel the burn though. The eagerness to be done. To be at the finish line and not out on the trails. I don’t have that feeling often, but I had it a few times during this last stretch.

Finally we were approaching Fitch Ct. aid-station (mile 24). I heard “Hey Pam!!!” and I looked up and saw Seth from The Ranch Athletics waiting for me with a smile and a hug. Another stellar aid-station. I saw Patrick who I used to workout with all the time. Everyone was eager to help me and asked me what I needed. I admit, I was some what out of it here though. I was trying to ascertain what I wanted to do. Up until this point, I had not touched one item at any aid-station. I ate what I brought with me. Here, I looked at the table. I was done with my food. Then, I saw them. Off on the corner of the table, in a bowl were PayDay bars. PayDay bars is what I used to fuel during my first ever 50 miler. I am not a candy bar person but there is something about those PayDay bars that just spoke to me and so I grabbed a couple.

Pigeon and I left eating and hiking at the same time. There was not a lot of space at that aid-station and it seemed a lot of runners had stopped there. Feeling a bit claustrophobic, I told Pigeon I needed to move. She was fine with that.

I turned to her and said, “So we only have one more aid-station to go right?” And she said, “No we have two more.” My head said no way. I told her I wasn’t too sure about that but she was adamant that we had two more aid-stations. Hmmm, okay.

My left knee was screaming at me so somewhere in here I took two advil. It seems I end up having to do this more and more near the end of races to ward off the knee pain from getting worse. Except this time, it made my left knee pain completely disappear but caused some screaming intense pain in my right knee and lower back. I guess for 24 miles I had been compensating for my left knee which only aggravated my right? Who knows, but it was a slow pain that just kept getting worse and worse as the miles wore on.

Finally, we approached the marina and Browns Ravine. I knew that there had to be an aid-station here. Some how, I had a spark of energy and was ahead of Pigeon again only I didn’t realize it. As I entered the aid-station, I heard “Good job runner!” Runner? Singular? It made me turn around to see where the heck Pigeon was. I really thought she was right behind me.

I arrived at the aid-station and Annabella was there with a HUGE smile on her face! I asked her, “Is this the last aid-station?” She said, “Yup! Only 3.47 to the finish and you are done!” WHAT??!! Seriously!?

At this point, Pigeon came running in and was grabbing some coke and some pretzels. I said, “Hey this is it!” and she goes, “Yeah only 3.47 to the next aid-station,” and I said, “NO! 3.47 to the FINISH!” Again, she didn’t believe me, it took the volunteers AND the fact that there was a sign taped to the table that said, “3.47 to FINISH” for her to finally get it. Boy, did we laugh about that one. Pigeon laughed hard and apologized profusely. It was funny.

We were now on the section that is basically the start of the American River 50 Mile race. This section I know like the back of my hand but funny enough, I have never ever been on this section with tired legs. This is only a few miles from my house so when I run it, I haven’t run far. Running on this section with 28 miles already on your legs makes it feel like a completely different trail. Tiny little rollers that I normally run up seemed like mountains to me. Yet we knew the finish was near. We could smell it.

Finally we could see the levee that we’d have to run over and we could HEAR the finish line. We could hear Coach Nikon’s voice over the loud speaker. We were almost there.

As we were coming down off the trail and onto the levee, Pigeon yells from behind me, “Is that TiggerT?” And sure enough, sitting perched on the levee like a shining light was TiggerT! What a sight for sore eyes. She smiled and congratulated us. Pigeon and I guilted her into walking the mile to the finish to come hang out with us. 🙂

Hanging out at the finish line waiting....
Hanging out at the finish line waiting….

The levee we had to run was probably the longest mile of my life. You could see the finish. You could see runners before you finishing but yet the distance on the levee didn’t seem to change. No matter how many steps we took, it didn’t seem to get any closer!

Just waiting ....
Just waiting ….

Finally, I was off the levee. We had to climb a couple of rollers but I saw that finish line. I saw my girls waiting and all of a sudden I was over come with joy, exhaustion and a desire to just get it done. Pigeon wasn’t far behind me.

I started to run harder. Pigeon and I have a history of sprint finishes at all of our races that we finish together. It is all in good fun. I was slightly concerned my girls were going to jump out onto the trail and run with me, which is fine (sometimes) but I really just wanted to run and be done.

Coach Nikon was on the microphone. I could hear him laughing and announcing that I was coming in and that my running partner wasn’t too far behind me. Would there be a race to the finish?

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I knew Pigeon was behind me but I also knew I had a few steps ahead of her. Still, I wasn’t sure if she’d try and pull a sneak attack on me.

One of my favorite race pics!
One of my favorite race pics!

I crossed the first mat not realizing there was a second mat that I had to cross. Coach Nikon started yelling something and I had a feeling that Pigeon was trying to catch up and pass. 🙂

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I finished one full second ahead of her. She was trying to pull a finish shoot sneak attack but when you have Coach Nikon calling the play by play over the loud speaker, that’s a little hard to do. 🙂

We did it! We were done!! What a long day full of so many lessons for me. I was happy to be done and happy to have so many awesome faces at the finish.

Coach Nikon telling us about the day from his end.
Coach Nikon telling us about the day from his end.
Me very animatedly telling Coach Nikon how I got lost and how it totally was my fault.
Me very animatedly telling Coach Nikon how I got lost and how it totally was my fault.
Post race chat with Tri-Girl and Pigeon
Post race chat with Tri-Girl and Pigeon

The minute I finished my lower back pretty much seized up. Whatever had been going on with it held off until I had crossed the finish line (thankfully).

Now that we were done, it was time to try and remove the poison oak that was covering our bodies, change and relax.

TiggerT came after all and enjoyed in some awesome post race views and laughs
TiggerT came after all and enjoyed in some awesome post race views and laughs
My monkeys just climbed trees and had a blast playing around
My monkeys just climbed trees and had a blast playing around

So many good things happened during this race too. The volunteers were spectacular. The course was amazing. It is such a runnable course that it is deceiving because you spend very little time hiking the way you would do if you were running in Auburn. Here, you can run so you find yourself running a lot more miles than you hike which in the end, really adds a lot to your tired legs.

Missouri made an awesome sign for Pigeon and I. She had it at Skunk Hollow but we didn’t get a photo of it until after the race.

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Vans was the best. His support and efforts to get himself and the girls all over the course was truly the lift I needed to get out of my head and back into the fact that I run to have fun. I run to enjoy the day, the trails and my friends. Thank you Vans for being the best trail husband ever. I love you.

Pigeon was pillar of support out there. She constantly was telling me how strong I looked and how smart I was running despite the fact that I didn’t feel smart or strong some of the time. She ran a great race herself. She executed it exactly the way I think she wanted. She ran steady the whole time. She struggled I think with the fact that her legs ran more miles than she is really used to running (compared to hiking massive climbs in Auburn and Tahoe) but she handled it well and had juice in the tank when she needed it. Her spirits were up too. If she had down moments, I hardly knew about them (unless she had them when I was off having my crazy moments ahead haha).

Many thanks to all my awesome trail friends and to Missouri, TiggerT and Coach Nikon. It was a great inaugural race and I know that many other runners were super happy with the course, the race and the volunteers. Like I said, Coach Nikon’s events are well organized and always a blast.

We did it Pigeon!
We did it Pigeon!

Now I rest. I plan to take a couple of days to figure out what is going with my back. I am not sore other than the low back pain today. I feel well. My quads are not sore, my legs feel like they could go for a run but my back is stiff and tight. I plan to take a couple of days off maybe to rest and stretch. Next weekend is the Way Too Cool 50k race and I plan to be out there supporting Stonegate through her first 50k finish.

And of course, in typical Trailmomma fashion, I have other things up my sleeve so stay tuned for more. Oh and if you made it through this entire blog post, you need a medal! Wow, talk about a long winded report! 🙂 I also have not proof read this (duh, it’s way too long haha) so please excuse the typos .. eventually I will fix them.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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MT. TAM 50K RACE REPORT

I have been blogging about preparing for this race for quite a while now. I haven’t talked much about it in detail on the blog, other than I had decided to do another 50K with some new training partners. You see, a while ago, Stonegate Girl mentioned to me that she wanted to do a 50k. She has never done a marathon but she did not care. She is strong. She is determined. She wanted to hit the trails. Burning Girl and I agreed to join Stonegate on this adventure as long as we stuck together. Burning Girl had one ultra under belt (ahem, the North Face 50K – a very difficult race that she had done solo) and I had my plethora of races mostly all local and in my own backyard. I was ready. I wanted to venture a little bit out of my comfort zone and try a race that required just a little bit more.

Burning Girl picked the race. The Mt. Tam 50k put on by Inside Trail Racing. I agreed without really looking into the race. I signed up as soon as sign ups were open without thinking twice. I mean, running in the bay area has been a dream and this race cost me $65!? What ultra costs only $65? I signed up and then I looked at some of the race stats but I didn’t look at the elevation map. Hmmmmm…..I should have, right?

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Look at those bumps! I knew the race had about 6,800 feet of elevation gain but it never occurred to me how that elevation would play out over the course of 30 miles. In my naive brain, I assumed just a long gradual climb up Mt. Tam, which quite honestly, I knew nothing about.

Well those bumps in the above photo we nicknamed “the boobs” and referred to them as such throughout the race. For example, Stonegate Girl “Hey, what boob are we on?” Burning Girl: “I think we are at the base of number two boob.” Hey, whatever passes the time and makes us laugh right?

Regardless, I knew nothing about the course other than our map showed that it was sort of in the shape of a clover. I was okay with that. Then, a few days before the race, all participants received THE most confusing email EVER about the race. I should note, that at this event, they had a 10k, a half marathon, a 30K and the 50K all happening at the same time. Here is the blurb we received about the course markings or ribbons that we are supposed to follow during the race:

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Let’s read that again, shall we? “50K – Yellow Out to Pink Out to Red/White Checkered Extension to Pink Return to Yellow Return.” Did you get that? Also, my second favorite part is the section that reads: “There will also be blue ribbons on the course. If you run past a blue ribbon you are going the wrong way!” That quickly prompted a chant by us girls throughout the race, “Blue is Bad. Blue is Bad.” Every time we ran by a blue ribbon, we’d say “blue is bad” and if any other runners were near by, they’d laugh.

Course Map
Course Map

However, if you compare the course marking description with the course map above, it DOES start to make a little bit of sense. Still, we ran with a copy of the map in our packs JUST in case and as it turns out, they came in handy.

Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach

On Friday, Stonegate Girl and Burning Girl picked me up at work and we left for Mill Valley. Stonegate has this amazing friend, who I am going to call ‘Mill Valley’ because she is as beautiful and as amazing as that little town. Mill Valley offered to let us stay at her house before and after the race. She has BEDS! Do you how amazing it is to sleep in a nice warm bed in someone’s home before a race? It eased all the tension and nerves that I had I about my pre-race routine.

Packet Pickup was at the San Francisco Running Company store in Mill Valley and it was really neat going there. I’ve heard and seen so many things on Facebook about this store and the runs they lead, and it was kind of neat actually getting to visit it in person. Scott Jurek had only been there a few days before!

However we were antsy and ready for Saturday. We were tired of this waiting and were ready to get this race started. The night before, the girls got some pizza and brought it home while I brought some of my food with me. As of late, my “go-to” pre long run meal has been plain steamed quinoa with some tempeh bacon that I have been addicted to making lately. For some reason, this meal has been siting fairly well with me for most long runs.

Saturday morning came soon enough and we loaded the car and headed to the beach. We wanted to get there with enough time to use the bathrooms and just relax and take it all in. Oddly, the race didn’t start until 8:30 am which is really a late start for an ultra. It was cold but not as cold as I had expected. I knew that during the race we might reach 70 degrees and I naively dressed in a t-shirt instead of a tank top. That may be my one regret on this race.

So, here is the point where I am going to give you a heads up that this is going to be a super long race report (wait, isn’t it already too long?) but I promise to provide a TON of photos. I went a little nuts on this run and rightly so as you will see. Truly an amazing course with remarkable terrain that varies from desert like situations to rain forest. Truly spectacular. So, grab some tea and settle in or bookmark this page to return to later. 🙂

Start/Finish Area
Start/Finish Area

We arrived at the start finish area and hit the bathrooms. We stayed warm in the car for quite a while just assessing all the people around us trying figure out who was running what race (remember, there were 4 different races happening).

Finally it was time to get out of the car, get dressed, put together our packs and head to the starting area where the race director was giving us some last-minute instruction about the course markings (remember, Blue is Bad). The 50k and 30k runners would start together and the rest of the race would start later at 9 am.

In all, there were only 91 runners doing the 50K and there were 107 running doing the 30K distance. Overall, probably one of the smallest races I have done in a while.

One, two, three go! We were off and it was a conga line from the start. They had us squeeze run under the Start/Finish arch and onto the street and up towards the trail except it wasn’t a trail at all, it was a flight of stairs ….

Why hello everyone!
Why hello everyone!

This is not what my cold legs wanted. In hind sight, a warm up run to stretch the legs might have been needed in this race. Starting a race up hill is never easy. Starting a race on a flight of stairs? Forget about it.

More stairs
More stairs

I will warn you, a lot of my photos from the beginning of the race are going to be blurry but I am going to include them anyway so you can see exactly what the terrain looked like. In actuality, the trail itself seemed blurry to me as I was running. My eyes were tearing up and it was just over cast and very muggy to start.

Very overcast at first
Over cast skies at first

I knew the first aid-station was 3.7 miles into the race and I knew it was where we would see Mill Valley and her amazing friend Ironman April. Normally the first aid-station comes and goes but I realized quickly that this was not an ordinary race at all and it wasn’t long before I was counting the minutes until we saw that aid-station.

Stonegate Girl all smiles!
Stonegate Girl all smiles!

But first, we had 3.7 mile of insane trails to conquer… all of it uphill … with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure.

Going on up up up
Going up up up

The ground was soggy and very slippery. If you stepped on a root, you slipped. If you stepped on a rock, you slipped. If you stepped on some mud, you slipped. You just couldn’t win on this section of the course. It made me wish that I had changed my shoes to my newer models before the race. Awe well, too late now!

Not the most flattering shot but you see how steep and wet it is on the trail.
Not the most flattering shot but you see how steep and wet it is on the trail.

I knew this race had stairs and I knew that within the first three miles, we’d hit a ladder. Yes, I said ladder.

There it is!
There it is!

As soon as I saw it I smiled. HOW FLIPPING COOL IS THAT!!?? Despite feeling a little bit tired still, I was in trail heaven.

Here we go!
Here we go!

Since we were running with the 30K runners the first 3 miles were pretty congested. It wasn’t too bad and it helped distract me up some grueling climbs to listen to some of the conversations happening around me. I needed it as my lungs were not adjusting. I couldn’t fathom why because it wasn’t like we were in Tahoe at massive elevation. I just couldn’t catch my breath or get my lungs ready and my legs were feeling like the blood wasn’t reaching them. It messed with my head a little bit but I know a 50K is a long race and that things can change in a moment’s notice. I knew that I would turn a corner eventually and that perhaps I needed more fuel than I thought on this 3.7 mile stretch.

Beautiful
Beautiful

We finally made it to the aid-station and were super excited to see Mill Valley and Ironman April hooting and hollering for us!

I see the aid-station!
I see the aid-station!

 

Here comes Stonegate and Burning Girl!
Here comes Stonegate and Burning Girl!

 

All smiles!
All smiles!

 

Me carrying my camera! Classic.
Carrying my camera! Classic.

I really wanted to check out the fuel here at the aid-station but I felt like we were rushed. Normally fueling only 4 miles into a race is not usually needed but after a climb like we had just tackled, it definitely was … but we got caught up in taking photos instead.

Let's go get this!
Let’s go get this! (ps – Why do I look so short?)

 

Mill Valley & Ironman April
Mill Valley & Ironman April – our crew masters!

The next thing that I know, Burning Girl and Stonegate are taking off down the trail. I tried to eat a few of my plantain chips along the way but they really were not hitting the spot. I realized I probably needed a salt and I took one which really did seem to help a bit. The girls had said that they were not going to do aid-station fuel and only stick with what they brought but when they took one look at the aid-table and all it had to offer … they looked like two kids in a candy store! I believe Nutter Butters is what Burning Girl zeroed in on. Every race I find there is one item on the table that is your saving grace. Something that your body is craving AND needing during extreme measures. I had this happen to me on this race (despite a lot of inner turmoil).

Down the blurry wet trail we go!
Down the blurry wet trail we go!

At one point we came to a group of about 3 or 4 guys standing around looking a park map. They asked us which way to go. To the left of us were orange ribbons and to the right of us were pink ribbons with some stripes. Burning Girl says “We go left. I am almost positive.” And so we all started off in that direction. A few feet into our run I say, “We are at orange already?” and then Burning Girl stops in her tracks and pulls out her map. Nope. We had to go right. We yelled to the men we had sent off running telling them we had to go the other way. I said, “Man, they finally stop and ask for directions and look what happens!” One of the guys really liked that. 🙂

Over the logs in the middle of the trail.
Over the logs in the middle of the trail.

We had about 6 miles until the next aid-station and I was battling some low energy despite having finally started my fueling. I just kept thinking to myself, “there has to be some flat sections. We can’t go up up up and then down down down all the time!” There were some flat sections, but very very few of them.

When we reached the aid-station at mile 9 I reached for some potatoes and salt. I told the girls I wanted a minute here. I wanted to scan the table and see what I wanted. I had also accidentally dropped ALL my salt tabs on the trail a few miles back. I had reached for my salt tube while running and all of a sudden it was raining salt tabs every where. Ooops. So while at this aid-station, I quickly refilled my bottle and grabbed some solid food.

Then I grabbed a cup. I thought that I had grabbed water but it wasn’t. When I looked, I had this electric greenish yellow drink in my little dixie cup. Mountain Dew. Crap. I stared at that cup for what seemed like forever  battling my brain. Over and over my head kept saying “don’t do it, don’t drink it” but my body just kept bringing the cup closer to my mouth. I am anti soda. I am probably one of the most vocal anti-soda people around but I understand WHY they are at ultra races. They serve a purpose with their sugar, easily digestible big doses of calories and of course the caffeine. Mind you, I haven’t had caffeine in a very long time … so this was going to be interesting.

I downed the cup before we left and my hand reached onto the table and grabbed two watermelon Jolly Ranchers (what the?!). Another thing I rarely eat but something told me to grab them. So I did.

Within minutes I had a new-found energy and enthusiasm. I had motivation. My legs had pep to them. I had finally found my lungs. As much as I hated to admit it, that darn Mountain Dew saved my race.

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Just in time too because we had to start climbing more stairs … ah the stairs. There were a lot of them in this race.

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Soon we were coming out of the “forest” and more into the open exposed cliff side of the race and would start experiencing the heat of the day with little to no coverage.

But some amazing views!
But some amazing views!

I was in heaven. I would let the girls run and I would just stop and take the occasional photo. For a brief bit, we were dumped back into a forest area and saw the most amazing tree houses. We couldn’t figure out what they were but they looked so cool!

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I think we were all in pretty good spirits at this point. Burning Girl was leading the way most of the time. We were eager to get off the pink ribbons course and find the checkered ribbon part of the course.

But remember, Blue is Bad!
But remember, Blue is Bad!

Our next aid-station was huge. It was huge because it was basically the half way point of our race and it was at Muir Beach. I was excited to get there because I have never been and so far, this race had so many surprises. I also found that on the massive up hill climbs, that Jolly Rancher that I had tucked in my pocket, saved me. I would just slowly eat that while I climbed and it kept my mind off the hill, gave me some sugar and made smell super pretty! 🙂

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One of the crazy cool surprises along the way.
One of the crazy cool surprises along the way.

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This course changed all the time! I never knew what to expect just around the corner from us. Which was really neat for me. I enjoy not knowing what is ahead sometimes.

Heading to the beach.
Heading to the beach.

We were clearly on our way to the ocean at one point. The dirt turned a bit sandy and we were on the open trails finally heading DOWN and not up for once. Making our way to ocean.

Running our hearts out!
Running our hearts out!
Lots of switch backs to get us down.
Lots of switch backs to get us down.

At one point, I stopped and looked ahead of me. You can’t tell through the camera lens but the beautiful blue ocean was right ahead of us.

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Can you see it?
Can you see it?

I called to the girls that I wanted to stop and try to get the photo and they made me finally stop and pose for one. 🙂

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I must have taken a ton of photos on this stretch of trail which wasn’t very easy because mountain bikers were flying down at us. We probably passed 15 to 20 mountain bikers on this section of the trail. Most of it was down hill.

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There is the water? Can you see the outline now?
There is the water! Can you see the outline now?

It was about here that Burning Girl turned on her jets and took off. She loves down hills and down hills love her. I like them but I also know we had another half of the race to go and I know how my IT band and knees would react later if I pounded them now. As it turns out, they reacted regardless but not as bad as it could have been.

My calves were screaming at me from all the up hill climbing we had previously done so I was taking it easy. At one point I caught up to Stonegate Girl because a group of mountain bikers had us pinned to the side of the trail while they passed, she mentioned that her legs were bugging her too. I told her to let Burning Girl go and to take it easy as I was in the same boat.

By the time we reached the bottom of the hill we had to cross a street and run ourselves into a beach area that was definitely populated with a lot of tourists. The mile 15 aid-station was out near the parking lot and main restrooms to Muir Beach.

It was on this stretch that Stonegate got quiet. It was a essentially flat fire road but in the sun. She was saying her stomach was not feeling right and she thought she might dump her water and put Tailwind electrolyte drink into her hydration pack. I decided I would take advantage of the real restrooms and went and stood in line after I shoved a banana down my throat to try to combat the crampy feeling my calves had at that moment.

By the time I had gotten out of the bathroom, Stonegate was nowhere to be found. Uh-oh I thought but Burning Girl was there and said that she needed to move. She was having stomach issues. I grabbed a Mountain Dew (yes, again) downed it and took off running. I felt pretty amazing and I didn’t want to start feeling poor again. I wanted to stay on top and ahead of the calorie game even if it meant drinking soda. I also grabbed two more watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

It was on this fire road out of the park area that Burning Girl turns to me and says, “I may need to borrow some water.” I am like, “Sure, of course I have some. Did you not fill up at the aid-station?” She said she forgot and realized just now that she had no water. Then, the universe opened and she spotted a horse trough … with a hose.

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My stomach was churning watching her fill her bladder up at a random hose next to a horse trough but, you do what you have to do and as it turns out, this hose was a miracle hose. The water was COLDER than what was at the aid-station and it would later save one of us while on the trail.

Following the checkered ribbons!
Following the checkered ribbons!

We headed out but Stonegate wasn’t moving. She just kept saying she wasn’t right. Her stomach was not cooperating. Burning Girl offered that maybe she try to throw up to feel better.

Eventually she did and she did feel a bit better. The problem however, is she had just gotten rid of all the calories and water she had just consumed right before we were going to climb one brutal hot and sunny climb back up the mountain.

Totally open and exposed trail.
Totally open and exposed trail.

She was moving but not very quickly. A lot of this section of the trail was not very runnable as it was an up hill switch back climb. Combined with the hot sun and Stonegate’s already low energy … my heart was breaking for her.

The Tailwind electrolyte drink in her pack was warm at this point and of course nothing we had on us for fuel sounded remotely good to her. The only thing she wanted was Burning Girl’s hose water.

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So that’s what she had. I was able to get a salt into her at least too but this was going to be a brutal 6+ miles to the next aid-station. We essentially walked from mile 15 to mile 21 with a few sections of running. A lot of it was up hill mind you, so we probably would have hiked quite a bit anyway but really, Burning Girl and I were worried about Stonegate. We just didn’t want her to stop. She would ask to sit every once in a while and we’d let her have a few moments but ultimately, we had to keep her moving. She still had some color in her face but she couldn’t get any fuel into her system.

Finally we reached the aid-station. The aid-station at mile 21 is the same aid-station as mile 3.7 (and also mile 27) so Mill Valley and Ironman April were there waiting for us. We jumped into action. We told them about Stonegate so they grabbed a chair. I tried to force her to drink a coke (she has the same soda battles as I do) and she could barely even hold the cup to her mouth to drink it so I fed her a sip.

She was surrounded by a lot of people at this point all trying to figure out what she needed and trying to decide if she could make the next loop of the course which was 6.7 miles. I told her we could hike that easily if she wanted (although in my head I was worried even that was a stretch). Finally, I looked at my watch and saw that it was 2:10 in the afternoon. This aid-station cut off was 2:30 pm. Stonegate did not look like she was turning a corner. She went from having some color in her cheeks to white face and white lips the moment she sat down, shivering.

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She called it. She told us to go on without her and that she was done. Burning Girl and I paused, both saddened by the news but we knew it was probably the best decision. Only she knows her body and what it is capable of handling.

In hind sight, it was the best decision ever as that 6.7 loop was a DOOZY!! We had heard through the grapevine that it was taking runners 2.5 to 3 hours to complete earlier in the day, especially when it was super hot out.

Burning Girl and I took off down the trail finally following the orange ribbons (yea!). As we left someone called out “Hey, just remember it’s a lot of vertical coming back!” Oh great. For the first two or three miles we talked about Stonegate and how worried we were and how she had looked. We realized very quickly that it would have been really tough for her to hike these miles. The terrain was not super easy. We did however find something that could have helped her move a little faster!

This is for you Stonegate!
This is for you Stonegate!

I would say we were booking it on this section of the trail. We wanted to get ahead of the cut off by a decent margin and we wanted to get back to Stonegate. When I look back at my Garmin stats, we weren’t running all that fast (sorry Burning Girl!). 🙂 It just felt like we were I guess.

We talked a lot on this loop and Burning Girl made me stop and get in another photo. We were still having a good time. My right knee/IT band was starting to scream at me and I knew we had another 4 mile stretch down hill later so around mile 22, I took some Advil. I don’t generally like to take that stuff at all but I knew we had some gnarly downhills later and I wanted to be ready.

Crazy trees!
Crazy trees!

This orange ribbon loop had lots of twists and turns. There were huge trees down on the trail that we had to climb under almost on our hands and knees. It was slippery and very technical in some sections and then out of no where we’d have these soft pine needle covered trails that felt so glorious to run on. I kept running more and more and hiking less.

I also realized that I hadn’t really fueled at all on this loop but it was ok. I tried to get out a Jolly Rancher but it didn’t work (it was all melty and stuck – gross).

Soon it was time to hike back up to the aid-station. We were at mile 27 and I could smell the barn. We had done that 6.7 mile loop in an hour and forty minutes! I was stoked and in the zone to finish this race. But first, it was time to reunite with Stonegate!

She had risen from the dead!
She had risen from the dead!

She was alive and she had color in her face! A nice guy at the aid-station was able to force her to drink the coke and gave her a bowl of every single thing at the aid-station and told her to try every single thing and when she found something she liked to stop and eat that (wise advice, taking note here). Potato Chips. That was the winner of the day! That guy was a savior.

SO happy to see her smiling again!
SO happy to see her laughing again!
The three amigos were back together!
The three amigos were back together!

I grabbed one cup of Mountain Dew and that was all. That’s all that I needed to get me 3.7 miles to that finish line. Even more exciting was the fact that Stonegate Girl wanted to join us. Even though she had dropped, she wanted to  finish the race with us.

I took the lead (I wanted to be at that finish line!). However we were soon hit with the all familiar sight of stairs … lots of them, all on our way down.

Not the most even set of stairs either.
Not the most even set of stairs either.

Down down down. Pound. Pound. Pound. It was here that I was so grateful for the Advil that I had taken earlier. While my knee felt stiff, the jabbing pain was not as debilitating as it had been before (whew!).

More stairs.
More stairs.

Soon I saw the ocean coming towards us. The miles were ticking off on my Garmin and I was just getting more and more excited to be done. They threw in two little climbs near the end. The first I walked and the second was almost like a dune on the beach and there was a guy racer hiking it. I just zeroed in on that hill and him and I took off running. I had so much pep in my legs (damn that Mountain Dew). When I got to the top and turned around, the girls were hiking up the hill and just laughing at me. 🙂

Almost to the finish!
Almost to the finish!

Down we went again and I saw another guy on the trail. We passed him. I was just reeling them in as we ran. I felt bad and yelled back an apology to the girls that I was sorry if we were running too much but I just smelled the finish line. We were SO close!

Here we come! The three amigos!
Here we come! The three amigos!

The trail dumped us back out onto the street and we had to run a few yards to the finish. Mill Valley and Ironman April had just arrived in time and were cheering us on as we came into the finish arch!

Done!! I ran the Mt. Tam 50K my first non local race and I felt amazing, inside and out. I was so proud of us.

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The finish area of the race was some what of a let down though. Don’t get me wrong, the whole race was fantastic, the volunteers amazing, the course markings were spot on. It is just that normally, ultra events usually consist of 50K, 50 miler and/or 100k races. Since the 50K was the longest distance in this race, and we had struggled a bit, the finish area was almost ready to pack it up. We were way ahead of the 8.5 hour or 5 pm cut off, but clearly with so few runners in the race, we were finishing in the back of the pack which is fine, our goal was to finish with smiles on our faces and we did.

It really was an amazingly well put on race. For such a low entry fee, we received an amazing course with tons of well stocked aid-stations and at the finish, we received a shirt, a cool medal (with a Star Wars theme to it) and pint glass! Pretty sweet.

As much as I wanted to dip my legs in the ocean for my first ever ocean ice bath, everyone seemed more inclined to get warm clothes on and head back to Mill Valley’s for dinner.

Once home, we showered and rehashed the race a bit. Burning Girl had to take off for a work thing and we made a dinner decision. I was starved. I had not eaten I realized, since mile 21. Sure I had that Mountain Dew at mile 27 but nothing solid until we got to the restaurant. I devoured my food in one gulp.

Overall, I would say we were slightly under trained for this race. Not a lot, but we could have used much steeper hills to run on or I should have run the stairs at work. Body wise, I feel fine. No major aches and pains. I can walk. I can take the stairs. I feel great. My stomach is off a day or so later and I think that is probably the soda coming back to bite me BUT I stand by my decision. Without those easily digestable liquid calories, I probably would have struggled.

In my mind, I eat very healthy before, during and after all of my training runs. So if  during a race my body is craving something else, I am going to go with it. I am not going to carry soda with me to my races because I truly believe that what saves you will be, and can be, different at every race. For Burning Girl, it was Nutter Butters. For me, it was Mountain Dew and Jolly Ranchers (and bananas – I don’t normally eat those during a race either).

This past weekend was surreal. While I truly missed having my family at the finish, it was for the best. We were out there for 7 hours and 45 minutes. Yes, it took THAT long to complete this race. It would have been a long day for everyone. Vans was manning the fort and kids at home nicely. I was not worried at all.

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I also got to sleep in a bed, by myself, without little feet waking me up for a solid night of sleep. I woke up and sipped my tea looking out at this amazing view just feeling so grateful for the friendships I have, my amazing family and my body’s ability to take on challenges.

I want to thank a lot of people. Even though I have done a few ultras before, there was a few people who really knew how much this race meant to me and they sent me amazing texts or emails the night before. I read every word and they touched me more than you will know. Thank you as well to my two cohorts during this race. I adore you crazy girls.

Finally, my little family. My amazing supportive husband Vans. I love him more than I can say and I love that he encourages me (sometimes) to do these crazy adventures. I came home to two very happy kids, a super clean house (score!) and a smiling husband. Clearly the topper on my amazing weekend (and he got me dinner and wine too – woot woot)..

Love of course to my Peanut and Squeaker, who I hope some day will understand why mommy goes away and comes home with a slight limp every once in a while. 🙂 They loved my medal and they love looking at the photos (I have enough of them). I truly am one lucky lady.

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 Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

 

 

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