This will be the conclusion to my Oregon blog posts. Do you see what happens when I take a million and two photos? We get a three part blog series! Consider yourself lucky (or unlucky) or as we say in my house, “You take what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” 🙂
Part one and part two of Oregon can be read HERE and HERE. And, if you are reading these posts on your mobile devices, I am fully aware that my photos are sideways or upside down. Not sure what is going on there but they are right side up on my computer so …. oh well.
So I left off on Sunday where Vans and Be-Well-Run had run a 10k and later that evening, Vans and JD had done some mountain biking to check out the trails near our house and the kids ran around hot tubbing a lot.
Monday the men woke up bright and early (truly early for Vans) and hopped on the Deschutes River Trail for a mountain biking adventure. They were biking to Bend (which is about a 15-20 minute drive from Sunriver) where I was supposed to go and pick them up. Distance wise, it is about about 15 miles or so for biking but they explored a bit and managed to find about 38 miles worth of mountain biking trails before finding me and my girls in the Old Mill District.
While we were there, I had done a little research and discovered that we were not that far from the Picky Bars Headquarters! I am a huge Picky Bar fan. I always have been since finding gluten free bars used to be struggle for me back in the day. When I stopped working at various running stores, I became a Picky Club Member and have enjoyed my monthly shipments delivered right to my door. I use them for pre-race fuel and even sometimes mid-race fuel. I even got Stonegate into them and she too now is a Picky Club member.
Picky Bars was started by three amazing athletes (Jesse Thomas – Triathlete,Â Lauren Fleshman – pro-runner and Steph Rothstein – pro-marathoner). Steph Rothstein has Celiac like myself and I like knowing that because I am super picky about cross contamination and I trust their process.
Anyway, back to Monday. JD and Vans insisted that since I was SO close, that I had to swing by and check the place out. I follow Picky Bars on Instagram and I had a general idea of what their headquarters looked like.
We found it and I hopped out of the car with good intentions of just getting a photo in front of their building. Instead, I got a little curious ….
Low and behold the door was open and there was no turning back. All four Picky workers turned and looked at me and all I could manage was, “Hi!! I am clubber and I had to come by and see the place for myself!” I was a total dork but I didn’t care. They were SUPER nice. I recognized Sarah from OUALÂ and she is super sweet (and tall) in person as she seems online. She welcomed me inside and suggested we take a photo. Luckily Vans followed me inside too and was able to snap the pic.
Thanks again Picky Crew for letting me crash your Monday with a random out of the blue unannounced stop!
On a complete and total high from seeing Picky Bars Headquarters, we headed back to the house where I changed into some running clothes and decided to battle the heat of the afternoon for a trail run.
The rest of group wanted to head to the lake for a swim (why not, it was a million degrees outside) so I was solo on my run. I had my phone and I knew where to meet them … but this trail was so unbelievable that I had to stop and take about a million photos (of course, right!).
I’d run for a while, but slow because I was totally soaking up the area around me. I remembered that I had my phone with self-timer and tried my best at taking some cheesy trail selfies!
I knew the Deschutes River was to my left and that the highway was to my right so there wasn’t too much risk of me getting myself lost. The lava rocks along the river were pretty awesome.
I was in total trail heaven. It was a beautiful day and my legs, although tired from the marathon, were enjoying the soft trail dirt.
Eventually I came to a spot where I could see the actual river. I knew the views would only get better so I kept running.
I had good cell reception and was receiving texts from Vans telling me about how far down the river they were. I’d run into them shortly.
Some of these photos I had to climb off the trail and onto some rocks just to take them. It was totally worth risking my neck on some precarious rocks.
When I came to the parking lot my family was there and Vans informed me that I just had to keep going on the trail until I reached the waterfalls. I had only ran about 2.5 miles and was thoroughly enjoying myself and I didn’t want to stop so IÂ welcomed the opportunity to keep going.
I crossed that bridge, waved to the family who was splashing in the river and kept going. This section of the trail was more like a fire road and was actually quite populated with hikers.
The river now was on my right and who knows what was on my left. The water under that bridge was flowing pretty strong. Definite rapids ahead.
I just kept running until I saw the signs for the “waterfalls” … which in reality are just crazy beautiful rapids.
I was in total heaven. I kept thinking, there has to be a place where I could take a #lifepoints photos for the Picky Bars “get on a wrapper” contest. 🙂
I clearly need to work on my “jump face” … obviously I cannot manage too many things at once here. Timer? Check. Jump on cue? Check. Make a normal face? Um, nope, can’t do it.
Once I hit the rapids overlook, I turned and ran back to the family. Overall the mileage came out to about 5 miles which was absolutely perfect for my tired legs and eager to trail run in Oregon mind.
I took a nice little walk into the river to wash of the trail dust and just cool my tired legs. While I was in the water (and Vans was trying to take the photo with some actual sunlight on my face), Be-Well-Run yelled out “JC PENNY POSE!”
If you are a long time reader of my blog, you’ll understand this reference and joke. If you are not, then well, you may have to go back to my posts in 2010 to understand. 🙂 My friends and I had a bit of an obsession with pretending we were JC Penny Catalog (remember when there were such things as catalogs?) models.
That pretty much sums up the whole trip. We enjoyed a nice clean out the fridge dinner that evening. Everyone was pretty tired from the day. We went on another family bike ride to a park for the kids which included more ice cream.
Tuesday morning it was pack up and ship out – we headed back to California with its massive heat wave.
OnÂ our long drive home we stopped at a few places along the way to get the girls out of the car for a nice leg stretch and bathroom break.
Overall, I think Sunriver 2015 was a success. It was full of challenges, excitement, trail running and Picky Bar crashing. The kids had a blast being all together and hot tubbing, biking, swimming in the river and playing games. Next time we go, I may forget the marathon and just decide to follow that trail all the way to Bend for a nice long trail run and have the boys come and ME. 🙂
Have you ever said something along the lines of, “If I say I want to do this next time,Â remind me that I said I would never do it again.” Â Those were the thoughts that were going through my head the first few miles of the Pacific Crest Marathon last Saturday.
I ran this same marathon in 2012. You can read that race report here. I even re-read my race report before we left on vacation and recalled that it was a tough race mentally because it is two loops of a half-marathon course. You basically run right past the finish line and back out for another 13.1 miles. Also, because this race is in Oregon, specifically Sunriver, Oregon, one has no idea what the weather will be like. In 2012 when I ran the full marathon, it was 40 degrees at the start and it hailed. In 2010 when I ran the half, it was warm but not miserable.
This year the weather would be a force to be reckoned with and the nemesis in every runner’s side. I knew this when we left California as the temps were slowly rising towards 100 degrees. The weather in Sunriver was predicted to be in the high 90s or low 100s.
We stopped in Ashland, Oregon on Thursday. I have always wanted to visit Ashland as I hear it is an ultra runner’s dream. We stopped at Hal Koerner’s store, Rogue Valley Runners and did a little shopping and photo op’ing.
We also stopped and had dinner at Standing Stone Brewing Company, a recommendation from Hal himself (thank you social media) and I saw Jenn Shelton sitting at the bar having a beer.
We spent the night in Medford (interesting) and then drove to Sunriver on Friday morning. In the past, I felt that if I didn’t have enough time to acclimate to the elevation, then it was better to get there and just run the race right away.Â Sunriver is at 4200 ft above sea level. That’s a significant difference compared to my usual 768 ft.
We were vacationing with Be-Well-Run and her family again. In years past, we all participated in some kind of event since Sunriver hosts the Pacific Crest Sports Weekend Festival. This year however, only Vans and I had signed up for events (the marathon for myself and the 10k for Vans). Be-Well-Run signed up for the 10k at packet pick-up which was a nice surprise.
Walking around the expo I wasn’t really nervous. I kept telling Vans that I was more disappointed because I really wanted to do well and try and break my previous time at this race, but based on the way I was feeling … I just knew it wasn’t in the cards. I was tired, my legs were toast and I had a bunch of internal things going on that proved to be just really bad timing on my body’s part. Finishing became my goal. Or perhaps, this is just a “training run” for my pacing duties at Tahoe Rim Trail in two weeks? That is what I kept telling myself anyway.
Race morning I woke up and got myself dressed. It was warm already. Luckily, in preparation I made sure to bring a bandana with me. This bandana has saved me at many an ultra so I figured I would carry it with me (more on this later).
I had a Picky Bar breakfast and then sat with my legs up a wall trying to move the circulation around a bit. My legs just felt stiff and tired and sluggish. Riding in a Â car for hours on end will do that I suppose. I tried to just relax. I tried foam rolling too. My right hamstring has been bugging me for a while. I can’t quite pinpoint what triggers it or what caused it, but I know when I think about it, it tightens up.
Soon it was time to head to the start. The thing about this marathon is that even though it is a Boston qualifying race, there is never that many people running it (in fact, I just looked, there were 73 people who ran). I think I finally understand why now.
The race started on time and we were off and running. It goes up hill at first and we were to expect aid-stations and porta potties every mile (not necessarily at each mile marker). I decided not to carry any water with me based on there being water so frequently.
Within the first few miles I just knew my legs were not working. They didn’t seem connected to my body at all. My pace was hovering around 8:50 which was surprising to me since I felt like I was a slug on the sidewalk.
After I passed mile 2 I saw some friendly faces. I put on my best smile and waved.
I just assumed that I would slowly begin to bounce back to normal and eventually get into a groove. Somewhere around mile 6 or 7 though, my paced started slowing and the heat started coming on strong. My 8:50s started hovering around 9 and then 9:10 … and then 9:15.
The last time I ran this, I only allowed myself walking breaks on the second loop and only when I was going through an aid-station. This year, the walking started early. “Oh, is that an aid-station I see way up there? Okay, that means I can walk now.”
That’s kinda how it went for a while. Part of the course goes past the Sunriver Airport where there is absolutely positively zero shade cover. Not that there was a ton on the other parts of the course but at least there we had some cloud cover … the airport seemed to make the clouds disappear.
The aid-stations were great. They had water and I was enjoying the mental break of knowing they were coming every mile. There was a bit of a mind game for a while as they were not at the mile markers but in-between.
Somewhere around mile 9 or so I started thinking, “There is no way in hell I am going to finish this race. Forget this. If the family is at the half-way point, I am stopping. Who cares if my first ever DNF is on a road marathon!? This is insane!”
Mile 10: “You can’t quit. You can’t! You’ve run 8 other marathons before this. You’ve run ultras for goodness sake! How can you possibly quit!?”
Mile 11: “Yup, you can quit. This is the pits. Can you feel this heat? It has to be 100 degrees outside!” (it was 97).
Mile 12: “Ugh, more rolling hills? What the hell? Why? This is ridiculous. Look! Those people are walking. You can walk too. Almost to the half way point. Almost to the point where you are going to quit!”
Mile 13: “Why the heck do they have to add a .1 to a freaking half marathon?! Why can’t it just stop at 13?! Okay, there is the finish shoot, where is my family?”
Course marshal: “Half marathoner’s go right, marathoner’s go left for your second loop!”
Me (in my head): “But, but …. I don’t WANT to do a second loop! Where are they? Where is my family? They have to be here. Sure they didn’t say they would be here but they have to know I am dying right?”
Off I go … on my second loop. They had no water at the finish area. The last water station was at mile 12. The next one wouldn’t be until almost mile 15 or 16 … in 97 degrees and in my completely fragile emotional state, that seemed like 115 miles to me. I think I started hallucinating.
I had been running with a salt tab in my hand since mile 13. All I wanted was a cup of water so that I could take my salt tab. I saw my family ahead of me. I started walking and blabbering about “no water, where is the water?” and “if you were at the half way point, I’d be done. I can’t do this. This is so hard.” I stole my 7 year old’s water bottle and I took my salt tab.
Be-Well-Run rode her bike up ahead to the aid-station and I think informed them that I was coming and desperately needed water. A nice volunteer ran up to me, “Are you Pam?” Me: “Yes, I am.” Nice volunteer: “Okay, you can do this, you can make this. Here is some water. Is this your first marathon?” Me (oh dear lord, it looks like I am dying doing my first marathon): “Um, no, more like my 9th.”
Vans told me how hot it was (gee, I hadn’t noticed) and informed me that I was moving pretty slow (ya think?). He said, “See you at the finish?” and I think I said, “Sure, but we’re looking at a 5 hour marathon here. I see a lot of walking in my future.” He assured me that I only had about 6 miles to go. I don’t know if he was trying to mess with my math challenged dehydrated brain or what, but I kind of believed him until I got a little further and realized I had like 10 more miles, not 6. Thanks honey. 🙂
I am not sure when, but theyÂ had run out of ICE on the course so all the water we had to drink was WARM. Ugh. Â Around mile 10 however,Â they had buckets of cold water (guess that is where all the ice went) and I started using my bandana. I’d soak it in a nice ice-cold bucket and then wipe my face and wrap it around my neck. My saving grace. That bandana makes the world a better place.
The rest of the course was a ghost town. There were one or two guys who I had been playing leap-frog with. I had to use a porta potty twice so they’d get ahead of me but I’d eventually catch up and pass. At about mile 18, I started feeling way better.
When I reached the airport (mile 20) there was a kid manning the aid-station. I asked where his water bucket went and he said it was gone but that he had ice. ICE? What?! I had him fill my bandana (sorry other runners). I carried that bandana full of ice the rest of the race cooling my neck and face.
I wasn’t running 100% of the time, but I was running more than I had before. I had passed those two guys for good and a girl (who didn’t enjoy that). When I saw the 21 mile marker, I knew I could finish. Walk run walk run. Run run run run. Walk. Run.
When I saw the finish shoot, I tried so hard to gatherÂ up enough energy to just keep running. I saw and heard my family cheering my name. That gave me a nice boost.
When I crossed that finish line I was filled with a bunch of emotions. There was a lot of “Oh thank goodness you are done,” but there was also the, “Holy crap, you did it!? You stuck it out!”
I was stoked that I had finished, shocked at my terrible time (4 hrs 40 minutes) and desperately searching for one thing ….
Post race massage by this guy … he was blown away by my right hamstring. I was too to be honest. It didn’t feel great but after he dug his elbow in it a few million times, it felt a lot better.
Upon completion of your race (any races in Sunriver), you get a free Deschutes Beer. Of course, being gluten free, I cannot drink beer but Vans was not about to let this opportunity pass so he rushed me over to the Bier Garten.
We hung around the race for a little bit but the kids were toast. My long marathon had taken up most of the day and everyone wanted to get moving on our vacation. So we left.
Overall, I wasn’t too sore from the race. My quads were pretty tight the following day but I didn’t stretch nor did I foam roll or anything (I know, I know, bad!).
In the end, I am proud of myself for sticking it out and not quitting. On the other hand, this is fueling me towards some serious marathon training for CIM in December. I am due. I want to get back to my sub 4 hour marathon time.
I say it all the time, but for me, road running is harder than trail running. They are both very different in so many ways. I am faster on the road but the endurance for running continuouslyÂ isn’t there. I’ve been so mentally trained to be conservative on the trail because usually, you are out there for the long haul. You have fuel. You have aid-stations that are like a giant smorgasbordÂ of everything you can imagine. When I passed my first aid-station in Sunriver my heart sank a little bit. Water?! Just water?? 🙂
I know that no matter what, I can manage the distance but I am getting tired of just “managing” … I want to do better. So, we shall see. I have some pacing duties to attend to in a few weeks and then, who knows, maybe I will start migrating to the pavement again. CIM training IS just right around the corner. 😉
Stay tuned for another post. I have a million photos and a few more stories to share about our vacation that involve more running but since this post is already almost as long as my last marathon time (har har), I figure I should end it here. 🙂
When I signed up for the American River 50 Mile race (AR50) back in February, I had just had a string of really strong and powerful training runs. I was on a high. I felt the strongest I have ever felt. And then, a series of unfortunate events started happening one after the other. I was bit by a dogÂ on a training run that caused me to tweak my back. I ran a really super hard 50k that was primarily down hill, something my knees and back really did not like and basically, I just started losing quality sleep little by little. In my head, I was falling apart so how on earth did I think I could run 50 miles? What was I thinking!?
Yet, I kept plugging at it little by little. I pretty much took my taper more seriously than I ever have before. The week of AR50 I ran 3 miles on Monday afternoon (it sucked), I ran 4.5 miles on Tuesday morning (ugh, again it sucked) and I ran another 4 miles on Wednesday afternoon (oh boy, shoot me now). Then, I rested. Completely. No stairs at work. I tried for quality sleep each night. I ate really well. I even decided to work from home the Friday before the race.
When Friday arrived, I was still super nervous. I had to go and pick up my bib and race packet and I knew the minute that I did that, my energy would change. If you have ever been at a packet pick up for a big race like this, you can just FEEL the energy of everyone that is there. You look at people and think “Wow, they are going to crush it!” or “Wow, they are running too?!” You just get sucked into the awesomeness of an ultra’s race scene. It is infectious.
I brought the Peanut with me as I had to drop her off at a friend’s for a sleepover. She wasn’t as impressed with packet pick up as I was. 🙂 Still, it was neat showing her everything and introducing her to people.
When I got home, all I had to do was make myself dinner. I had pre-packed my hydration pack, my cooler, and everything else that I had needed earlier in the day. I made some yukon gold potatoes for dinner. Simple. Easy. Nothing that would upset my tummy and I made sure to eat early enough so as to digest it all before laying down for sleep.
Slowly but surely, I started to get a migraine. It started slow and low on my head but by 7:30 pm, I was struggling to keep my eyes open due to the pain. I kissed Squeaker and Vans goodnight and crawled into bed close to 8 pm.
I woke up a few times during the night. I had that “late for the airport” feeling that you get when you feel like your alarm might not go off. But, eventually at 3;45 am it went off and I immediately hopped out of bed. I felt, rested. For once.
I changed, grabbed all my gear, filled my bottles and hydration pack and I waited in the garage for PigeonÂ and MissouriÂ to pick me up on their way to the starting area. Due to some unfortunate planning on my part, Vans would not be able to see me throughout the day. He promised that he would be at the finish. This meant that I had to build myself my own little personal aid-station again for Beal’s Point and make it easy enough that Missouri would be able to carry it from the car to somewhere close to the course.
At the starting area cars were lining up in the lot and the sky was dark. There was an eclipse of the moon so it was exceptionally dark at the start this year and I didn’t bring more than a dinky little light. Ooops
The minute we arrived, Pigeon and I hopped out of the car and headed to the porta potties. The line was short (at the moment). When we were done, we loaded back into the car and for some reason, I buckled myself in. Missouri turns to me and says, “Are you afraid we’ll get into an accident just sitting here?” I looked at her for a minute not quite comprehending what she was saying and then I realized what I had done. HA! My mind was obviously occupied and not thinking clearly. 🙂
We had a good laugh about that for Â while and that seemed to lighten the weight in my chest.
Soon however, it was time to head to the starting line. The race started at 6 am and it was still pretty dark outside.
Pigeon had a flashlight with her but I only had the little light on my visor. It would do but it wouldn’t be great. We only had to run about 3 or 4 miles in the dark, that was my guess anyway based on the sunrise. Luckily, a lot of other runners around me had lights.
Without much hype, the race started and wave 1 began running up the 1 mile marina drive towards the trail. Pigeon and I were able to chat with Miss P and Blisters for a bit which was nice. Everyone seemed to have a nice nervous energy.
Immediately I just felt like what I was doing was work and not fun. In the back of my head, I still had a lot of doubt. My knee was achy and I just dreaded any downhills that I would have to face.
Pigeon took the lead on this section which is funny since last year I took the lead. She also scolded me last year for going out too fast so maybe she thought if she took the lead, she could keep me settled down. I was content to follow her. My mind was still not in the game yet.
Finally we reached the levee and the sun was up (or mostly up) and our lights were no longer needed. We had to run to Folsom Point where the first aid-station would be (at mile 4.97). As we were running down and around Folsom Point, the door of the restroom opened up and I ran straight in. Pigeon followed as the door next to that one also opened. We were amazed that there were no lines! Last year they had really long lines. I was happy to get this out of the way now instead of later.
We said ‘hi’ to the Fleet Feet crew manning the aid-station and then dropped down onto the road making our way to the parkway bike path. Here, the sun was rising and you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day.
When we dumped onto the bike trail, I had forgotten how much downhill there was on this little section. Paved down hill doesn’t bother my knees as much as trail downhill for some reason. Pigeon and I just kept running. We weren’t chatting too much. We did occasionally comment on the gear of some of the other runners. We saw some crazy things out there and it is always interesting to see how people prepare for runs like this. The announcer had said there were 350 people running their first AR50. That is awesome.
Pigeon and I just made our way down the path. She was being rather quiet, as was I. Last year I had my headphones in at this point so I started digging them out of my pocket only to realize they were in a complete knot. Pigeon decided she needed to duck off the trail to take care of some business somewhere around mile 11. I told her I would walk. I needed to keep moving. I had a feeling that if I stopped, I wouldn’t start again. My head and my heart were just not in this yet.
When Pigeon finally caught up to me, she was running with TiggerT!!!!!???? TiggerT just happened to be out running with the Java Joggers group when she just kind of ran into Pigeon emerging from some bushes! How funny?!Â TiggerT ran with us to the next aid-station at Willow Creek (mile 12.77).
I didn’t take any fuel here or get any water. This year I ran with one bottle on my pack and my hydration bladder filled with electrolyte water. I did eat some of my peanut butter banana cookies but they weren’t tasting so great so I stopped. Nothing seemed appealing to me which isn’t good 13 miles into a 50 mile race.
As we were making our way to the Hazel Bridge, we saw that quite a few runners had gone off course and were running around the aquatic center parking lot. They looked at us like we had cheated but we had clearly followed all the ribbons. They must have been kicking themselves for adding at least a half mile to their legs.
As we crossed Hazel Bridge, I had that familiar feeling of relief. You see, at this point in the race, you start running TOWARDS Auburn and the finish line, no longer away from it. There is something to be said about this. It just switches something in your head and you feel better as you start climbing those crazy beautiful bluffs.
I just took my time going down the rockier sections not wanting to aggravate my knee. I had forgotten about the next aid-station, one of my favorites in this race, until we came upon it (Main Bar Aid-Station, Mile 16.98).
At this aid-station, they blast the best 80s music around and as we approached, super happy super sweet volunteers rushed to see what we needed just as Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero started blaring from a radio near by. Awe yea!!!! I was starting to warm up and get a little excited …. I even started dancing like a fool calling to Pigeon to come on, hurry … WE NEED A HERO!!!!
Granted, she looked at me like I was crazy and laughed. I told her it was the music. It set me on fire a bit. We started running. Soon we came a cross a stray (oddly clean) porta potty. Pigeon needed to stop so I decided to stop as well. I didn’t have to but I tried and it worked out timing wise.
Next up was the Negro Bar (mile 20.18) aid-station where Diane Hanes and her FTR crew volunteer every year. Diane gave me a big hug when she saw me and asked how I was. I told her that honestly, today felt like ‘work’ to me, that I just didn’t feel like I was having a lot of fun yet. All she could say was “uh-oh.”
Pigeon and I took off. I did get a surge of energy as I knew that our next aid-station would be Beal’sÂ Point which is mile 24.31 and where Missouri and hundreds of other people would be waiting to cheer on runners. Beal’sÂ is a HUGE point in the race. Two years ago, it marked the half way point (sort of). Now it was mile 24.31.
I always run up the hill to Beal’s. I love the surge of energy you feel as you crest that hill and run down across the arches as they call your name. I spotted where Missouri had set up our camp. I refilled my hydration pack and ate a gluten free peanut butter and honey sandwich. I had to really force it down but I managed to eat the whole thing.
I also emptied the rocks and pebbles that had been gathering at the bottom of my shoes. This year, I didn’t change socks. I probably should have but I didn’t.
Off we were again. Pigeon needed to stop at the bathrooms before we left the aid-station. Once again, I decided to go too. Might as well. When she emerged, we made our way back onto the course and headed towards Granite Bay aid-station (mile 29.45).
Last year at Granite Bay we were surprised by Missouri, TiggerT and Vans. This year, no one would be there. As were approaching the aid-station, Pigeon mentioned that her foot was hurting her. She hadn’t said a peep the entire day so it took me by surprise that she was having some discomfort.
She even said, “Missouri will kill me if I have to call her to pick me up here.” Wait. What? She went from “my foot hurts” Â to considering dropping in a nano second. I couldn’t process it all just yet. We then spotted Dasie and Pigeon ran to talk to her while I made my way to the aid-station. I needed some food in my tummy as I was planning to take the Advil I had stuffed in my pocket. My knee was just starting to tweak a little bit and I didn’t want it to flare just yet. Not now.
When I found Pigeon, Dasie was rubbing her foot. I started to stretch Â my legs and squat to keep myself limber and from totally stiffening up. Pigeon I could tell didn’t know what to do at first. Her goal race is in four weeks. This race, AR, was just a training run for her. She was torn.
We were at that aid-station about 8 to 10 minutes when Pigeon laced up and thought she would start running but instead, she told me that she had wasted too much of my time already and that I should just go on and if she could, she’d join me but she wasn’t sure just yet what she’d do.
I told her, “Okay, I’ll start out walking just in case. Just don’t fly by me like last year!” 🙂 But, she never did. I did walk for a bit and then the trail started to develop into a nice rolling course. Something that was runnable. So, I just ran.
This is a critical point in the race as the next aid-station at Horseshoe Bar (mile 38.14) is 8.69 miles from the last aid-station. That is the farthest stretch between aid-stations in the entire race and it was getting WARM, on second thought, it was getting HOT and fast. I had started dunking my bandana in any ice buckets that I could find and would wash my face and neck. It just cooled me down and kept me present.
Alone, and full of fuel, I just ran. I started passing people. I am not normally one to pass people. I usually just settle in behind and ride the conga line but something took over. I just started saying, “on your left” whenever I could and would, bit by bit, pass runner after runner.
This section of the course is full of mountain bikers and I ran into a couple. I felt bad as they had no idea a race was going on. I also ran into quite a few horses out on the trail, causing me to stop and move to the side. It was busy out there!
Steady and strong. I just kept running. My Garmin was slowly starting to lose its battery strength. I kept watching the charge get lower and lower and wondered if it would make the whole race.
My legs felt light as air. I had no aches or pains. I honestly felt like I was out for a nice easy jog. I couldn’t believe it. I tried not thinking about it as I didn’t want to jinx myself or trip and fall as I am apt to do while trail running.
I knew I was getting close to Rattlesnake aid-station (mile 40.94). I knew that once I reached that, I was in the single digits to the finish line. Last year at Rattlesnake, I could barely make it down the hill the pain in my knee was so excruciating. Now, I just ran down it, passing another runner (what the heck is going on?!).
I as entered the aid-station I got a huge “HI PAM!” from Legs which made me smile and then I saw Pigeon. She had dropped after all. She wanted to know what I needed. I kind of laughed, because I went from having no crew to having Missouri, Dasie and Pigeon all attending to my needs. I didn’t know what the heck to do! I told Pigeon I wanted ice in my pack. I dropped my water bottle since I had never even touched it and I wanted to lighten my load.
I was off running again. Dasie had made me a nice neck scarf of ice out of my bandana which felt amazing. Back up that steep hill I went and when I got to the top, I passed four more runners. Watch out, I was on my way to the finish line.
So it continued happening, I just passed runner after runner. When I got to Dowdin’s Post aid-station (mile 43,92) I just flew in, grabbed a few things and flew out.
Around mile 45, I came across Hassan who was pacing another runner in front of me. This runner let me pass and I said ‘hi’ to Hassan who immediately ran ahead and hid behind a corner and then started taking photos of me as I ran by! What a hoot!
Hassan’s happy demeanor brought a new wave of energy for me and I just never stopped smiling. Well, I did stop smiling when I realized that I was running up behind Miss P. If I run into Miss P in a race, I know it isn’t good. She must be struggling. Sure enough, I didn’t get my usual smile and “Hey!” from her. She said it just wasn’t her day. She just wanted to be done and she let me pass. My heart broke for her. Miss P is an incredibly strong runner. It saddened me to see her not feeling well.
I motored on and almost yelled with joy when I was dumped off the trail and onto the final road that leads you to the finish line. I power hiked as much as I could up this gravel rocky road. Some parts I ran, just eager to get off the gravel. My power hiking has improved and it didn’t fail me now. One step in front of the other.
The Last Gasp aid-station ( mile 47.56) is hilarious. It is run by a bunch of young guys who wear spandex. It always brings a smile to my face.
Soon I reached the infamous 3 mile sign. I’ve taken a photo next to this sign every year.
This year, I was all alone. No pacer. No one to take my photo. So, I took a photo of the sign anyway.
I decided now was the time to find my easter candy. A handful of starburst jelly beans is what got me up the Damn Hill and those last 3 miles. I’d walk a few steps and run 10 times more. I ran into Annabella on the this section too. I said hi and just kept motoring on. I was determined. I knew that I could beat my old time. Part of me wondered if there was any way that I could get sub 10 hours (my dream) but my Garmin decided to die at mile 48.9!!!!! It almost made it!
My pace up this big hill was hovering around the 11 minute mile range. If you have been on this hill, that’s pretty good (in my book at least). Walk two steps then run 10 times more. Repeat repeat repeat.
I saw the hill that crests up to the top near the parking lot. I couldn’t muster the energy to run up this whole hill but darn it I tried! I ran down onto the street and then up onto the curb and then I just started running as hard as I possibly could. People were clapping and cheering and I just ran as hard and as fast as my tired legs could manage.
I had scored a 22 minute PR!!!! I finished in 10 hours and 11 minutes. Not too far from a sub 10 hour finish!!! There is hope ….
I felt pretty awesome. My body felt awesome. I mean, what the heck? I made it down to the canal and I rinsed off the poison oak and iced my tired legs and then changed into warm clothes and took advantage of the recovery boots at the finish line.
I was just on a complete and total high. I can’t believe what had started out to be such a hard and grueling task had ended up being so much fun.
My body had responded and came through when I asked it to. You see, I had had a nice talk with my body the night before the race. I promised that if it would get me through those 50 miles that I would honor it and rest completely for two weeks. Nothing but stretching, walking and sleeping. I plan to keep my word and not run a step, which will be hard but also somewhat enjoyable.
The day after the race was Easter Sunday. We went on a family hike around where we live. Nothing too grueling. Just some easy walking with Vans and our six year old and three year old and TiggerT.
Now, two days later, I feel amazing. I am not sore at all. Nothing! My knee doesn’t feel “right” but my muscles feel great. I really focused on nutrition this time around too. I didn’t drink any alcohol for the month leading up to AR50. I watched my sugar intake and I ate really well race week too. During the race I tried to take a salt tab about every hour and monitored my water intake too.
Now, with this race behind me, I am looking forward to running for fun. Vans asked that I not run AR again for a bit as it always falls during the Easter holiday making it hard on our family and I can understand that. Some day though, I will return.
But for now, I am content to get back on the trails when the time is right and to run with Pigeon, Stonegate and Burning Girl all of whom are training for the Tahoe Rim Trail races (Pigeon is doing the 100 miler and the other two are doing the 55K). Their training plans and runs will be vastly different so I will get a mix of everything.
I have a few “paid for” training runs on the calendar and only one race in late June (a marathon while on vacation). All of these are low pressure runs. Even the marathon is purely an effort to keep my mileage up while on vacation so that I can pace Pigeon in Tahoe in July.
I look forward to just running for me. Running for fun. Running to help someone else. Having lost that love and spark in the early part of AR really unnerved me. I generally love the first half of that race. However, I am glad that I finally found it and that it carried me to the finish line with a smile.
A few weeks ago we joined forces with Stonegate and her family and had a garage sale. As often happens when you have a garage sale, you find things that you forgot that you had. While searching through boxes and closets I came across the following book ….
This book brought back a sea of memories for me. You see, years ago my friend Sally Edwards reached out to me and told me that a friend of hers was writing a book about women conquering triathlons. Â She wanted me to contribute a story detailing my very first attempt at a triathlon. So I did. My story in this book is called The Monkeys on My Back. When I found the book, I reread my story completely forgetting what I had written.
Essentially my story was about all the doubts in my head (aka those monkeys riding my back dragging me down) and how I defeated those monkeys and doubts, tossing them to the side as I completed my first challenging race.
Since my last post, I debated even writing another blog post. That race left me pretty beat up physically and mentally. Months ago, when I was feeling super strong and invincible, I signed up for the American River 50 mile race (again). Then Salmon Falls happened and I was left cursing myself for signing up for 50 miles after feeling how I felt after that last 50k.
The monkeys were back. Clearly.
I took a week off from running trying to nurse some aches and pains and I saw my miracle worker Dr. Lau. I didn’t know what to do. How did I think I could run again in four weeks?
The time off was good. I focused on stretching, foam rolling, eating well and catching up on lost sleep. The latter is hard to achieve with two little ones. 🙂
When yesterday came about, Pigeon had wanted us to go run our last long run before AR in the canyons. As much as I love the canyons, those monkeys were telling me I was crazy. We have done this run before (you can read it here) it was hard and it hurt. Yet we needed the hours on our feet and in the back of my head, Â I kept telling myself that the canyons are way harder than AR despite AR being more than twice as long (my brain works in mysterious ways).
Pigeon and I left town in complete darkness and arrived just as the sun was rising. We parked at Michigan Bluff and got ourselves ready. We both knew it was going to be a warm day but it was pretty chilly to start.
I didn’t know what to pack for fuel. I wanted to test out a bunch of new things so my pack was pretty jammed with all kinds of new to me fuel for the day.
As we were about to embark on the trail, another car arrived and out popped three other runners and a Doberman mix. Of course, another doberman encounter. Luckily, this dog was well trained and did not bother us too much.
This run starts out with a nice long two mile descent. It is rocky, technical and pretty steep. Dr. Lau’s advice kept ringing in my ears (“Don’t run down hill, save your knees”) but of course did I listen? Not really. I was careful and hesitant. I made sure my foot placement was good and I worked really hard on my form as I was going down, but I didn’t walk.
Of course in typical Trailmomma style, I had to make a quick pit stop not more than two minutes into our run. However, that would be the last of my tummy troubles the entire day.
Once you get to the bottom of that descent, you cross a nice little bridge and then begin a super long four to five mile climb. I had forgotten how much “up” this side of the trail had until I was hands on my knees hiking step after step.
The climb seemed to move pretty quickly though because before I knew it, we had reached the fire road section by Deadwood Cemetery. We caught up to the other runners that were out on the trail and had a nice chat with them.
Those runners stopped at the water pump to refill their bottles while Pigeon and I continued on towards Devil’s Thumb. The last time we ran this route, we stopped at the thumb and turned around. Today, we sat there debating back and forth as to whether or not we should climb down Devil’s to the swinging bridge. I’ve climbed Devils a few times. It is not an easy section. I have never run down it however.
My left knee had been only slightly making itself known on those earlier miles but I was afraid that the steepness of Devil’s would send it spiraling into a sea of pain. I took two Advil as a sort of preventative measure and down we went.
Last year’s massive fire has destroyed quite a bit of this beautiful land. Seeing all the charred tree stumps and branches was very heart breaking. It also however brought a bit of mystery and danger to the scene.
Without all the trees to provide shade, this was a very exposed section of trail and the temps were rising.
The terrain was also very difficult to run on. Tiny seas of pinecones were everywhere causing you to slip. Rocks, branches and debris were everywhere. I slowed more than a few times to try and prevent myself from tumbling down the trail.
When we made it to the bottom, we were greeted by shade and the brand newly rebuilt Swinging Bridge!
Last year the fire had destroyed half of the bridge making it impossible to pass.
A bunch of trail volunteers and angels did an amazing job rebuilding the bridge.
We decided to spend some time here and refuel a bit so I took quite a few photos.
They had a rope tied across the river in the above photo and we had to cross by wading through. It was pretty awesome.
But today, we were able to use the bridge and after some fueling decided it was time to start the dreaded climb up Devils’ Thumb.
As were making our way across the bridge, Pigeon told me I should take a photo of the waterfall. I never even realized there was a waterfall here before. I pulled out my camera and took a photo of it and I have to say, it was one of my favorites from the day.
The climb back up Devil’s Thumb consists of 36 switchbacks. THIRTY-SIX!!!???? It isn’t easy and it can be quite demeaning.
As I was climbing my right knee and lower back decided to say hello and by hello I mean “what the hell are you doing?!” I tried not to focus on it. One foot in front of the other. Climb.
Pigeon as always, was pretty silent on this climb. I tend to go in spurts of chatting and then conserving energy.
I don’t know exactly how long it took, but we finally reached the top. Normally we stop at the top but Pigeon locked her sights on those earlier runners who were running back towards the pump and started running.Â Okay, I guess we’re running. 🙂
We passed the runners again as they stopped at the water pump. As it turns out, they had a friend meet them with a truck full of aid-station fuel. They offered us coke and brownies and a ton of other things, but we passed and continued on.
As we were running we heard the sounds of dirt bikes and sure enough, just like the last time, two guys riding dirt bikes on the same trail we were running, passed us. Luckily we had more room this time to jump to the side.
I was internally dreading the next section. The four/five mile descent down El Dorado Canyon. This section is steep and fairly runnable making it tough on a bum knee.
I settled in behind Pigeon and tried going easy. Watching my form. Watching my steps. It surprised me that my left knee, the knee giving me trouble at Salmon Falls was fine and instead my right knee was the one barking at me. It didn’t matter if I was running down or up, it hurt but it let me continue. It didn’t stop me, yet.
At some point during this decent, Pigeon had to peel off and make her own pit-stop. I decided to play it smart and walk ahead. Walk the downs. Not run.
Before I knew it, I was a the bottom of the canyon. It seemed to have flown by this time. Pigeon had caught up and we started our climb back up to Michigan Bluff. Normally we stop at the bottom and refuel but it was pretty crowded with some hikers so instead, we climbed.
Some how I think it is more than a two mile climb up because it is never ending.
One foot in front of the other again. Climb. Repeat. At some point, I took the lead. I was focused. I could feel the finish, or a least I thought I could. Every time I thought we’d reached the top, I was mistaken.
Oh well, climb and climb again. At one point, decided to wait for Pigeon to catch up, just to check on her. I am kind of glad I did. She asked me where we were mileage wise which is always a red flag for her. She knows her distances pretty well. I asked her how she was doing and she told me her pack was empty. She had no water.
This is a constant joke between us. Pigeon has run out of water quite a few times on some of our runs and since I am a camel and always have more than enough, I usually give her mine. I had my whole 10 ounce bottle completely untouched so I poured it into her pack. We laughed and continued on. I knew that near the top of this climb, the sun would be out and we would be totally exposed which is not a good thing when it was a warm as it was outside. Water was a necessity on this climb.
I just powered on. Despite the pain searing through my knee at times, I felt okay. I felt that I was able to climb. A few times I even ran a bit to break it up and release the pressure in my low back. I had juice in the tank so to speak, which helped me fling those monkeys off my back about AR50.
It was on this climb back out that I thought again about that book. I had some how distanced myself from Pigeon and was just climbing and thinking – one foot in front of the other. If I could climb and handle this day and these canyons, why couldn’t I handle AR50 in two weeks? I have the strength. The race may not turn out what I had originally hoped when I initially signed up, but I know I can do it. The monkeys were being thrown. I was hiking and tossing those monkeys off my back and bringing myself back to a place of positive thinking. A place I have been missing lately.
When I reached the top I felt whole again. I felt like my old self. Sure my knee was screaming at me but I felt like my inner-self had been reset.
When Pigeon arrived, we made our way back to the car and tried our best to remove all the poison oak that may or may not have been all over our legs. It was pretty nasty out there.
Overall, we had run 19.5 miles or so with 7,583 feet of elevation. That’s a lot. Our first canyon run of the season was behind us. This isn’t an easy run at all but it definitely is one of my favorites.
When I arrived home I got word that Vans had a daddy day like no other!
The girls’ faces look exactly like mine when I have to go to Home Depot with Vans. 🙂
Overall, it was a great day. We had spent more than 6 hours on the trail. That’s a long time but it was the time I needed to get my confidence back.
Now I taper. Now I work on the aches and pains. Foam rolling. Eating well and hopefully trying to get better sleep. AR50 will be what it will be but I know a lot of what makes a race a great race, is where your head is on race day. For me, I am going to ride this positive train for the next two weeks.
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. :)Â 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. Â 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 Â 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.Â 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!
Vans surprised me by having the girls on the trail! They were a sight for sore eyes for sure!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. MyÂ 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!!
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.
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.
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!”
More hugs,Â 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.
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.
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 ascertainÂ 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.
MyÂ 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 myÂ left knee pain completely disappear but caused some screaming intense pain in myÂ right knee and lower back. I guess for 24 miles I had been compensating for myÂ 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. 🙂
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!
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?
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.