Tag Archives: Pigeon

TAHOE RIM TRAIL 100 (CREW/PACE)

You have two choices: Run now or be ready to sprint later, your call.” 

The last time I wrote about the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile endurance race was back in 2015 when Pigeon was attempting her third TRT100.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe
Beautiful Lake Tahoe

You can read about that event here (excuse the weirdness of that post, my blog has since been updated and there are all kinds of migration errors in it).

Needless to say she didn’t make it in 2015 and she didn’t make it again in 2016 when she attempted the race for a fourth time.

Fast forward to the present day; I wasn’t overly surprised to see her name on the entrants list for 2017. I know she has quite the vendetta with this race and a desire to conquer it because she knows (and I know) that she can finish it.

But some things had to change in order for that to happen.

Photo from: http://trter.com/
Photo from: http://trter.com/

This post isn’t about her run per se, I will let Pigeon tell that story as it is hers and hers alone to tell.  You can follow her here: Pigeon’s Blog. This post is more about crewing and what we saw from our side, which if you’ve ever run an ultra, you know there are two sides/adventures for both runner and crew.

In years past, I’ve missed my kid’s last swim meet of the season, taken off of work and headed up to Tahoe to help Pigeon get ready. This year, I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. Vans suffered an injury and is out of swim meet rotation. I also had told Pigeon early on that I wasn’t going to give up vacation time and my kid’s last swim meet again. She understood. I sound like a terrible friend but crewing is a huge commitment and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe that she could finish, I just had to put my family first this time.

That was the start of some of the “changes” that occurred. Pigeon’s wife also left town and would not be crewing. That meant, Pigeon had to find a whole new crew.

Enter Miss P! Photo by: Not Chris
Enter Miss P!
Photo by: Not Chris

If you’ve followed my posts this year, you know that I’ve been running with some new trail friends. Not Chris is one of those friends. He’s been running with Pigeon and I for quite some time now and even though he is fairly new to ultra running, he’s proven himself to be a superb runner, friend and planner.

Miss P is not a “new friend” but she is a consummate bada$$ on the trail! I’ve never heard an ill word about her in the 7 years I have known her and she is one helluva runner.

That rounded out our crew. Myself, Miss P and Not Chris all ready to finish this.  Miss P and Not Chris had to take on the Friday and Saturday duties while I attended my kids (very hot) swim meet.

"See ya in a few!" Photo by: Not Chris
“See ya in a few!”
Photo by: Not Chris

Not Chris was unfamiliar with TRT100 before meeting Pigeon. As soon as he was asked to be part of the crew, he studied the rule book, website, cut-offs and maps.  He was on top of everything.

He was also excited to be a back up pacer and to also finally go up Tunnel Creek!

Pigeon coming into Tunnel Creek Photo by: Not Chris
Pigeon coming into Tunnel Creek
Photo by: Not Chris

Even though there is little you can do at the Tunnel Creek aid-station (miles 12 , 18.5, 35, 62, 68.5, 85), it’s enough to have the moral and verbal support. I know Pigeon truly appreciated him being there for her.

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak Photo by: Not Chris

When Pigeon came into Diamond Peak (mile 30) early Saturday, she was ahead of schedule. I was getting the play-by-play texts from Not Chris all day. She looked good he said, feet looked good, she was not much below the 30 hour runner cut-off! What!? That’s awesome!

Leaving the aid-station in the heat of the day. Photo by: Not Chris
Leaving the aid-station in the heat of the day.
Photo by: Not Chris

I finished my swim meet which was a good 40 minutes away from my house. I raced home, cleaned up my kids, myself, made sure Vans was okay (remember he’s out of commission and essentially has the use of only one leg right now), did some house items he requested I do before I leave, shoved food in my face and then jumped in my car and drove to South Lake Tahoe.

I made it to Spooner Lake by 5:30 pm. Pigeon was expected (if she was still on schedule based on her day so far) to be in anywhere between 6:45 pm and 7:45 pm.

Spooner Lake Photo by: Me
Spooner Lake
Photo by: Me

Not Chris and Miss P were at Spooner by 5:45 pm. We set up our crew aid-station in a completely different spot than years prior (again, to change things up).

Miss P was ready to pace Pigeon through the night to Diamond Peak (30 miles). Originally I had hoped to pace her all 50, but with my swim meet obligations, I had to back down to only the last 20 miles. In the end though, that turned out to be a great and perfect plan.

There was quite a bit of carnage at Spooner and the mosquitoes were in full force. Not Chris and I waited on the trail for her just down from the aid-station.

Around 7:15 pm or so we saw her! She was still ahead of schedule! I had not seen her yet today, so I ran to her gave her a half-assed walking hug and then pummeled her with questions: What have you eaten? How do you feel? What do you need? What’s working? What’s not working? How are your feet? You get the drift.

She seemed quiet but verbal. She mentioned she had tummy troubles so I said to stop what she had been eating, we’ll try something new.

When she came in through the aid-station we got her settled. She changed her socks and looked at her feet. So far so good it seemed. We refilled her pack and replaced all the food she had. I don’t honestly recall what she ate while she was there … bad crew person!

Soon she was up, with headlamps and ready to run with Miss P. Off they went and that was that. She barely stayed more than 10 minutes in the aid-station.

Leaving Spooner, mile 50 Photo by: Me
Leaving Spooner, mile 50
Photo by: Me

Not Chris and I packed up everything and made our way back to the condo. We discussed what our plan should be for the morning. She’s doing so well and moving so much faster than expected that Not Chris and I were nervous about getting to Diamond (mile 80) in time to crew and exchange pacers.

Around 10:30 pm Miss P texted me their status .. all seemed well she was almost to Hobart Aid-Station (mile 57).

I woke up at 2:00 am ready to roll. I just couldn’t sleep . By 3:30 am Not Chris and I were at Diamond. We set up inside the doorway of the lodge (you are not allowed to set up outside before the sun rises) and waited. We waited some more and waited some more. We were fully entertained by the hum of all that was happening around us.  A lot of runners (and pacers) looked quite haggard after the long night’s run.

Another text came from Miss P at 3:30 am. A few “issues” had occurred out there, she slowed down her pace considerably but was moving. They were just at Tunnel Creek (mile 68.5).

6:09 am another text “Hope to get in by 7:15.” Time wise the night (and blisters) took their toll on her and she was inching closer to the 35 hour runner mark.  7:03 am she came rolling into Diamond!

She was an hour and 53 minutes (roughly) below the 35 hour cut-off for that aid-station. I was okay with that, I thought that gave us a decent cushion. I was wrong.

We had her in and out of Diamond quickly. She only managed some veggie broth and a few pieces of potato. She didn’t eat very much which concerned me as we were about to start climbing to the top of Diamond Peak.

Leaving Diamond Peak (mile 80) Photo by: Not Chris
Leaving Diamond Peak (mile 80)
Photo by: Not Chris

As we climbed we chatted. She seemed quiet but fine. She said she was tired (duh) and that her legs hurt (double duh). Then, she dry heaved. “What the?!”

Me: “How long as this been going on?”

Pigeon: “Oh since before Spooner.

Me: “Say what?”

I went into correction mode trying to figure out what we could do to alleviate this problem. I gave her ginger. Nope, that came flying out. I gave her salt. Nope, that came back up as well. I gave her three (yes 3!) jelly beans … those stayed down. Okay, we got something to work with. Jelly beans and coke are what is going to get us up this hill.

4

Then, she stopped and bent over.

Me: “Stand up. You can take a break but you can’t get air into your lungs if you are hunched over.

Pigeon: (Death glare) “I am TRYING to relieve the pressure off my legs!”

Me: “Okay, okay but try and stay up as much as possible you’ll feel better with more air in your lungs.

Up and up and up
Up and up and up

Up and up and up and up we went. She kept stopping. Finally I tried the, “let’s get to that flag up there in the shade” method. It worked but not good enough. It took us 30 minutes to go one mile. The climb is steep but we were moving slow. It took us another 30 minutes to go another mile. Uh-oh. This had me nervous, our little cushion was quickly disappearing.

More up!
More up!

We made it to Tunnel Creek (mile 85) at 9:51 am, about an hour under the 35 hour finish cut-off. Okay, this is okay.

Finally at the top!
Finally at the top!

Pigeon was a celebrity at Tunnel Creek. The volunteers erupted in cheers and hugs when she entered. She must have had 3 or 4 people helping her so I left to use the restroom and take care of myself. She had her own pit-crew like at a Nascar race!

Volunteer: “What does she want? We have quesadilla, bacon, sausage …

Me: “No dairy no meat!

Volunteer: “No dairy no meat??!!”

(Everyone staring at me like I am a crazy person).

Me: “Pigeon, they have Oreos, can you stomach that?”

Pigeon: “Can I have those?”

ALL eyes turn to me … volunteers, other runners all listening … waiting to see if I will let my runner have Oreos! LOL

Me: “Yes, they are vegan.

EVERYONE: “OOOOOHHH!! She’s VEGAN!” 🙂

Back on the trail moving and eating. I was happy that everyone was able to get her to eat at Tunnel (despite them looking at me like I was a food-nazi).

We rounded a corner and BOOM! All that she ate, made a reappearance. Uh-oh, well on a brighter note, she should be feeling better but now we’re close to the cut-off AND behind in calories.

Knowing my intense dislike for anything puke related, she started profusely apologizing to me! “Dude, it’s ok!” As I rubbed her back and stared off into the distance focusing intently on a tree. 🙂

11

I started texting Miss P. She texted back some tips and tricks to try. Pigeon was overheating so I grabbed the extra bottle I had on me and started hosing her down from behind as we moved.

12

The heat and the sun was relentless. You can tell in the photo above, there is no shade, no place to hide. It was starting to break her. No matter what I said, she wouldn’t move any faster and was stopping quite often.

Finally I turned to her and said, “Okay, no more sitting. You can stop but you can’t sit.”

I thought she comprehended what I said, but then we approached a rock and rare shady area and she made a motion like she was about to sit …

Me: “No sitting!”

Pigeon: “I WASN’T GOING TO SIT!”

Oh boy. I got to keep her moving. I didn’t see any of the Pigeon I normally she in her at all. No sense of humor, no light.

She asked me to go in front of her and I think that made all the difference in the world but also, made her pay the price too.

8

With me running in front, I started a game. “Let’s run this flat stretch right here! Come on, just a little to that shady area.” She followed.

Pigeon: “I can’t do this. I can’t, I am done.

Me: “No. No you’re not. Besides we have to move forward, we can’t go back right? One foot in front of the other, that’s all we have to do.

Thank goodness for cell service too. I texted her wife who sent videos of their son chanting, “Go go go!” Her cousin sent me a video rooting for her.  It was all I could do. I was digging and reaching to keep her moving.

Me: “Remember how at Quicksilver and at AR50 you came back from the dead and ran like a mad woman to get me? Come on, do that now! Follow me!”

Then I saw a runner, “Okay, let’s go get that runner! I know how you like to pick people off in races, now is your chance, come on!”

She did. One by one we were picking off runners. She must have picked off 5 runners! We were running all the downs, letting gravity pull us while hiking the ups. She was moving. She had some really great stretches of running.

Me: “Come on! You got this. We’re in good shape!”

Pigeon: “No, we’re not! (stopping) You know we’re not. I have a watch.”

Me: “Ignore your watch. Let me worry about time. Your job is to keep moving. We have to keep moving. Hands OFF your hips and swing your arms. Come on! Let’s go!”

I’d text Miss P that I was struggling.  Miss P told me to tell her, “If it isn’t happening today … IT ISN’T HAPPENING!”

That made her move a little more. We had a couple stretches of 14 minute miles on some of those downs. I could tell, she was chasing me, trying to keep up. The hot sections though would just murder her and her spirit.

Pigeon: “I have nothing left. I am completely depleted.

Me: “I know. You have to dig deep. Deeper than you ever thought that you could. We can’t stop. You have two choices: You can run now or you can sprint later. Your call. I will be damned if we miss this by minutes. We are that close.

We ran. Finally I could see Spooner Lake. I have never been so happy to see a leach infested lake in my life!

Me: “Look! Look it’s the lake!!! Come on girl! Come one, I can SEE the finish! You got this, but we can’t stop!”

I was looking at my watch. I could see the lake but I couldn’t really tell how far it was. I know it was less than 2 miles but we had 50 minutes left to run to get in under 35 hours. 2 miles any other day would be a walk in the park, but not today, not the way she looked.

She was moving and then, she was down … like down down. Sick again. I quickly looked to my right and saw that Spooner Lake was just a few yards away.

I jumped a burm and ran down to the water and dunked my bandanna. I ran back up the beach to the trail and tried to cool her down. By running in front of her, I was able to get her moving but then I wasn’t able to spray her down with water for all those super hot miles.

The heat, was destroying her.

Me: “Come on. We can do this. If we have to walk in, we can, we have time (I was hoping).”

Pigeon: “I can’t, I don’t think I can. This isn’t right. Something isn’t right.”

Me: “I know. I know. You will be okay. There are medics at the finish. Let’s just get you there. I promise you that you will be okay.”

She started walking. We saw the turn that leads towards the finish line. I was cheering for with tears in my eyes!

We made the next turn onto the single track that lines the lake and brings her right to the finish. Everyone was cheering for her.

Finish in site!
Finish in sight!

Me: “Do you think you can run? You want to run into that finish?”

She shook her head, “Nope” is basically what she said.

Me: “That’s okay, we can hike it in.”

BAM! In true Pigeon style she started running!

Me: “YAY GIRL!!!! GOOOOOOO! You did it!!! You finished!!”

SHE DID IT!!
SHE DID IT!!

She finished in 34:30:23! 20 minutes to spare!!! So dang proud of that girl!

Got her buckle!!!!
Got her buckle!!!!

She ran through hell and back to get that buckle, numerous times. She dug deeper than anyone I have ever seen and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I hated that I had to be the “bad guy” out there but I wasn’t about to let this slip away on my watch but I was unbelievably happy and grateful that I was the one to be with her those last grueling 20 miles, puke and all.

2017 Crew
2017 Crew

Seriously a phenomenal group to work with. We all had moments of worry I think throughout that race but I think we all agreed internally, that there was only one choice, and that was to get her to that finish line no matter what. Truly a pleasure working with Miss P and Not Chris. Two gems in my book.

To Pigeon, my dear friend, I am so proud of you. Despite the insanity that is toeing this race five times in a row, I commend you for your grit, determination and unwavering drive to finish what you started five long years ago. Every year I told you I had no doubts that you would finish, but I think, something about 2017, it just had to be THIS year. 😉

19990224_10213692628056456_6886201697923999110_nAnd to all of you that actually read that monstrosity of a Pacer’s recap, I reward you with my favorite photo of the weekend. Somewhere between aid-station/crewing duties, Not Chris and I caught this sunset … no filter, no editing. Tahoe is that beautiful. It can be harsh and unforgiving (especially when running 100 miles), but it is heaven on Earth.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

 

Share This:

WESTERN STATES TRAINING RUN 2017

So another month has come and gone. Time is surely flying and school is almost out for the summer. One thing that remains constant however, is my LOVE for the Western State Trail!

Photo from www.ws100.com
Photo from www.wser.org

No, I am not running Western States 100 this year but like I have in 2010 (recap here), 2014 (recap here), 2015 (recap here) AND 2016 (recap here) I DID run one of the training days on Memorial Day Weekend this year! One of my FAVORITE days of the year!

Not Chris, Myself, Pigeon, Miss P!
Not Chris, Myself, Pigeon, Miss P!

Pigeon and had the pleasure of having Miss P and Not Chris join us (at least for the start) of our WS Training Run adventure. Pigeon and I always go into this run looking to create some laughter and enjoy the day on some of our favorite trails.

This year, Not Chris wanted to join us as he is quickly getting the ultra bug after his run at Ruck a Chuck back in March. He was totally smitten with all things Western States before having even stepped foot into the Canyons … this was his first time running in the Western States Canyons and they did not disappoint!

A glorious day for a run!
A glorious day for a run!

With our non-drought very wet winter, the start of the training run had to be altered quite a bit to deal with the still heavy snow residing at Robinson Flat.

We were lucky enough to get a ride from Not Chris’s lovely wife so as to avoid taking the bus from Foresthill (with 300 other amazing runners). This made our start a tad bit easier as we had to really navigate over some heavy snow covered areas.

Lots of snow.
Lots of snow.

We basically had to run an extra 4 miles because the car couldn’t even make it to the Robinson Flat camp ground starting area. We just accepted it and did our best not to fall down. I think in total, we probably ran about 7 or 8 miles on snow before actually getting to the Western States Trail (we had to run a side route because the snow was so bad).

Once we were on dirt though, we started to get into a groove. I felt a little bad for Not Chris because of our detour at the start, he missed all the amazing views including Pucker Point. I guess he’ll just have to join us again next year! 😉

As usual, I had a little tummy trouble at the start. I am not sure what it is about this training run but I struggle for the first few miles every single year! Ah well. Luckily I am used to it by now and I know that it eventually sorts itself out and truth be told, it isn’t enough for me to lose any excitement about this day.

Just LOOK at how excited I am. HA!
Just LOOK at how excited I am. HA!

There were these giant pine cones at the start of the trail (see above photo) and my kids are obsessed with collecting them. I snapped this pic to send to them. I got scolded for not carrying this thing the entire day. 🙂

The four us just ran and chatted most of the time. Easing into the day, trying to find our groove. Pigeon and I shared past stories from our previous runs with Miss P and Not Chris.

Trailmomma and Pigeon annual WS Training Run Selfie
Trailmomma and Pigeon annual WS Training Run Selfie

Soon we hit the descent down towards Swinging Bridge. Miss P and Not Chris enjoyed this section and took off. I was content to just go easy and enjoy my day.

We regrouped at Swinging Bridge and introduced Not Chris to the infamous Devil’s Thumb!

As we started our climb, a lot of the elite runners from the bus had caught us and were beginning to pass us on our way up the Thumb which is always pretty cool.

Not Chris took off. I was a little worried about him going up and out too fast. I had warned him that there are 36 switch backs to Devil’s Thumb. I love this climb, I always have. It was also beginning to get warm which can really make this climb harder the higher up you get. I eventually lost sight of Not Chris.

When I made it to the top of Devil’s I didn’t see Not Chris. I had assumed that he had followed Miss P to the aid-station which wasn’t too far off and that he must have been in need of fuel after that climb. I was bummed he wasn’t at the top though because I wanted to make sure that he actually SAW the thumb rock, the reason this climb is named what it is. I am a nerd like that. 🙂  Sadly, he missed the rock but he was in need of fuel so I get it. Again, I guess we’ll have to take him back out there some day. 🙂

I took a seat at the top of Devil’s and waited for Pigeon to arrive. As I sat there, Magda Boulet reached the top, smiled at me and asked if I was “ok” and if I needed anything. Super sweet! I assured her that I was fine and that I was just waiting for a friend. I LOVE how sweet all ultra runners are, no matter their level or status. Magda is one runner who I adore and follow. I hope she kicks butt at States this year!

Pigeon and I found Not Chris at the Pump aid-station with cheeks full of food like a squirrel! 🙂 He had a smile on his face and I think was having one helluva day so far.

We left the aid-station and made our way down to the bottom of El Dorado Canyon, another fun downhill section. I love this section of trail and Pigeon knows it. During our Canyons 100k training runs, I would blow this section up and today was no exception. I took off and caught up to Not Chris and Miss P.

At the bottom, we dunked our bandannas and hats in the cold river to tried to cool off before the climb up to Michigan Bluff.

Not Chris and I climbed up to Michigan Bluff together. We were in a pack with some guys just making conversation. Not Chris moved from in front of me to behind me. About two minutes later I hear, “I need a pep talk.” 🙂

He had hit his wall as so many others have on this very climb. Three miles up is tough in the heat. Luckily we had just reached a clearing that gave us the most spectacular view.

I made him stop, “Look at that. Not many people in this world will see this view. Just soak it in. We’re in no rush.”

We made it to Michigan Bluff and made a beeline for the aid-station.

Michigan Bluff
Michigan Bluff

I knew Pigeon would understand where we were when she crested the hill off the trail. Not Chris needed some fuel. I needed a refill and we were both eager to stand in some shade after that climb.

After the aid-station, we regrouped and then made our way down the road. We were all in good spirits knowing that we had about 6 miles left on the day. I knew the next section was pretty sunny and less exciting since it’s just a dirt road essentially. The real fun would not begin until we started the descent down Volcano and hit the creek crossing.

Woo hoo!! Water!!!
Woo hoo!! Water!!!

This is the same creek crossing from my Canyons 100k run four weeks earlier. It was way less crowded and the water way less strong. The two ropes were still there though.

Not Chris crossing!
Not Chris crossing! (say that five times fast LOL)

Not Chris and I were busy dunking ourselves into the cool creek when Pigeon made her way down. Nothing like a refreshing stream to cool you off before you climb out of another canyon!

Pigeon!
Pigeon!

I forgot just how much trail there was from the crossing until we hit Bath Road. I think Not Chris was expecting to get out of the stream and hit the road for our final climb. Oops. 🙂

I could sense he was tired but his adrenaline and excitement was prevailing. We waited for Pigeon at the gate and we all hiked up Bath Road together.

A Giant Bobber for our fishing friend Grumpy!
A Giant Bobber for our fishing friend Grumpy!

We ran together down Foresthill Road until we reached the school and had our wristband’s officially cut. We were done! Not Chris had not only run his very first Western States Training Run, he had also just ran 33 miles for the first time for FUN in a non-race situation! 🙂 He had only run one 50k prior to this day (Ruck-A-Chuck – which is a race on the other portion of the WS Trail).  He’s official now, he’s one of us. Running 33 miles for the pure the fun of it? Yup, he’s smitten.

No matter what I do or what I run prior to this weekend each year, whether it was Quicksilver 100k last year, or Canyons 100k this year – I somehow find the energy and enthusiasm to still enjoy this day.

There is just something so innately special and magical about this trail, about this race. I am looking forward to June 24th and watching many friends have their adventures, their dreams, their goals unfold in 24 to 30 hours at The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

 

Share This:

CANYONS 100K RACE REPORT

If I had listened to all the signs the Universe was throwing at me, this race should never have happened.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

Last year when I ran the Quicksilver 100k, I promised myself that I would run another 100k and push myself just a little bit harder. I finished Quicksilver with a lot left in my tank. I wanted another shot at a 100k, not just as a Western States Qualifier (though that was a bonus), but to prove to myself that I could run and run a little bit stronger.

However, I quickly realized that once training for Canyons started, I was struggling. A small bit of running-burnout combined with the disappearance of my morning running crew (injuries and life happened – not their fault) and the onset of one of the wettest coldest winters we’ve had in a while, I was left trying to motivate myself to run at 4:30 am on weekdays in the pouring rain all alone.

So for the first time ever, I reached out and found myself a coach. I have never had a running coach before. Not one that gave me one on one attention and wrote a plan designed specifically for me and my busy family life.

I admit, it was definitely a hard adjustment for me at first. As much as I really liked not having to “plan” my runs each day … I had to trust that HIS plan was better than MINE. I’ve had a fairly successful trail running career thus far, and giving up (what seemed like) total control, was hard for me. I had to have faith that what he designed, would work. Trust me, there were times I questioned it and emailed him asking him “why” or “when” I can do certain things. He was awesome. Always responding instantly and calming my nerves, I just kept doing what he told me to do.

So when I rolled my ankle pretty severely on the last long run, two weeks out from race day, I panicked. Pigeon and I had been pounding out the miles in the canyons every single weekend for what seemed like forever. One weekend it was super hot. The very next weekend it snowed! And it hailed. And it snowed some more!

SNOW in April!
SNOW in April!

2

We never quite reached the mileage we intended each weekend because of either the weather or because the trails were in terrible condition due to all the mud slides and trees that were down.

Massive trees all over the course
Massive trees all over the course
Dangerous mudslides
Dangerous mudslides

On top of all of that, I had some major work stuff happening AND Peanut and Squeaker started their swim season. OH! And The Peanut also turned 9 and Jersey Dad came out for a visit. My life was a train running at full speed and I really didn’t see any signs of it slowing down.

So when I rolled my ankle, I quickly emailed my miracle worker and friend at Elite Spinal and Sports Care. Dr. Lau is used to my emails by now and we have known each other well before kids came into our lives. He got me in and fixed me up good as new.

Then, the Sunday before race day, my back went out. Like really out. Spasms and stuff. I could barely walk at the Peanut’s birthday shindig let alone think about running.

Again, I reached out to Dr. Lau and told him what was going on. I assured him that I had done NOTHING to warrant the pain. So on a random evening, I told the girls they were not going to swim practice and I dragged them and Jersey Dad to my emergency appointment in hopes that 4 days before I was to toe the line, Dr. Lau could do something to help me.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

When the Friday before the race arrived, I was feeling about 80% of normal. Definitely not 100%. Luckily I was able to work from home that day and I had planned to drive up to Auburn for packet pick up. Instead, the morning started out with two massive screws in my car tire. Awesome.

Despite all the obstacles and signs, I was still hell bent on starting the race. Internally, I accepted that my day might not unfold as I wanted. That the training I have put forth all season, might be for nothing if my body didn’t cooperate.

drop bag

I packed my drop bags, set out my gear and went to bed early on Friday evening unsure of what the next day would bring.

The race started at 5:30 am at the old Foresthill Elementary School. I woke up at 2:00 am without an alarm. I was anxious. My friend Stonegate had offered to take me to the start of the race which was super nice considering she had to be at my house at 3:15 am.

However, when 3:15 arrived .. then 3:20 and then 3:25 and Stonegate wasn’t there and wasn’t answering my texts, I started to panic a little. I love Stonegate she is an amazing friend and one of the things we have in common, is that we’re always on time … or early, especially for races. I had no other choice but to jump into action and shuffle some cars and my gear around so that I could drive myself to the start. As it turns out, Stonegate didn’t hear her alarm. She felt terrible and still feels terrible, despite that I keep telling her it is okay and that it really makes for great blog material. 🙂

That little adrenaline rush of panic quickly turned into ease as I realized driving myself and listening to some pump up music, was just what I needed after all. I got to the start in plenty of time, parked near Pigeon and waited.

When 5:30 neared, Pigeon and I gathered at the starting line. I had quickly filled her in on all the drama I had faced that week and the status of my back. I told her that I was hoping to stick with her the first half and see how things go.

For this race, the 50k and 100k runners start at the same time. I have to say, that’s my only complaint with this race. The race is amazing, the volunteers are awesome but the crowds and conga-lines on these narrow trails, really turned me off.

I started with a mini-headlamp as the sun had not fully come up yet. Pigeon and I settled into a nice pace. The race starts out on the pavement and then you turn right and make the descent down towards Volcano Creek. It wasn’t that cold either. The day was expected to heat up quite fast. I started in a tank top and arm sleeves which I took off pretty quick.

As soon as we hit the dirt, the conga-lines started. We’d been warned that the Volcano Creek crossing was strong and that they had set up two ropes to help us cross as well as provided course marshals to assist us.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the crossing wasn’t as “raging” as I had expected. It came up to my knees but that was the start of us runners having wet feet … something that would last almost the entire day.

us

The first aid-station was Michigan Bluff (Mile 6.2). We knew that we’d see Miss P and Pearls volunteering there as well. I tried to stop and use the porta-potty here but the line was too long and Pigeon gave me that look like “Dude, we can’t wait.” So we passed on any fuel and headed down toward El Dorado Creek.

This down section is pretty fun. You can really pick up the pace here and make up time because it is almost 3 miles of total downhill. However, we were stuck running behind a line of runners so you are sort of left at whatever pace the lead runner is setting.

When we got to the bottom, I had to dip off the trail and take care of mother nature. Pigeon just continued on.

The El Dorado Creek aid-station (Mile 9.0) was hopping. I didn’t grab anything here but I did pull some things out of my pack to eat on the long brutal climb out.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

I wanted to catch up to Pigeon so I ran up for a bit passing runners. Finally I saw her and I settled into a nice hike. I noticed that I was feeling okay. My breathing was better and my back felt good.  I love climbing and have had some really good moments on this exact climb during training.

When we reached the top Pigeon and I reconnected. We both felt fine. We started running.

The next aid-station was The Pump (Mile 13.5) and they had huge blow up unicorns and all kinds of fun stuff here. The volunteers were awesome and were quick to help you refill whatever you needed.

I refilled my water bottle and soon Pigeon and I were headed towards Devil’s Thumb. I have to say, the volunteers that came out and cleaned up the trails the weekend prior did an amazing job. The trails were not nearly as torn up as they had been during training. A lot of the downed trees had been cleared.

When I reached the top of Devil’s Thumb I was excited. I settled in with a group of guys who were just bombing the downhill. My friend Roger was in this group and he always makes things fun. The pace felt great to me so I stuck with it. It was frustrating here because you had lots of runners climbing out so you were constantly moving to the side or stopping to let them pass. The trail isn’t that wide mind you, so often times you’re standing in a poison oak bush letting someone by.

On the switchbacks I couldn’t see Pigeon but I knew she had to be close. Finally we reached the bottom of the Thumb and had to grab a bracelet as proof that we went all way down. Then, we turned right around and started climbing back out. Devil’s Thumb has 36 switch backs. It’s a brutal climb and it was definitely starting to get warm.

I saw Pigeon on the turn around, she was not far behind me at all. I just put one foot in front of the other and power climbed my way out.

When I reached the top, I was eager to get to the aid-station at The Pump again (Mile 18.5). I was hot and I wanted something salty. I figured I’d see Pigeon when she made it there herself.  However, I never did see her again again until much later in the race.

I grabbed what I needed at The Pump and started walking out. Then I started running. Despite the climbing I had done, I felt pretty good and I was looking forward to the descent down to El Dorado Creek. I’d been killing this section in training lately and I was eager to take off the brakes and just let gravity take me down.

At the bottom of El Dorado Creek (Mile 23.0) I didn’t stay long. I grabbed something to drink and then power hiked as I ate. Once again, I found myself in a line of guys all climbing about the same pace.

When I reached Michigan Bluff Aid-Station (Mile 25.8) I said “hi” to Miss P and Pearls again. I refilled on some stuff and started out. It was definitely getting hot out and I couldn’t wait to revisit that creek crossing again to cool off.

The next aid-station is back at Foresthill, where we started (Mile 32.0). I ran into Diane Hanes from the Folsom Lake Trail Running Series here. Diane asked, “Where is your crew?” I just said, “I don’t have one! But I have a drop bag!” She found my drop bag and helped me refill my pack. I noticed that I had arrived at that aid-station slightly before my predicted arrival time which made me feel good.

I barely spent more than 5 minutes there and was back out running. The second half of the race was a section I had not done since I had run Ruck-A-Chuck back in March.

This section of the course was for 100k runners only so the amount of traffic on these trails was minimal. In fact, I often found myself alone much of this section.

At one point, I came to a pretty heavy flowing stream crossing. I stepped in and relished in the cold water for a minute. Taking my bandanna, I dunked it in the water. THEN! I had an amazing idea, WHY NOT DUNK MY HAT!? So bent down to dunk my hat in the icy cold water when all of a sudden, my foot slipped! And as if it was in slow motion I saw my whole body go UP and then come down. I was flat on my back in the middle of this heavy flow of water. The only thing sticking out of the water was my head! I died laughing and there was NO ONE around to witness it. I knew Pigeon would have died laughing at me. 🙂

I got up and kept running.

Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 35.5) – such a sweet and friendly aid-station. Again, I didn’t stay long. The one thought that kept entering my mind during this whole run was that I would have to come back on these same trails later to get to the finish. That was a mental hurdle of sorts.

Cal 2 Aid-Station (Mile 40.5) I knew was the last aid-station before the turn around and the longest between stretches (7 miles to the next aid). I also knew that it had a decent down hill portion to it combined with a nice gnarly climb and some sandy trails.

By the time I was about 3 miles from the turn around spot and the Rucky Chucky Aid-Station (Mile 47.8) I had run out of water in my pack. I still had this yucky tasting warm water in my water bottle if things got desperate.

When the single track dumps you out onto the fire road, I thought the aid-station would never come. Every runner I passed seemed to tell me it was “one mile out still.” I was anxious to get there because Stonegate promised to be there with some ice (I was so thirsty!).

True to her word, she was there with ice and a plethora of fresh cold beverages for me to choose from. She made me laugh and that is what I needed I think. Just a little boost of energy. Someone to tell me that I was doing a ‘good job’ and to keep going.

I was probably there maybe 5 minutes? Back out on the fire road I went, ready to finish this thing. On my way out, I ran into Pigeon. She looked okay and said she was ‘fine’ but she didn’t have her usual spark. I knew she didn’t want to bring me down by telling me she wasn’t feeling well. As it turns out, she dropped from stomach issues when she got to Rucky Chucky (which was an aid-station full of carnage).

I decided the only way to finish this was to keep moving. Run any flats that I could, all the downs and keep moving firmly on the up hills.

When I reached the long climb to Cal 2 (Mile 55.1) I was overcome with a sense of strength. I hiked that climb like it was nothing. I stopped at the aid-station quickly for a drink and then headed back out. I wasted no time. I knew in my head that I only had 8.5 miles at this point until I was done with this beast.

The section between Cal 2 and Cal 1 is something of a miracle for me. I am not sure what happened or what occurred exactly, but I was overcome with a surge of energy. I started running. Not just shuffling, but actually running. I was doing some 8:30/9:00 minute miles here. What the heck?!

I passed some guys and as one guy moved to the side he said, “Holy crap! You are running really strong right now! Wow!” I just told him that I was “ready to be done” and he said, “So am I but I can’t get my legs to do what yours are doing! You go!

That just fueled my fire. I kept going. It was getting darker by the minute but I waited until the very last glimpse of light before I put my headlamp on. I’ve never truly run “at night” … I have run in the dark with friends, but never “in a race” so to speak.

Eyes straight forward. Any rustling to the side of me I ignored and attributed as a squirrel. 🙂

I wanted, I needed to get to the Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 60.1). The bonus of running at night, is that you can see the aid-station lights through the trees so you can have a sense of hope that they are near.

When I got there, I simply dumped out all of the trash in my pack and left. 3.5 miles to finish. I could do this! I knew I had cell coverage here so on my hike out, I texted Vans who had been chilling with Squeaker at the finish line since earlier that evening.

Squeaker waiting!
Squeaker waiting for me!

I told him that I was about 3.5 miles from the finish but that it was an uphill climb to get there. I texted Stonegate who immediately texted me back with some pump up kick a$$ motivation.

Then, I put my phone away and got to work climbing. No stopping. No slow moving. Hike girl! Just hike!

I passed a few runners on my way out. When I reached the pavement, I knew I was done. I knew that I had enough in my tank to get to me to that finish line. I started to run and I encouraged the guy who I had been chatting with to join me. He said, “No thanks. I am going to hike this one in.” Fair enough, it had been a long day. I said my goodbye and I ran!

The road through town was dark, very dark. I saw the finish up ahead. I actually had to ask for directions because I wasn’t sure where the arch was exactly. I heard Vans say, “That’s her! That’s her!

I crossed that finish line and threw up a fist-pump! I effing did it! And I finished well under the time I had expected to finish. I was just over 16 hours which was pretty sweet in my book, especially after the recent weeks that I have had.

Done and smiling!
Done and smiling!

What a day and what a race. When I finished, I felt good. I mean I was tired, but I was able to walk and change and heck, I had to even drive myself home! 🙂

My Squeaker girl. Always at the ultra finish lines.
My Squeaker girl. Always at the ultra finish lines.

I am normally a person who listens to all the signs the Universe sends out. I truly believe things happen in life for a reason.  Despite all the obstacles I faced leading up to this race, I think I was tested for a reason. They weren’t signs to deter me from starting, they were signs to see if I was tough enough to endure what is considered one helluva difficult race. 63.6 miles and over 15,000 feet of elevation on hot terrain.

I couldn’t have done so without the support of my coach, my friends, my running partners and my family. I think Vans may have been a little afraid of what the day might turn into based on how I had been feeling, but he remained my biggest supporter, my strongest friend and without him, I am not sure I would have finished.

A quick side note, that he’ll kill me for sharing, but Vans stuck TONS of little personalized notes of encouragement and jokes throughout my pack. Whenever I went into a pocket, I’d find a new note. They were stuck in my drop bags, my pack and even in some of my food pouches! 🙂 That alone, gave me more energy than I think he realizes.

My rock with me post race - at midnight.
My rock with me post race – at midnight.

I truly am a lucky girl. I am looking forward to some R&R now. My calendar isn’t empty by any stretch but what I do have on there, is for pure enjoyment only. I’ve missed running trails for fun. I’ve missed running and exploring and soaking up nature without an agenda, a goal, a specified mileage.

I want to run free of obligations. I want to run and laugh with friends and support those who are gearing up for bigger and better things. For me, I am content to just be.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

Share This:

FOURMIDABLE 50K (Lessons Learned)

Well the first race of the season has come and gone and boy was it a ginormous MUD-FEST!

I ran the FOURmidable 50K last year for the first time and had an amazing race. In the days leading up to this year’s race however, I noticed that my race recap from 2016 generated a lot of traffic (and a few emails). FOURmidable this year was a USA Track & Field 50K trail national championships and therefore garnered a lot more interest and entrants (almost double in the 50K alone). Quite a few top names and elites showed up which was pretty amazing to watch.

My day started with an awesome comment from elite runner (and blogger) Jean Pommier on my last year’s report. That put a nice smile on my face.

1

Then I found a little present from Vans while I was chilling in my car pre-race. I love his simple, but wise advice: Keep Running. Watch your step. 🙂

The weather leading up to the race was definitely something to contend with this year. I have been running on these exact trails for weeks now so I knew what to expect … and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

My peeps!
My peeps!

I’ve spent the last few weekends running with Pigeon, Not Chris and Grumpy. Not Chris and Grumpy were making their Auburn trail race debut! Not Chris ran the 35.5K and Grumpy the 13K.

3

Watching the excitement on their faces in anticipation of the race was awesome. I love seeing new found trail love and joy.

Pigeon and I saw Not Chris and Grumpy off at their start since all the races (50K, 35.5K, a half and 13K) had a staggered start.

boys

After the 35.5K and 13K left, it was time for the 50K runners to line up.

Pigeon and I all smiles!
Pigeon and I all smiles!

One thing to note, is that the start of this race was completely different than last year. We started and ended IN the overlook parking lot. Last year, we started down by Gate 142. This is important to note mostly as it pertains the finish … and we’ll get there I promise.

Cute Heather Morris with her hands up. Me behind her. Photo courtesy: Nelson Medeiros
Cute Heather Morris with her hands up. Me behind her.
Photo courtesy: Nelson Medeiros

Similar to last year, the 50K runners had to run down to base of Cardiac. This year however, the route to get there was different. We were on trails a bit more than pavement, which was nice.

As we descended down, I noticed that my pace was in the low 8s. That didn’t unnerve me much because I did the same thing last year (although this year I was faster).

Photo Courtesy of TrailTaylor
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

When we hit the base of cardiac, I first saved a runner who somehow did not see ALL the pink ribbons and was on his way towards the river. He was pretty grateful I stopped him.

The climb up Cardiac hit me like a ton of bricks. Very similar to last year and that is what I kept telling myself – which was a huge mistake and my biggest lesson this race.

I let quite a few people pass me on this section. My legs just felt heavy and my lungs not quite ready for what I was about to ask of them.

Happy to be at the top finally, I shook off any bad feelings and just kept moving.

We hit the first aid-station at Gate 142 and I ran right by. I had enough fuel in my pack that I didn’t feel the need to stop. The trail then brought us around and below the overlook and popped us out right by the horse staging area.

A girl standing on the side of the trail said, “You are in the top ten for female.” Ugh, don’t tell me that! It’s way too early for that kind of info and, to be honest, I think she clearly must have miscounted!

MUD Photo Courtesy by TrailTaylor
MUD (not me)
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

From this point on, the only competitor that I fought with ALL day, was the mud. The above photo doesn’t even do it justice, that section was nothing compared to what was ahead.

I ran the section down to No Hands Bridge, still not feeling like I was “in” this yet. I had stepped into a mud pile that went up to my knee and was trying desperately not to throw my back out on these slippery sections.

It felt good to finally reach No Hands Bridge and then see that it was almost completely under water.

Me on No Hands Photo Courtesy of TrailTaylor
Me on No Hands
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

After swimming through that puddle, we reached the aid-station. I climbed the trail towards K2 fueling as I knew what was ahead.

K2 believe it or not, seemed like it was in better condition this year than last year. Last year there was a stream running down the hill.

Normally I love K2. I do. I am a hills kinda girl, but I still wasn’t finding my mojo yet and I was beginning to get frustrated.

I kept comparing this race to last year’s race and how I felt at each point last year. BIG MISTAKE. NEVER compare yourself to other runners and NEVER compare RACES. So much can change in a year. Clearly the trail conditions were a separate competitor this year. I also have a lot more going on in my life.

However, I would not come to this realization until later in the day. I kept battling with myself that I was not doing what I thought that I was capable of doing.

Needless to say, the muddy conditions only got worse as the day wore on. I was done with dancing around mud and puddles. A lot of people were running off course to try and avoid it, only to be hit with a section where there WAS no way to avoid it. Forget it, just run straight down the middle. Simple as that.

Oh just a abnormally large puddle! Photo courtesy of: Rob Schmidt
Oh just a abnormally large puddle! (again, not me)
Photo courtesy of: Rob Schmidt

I finally reached Knickbocker Aid-Station #1 (mile 13.4) and stopped. I grabbed some stuff and refueled and walked at the same time.

The next section took us down to the Old Auburn Damn. I ran that section pretty well, just letting it all open up.

I hit the damn hill and settled into a hike. I was beginning to feel a little bit better but again, was still comparing myself to last year.

At the top of the damn, we made our way back to the single track and I just focused on moving. I was finally beginning to feel like my old self.

The trail took us back to the Knickerbocker Aid-Station (mile 18) and I grabbed more fuel and continued on my way. My spirits were beginning to finally come around.

The section through Knickbocker Creek (um, it was more like a raging river) was awesome. The whole section of trail on the Cool side was one giant mud puddle.

There was no getting around it. You’d cross a bridge and be grateful there was a bridge only to have it “T” into a giant mud puddle that went up to your shorts anyway.

I hit the Cool Aid-Station (mile 23.4) and was eager to get moving. I knew that my favorite “roller-coaster” section was coming up and best of all, that would lead me back to the finish!

I flew down roller coaster much like I did last year. I think I was tad slower and then out of no where, I ran into some horse back riders and had to stop dead in my tracks to let them pass.

When the trail dumped me onto No Hands (mile 27.2) I knew we only had 4 miles to the finish. I fueled as I walked through the lake sitting on top of No Hands and I texted a few people telling them I was 4 miles from being done with this $hit!

I ran/walked the next section staying close to a guy who seemed to be following the same plan that I was which was: Let’s get this over with!

When we finally made the sharp left that took us down to the river, we both said, “Here we go!” Having run this last year, I KNEW what was in store. Paulo, our Race Director, makes your work HARD to get to the finish line.

I ran the down as well as I could. Then I ran and hiked some of the other sections. Then, you are hit with an uphill climb that will blow your mind.

Remember earlier when I said the new location of the finish would come into play? Moving the finish arch to the overlook added ONE MORE steep climb to finish … and believe me it was a doozy!

Luckily, I saw two little blonde girls standing there with huge smiles on their faces!

Photo Courtesy: Vans
Photo Courtesy: Vans

I wanted to hug them but if I stopped, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep going.

Way up there is the finish!
Way up there is the finish! But you still have a smidge more to go!

I saw the finish arch, heard some voices cheer my name and ran.

I finished! Wow, what a crazy race. I ended up running 15 minutes slower than last year and considering the conditions, I guess that wasn’t so bad. I still didn’t feel 100% like myself out there but I learned my lesson. I won’t compare races or seasons anymore. Life sometimes has other plans and I have to learn to go with the flow.

Although unofficial, I may have gotten 5th in my age group (though remember I am bad a math) – not entirely sure yet as the age division results are not up.

Once again. Single Track Running and Paulo put on a stellar event. The course was extremely well marked. The aid-stations were stocked and the volunteers amazing.

Having Vans and the girls surprise me at the finish was awesome.

5

The post race festivities were great as well. Massages, beer, and some awesome swag!

That my girls stole!
That my girls stole!

I am happy that I ran it. It was a great indicator of where my fitness may or may not be. I love the trails and I love that course, despite how grueling it is but that’s what makes it so special.

6

In the end, the sun came out, Vans gave me a hug and we waited and cheered for Pigeon to come in. Could not be a luckier girl right now.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

Share This:

STILL RUNNING

Even though it appears that I have not been running (it might if you only follow me here on the blog), don’t worry, I have been. I just haven’t been posting much about my runs for various reasons.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking photos while I run though. I always take photos. 🙂

2017 has brought some changes in my training routine. I don’t really care to go into detail but I am training and I am focusing. I fully admit that I entered 2017 in a bit of a lull, lacking “mojo” and motivation.

However, luckily it was short lived and I have my zest for running trails back where it should be. A lot of that has to do with who I have been running with lately.

My usual partners in crime (Pigeon, Stonegate, Burning Girl) for a while were not able to run with me. They have a life and sometimes life gets in the way (fully understandable). I also have a life and my life lately has been consumed by the Peanut and Squeaker’s basketball teams.

Coaching means tying shoes.
Coaching means tying shoes … oh wait, I do that as a mom too. :)

I am the assistant coach to Squeaker’s team and they are hands down the cutest 5 and 6 year olds on the planet!

Squeaker looking to pass!
Squeaker looking to pass!

Peanut is on her own team but this is the first year either of them have ever touched a basketball, let alone play the game.

Peanut!
Peanut!

I have a long history and love affair with the sport of basketball (Vans SO does not) and so I’ve happily taken the reigns of shuttling to practices and working with the girls. I love it.

Look at that form! :)
Taking the shot! Look at that form! :)

Yet because of basketball and coaching, my run days have been moved around.  No big deal but it was hard to find people to run with from time to time and I am not one to go out on the Auburn/Cool trails by myself for very long (safety first).

Enter Grumpy and Not Chris ….

Grumpy, me and Not Chris
Grumpy, me and Not Chris

I work with both of these two and they both were looking to get into trail running. Not Chris is registered for the FOURmidable 30k in a few weeks. I have no doubts he will do well. Grumpy is also registered for the 13K FOURmidable race and is really putting in the work.

It has been fun running with two people who are new to trails and who are smitten by them just as much as I am.

This past weekend my worlds collided! Pigeon is back on schedule to run with me now (thanks to a new baby in her immediate family) and she met Grumpy and Not Chris for the first time (she is actually to blame for Not Chris’s nickname).

1
Pigeon!

We all met in Auburn and agreed on the mileage beforehand. The route we picked was nice because even though Grumpy doesn’t need to go as far as we do, he’s able to join us on some pretty cool sections.

2
Not Chris
Grumpy!
Grumpy

The weather this past weekend was amazing. I know we need more rain, but the rain has made for some pretty gnarly runs lately. I do love the sunshine especially early in the morning.

4

I’ve taken the boys out a few times solo but this past weekend we took them on a different loop. I think they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

5

We’re all different paces but it seems to work. We run, we meet up at any turns and we continue on. Sometimes we stick together. Sometimes I run ahead because I want to take photos! 🙂

Pigeon and Not Chris
Pigeon and Not Chris
Grumpy flipping me off - hence the name Grumpy. :)
Grumpy flipping me off – hence the name Grumpy. :)

After we got done with that loop, we took them up Stagecoach. I’ve taken them up before, but Pigeon took us a different route which led us to the famous “bench” and we forced the boys to take the obligatory “bromance bench” photo.

8

After the climb up Stagecoach, Grumpy left us and ran back down. He doesn’t need to rack up mileage. Not Chris, Pigeon and I continued on.

It was an awesome day. I finished feeling strong. My legs felt worked but I was smiling ear to ear. Later that afternoon, I ended up playing 90 minutes of basketball with the girls and some friends at the park! I guess I had more pep left in my legs than I thought.

So I apologize in advance for not writing much this year about running. I’ll pop in from time to time with some photos and maybe some recaps of the girls and their basketball games. Race reports are one thing I love to write about since I do go back and read what worked and didn’t work race by race, so you’ll see those for sure.

Maybe now that I have found my running mojo, I’ll find my blogging mojo. 🙂

Until then ….

So far, she loves it and that makes me happy!
So far, she loves it and that makes me happy!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

Share This: