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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
“Where on Earth is the trail? I don’t remember having to climb straight up do you?” “I don’t either,” Pigeon said, “but everyone else is going this way.”
That’s pretty much how our day started on Saturday. Climbing hands over feet up a snowy wall blindly following other runners and on occasion, seeing a few yellow ribbons to boost our confidence.
Memorial Day Weekend is my favorite running weekend of the year because it is when the Western States Training Runs happens! I love this weekend. Generally I only do the first day (32 miles) with Pigeon and we typically laugh, no matter what the day throws at us and this year, it threw a lot.
The day was warm to start, even with the snow on the ground. All that initial climbing definitely warmed my body up fast – confirming my thoughts that I didn’t need anything other than a tank top and shorts. Neither Pigeon nor myself have run much if at all since our Quicksilver 100k finish exactly two weeks to the day.
Perhaps we were being a little too optimistic thinking this training run would be a breeze? It might have gone a lot smoother if it wasn’t for the super-hot temperatures, my angry tummy and Pigeon having a nasty chest cold. All of which proved to make our day a bit challenging.
We started our day at Robinson Flat and saw some amazing views right away. Last year it was rainy and foggy so I missed seeing some of this beauty.
The first event of the day is when I decided to try and “jump” in the snow and quickly slipped sliding on my bum down an embankment. Pigeon laughed hard. I was fine. It could have been worse and I prefer falling in snow than on a rocky trail any day.
It took a bit to get the mojo back into my body. It felt good to run along the single track just chatting away with no regard for time or pace. Somewhere in here, I believe Pigeon tripped, but didn’t fall. I then stepped over a rock but apparently landed on a fallen tree branch that swung around and whacked my shin. It stopped me dead in my tracks and I yelled out in pain. “What the heck happened?” Pigeon said. I mean, it looked like a little twig but it wasn’t and in within seconds I had an acorn size goose egg forming on my shin. That would pretty much set the tone of the day, we would alternate tripping or rolling ankles.
We talked about all the other training runs we’ve done. This would be our fourth Western States Memorial Day Weekend run that we’ve done together. We even reenacted some old photos for fun.
The aid-stations were great, super friendly. The “item of the day” for me was fresh cut watermelon (and I typically HATE watermelon) dipped lightly in salt! Oh my word! The combination of the sweet, the water and salt was exactly what my body was craving in the scorching heat.
The trip down to Devil’s Thumb was causing me some nasty knee pain similar to what I had in Quicksilver. I tried to go slow and easy but it was pretty relentless. I ended up taking an Advil to numb it for a bit.
When we finally reached the bottom near the infamous Swinging Bridge, I wanted to stop and take a few photos. Also a bunch of guys had come flying down into the canyon and seemed eager to start their climb.
When it was time to start climbing, Pigeon moved to the side to let me pass. She knows I love to tackle mountains.
I ended up passing a couple of the guys who had passed us on the down section. There was one guy who came running back down. I joked with him that he must love a challenge but he said he was helping out a friend.
When I reached the top, I saw two girls standing there. It was two of my “Instagram” friends, Yvonne and Steph. Yvonne came down and gave me a hug. It was nice to see smiling faces at the top of such a brutal climb. I chatted with them for a bit, ate some food and reapplied some bug spray (oh my word the mosquitoes were back this year and it was horrible). Yvonne and Steph were trail-sweeps for the day but were out on the trail early to cheer on runners. How nice is that!?
A couple of people came up from Devil’s Thumb and looked pretty beat up. One lady was not walking straight and seemed very out of it. Another guy came up and instantly stepped off to the side and began to vomit profusely (and loudly – ugh). Pigeon made her way up and looked like she had been breathing through one lung, which in reality she probably had been because of her cold. She needed to stop and hack cough a few times before we moved on.
The next aid-station was a welcome site after that super-hot climb. Water, ice and watermelon were music to my ears at this aid-station. I knew that after this, it was another super long descent to El Dorado Creek and then the brutal 2.5 mile climb up to Michigan Bluff which I knew would be HOT.
The descent down to El Dorado was okay. My knee felt a lot better but I ended up rolling my ankle here. Nothing serious but it definitely threw me for a loop. When I reached the river at the bottom, I climbed down to soak my bandanna. Two nice guys kindly took my bandanna and my hat and soaked them in the river. That felt amazing. Cooling my body temp before the heated climb was exactly what I needed.
When Pigeon arrived she mentioned that she was already dreading this climb. It was really hot out and some of this climb did not have shade. Off we went and soon I found myself alone. I came upon a guy who did not look very good. I asked him if he was okay and he assured me that he was. Then about 5 minutes later I saw the same guy who ran down Devil’s Thumb running down Michigan Bluff! I laughed. He was going to help his buddy again which as it turns out, was pretty sick by the time Pigeon passed him. Everyone was overheating.
When I reached the top I found some shade and just enjoyed drinking water and having my peanut-butter cookies when all of a sudden, in mid-peanuty-chew I realized that I had run out of water! I was praying that Pigeon was close because I could barely talk my mouth was so full. HA!
We attacked the Michigan Bluff aid-station, refilled our packs and off we went. The hike out is on this pretty exposed fire road. I mean FULL sun beating down on you without any relief in sight exposed.
As we were trying to muster the energy to start running again. Pigeon noticed a foot print in the dirt. Holy cow! I had to pull out my camera and take a photo … it was huge!
Finally we left the scorching hot fire road and entered the trail that would lead us down another descent to Volcano Creek.
When we arrived at the creek it was full of runners cooling off in the cold water. It was also infested with lady bugs! I hated stepping on them but there were millions of them flying all over the place!
We crossed the creek and knew that we had 3 or 4 miles to go until we were done.
Pigeon and I were surrounded by a lot of people who seemed anxious to be done with the day and who looked very dehydrated.
When you reach the top of Bath Road you have to run down the road until you get back to the Foresthill school. A guy standing on the side of the road told us it was a little more than a mile down the road. Both Pigeon and I did a, “WTF?” We knew it wasn’t quite that far and luckily, we were right.
Overall, the day proved to be a tough one for us physically and mentally. Besides my earlier tummy troubles (which were not caused by the run itself – it was something I had been dealing with in the days leading up to it), I felt genuinely “ok” all day. My knee is still an issue, IT band related most likely. Running 32 miles with over 7000 feet of climbing two weeks after a 100k with 13,000 feet may have been a bit much but I am proud that I was able to do it. I love this run. I love that you see and meet so many other ultra-runners from near and far and everyone is genuinely excited to be there! There is just something special about that trail.
The best part about doing the Saturday training run is that you get to have the rest of the holiday weekend with your family! I had dinner with Vans, I attended a trail running film festival with Stonegate and I lounged by the pool with my Peanut and Squeaker. To me, it was a perfect weekend.
This was only supposed to be a training run and then Tommy Lee Jones started egging me on, lighting that internal fire that is always simmering inside and the rest was history including an uphill battle to the finish.
On Saturday it dumped rain all day; a lot of rain. So much so that Paulo, the Race Director emailed all participants AND sent out a Facebook blast detailing that the race course had changed due to the condition of the road/trails. Uh-oh. Now instead of starting at the bottom near the river, we were to start at the top in the upper parking lot area of Driver’s Flat. They also had to adjust the back end of the course to account for the three mile difference at the start. Ultimately, the course ended up being shortened by a mile or so which is better than the alternative which was lengthening it by three miles. (Good call Paulo!) 🙂
When I arrived at the starting area, I was a dork and basically was the first person there. Stonegate (like the great trail friend she is) had offered to drive me but she couldn’t wait all day and I did not want Vans and the girls hanging out in the mud and rain forcing me to run and finish faster. This was a training run after all remember?
So upon arrival I got out and asked Paulo if he needed any help. Why not put me to use right? He had me start handing out bibs to the runners as they arrived. This turned out to be great because I finally was able to put names to faces! I finally met Clint, a fellow plant-powered runner and Facebook face (Hi CLINT!!) and a few other runners.
Soon it was almost go-time and of course the skies opened up and dumped rain for few minutes. I second guessed my out-fit choice and changed my top at the last minute (tip: always go with your first instinct). We gathered at the start where Paulo did a quick pre-race briefing reminding us that we were to follow pink ribbons. He also told us where the NEW turn around spot and aid-station was located.
They counted us down and we were off! Everyone started running the long three mile downhill and were all commenting on how brutal this will be on the return, at the end of the race.
BUZZ!!! (my watch) Mile 1 – 8:30 Uh oh, that’s a bit fast, slow it down, don’t blow out your quads on the first mile.
BUZZ!!! Mile 2 – 8:30 Grrr, I thought I slowed it down!? Okay, look there’s a bathroom! Go use that restroom over there and that will help slow you down and push you farther back in the pack.
When I emerged from the bathroom I just continued running along the river. I stopped a few times to take some photos (the only photos I took all day – stick with me and you’ll see why).
Two girls were in front of me were talking. Eventually they moved over and let me pass. Then we hit some up hills and I heard them chatting away, so I let them pass. I just needed quiet as I was trying to get a sense of how my body was feeling. I just couldn’t find my groove.
Roughly at mile 10 we entered the second aid-station at Cal-2.
The volunteer yells out my bib number AND yells out that I am fourth female and that number three is still in the aid-station. “Oh don’t tell me that!? It’s too early to tell me that!”
Sit tight girl. This is a training run. Do not go and chase it. Let.it.go!
I let three other women pass me out of that aid-station. I refused to go chase it. I was letting it go. However, while I was in this conga line of three women and one older gentleman leading the way, I couldn’t get my stride right. There was plenty of climbing and I was hiking a lot but I would either end up on their tail or I would slow down to the point of walking. It just didn’t feel right. The next aid-station was the turn-around and I just wanted to get there.
Soon we started seeing the lead runners on the return. First female went by and DANG she looked strong! She was flying. Second and Third females came by a little bit later and gosh darn it, it if wasn’t the two nice chatty women I let pass me earlier … the voices started again …
That could have been you. You were up there. Now you are 7th! Shut up! Training run remember!?
It was a SUPER steep down to the aid-station (mile 14 ish) at Cal 1. I ran in and realized there was nothing that I wanted. The volunteer asked me my bib number first since I was at the table and the other three women were filling their bottles. I told her my number and left.
That was tricky girl. Are you trying to get ahead or are you starting to race? Just getting ahead. That’s all. I am sure they will catch me.
Soon I came upon Roger. Ahh, Roger. Many trail runners know Roger. He is a great guy and a great runner. I met Roger a few years ago at Diane’s Thursday night race series. Roger and I used to push each other out on the course. Roger, if you don’t know him, sounds (and kinda looks) like Tommy Lee Jones. I kid you not, his voice is amazing and if you didn’t know it, you would think Tommy Lee Jones is running with you. It makes me smile every time I hear him.
ROGER: Hey Pam, you want by me?
ME: Nope, I just want to get some distance between me and those ladies back there.
Roger just chuckled. I should have known then with that innocent sounding chuckle, what was about to unfold.
Roger and I ran steady and strong for a very long stretch. It was probably my longest stretch of running the entire day. I FINALLY started to feel my groove, after 15+ miles.
All of a sudden, Roger stops and moves to the side.
ME: What are you doing? Dude, you are pulling me!
ROGER: Look, there’s number three. Go get her. You got this!
ME: (sigh) DAMN YOU ROGER! Damn you!
Roger chuckled his devilish chuckle again. 🙂
Off I go in front of Roger running steady. We knew the aid-station was coming up very soon. I just really wanted to get to there. The third place girl, (her name was Stephanie), let me pass. Roger checked in with her. I knew she was tired because when I was running behind her earlier in the day, she had said she had run 17 miles the day before marking the very course were running right now. My heart ached for her, she is clearly a VERY strong runner.
We all enter the aid-station, I reach for a cup and I feel someone pushing me sideways …
ROGER: Go! Get out of here. Go!
ME: What the?!! Okay okay …
I took off like I stole something. The next two to three miles were a steady but technical downhill. I had not been opening up my down hills this entire race, but now, I did.
BUZZ! Mile 20 – 9:25 Legs feel good. Tummy is a bit off, but I feel good.
BUZZ! Mile 21 – 9:21 Please god, let me have gained enough distance to keep this lead. Who am I kidding, if I could just bomb that, so can everyone else. Run, just run!
The next stretch was the longest between aid-stations again, something like 7.5 miles I think and that last aid-station would be the final aid before the dreaded three mile climb to the finish.
I just ran and ran. I had even moved ahead of Roger by quite a bit and then he’d catch me and pump me up some more. He even went so far as to tell me that he thinks I could catch female #2. HA! Funny man that Roger.
Finally I reached the section I affectionately called Tick Trail – it was so over grown with long grass and weeds that you couldn’t even see the trail and I imagined with every step, all these ticks jumping onto my legs. THAT made me run faster let me tell you!
Finally, I was dumped back onto the fire road that I knew led to the final aid-station. However, it took FOREVER it seemed until I got there.
VOLUNTEERS: Hey! Looking strong, what do you need?
ME: Can you please just douse my bandana in cold water? How far to the finish?
VOLUNTEERS: About 2.7 to 3 miles, unfortunately all up hill.
I silently groaned a little bit but there was nowhere to go but up to get this done. Off I ran and then I hiked. I tried power hiking. Pigeon was in my head. She had texted me earlier that morning to “power hike that last hill like a bear is chasing you!” Well, as it turns out, there WAS a bear about to chase me!
ROGER: Hey, there is a chick behind me.
ME: What!? No! You aren’t just saying that to get me to run up this hill are you?!
ROGER: Nope, she surprised me by coming up quick behind me at that last aid-station.
ME: Son of a B!*%$! I didn’t set out for this Roger!
ROGER: Well, don’t kill yourself but you got this!
Off I ran, my legs barely moving, shaking with every single step that I took. Last weekend I climbed 3 miles with Stonegate, motivating her up that hill. I used the same tactics on myself …
Okay girl, run to that rock. You can run to that rock and then walk. Just get ahead every chance you can.
I rounded a corner and something caught my eye ….
Holy crap! You caught the number two girl! Hmmm, she doesn’t look THAT far ahead … Nope, forget it. Focus on the girl behind you. You’re barely hanging in.
I am not kidding when I say this hill took FOR-FREAKING-EVER to climb. I passed one guy.
GUY: Hi! (being all friendly and nice despite huffing and puffing) One helluva way to finish huh?
ME: Can you look behind me please. Is there a girl there?
GUY: Nope. I see nobody.
ME: Good. Thanks.
Off I ran. Or I thought I was running. As I reached the top of that switchback I turned and saw her, the girl that was in front of me when I ran in that conga line of girls earlier in the day. She looked strong even then. She looked like she should have been running in front of those girls. She also looked like she wasn’t struggling one bit on that hill we were on.
Move it! Come on! Run, run a stretch now to get ahead! Come on legs! Stop shaking and run!
Female #2 turned and looked at me and then started to run too. The chase, it seemed was on, everyone was trying to get up that hill as fast as possible. I wanted to yell out to the number two girl and say, “It’s okay! I don’t care about #2! I just want to keep #3!” But come on, if I had gotten close enough …. 🙂
I kept straining to hear music. That’s a cue to all the finish lines right? But it occurred to me that there might not BE music at the finish.
Oh no, don’t rely on the music! But how will I know where the finish is? I can’t see it! All I see are these damn hills in front of me!
I had to laugh. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t super smiley but I wasn’t angry and laughing is the best way for me to release tension. What else am I going to do on a monster climb like this?
Then, I see two men standing there. They don’t look like hikers; they look like guys who hang out at finish lines (yes, that’s how my head works in moment’s like these). I reach them, I see female #2 ahead of me and I ask them …
ME: How far?
THEM: Not far, 100 yards.
ME: 100 yards?! (In my head it was as if they had told me it was 100 more miles)
THEM: Up that hill!
ME: (internally) Come on! PUSH!!!!
Finally, I see the finish arch. I see Paulo running around with his camera. I see female #2 pushing as hard as she can, she’s about 10 yards in front of me. I am running as hard as I possibly can. Everyone is cheering!
Oh no, are they cheering because they think I am going to catch her OR are they cheering because the girl behind me has finally caught me and is going to do a sneak attack to the finish line?!!
Talk about paranoia! Haha
RUNNNNN PAM RUNNNNNN!!!!
Finally, I cross the finish line and RD Paulo comes over. I think he doesn’t know whether to high-five me or give me a hug and all I want to do is lay down. I bend over and he kind of escorts me gingerly to some chairs, female number two was in the same state, bent over, legs shaking.
Holy crap, you did it. You made it. You climbed that beast. What the hell man!? I thought this was a training run!? 😉
One minute later, female #4 crosses the finish line. Wow, what a day.
Roger was next and I had enough strength in my legs to get up, cheer as loud as I could and give that crazy man a hug and say thank you. Again, thank you Roger for your support, encouragement and for giving me the pep talks I needed. I could not have done it without you.
So, the final verdict was Third Place Female overall (I was less than 20 seconds behind second) and first in my age group. The course was shortened so I could not go by time but I think I might have had a decent 50k time overall – so long as it wasn’t a four mile hill climb to the finish instead of three. The race (according to my Garmin) also had 7,548 ft of elevation to it. Wow.
Unfortunately, I didn’t stay too long at the finish as I had to jet home. I didn’t want to miss taking my favorite seven year old to her swim clinic lesson. Originally I didn’t think I would be able to make it but I guess with a finish like that, I had some extra time. 😉
So what worked and what didn’t? (Sorry, hang with me, the end of this monstrosity is near).
First, I tried my home-made plant-based fuel that I blogged about. I knew going into it, that it was too salty. When I tried it during the race, it just was not going to happen. It also had the texture of muffin batter something I was NOT going for in the creation process. Back to the drawing board on that.
Overall, I was not handling anything but fruity sweet flavors which is not my normal. I brought a gluten free almond butter and honey sandwich with me but the gluten free bread is SO dense that I almost choked eating it. I managed one square and left the rest for the drive home.
I need to work on the calorie consumption as I don’t think, looking back, I consumed a whole ton on this run. I had my usual go-to items like fruit leather, applesauce and jelly-beans (for that quick rush). I may go back to making muffins. They pack a good 300 calories per muffin but they require time to eat but since I am not racing my next race, I should have some time. 😉
Overall, I am happy. It wasn’t what I set out to do but I am happy that I was able to pull it together in the end and really push myself especially when at times, I didn’t think I had anything left to push. I feel good. The muscles are not too sore (yet). I still feel a little dehydrated and I need a few more hours of catch-up sleep. That’s the only downfall of having an ultra on a Sunday, as Monday it was back to work/school for the whole family.
Tis the life of a trail running mama I guess! Thanks for reading, I know this was incredibly long, but the good ones usually are.
I want to also thank all the volunteers who were part of this race. From marking the course in a rain storm the day before to being out there on the course the day of the race. Also my fellow trail runners were all super friendly and supportive cheering everyone on their way back to the finish. Love this community! SingleTrack Running put on another great race. Thank you!
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the second race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.
It has been a few weeks since my last post. Sorry about that. I took a quick (5 day) trip back east just days after the race and then returned home feeling quite drained and a bit behind in work/life.
I ran the first weekend home and it was a bit of a struggle. I blame a lot of it on lack of sleep and allergies. The minute I landed in California, I’ve been attacked severely by seasonal allergies like you wouldn’t believe. I know I am not alone. Geez. I know rain is what we need but lordy has it caused a slew of allergic reactions in our house.
So when Pigeon and Stonegate said they were ready to hit the trails for a nice long run this past weekend, I was super excited and hopeful that my allergies would give me a break for the day.
Wanting to get in some decent mileage we decided to do our usual loops adding and changing what we wanted to make the miles work.
Adding to the fun, my roommate from college mailed my girls her son’s Flat Stanley. I decided to include Flat Stanley on our run. 🙂
Our first loop was about 7 miles plus and did not disappoint. We were able to see some amazing waterfalls.
Then we refueled and dropped some gear off at the car. It was getting warm and the rain was holding off for us.
We started our second loop up Stagecoach hill. Stonegate was waiting for a friend to come join us on the second set of loops but he had not arrived just yet. So the three of us took off hiking up Stagecoach with the plan that Stonegate would turn around when she received notice that he had arrived and would head back down.
Well, we all reached the top of Stagecoach and it was then that Stonegate got the text that Paul had arrived. So she headed all the way back down as he was working his way up.
Pigeon and I decided instead to work on our power hiking skills. We’d run about half way down and then turn and power hike our way back up. We did that three times before we caught up to Stonegate and Paul who were climbing back up.
Through Auburn we ran to the Overlook and then back down towards No Hands. I had to stop by No Hands to remove a rock from my shoe … once again, we decided to have some fun jumping around off the rocks (really we were making fun of this trail running video that made the Facebook circuit earlier in the week).
We all refueled at No Hands and then started making our way up K2. K2 was actually quite busy! I ended up passing two men who were out there hiking. I am still working on my hiking skills to get ready for 13,000 ft of climbing come May.
Once we regrouped at the top it was time to fly down roller coaster back to No Hands. I thought that I would zoom like I have been lately but about half way down, my body just said, “Nope, not today!” The trails were super thick and sticky and every so often, we’d run into the trail maintenance crews out there so I took it a little more conservatively. My legs were happier with that.
When we all met at the bottom, we decided not to do another loop and to call it a day. I think we were all a bit tired. This was the longest toughest run I have done since FOURmidable three weeks prior.
We ended up finishing up at the perfect time as the winds started to pick up and the temps started to drop. We had perfect weather for our run but Mother Nature had decided enough was enough.
POST RUN FUEL
After I got home and showered, I warmed up some Split Pea soup that I had made earlier in the week along with a gluten free roll. It was exactly what I needed to warm up and refuel.
Overall it was a great day. I am happy with how my body responded during the run. I almost thought too much time off would hurt me but it was probably just what the trail doctor ordered.
I especially enjoyed all the laughs we had out there. Running with friends really can make all the difference in how you feel sometimes.
This photo makes me laugh so much so I had to include it. Before we climbed Stagecoach, I used the restroom and had left Flat Stanley outside (some things Flat Stanley doesn’t need to see).
Pigeon and Stonegate were trying to play a prank on me but I foiled it. My face cracks me up. 🙂
Even though I have run 20 miles numerous times, there is something to be said about running your first 20 of the season. It means training has truly begun and it is time to start seeing what works and what doesn’t. Weed out the bad stuff and push your limits.
This past Sunday, I had one of the best runs yet and what made this run so great, was that I had ALL my running pals together at one time. Our schedules finally collided and Pigeon, Stonegate and Burning Girl and I were all ready to hit the trails at once.
Pigeon was happy to show Stonegate and Burning Girl some new trails. Trails that I have run a few times but didn’t have the confidence to do on my own just yet. Stonegate was super excited to see some new views and I don’t think this run disappointed her.
We carpooled in two cars and parked near the confluence. We started running and then BAM within 3 minutes I had rolled my left ankle and heard a distinct “POP!” I was too busy looking at the beauty around me to notice whatever the heck it was I had stepped on.
I didn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I pushed the pain radiating up my leg aside and just kept going. The day was just beginning and I was too excited. Plus, I knew it was not that serious, just a minor set back.
We ran Clementine in single file. Such a gorgeous trail. It was muddy and slippery in sections which made it even more fun. The only sketchy part was running into a couple that had two dogs. After my dog experience last year (read about that here), I am forever hesitant on the trail and will never trust a dog or its owner again.
This couple pulled their pups way off the trail. They had one tiny dog (held by the woman) and one large dog (held by the man). When Stonegate ran by that big dog was growling and lunging towards her. Luckily the man had a good hold but I can’t say the rest of us were eager to run by next.
With that behind us though we just continued on. Stonegate and Burning Girl would run up ahead, I’d take up the middle and Pigeon was the caboose with her steady pace. We’d stop and regroup at all turns and intersections.
With that downhill section my tummy started doing some flip-flops which is why I slowly positioned myself to mid-pack. I wasn’t sure if the porta-potty that I remembered was still where it used to be. Lucky for me, it was!
In true goofball form, the girls decided to play a little prank on me ….
They thought they were hilarious trying to get my reaction when I stepped out. It was pretty funny but I felt tons better! Moving on!
Back towards our car we ran. The first loop was done.
Next it was time to introduce the girls to ….
We all started the initial hike up Stagecoach together hiking and running when we could.
As we were hiking I saw this huge stick … moving … wait that wasn’t a stick it was a Banana Slug! 🙂
Soon however, I started to feel the pull. There have been a few times when Pigeon and I have gone up this hill and I’ve said, “See ya at the top!” Climbing is one of my favorite things to do so off I went, powering my way up.
There was a guy in front of me that I was determined to catch. I caught him and then passed him. I finally made it to the top feeling strong.
When the rest of the crew made it to the top, we ran through Auburn to the Overlook and then back down the trail towards No Hands Bridge. The sun was up and the day was just getting better and better.
Burning Girl however has been dealing with some hip pain and decided (wisely) not to push her limits and headed back to the car. This is where running loops is SO smart. Pigeon, Stonegate and I continued on towards K2 to do our last four miles with a good mile of climbing to start.
Burning Girl and I pushed our way up K2. Some doofus on his way down thought he was being cool and said to us, “Just so you know, you’re not even half way there.” No duh kid, thanks. 🙂
When we were all together we headed off towards the trail that leads back down. For years I used to hate this trail. Before I had my ankle surgery, this trail used to be nothing short of excruciating for me. Now that I have solid ankle strength, I love to just FLY down this section.
Stonegate and I just took off. Eventually I even lost sight of Stonegate behind me. I was just smiling ear to ear dancing around and through all the mud puddles. I was like a pig in a mud bath or baby in a toy store … it was the perfect way to end this 20 mile run.
When we made it back to No Hands we were stretching and goofing around waiting for Pigeon. Stonegate decided to climb up into this cave.
20 miles and almost 5,000 ft of climbing in one day with three of my favorite running partners. My heart was full. My body felt amazing. My fueling was good and my legs felt strong. I was a happy girl.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you saw that I posted this after our run on Sunday. I am a strong believer that what you eat after a hard workout sets the tone for your recovery.
In the photo above, I had a gluten free teff flour tortilla topped with homemade no-oil hummus, raw spinach, shredded carrots, steamed kale mixed with hot sauce, cooked beets and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. So good. If I remember, I will continue to post the meals that I recover with because I know people are curious and it is often a question I am asked a lot.
So there you have it, our 20 miler was fantastic! I am looking forward to another weekend on the trails however mother nature it looks like she might grace us with a nice big shower for our entire run. Bring it! 🙂
PS: Ankle Update – Tonight I saw my miracle worker at Elite Spinal and Sports and he said that I thoroughly jacked up the tendon between my tibia and fibula. He was pretty amazed at how messed up it was AND that I was able to continue on with the run. It feels great now, a little tender but at least I have feeling back in my toes. 🙂