Tag Archives: Western States Trail

RUCK A CHUCK 50k RACE REPORT

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

ruck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
Photo Credit : Casqui Runner

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

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

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

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

Photo credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo credit : Chasqui Runner

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

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

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

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

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

Profile from Single Track Running
Profile from Single Track Running

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

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

Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit : Me
Photo Credit : Me

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

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

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

Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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

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FALLING BEHIND

It has been an absolute whirl wind around here. Blogging has taken the back burner unfortunately but hopefully there is a light at the end of this crazy tunnel and I can resume some normal activity on here.

Let me try and recap the last month or so.

Nothing like bullet holes in a sign to wake you up!
Nothing like bullet holes in a sign to wake you up!

To start, I had a great run in the canyons on the Western States trail with Pigeon. We only ran 17 or so miles but we climbed over 6,000 feet. We started at Michigan Bluff and ran to Devil’s Thumb and back. I love this trail and no matter how many times I have been on it, it never gets old and it never gets easier!

It will be a great run when your hat matches the sunrise.
You know it will be a great run when your hat matches the sunrise.
These views never get old!
These views never get old!
On the bridge!
On the bridge!
Super HOT climb back to up to Michigan Bluff
It was a super HOT climb back to up to Michigan Bluff

Then Jersey Dad arrived for a visit and to celebrate the Peanut turning 8 years old. I quickly jumped from running mode to mommy and hostess mode.

Jersey Dad and his grand daughters!
Jersey Dad and his grand daughters!

On top of all of this, Squeaker had the chance to try out for the swim team! Big sis was there in support (sort of) and luckily, she made it with flying colors! So proud of that kid.

Congrats Squeaker! Age 4!!
Congrats Squeaker! Age 4!!

Alas, that means swim team season has officially started with scheduled practices 5 days a week! We are working on a routine and balance right now. School comes first even though there is not much school left!

Auburn!
Auburn!

During Jersey Dad’s visit, I took a “mental health” day from work and joined Pigeon on her mid-week long run since I knew running over the Peanut’s birthday weekend wasn’t going to fly. It was a hot day and running long on a Thursday really threw me for a bit but we had fun regardless, as always.

Pigeon
Pigeon
So done with climbing K2 this season!
So done with climbing K2 this season!
The meadow in Cool
The meadow in Cool
Love this place!
Love this place!

Shortly after that long run, it was time for the final long run of the training program! Pigeon and I agreed to meet on Saturday and kick out 30 miles as our last long run before our race in two weeks. The day started out nothing short of entertaining …

Base Jumping off the bridge!
Base Jumping off the bridge!

Within minutes of running we were startled by some base jumpers off of the Foresthill Bridge. Talk about taking your breath away. These guys were super nice. They landed right in front of us so we chatted with them for a bit before continuing on our run.

A perfect landing!
A perfect landing!

It was a beautiful day to run and we’d occasionally switch things up by picking a new (old) trail to follow to change the course a bit. There was also an equestrian race happening at the same time so that made things very interesting. I don’t mind sharing the trail with horses but I do admit, they give me a bit of a scare at times. I’ve met too many not so skilled riders who tend to not have control over their horse. Hence, my fear level always raises a notch when we encounter one. I am sure the horses can sense that.

A beautiful day.
A beautiful day.

We had to cut the run a few miles short to due to a small situation at home (nothing to worry about) but I was content in myself and the way that I was feeling during the run, that I could have continued on if need be.

I feel pretty darn good going into taper right now. Truth be told, I was mentally ready for taper about a week ago! My training this round, I feel has been good. I raced two solidly hard 50ks (not intentionally) and was able to maintain a higher mileage for longer than I normally would in a training period. That’s the nature of the beast when you choose races as ‘training runs’ and have life get in the way from time to time.

I feel comfortable in my ability to climb, mildly comfortable in my ability to descend (going to take it super easy on those to save my knees) and I feel somewhat comfortable in being able to handle the distance.  A 100k is farther than I have ever gone before, so I can’t lie and say a small part of me isn’t a tad bit nervous about that but mostly I am excited and curious. I am curious to see what unfolds. I know there will be ups and I know there will be downs.

Pigeon and I have decided to run together. She has a set pace and a set goal in mind and since this is my first ever 100k, I am content to go with her flow. We both want to finish. So, for my first ever 100k, I am content to enjoy the experience, the company and the scenery so long as I finish, and finish smiling AND qualifying for the Western States 100. 😉 Can’t forget that little piece of the puzzle right? Although, that wasn’t my initial reason for doing this race … but it is a HUGE cherry on top.

Now, to enjoy my two weeks of taper. This should include taking care of myself with good quality food, some decent sleep and lots of stretching.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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RUCK A CHUCK 50K RACE REPORT

This was only supposed to be a training run and then Tommy Lee Jones started egging me on, lighting that internal fire that is always simmering inside and the rest was history including an uphill battle to the finish.

Photo from Single Track Running's
Photo from SingleTrack Running

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

On Saturday it dumped rain all day; a lot of rain. So much so that Paulo, the Race Director emailed all participants AND sent out a Facebook blast detailing that the race course had changed due to the condition of the road/trails. Uh-oh. Now instead of starting at the bottom near the river, we were to start at the top in the upper parking lot area of Driver’s Flat. They also had to adjust the back end of the course to account for the three mile difference at the start. Ultimately, the course ended up being shortened by a mile or so which is better than the alternative which was lengthening it by three miles. (Good call Paulo!) 🙂

When I arrived at the starting area, I was a dork and basically was the first person there. Stonegate (like the great trail friend she is) had offered to drive me but she couldn’t wait all day and I did not want Vans and the girls hanging out in the mud and rain forcing me to run and finish faster. This was a training run after all remember?

So upon arrival I got out and asked Paulo if he needed any help. Why not put me to use right? He had me start handing out bibs to the runners as they arrived. This turned out to be great because I finally was able to put names to faces! I finally met Clint, a fellow plant-powered runner and Facebook face (Hi CLINT!!) and a few other runners.

Soon it was almost go-time and of course the skies opened up and dumped rain for few minutes. I second guessed my out-fit choice and changed my top at the last minute (tip: always go with your first instinct). We gathered at the start where Paulo did a quick pre-race briefing reminding us that we were to follow pink ribbons. He also told us where the NEW turn around spot and aid-station was located.

They counted us down and we were off! Everyone started running the long three mile downhill and were all commenting on how brutal this will be on the return, at the end of the race.

BUZZ!!! (my watch) Mile 1 – 8:30 Uh oh, that’s a bit fast, slow it down, don’t blow out your quads on the first mile.

BUZZ!!! Mile 2 – 8:30 Grrr, I thought I slowed it down!? Okay, look there’s a bathroom! Go use that restroom over there and that will help slow you down and push you farther back in the pack.

When I emerged from the bathroom I just continued running along the river. I stopped a few times to take some photos (the only photos I took all day – stick with me and you’ll see why).

So pretty
So pretty

Two girls were in front of me were talking. Eventually they moved over and let me pass. Then we hit some up hills and I heard them chatting away, so I let them pass. I just needed quiet as I was trying to get a sense of how my body was feeling. I just couldn’t find my groove.

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

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

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

The volunteer yells out my bib number AND yells out that I am fourth female and that number three is still in the aid-station.  “Oh don’t tell me that!? It’s too early to tell me that!

Sit tight girl. This is a training run. Do not go and chase it. Let.it.go!

I let three other women pass me out of that aid-station. I refused to go chase it. I was letting it go. However, while I was in this conga line of three women and one older gentleman leading the way, I couldn’t get my stride right. There was plenty of climbing and I was hiking a lot but I would either end up on their tail or I would slow down to the point of walking. It just didn’t feel right. The next aid-station was the turn-around and I just wanted to get there.

2

Soon we started seeing the lead runners on the return. First female went by and DANG she looked strong! She was flying. Second and Third females came by a little bit later and gosh darn it, it if wasn’t the two nice chatty women I let pass me earlier … the voices started again …

That could have been you. You were up there. Now you are 7th! Shut up! Training run remember!?

It was a SUPER steep down to the aid-station (mile 14 ish) at Cal 1. I ran in and realized there was nothing that I wanted. The volunteer asked me my bib number first since I was at the table and the other three women were filling their bottles. I told her my number and left.

That was tricky girl. Are you trying to get ahead or are you starting to race? Just getting ahead. That’s all. I am sure they will catch me.

Soon I came upon Roger. Ahh, Roger. Many trail runners know Roger. He is a great guy and a great runner. I met Roger a few years ago at Diane’s Thursday night race series. Roger and I used to push each other out on the course. Roger, if you don’t know him, sounds (and kinda looks) like Tommy Lee Jones. I kid you not, his voice is amazing and if you didn’t know it, you would think Tommy Lee Jones is running with you. It makes me smile every time I hear him.

ROGER: Hey Pam, you want by me?

ME: Nope, I just want to get some distance between me and those ladies back there.

Roger just chuckled. I should have known then with that innocent sounding chuckle, what was about to unfold.

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

Roger and I ran steady and strong for a very long stretch. It was probably my longest stretch of running the entire day. I FINALLY started to feel my groove, after 15+ miles.

4

All of a sudden, Roger stops and moves to the side.

ME: What are you doing? Dude, you are pulling me!

ROGER: Look, there’s number three. Go get her. You got this!

ME: (sigh) DAMN YOU ROGER! Damn you!

Roger chuckled his devilish chuckle again. 🙂

Off I go in front of Roger running steady. We knew the aid-station was coming up very soon. I just really wanted to get to there. The third place girl, (her name was Stephanie), let me pass. Roger checked in with her. I knew she was tired because when I was running behind her earlier in the day, she had said she had run 17 miles the day before marking the very course were running right now. My heart ached for her, she is clearly a VERY strong runner.

We all enter the aid-station, I reach for a cup and I feel someone pushing me sideways …

ROGER: Go! Get out of here. Go!

ME: What the?!! Okay okay …

I took off like I stole something. The next two to three miles were a steady but technical downhill. I had not been opening up my down hills this entire race, but now, I did.

BUZZ! Mile 20 – 9:25 Legs feel good. Tummy is a bit off, but I feel good.

BUZZ! Mile 21 – 9:21 Please god, let me have gained enough distance to keep this lead. Who am I kidding, if I could just bomb that, so can everyone else. Run, just run!

The next stretch was the longest between aid-stations again, something like 7.5 miles I think and that last aid-station would be the final aid before the dreaded three mile climb to the finish.

I just ran and ran. I had even moved ahead of Roger by quite a bit and then he’d catch me and pump me up some more. He even went so far as to tell me that he thinks I could catch female #2. HA! Funny man that Roger.

Finally I reached the section I affectionately called Tick Trail – it was so over grown with long grass and weeds that you couldn’t even see the trail and I imagined with every step, all these ticks jumping onto my legs. THAT made me run faster let me tell you!

Finally, I was dumped back onto the fire road that I knew led to the final aid-station. However, it took FOREVER it seemed until I got there.

VOLUNTEERS: Hey! Looking strong, what do you need?

ME: Can you please just douse my bandana in cold water? How far to the finish?

VOLUNTEERS: About 2.7 to 3 miles, unfortunately all up hill.

I silently groaned a little bit but there was nowhere to go but up to get this done. Off I ran and then I hiked. I tried power hiking. Pigeon was in my head. She had texted me earlier that morning to “power hike that last hill like a bear is chasing you!” Well, as it turns out, there WAS a bear about to chase me!

ROGER: Hey, there is a chick behind me.

ME: What!? No! You aren’t just saying that to get me to run up this hill are you?!

ROGER: Nope, she surprised me by coming up quick behind me at that last aid-station.

ME: Son of a B!*%$! I didn’t set out for this Roger!

ROGER: Well, don’t kill yourself but you got this!

Off I ran, my legs barely moving, shaking with every single step that I took. Last weekend I climbed 3 miles with Stonegate, motivating her up that hill. I used the same tactics on myself …

Okay girl, run to that rock. You can run to that rock and then walk. Just get ahead every chance you can.

I rounded a corner and something caught my eye ….

Holy crap! You caught the number two girl! Hmmm, she doesn’t look THAT far ahead … Nope, forget it. Focus on the girl behind you. You’re barely hanging in.

I am not kidding when I say this hill took FOR-FREAKING-EVER to climb. I passed one guy.

GUY: Hi! (being all friendly and nice despite huffing and puffing) One helluva way to finish huh?

ME: Can you look behind me please. Is there a girl there?

GUY: Nope. I see nobody.

ME: Good. Thanks.

Off I ran. Or I thought I was running. As I reached the top of that switchback I turned and saw her, the girl that was in front of me when I ran in that conga line of girls earlier in the day. She looked strong even then. She looked like she should have been running in front of those girls. She also looked like she wasn’t struggling one bit on that hill we were on.

Move it! Come on! Run, run a stretch now to get ahead! Come on legs! Stop shaking and run!

Female #2 turned and looked at me and then started to run too. The chase, it seemed was on, everyone was trying to get up that hill as fast as possible. I wanted to yell out to the number two girl and say, “It’s okay! I don’t care about #2! I just want to keep #3!” But come on, if I had gotten close enough …. 🙂

I kept straining to hear music. That’s a cue to all the finish lines right? But it occurred to me that there might not BE music at the finish.

Oh no, don’t rely on the music! But how will I know where the finish is? I can’t see it! All I see are these damn hills in front of me!

I had to laugh. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t super smiley but I wasn’t angry and laughing is the best way for me to release tension. What else am I going to do on a monster climb like this?

Then, I see two men standing there. They don’t look like hikers; they look like guys who hang out at finish lines (yes, that’s how my head works in moment’s like these). I reach them, I see female #2 ahead of me and I ask them …

ME: How far?

THEM: Not far, 100 yards.

ME: 100 yards?! (In my head it was as if they had told me it was 100 more miles)

THEM: Up that hill!

ME: (internally) Come on! PUSH!!!!

Finally, I see the finish arch. I see Paulo running around with his camera. I see female #2 pushing as hard as she can, she’s about 10 yards in front of me. I am running as hard as I possibly can. Everyone is cheering!

Oh no, are they cheering because they think I am going to catch her OR are they cheering because the girl behind me has finally caught me and is going to do a sneak attack to the finish line?!!

Talk about paranoia! Haha

RUNNNNN PAM RUNNNNNN!!!!

Finally, I cross the finish line and RD Paulo comes over. I think he doesn’t know whether to high-five me or give me a hug and all I want to do is lay down. I bend over and he kind of escorts me gingerly to some chairs, female number two was in the same state, bent over, legs shaking.

Holy crap, you did it. You made it. You climbed that beast. What the hell man!? I thought this was a training run!? 😉

One minute later, female #4 crosses the finish line. Wow, what a day.

Roger was next and I had enough strength in my legs to get up, cheer as loud as I could and give that crazy man a hug and say thank you. Again, thank you Roger for your support, encouragement and for giving me the pep talks I needed. I could not have done it without you.

My wooden trophies.
My wooden trophies.

So, the final verdict was Third Place Female overall (I was less than 20 seconds behind second) and first in my age group. The course was shortened so I could not go by time but I think I might have had a decent 50k time overall – so long as it wasn’t a four mile hill climb to the finish instead of three. The race (according to my Garmin) also had 7,548 ft of elevation to it. Wow.

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

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

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

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay too long at the finish as I had to jet home. I didn’t want to miss taking my favorite seven year old to her swim clinic lesson. Originally I didn’t think I would be able to make it but I guess with a finish like that, I had some extra time. 😉

My Swimmer Girl
My Swimmer Girl

So what worked and what didn’t? (Sorry, hang with me, the end of this monstrosity is near).

First, I tried my home-made plant-based fuel that I blogged about. I knew going into it, that it was too salty. When I tried it during the race, it just was not going to happen.  It also had the texture of muffin batter something I was NOT going for in the creation process. Back to the drawing board on that.

Overall, I was not handling anything but fruity sweet flavors which is not my normal. I brought a gluten free almond butter and honey sandwich with me but the gluten free bread is SO dense that I almost choked eating it. I managed one square and left the rest for the drive home.

I need to work on the calorie consumption as I don’t think, looking back, I consumed a whole ton on this run. I had my usual go-to items like fruit leather, applesauce and jelly-beans (for that quick rush). I may go back to making muffins. They pack a good 300 calories per muffin but they require time to eat but since I am not racing my next race, I should have some time. 😉

Overall, I am happy. It wasn’t what I set out to do but I am happy that I was able to pull it together in the end and really push myself especially when at times, I didn’t think I had anything left to push. I feel good. The muscles are not too sore (yet). I still feel a little dehydrated and I need a few more hours of catch-up sleep. That’s the only downfall of having an ultra on a Sunday, as Monday it was back to work/school for the whole family.

Tis the life of a trail running mama I guess! Thanks for reading, I know this was incredibly long, but the good ones usually are.

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

I want to also thank all the volunteers who were part of this race. From marking the course in a rain storm the day before to being out there on the course the day of the race. Also my fellow trail runners were all super friendly and supportive cheering everyone on their way back to the finish. Love this community! SingleTrack Running put on another great race. Thank you!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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

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MONKEYS

A few weeks ago we joined forces with Stonegate and her family and had a garage sale. As often happens when you have a garage sale, you find things that you forgot that you had. While searching through boxes and closets I came across the following book ….

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This book brought back a sea of memories for me. You see, years ago my friend Sally Edwards reached out to me and told me that a friend of hers was writing a book about women conquering triathlons.  She wanted me to contribute a story detailing my very first attempt at a triathlon. So I did. My story in this book is called The Monkeys on My Back. When I found the book, I reread my story completely forgetting what I had written.

Essentially my story was about all the doubts in my head (aka those monkeys riding my back dragging me down) and how I defeated those monkeys and doubts, tossing them to the side as I completed my first challenging race.

Since my last post, I debated even writing another blog post. That race left me pretty beat up physically and mentally. Months ago, when I was feeling super strong and invincible, I signed up for the American River 50 mile race (again). Then Salmon Falls happened and I was left cursing myself for signing up for 50 miles after feeling how I felt after that last 50k.

The monkeys were back. Clearly.

I took a week off from running trying to nurse some aches and pains and I saw my miracle worker Dr. Lau. I didn’t know what to do. How did I think I could run again in four weeks?

The time off was good. I focused on stretching, foam rolling, eating well and catching up on lost sleep. The latter is hard to achieve with two little ones. 🙂

When yesterday came about, Pigeon had wanted us to go run our last long run before AR in the canyons. As much as I love the canyons, those monkeys were telling me I was crazy. We have done this run before (you can read it here) it was hard and it hurt. Yet we needed the hours on our feet and in the back of my head,  I kept telling myself that the canyons are way harder than AR despite AR being more than twice as long (my brain works in mysterious ways).

Bright and Early
Bright and Early

Pigeon and I left town in complete darkness and arrived just as the sun was rising. We parked at Michigan Bluff and got ourselves ready. We both knew it was going to be a warm day but it was pretty chilly to start.

I didn’t know what to pack for fuel. I wanted to test out a bunch of new things so my pack was pretty jammed with all kinds of new to me fuel for the day.

As we were about to embark on the trail, another car arrived and out popped three other runners and a Doberman mix. Of course, another doberman encounter. Luckily, this dog was well trained and did not bother us too much.

Heading down down down
Heading down down down

This run starts out with a nice long two mile descent. It is rocky, technical and pretty steep. Dr. Lau’s advice kept ringing in my ears (“Don’t run down hill, save your knees”) but of course did I listen? Not really. I was careful and hesitant. I made sure my foot placement was good and I worked really hard on my form as I was going down, but I didn’t walk.

Of course in typical Trailmomma style, I had to make a quick pit stop not more than two minutes into our run. However, that would be the last of my tummy troubles the entire day.

Once you get to the bottom of that descent, you cross a nice little bridge and then begin a super long four to five mile climb. I had forgotten how much “up” this side of the trail had until I was hands on my knees hiking step after step.

Taking a break to enjoy the views.
Taking a break to enjoy the views.

The climb seemed to move pretty quickly though because before I knew it, we had reached the fire road section by Deadwood Cemetery. We caught up to the other runners that were out on the trail and had a nice chat with them.

Those runners stopped at the water pump to refill their bottles while Pigeon and I continued on towards Devil’s Thumb. The last time we ran this route, we stopped at the thumb and turned around. Today, we sat there debating back and forth as to whether or not we should climb down Devil’s to the swinging bridge. I’ve climbed Devils a few times. It is not an easy section. I have never run down it however.

My left knee had been only slightly making itself known on those earlier miles but I was afraid that the steepness of Devil’s would send it spiraling into a sea of pain. I took two Advil as a sort of preventative measure and down we went.

Fire Damage
Fire Damage

Last year’s massive fire has destroyed quite a bit of this beautiful land. Seeing all the charred tree stumps and branches was very heart breaking. It also however brought a bit of mystery and danger to the scene.

They have started logging the area to clean it up and help with regrowth
They have started logging the area to clean it up and help with regrowth

Without all the trees to provide shade, this was a very exposed section of trail and the temps were rising.

Nowhere to go but down!
Nowhere to go but down!

The terrain was also very difficult to run on. Tiny seas of pinecones were everywhere causing you to slip. Rocks, branches and debris were everywhere. I slowed more than a few times to try and prevent myself from tumbling down the trail.

When we made it to the bottom, we were greeted by shade and the brand newly rebuilt Swinging Bridge!

So pretty!
So pretty!

Last year the fire had destroyed half of the bridge making it impossible to pass.

The Swinging Bridge in May 2014
The Swinging Bridge in May 2014

A bunch of trail volunteers and angels did an amazing job rebuilding the bridge.

Beautiful construction
Beautiful construction

We decided to spend some time here and refuel a bit so I took quite a few photos.

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Last year during the western states training run, since the bridge was not complete, we had to cross by going into the river.

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They had a rope tied across the river in the above photo and we had to cross by wading through. It was pretty awesome.

Still the same rules though - Some how 5 runners = 3 horses? #coremath
Still the same rules though – Some how 5 runners = 3 horses? #coremath
Me on the bridge
Me on the bridge

But today, we were able to use the bridge and after some fueling decided it was time to start the dreaded climb up Devils’ Thumb.

This is where the trail continues up on the other side
This is where the trail continues up on the other side

As were making our way across the bridge, Pigeon told me I should take a photo of the waterfall. I never even realized there was a waterfall here before. I pulled out my camera and took a photo of it and I have to say, it was one of my favorites from the day.

So GREEN!
So GREEN!

The climb back up Devil’s Thumb consists of 36 switchbacks. THIRTY-SIX!!!???? It isn’t easy and it can be quite demeaning.

As I was climbing my right knee and lower back decided to say hello and by hello I mean “what the hell are you doing?!” I tried not to focus on it. One foot in front of the other. Climb.

Pigeon as always, was pretty silent on this climb. I tend to go in spurts of chatting and then conserving energy.

I don’t know exactly how long it took, but we finally reached the top. Normally we stop at the top but Pigeon locked her sights on those earlier runners who were running back towards the pump and started running. Okay, I guess we’re running. 🙂

We passed the runners again as they stopped at the water pump. As it turns out, they had a friend meet them with a truck full of aid-station fuel. They offered us coke and brownies and a ton of other things, but we passed and continued on.

As we were running we heard the sounds of dirt bikes and sure enough, just like the last time, two guys riding dirt bikes on the same trail we were running, passed us. Luckily we had more room this time to jump to the side.

I was internally dreading the next section. The four/five mile descent down El Dorado Canyon. This section is steep and fairly runnable making it tough on a bum knee.

I settled in behind Pigeon and tried going easy. Watching my form. Watching my steps. It surprised me that my left knee, the knee giving me trouble at Salmon Falls was fine and instead my right knee was the one barking at me. It didn’t matter if I was running down or up, it hurt but it let me continue. It didn’t stop me, yet.

At some point during this decent, Pigeon had to peel off and make her own pit-stop. I decided to play it smart and walk ahead. Walk the downs. Not run.

Before I knew it, I was a the bottom of the canyon. It seemed to have flown by this time. Pigeon had caught up and we started our climb back up to Michigan Bluff. Normally we stop at the bottom and refuel but it was pretty crowded with some hikers so instead, we climbed.

Some how I think it is more than a two mile climb up because it is never ending.

A mini break to fuel
A mini break to fuel

One foot in front of the other again. Climb. Repeat. At some point, I took the lead. I was focused. I could feel the finish, or a least I thought I could. Every time I thought we’d reached the top, I was mistaken.

Oh well, climb and climb again. At one point, decided to wait for Pigeon to catch up, just to check on her. I am kind of glad I did. She asked me where we were mileage wise which is always a red flag for her. She knows her distances pretty well. I asked her how she was doing and she told me her pack was empty. She had no water.

This is a constant joke between us. Pigeon has run out of water quite a few times on some of our runs and since I am a camel and always have more than enough, I usually give her mine. I had my whole 10 ounce bottle completely untouched so I poured it into her pack. We laughed and continued on. I knew that near the top of this climb, the sun would be out and we would be totally exposed which is not a good thing when it was a warm as it was outside. Water was a necessity on this climb.

I just powered on. Despite the pain searing through my knee at times, I felt okay. I felt that I was able to climb. A few times I even ran a bit to break it up and release the pressure in my low back. I had juice in the tank so to speak, which helped me fling those monkeys off my back about AR50.

It was on this climb back out that I thought again about that book. I had some how distanced myself from Pigeon and was just climbing and thinking – one foot in front of the other. If I could climb and handle this day and these canyons, why couldn’t I handle AR50 in two weeks? I have the strength. The race may not turn out what I had originally hoped when I initially signed up, but I know I can do it. The monkeys were being thrown. I was hiking and tossing those monkeys off my back and bringing myself back to a place of positive thinking. A place I have been missing lately.

Such beauty!
Such beauty!

When I reached the top I felt whole again. I felt like my old self. Sure my knee was screaming at me but I felt like my inner-self had been reset.

Waiting for Pigeon to crest that hot hot trail
Waiting for Pigeon to crest that hot hot trail

When Pigeon arrived, we made our way back to the car and tried our best to remove all the poison oak that may or may not have been all over our legs. It was pretty nasty out there.

Overall, we had run 19.5 miles or so with 7,583 feet of elevation. That’s a lot. Our first canyon run of the season was behind us. This isn’t an easy run at all but it definitely is one of my favorites.

When I arrived home I got word that Vans had a daddy day like no other!

HOME-DEPOT!
HOME-DEPOT!

The girls’ faces look exactly like mine when I have to go to Home Depot with Vans. 🙂

Overall, it was a great day. We had spent more than 6 hours on the trail. That’s a long time but it was the time I needed to get my confidence back.

Now I taper. Now I work on the aches and pains. Foam rolling. Eating well and hopefully trying to get better sleep. AR50 will be what it will be but I know a lot of what makes a race a great race, is where your head is on race day. For me, I am going to ride this positive train for the next two weeks.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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