Monday, March 25, 2013

The Georgia Death Race was fantastically beautiful and went remarkably well, which is actually a little surprising given some of my decisions going into it but more on that after a little description of the race. Nobody knows the exact length of the course but its somewhere in the vicinity of 65 miles with about 30,000 feet of elevation change, maybe somewhat more but what's 1000 feet give or take amongst trail runners? They give you a map at pre-race so at least you know where you are and I even got a chance to use it once.
    When my alarm went off at 3 in the morning I wasn't entirely cheerful about the race start time but when I saw the sunrise across a range of mountains unbroken by power-lines or radio towers or buildings I just stopped and smiled. When I started running again I was still smiling and it lasted all the way to sunset, which I beat to the finish by a narrow margin. I even stayed cheerful for the 20 miles of forest service road (roads and I don't get along well and I didn't have quite the right shoes for it do to the aforementioned decision making).
    The aid stations and people were great. I got to know a couple people better than I did before the race and made a couple friends during the race, one of whom I wound up running in the last 3 hours or so with. I'm guessing, maybe Christian has a better idea of the time but I know absolutely that I could find the exact point on the course where we met. Its a funny thing about trails and one of my very favorites, the way you get to know people so quickly, the way you can remember certain places and moments with such clarity.
      What was harder than I expected? The steepness. I did hours of hill repeats and always the day before my long run and with extra attention to running the downhills hard. Even at the end of the race I had enough quad strength to keep running down hill on the roads but there was very little in my training as steep as several of the miles of hills in Georgia. You use different muscles or different parts of muscles when it gets really steep.  I could feel my effort level suddenly shoot way the heck up (meaning my heart hammered in my chest and it was harder to breathe) as soon as it got steeper than what I'm used to. Shortening my steps helped somewhat but I will train some steeper ups before my next race down there, or maybe just train it once in a while to stay well rounded.
    What about those decisions I'm pretty amazed didn't blow up in my face? I wore my new pack as planned. The weather turned out to be very warm so I wore my Vertical Runner race singlet which is a tested and very comfortable top in hot weather. Here's what I failed to consider; I've never worn that light, minimalist, racer back tank with that pack.  The pack straps rested directly on my skin for 65 miles and a lot of sweat. I got very, very lucky and didn't lose any skin at all. Also, Osprey makes a very, good product.
    I wore shoes I'd worn before in that they were the the same model (INOV-8 X-Talon 212 for the curious), but new in that I'd just taken them out of the box. That, in itself wasn't much of a problem but I don't trust myself to actually tie my shoes for races. I replace my laces with stretchy bungi laces and I remembered to do that. What I forgot is that it takes 10 miles or so to get them adjusted so that my foot stays put properly in the shoe.  I had a hot spot by mile 8 under my big toe and forefoot. Somehow, after adjusting the laces, the problem resolved and I finished blister free. That just doesn't seem believable. I didn't even lose any toenails.
    Oh, so then, on the recommendation of Vince, I picked up a pair of slightly heavier INOV-8 shoes with a little rock plate to wear on the forest service road sections. These I had considered wearing all race long initially since they were broken in. I changed my mind last minute and drop bagged them to mile 25. Did I change into them? Of course not. Do I know why? Not a clue. I guess I felt good at the time so I didn't want to change anything.  The 212 is a great shoe but its also very light and thin with no rock plate at all, just a little pad and a lot of traction.
    So when I hit the forest service road and it turned out to be pretty hard packed and gravel covered I figured I might as well run as fast and as much as possible for a while because my feet would only last so long.  My feet, as it turns out, are a whole lot tougher than they were a year ago.  They were tender but I could still run when the finish line came in sight.
    How did I finish? I often wonder how to answer that. Seriously. It took 15 and a half hours or so. I was the third woman to finish. Neither of those is really how I finished, its just numbers. I finished smiling. I finished uninjured and right with myself in my head. I finished at a dead sprint or what felt like it at the time and there were people I knew at the finish line and they put an arm around me.  I finished wanting to know how everyone I knew still out on the course was doing.

Oh, hey, if you live in northeast Ohio and you sign up for this race, message me and I'll tell you where to do hill repeats:)

In other news, I am running in Iceland in August in a Racing the Planet 156 mile stage race.  I am doing this to raise funds for a charity called Runwell which sponsors recovering addicts for treatment and encourages recovering addicts to participate in sports as part of a healthy recovery.  If you wish to contribute to my campaign, here's the link:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bandera 100 K (yup, I went to Texas)

    I didn't see a single mountain lion.  Its the one downside to touring the countryside by running a race; unless you're way out in front of everyone else you don't usually see as much wildlife as you might out hiking alone.  Bandera is in the Texas hill country and the hills are like home here in the Ohio in terms of length but they're rockier.  A lot rockier, and sometimes overgrown with sotol, which scratches the heck out of your legs.  Running Bandera in shorts means little scratches up and down your legs for a week or so after the race. Anyone who ran Bandera this year will probably also talk about the mud. Usually I like mud but this mud was different.  It was shallow but stickier than any other mud I've ever run through. Strange stuff, maybe the dust is finer out there.
    Running somewhere completely unfamiliar always makes me happy so that part of this race was great. That and the finish were the high points. The aid stations were good, and I really did enjoy the land out there. How to begin with the things that went wrong and how much to share? Well really, I guess there's just as much to learn from the stuff that goes wrong as from the stuff that goes right and the stuff that goes wrong might be more entertaining for the reader so here goes.
    I was on vacation the week before the race, snowboarding vacation in Mamoth. I had a great time! I did over use my right quad a little I think, although this wasn't noticeable until halfway through the race. Also, I got sick during vacation (drugged the cough, took alleve for the fever, kept going) and then I got better.  I was barely coughing by the day before the race and race morning I was less hungry than usual but still, no cough. No cough until mile 7 when I came up a hill a little to fast, breathed a little too hard and then had a coughing fit that got so intense I wound up stepping off the trail and throwing up everything I'd put into my system so far. Puking at mile7 of 62 isn't ideal but I stayed calm (mostly) and cursed minimally.
    I never puke during races and I can just about always eat but here I was, unable to do more than sip from my water bottle. After puking three times things seemed to quiet down. I had the ginger candies I always carry just in case but usually give away so I started eating one every 15 minutes or so.  By mile 20 I managed half a banana and a gel. My legs were starting to feel achy and shaky from lack of calories but I figured I was making up for it finally and I jogged on. 
    Around mile 35 I had gotten several more gels and banana halves to stay inside me and was feeling better except that my skin was getting prickly and my throat kept drying out. I didn't want to chug water out of nervousness about my stomach but then I realized peeing hadn't happened since back when I puked at mile 7. I stepped well off the trail and squatted down and made myself pee (if you're thinking 'TMI' then you just shouldn't be running ultras or you should get over that thinking). I looked at the whole tablespoon of pee that came out. It looked like watered down pepsi or maybe dark bourbon. 
    I know this is a very bad sign so I drank the rest of my water and took it slow to the next aid station about a mile and a half away. I stayed at the aid station long enough to drink 24 oz of water, paused to make sure it was staying and then refill my bottle again. Kidney's need water to work!  So does the rest of the body really. The rest of the race went pretty smoothly except that I'd figured on being 2-3 hours faster and so had drop bagged my headlamp at the later of the two possible drop bag locations. I started doing the math. I picked up my pace. The sunset was beautiful. Scary but beautiful. I did get to my light before full dark and without falling. I didn't drop bag an extra layer and it gets cold at night.  Cold and very windy!  I moved as fast as I could manage and started really trying to pile on the calories.
    So lets pause and see what can be learned. As long as the race lets you have multiple drop bags you may as well use them and have back up lights and clothes and maybe even shoes. At some point in the second half of the race I tore the upper in my right shoe. I could run on it but it rubbed a half dollar size patch of skin off the top of my foot by the end. What else? Oh, practice evaluating your body on training runs. Get into the habit of thinking about when you last ate, how much you've been drinking, when you last peed, whether you're getting a hot spot somewhere. I got lucky. I could have wound up touring the local ER.  On the other hand, if I'd been paying more attention I might have slowed down sooner to get the calories and hydration taken care of and then run more of the miles better.
    At the end of the race, during the last 10-15 miles I was actually passing other runners. There was this one woman, right at the end who kept getting back ahead of me on downhills all the way up to the very last one (the afore mentioned quad difficulty was slowing my descents). I could see her headlamp up ahead of me right when the sounds from the finish line began floating up the trail. I sped up, there was a chance I'd be able to catch her.  I almost stumbled trying to keep track of my progress toward her headlamp on the dark trail. Suddenly I could see the turn just before the finish. I sprinted. I ran that last 150 yards or so with energy I didn't know I had. I passed her right as we stepped onto the road and I kept going. It wasn't about place or beating someone really and there wasn't a big audience, it was just me finding out how much trying I had left in me.
    I felt great. Very winded, but so happy. Then the cough came back and I held onto a trashcan and coughed and puked until I wound up in the mud with dry heaves.  They passed pretty quickly. Oh, but the coughing was intense enough I peed on myself.  It was yellow.  The two people from the race who had come over to try to help me seemed concerned at how happy I was to know the color of pee.  Working and hydrated kidneys are a very good thing.  So's getting dry and clean and warm!  Thank you Tonya for helping me change into dry, warm clothes!