gait: pacing Never Summer 100k

IMG_3303

Kristen and her friends picked me up at the Denver airport and we started driving towards the mountains. As soon as we got to Ft. Collins she pulled over and let me drive. She must of known that the next few hours would be through the very windy roads of the canyon. Every turn was gorgeous. When we pulled in to the Gould Community Center parking lot, we all thought… this is it? We were in the wild!

Kristen checked in and I went with her to the Park Ranger table. He asked if we had any questions so I asked what to do when we saw a bear. He didn’t think bears would be much of a problem. And to just make noise and back away. What we should really be cautious about was the MOOSE. He said slowly back away while keeping your eyes on them and if they start to charge, weave in and out of trees so they would get stuck.

With that advice we headed in to Walden to check in to our hotel and get dinner. Thats when we ran into this guy-

IMG_3301

Apparently Walden is the Moose viewing capital of the US! After dinner we got to bed early as we had to get up at 3:30 AM! I woke with the runners and drove them to the starting line. Along the drive we saw a Moose crossing the road! When we arrived it was still dark, but there was a full moon.

IMG_3306

I watched the runners check in and helped where I could (I couldn’t really).

IMG_3305

They were excited… nervous… and ready to run!

IMG_2944

This was the second year of the race and they had about 300 starters! A small crowd for a road race, but a big crowd for a crazy hard 100K.

IMG_2945

And they were off!

IMG_2959

After the runners were off they had a pacers and crew meeting. The meeting was mostly useless. They talked about where we could meet runners and that was about it. I had been tasked with getting to the Canadian Aid Station without the car, but they were little help with this. I asked around for rides, but no one seemed to be able to help. I did get some help reading the park map and finding out how to get to the mountain lake to see Kristen at mile 10. After the meeting was over I headed up to the lake.

IMG_3311

The park ranger had asked what type of vehicle I was in so I got a little nervous to continue up the dirt road. So I parked at the second lot and started walking up the hill. Soon I discovered that the hill was a mountain and it kept going. A car came up the road and I asked for a ride. They were more than happy to give me a ride and it turned out it was a father/daughter spectating crew also from Washington, DC! Once we got to the top parking lot it was another mile hike up, but it was worth it. The lake was beautiful! There were some spectators there and they said that only about 10 people had gone by. So I posted up and cheered for runners in the most beautiful spot.

IMG_2977

Soon enough I see Kristen running around the bend. She stopped to chat a minute and I realized she was very muddy. I asked if she fell. Nope, just lost her shoe in mud and had to dig it out and clean it up before putting it back on. After a picture she was back on her way.

IMG_2988

I chatted with some other spectators and made some more friends for a ride back down the hill. They then offered me a chair to watch the runners pass by at about mile 18. It was still before noon, but already getting hot in the sunlight. Kristen came running down the hill and kept going… little did she know within a mile she would have to run straight up a mountain.

IMG_3328

It was now around noon and I since I woke up at 3:30 am knew I would be up until at least midnight I decided to grab lunch and take a nap back at the hotel. I felt kind of bad as the runners were running and I was going to go eat and nap, but I wanted to be the best pacer I could be and the other places to crew were not as easy to get to. I stopped at the best gas station ever and filled up on gas and water. People said hydration helped with altitude so I wanted to drink up. After a sandwich and water I tried to take a nap… it was more like laying in bed, but I think I slept for 20 minutes or so. Then I packed up my running gear and headed to the Finish/Start line to try to find a ride to the Canadian Aid Station. I pulled in and saw an older couple I had seen earlier in the day. I asked if they were going up there and they were not. Then I see a guy sitting in a pick up truck. With all hope gone I ask him if he was going up to Canadian. HE WAS! I jumped in and we rode about a half hour up to the Canadian.

IMG_3340

Once we parked it was a mile walk in to the station. I arrived a little before 5. Kristen told me to be there by 5:30 so I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I’m not one to talk to strangers and I had been making friends all day. When I arrived there had only been a handful of runners pass through, so I knew Kristen would be a few hours later at the earliest. I settled in and enjoyed nature and the occasional runner passing through. There were quite a few people there both volunteering and crewing. I kept eating and drinking water so I would be ready at any time, which lead me to having to find the bushes a few times.

IMG_3348

Then the sun began to set. The mountains lit up, I heard someone call it mountain glow. By this point I had learned that both of Kristen’s friends had dropped from the race. One had called up to get the car keys and the other came through the station in a pickup truck. All reports were that it was a tough race. A few runners came through talking about how they had sat on the trail for a half hour waiting for a bear and her cubs to move along!

Once the sun went down it got cold fast. By cold I mean around 50 degrees, but it felt COLD. I was wearing shorts to run in, but had packed my jacket and gloves and quickly put them on. I moved over by the grill and warming candles to stay warm. I found two other pacers also trying to stay warm. Around 10 pm I decided maybe I should eat some real food and had one of the cheese quesadillas they were preparing, then some pretzels and some chips. I guess when I got cold I went full out ultra.

After it got dark all we could see coming down the hill was the headlamps. Which could be confusing, sometimes four lights turned in to one runner. And then out of the darkness came three runners… and one of them was Kristen! It was so dark that I had to walk right up to make sure it was her. Kristen looked at me and said “It is so HARD” and gave me a hug. If you know Kristen she never says things are hard, she usually says “suck it up” so I knew it must have been hard.

My adrenaline was pumping at this point. I had thought about what would happen if she came in and wanted to drop from the race since I had seen so many people going down the mountain in the back of a truck, but ultimately I wanted to help her finish and was excited when she was ready to keep going after only a few minutes and a few bites of food.

Kristen wasn’t able to run anymore at this point, but we were fast hiking and I warmed up pretty quick. Even though it was dark it was fun and we saw varied landscapes. Like the rest of the race, the race wasn’t always on actual trail. We went through tall grass, tall trees, water crossings, muddy paths impossible to go around and straight up 2000 feet. I kept seeing shadows moving only to find out that it was just me moving and the shadows of little shrubs on the trail. Luckily the only wildlife we saw was a small mouse.

I sang and told stories and got Kristen to tell stories. For me the time passed fast. We were keeping to around 18 min miles, which doesn’t sound fast but try walking a mile straight up hill in two inches of mud! I did the math in my head and knew if we kept the same pace Kristen would have no trouble finishing in 23 hours, which was the cut off for qualifying for Western States Lottery. So we kept going. A few people passed us looking strong, but we also passed several people who were really struggling. One guy said he hit the wall… this was around mile 62… I think he did pretty good holding of the wall till then.

Kristen didn’t take much time at the aid stations we passed though. I grabbed some gummy bears at one but otherwise didn’t eat much. The final station was a little over 2 miles to the finish and we didn’t stop at all.

We ran a little in this last section, but I think this section lasted the longest for Kristen. It started to rain a little and we were so close but we couldn’t really see any signs of the finish. It was also the least interesting terrain because it was along the road and a more accessible path.

After five hours of speed hiking we finally saw the lights of the finish line and we started running again. I started cheering and broke off to the side as Kristen made her way through the finishers shoot in around 22 hours and 13 minutes.

IMG_3347

We went inside the rustic community center for a bit, but soon headed back to the hotel because it was 4 AM and the finishers breakfast and awards ceremony was at 9 AM. Although I showered that night, my toes weren’t quite clean for a full week after.

I know this was a long one, but it was a long race! If you ever have the opportunity to crew or pace at a ultra trail race I highly encourage it. Its motivating and inspiring to see all the runners and you get to hang out in beautiful places while congratulating yourself for not being quite as crazy as all of those runners. Check out Kristen’s race report here.

Advertisements

gait: Spring Backyard Burn Trail Race: Laurel Hill

After agreeing to run part of my sister’s 100k this summer with her I decided I might want to do a trail race beforehand. I looked around the DC area and found the Spring Backyard Burn series. As I’m training for the Charlottesville Half Marathon I consulted Crafty Runner on when I should do the race. We decided that a ten mile trail race on the weekend of my eleven mile long run would work.

IMG_2410

With no real trail running to prepare, real meaning dirt and hills not a nice paved path through the woods, I signed up for 10 miles through the woods. Laurel Hill is in Lorton, VA which was about a half hour drive from my apartment, but luckily the race had a relatively late start time of 9 am. I drove right to the start and didn’t have to wait at all to pick up my bib. I headed back to the car to stay warm for a bit. They had some indoor bathrooms that I tried out before lining up to start at 8:50 to hear the race instructions.

My goal for the race was just to take it easy and finish. As soon as the horn went off I forgot the “take it easy” and just remembered the race director saying “after the first mile there is single track so line up where you want to be before you get there”. I wasn’t sure where that was so I pushed it a bit and well the first mile was mostly paved and all down hill.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.34.26 PM

The woods portion of the race was my favorite, there were a lot of switch backs and some tiny rolling hills. The grassy portion was my least favorite. The trail in this portion was narrow and deep and only one foot wide. My ankles and knees didn’t like running this portion. Near mile five (and 9 the course was two loops) there was a sign saying “don’t run over snakes” Uh? I would definitely run away or jump over any snakes, running over snakes is not a problem for me.

The second loop seemed to go much faster even though it was much slower. The second time through the woods I caught my foot on a rock and fell. I caught myself pretty quickly, but two girls passed me while I was down and I lost some energy. Looking at my paces below, I’m pretty sure this was mile 8.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 1.59.06 PM

When I saw the 1 mile to go sign I got a burst of energy until I saw the huge hill to the finish. Everyone else was walking up the hill so I joined in for awhile. Once at the top and back on pavement I got some speed back and finished strong-ish. The course was confusing as it looks below, but well marked and I never questioned which way to go.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 1.58.11 PM

I ate two slices of pepperoni pizza afterwards (big advantage of trail races) and sat around to watch the awards ceremony (the winners got pint glasses!) as long as I could without returning my car late. There were some fast ladies (and men). Although I had a big positive split, I’m happy with my overall average pace. I was done for the rest of the day and spent some quality time with my couch. Lesson’s learned include starting slower, train on some trails, and maybe eat something if I’m running that long.

Have you ran a trail race? What are your tips?

gait: Cville training week 8

Monday: rest day since I did my long run on Sunday

Tuesday: 3.8 mile interval workout. Flew to Seattle Tuesday and was looking to do some run exploring. Seattle weather has other plans, rain and high winds made it hard to walk so I decided to run inside the hotel.

Wednesday: 3 easy miles. I knew the time difference in Seattle would help me wake up earlier, but it didn’t help the sun come up any earlier. I still managed to fit in three miles before sitting in meetings from 8 to 5:30. I ran from my hotel to the space needle and on the paths around the space needle and Key arena. Seattle has a lot of interesting architecture, new and old. There were lots of fun signs and sites to look at and I wished I had more time.

IMG_2395

Thursday: all day airplane ride rest.

Friday: 4 miles. Three easy with a faster final mile. I bought trail shoes in preparation for this weekend’s trail race and to prepare to run in Colorado this summer. I hadn’t had a chance to try them out, but didn’t want to wear them for the first time in a race so I wore them on the treadmill. They felt great so I think I’m good to go.

Saturday: rest day to prepare for the race Sunday.

Sunday: 9.79 miles at the Backyard Burn Spring Series Laurel Hill race in Lorton, VA. It was rough, I started too fast. I’ll write a full post on the race once they post the official times.

IMG_2410

Total Miles: 21 miles, I missed one day of running and cut two runs shorter than my training plan called for, but I still did a long run and a workout run so with all of my traveling this week I still call it a success.

gait: Charlottesville Half Marathon

In  June of 2012 I ran my first half marathon, the Zooma Annapolis. Spring 2013 I ran two half marathons, Rock ‘n Roll DC and Nike Women DC, followed by the Woodrow Wilson half that fall. Spring 2014 I again doubled up with Rock ‘n Roll DC and Nike Women DC. Then I was burnt out for awhile and didn’t race again till I tried the Marathon distance Rock ‘n Roll DC in the Spring of 2015. The marathon wasn’t the best experience of my life. Rainy, cold, and 26 miles, woof.

After 4 years of Spring long races I start to get the itch to start training around Christmastime, but after three years of Rock ‘n Roll DC and lots of running the same routes around DC I was looking to expand my racing experience back outside of the city.

I asked one of my coworkers who lives outside of DC and has done more of the regional races what his favorite spring half marathon was. His first suggestion was the Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA, but it is in the middle of May and I was looking for an earlier race. His second recommendation was the Charlottesville Half Marathon. The April 2nd date not only is in the right time frame, but is also the weekend after my birthday, which makes it a perfect day.

Neither Brian nor I have been to Charlottesville before so exploring a new area for the race and for the weekend is also a big plus. I’ve been told the area is beautiful and hilly. While running hills is not my favorite, they do give me something to focus on while running.

I started my training this week. Other than a lunch time run I cut short on Tuesday due to the 20 degree wind chill I had a solid first week. 12 miles total, an hour of yoga, and a cross training/weights workout. I ran some hills on my four mile “long” run and I’ll definitely need to do that every week to be ready on race day.

 

gait: racing again

Since the Cherry Blossom 10 miler that ended up being a 9.5ish miler back in April I haven’t raced! The training for the Rock ‘n Roll DC marathon and quick turn around for the Cherry Blossom burned me out on structured training. I’ve been running here and there, but nothing too consistent or long. Earlier this summer I signed up for the Wanderlust 108, which includes a 5K, yoga and meditation. The 5K course is described as “more or less 5K in length” and they “provide a timer at the start and finish line, but you’re the only one who will be keeping track”. Oh and bragging isn’t allowed… only smiles… Needless to say it won’t be the most intense race so I haven’t been motivated to train.

So I decided to register for one of my favorite DC fall races, The Parks 10K. I first ran the race in 2012 in peak running shape but fresh off of rolling my ankle the day before and PR’d in 49:54 (it was my first 10K). I ran it again in 2013 a week before a rescheduled half marathon so I was in good shape but didn’t want to push it and be tired the next week. I finished in 50:55. Last year I was at a wedding race weekend so I couldn’t run.

Running a race I’ve done twice before gives me some motivation to train and try to compete with my times and since I haven’t been racing much this year I haven’t ran around potomac park since my marathon training in February. So the scenery will be fresh too. I also convinced Brian to sign up so he’ll be racing The Parks 10K as his first 10K too.

My training was going well until I got sick this week and took a few days off, but just writing this post has made me motivated to try to finish in 50 minutes.