Saturday, August 3, 2013

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

BartleysRun the 2013 Western States Endurance Run

When I'm about to embark on what most (including myself) would consider to be quite a challenge [100 miles w/18,000ft up & 23,000ft down], I find my survival instincts kick in and I become an advice hoarder and keen observer.  This doesn't mean I use everything I take in, I've tuned my filter over the years to know what is going to work best for me and my style of doing things.  My mom said she would watch me at soccer practice, and while most kids clamored to be the first in line for a new drill, I would get in the back and watch every kid before me and learn from his mistakes before I gave it a try.  Some would say it's a fear of failure; I would call it smart.  As an example, even though the top guys don't wear a hydration pack and I consider myself to usually be a top guy, I used a hydration pack - I may not have needed it, but I've never done it before, so how could I know yet?
The first piece of advice comes coincidentally from myself (practice what you preach)... anytime a runner comes into our store in Bloomington and mentions their upcoming attempt at a new distance (usually half or full marathon) I give them what I think are the 3 checklist items in order to come away from it with the best experience.  First is to finish.  Pretty simple, if you put in the work and preparation, the goal should be to complete the task.  Second is to finish wanting to do it again (in other words, enjoy it!).  This one is KEY.  I neglected to hit this one in my iron triathlon in 2011 and haven't swam or been on a serious ride since (which brought me to ultras... anyone want to buy a really nice tri bike?!).  Last is to finish, wanting to do it again, in a goal time you had in mind.  This third one is not as important, but its the icing on the cake of a great first experience and can lead to added motivation for the next time.  As you can see, these have a specific order, you can't do 3 without 1 and 2, and so on.  This is crucial, if you skip for 3, you might not hit 1 or 2 and end up with 0.
I believe it's easy to get swept away by a goal time and find it a real challenge to keep the lens focused on the right things.  Once again, in the iron triathlon I didn't keep the focus in the right area, ignored my brain telling me I need to take a moment to regroup and paid for it later.  Fortunately for this event, two things kept my focus in the right spot.  First, I had a few minor injuries leading up to the race that still weren't 100%.  And over 100 miles, anything small can become magnified (or so I assumed).  Second, the forecast was calling for the second hottest race day in history with temperatures easily going triple digits.  I consider heat to be my cryptonite, so this was a major focus to keep aware of throughout the day.  So, with that I had convinced myself to let sub-20 or 24 hours go and just manage the day intelligently, watch and learn from others, and enjoy the once in a lifetime experience.  As my wife has often said, "you can't have the first one back, so make it memorable."

A look down to Squaw Valley about a mile into the climb.

So here goes... first thing first, many people ask me, "How can you even think about 100 miles?"... Answer: You can't, it's way too overwhelming.  Small bites: I think in terms of terrain/trail changes and/or aid stations (usually 3-5 mile increments).  The first segment would begin in Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, where the trail ascends from the valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 3.5 miles.  Being the start of the race, many people get carried away and attempt to run up (as much as they can)... it is a race, after all!  I held in the reins and power-hiked every single step up the climb - keeping my heart rate mostly below 150bpm.  I had hiked this section with my crew a few days earlier and it had take 1h12m, so I knew what to expect.  I crested the peak at 1h10m with a few pictures, videos, and a pee stop included, score!  

(Added bonus: I got to hike next to the founder of trail ultrarunning and first finisher of the Western States Endurance Run, Gordy Ainsleigh - he beat me to the first aid station at age 66!  What a beast!)
After the pass, we finally "ran" through a section that was like running through a rocky meadow with mountain streams running off across and down the trail everywhere.  It was a conga line that would start and stop many times.  I told myself to remain calm, because 4 miles in is no time to get antsy... and just enjoy the amazing view!  After another bathroom stop (1 & 2), I got into the first aid station at 10.5 miles in 2h31m... about 15min behind my "goal time."  I was in one piece, didn't feel like I'd just climbed a mountain, and nutrition was going well, so no complaints.  I had decided to start with a Nathan VaporWrap hydration pack in addition to the Salomon Softflasks I'd be using all day - this added up to about 118oz of liquid (16oz was Hammer Perpetuem).  This should get me about 4 hours to the first crew stop, so I passed right through the aid station and kept, moving, forward.
The next section ran on a ridge with beautiful views on both sides of the high Sierras and the canyons below that we would eventually encounter. I filled up my soft flasks at Red Star Ridge (mile 16) for another 32oz of water and went on my way to what would end up being the most enjoyable running section of the race. I finally had a chance to stretch the legs (about 9min/mi pace) and took advantage of it (my second fastest section of the day). Neither the uphill nor downhill was stupid steep in this section so I went for it. Unfortunately at around 21 miles I felt a slight twinge on two separate steps on the front side of my ankle. It didn't feel like a "twist," more like a slight cramp/strain. The section was fairly technical with rocks to watch out for at every step (but this was a constant on this course). I decided to calm it down a little from there and I didn't notice it again (for a while). I was certainly excited going into Duncan Canyon aid station (mile 23.8) because it was the first time I got to see my crew! The crew was great! I swapped out my pack for the Salomon belt that could still hold the softflasks, gels, bars, endurolytes, etc. Without the 70oz of water on my back, it was a good opportunity to keep cooler as the sun started to heat things up. I also added a bandanna with ice rolled into it and tied it around my neck - very productive at keeping you cool! I (believe) thanked them (mom, dad, and Steph) and was on my way. The next section was mostly forested (as compared to the high mountain exposed ridges of before). We wound our way down hill until we finally reached the bottom... and we were rewarded with a lovely stream crossing that you could sit completely down in to cool off! Staying wet is the key to keeping cool and not dehydrated in dry climates. If you aren't wet, your body will sweat more to produce the cooling effect of water evaporating off your skin, leaving you dehydrated and potentially delirious - not "cool." After the creek, we climbed out of this canyon (fairly low grade climb) into Robinson's Flat (mile 29.7). Crew B was there to greet me with equal enthusiasm and great organization! Robinson's Flat was the first medical check weigh-in of the day, so I was curious to see the results of my hydration and cooling regimen on my weight. My initial weigh-in that morning was 148.2 and this one was 147, so a pound down... not bad. I was almost a third done and only a pound down, I considered that a win and signs that I should just keep to my regimen with no major changes. After being ice sponged off, ice in the bandanna and hat, and adding arm coolers I was off.

This next segment was nothing special (sorry segment).  It had some dirt roads, rocky trails, climbs, descents, just passing the time and miles... the Miller's Defeat aid station (mile 34.4) was not helpful.  I feel bad even now saying this because just being there to provide for us runners is worth the utmost appreciation.  But, if I'm comparing... and I am, this aid station was the weakest.  I filled my own bottles, sponged myself, filled my hat and bandanna with ice and when some of the ice fell out of my bandanna onto the ground, as they watched me struggle to do this, they picked it up and put the dirty ice into my bandana... "recycling" they called it.  Oh well, Crew A was waiting at the next stop!  There (Dusty Corners, mile 38) they cleaned me up, topped me off, gave me inspiration and sent me on my way.  

Headed to meet the crew at Dusty Corners
The next section to Last Chance (43.8) was my fastest of the day (10m/m average) and I honestly don't really remember it. I know I had just gotten my mp3 player and was just in a zone. The trail was winding down, down, down, and I was in a rhythm. But, just as the last time I had found the groove, I felt another twinge. This time it was in my knee at the spot I had been working on the past 3 weeks to loosen up (around the MCL attachment area)... warning! I immediately flashed to Rocky Raccoon in February when the same problem kept getting worse as I plugged along at the same pace eventually to drop out at 62 miles. Too much had already gone into this event for that to happen, so I took a deep breath, let off the gas and became hyper-aware of the knee. Fortunately, I only slightly felt it one more time after 90+ miles, so no doubt this was the right decision.

At the Last Chance aid station I did the usual sponging and icing routine, but also decided to add in ice up my short tights on the quads... clutch!  I really feel that this helped with potential quad seizing that could have happened as the next section went STEEPly down into the most well known canyon of the race.  Temps were apparently over 100 by this point, but I honestly felt ok... certainly I would prefer cooler, but with little humidity it was actually not too bad.  The grade of the decline (and consequently incline) however was rough.  Since the quads take all of the pounding on the down, if they were to cramp up, I would be done for the day... so managing this was the highest priority.  This mainly meant walking downhill if it wasn't runnable under control... so walking most of it.  At the bottom was a bridge crossing where upon corssing it I elected to scramble down to the water for a 30sec soak.  It proved helpful as I passed more than the people that passed me while soaking on the way up to Devil's Thumb (47.8 miles).

The climb up Devil's Thumb has 35 switch-backs and climbs about 1650ft in a little under 1.25 miles.  For us relative flatlanders out here in the Midwest, Bloomington is considered pretty hilly.  So, to reference a known Bloomington hill, Boltinghouse rises 190ft in .25miles.  Putting it back to back 5 times would extrapolate out to 1.25 miles but only 950ft of gain, still 700ft short of the Devil's Thumb summit!  And for a trail reference, the first climb going counter-clockwise at Pate Hollow yields a climb of about 193ft in .47miles, so doing that climb back to back 8.5 times would give you the ascent, but in 3.5 miles too far!  Needless to say, it was not easy.  So reaching the summit put me at 47.8 miles on the day and I took the opportunity to regroup before heading into the third of four canyons... the hardest was out of the way, right?!

The bottom of El Dorado Canyon is often considered the halfway point (time-wise) at 52.9 miles and I hit this station at 12h33m, or 25-hour pace.  For how conservative I'd taken it so far, I was surprised to find myself still relatively within reach of the 24-hour mark.  The way down was another unbearable decent and I probably looked like a newborn calf trying to walk for the first time as I tried to balance getting down the switchbacks without putting too much stress on the quads.  I also witnessed a rattlesnake trying to scurry off the trail, yikes!  It was probably 5 feet from me going the other direction, so I never really had that "Oh sh!t" moment, more of a, "That's crazy cool," moment (though I did watch where I was going more carefully the rest of the way down!).  At the bottom was another bridge crossing where I scurried down to the creek for another soaking opportunity, then up and out of another canyon.  I would argue this one was worse... though I hadn't ever heard as much about it.  

The climb to Michigan Bluff was another 1700ft in about 2.5 miles.  So, about the same gain as Devil's Thumb, but twice the distance... should be easier, right?  To me, it was still hands-on-knees climbing and felt the same (even though the grade was half), but it was twice the distance.  With the intense ascents and descents, plus the 105-ish degree heat, it was during this stretch that I first thought about dropping out. I had to remind myself of what Gordy Ainsleigh had said in one of the movies I watched about this race in preparation: "Most people drop out after the canyons when it's the hottest part of the day, but if they could just push on a little longer, the sun sets and you feel like a new person."  Thanks Gordy!

That was certainly a rough spot that I was glad to be done with and headed up to Michigan Bluffs. It was the first time I'd seen a crew in 17 miles (and two canyons).  I believe I said, "OMG SOB," (exact words abbreviations) to describe what I'd just been through to the crew.  My toes had been jamming the end of my shoes on the steep descents making it very uncomfortable, so I decided to take out the insoles here and change socks (removing the compression socks and thin Injinji and adding a little thicker Injinji for cushioning).  After being forced to eat a gel by Maria, I was on my way... about .5 mile later I hear, "Ben! Ben!" and turn around to see Chris Neoh sprinting towards me with my ankle timing chip in his hand that had been taken off and left while changing socks.  Good catch, Chris!  Onward...

I remember getting mixed messages from people all day about how many and where the canyons are... some say 3, some say 4.  Some count Duncan and Volcano (the one I was headed into next), some only count one of the two... I'd count them all if I were you.  So, into the aptly named Volcano Canyon at 7pm - 100+ degrees.  Honestly, this is where I found a second (or third, or fourth) wind and really had a good section.  I think not having my toes jamming the end of the shoes and the descent being not quite as steep helped me feel really confident and I really started to click off some good miles (10m/m-ish).  I actually started calculating 24-hour pace and figured out that I had just under 13m/m to run in the 38 miles to the finish from Foresthill (the next station) to get it.  People (probably the same ones that only count 3 canyons) say the course is very runnable after Foresthill, so I was feeling good about my chances.  The crew met me at Bath Road, about 1.4 miles out from Foresthill and we ran in from there, pushing 8m/m pace - most of it is on roads.  Even Dad joined in the run as I heard later that he was inspired and wanted to go run 10 miles (not sure that that happened, and probably for the best - at least until he builds some consistency).

Foresthill with Eric, Ann, and the whole crew! Steph is about to start her pacing duties...
At Foresthill I had a friend who was volunteering there run me through the aid station!  Eric had to wait a few hours past his shift for me to come in, but it was a really special experience to have that opportunity with him.  I won't forget it.  I weighed in at 148 (.2 lower than starting weight), so I was still doing things right.  I remember telling the crew, "this could have been a 62 mile race and I don't think I'd ran any faster." Steph would be joining me as my pacer from here on, sub-24 hours was in sights, the sun was setting, it was cooling off, the canyons were done, and the crews had joined together for the first time on the day... I was on an emotional high for sure.  I dropped the belt off and went handhelds and pockets the remainder of the way.  I didn't feel that hydration would be such a worry with the sun down and the belt was bouncing a lot because of how wet I was... so off it went.  Steph and I took off from the aid station at a 9m/m pace and I was focused... 38 miles to go.  Soon after, the course began switching backing down and up on "rollers" that I would consider momentum-killers.  The effort it'd take to get over these at sub-13m/m pace was pushing the allowable exertion limit I had in my head just a tad, so I decided to calm down, take a deep breath, and take it all in.

Throughout these sections, nausea would slightly creep in whenever I ate anything, then go away the further from an aid station I got... it wasn't anything unbearable, but a warning sign to me of where the evening could go if I wasn't careful - there was still more than a 50k left in this thing and I still wasn't 100% sure I'd finish.  Just before this point we had noticed that my ankle had gotten pretty swollen, presumably form the twinge 40 miles ago - perhaps taking the compression socks off allowed it to swell more.  At any rate, my foot became very difficult to dorsiflex (bring the toes up) and compensation started to compound in my hamstring near the knee over the next 10 miles to Rucky Chucky.  This tightness later lead to a tender shin on the other foot as the compensation wheel made its rounds on my body.  Also to mention, while taking the inserts out helped the toes, it made the bottom of my feet very tender because of the friction between my sock and the foam board under the insole.  What seemed smartest at this point was to manage everything into the finish and all of this basically put me to a conversational hike into Auburn which included seeing my second sunrise of the run!

The last 38 miles is described best in my wife's pacer post, but in summary it went exactly how I imagined and hoped it would.  She was by my side as we power-hiked through the night in the Sierra mountains - a dream come true.  Sure, I'd had hopes/dreams of running this section with the lead women in the top 35 of the race, but honestly it would have been an insult to this race if that had happened. In other words, I wasn't near prepared for running that fast, nor deserved it... could I be?  I'd like to think so.  I certainly can now begin to understand what it would take to be prepared for it. It's an extremely challenging and humbling course that deserves the respect and admiration it receives.  And it only deepens my respect for those in the sport that can finish this bear 12 hours faster than I did!  So, the important question is how far did I get on my checklist: #1, finished, check. #2, finished wanting to do it again, check. #3, finished wanting to do it again and in my goal time, no check.  Two outta three ain't bad... guess it's time to work on that last check mark. :)


Products used and thanks to be given for helping me have this exceptional experience:

- Zoot sahara hat, Rudy Project sunglasses, Columbia cooling bandana, Zoot arm coolers, Salomon tank and exo short (excellent pockets), Injinji (to provent toe blisters) and CEP socks, and the New Balance 1210

- Nathan VaporWrap, Salomon Handheld set, softflasks, and belt, Endurolytes/S!Caps, Hammer Perpetuem, GoFar bars, and Huma Gel (also had GU, potato soup, an orange slice, sausage, and hashbrowns from aid stations at various points) [about 30-40oz of H2O, 250-350 calories, and 2-4 salt caps /hour]

- Mandy Smith (Indiana Spine & Sports) and Morgan Patten (Balance Massage Therapy) for helping me get my knee to the point of a non-issue

- Friends, Family, and BARA for staying up longer than necessary to obsessively refresh and follow my progress, I had to force you out of my thoughts during the race because I would start to choke up thinking of all of your support and love - much appreciation.

- Jeff Yoder and Scott Breeden for being there on key training runs and for advise when I needed it.

- my crew! Mom, Dad, Maria Kaylen, Chris Neoh, and Chris Muir for putting aside their own needs for 27+ hours to help me achieve something I honestly never thought I'd do as short as 2 years ago

- and most importantly, my wife and pacer, Stephanie, who spent her birthday on Friday preparing for my race... needless to say, I owe her BIG time!  If she would not have been there with me the final 38 miles, it would not have been worth it to me... I would have stopped, period.

The whole crew the day before the race in Squaw Valley
It's done! The crew that got me through...
GPS data (until the watch died at 20.5 hours):

Post race: Maybe harder than the race itself is trying to stave off sleep to take care of the things you need to to help recovery - eating, icing, FSM (from Indiana Spine & Sports), compression wear, medication, etc.  But, I can say that after 72 hours of being diligent in recovery, I believe that I could run today if I needed to... luckily I don't ;)

How would I train differently?  First, I wouldn't bruise my ribs and reaggravate my knee which caused me to have less than 30 miles per week of running for the last 8 weeks before the race (aside from two 50 mile races, which helped).  I would also spend as much time in the Smokeys as possible.  The two days I spent there provided me with a calm reassurance multiple times when the course would roll up and down on rocky terrain much like the Smokeys.  Otherwise, just more experience to gain confidence in the distance... like how a 5k feels to a marathoner, a marathon feels like to a 50-miler, and so on.  

What's next?  Well, a year ago I qualified for the Western States lottery and now here I am, qualified for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc lottery...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Musings of Runner and Pacer in the Western States 100

Today we're flying home from Sacramento and revisiting our memories, stories, and perspectives from the parts of Western States 100 mile we ran together. I crewed for Ben from the start to mile 62, met him at the aid station, and ran with him as his pacer for the last 38 miles of the race. Ben will fill you in on his experience in a full race recap soon, and I hope the other crew members may be able to share what they heard, did, and saw throughout the day.

Here's a look at some of our stories throughout the 12 hours we ran together. This is totally casual - so you're a part of the conversation, too!

Each milestone on the course, or Aid Station, is listed in bold and chronological.

Foresthill - Mile 62

B – I felt inspired and motivated leaving Foresthill. I felt like sub-24 was still possible, all I needed was 12:40 pace for those 38 miles. The trail was supposed to be getting easier so I thought it was possible… but the trail really wasn’t getting easier so I decided I should just try to keep it together and not risk something happening this late. (Legs seizing up, stomach issues, etc.) After I got to that point I wasn’t going for a time… just trying to relax.

S - The sun was setting and it started to get dark about 30 minutes into our run. We turned on our headlamps to the medium/dim setting to make sure we’d have enough battery to last through the night. It’s good that it starts getting light around 5am here! We actually started by running the road part all the way to the trail, probably 2 miles before we took a walk break. I hadn’t seen any of the actual trail yet and (being honest!) was kind of excited there appeared to be plenty of road.

Cal 1 (Dardanelle’s) - Mile 65.7

B – You (Steph) were getting very talkative about the day, but then you got inquisitive which was bad (because I didn’t want to think).

S – I was trying to tell some of the jokes that people suggested on facebook.

B – But I wasn’t in the mood to fake a laugh if I was on the spot to “get” the joke or pretend it was funny.

S – I wasn’t sure what to say but we run silent often too, which is okay. That’s the benefit of running with a pacer you know… you don’t have to mess around with awkward silences or small- talk!

B – [Silence.]

S – As we were approaching the aid station (it was dark by this time) we saw a deflated balloon in the trees. I commented that it was weird and looked like a UFO. We knew we were approaching the aid station when there were glow sticks and glowy things on the ground. I really liked this about all of the aid stations -- always rope lights or glow sticks on the approach, like a beacon! The balloon thing made sense at that point – the aid station was UFO-themed. There were glow-in-the-dark cardboard cutout aliens mounted on the trees and stuff. This was the first time it had been dark! It was kind of mean because … that’s scary.

B – Everything is scary to you.

S – You're the one who picked a pacer who’s afraid of the dark.

B – When you mentioned that the balloon looked like a UFO, I realized that this was going to be that aid station (one that’s UFO-themed). I had thought this one was going to be later, at mile 85 or 90. This is the aid station (at Cal 1) where the volunteer mentioned that my Salomon soft flasks were like condoms. I was not amused.

Cal 2 – Peachstone - Mile 70.7

B – Peachstone is when you can start hearing the river for the first time, but you still have like 17 miles to get to it.

S- The sign said 7.

B – It was really 11. This was about the time where you got mountain lion-scared.

S – I was afraid to look into the woods or on ledges. Our shuttle driver from the airport told us that they like to hunt their prey by hanging out and waiting to pounce/attack from a higher ledge. I was terrified that if I shined my headlamp onto a ledge, I’d see eyes looking back at me, but terrified not to know what was up there. It was definitely dark enough that we couldn’t see anything past 4-5 feet on either side of us.

B – I decided not to tell you about the memorial for thewoman who was attacked on a training run on the trails. This is also where we got onto a dirt road, saw the aid station in the distance below and to our left. So naturally, what did the course do?? We went uphill and to the right.

S – Fail. That was pretty much the theme every time we felt like we could see/hear the aid station nearby. It was kind of reassuring because I knew the noise would scare off the mountain lions.

B – [shakes head, laughs]

Cal 3 – Ford’s Bar - Mile 73

B – Steph started to get inquisitive again and decided she wanted to do a 100 mile race. She started asking me about which ones to do, what they are, and all that.

S – To which you replied, “Ask Chris Neoh.” Well, ok, you did answer some.

B – You started getting so specific that I couldn’t answer any more questions. But I was surprised you had decided you wanted to do a 100 (which excited me) so I felt obligated to answer.

S – Excited? Couldn’t tell... but maybe it was because of the 73 MILES that came before this point! I just wished I had my computer so I could search. I wish I knew more about this stuff!

B – You were asking for a popular Boston-Marathon-prestigious 100-mile race that wasn’t in mountains.

S – Why do they all have to be in mountains? It’s a hundred flippin’ miles! Watching a race like this is motivational like watching the Olympics. But I'm capable of running 100 (and not capable of winning a gold medal in ice dancing), so I decided I should.

B – I ate a quesadilla at the Ford’s Bar aid station. The aid station volunteer was not as helpful because she was so distracted telling her friends about Ann Trason, who’d just passed through (as a pacer).

S – Oh yeah!! I forgot about this aid station completely until you mentioned that. Not only that, but she was standing in your way as you were trying to get food and totally ignored you!

B – So then I had to explain to you who Ann Trayson was as we left the aid station.  The next three miles we were teased by the sound of the rushing water and impending Rucky Chucky crossing.

S – It was all a lot of downhill running out of Green Gate. Then it turned into a wide road.

B - At one point, a spectator coming in our direction (going backwards on the course) cheering on runners told us we were “almost there – a quarter mile to go.” So what happened? The trail started going uphill and the river was below us again.

S – You made a comment about how we were going in the wrong direction to be getting down to water! When we finally got there, it was pretty cool. It was probably the most lights and most commotion we’d seen since Foresthill.

B – I weighed in before the crossing at 147, so that was a pound under my starting weight.

S - When we got to Rucky Chucky you beat out my record for most at-once mileage in the family!

Rucky Chucky Near/Far - Mile 78 & 78.1
Crew met us to walk to Green Gate

B – I tried to take in the river crossing but it was just kind of annoying. I tried to take it in because of the monument of it all, but really it was just annoying to get wet. Just wanted to get through it. There were some big gas rocks.

S – I don’t know how you got across so fast, I felt bad for lagging so far behind. The river crossing is definitely a major disadvantage for short people. What they had said was only a few feet, maybe waist deep, put me more like chest deep when I fell in or missed some steps. At least the water wasn’t shockingly cold! They strung a nylon line and had a team of volunteers holding the taut rope and headlamps to show us where to step.

B –  And wetsuits.

S – They activated a bunch of glow sticks and threw them in the river so we could get a better view of the footing. Some of the rocks were really slippery or just big.

B – “The knee-basher.” I can’t imagine volunteering for that job.

S – I must’ve said, “Thank you so much,” or “How long have you been out here?” to each of them!

B – When I got across the river, that’s when I got some nice potato soup that I had up until Green Gate. Except all their soups were blazing hot and it took that long to cool down.

S – Good thing it wasn’t a million degrees out at this point. Hot soup on a hot day does not sound appetizing. Anyway, when I got out of the water, I was really confused on where go. But our crew was there and I heard Maria yelling my name, so I went in that direction and found you again. 

B – Rucky Chucky Far to Green Gate was just a power hike like the one from Bath Road to Foresthill.

S – It was all uphill for 1.8 miles, so our crew hiked that whole way down to come see. F

B- From where they parked, it was 3 miles down.

S – I couldn’t believe all of the stuff I saw people (crews) hauling in, considering it was a pretty long walk. Maybe they just didn’t know and were committed by the time they figured it out.

Green Gate - Mile 79.8
At the top of the climb from Rucky Chucky

S – When we were stopped at Green Gate, the woman sitting next to our crew camp saw my number, cheered like crazy (like, “Yay! Go number 75!!” and clapping). By the way, pacer bibs are yellow and runner bibs are white with red.

B – She saw my bib, which also said 75, and realized that I was the runner (perhaps because I didn’t look as fresh). Then she said, “Oh, are you number 75 too?”

S – I was changing into a new pair of shorts and eating a snack minding my own business when I guess she figured out that I was the pacer with the identical bib. She didn’t do anything to hide her – disappointment? – that she’d cheered for me and not Ben. So then she said unenergetically, “Oh… well, we like pacers too... I guess.”

B – She was a dipstick*. [censored]

S – That comment kind of upset me. Like, I know I didn’t just run a billion miles, and I don’t need to get credit or recognition for it, but never dismiss the importance of a pacer. That was really not cool.

* We later found out more about her shenanigans from our crew... Apparently we'd barely scratched the surface. The cumulative oh-you're-just-the-pacer comments up to now were getting to me (and my fatigued brain). It made me feel bad for being there, for using up aid station supplies/resources, for being "in the way." I thought it was really strange that people would ignore or stare blankly at me and other pacers but enthusiastically cheer "Great work, runner!" (Um, not that hard to make the word 'runner' plural!) I don't need any glory - just give me polite acknowledgement, especially if I'm filling up my runner's handheld bottles. Maria: "Pacers are people, too!" 

S- I’m pretty sure at this aid station (Green Gate) they told us the trail was really runnable from here to the next, “much more runnable than the last stretch.”

B – Yeah, the guy even said it’s his “favorite trail in North America.” Not the United States, not in California, but North America. More runnable than a river crossing and an uphill hike to Green Gate? But this section was hardly runnable.  Paynetown is more runnable than this trail.

Auburn Lake Trails - Mile 85.2

S – I was starting to feel  really tired during this stretch. It was the first time I felt like I was almost nodding off while my legs were moving.

B – Maybe it’s ‘cause you saw Chris Muir sleeping at the crew station at Green Gate and not even flinch while we were there. He did have to drive though, so I’ll allow it.

S – I figured I was having trouble focusing from being hungry. I had one of those gels I stashed in my back shorts pocket and I felt better almost instantly!

S – I heard a low growl or roar coming from behind me somewhere off of the trail.

B – I heard it too. It was more like a snort.

S – Yeah, it was a big animal snort. I wigged out and pretty much jumped into your arms and almost tripped you. I don’t remember if this was before I ate that gel, but this raised my awareness paranoia that I could get mauled or eaten by a bear on this run too. Then I got really scared that they’d smell the food on me and FIND ME in the woods.

B – [rolling eyes] I was picturing Yogi Bear coming after your gel. I just kept hoping we wouldn’t see the memorial for the mountain lion attack** victim (that I continued to choose not to mention).

** After Ben told Steph about this the next day, she shipped her pants. S – I would have been so much more freaked out. 
B – Yep, that’s why I didn’t tell you.

S – I kept checking those ledges. Well, there was a point in time where I knew something was up and was legit freaked out because even though I was scared, you stopped and shined your flashlight into the darkness behind us. That scared me. A lot. Because I knew you wouldn’t have done that for fun or to be funny.

B – Luckily that Chatty Cathy wasn’t far off. Unluckily?

S –I feel like this was the first time we were starting to see a decent amount of people on the trail, either being passed or us passing (or both: yo-yo-ing.)  It felt less isolated in the dark dark dark.

B – The Chatty Cathy was a pacer for another woman. She was a loud talker, stayed up to 50 yards ahead of her runner, and we could hear her talking a quarter mile away. I started running more to get some distance on her and keep her out of earshot.

S – She suuuuuure liked to gossip. Too bad we yo-yo-ed with her and her runner for a few hours… fortunately all of that talking was scaring off the mountain lions.

B- After leaving Green Gate, I thought, “20 miles to go, 15-minute pace… that’s 5 hours. 5 hours left.” The next few miles, I was struggling to run 20-minute miles. At the next aid station, I had 15 miles to go at 20-minute miles… 5 hours.” So I’d gone 5 miles and it had taken a little over an hour, and I still have 5 hours left. That was the toughest hump to get over.  After that I was more confident I would finish.

Brown’s Bar - Mile 89.9

S – I’m gonna say it. I had to pee, so this is where I tried to pee. They didn’t have a portajohn and I was ok with going in the woods, but the aid station volunteer said there was a bathroom just 100 yards up a hill. I went, but then realized I was starting to get surrounded by higher bluffs. And then it occurred to me that it would be a good perch for a mountain lion. I went about 25 yards farther than I had the courage to but then wigged out and ran back down the hill as fast as I could with a full bladder.

B – I had to also, but I decided to hold it to keep my weight up for the next med check.

S – Once again, we heard that this next part would be really runnable.

B - “…If you have legs,” they say. Last I looked down, I had legs, but it still wasn’t runnable.

B - This is actually where Ann Trason passed us, this time pacing a different runner. Actually, we ran with them for a bit – like a tenth of a mile. (She must have picked him up at Green Gate.)

S – She seemed pretty chatty: “10 miles to go!!” She was wayyy too peppy.

B – We were just craving the sunrise at this point. Our headlamps were getting really low.

S – I turned mine down as low as I could without tripping on stuff. All of the lights we had were definitely starting to die. There were people sleeping on cots when I went up that dark hill to find the protajohns.

B – You suggested we take a nap before daylight. You really know how to make “good” suggestions to keep my spirits up, pacer.

S – Nailed it.

Partway into this segment it started getting light, at 5:15 am.

B I had to “use the facilities” for a good half hour leading into the Highway 49 aid station. I hadn’t been eating and drinking as much as I did during the first part of the race, so I held it to keep my weight up.

S – We must’ve heard the Highway 49 aid station from at least a half mile away. And again… the trail kept winding away from where the commotion was coming from.

B – Somewhere around that point, I would must up a shuffle (a scoot), and I’m sure it was probably the most pathetic thing ever, and it felt like I had put together a solid half mile stretch of running when it was - in reality - more like a solid 100 meters that took a minute and a half. I had to stop thinking in miles because it was giving me false hope. That’s one of the reasons I decided not to get a different GPS out at the next aid station. That may have backfired because it made that feel even longer and still made the milse seem to tick away so slowly.

Highway 49  - Mile 93.5
Crew access - crews took shuttles in to the aid station.

B – I weighed four pounds over. Shoot! The med check person showed some concern but I told him I had to go to the bathroom and that I’d be right back. So when I got out I went to weigh in and he said, “Do you think you actually peed that much?” and I told him, “I didn’t just pee.” I dropped three pounds back to my starting weight.

S – There were pancakes and bacon and other real food (of substance) at this aid station. It was really nice to see a ROAD and signs of civilization. I was so hungry at the Highway 49 aid station – but I don’t think I ate anything here, and I chose not to take a gel with me… must not have been thinking straight. I regretted it almost immediately.

B – I had some sausage and hash browns. It was delicious.

S – Then we took off and started running in that huge grassy field.

B – Our shadows were really long in the grass, it would have made a good picture. I was just so ready to be done. This was probably the first time I was 100% sure I would finish.

S – I’m not sure if it was because it was finally light out, or if the terrain changed (it was “more runnable”?), but I felt like the tone of the run was completely different from here on out. We ran in silence for a big part of this stretch. I think we were both really tired – but least it was finally light. I was starting to feel really spacey, even though I hadn’t been running that long in the scheme of things (nor in the heat).

B – I was 100% sure I’d finish, but the crazy thing was that I probably still had 1:40 to two hours left. I felt like I could just gut it out and powerhike it as much as I could.

S - As  we were coming down that hill to get to the No-Hands Bridge aid station, I think I started falling asleep or dreaming while I was running. I saw MamaB sitting Indian style in the trees (which was in reality a drop-off ledge, so obviously impossible) and a brand new blue Chevy Cruze that was actually the side of a rock wall. I snapped out of it when I took an involuntary hard right turn almost off the trail and into a ravine. Woke up a few steps before I was tumbling down a hill.

No-Hands Bridge - Mile 96.8

S – I was so hungry at No-Hands Bridge!! (Possible explanation for sleep-running) I got caught up at the aid station by a chatty aid station worker and Ben gained a few hundred yards while hobbling away.

B –I caught up with another runner on the bridge. I found it amusing that we’d been in the woods for the past 4 hours or something and as soon as we come out into the open, the sun has come out just enough that boom – it’s on us. It wasn’t too terribly hot, but I just wanted light, not sun.

S – There was more climbing after No-Hands Bridge, wasn’t there?

B – We had about 2.5 miles to go and a mile/mile and a half was dirt road. We passed a guy who said, “You’ve got 15 minutes of climbing, almost there,” and it was stupid climbing. Like, it was stairs [which are harder than a constant slope] and it was hard for me, but I’m sure it was hard for you too. The rest of the trail was not-steps.

S – That’s when we saw that rock formation that looked like a spiral tower. And I told you to use the hands on the quads trick to get up the steep climbs.

B –Yeah, I was done trying to do things [figure out the spiral rock formation] at that point. We emptied out my water bottles at that point so I could put my hands on my quads. And who were they [that guy] to know what pace I was going that it’d take me 15 minutes to get to the top??

S- That was a lot of climbing. I feel like people were trying to sugar-coat

B – Everyone was saying congratulations lead up the aid station at Robie Point. That’s when you hit the road. And they were all ilke, “Great job! You Did it!” Except I was looking at a face-wall of climbing and I wasn’t done yet. I was appreciating it but I didn’t want to acknowledge them but didn’t want to be mean and not acknowledge them…

Robie Point - Mile 98.90
Crew met us to walk in to the Auburn finish stadium.

S – Maria had our InRunCo shirts when the crew met us at Robie Point.

B – She’s on it!

S – More hills, more climbing.

B – The thing was, even though it was slower, the climbing didn’t bother me.

S – It was the people lying how far we had to go!

B - The descending would bother me too, but any time we went up, we’d have to go down again. That was the double-edged sword: If there was an uphill, it would feel ok but was very slow. Couldn’t we just have flat??  I started wondering if the track would be flat. I hadn’t seen flat all day. I wonder what total distance of the course was actually flat – if you add up all the little hundredths of a mile somewhere. There’s probably 1,000 3 or 4-foot sections of flat on the course all day. Descending was not pleasant.

S – I seriously wondered where this track was. People told us we had so far to go, but after we’d covered that far, we were still not there!!

B – That’s when we had three people speed [run] by me, and I said, “Sorry guys, there’s no more run left.” Not even when we got to the track. Not even a 100-meter scoot.

S – So we got to the track FINALLY and had 300 meters to go. They were calling numbers and announcing over the PA system (to spectators) the finisher’s name, bio, and any other fun facts provided by the runner. Since there was a guy ahead of you, they must’ve talked about him for the entire time it took us to slowly go 200 meters. You only had 100 meters left (or less!) and they were still talking about him! I didn’t initially see the “Pacers that way” arrow sign, since we weren’t supposed to go through the finish arch. Someone told me to go right like I was supposed to, so I tried to pull off and let you finish. 

B – But then I said “Hell no!” and the rest can be seen in the finish video. As they say… the rest is history.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The mental roller-coaster of one-hundred mile “race” prep

Post Rocky Raccoon recovery, training truly started for this year’s Western States Endurance Run.  Rocky Raccoon had served as a good dry run for the routine that would be pre-race and early stage racing.  Unfortunately I didn’t get an opportunity to experience the final 38 miles due to a worsening MCL strain that had reared its ugly head a few weeks prior to race day. 

Con – not the full experience, turned Pro – could have jeopardized the focal race with a long-tern injury.

The next ten weeks, training ramped up well and a trip was quickly planned for the Smokey Mountains.  A friend and I drove down on a Friday got in ~57 miles and 13,00ft of gain (and descent) in about 48 hours and headed back.  I had hoped to do about 80 miles, but recovery was proving more difficult than expected between multiple runs in a day, so the last day we grouped together the original two runs into one of 31 miles.

Con – not as many miles, turned Pro – a longer quality run lasting about 7.5 hours.


Four weeks after the Smokey’s, training turned towards the Dances With Dirt – Gnaw Bone 50 mile as a good race prep and fitness test.  Race day proved to be nearly flawless, winning in a course record… except for a fall on the trail that dislocated and bruised some ribs.

Pro - #winning, turned Con – couldn’t train the following three weeks which had planned on being the pinnacle of my training cycle, turned Pro – I could have run myself into an overuse injury that would have lasted longer than the rib pain and put me out of the race… maybe I needed the recovery in a way.

Four weeks after DWD, once I was back to running, I figured there wasn’t much fitness loss (even if there wasn’t any gain).  But, I felt that mentally I needed one last long run to fell complete.  Steph and I signed up for Hawthorn Half Day (where she kicked ass!) and I set out to get in 50-60 miles.  At about 45 miles my adductor started cramping a bit subsequently pulling on my MCL and re-aggravating that problem.

Pro – got in 50 miles, turned Con – old injury resurfacing, turned Pro – I know what to expect from this injury, I have more time to treat it, and it’s not as bad as it was the first time.

The last 15 days I’ve gotten four massages (at Balance Massage Therapy) and a handful of ART sessions (at Indiana Spine and Sports).  The result has been amazing progress to the point where I don’t “really” feel it.  By “really” I mean that I’m in the hypersensitive, think about it every second mode of an injury where of course I notice it, but I probably wouldn’t if the problem had never been worse than it is now – make sense?

Con – potential flare up possible in my focal race, turned Pro – now I have a better plan of attack for the race as far as how aggressive to (not) be…

So, here we are on the week of the BIG one and I’m not sure what to expect…

A hot one?  Yes.
Injury?  Maybe. 
Immobility post-race?  Probably.
A silver buckle?  Hopefully. 
The experience of a lifetime?  Definitely.

Control what you can, find the pro in every con, and enjoy the ride… otherwise why do it, right?  Here We Go.

You can follow me on race day (June 29 at 8am EST) via the Live Tracker and on Facebook/Twitter (where my crew will be posting pics, videos, etc.).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

To Tahoe!

Hello friends, and greetings from Tahoe City, CA!

If you haven't caught up with us just yet, we're in the Lake Tahoe area because BEN'S RUNNING WESTERN STATES IN THREE DAYS!! Race week(end) is coming! This is also a friends-cation for us-- not only are Mama and Papa Bartley coming, but our friends Maria and Chris flew out with us, and three other friends - Eric, Anne, and Chris - are meeting us in Tahoe. Together, we're all going to be Ben's WS100 crew.

I'm going to make these blog posts short and sweet by speedblogging - and hopefully include some pictures and not bore you with super mundane details. Since this is more of a relaxed vacation, we'll try to update you on some of the other things we've been writing about, especially Ben's WS100 prep and pre-race thoughts.

So here's what's gone down so far:

After working during the day and scrambling to pack, we caught our evening flight out of Indy last night. Hooray for Southwest - we checked in early enough to be able to sit together!

When the flight attendant found out Ben was going to run 100 miles, she took her basket of airplane treats and started piling more cookies and peanuts onto his tray.

There was a layover in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to hit any of the slots. We pretty much walked across every terminal of McCarran to find some food.

By the time we got to our destination airport in Reno, NV, it was 11pm and we were SO tired... since it was 2am Eastern time. None of us could stay awake. And since we have friends with cars coming to meet us, we took a Town Car to our place about an hour from Reno. Our driver told us about all of the things we need to know and we had a good time (sleepily) talking to our driver about the wildlife around here, things to do and see, and places to eat. We learned that the bears here are mostly docile (about 200 pounds) and most afraid of humans. Mostly. I guess they occasionally come out bumming around town like people do but aren't considered a threat by people around here (unless you've got food). Good to know! He also warned us that mountain lions will stalk from higher ground and pounce on prey - including humans. At night. So he told us to look out for mountain lions perched above us if we're out in the dark. Terrifying much?

Our home for the next few days is a condo near Tahoe City, just a 1.5 jaunt from the center of town. There is a loft with a queen-size bed, except the problem is... you have to climb this thing to get to it.

We passed out and went to bed quickly after we reached the condo. It's just the four of us for now. This morning, Maria, Chris, and I walked 1.5 miles to  the grocery store in town along the multi-purpose path that runs along the lake. Why does walking 1.5 miles seem so much more painful than running it?! The weird thing about CA is that there are a ton of fruits and vegetables we didn't recognize at the grocery store -- I found 3 different kinds of mangoes, some type of melon I never saw before, and some veggies that looked like miniature heads of cauliflower/broccoli. I can't wait to try 'em! Of note, (a few minutes after leaving the store) Maria was nearly attacked by a little black bird. Also, the weather's awesome - the high is 70 degrees and sunny!

Breakfast was amazing and strangely, fun. We all brought our talents to the kitchen: Maria coordinated the food we'd make and prepped/chopped, Chris made guacamole, Ben made spinach/turkey omelettes for us, and I made sweet potato hash (Gala apple + mango chicken sausage + diced sweet potatoes w/ cinnamon). Something I learned this morning: pico de gallo + mashed avocado + fresh squeezed lime = fresh guac! And now... a picture of the best breakfast ever:

If this is any indication of how we're going to eat for the rest of the week, this is exciting.

We're all still kind of exhausted, but our friends Eric & Anne are on their way to come and bring us to the beach or see more of Tahoe. Time for some adventuring!!

Ps- In other news, Toby turned 22 weeks old on Monday. He's a growing boy - we miss him!

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 Hawthorn Half Day 12-hour Race - Steph

Running. 12 hours. One day.
5k (3.1 mile) loop. Longest distance wins.

Ben signed us up for the Hawthorn Half Day ultra last week. He planned to run up to 50 miles to prepare for the Western States 100, while I decided to run up to the full 12 hours to push myself and see if I could. Since Dances With Dirt, we hadn't completed many long runs; Ben bruised/displaced a rib and had been struggling to let it heal, and I was just relaxing for a few weeks! You know that feeling of low motivation you get after a race?  Well, with the warmer weather and post-race-itis, I couldn't get my butt out the door... I was still getting out 5 times (maybe 6) per week thanks to group runs - so not really relaxing - but typically kept my mileage between 5-7 miles each run. Coming from super high-mileage 60-90 mile weeks earlier this year, that was quite a break.

On Saturday before the HHD, I started feeling kind of funny - sinuses dried out, general tiredness. When Monday rolled around, I was positive I'd caught some kind of cold. Coughing. Lots of coughing. This wouldn't be a big deal, but I was pretty worried about the rattling in my chest when I'd cough. UNfortunately, it turned out to be bronchitis, so I went home with a z-pak and a hope that I'd kick this thing within a few days. [I didn't start feeling any better until Thursday.] By Friday I felt about 90%. My cough sounded much worse than I felt. I wasn't sure how Saturday would go, but I felt well enough to run and didn't really sweat it.

Race Prep
If you've read any of my other ultra race reports, you know I don't do a lot of pre-race planning. This time was a little different! I'm doing the Whole30, a 30-day jump-start to change the way I choose and think about food. And because this is a new way of eating for me, most of my race prep was about planning and packing nutrition. Gone are the days of PB&Js and super-sugary energy gels, which were good for a quick boost and then a slight crash (then rinse and repeat). I really had to get my nutrition plan ready before the beginning of the race this time.

I'll probably put together another post outlining how I made it through the race on a completely different eating regimen than my usual run-gel-run-pbj-run-pbj-run-pbj-run-gel/salted potato routine. Here's the gang of food I actually packed and ready in a cooler:

  • Ignite Naturals Reload energy gel.
  • Sweet potatoes - pureed with applesauce in a gel flask.
  • Apple juice
  • Baby food - not an intentional Whole30 move. I've been experimenting with this for a while.
  • Endurolytes
  • Vespa
  • Larabars and homemade "Larabars" - I made some key lime homemade larabars the night before the race. Cashews, walnuts, dates, lime! Delicious!
  • Prosciutto
  • Sweet potato, in chunks, with a container of salt. 
  • Aidell's Chicken & Apple sausage (Kroger) - cut into chunks

- Recovery/Post-WO Food Plan -

As far as other things I had ready for race day:
  • I put a good Rhapsody playlist on my (borrowed) mp3 player.
  • Flip Belt! Because of the way the race is set up, I never had to go longer than 3 miles before an aid station, so I figured I'd pack light. I don't usually carry water or hydration packs anyway.
  • Change of clothes - including a full change of clothes for after the race, and an extra tank top for if it got hot enough to ditch sleeves. I usually pack extra socks, underwear, calf sleeves, shoes, and sports bra. I never know what I'll be running in/through (especially if on horse trails...)
  • Garmin - 910 I borrowed from Rick! My 610 doesn't have enough battery life to make it, but the 910 can last up to 20 hours.
  • The usual - sunglasses, running hat, sunblock, extra shoes, compression tights, calf sleeves
TIP: Bring a backpack and label the contents of the pockets to save time searching for things mid-race. (Same could apply to your food containers/cooler)

Race Day
We left Bloomington around 5:30am, expecting an hour drive (it was more like 1:15). Not surprisingly, we got there a little late, but had enough time to set up our camp (coolers on/under a folding table and a case of water), put on the right clothes, pick up timing chips, and hit the bathroom with - literally - 10 seconds to spare before the gun went off. The morning weather was so perfect! Cool, but not uncomfortable.

The Course
The first loop was all about getting familiar with the course. I was really surprised that there was so much non-traditional trail (~40%) on the course - we ran through a small parking lot, hit a few segments of paved path, and ran on some big gravel. Other than that, the other ~60% consisted of dirt and grass trails. Hills: There was one big hill on the course that had to be walked, and another little one that could've been run, but the grade was so awkward that I decided early on to walk it as well. Mixing in the paved trail/roads helped make me feel like I could get moving a little faster than on grass. The big gravel was just rough in general - oy! The course itself was extremely well-marked with arrows and tape for directional markings, and nearly every single root and rock was painted to help us tired fall-prone runners. The race directors did an excellent job with this!

I don't have a lot of photos, but you can find a fellow runner's video summary of the race - including some shots of the course and runners village (aid station) - in Charles Moman's videos here and here.

A 5k loop? Mind-numbing, you say? Think about it: running about 3 miles max before you hit an aid station. The aid station, fully stocked with whatever you choose (to bring). Predictable course. Mostly flat loops (minus 2-ish still-small walkable hills). You never end up in no-man's land because it's only 3 miles. Easy for spectators. C'mon, it's a great setup! [In all fairness, my first marathon was a 26 x 1-mile loop]

The Run...
I'll recap everything that I can recall, but no guarantees - it's all going to be pretty approximate... the loops and miles just start to blend together after a while! I put together a map so you can follow along in the spots I'm about to mention. [And if you do this race, use this for reference!]

Loops 1-3: 
First reaction: "No one told me there were hills on this course!" Running the first few loops, I didn't feel a thing. Pace felt maybe a little bit fast for 50+ miles since I was running with Jesse for a lap or so. Everyone was really cheerful and energetic so it was good meeting and talking to people on the trail. Ben stayed back and chatted with some people so I went ahead and lost him temporarily. Jesse makes me laugh - he checked our speed and, doing the math, he saw that we were on pace for 83 miles. Honestly, I never really thought about it like that... I just thought about it like I was going out for a long run and I'd see where I ended up! Jesse was running as a fundraiser benefit for a friend, and he received plenty of pledge donations per-mile. More miles, more dollars raised.

In one of the early parts of the third loop, a bird flew out of a tree and didn't see me - I got smacked in the forehead by a wing or a tail feather as it flew by. [What are the odds: this is the second bird-related running incident I've had in the past month?!] I was really surprised when I finished the third loop, because it didn't seem like 9ish miles had gone by yet.

Loops 4-5:
Ben caught up with me and we ran together. From the very beginning, I'd been wearing my New Balance 1010 trail shoes, except I blew out part of the outer at DWD; since they were a safe bet and also because we didn't have my size/width at the store, I didn't want to run in a brand new pair of shoes. So, I started with the old ones.... which turned out to be a bad idea. The blowout let in a bunch of debris and little rocks in my shoes, which aggravated my feet. On top of that, the gravel was just too big to run on and I felt like I needed something more underfoot. I switched to my Newton Distance after loop 3 or 4 and it made a huge difference. Much softer! I wore those until the end. I also changed from my t-shirt into a tank top because it was already starting to get a little toasty out.

At the end of the 5th loop, my legs started feeling a little beat up. We commented on how it was starting to get warm on the lake stretch... I made a conscious decision to walk up the big hill (the one labeled "I love this hill") and up the little incline that was labeled "Bear left." The thing that got me through not stopping to walk for extended periods of time was giving myself a point, like the next arrow, at which I'd start running again.

Loops 6-10:
These miles blended together. Legs didn't feel any worse as the miles went on, but the one major change was that it was definitely much much warmer out on the lake stretch with the sun getting higher and hotter. (Earlier we talked about how it was bearable there primarily because of a breeze, and hoped it would continue throughout the day.) It was a clear day - not a cloud in sight. There was a moment during which I started feeling not-so-great, and I remember telling Ben, "I think I'm gonna have to stop and walk soon." The great part about these loops being 5k is that it's not too far until the aid station/runner camp, a good spot to relax, regroup, and reset. Mentally, I was starting to get exhausted and really relieved to reach our aid station table. I kept repeating to Ben: "I just want to hit 70. It would be so great if I could hit 70 miles."

Loops 11-13:
We pulled out our mp3 players at the 60k mark. It was such a good change of pace to have something to take my mind off of running for a bit. So Ben and I ran together while listening to music, and I felt like the mental distraction was really good for "tricking" me into running faster than I would have otherwise. Ben was such a good crew, even while running, helping by running ahead sometimes when we needed to have stuff prepared at the aid table - like ripping open a gel packet or pulling out my change of shoes.

Loops 14-18:
I realized after hearing the same songs multiple times that I must've downloaded only part of a playlist, or synced the wrong one. Argh! It's worse that this is the second time I've made this mistake. Sometime during the later part of these miles that I was finally able to un-pop my ears. With the bronchitis-related sinus issues I was having (I'll spare you the details), my right ear had been plugged up since I woke up. Finally got it and suddenly I could hear better! Little victories!!

Speaking of wins, we noticed the water spigots near the campsites for the first time in the later parts of our run together, just as it was getting hot. We stopped and I splashed my face, arms, and calf sleeves with water each time we came to this spot. It was a good chance to stop and feel refreshed!

Ben pulled off, finishing his 50 miles after lap 16. He continued to be a good crew and moved our camp table to a shady spot so I wouldn't have to hit the rest spot in the blinding sun. And, he'd been talking to our new friend, Lindsay, who had been set up at her runner's (Justin's) aid table next to us; around this time she let us have a bag of ice and cooler she'd brought...

It was around this point that I noticed the countdown clock for the first time, at around 4:30 to go. I'd run a loop and try to guess where the clock would be the next time I came through, somewhere around 32-38 minutes. I did a quick how-am-I-feeling check -- and strangely enough, my legs felt just the same amount of beat up at 20 miles, 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70 miles. No issues besides a little tightness in the hamstrings.

Nothing super notable here, besides seeing a big black snake on the trail. That was not so fun. I got a jolt of adrenaline after almost stepping on it.

6 laps left to go:
As I finished a lap, Ben started telling me that all I needed was to run 3 laps and I could walk 3 (at <14 min/mi pace) to match the course record. I was getting really mentally tired of going around and around for still another 3+ hours, so to break it down into "sets" of three laps like this was tremendously helpful in being able to.... chew it all. Knowing that I could walk?? Awesome! It was somewhere around this time that Ben recommended trying the running hat, since my head was getting hot! I headed off for the sixth-to-last lap to go.

As I started running, I started feeling a slight twinge in my foot. Minor concern... this is what put me in a boot after the Chicago Marathon! I kept running, paying attention to my running form, and - fortunately - it went away about a half mile later without ever coming back. I pressed on. Of course, it always seemed like the sky would cloud over as I was at my aid "table" and then the sun would come out full force when I got to the long sunny stretch around the lake. 

5 laps to go:
We discovered that the running hat was a good idea. Ben helped by putting ice in my hat AND in the back of my sports bra on every lap from here on out -- it was a lifesaver. It would still be a few hours before the sun would lay off, so this was so incredibly good at helping stay cool. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have finished or run like I did without the ice (THANK YOU, JUSTIN & LINDSAY!!!). The ice pack that Ben helped me with each lap would be perfectly melted by the time I returned back for the next lap.

As I ran with this lap, I started imagining walking or run-walking the remaining laps. So tempting!! I got excited at the idea of possibly walking the next lap, then running the one after that, and walking the last two. Or, running parts and walking parts within laps. The possibilities!!! Whatever I ended up doing, I couldn't do it until after this lap if I wanted to be safe. So, I kept going.

My mp3 player died at the end of this lap. I was really tired of listening to the same 10 songs, but since I'm such a creature of habit, felt kind of thrown off when the routine and rhythm I had gotten into was slightly disrupted. I was over it about a minute later.

4 laps to go:
Even though I had wanted to walk most of this lap, I decided it was smart to keep running through this - sun and all - so I could get far ahead enough to walk comfortably later. In other words, I didn't want to put myself in a time-crunch situation. So, I ran this lap too, and felt pretty good. In fact... I felt like I was going faster on this lap, because (like I mentioned earlier), sets of 3 laps were so much easier to digest than thinking about running 9 miles at a time. Again, little victories.

3 laps to go:
I really had a lot of intentions to walk these laps, but I wanted to keep the momentum I had from the last lap and I kept on running. This continued on... and I kept on feeling ok with the ice on my head and on my back, despite still plenty of sun. 

People suddenly got so much friendlier! Because we were so close to the finish, I think everyone was ready to be done and could taste the end of the 12 hours. A few people asked how many miles or laps I was at, and truthfully, I had no idea. I knew I was past 100k!

2 laps to go:
I headed off on my second-to-last lap. Partway into the lap, I met a very aggressive goose. I stopped, walked, didn't make eye contact... all those things. One bird-related incident for the day is enough, right? Let's not make it two. I snuck past the goose, and it chased me for a little ways. As I panicked a little, my mind started to devise ways to defend myself; kicking it was the best I could come up with. I continued on running pretty quickly with the adrenaline rush from my goose encounter. 

After this lap, Ben told me I was at a decision point. I could:
a) run the very last 5k lap in 40 minutes and then hang out for 5-10 minutes before I started on the half mile road loop in the last half hour of the race. The lap I'd just finished was somewhere around 36-38 minutes (I'd totally forgotten about the pit stop I made at the campground).
b) run two more 5k laps in ~35 minutes. Kind of faster, but doable.

I chose to run one last lap in 40 minutes (mostly because I didn't want to face off with the goose again).

1 lap to go (last lap):
I headed off for this lap, almost on a high from the excitement of being so close to done.... with the 5k loop, at least! I really didn't feel like I needed or wanted to walk, so I kept going. Legs still felt surprisingly good, even up the hills. I must've returned back to the aid station/base camp way before Ben expected me, because he was still lounging in the lawn chair. He hopped up and looked at his watch. I finished that lap in less than 35 minutes. Nice!

Since I was way ahead of time, I decided to head out for a very last - bonus - lap.

* Warning: Lots of excitement and exclamation marks ahead.

The bonus lap:
It was almost kind of eerie being out on this lap, since I encountered only two other runners on this loop. By this time, even though the sun was still out (and I still had a good amount of ice in the back of my sports bra), the sun was getting a little less strong. Finally! I did just as I did on every other lap, walking up the big hill. When I got to the "Bear Left" hill, I felt good enough to run up it. So close! The finish is near! (At least, the end of the 5k loops is done!)

Half Mile Loops:
The half mile loop was wonderful!! Like the groups of 3 5k loops, it was so much easier to bite off each half-mile loop at a time, as opposed to thinking about running 2 more miles. I thought I'd have time for only 2 or 3 laps, so I headed out. People were rolling (fast!) out on the half-mile road/parking lot loop! Caught up in the final moments of the entire 12 hours, I followed suit. It was crazy how short the half miles seemed compared to the 5ks! This was absolutely a-mazing. On such a short loop, I felt like I was flying! I saw Troy (who Ben had run with earlier in the day) through the trees a few times, and he was flying too!

I ran the three half-mile loops I knew I could get in without a problem. When I passed the time clock, I saw I had 7:39 (minutes-seconds) left to run a possibly fourth loop, so I headed out once more but with the intention of trying to run two more loops to make five. I took off, with my GPS pace reading at around <7 minutes per mile. After doing this for a few feet, my legs felt tired... and then they got really heavy... and didn't want to move this fast. I thought, "Hey, this kinda hurts. I think I'll stop running like this now," so I did. I trotted slowly and comfortably toward the finish of the fourth lap, not before seeing Ben. Ben who was standing on the side of the half-mile course, gave me grief for giving up on not squeezing out another full mile. I argued that I didn't have time left. He told me, "I bet you'll have four minutes left to do it. You can do that, easy."

Well, I got back to the timing clock. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I had 3:58 left to do another half mile. Possible? Ok, let's give it a shot.

I kept on going as fast as I could (given the circumstances of the past 11 hours and 56 minutes), made the turn as quickly as possible, and with probably 500 feet left of the loop, a car started awkwardly backing out of a parking spot, blocking the entire road we were running on! Me and another guy next to me both muttered, "Are you serious?!" and got around it as best we could. A quick glance at my pace told me I was sitting right on 7-minute pace.

Finishing was such a cool experience! There were tons of spectators, and so much clapping and cheering. What an amazing reminder of how joyous and inspiring race finish lines can be - whether you're running a 5k, marathon, half marathon, or an ultra... the crowd is what gets you through to the end! I used the energy and excitement from everyone to take me through to the finish, seeing Ben on the sideline about 20 yards of the end. With 15 seconds remaining on the clock when I crossed the finish line, I can confidently say that I squeezed as much mileage out of these 12 hours as I possibly could. (and Ben was right that I had time for a last lap)
The last steps - ignore that heel strike!

I was sopping wet from all of the melted ice and just realized it. Carefully, I changed into my compression tights to help recovery and grabbed a (recovery) bite to eat. We sat down with everyone in the picnic shelter, where the awards ceremony was held. It was so fun to be able to meet all of the people I'd seen on the course earlier! Maybe it's just me: I recognized each person best by seeing the back of his/her shirt. Ben and I had a good time sharing war stories with everyone and hearing theirs. It's sometimes really easy to just go home after a race, so this was a really good part of the event - the chance to hang out, have fun, and celebrate.
The medal

Ben won his age group, running 49.6 miles in 7 hours, 37 minutes!
I won the female overall award! We each went home with a medal and a trophy. Bartley win!


Other stats:
Ran 76.9 miles on the day
Broke the women's course record. Previous record: 71.2 mi set in 2012.
Third place overall finish. (By the way: Jesse won - running 78.4 mi!)
Average 9:02 min/mi while running
Average 9:39/mile including breaks between loops.
Projected 16:08 finish at this pace if I was insane enough to go 100 mi
Overall winner trophy weighs a solid 15.6 pounds
GPS: Strava  |  Garmin Connect

The immediate damage:
Everything was minor. Hooray!

  • Sacro-iliac (SI) joint was stuck. This just caused some tightness in my back. Huge shout to Dr. Mandy Smith at Indiana Spine & Sports for "fixing me" with ART & some minor adjustments (and to Ben for preemptively scheduling the appointment knowing what was to come!)
  • Tiny blister on foot - but that's it!
  • Tight hamstrings & hip flexors
  • Minor bruised toenail
  • Sore biceps, on the inside of my elbow. It must take more effort to keep my arms ~90ยบ while running than I thought.
  • 1 horse fly bite
  • Roof of mouth torn up until two days after. I'll admit, this one's weird. There's a "scientific" reason why, and since the internet says it, it must be true. Everything I ate - in particular, acidic things like tomato sauce or vinegar, would burn and make the roof of my mouth feel like it was on fire! This is something so minor, but the second time I've experienced it -- it lasted 2 days this time.

  • No plantar issues. I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis for months until a few weeks ago!
  • No foot metatarsal issues, besides the minor twinge I felt toward the end.
  • I'm not sunburned. Unbelievably. I ran Boston and got sunburned. Yet 12 hours in this and I'm not? Hmmm.
  • IT bands ok. Sometimes I get really horrible IT band pulling, causing pain on the knee (resulting in hobbling/limping because of this at Boston 2011)
  • Mostly stuck to Whole30. Besides small amounts of rice flour in the Endurolytes, honey in the Vespa, everything Whole30 went great! Energy levels stayed consistent throughout the day and I never once felt hungry.
I want to eat... ALL the things! Can't.... stop... eating...! So... so... hungry...! And of the things I want to eat, I really want sugar. I'm not sure if this has to do with needing more sleep, but I'm craving something sugary and sweet. 

And last, although this is my fourth ultra, I still can't get over the struggle with a good night's sleep after the race. I'm always so achy and uncomfortable, it just hurts to move! So I try to put a positive spin on this: Yes, yes, surely that's accomplishment that I'm feeling.

Special Thanks
This has clearly been my longest race to date, and one that's pushed me beyond what I imagined I was capable of achieving. None of this would have happened without a few very important people (in no particular order):
  • Ben - for being my crew, semi-unexpectedly. Best crew ever. And also for making important calculations and decisions late in the day when my brain was in no condition for critical thinking. And for signing us up! (In addition: loaning me his mp3 player, driving to/from Terre Haute, cheering for me, for adding ice... the list goes on)
  • Bill & Mickey (Mama and Papa B) - for coming over to grill us a celebratory steak dinner... after 10pm.
  • Rick - for loaning me your Garmin 910 so I could see my splits after my own watch would have died. And for a good laugh (and compliment) on Facebook. Never say never.....!

  • Maria & Erin - for helping me figure out what food I was going to bring!
  • The BARA gang - for getting me out the door and a reason to run, even when I sometimes didn't feel like it.
  • Christy - for loaning me some Ignite Gels (while we wait for them to arrive on backorder). Huge help!
  • Justin & Lindsay - I'll say it again. I would not have finished this well without your generous "donation" and willingness to share the cooler of ice you had! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  • Hawthorn Half Day Race Directors & staff - for hanging on, hanging out, and making this long day a spectacular one!
  • And to YOU - For reading this far and this long, you deserve a medal.

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