Monument Valley 50K: Race Report

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This gallery contains 47 photos.

….and My Story Runs On…. Wow! Where to even begin?  I know I have to keep this succinct but very hard to do, especially for those of you that want to get a detailed report about the race and what … Continue reading

50 Miles of Gratitude: (12) Training & XTERRA Events

….and My Story Runs On….

Yesterday, I did the XTERRA White Tank 20K “race”. I put race in parenthesis as you know I normally use races as training runs for my bigger races (first 100K in 6 weeks!). I already blogged about Aravaipa races awhile back.

This race is no joke from an elevation profile. Their website describes it as:

“For those who prefer a course with pain and punishment, the long course is 20k of grueling single track with over 1500 feet of climbing. Starting from the group campground, runners wind their way up Ironwood to the Waddell trail. Once you reach the first aid station be prepared to go up, the next three miles are all climbing….”  You can see my Tom Tom results here.

Cheryl Miller from Miller Endurance Coaching is one of their sponsors and she hosted a preview run a few weeks ago that I was able to attend. I actually did this race back in 2012 when I was training for my first marathon but I can’t find my results anywhere. At any rate, I knew what I was getting myself into…

Which is why I wanted to do it!  Hills are part of most trail races and I love to train on them to keep improving my ChiRunning technique.  White Tanks are also a great change of scenery for me so I was excited to do this one.

First I want to thank XTERRA because a portion of their race proceeds go to my favorite local charity Girls On The Run Maricopa County (GOTR-I’m currently on their board of directors serving as Secretary). If I’m not racing their events, I’m volunteering because I really appreciate their support!

Now on to my learning lessons from this race!

The more running story develops year after year, I have found that I prefer to preview runs if I have a chance. This gives me a chance to get familiar with the course and know what to expect vs the element of surprise that I used to like more before. Even though I did part of the course backwards on the preview run, I knew what I was getting into!

Even though this was a “training” run, I wanted to race it…my version of racing it 😉 My race strategy was:

  • Bring my hydration pack so I wouldn’t need to stop at any of the aid stations.
  • Power hike the uphills and run as much of the runnable part as possible
  • Focus/improve upon on my ChiRunning hill technique (runnable/non runnable hills, uphill and downhill. I just taught a ChiHills class yesterday so it was all fresh)
  • Continue to get more out of my comfort zone on rockier trails and improve my technique there
  • Get myself mentally psyched up and excited for this race no matter what (this has become a regular strategy for me. Why got all worked up and nervous?  I start thinking about the friends I will see, that I’m getting to spend a “few” hours in nature, getting some ME time, burning some calories, etc.  Literally think of as many positive things as I can to get pumped up for the race to get positive energy flowing)
  • Last but not least, as much as I don’t like always setting time goals for races, since I did the preview run in 3:17 and I wasn’t as racing, I was shooting for a 3 hour finish.

It was a beautiful day! I got there in plenty of time to pick up my packet and run into many friends including GOTR volunteers/board members.

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Holly is our Vice President and was racing as well!

I started running right away knowing that the grueling part would be around Mile 2. I had to stop momentarily at the first aid station to get this selfie with Bob and Cindy Hansen who are huge supporters of GOTR and I love seeing their smiling faces!

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Bob & Cindy Hansen, GOTR volunteer superstars! Love the rays of sun shining on us!

Then it was all uphill so I started power hiking and using my arms, core and obliques more (which are all sorer than my legs are today!) I knew I was at the back of the pack already but OK with that. Every time there was a wee bit of level terrain or not too many rocks, I ran a bit…however if I know I can power hike it faster and use less energy, that is my strategy. (one of the many things I love about trail running as it’s more “acceptable” to walk due to the hills.) I had several more friends at aid stations that called my name out as I ran by which is always motivating!

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We are pretty high up there! Pictures don’t do it justice for sure!

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If you look closely, you can see the trail on the other mountain going down hill…

It was finally time to come downhill!  Was cruising in several locations but the trail was rocky so this slowed me down more than I wanted.  I was really trying to focus on relaxing as much as possible as I know any tension mentally or physically slows me down (which is why I get pumped up before a race too…to keep from having mental stress!). I almost tripped a few times but never fell.

I hate looking at my watch to reach a time goal (again more mental tension) but at this point I could tell that I was close to my time goal. I had conserved my energy so I knew the last 2 miles should be pretty easy. I didn’t realize mile 11 was a wee bit of an uphill and I started walking a bit.  I knew I was cutting it close on the time goal so I decided to put my playlist on speaker just to change up my energy and get some motivation.  Funniest thing was that I turned it off in less than 2 minutes!  The music was too distracting. I was in a really good zone (had been for the entire race between my ChiRunning/ChiWalking form focusing, being present and truly enjoying the beauty of the trail.) On a side note, I find it interesting that as my running story continues to develop, I used to only be a social runner. I couldn’t run unless I had company and someone to talk to.  Now, my solo runs hold a special place. I can’t describe it but there is something to be said about being alone with yourself for hours in nature, running on a trail.  Time flies by somehow…Mile 11 was my hardest mile of the entire race and I started thinking I wanted it to be over with.  With 1.5 miles to go, I got it together and started really focusing more on my form and breathing. Before I knew it, I could see the finish line and was getting excited. I was at 2:52 and knew I would make it on time if I kept my pace…..and I did! My official time was a 2:57:37! (and my fastest mile was my last one!)

I felt amazing and was so dang proud of myself when I finished!….

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Thanks to my friend Diane for taking this awesome photo of me finishing! It truly describes how I felt!

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The GOTR Executive Team..2 of us running and 2 volunteering!

…..Until I started comparing myself to other runner friends….that is another blog post…for now, you can watch my 5 minute facebook live video from yesterday here.

All in all, this was one of my best races from strategy to how amazing I felt at the end.

Do you use races as training runs? Share your comments below!

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My badass friend Diane who is an Ironman and did her first 8K trail race!

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Selfie with Terry who is an amazing athlete who will be 60 this year and placed first in her age group and 13th woman overall!

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You know it’s going to be a great day with this sunrise!

Click here50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Pass Mountain 25K Race or training run?

….and My Story Runs On….

This morning, I did Aravaipa Running’s Pass Mountain 25K (15.5 miles).
I picked it for a few reasons:

  • I needed mileage as I train for my next big race (another blog on that later)
  • I happened to be available on this Saturday to do it
  • Most importantly, this race was my inaugural debut into trail races back on 11/19/2011 and I haven’t done it since.

I remember back in 2011 how scared I was to do it. I was training for my first marathon (Lost Dutchman, it fell on 41st birthday 5 years ago) but I had also just come back from my first ever ChiRunning Instructor weekend.  It was my first time meeting Danny & Katherine Dreyer and the first time I got to meet a bunch of other ChiRunning instructors from all over the world.  Needless to say, I was geeked out on ChiRunning and was excited/nervous about my first trail race. (I honestly can’t remember if I did any training on trails at this point. I want to say I had but I was not as experienced as a runner or coach at this point so not sure!)  I remember how hard it was…but my favorite part was getting to the last 1/2 mile that was on road and seeing my Dad there with his bike as he rode by my side for that last little bit!

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My Daddy and I!

Fast forward to this year.  Not sure why I haven’t done this more often since 2011 but this year was my first time back.  The course was slightly different (it was a 26K in 2011) but most of it was the same.

So my first dilemma was:  do I go and preview the course in advance or not?  I decided to do it and here is a quick 2 min video about that experience:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSzErOhN2Wg]

I am so glad that I did it now!

I didn’t preview the first half of the course because I knew it would be easier but grateful that I did the 2nd half as it proved to help me a lot today.  Not so much physically but mentally.  

  • I knew when the hard parts would be so I conserved my energy on those by ChiWalking more. (yes, I have no problem walking in races either!)
  • I knew one of my bigger challenges would be part of the end of the course because the single track trail was very close to the edge and I am afraid of heights.
  • I also knew that the last 2-3 miles were runnable downhill miles and I was ready to crank on those as soon as I could.  Ironically, my fastest mile was my last one!

As a running coach, I hear people get nervous about races all the time.  I remember I used to do this a lot more…I’m sure some of it comes with experience.  For me it was my frame of mind….I never felt I was actually racing when I did this run today.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDzE-12ONk4]

I was hanging out with my friend Heather, got to chit chat with a few other people along the way, took some pics (see below) and we just took our time knowing we had plenty of it before the cutoff.

The great thing about treating a race like a training run is that there is no pressure. I also love races as training runs because there are other people out on the course (instead of running alone), they are supported so I know I will have aid stations with water and food (best aid stations ever!) and I get a shirt and pint glass! (50 Miles of Gratitude: (9) Training & Aravaipa Running) I didn’t have to pay for this race because I volunteer with Aravaipa quite a bit so I get race credits…so for me, it was a win-win for sure today.

I didn’t go back to see how I performed in 2011 because it was a different course and really didn’t care.

So my lesson for this race was that I was glad that I choose to do it as a training run rather than race it.  This may not always be my choice but I’m really glad that I did because I had a blast …AND I felt amazing at the end which is always one of my goals: to finish strong and feeling good!

Do you race or use them as training runs? Would love to read your comments below!

Gorgeous views on this course!

Gorgeous views on this course!

Heather and I before we started. Running with friends is always a good way to go!

Heather and I before we started. Running with friends is always a good way to go!

Cholla forest!

Cholla forest!

This was one of the steep uphill parts (I took the pic looking down after I got up it)

This was one of the steep uphill parts (I took the pic looking down after I got up it)

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

“That’s our running coach!”

….and My Story Runs On….

Yep, first time ever lying in a cot getting help from the medics…..

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Clearly not doing too bad as I’m smiling here but never had this experience before.  Of course, I need to share my learning lessons. I wish I could’ve taken the picture of my peeps all hovering over me, teasing me, “this is our running coach!.”  It was a pretty comical moment…but grateful that I can have these moments so I can be a better runner and coach.  There is always a lesson to learn!

This (Aravaipa’s Javelina Jangover) was my best race last year, I had a great blog/vlog about it too. I hadn’t really been training for this race but I was definitely prepared to do the mileage.  What I didn’t prepare for though, was the plan to PR (personal record) my time from last year.  My little sister, who is a great athlete, decided to switch from the 7K to the 25K to pace me and help me (this was her first 25K trail race!)

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

My plan for longer distances is to always take it easier for the first half so I conserve energy…then kick it up during the 2nd half which on this course tends to be downhill. I was mentally prepared to follow this plan but I always know that when I’m trying to keep a specific pace (to PR), I tend to be slave to my watch (some of my best runs happen when I’m not doing this...) and keep checking my pace. I still ChiWalked on the uphills because I conserve more energy and can do it just as fast so might as well be walking.

I did notice that I was thirstier than normal so I kept drinking.  We got to the aid station at mile 8.5 and put more water in my hydration pack. Had a few pieces of potato/salt and a shot of coke and ginger ale (this usually helps with a bit of energy/caffeine boost).  A lot of Team RWB peeps were there volunteering so it’s always great to see your friends and get some energy from them!

The course was now mainly downhill so I started trying to get my average pace up as I monitored my watch.  I was averaging an 11:40 for a bit. One thing I know about myself is that I don’t like being uncomfortable when I run…I know I could probably push myself more (I prefer to use my ChiRunning technique to improve my performance not muscling through it).  And I was very focused on my form: I continued to use the mantra Align & Relax, use by arms for the uphills as well as to counterbalance my forward lean and did as much active and passive pelvic rotation as possible to keep my legs from working harder. This was working great until…..

I started realizing I just couldn’t drink enough water to quench my thirst. My poor sister kept saying “come on, we only have a 5K left” “you can push harder” and all of the sudden my legs weren’t feeling it anymore and my stomach starting bugging me. I felt like I needed to throw up but couldn’t do it. When I realized there was no way I was beating my time, I decided I needed to stop running. At this point I just wanted it to be over.  I was grateful to have my sister there with me and we walked the last mile.

Those of you that know me, know that one of the things I enjoy most after a run/race is a nice cold beer.  You know I wasn’t not myself when the thought of a beer made me want to throw up!

We got to the medics who were amazing.  Checked my pulse and my blood pressure (all good there!)…they lay me down on a cot and elevated my legs so the blood could flow back to my stomach. Thanks to all my friends that came by to check in on me…at least I wasn’t one of the runners getting an IV and being taken away with an ambulance.

So, what happened?  I had to think about my last few days and here is my assessment:

  • In retrospect, I didn’t hydrate the way I normally do a few days before a race.  I was at a Toastmaster contest from 8am-1pm yesterday and only drank half a bottle of water but drank double the amount of coffee that I normally do.  The night before, I was hanging with some friends, had a few beers (not a big deal but probably didn’t help with the hydration issue) and ate a lot of salty foods.
  • I tried pushing too much at the beginning. My fastest mile was the 2nd one and I remember not being able to get my heart rate down until we stopped at the aid station for awhile. (I also had a double espresso a few hours before the race which probably didn’t help either). It was also hotter than I was expecting.
  • Basically I pushed my body more than I should’ve and wasn’t prepared for it physically.

I have no regrets….running is always a way to learn more about your body and yourself and last night was just another learning lesson for next time!  I finished with a 3:32 (last year was a 3:16).

1st half of the race..didn't realize until I looked at this as I'm writing that my 2nd mile was my fastest

1st half of the race..didn’t realize until I looked at this that my 2nd mile was my fastest

 

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..except the last mile!

Any big learning lessons you’ve had from a run recently?

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race Report: Capitol Reef 50K with Ultra Adventures

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….and My Story Runs On….

On Saturday, I completed my hardest race to date…The choice words for the day were FUCKING BRUTAL (there are a few more swear words in this blog)…..it was also the most humbling race experience I had and one of the most gorgeous courses I’ve been on.  It was Ultra Adventures’ Capitol Reef 50K. Now I get why they are called “Adventures”. You may remember that I did my first 50 miler with them at Antelope Canyon. This was the highest elevation I’ve ever ran in with the steepest uphills and downhills I’ve ever done in my life.  Based on my standards, mostly an unrunnable course as you’ll read and see my pics below.  Before I break this down, I found this photo online yesterday as I was googling “mental toughness” and dang it, it pretty much summarizes my event!

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I was invited by a friend to do this race awhile back and I read some blogs and some info about it so I knew it was not going to be an easy one. Click here to see the map and elevation profile. Looked like a great opportunity to visit a new place I’ve never been to (one of the main reasons I love ultra/trail running is that it brings me to places I would not visit otherwise).  I was ready for the day to finally be here as you may remember my last blog post on Burning Out.

Our road trip up to Capitol Reef included a quick stop at Monument Valley which I had never seen before.  It was absolutely stunning and I am sure I’ll be doing that race at some point as well.

We went and grabbed our packets on Friday and had the honor of meeting Arnulfo Quimare, the famous Tarahumara Indian from the Born To Run book. I already had Caballo Blanco’s autograph in my book so I added his as well.

On race day, we arrived at the finish line where we would be bused up to the start line for this point to point race.  This is the 2nd time that my friend/trail wife, Elaine and I ended up wearing the same shirt…which fit well with this race #RunSteepGetHigh.  Matt Gunn, the race director, gave a briefing at the beginning and I tried not to worry about some of the words he was using like “bushwacking” and “boulder mountain”.

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Run Steep Get High 😉

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Obligatory selfie with Elaine and Lori (this was her idea in the first place)

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Matt Gunn, race director giving the briefing.

The three of us agreed ahead of time that it was each woman for herself and if we ended up together that would be fine but we were “running” our own race.  My goal was to finish and not got lost (this is their 2nd annual and blog reports from last year mentioned people getting lost.  Matt does a great job in taking feedback from his post race surveys as the course was marked very well in my opinion.  Actually looking for those pink flags helped keep me focus and made it “funner” by seeming like a bit of a scavenger hunt.)  The 50K course had an 11 hour cutoff (my average has been a little over 8 hours) and Ultrasignup forecasted that I would end at 11:45 (not sure what their algorithms are based on) and I was determined to prove them wrong.

I knew the first 8 miles were going to be an uphill climb so my plan was to hike this entire part to save energy so I could “run” later. These pictures don’t do it justice. I will say that I could feel the elevation change but it didn’t effect as much as I thought (giving some credit to some exercises I’ve been working on from The Oxygen Advantage book).

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The scenery was breathtaking and such a different experience from running in the desert which is my usual trail running play ground. The first half of the course was a combination of beautiful meadows (mainly single track but fairly runnable although you couldn’t see the terrain under the grass sometimes so you had to be careful for rocks); rocky trails; and boulders:  IMG_9149

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Cow bones?? Dead trail runners??

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more nonrunnable terrain…for me anyways!

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Caught Arnulfo with some amazing running form in his sandals!

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Seriously??

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Channeling my Spiderman skills again..

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Boulder Mountain…this seemed like at least a mile of this type of terrain.

Lori and I “ran” together up to about Mile 14.  We were bumming a bit as we had done some good training and really just wanted to run.  We would find a good runnable trail but then 50 feet later it became unrunnable again (although clearly runnable for the many other experienced runners that are used to this type of terrain). She got ahead of me and at this point I was comfortable being alone as I knew the course was marked well and I was not worried about getting lost.

More beautiful water scenery on this course with lakes and creeks…I used to be “afraid” of crossing creeks and we had several of those. When it worked out, I would use rocks or logs to cross but I got over that fear after some of our Black Canyon trail runs so when it didn’t work out, I would just walk right through them. The cold water felt good on my feet and I knew I wouldn’t get blisters as I’ve done this several times in my shoes before.

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I finally got to the Donkey Reservoir Mile 19 Aid Station.  A lady said that my friend Lori was about 2 minutes ahead of me but I was ready to take a little break here.  There was a 4pm time cutoff at this aid station and I got there around 2:30pm so all was good at this point. I had been following my nutrition plan and was feeling great (outside of being bummed that I wasn’t running as much as I wanted to).  The volunteers were great. I ate some quesadillas and had a little Coke (I only drink Coke on trail aid stations and it always hits the spot!). Got my water pack filled up and off I went. The next aid station was going to be 10 miles away so I was prepared for that…or so I thought…
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I noticed the battery in my Tom Tom was close to dying. I wasn’t too worried about it at this point as I was comfortable finding the course markers.  It died at about mile 21 and I was fine for a bit. This is when my mind started playing tricks on me. It was really hard to gauge how long it would take me to get to the next aid station. I wasn’t doing my normal pace for sure and it’s so hard to do math at this point on the trail.  I started doing one of my favorite ChiRunning meditations on the 5 senses to keep me present and distracted. I focused on all my senses:
Eyes: I had to keep my eyes on the trail a lot since it was pretty technical but I loved to see the pretty flowers, the views, the pink markers that were guiding my way…
Ears: I could hear the birds chirping, the wind in the trees, the water flowing through creeks..my heart rate going up on the uphills (at points it sounded like it would jump out of my chest!)..at one point I played music on my Iphone via the speaker so I could still be part of nature..I kept it low but needed some more distraction to get through it…I could hear footsteps behind me once in awhile as runners were passing me (this messed with my head a bit too as 50 mile people who started an hour before me and had completed more mileage were actually running this course…I knew they had more experience running in this terrain but still!!…)…I could hear my breath as I was focusing on my cadence and breathing together..
Smell: I could smell cow patties but never saw any cows which was weird (I heard some too) and my favorite was going through a few patches of pink flowers (which could be easily mistaken as the pink course markers) and the smell of them was overwhelming yet soothing.
Touch:  sometimes the wind would pick up and I could feel it on my skin…the sun on my skin…being brushed by the bushes on the side (wait for the bushwhacking part in a few)
Not much to do with Taste outside of the ginger candy I picked up at the last aid station.
Even though this worked for periods of time, the non runnable parts seemed to never end…and the steep uphills and downhills continued…THEN we got into the bushwhacking part Matt had mentioned in the briefing…

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Can you see the pink marker in the top left hand side of the photo? You can barely see the trail but we were literally going through shrubs..so hard to see the ground and run this part too..

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Do you see the pink marker in the top left hand side of the photo again? Yes, I crawled over logs and this was not the only place..

I kept wandering when the heck I would get to the aid station at Mile 29. There were several times that I could feel a lump in my throat and I just wanted to cry.  Mentally I can usually get through races by working on the meditation above or just enjoying nature and knowing that I am doing what I love to do most: run around in nature….but by this point, I was so freaking ready for it to be over…a few times I just wanted to sit down and have a helicopter come and get me..I’m not a religious person but I prayed to God, Jesus, and Mother Mary several times..and then there was Rikki (bottom line, my friend Lori M bought these for our adventure..there is more to that story but I’ll save that for another blog post)
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A few times (and yes, I realized I was talking out loud) I said “I just want my Mommy”..or I would think about my boyfriend and how bad I just wanted to be in his arms…I’ve never felt like I wanted something to be over so bad before…Every time I turned a corner, I kept hoping for that dang aid station…I had to be close….
Finally I reached it….it was 6pm and I had been on my feet for 10 hours.  The volunteer said that there was only 3.8 more miles to go…yeah! but were they runnable miles?  He said yes but again, I couldn’t rely on his idea of runnable as clearly my definition is a bit different.  I had Coke and M+Ms and took off.  If it were truly runnable, no matter how tired I was, I could do this!  I know I can run 4 miles in an hour! And thankfully it was mostly runnable!  Heck, all of the sudden there was sand and I was so happy to run in it!
These were some of the views from the last part of the race:

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Since my Tom Tom died, I was using my phone for time…I kept pulling it out to check and see how I was doing..I am sure if I had the info, my last 4 miles were the fastest in this race…I still had to walk a few times and at this point, my goal was to finish within the 11 hour cutoff…that’s all I kept thinking about…I finally saw the road that we would be crossing before the finish line..my phone time was 7pm so I’m thinking it’s too late…I wasn’t going to have the same epic finish as my 50 miler…but I kept running as fast as my legs could take me as I was SOOOOOO ready for this to be done! I couldn’t wait to see my friends at the end…I finally see the finish line and the clock…the clock is at 10:59:55 and I’m running as fast as I could…the seconds were counting down…I crossed the finish line at 11:00:01 (unofficial time)…and then there I was standing there, finally done with this darn race and no one was there to greet me! Where the heck were my friends?  Lori M came up right after and was so bummed she missed my finish..apparently Lori C had told them I was about an hour behind her so they figured they had time (it was a long day for all of us so I think we were all confused by this point!)…..it didn’t matter…I WAS FINALLY DONE WITH IT!

I realize this is a long blog post but here are my Thorns, Roses and Learning Lessons (in addition to what was already mentioned)
Thorns:

  • I would train more on technical trails (not that I plan on doing this one over again), read more blog posts about the race and be better prepared in general
  • I didn’t get much sleep before the race..I had a total of 14 hours the 3 nights before the race and I know that effected me.

Roses:

  • ChiRunning:  I worked on my form as much as I could and I know that helped me mentally and physically! Used lots of the hill technique, arm swing and lots of work with my breathing/cadence especially when I could get into a running groove.  Lots of form work with my walking as well.
  • Nutrition: I followed the same plan I did for my 50 miler and never bonked. Felt good all the way!
  • Scenery: even though it was tough terrain, it was amazing scenery!

Learning lessons:

  • Running is always a metaphor for life. I learned that when I put my mind to something, no matter how hard I can do it. This race.pushed my mental limits like no other race has before.  This will certainly prepare me for any hard life experiences!
  • Being alone was hard but knowing what to do helped me. Make sure you have a plan on what to do if you get close to a break down. I’d love to hear what other ultra runners (or anyone doing long events) does when they know they are so close to that point.
  • I overcame a lot of fears and mental breakdowns…during this race I became my own inspiration! I don’t mean to brag but every time I made it through another mental mind fuck, I was cheering myself on. When it’s just you out there, you need to dig deep (like the photo above) so you can call yourself a bad ass!  I am so proud of myself for getting through that….even though my official time was an 11:03:03 and I was 2nd to last..I FUCKING FINISHED!!

Would I ever do this one again?  HELL NO! As a matter of fact, if someone told me I had to redo the Antelope Canyon 50 miler in sand or Capitol Reef 50K, hands down I would be doing Antelope!  But this race had a huge impact on my character..sounds cheesy but I’ve been feeling like my soul was shaken up a bit …I know that during those 11 hours, my mind/body/spirit grew a little bit more…isn’t that why we do these things? To reach out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves?  To see how far we can push our body, mind and spirit and conquer things we never thought possible?

I absolutely love the Grand Circle Trail series. Matt and his crew do an amazing job. My goal is to do all of them at some point since they are all strategically placed in amazing locations…who knows which one will be next?

I tweaked this quote: “A mind, body and spirit that are stretched by new experiences, can never go back to their old dimensions.”

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Finishers! 3 of us did the 50K and the other 2 did the half marathon (which was brutal too!)

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seriously gorgeous views!

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Yes! Not only did I inspire myself but love to hear that I can inspire other people to do epic shit too!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: (9) Training & Aravaipa Running

….and My Story Runs On….

WOW…I am really slow at blogging! My goal is to write 50 blog posts about my first 50 miler and I’m only on #9!

Getting ready for a 50 miler is no joke.  If you want to train properly, you have to invest the time into training.  I used the Ultraladies training plan which was easy to follow.  

The hardest part about training for me is getting the long weekend runs.  Ultra running training is about doing long back to back runs on the weekend so your body and mind know what it’s like to run on tired legs.  Even though we have plenty of long trails, the hard part about training runs is that you either need to have all your food/drink with you for those 20+ miles (downside is that you have to carry more stuff), or you need to do loops and keep your refueling in the car (downside it that it’s easy to stop after a loop when you are back to your car) or you can run races as training runs!

This is where Aravaipa Running comes in the pictures.  The 2 major trail running companies here are Aravaipa and XTERRA (more on them in another blog post).

I love running races because you get a shirt, a pint glass, a nice trail and aid stations so it’s probably my favorite way to get a training run in.  In can get expensive but the great thing is that they offer volunteer opportunities so you can get race credits. It’s a great way to give back to the community and then pay for upcoming races!  The other thing is that depending on how I am feeling on that day, I might choose to push myself a bit harder since I’m in a “race” atmosphere.

I did my first 50K with Aravaipa and two others (Elephant Mountain (1st), Frenzy (2nd) and Crown King (3rd) ).  McDowell Mountain Frenzy was a training run for my 50 mile race. So was the Coldwater Rumble (20 miles).  One of the advantages of doing their races is that you have plenty of time to finish them. They usually have at least a 50K or 50 miler or 100 miler so as long as you finish within that time, you have no problem. Just always check to see what the course cut off is and you are good to go.

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I love my pint glass selection and a few are missing..probably the only thing I would like to be different as you can really only fit so many of these in your cupboard 😉

As I write this post, they also have a night trail running series (Insomniac Series) during the summer which are a blast! I remember when I thought trail running was crazy, let alone running at night time on a trail.  But that is now my favorite type of running! I just finished the Adrenaline 26K last weekend (haven’t blogged as I didn’t have time but this is my mini paragraph about it right now.).  This is my favorite! First of all, McDowell mountains have some of my favorite trails.  I also ran this race a few years ago (it was my first night trail run!) and I was hoping to beat my time…which I did!  It was another epic race for me as I shaved 21 minutes off my time from 2014!  Click here for some pics of that run 😉 (I’m training for my 4th 50K in Capitol Reef on 7/9/2016) I’m at 22 seconds in this video they made!

I considered doing an Aravaipa race as my first 50 miler because I love supporting local businesses, especially those that support the running community so well.  The main reason I didn’t is because I wanted to see a new place so that’s why I chose Antelope Canyon (and Elaine practically twisted my arm 😉 and it was over my 45th birthday weekend )

Aravaipa Running also offer a variety of group runs weekly rotating around the Phoenix area.  They are a blast with a lot of fun people!  Check them out!

Click here50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race Report: Crown King Scramble 2016

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….and My Story Runs On….

“Come on, you’re already trained” she said.  These words coming from my friend Suzi who years ago swore she would never trail run yet ran me in my last mile of my 1st 50K, just did her first ultra in February (Black Canyon 60K) and now decided to do her 2nd one.  My boyfriend Greg kidded around and said, “Serves you right.  Now you know what it feels like when you’re trying to get people to drink the Kool Aid.”  Soooooo….I signed up for Aravaipa’s Crown King Scramble 50K.

This race is no joke…The Crown King Scramble is a point to point uphill 50 kilometer foot race which starts at 1700 feet elevation and tops out at mile 28.7 at 6520 feet elevation before a final 600 foot descent into the finish.  This is the elevation profile:

Elevation profile!

Elevation profile!

We had an option for the early start at 5am and I’m glad we took it. Not only did it get us out of the heat for the one hour but more importantly, it took the edge off for getting to the first cutoff (disqualification point) at mile 15.3 in 3.5 hours.  (After the cutoff experience at Antelope Canyon, I knew I didn’t want that extra stress again.)

I considered going for a personal record (my best time for a 50k is 8:19 but I knew this race may not be the right one).  And of course, I was “lucky” again and had the same issue as my last 50K (yes, it was that time of the month again!).  I decided I was just going to enjoy the race and our beautiful Arizona landscape.  One of the things I love most about trail running is being outdoors and enjoying nature.

We barely got there in time and got in the start line about 2 minutes before starting. This was the first ultra for Deb and Kerri, Suzi and Krista’s 2nd, and my 4th. Unfortunately Elaine had the flu and wasn’t able to join us (she’s done two 50 milers but hadn’t done a 50K yet).

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I normally like to do my body looseners but didn’t have time for that. My plan was to run the first 15 miles as much as possible as I knew I would be hiking a lot of the 2nd half. The weather was perfect. It was still dark so we had headlamps but we got to see an amazing sunrise!  I love that I know quite a few people that are trail/ultra runners. I ran into several friends along the way and got to catch up with them a bit.  I met Deborah and Mark a long time ago when I co-taught a ChiRunning workshop for the Mountain Milers group in Prescott.  As much as I wanted to run this part, I was in no rush and wanted to conserve energy for later. This first half had some rolly polly hills but nothing crazy yet.  The night before, I had reviewed a few of my ChiSchool videos on breathing and steep hills so I started focusing on my form and matching my breathing with my footsteps.

From miles 15-19 we started getting the harder hills.  I was by myself on and off and totally OK with that.  I love to run with people just as much as I love being alone on a trail.  I saw Chris, Amanda and Mechaela.  I couldn’t wait to get to the Mile 19 aid station as I know several of my friends were volunteering there. It’s always great to see your friends at aid stations (it’s always a hard choice to pick in between running a race and volunteering at one!).  I normally stick to my nutrition plan (thanks to Brooke who helped with my 50 miler!) but the theme of their aid station was Fiesta and they had some Tecate so I had to have a small shot glass of beer ;). Surprise: Baby G Growler was there as well!  He is the mascot of Running for Brews Tempe (a social running club that I’m in charge of) Right before this I saw my friend Krista and she wasn’t feeling too well. We got up the aid station and I told her to cool off (it was getting warm) and get some food down.  There is also an elevation change to consider for this race and it’s easy to feel nauseated (I felt it several times).  She felt better and we moved on.  My TomTom died at some point because the storage was full.  This never happened for me and was a good learning lesson.I hadn’t downloaded quite a few of my training runs apparently so it didn’t have enough storage for my run. I was a bit annoyed at first but it was a blessing in disguise.  When you don’t know what mile you are at, it’s quite liberating. We just kept setting our next goal to get to the next aid station.

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Cooling off and getting food at the aid station with Krista

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Beer shot with a random stranger names Patrick at the aid station

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My good friend Lori at the aid station volunteering 😉

I ran into a few more friends.  Marina and Jamie were doing their first ultra. Marina’s been having some calf issues so I gave her a few tips on how to limit using it.  I also met Becki and ran into Lynsey (both of their first ultras too!). We did quite a bit of leap frogging for the remainder of the race.  At some point, I tripped over a rock and had a little tumble. Not a big deal…it’s actually been a long time since I fell trail running so I was due for a fall.  I normally am able to catch my balance before falling but my hydration pack was full and I couldn’t counter balance the fall.  I barely got a few scrapes on my hand and we kept moving. I heard my friend Tommy coming up behind us and he’s a great runner and positive guy.  He ran with us for a bit, shared his big smile and positive energy and then moved on.

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Selfie with Tommy and Krista

The Fort Misery Aid station was at mile 22.3.  Apparently they win Best Aid Station contest every year and it was evident by the amount of alcohol they had available.  Again, not something I would normally do but I was feeling good so I had a small Bloody Mary and was proud of myself for resisting the Fireball shot.

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Open Bar coming up!

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Why not have a Blood Mary?

This was the hardest part of the run. You can see how far we climbed. We passed creeks which were great for dunking our hats and buffs. I walked through them purposely as the cold water felt really good on my feet.  I had an extra pair of socks for back up but never used them.  We also had to deal with ATVs and cars four wheel driving. We knew this would be possible as they can’t close the forest road down.  It was a bit annoying although most people were very nice.The smell of diesel from their vehicles was worst than the dust they were creating.

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Creeks! We were looking forward to these!

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We came a long way up that hill!

It’s really weird because sometimes you look back and think, wow, what was I thinking/saying for all that time?  Somehow the time goes by chatting with friends and enjoying the scenery.  I have lived in AZ for over half of my life and have never seen this part of our state.

One of my favorite parts was when we started getting into the pines. The tag line for the race is “spines to pines” because we leave the desert landscape at Lake Pleasant and get to Crown King which is at 6700 feet of elevation. I love the smell of pine trees and hearing the wind blow through the needles.  The slight breeze felt good too.  The last aid station was 2 miles away from the top of the hill and we knew we had 2 miles of downhill after that. We were close!  We kidded around about our heavy legs and whether they would remember how to run downhill (free energy!) after doing so much hiking.

Running downhill was no problem and before we knew it, we were in “town” and people were directing us to the finish line.

My official time was 8:45:22.  Considering I had no expectations for this race other than enjoy it and finish it, I’m happy with it!  As a matter of fact, this is a 50K I would consider doing again. I love a challenge and I love hills.  If I do it next year, I may try and PR the course but for now, I’m just happy to have my 4th Ultra under my belt. I will say finishing a 50 miler 6 weeks prior to this definitely boosted my confidence.  I also love to finish a race feeling strong rather than feeling like a truck ran over me.  I finished strong and even though I was a bit sore the next day, I felt great!

I personally would recommend this race. It’s no joke so make sure to train for the hills and elevation (physically, nutritionally and mentally). Read other blog posts to get the scoop but make sure to have a buff to cover your mouth and nose when there is dust being kicked up.  If you are worried about time, do the early start. It was well worth not worrying about the cutoffs and having an hour in the cooler weather.

I would also recommend spending the night. We stayed at one of these cabins (highly recommend them!) and enjoyed Crown King.  We had dinner at the Saloon and breakfast at Prospector Mall (both were yummy).  And last but not least, you cannot leave Crown King without visiting the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club on the way back to I-17.

Not only was this another great race, but another great weekend with good friends!  Love my running friends and the fact that I have more of them getting into trail running but more importantly into ultra running! Thanks to Aravaipa Running for putting on another amazing event!

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At the Cleator Bar and Yacht club and “ran” into Jamil, the Aravaipa Running Race Director

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Hanging with my friends and the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club 😉

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Mascots! Baby G Growler and Baby E-vil from Running for Brews and Vaip Daddi from Araviapa Running chilling at Cleator Bar and Yacht Club 😉

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Sunrise!

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My first finisher jacket! Well deserved I might add!

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: (8) Altras & Meeting the Co-Founder

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….and My Story Runs On….

I love meeting people while running. Sometimes people run past you and just say hi or good job and sometimes they will chat with you.  I have personally found that trail and ultra runners tend to be a bit more laid back and more open to a quick chat while in the middle of a race.

So while Elaine and I were in Waterhole Canyon after the 28.5 Aid Station, we found ourselves in a bit of an obstacle course.  There were several ladders that we had to climb to get up and over some of the cliffs.  At one point, we were right behind this guy….and after he got over the ladder, Elaine went right after him…well, it wasn’t the easiest ladder to get up and over so while he was still there, she asked him to help her up.  He was very nice and helped her…and I needed help too.  I remember hearing him say something about “your hat” and “your shoes” but I was concentrating on not falling off the ladder.

One of the ladders we had to go over. (picture courtesy of http://www.runningwithoutlimits.com/antelope-canyon-50k-not-always-what-you-expect/)

One of the ladders we had to go over. (picture courtesy of http://www.runningwithoutlimits.com/antelope-canyon-50k-not-always-what-you-expect/)

We ran a bit together and Elaine asked him, “Why did you mention the hat and shoes? Are you an Altra Ambassador?” (Elaine had her Altra hat and I had my favorite Altra Lone Peaks shoes).  He was pretty humble about it and said…well, I’m actually the co-founder, Jeremy Howlett.  Whoa!  How cool was this?  As a running coach, I’m not one to be tied to a particular brand of shoes but if there is one brand that I tend to use the most, it’s Altras. I was so excited to have a chance to meet him! I told him I was a ChiRunning Instructor (we tend to like Altras because they a natural shoe for your foot: Zero Drop™, wide toe box) and how much I love the shoes.  He said he knew Danny Dreyer (the founder of ChiRunning) and mentioned what a great guy he was and how supportive he is of the shoes as well.

Met Jeremy Howlett, the co-founder of Altra shoes ;)

Met Jeremy Howlett, the co-founder of Altra shoes 😉

We chit chatted with him for awhile and then started running again. We leap frogged with him a few times and then we lost each other.

I met a few other cool people that I’ll be blogging about. I’m very grateful for my Altra shoes and so glad I had the chance to run and chat with Jeremy!

My current Altras: 1 pair of trail shoes, 1 hybrid and 1 road shoe

My current Altras: 1 pair of trail shoes, 1 hybrid and 1 road shoe

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My friends love their Altras too!

For any of my local peeps that like to support our local shoe stores, you can find them at I-Run and Sole Sports!

(I am not an Ambassador for Altras….yet…might have to look into it though!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: (6) My Boyfriend!

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….and My Story Runs On…. My boyfriend, my BBE (Best Boyfriend Ever), my running widower, Greg, Gregorio (that’s what my Italian parents call him 😉 )….whatever we call him, he is one of the biggest reasons I am able to do … Continue reading

50 Miles of Gratitude: (5) My Trail Wife

Gallery

….and My Story Runs On…. I assume this is a common way to refer to your trail training partners that spend more hours with you on the trail than they do with their actual spouses?  I’ve heard the term golf … Continue reading