Monday, March 05, 2018

So much has happened since 2015

Wow my little blog is almost 12 years old.  In those early days, before social media apps had taken hold, blogging was were it was at.  Sure some bloggers where sponsored or got free stuff because of their blogs. But we didn’t do it for money, we did it for community.  Remember the blogroll?  I met a ton of trail runners and learned a lot about ultra running through my blog and the connections I made with other bloggers.  In the beginning I blogged a couple of times a week at least.  Eventually my posts dwindled to only race reports and then even that came to a halt and I published rarely.  It’s been two years but my little blog is still here and I’d like to get back to writing more, even if I’m the only one reading it.

I’ll be honest, the last few years have been two of the hardest I’ve ever experienced.  And it pretty much comes down to change. We’ve all seen those lists of life’s biggest stressors.  It seems like I experienced quite a few of them in a short period of time:

  • Left a job with an employer I’d been at for 20 years (due to the organization fostering a toxic workplace, harboring a sexual harasser and bully, as well as demanding unethical work practices —— this is a whole ‘nuther story!).
  • Searched for my professional way through three job changes since then.  And I think I'm still searching....
  • My father passed away in 2016.
  • After my father passed my Mom began to sink quickly into dementia and being unable to live independently.
  • My only child (the LG!) moved away to college.  This is a good thing but I miss him.
  • Hit menopause with all the resulting hormone changes and aggravating symptoms.
  • Had a major falling out with a dear, close friend.
  • Experienced depression and anxiety, which at the time I thought was wholly situational but now realize was partly due to those pesky menopause hormones plus some onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I’d never really experienced before.
  • Fractured my femoral condyle which severely limited not only my running but most exercise.
  • And most recently, Marc was laid off from  a job he loved and which we hoped would take him to retirement.

Phew! I think that’s it.  I'm not listing all these events to garner sympathy.  It’s life and most people experience these events at one time or the other.  And we often don’t know about it in passing.  Hard times happen.  But I do feel like I got hit with quite a few of the most difficult things in life in a very short period of time!

I feel like I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not so much that things have changed but my attitude towards the twist and turns of life have changed. Two of my favorite quotes signify where I am at the moment:

 It is the hardest times in life we remember. 

A painful struggle can turn into a glorious victory 
if you are patient and believe in yourself.

- Liz Bauer, record holder (at the time) for most hundred mile races completed in one calendar year - 36 in 2012.

 If your cup is small, a little bit of salt will make the water salty. 

If your heart is small, then a little bit of pain can make you suffer. 
Your heart must be large.

- Thay Nhat Hanh

Revisiting these quotes makes me realize I need to be less closed off, less inner focused and open my heart to more people and experiences.  And also be less judgemental of both myself and others.  I've always been hyper aware of other's perceptions and wanting to make a good impression.  I realize now that I don't always need to strive for A+ work.  Perfectionism is stressful and tiring.  I will give myself some slack and shoot for a B- average.

Hard times in life will always happen.  Overall I've been blessed with a fulfilling life, with good health, great family and friends and the means to support myself financially.  Rather than dwell on my current problems or keep looking to the future when I hope things will be brighter, I want to appreciate each moment for what it is.  And some good things have happened as a result of these more difficult times.  I've learned who my true friends are. And through more frequent visits to my mother in Arizona I've developed a closer relationship to my brother and his family.  I've become more outgoing from having to step out of my comfort zone to adapt to new workplaces.

And since this is a running blog after all, another way out of my funk has been to re-focus on running. My last long race was a 50 mile is April 2016!  That year I was lucky enough to gain entry via the lottery to Cascade Crest 100.  But after my father passed away that June, my training suffered and I lost my running mojo.  Well meaning friends told me to run it for him, but that wasn't a big motivator for me and I decided to withdraw from the race.  In 2017 I decided to re-focus on a big scary goal of completing the Mogollon Monster 100 in Arizona.  But the fracture in August put that plan to rest.

At the start of this year I thought a lot about where I wanted to take my running.  My last 100 mile was in 2015. Was I getting too old?  Did I really want to put in the time to train for a 100?  Being out in nature is one of the things that makes me the happiest and I've figured out that I need to do more of that.  So the answer to the 100 mile question is YES!  My first plan was to try to get into Cascade Crest again. Unfortunately that didn't happen. With my current job, travel in September is problematic so I need to stay fairly close to home.  I'd already completed Mountain Lakes, and while I wouldn't mind running that again I wanted a new challenge. Fortunately Alpine Running has come up with a new Oregon hundred - Old Cascadia 100.   I'm excited!  We need 30 participants to make it a go and so far we're a third there.  I have a back-up plan but will be extremely disappointed if this race doesn't happen. So if you follow me on social media and see me posting often about this race that's why!

If you've made it this far in this day and age of expiring social media posts I have to hand it to you.  I think I made up for lost time.  Hopefully I'll be inspired to write again sooner than 2+ years.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Success in 2015

2015 has been a pretty good year. I PR'd the 100k distance at Pigtails 100k and came in second female in the process. I achieved my goal of running 100 miles in under 24 hours at Elijah Bristow 24 Hour. I actually won an ultra (first female) at the Pick Your Poison Relay (24 Hour Solo Trail division) and I finished my third 100 mile trail race within my time goal at Mountain Lakes. To top it all off I was the Female Masters winner of the Oregon Trail Series Long Race division. In addition to my own accomplishments I was able to play a small part in my good friend Desiree's completion of the Larry Slam (WSER, TRT, CCC, P2P). By all measures, it was a successful racing year.

But when I think back on the year, on all that happened, it's not the numbers I remember. The images that come to mind are of friendships and camaraderie.  Those relationships are the important things from 2015 and what I will cherish when the statistics of the year fade away.  That's the true success of 2015.

A few images that make me smile....

Elijah Bristow 24 Hour with my awesome crew/pacers Megan and Desiree

Desiree's spectacular WSER finish

Running the Timberline trail with Megan and Teri (picture by Teri Smith)

Pacing Desiree at Cascade Crest 100 (picture by Glenn Tachiyama)

Desiree coming in for the finish of Pine to Palm --- and the Larry Slam
(picture by Paul Nelson)

Mountain Lakes 100 mile finish with my awesome crew Ethan and Desiree
(picture by Paul Nelson Photography)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell 2013.....Looking Forward to 2014

Early in 2013 I stated here that this year I wanted to train better and see what I could accomplish if I gave it my all.  Well I guess I accomplished that goal because I did focus more on my training and I achieved more than I could have ever thought possible.  Instead of a rundown of my year, I'll just list my top five running accomplishments.  And yes, I feel extremely fortunate to have had a year that included even more than five highlights.

#5 Tie - 5k PR and Oregon Trail Series Age Group win

Okay, I  lied and can't keep it to just 5 highlights.   In September, the week before Mountain Lakes 100, I ran a neighborhood 5k and finished in 23:17.  That's a 7:29 pace in case you don't want to do the math.  Whoa!  I really didn't know I had that in me. I'm the gal who usually plods along at a 9-10 minute pace.  And since I didn't feel like I needed to puke for the last mile I'm pretty sure I could have pushed it more and maybe even finished under 23 minutes.

In September I also found out that I won my age group in the Oregon Trail Series.  Technically I was second,  But fortunately for me the overall winner was in my age group.  Nevertheless I'm proud of my result and I won another cool pint glass to add to my collection.

#4 Waldo 100k

I never would have thought that finishing Waldo would NOT be the number one highlight in a year.  But it still makes the top 5. :)  This was a tough day for me, but I still had a pretty strong race and earned my hat.  And now I want to go back and finish sub 16 hours.

#3 Mt Hood Circumnavigation

This was a spur of the moment adventure.  For my 49th birthday I decided I wanted to complete an epic run.  Yassine suggested this one.  I had my doubts whether it was the right time or place, but I'm so glad I took the plunge.  What a wonderful adventure!  Marc joined in the fun and we spent 15 glorious hours circling the 40+ miles around one of the most beautiful mountains in the country.  This is one birthday I'll never forget.

#2 Javelina Jundred

After the disappointment of Mountain Lakes, I'm so glad I was able to move on and finish my first trail 100 down in Arizona.  Some things that made it extra special were my brother pacing me a lap from miles 62 to 77 and finally getting the "first 100" monkey off our backs with good friend Desiree.

#1  Mt Hood 50 mile

Even in a year where I finished Waldo as well as my first trail hundred, I can honestly say that my third running of the Mt Hood 50 miler was my best running moment.  This was a perfectly executed race.  It's the one I'll judge all future races against.  Plus, finishing sub 10 hours, which I never in my wildest dreams thought I could do in a trail 50, was pretty sweet.  My finish pictures pretty much say it all!  And this being the race I fought so hard to even get to the start the first time, is just the cherry on the top.

Looking forward to 2014, I know that 2013 will be tough to top.  I do have a few big goals in the works and hope I can keep riding the wave and eek out two good years in a row.  Whatever happens, I love this sport and it's participants.  I'm forever grateful to be a part of it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

I'm famous! (okay, not really)

When the guys at Animal Athletics asked me to write a short piece about my experiences with them, I didn't hesitate.  I love working with Yassine and Willie!  They put my write-up together into a blog post which you can read here

I'd already been planning a post here about Animal Athletics and may combine that with an end of the year wrap up.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Javelina Jundred 2013 Race Report

I was disappointed after Mountain Lakes, but confused about whether I should focus my energy on another 100 mile race or wait until next year.  On the one hand, I really wanted to finish a 100 miler this year.  I'm confident it would have happened at Mountain Lakes so not getting that 100 mile finish there, surrounded by friends and family, was a huge let down.  But on the other hand, it had been a long season and I was tired. I've seen other people miss getting a 100 mile finish and then jump right into another one to fail again.  I wasn't sure I had the mental fortitude to do it.

Javelina on October 26th was a possibility, but as I was visiting my family in the Phoenix area the weekend after Mountain Lakes, I still wasn't sure.  I did a few runs and it felt hot and dry.  What a contrast to the prior weekend.  My parents live in a retirement apartment complex with a central dining hall where most of the residents eat their meals.  As my parents introduced me to their friends and neighbors, they often mentioned I was a runner.  To all these people I was a young person and I heard many stories of the good old days, mostly now a distant memory.  It made me realize I  need to take advantage of every opportunity given to me in life.  I had been fearing another failure , but I now knew I had to seize every moment.  I would come back again in 3 weeks to give it another shot at the Javelina Jundred.

Getting back into training mode for another three weeks was difficult. And then Marc had a medical emergency which resulted in a four day hospital stay. I didn't think I'd be able to make the trip after all. And honestly I was a little relieved. But as he recovered enough for me to leave him I realized I really wanted this second chance for a 100 mile finish in 2013.

This race consists of six 15.3 mile loops and one shorter 9 mile loop. The loops are run washing machine style so you always head back out the way you came. Since I would be without a crew I decided to splurge on a small tent to keep my stuff. The day before the race I went out to drop off some gear and scored a tent not too far from the turnaround. At packet pickup I saw my good friend Desiree who was also down from Portland looking for her first 100 mile finish and Dana, who was crewing and pacing someone else. It was nice seeing friendly, familiar faces since I was missing "Team Sarah" - Rose and Seth who had been with me for my other 100 mile attempts.

Can't run a race without wearing my Animal Athletics shirt! pic by Dana Katz

Before long race morning was finally upon me. Since I had to take the shuttle to the start I got there early and by 4:45 I was all ready to go. I met a few friends (Rick and Renee!) whom I had only known online, which was fun. We socialized and took some pictures and before I knew it the 100 mile journey began.

With Desiree, waiting for the start. Pic by Dana Katz

With Dana, Rick and Rick's wife.  Pic by Brian August

We're off to a blazing start!  Not.  :)  Pic by Aravaipa Running

Loop 1- clockwise
Mile 0 to 15.3
3:09 hrs/mins
12:21 pace

Des and I decided to stick together for the first loop. We'd been warned that the course was very runnable and we'd need to make an effort to keep it slow so we wouldn't burn out. My goal was to keep it to 13:30 pace which didn't exactly happen. But I never felt like we were running too hard. It was nice to have the company and we spent the time chatting away just as if we were on Wildwood in Forest Park.

Not yet 9am and I already have my sleeves rolled down in the warm conditions. Pic by Aravaipa Running

Loop 2 - counter clockwise
Mile 15.3 to 30.6
3:41 hrs/mins
14:26 pace

It was already starting to get warm so I took the time to change into my cooling sleeves, cooling shirt and hat with flaps. The pace slowed down on this lap, but this also takes into account the time spent at Jeadquarters (about 12 minutes) plus extra time at the aid stations on course. I wore my Mountain Hardwear fluid race vest with a 1.5 liter (50 oz) bladder. The first loop I didn't need to fill, but with temperatures rising I now wanted to make sure it was always topped off with water and ice.  The main thing I remember about this loop is that I started out by downing a chocolate coconut water from my cooler and then immediately ate a trail butter wrap.  Ugh.  Too much all at once. What a rookie mistake.  The only good thing is that it forced me to slow up compared to Loop 1.  I walked and slowly ran a lot of the first 4 miles which helped my stomach digest and settle.

Decked out in my full cooling outfit. pic by Aravaipa Running

Loop 3 - clockwise
Mile 30.6 to 45.9
3:45 hrs/mins
14:42 pace 

This was the expected hot loop I'd been dreading. I'd committed to the race only 2-1/2 weeks prior but had managed to get in eight sauna sessions of 20-35 minutes each. I read and re-read Pam's post about how she conquered the heat at Western States. I drew the line at cotton (going with the cooling clothes instead) but took to heart the advice to get and stay as wet as possible. I also bought and used one of those crystal cooling bandanas. It all worked. The ice in my bladder helped keep my core cool, along with the baggie of ice I'd put by my chest in my bra. I dunked my hat in the ice water buckets at the aid stations and used the sponges to soak my sleeves. I put chunks of ice in my sweatband against the inside of my wrist. A few times it even felt too cold and I had to temporarily work the ice around to the outside of my wrist. The crystal bandana never felt as cold as the ice but I'm convinced the constant coolness against my neck that never dried up or melted away made a big difference. When I finished this loop at 4:30, as the air was cooling off, Dana asked how I felt. It wasn't bravado that answered "It didn't feel that hot." Loop 3 was actually one of my better loops and I was able to run a lot more than I expected. My time for Loop 3 was only three minute slower than Loop 2, but I probably spent longer at the aid stations filling up. So that means I actually made better time in the heat than I did in the cooler temps of the morning.  When I found out after I'd finished the race that temperatures had reached 95+ on course I was surprised.

Changed and ready to go out on Loop 4. Pic by Dana Katz

Loop 4 - counter clockwise
Mile 45.9 to 61.2
3:58 hrs/mins 
15:33 pace

With the sun due to set in about an hour I changed out of my cooling shirt and hat and into my 2013 Mt Hood 50 mile shirt and visor for the last of the sun.   I also grabbed my light.  It was only supposed to get down to 60 at night and I had a long sleeve at my midway drop in case it cooled much more than that.  I also took the time to turn on my phone to text my brother who was planning to join me for Loop 5.  As my phone started up I could see alerts from Facebook and Twitter, but couldn't take the time to look at any of them.  However, it was nice to have a bit of tangible evidence that my friends at home were following along and cheering for me.  About 4 miles into the loop I saw Desiree up ahead and was able to catch up to her.  We were just at the point that we needed to turn on our lights. (Side note:  From the tracking it probably looked like we had been running together all this time.  We did run the full first loop together. But Des was ahead of me the whole second loop  Then on the third loop I caught up with a few miles to go and we finished together.  But Des was able to leave more quickly than I did again.  All in all, I think we ran about 30 miles together which was really nice.)  We went on to run the rest of Loop 4 together.   I can't express in words how much it meant to me that we were out on this course together.  We'd put in numerous miles together over the last few years and shared many highs and lows.  Crewing Des at her first 100 mile attempt inspired me to give the distance a try myself. Being able to finish our first 100 on the same course would be extra special.

Loop 5 -  clockwise
Mile 61.5 to 76.5
4:17 hrs/mins
16:47 pace

My brother, Phil, was waiting for me at the timing area as I finished Loop 4.  After a moment at the tent to grab some more fuel we were off.  Phil is a very experienced runner and racer.  He was varsity on a top cross country team in high school, ran for his college and continued on to run marathons and other races in his twenties. (His marathon PR is 2:32 ---- no joke!)  He still races and is involved in his kids' cross country team but hasn't run longer distances in a few years and not a lot on trail.  I warned him we would be moving pretty slowly.  We hadn't really talked about his "job" as pacer, but it didn't matter because he did great!  For the first half of the loop, which covered the more rocky, technical section, he followed my lead and walked when I walked and ran when I ran.  But as we rounded the loop and the trail was more runnable, he encouraged me to run when I otherwise might not have. He distracted me with stories.  It was a great time for both of us.  He provided me with support and encouragement at a critical part of the race, but also got to experience a new kind of race for him.  (And between you and me I think he may have caught the trail ultra bug!).

I had been feeling pretty good physically up to this loop.  (For a time on Loop 3 I had some knee pain but it went away. ) But halfway through I felt a painful hot spot smack dab in the middle of my left foot.  At the midway aid station I stopped to relube and change my sock, hoping that would help.  Also near the end of this loop, my stomach started to feel queasy.  Up until that point I had been fueling consistently on my every 30 minutes and felt pretty good (except for the Loop 2 mistake).  I switched to more liquids such as broth and soda, but ended up coming into Jeadquarters with my stomach still feeling off.

My time goal for this race was to finish the first six full laps in 24 hours or under and then finish the race in 27 hours or under.  With my brother leaving me and not feeling so great, I was sure I wouldn't reach my goals.  I thought I would end up slowing down a lot on Loop 6. But Phil was super encouraging and told me he believed in me --- I could do it!

At the airport with my brother Phil the Monday after the race. We both had flights to catch!

Loop 6 - counter clockwise
Mile 76.5 to 91.8
4:56 hrs/mins
19:20 pace

Back at my tent I decided I needed to check out my hot spot more closely.  Sure enough it was a deep blister under a ball of the foot callus.  I spent a lot of time trying to drain it without success and ended up just putting on a blister pad, hoping that would cushion it and make it less painful to run on.  I'm pretty sure I spent way too much time messing around when I needed to make up some time and get out of there.  I got some broth and headed out.  Within a few miles I saw Des coming towards me as she finished up Loop 5.  I had been wondering about her, but expected her to be ahead of me instead of behind me.  Turns out we had passed her while she was taking a bio break.  Loop 5 had been a tough loop for her so I gave her as much encouragement as I could.  She has been at all my other 100 mile attempts (plus numerous other races)  and we were determined that we were both going to finish this one.  Des is emphatically not a quitter, but so much can happen in a race that's out of your control.  So I was worried.  I knew I could not be truly happy with my finish if Des didn't finish too.

Much to my surprise I moved a lot better on this loop by myself than I thought I would without Phil's company.  I actually ran a lot of the gradual uphills.  My foot was killing me, but eventually both my feet ached. So the blister spot didn't seem so bad. Even if I had been able to relieve the pressure there I'd still have the general foot ache.  It became one of those things I just had to try not to think about. Same with the nausea.  It was always there but I decided to stick to broth, coffee and coke and hard candies.  I knew I could make it the rest of the way on fumes if I had to.  But man these miles were hard.  Much of it is a blur now, but I remember having doubts and wondering why it was so difficult.  I never truly thought I'd quit or wouldn't finish, but at the same time wondered if I really had what it takes.

The night seemed to go on forever.  I never felt super sleepy but I did have a few mild hallucinations.  I recall admiring the Christmas yard decorations, which turned out to be cacti, of course.  And I saw a brilliant shooting star, which wasn't a hallucination. But mostly I just looked at my feet and the trail in front of me, focused now on the finish.

Loop 7 - clockwise
Mile 91.8 to 100.8
2:24 hrs/mins
16:00 pace

Finally, I made it back to Jeadquarters and could now go out on my final, shorter loop.  I had been so inspired by the other runners with their glow stick necklaces, showing that they were on their final loop.  Now it was my turn!  It would get light again soon so I changed into a short sleeve, grabbed my visor and got back out there as soon as I could.  I'm pretty sure I left by 5:55 which meant my brother was right and I had made my goal of finishing the first six loops in 24 hours.   I tried to do the math in my head and thought it might be possible to finish in under 26 hours.   I pushed for this goal but eventually my only care was about finishing.  The sun came out and it felt warm really quickly, much more so than the day before.  About a mile and a half in, who do I see but Des!  I was so happy to see her!  She couldn't stop, but I yelled encouragement to her as she passed.  Seeing her gave me a little happy boost and I pushed on.  However, it seemed like forever to go 5.5 miles to the turnoff to the finish.  I was still running some, but this section was generally uphill and rocky so there was a lot of hiking.  I hadn't fallen or tripped the whole race and I didn't want to now! Finally I reached the turnoff. It was only a gradual 2.5 mile downhill then one mile of rolling/flat to the finish.  I thought I would be running most of the 2.5 miles down, but still had to stop for walk breaks here and there.  I knew I'd finish over 26 hours but I didn't care.  I was going to finish!

Finally I reached the turn to the finish with a mile to go.  Soon more people lined the course and as they cheered for me I started to get very emotional.  I wanted to smile as I crossed the finish line, not cry!  So I tried to smile, but as soon as I was done I bent over and put my head in my hands.  Relief, joy, pain. I had done it.  26:10:57
pic by Aravaipa Running

Pic by Aravaipa Running

Pic by Aravaipa Running

Finishing my first 100 mile trail race felt incredible.  It had been over a year in the making. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but there were also many moments of pain and wondering why.  Someone wrote somewhere I can't remember right now, that they ran 100's because it was one of the only times in life that required they give all of themselves 100 percent.  That is so true.  You can't fake your way through 100 miles.  I'll add that much of the appeal is also the joy, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you get after the fact.  I know I'll be feeling this glow for quite a while.  And when it wears off, I'm pretty sure there's another 100 mile race in my future.