Sunday, September 17, 2006

Cle Elum 50K 2006


Short version: 6:22:04, 4th woman, 2nd F30-39

Long version:
I hadn’t planned on writing a report for this race since I’ve tried to write only about distant races that most others would never have a chance to run. But I decided to continue with my “memoirs.”

After returning from Lost Soul 100 mile, I promptly caught a cold. It didn’t take much as my immune system was down from all the traveling and running. So, I didn’t run all week because I didn’t want to screw my chances of running at Cle Elum 50K on Saturday, September 16. I rested and took Airborne day and night. It seemed to work because it didn’t blossom into a full blown cold. Mainly, lots of sniffling, congestion, and a mild cough.

I awoke to the sound of pouring rain 4:45AM Saturday morning. I met Tony Covarrubias, Arthur Martineau, and Shawn Lawson at the Maple Valley park and ride at 5:30. Shawn was volunteering, Tony was the trail sweep for the first 21 miles, and Arthur and I would try to run our best, both having completed 100 milers recently. Shawn and Arthur had finished Cascade Crest 100 mile on 8/26.

Fortunately, as we dropped down to the eastern side of Snoqualmie pass, the weather cleared up and it was looking like a fine day for running. Due to a bridge closure, we had to take a longer route to the start but arrived in plenty of time to check in and get ready for the start. Krissy Moehl, the race director, had marked the course the day before with snow falling on her at Windy pass. So we all prepared for possible inclement weather.

My plan for this race was to just enjoy myself. It was the last race in the Trophy series for me, and after having garnered 400 points the week before, I knew that I didn’t need to place in the top three to win the series. Besides, my legs were probably dead and I was dealing with a head cold. I started out very conservatively, even running next to last place in the first 3 miles. But one by one, I started passing people, still running at a comfortable pace. Although my calves were tight from all the hill climbing in this race, I wasn’t feeling too bad. I did produce a ton of snot from my cold. Gross!

For the first time in the four years that I have run this race, I really started to look around and realized what a nice course this is. Sure, there are areas where the motorbikes have trashed the trails with big divots, but there are still a lot of runnable areas. I’d say that 70% of the trails are runnable, granted you have not trashed yourself in the first half with all the hills and end up having to pay for it in the second half. The first year I ran this race, which was also my first ultra, I went out too fast and ended up struggling with frequent walking in the 2nd half, particularly in the last 10 miles. It wasn’t very pleasant. On this day, I kept it at a comfortable pace, enough to get my breathing going but not so much that felt I was riding on the edge. I was able to run the entire second half.

Unfortunately, there was a motorbike race happening that same morning. Krissy said that she applied for her permit long ago and couldn’t understand how another race was allowed on the same day. She was able to delay them starting an hour to 11AM, but I still encountered many motorbikes during my run. Not only did they stir up dust, but the fumes from their bikes were even worse. I had brought my face mask in anticipation of this, as my asthma has been bad at recent races. Thankfully, for the most part, my asthma did not bother me during the race.

I took me 3hr45 min to get to Windy Pass, which lived up to its name. It’s amazing how the climbs just went on and on. I think it was about 17 miles into the race by then, and I figured it would take me another 3 hours to finish. I had been running with the same guys for a while. We continued to pass a few more ladies. There were several stream crossings, but nothing higher than ankle deep. I reached the 21 mile aid station at 4:38. I figured then that it would take me another two hours to finish. From that point on, I was able to run ahead of the group that I was running with except for one guy-yellow water bottle guy. I kept him in my sites for most of the last ten miles. We ended up passing a young looking gal, but then she decided to pass me right back within a half mile. Guess she didn’t like the fact that I had passed her. I told her as she was passing, “Don’t worry about me, I ran a 100 miler last week-end and am fading.” She said, “What? Are you psycho?” and continued on. She never got too far ahead of me.

With about 3 miles to go, we both passed another girl. Then we passed yellow water bottle guy when he stopped at a water station with 2 miles to go. Still, young looking gal was always within my sites, probably only 20-30 seconds ahead, but she was running like there was no care in the world. When we reached the last downhill section, which marked about ½ a mile to go, I gunned it down that hill as fast as I could to catch her. She was still just trotting along, unaware that I was closing in on her. A hiker was coming up the trail, and just about then, my shell jacket fell off of my hydration pack, having loosened from the bungee cord holding it in place from my pounding down the hill. She alerted me that I dropped my coat. “Oh no!” I cried. She helped pick it up for me. I thanked her and went on my way to catch that girl again. As I was coming up right behind her, she turned to see me coming full speed and picked up her pace. I wanted to pass her before the last turn down the short single track switchback, but I ran out of trail and she entered it first. The finish is practically right there when you emerge from the trail. She ended up finishing before me, 11 seconds according to the results, but I think I was more like 5 seconds behind her. She took third and I was fourth. If I had known our position, I would have run harder after I had passed her to keep her behind me. So I didn’t get any extra points for the trophy series, but no matter, I pretty much clenched the series win with my performance at Lost Soul. My race number was 19 and I came in 19th overall. Cool, huh? My time of 6:22 was only 9 minutes off of last year’s time. Not bad on spent legs, I thought.

Arthur finished 15 minutes faster than his time last year with a 6:55. But he struggled with hip pain that he developed from Cascade. Tony did his trail sweep to mile 21 and looked forward to running in the last 10 miles at his pace. But when he got there expecting to hand off the duty to someone else, he was told that he had been signed up to do the whole distance. So he ended up sweeping the entire course, running more like 35 miles in an effort to keep moving. He would run ahead and back to the last runners, trying to get them to eat and drink as they were seriously bonking. Thanks Tony for taking on that duty!

The post race festivities are always very cold in that area due to the shade. So if you ever run this race, make sure you pack extra warm clothes to change into. Also bring a chair to sit in. The awards ceremony was fun with great prizes and give-aways (Krissy has great connections). I won a pair of Montrail shoes (and who needs shoes more than I do!) since the first place F30-39 was not there to get first pick. Lucky me! Next year, Chris and Marty Fagan will take over the run, but did a fine job in the “Race Directors in Training,” on this day.

I don’t have a race next week-end, but the following week-end will be the “Quad” with Tahoe Triple and Auburn Marathon. See some of you there!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lost Soul Ultra 100 mile 2006


Short version:
28:48:44, first woman, 5th overall, 29 starters, 50% DNF. Temps in the 90s. Lethbridge, Alberta at 3500ft according to another runner. Very well organized race. Great people.

Long version: (In other words, grab a cup of coffee if you want to read on)
This was my last run in Canada for the year. I have done 4 of them, two 100 milers, one 100K, and one 50K, all in the Trophy Series. All put my physical and mental abilities to the test.

Ken, my husband, and I drove to Lethbridge on Thursday, September 7. It took us twelve hours. After we crossed the border, we saw a couple interesting tourist attractions. The first one was next to an ice cream shop we visited twice on our trip. There were three goats living on top of a roof that had grass growing on it. The other attraction was the largest truck in the world. It was pretty big! I made the mistake of driving most of the way there. Ken offered to drive, but I kept telling him that I was okay, that I had it mostly in cruise control. But by the time we arrived, my calf muscles were twitching, not a good thing before a 100 mile race. I stretched as much as I could that night.

We arrived at the host hotel, the Lethbridge Lodge, at 8:30pm Mountain Time. We had lost an hour in our travel. We met the only other 100 miler coming from the states, Kim Eunsup from Texas. His mother lives in Canada and he thought it might be fun to run the 100 miler. His only 100 miler prior to that was Rocky Raccoon. Unfortunately, Kim had to drop out. I wished I had more time to talk to him, but he left before the festivities. We checked into our room, number 306, my birthday! That had to be a good sign.

After a fairly good night sleep, I woke up at 5am and got ready for the 6am weight, blood pressure, and pulse check in. The 100K runners also had to have the same done and needed to be present at the pre-race meeting at 7am before the 8am race start. My weight was 50.0kg, BP was good, but my heart was racing at 92. You’d think that a runner like me would have a very low heart rate, but I was quite nervous as my intent was to win the race. I tried to check out the competition, but with the 100K runners mixed in, I had to force myself to think about running a smart race. I actually knew a lot of the runners there from previous races. They all seemed to know about my running feats this year. I guess I have been the talk of several running groups in Canada. I was already a legend! Imagine that, little me. I picked up my race packet and found a beautiful fleece pullover with the race insignia on it. All the runners got one and each were unique to the distance you were running. I thought that was special to have that distinction. My race number was 21, also a lucky number in my view.

We all lined up at 8AM and started on time from the hotel, which was also a major aid station. The 100 milers race was 3 laps. I had only 4 days rest since my previous race on Sunday 9/3, which was a very difficult 50K. I guess that I should not have run an “easy” 7+ mile run with 73-year-old Mel Preedy on Wednesday. We ran at a pretty good clip and rather than keeping me loose, it probably tired me out more. But I could not pass up the opportunity to run with Mel. He always has the greatest stories!

The race started with a 7K loop that came back to the hotel. Although this race was run in the “prairies,” it was very tough. The race only boasted 3000ft of elevation gain per 33-mile lap, but that was deceiving. There were a lot of chinscraper climbs and just as steep descents. For those of you who have run Lord Hill, think of that steep hill 2/3 into the loop. Some of the hills at Lost Soul were steeper than that and maybe even longer. Some runners started with hiking or ski poles. I wanted to see if I could do without mine for the first lap.

The next section featured more steep climbs and descents as well as some runnable sections in the prairies. It was a 12.7K loop with a self-serve water station half way. Unfortunately, you had to run by a sewage treatment plant for about 1K. It didn’t matter which way the wind was blowing. The stench was overpowering. Because this area had some decent climbs, you were breathing in this stuff deeply. I had my face mask to tone it down a little. The end of this section brought you to the Peenaquim aid station. All the aid stations were Cadillac with big tents, cots to rest on, and a wide assortment of food, including ham and cheese sandwiches and soup. The volunteers were amazing. Ken crewed for me the entire way and forced me to eat and drink to keep me going.

It was 5.4K to the next aid station at Pavan, which included very steep climbs. It was during this stretch, only 25K into the race, that I started to have problems with tight calf muscles and twitching, suggesting that cramping was imminent. It felt like I had already run 15 miles into a marathon and was hitting the wall as far as my muscles were concerned. The combination of my 54K earlier in the week, my 7 mile training run with Mel, driving almost the entire way to Lethbridge, and the increasing heat of the day was too much for my legs. I arrived at Pavan and told Ken that it would be a very long day. I could barely sit in a chair, afraid that I would cramp up. I paced around in the parking lot while eating to keep them stretched. I was taking Succeed and drinking a lot. but I found that instead of 1 Succeed per hour, I needed two due to the heat.

I left the Pavan aid station for the longest stretch without aid, a 15.8K loop back to this aid station with a self-serve water station about 2/3 of the way. Immediately, there was a steep climb, and that really sent my calves into a tizzy. They didn’t develop into a full blown cramp like they did at Eagle, but I was just riding on the edge. I had to force myself to slow down and walk the flat sections to give them a rest. Unfortunately, when my calves were at the peak of their problems, I needed to climb over several gates and barbed wire fences. The first one was a gate, and the best way to get to the other side was to climb the rungs. But all I could do was pace back and forth there in front of the gate until I felt I could go through it without cramping. I finally squeezed in between the rungs as slowly as I could. There was no way I could have climbed over it. I made it without cramping. Then I reached a barbed wire fence. Another runner had caught up with me and held it down, since it was toppling over anyway, for me to climb over. I was glad to have him there, but then he moved on. Then there was another barbed wire fence. Another runner held the wires apart for me to squeeze through, and I made it through that without cramping as well. Whew! Finally, the extra Succeed tablets I had taken started to kick in and my calves calmed down. I was able to catch up back to the other runners that passed me except one. That made me feel better that I had not lost that much time. In fact, I was behind the only other 100 mile girl ahead of me, Charlotte, and caught her at the end of the loop.

The next section of 6K that took us back to Peenaquim aid station, but through a different route. It included two very steep climbs, and I decided to take one hiking pole with me. It helped, but I felt that having two poles would balance me more. My husband said I cranked this section and was surprised to see me get there before the others. They were just arriving as I was leaving, but without poles this time, since the next part was a mostly flat 6K with one big climb before arriving at the end of the lap at Lethbridge Lodge headquarters.

It took me 7 ½ hours to get through the first lap. I made the mistake of thinking that I should run the same pace as last year’s winner, which was 6 ½ hours the first lap. But I was not aware that the course this year was tougher with re-routing a section to avoid running in a cow pasture. This added 4 more tough climbs. In addition, last year’s temps were comfortable in the low 70s compared to our 90s. I arrived at the end of the first lap as the first two 100K ladies were leaving. That right there told me that I was running too fast. They took off on their second and last lap, minus that first 7K loop that 100 milers had to run in each of our laps. I had my weight checked-49.9kg, I had lost only 0.1kg. Great, I was hydrating and eating well. My pulse actually went down to 88 and my BP was good. I left as Charlotte and the others were just coming in.

I started my second lap. I now had both of my poles, my hydration pack with Gatorade, and a hand held filled with water to pour over my head. I think I did a good job of keeping cool. However, my asthma started to bother me with the combination of the heat, some dehydration, and the elevation, which I heard from another runner that it was at 3500ft. I was riding on the edge with my asthma and cramps for most of the race, neither getting severe enough to force me to stop but significant enough to slow me down. I tried to use my inhaler regularly, which helped. When I felt that my calves were getting tight again, I would take more Succeed. It would still take about ½ and hour for them to calm down, so I learned that I needed to take them earlier in the future. Later, someone suggested I also take Tums for calcium for my cramps, and I think it helped. Having the poles was key. They helped propel me up the steep hills because I pushed up on them, allowing my calves some rest. On the down hills, I placed them in front of me to prevent me from falling forward as well as give my quads a rest. I fell twice before using the poles but not after. My arms got a pretty good workout and were almost as sore as my legs when I finished.

From that point on, I was not passed by another woman. I heard that Charlotte had to be helped off the trail because she was not able to keep anything down. Angela Pierotti was the next woman and had passed Charlotte before she stopped. The two other female 100 milers had to quit, I’m not sure why, but probably heat-related. By then end of the second loops, Angela was 30 minutes behind me. The last part of my second lap and beginning of the third lap were run in the dark. I don’t like running by myself in the dark at all. I heard rustling in the bushes and freaked out! I would scream, “Go on!” or bark or click my poles together to scare off any critters. I saw white-tailed deer but only heard the coyotes howling. I later found that the rustling in the bushes and trees were only birds. However, the adrenaline that was released from being scared helped with my asthma since it opened up my airways in preparation to breathe better in a fight/flight response.
I experienced a beautiful sunset and sunrise. AT sunrise, I had my only hallucination, which was the top of a power line in the horizon that looked like a man taking a picture of the sunrise with a camera on a tripod. Otherwise, I was not sleepy at all.

My weight after the second lap was 49.9kg. Wow! I was amazed that I had maintained my weight. The second lap took longer, about 10 ½ hours due to running in the dark. I took off on the third lap trying to catch Hiroshige or “Hiro” because some of the run was through city trails and parks and there were a lot of Friday night parties or groups hanging out late with drinking a main theme. When we were back on the trails, I left Hiro since his painful knees were slowing him down and I didn’t want to lose any lead time I had on Angela. At the end of the second lap, she was 45 minutes behind, so I was still gaining time over her. All of us lost time during the night moving slower through the technical terrain. But the trails were extremely well-marked, and I never got lost. The 2nd half of the third lap put me back into the day light, and I made the mistake of not taking a hat with me in that long 15.7K loop. I was so hot and flushed by the time I made it through that section. I arrived at the Pavan aid station with 12.5K to go. I asked Ken where Angela was. He wasn’t very sure about the time but had been told that she looked strong going into that loop and barely stuck around. As soon as I heard that, I bolted out the chair into the next section. Ken told me that he would stick around for ½ and hour to see if she came in.

I cranked that tough 6K section and passed Carl, who had passed me about 18 miles into the race. He told Ken earlier that I would eventually catch him and referenced about “roadkill.” I told him I was just trying to stay in front of the next girl as the reason for my urgency. He said I looked strong. Ken had barely made it to the next aid station when I was about to arrive. But he was standing there with a large group of people who were waiting for a guy named Mark, the first 50K runner to come through. As I was approaching them, several of them thought I was Mark and commented that they were sure I was him because Mark floated when he ran. I slowed to a brief walk after running hard for a while. They wondered why their Mark had slowed to a walk and someone said that they had just walked out in that section and there was a patch of bad trail, so they thought that was why their runner was slowing down. I started running again and one of them commented that they had never seen Mark run with poles. That’s when Ken finally said, “I think that’s my wife. She’s running the 100 miler.” They didn’t believe him. They didn’t expect that someone who had only 6.5K to go in a 100 mile race could be running that strong. But as I approached, they realized it was not their Mark and burst into a loud cheer. It was a nice pick me up. Mark arrived and left before me. He took off on the trail and one of his friends said, “Look, he’s sprinting.” That’s when I took off sprinting, too, letting them know that I still had a kick in me. Ken told me later that they bombarded him with questions about me and it took him a while to pack up and head towards the finish line. Before I left, Ken told me that Angela had not arrived at the last aid station when he left, meaning that I still had a decent enough lead that she would not be able to catch me in the little distance I had left to go.

That last section was hard with the sun beating on me, even though it was mostly flat. My feet were really starting to hurt. I had blisters on two toes on the right foot and the bottoms of my feet just ached. Every step was painful. Then I had to run over this short but crazy section of river rocks. The person who designed this course was really sick and sadistic. I had to crank that last section to finish under 29 hours. The last part of each lap featured a long chinscraper hill. I finished to the cheers of the small crowd that had gathered there and into the arms of Ken, who helped me get through the longest period of time that I have ever been on my feet by over 2 hours. It didn’t take me much longer to do the 3rd lap than the second, yet I thought I was losing a ton of time. Angela finished just under an hour after me. Hiro finished over 31 hours, but at least he finished. I felt bad for those who DNF’d. I know how that feels, having recently DNF’d a 100K race, related to the heat, nearby forest fire, and my asthma.

I took off my shoes and hung around talking to the other runners at the finish line. My feet looked great compared to some of the other runners. After 40 minutes, I went up to the hotel room to take a shower because I smelled pretty bad. But I couldn’t stay in the shower as long as I wanted to. My feet hurt too much to stand on. I got out as fast as I could and laid in bed with my feet up. We grabbed some dinner, went out to see more runners come in, went back to the hotel room where I slept briefly, ordered for some more food through room service, and finally retired for the night. I did not sleep well. My legs just ached.

The next morning, we attended the awards breakfast. The room was pretty packed. I had great fun! The breakfast was loaded with eggs, sausage, toast, and a large assortment of fruits. When I arrived into the room, Ken immediately pointed out that there was a poster on the wall of me running, along with all the other first female and male finishers of each distance. That was pretty cool to see this 18 X 24 inch poster of me. The photographer gave these posters to us for free and everyone got a 5 X 7 photo for free.

Everyone got a finisher’s award, which was a large river rock that had been sand-blasted with the distance they ran, their name, and their time. How cool is that to have a personalized finisher’s award? The top three age division runners (18-49 and 50+) received another award, also of a rock motif. That was exceptional as well. No cheap plastic award. I will treasure these unique mementos. The Lost Soul 100 mile was also the Canadian Championship race. Because I am not a Canadian citizen, Angela received that award. The MC apologized for that, but I replied, “It’s okay!” And it really was. I was pleased with everything I did receive for my accomplishments. I also ended up placing second in the “Alberta Triple.” Angela came in first since she ran the Canadian Death Race 125K in addition to Blackfoot 100K and this race. I had run only Lost Soul and Blackfoot, but since I won both of those, I had amassed enough points to claim second. I didn’t have to be a Canadian citizen for that. I will be receiving a specialized Montrail shirt for placing in the series. Very cool!

The rock that I received for finishing the 100 mile run weighed 36 pounds, which looked like one of the largest rocks that anyone received. There was much laughter when I went up to claim it. Here I was, probably the smallest runner out of all the finishers receiving one of the largest rocks. It was a hoot!

Ken and I drove home after the ceremonies, arriving at our house at 11:30pm. What an exhausting week-end. My feet still hurt so much that I had to sleep with them hanging over the edge of the bed. Otherwise, the rest of my legs felt fine, walking at least. We’ll see how they do at Cle Elum 50K this week-end.

So if you want to run in a well-organized race with lots of perks, such as the nice fleece shirt, unique finisher’s award, wonderful awards breakfast and don’t mind traveling the distance to run a very tough race, then think about signing up for the Lost Soul Ultra of any distance. Be prepared to test your physical and mental strengths.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Walk In the Park 54K


Drove to Kamloops, BC Saturday and stayed with Diane McKelvey, the same woman I stayed with for my trip to Blackfoot 100K. We had more time to chat and I found out that she is a vet who specializes in felines. She has four cats. I also met her son Alec, who at the age of 17, ran from Merritt to Kamloops, a 104K distance, in 2 days.

The race started at 7:45AM on Sunday, September 3. It was pretty warm already and the temps got into the upper 90s. We had to run 3 very difficult 11 mile loops. All told, there was 7700’ of elevation gain. The title for the race is a misnomer! It was definitely not a walk in the park! For those who have run at Lake Youngs, imagine that steep hill near the start but more technically challenging and about 50 of them for this entire run. It was craaaazy! Then add to that increasing warmth as the day goes on. I was soooo thirsty the entire run, even though I drank profusely. Everything tasted so good, except my Gatorade. But I wanted to make sure that I didn’t become hyponatremic, so that’s what I tried to drink mostly instead of water. At the last aid station with 7K to go, I downed a ton of water and Coke. I wanted to just stay there and drink and drink, but I had to get going. I passed a woman at the start of the second loop who finished the first loop before me, but she was fading fast. At the start of the third loop, she was quite a bit behind me, and I knew that all I needed to do to clinch third place was to keep moving forward. It took me 7 hours and 7 minutes. The first man was 6:12, followed by the first woman in 6:29, then the next woman with 6:55, then me. There were people there doing 1 and 2 laps. At the start, 30 runners had intended to do the whole thing, but when I left, 50% had what they call an honorable exit (HE), where they bailed after 1 or 2 loops. They don’t believe in DNFs there. Alec managed to finish 2 loops stating that he had not trained enough to run the whole thing. Boy, did I wish that I could have quit after two loops. By the third loop, my shins started to cramp. This was the only place that didn’t cramp at Eagle. I guess they felt left out and decided to cramp. That slowed me down enough that I couldn’t manage a sub-7hr finish. But no matter, I still came in 3rd woman to earn extra points for the Trophy Series. Plus, I have a 100 miler in 6 days. I needed to hold back a little. Maniac Al Harmon was there. He recently completed the Canadian Death 125K Race. I didn’t have time to stick around and see him finish, but it was good to see him. Diane finished despite little training after a torn meniscus in May.

This is low cost, low key event that I thoroughly enjoyed. Because it is in the Trail Runner Trophy Series, I decided to make the trip. The run itself would definitely beckon me to go back, but the distance to travel is significant. I was so wired after the run that I had no trouble with the 5 hour drive back home. Then I didn’t sleep a wink all night!