Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chilly Willy 100

November 7, 2009


Vernon, BC

I thought I was done with 100 mile races for the year. I had done Pac Rim 24 hr (108 miles), McNaughton 150 miles, Bighorn 100, Cascade 100, and Hundred in the Hood. I had planned on 6 but downgraded to 50 miles at Stormy after reports of 3 cougar attacks and didn't want to be out there alone at night in an unfamiliar place. But at Baker Lake 50K this year, Lorie Alexander told me about the 100 mile run she was putting on in her hometown of Vernon, BC. I told her that it was not likely. I had planned on running at Ron Herzog 50K, which I have done many times.

But then Jess Mullen emailed me and told me that she was planning on doing Chimera 100 down in CA in December. This got me craving for another 100 miler and I looked up Lorie's race on Club Fat Ass, a great group of Canadian runners who put together official events as well as what they call "Flash" events. Flash events can be put together by any member and posted on their web site. I am a Club Fat Ass member, and these events are free for members and non-members. They was usually minimally aided and no whining is permitted. I told Ken I wanted to do another long run. He rolled his eyes as usual. He said I was not allowed to hang out with Jess anymore. I emailed Jess and told her about my plans. I thought she could still run Chimera even if she did Chilly Willy, since they were over a month apart. It turned out that going to Chimera was not possible for her and she was interested in going with me. The only thing she needed to figure out was for someone to watch her dog Katie, since her husband Mike was going to be gone scuba diving for a week at the same time. When she was able to commit, I was excited. I love road trips, especially ones that involve exploring new running trails. Ken was worried that Jess and I would be too tired to make the 7 hr drive back home after being awake all night running. I told him we would take turns and stop to rest if needed. I did have to work the following Monday.

Two and a half weeks before the run, Jess called me all frantic. She had just rolled her foot doing of all things, jumping up and down to stay warm. She said she caught one foot on the other and rolled on to top of her right foot. Ken said that she really needed to work on her story and should say something like, "I was screaming down a steep techinical trail on the mountain and came around this corner where there was a big root and I went flying!" She had immediate pain and was hardly able to bear weight. She wanted to know what she should do. She had already called her doctor and was waiting to hear back. She had already elevated it and iced. I suggested getting an x-ray, taking anti-inflammatories, and not putting weight on it until she had gotten an x-ray. She thanked me and had to get on the other line, her doctor was calling her back. Fortunately, she didn't have a fracture but was just about to leave for Washington, DC for vacation and to run the Marine Corps Marathon. She had to give that up, but had a good time being a tourist with Mike and his family. She did have some painful days there but she was able to run at Carkeek 12 hour upon returning a few laps without it hurting her more. She felt she would be okay for Chilly Willy.

I picked up Jess on Friday at noon at her home, since she was on the way up to Canada. I had packed all my food for the race and gotten some Pagliacci pizza (a very common staple when I went to school at UW) and some sushi. I ate the sushi for lunch and had a piece of pizza for dinner. I had two pieces of pizza left to eat for the race in addition to Quaker chocolate chip granola bars, GU, bacon, Pringles, and other foods. It was pouring when we left Jess' place and even hailed very hard. But by the time we got to Everett, the weather improved. We stopped at a Haggen store in Bellingham and I got some Chinese Sesame Noodles, which was heavenly and wished I had gotten more. We went through the border at Sumas and got a strange look from our guard when we told her our plan was to run 100 miles.

Jess took over the driving after I had been at it for 3 hours. That was just about when we went over the Coquihalla pass at 4000ft with compact snow and temps down to 34. Trucks were pulled over for chaining up. Jess drove well over this section and my husband's Pathfinder performed well. It even has heated seats! We filled up on gas in Merritt and went over another pass, this one in the dark but bare and dry. There had been snow earlier and it was on the trees and the median, but none on the road. The temps dropped to 26 degrees on this pass. Jess continued to drive well. We reached Kelowna, where Karl Jensen, another Club Fat Ass member who lives in North Vancouver, BC, was staying with his brother. We stopped to buy some water for the run, since there was going to be minimal aid. Finally we got to Lorie's after 7pm. Barry Hopkins was crashing there too. He planned on running 50K because he had been injured for a while now. I had brought cots and thick Thermarests, but Lorie had a twin bed, which Jess slept on, and I slept on an inflatable mattress. Lorie showed us the route for the run on a map. It consisted of a 14K big loop and a 10K small loop. There was going to be about 16,000+ elevation gain. We anticipated 7 big loops and 6 small loops. Jess and I knew we had to get done as soon as possible so that we could hit the road or get some sleep before leaving. We asked Lorie if it would be okay for us to do one big loop before the 8am start. She said okay as long as we got back by 8 to start with everyone else. She had already marked the trail. We planned to start at 5:45am just in case we got lost and needed a cushion. Lorie said she'd join us if she is up by then, but she was pretty tired. Content, Jess and I headed for bed. That's when I realized that I brought my hydration pack but not the bladder. I did bring hand held water bottles as back up but didn't want to carry anything in my hands, especially at night. Jess almost brought a spare bladder but didn't and neither Lorie nor Barry had an extra. I was really bummed and kinda was stressing a little about it over what my plan would be. I didn't want to carry two bottles. I decided that I would wear my hydration pack, carry one bottle, and have the other in my pack to switch. That way, I also had front pockets to carry food and other gear. I planned on two water bottles for the big loop and one on the small loop.

Both Jess and I had fairly good night's sleep. We awoke at 5am and were outa there by 5:35. We got to the trailhead, only 2K from Lorie's house and found Daniel Probst of Bellingham sleeping in his car. He had driven most of the night after working. He stepped out to say hi to us but was not prepared to join us on the first loop. The temp was 36. Jess and I were both wearing shorts, hers was a little longer and came to above her knees. I had a beanie, short sleeve with arm warmers, gloves, and a shell jacket. I was comfortable wearing my shell for two loops. At first I thought I left my Suunto watch that went with my foot pod at home but it was already in my pack. I thought, oh no, not another thing forgotten! We started on the High Rim trail on single track right away. After about 50 yards, we encountered tumbleweed on the trail. I picked one up and tossed it aside. Then there was another and another! Soon, I was not even able to see the trail because there were clumps so thick it was crazy. We both freaked out that this was going to last forever. We found that it only lasted for about a 1/4 mile, but we didn't know that while we were running in it. It slashed up our legs pretty good though. Nice way to start. We ran along the fence that bordered someone's farm and we got to run past some really healthy and strong looking cows on later loops. Jess' hand held light was not working well. She scolded herself for packing in a rush and not putting in fresh batteries. It gave her enough light until the sun came up.

Soon, we encountered our first very steep but short hill. I could see that if this was wet, it would be a slipping and sliding mess. After reaching the top, it continued to climb gradually. I was running this because I felt we got behind in time at the tumbleweeds, but Jess reminded me that this was a hill and I slowed to a power hike. We had planned on running the entire 100 miles together and walking all the hills, no matter how slight. Next thing we knew, we were running downhill. It was a little techinical but not too severe. We ran along this for another quarter mile until we took a turn onto the Bear Valley trail. This was double track with a comfortable grade downhill for about 1/2 a mile. Then we crossed a gravel road and continued running downhill at a similar grade for another 1/2 mile on the Cosens Bay Trail. In later loops, these two combined trails took it's toll on me because I had to force myself to run it even in my tired state. I felt I had to take advantage of the downhill. When we reached the Cosens Bay trail, it was starting to get light out and Jess and I marveled at the view we were heading towards to Cosens Bay. At times, the wind was blowing pretty hard in this section. That trail ended down at the beach, where there we two nice outhouses. We took a right turn, ran on a trail next to the beach for about 100 yards then started climbing. It was not techinical and a small portion did level out and was runnable. But there were about 4 switchbacks and it climbed about 1000ft over 3/4 mile. We took our time, ate and drank. We were still getting spectacular views of the bay. We topped out and ran along easy footing double track for about another mile away from the bay before making a sharp left turn down some single track. We crossed a paved road and picked up the trail again for a short jaunt through a little more technical trail down to the beach again.

We ran a short section of beach, got back on a double track, easy footing trail that ran next to the water and runnable. A short section later, we made another turn up to a short section of road next to more nice outhouses, down to the beach again, then back on double track next to the water. We hit the end of the trail and scrambled up a steep but short technical rocky trail. This was more often than not a very windy spot because of its exposure, but very beautiful here with the water below and mountains across the water. After topping out, we ran down some technical rocky trail before getting back on easy double track that included rolling, down, and up (again next to the lake and gorgeous) before me made a turn back onto the trail that we switchbacked up before. The section before the switchbacks was the hardest for me later in the run for this part of the loop. We ran down the switchbacks and turned onto Sidewinder trail that was a rolling single track with some slight uphills that took its toll as well. We crossed a couple roads, a bridge, and the final road before heading back to the start on another section of Cosens Bay Trail. This trail was out in a big prairie area and was a different environment, but also very beautiful. It got very cold here at night. It climbed gradually for about half a mile, topped out, and descended to th parking lot for about another 1/2 mile. It took us 1hr55 minutes to finish that first 14K (8.6mi) loop.

There was a crowd of about 12 people, which included relay runners, when we got back. I immediately put on my robe (many of you have seen me come to training runs in my robe-it looks funny but is the best!). Everyone thought it was a great idea, especially Jess as she shivered waiting for the run to start in another 15 minutes at 8am. We took a group picture. Jess and I loaded up for another long loop so that we could run with everyone else. We told Lorie we loved the trail and views. But we warned them of the tumbleweeds in the first part. Lorie said it was clear a couple days ago when she marked it, but it had been windy during the night. Lorie wanted to join us for the long loop but started after us and ran a short loop instead. After everyone signed in, we started, me, Jess, Karl, Dan, Lorie, Barry, and a couple of relay runners? We did a little trail work at the tumbleweed section. Jess and I had to pee and lost the group. We caught them much later in the loop.

We got back to the finish and the relay runners group cheered us on. Their group was getting larger as more runners showed up. They looked cheerful and warm in their down jackets. They had set up a couple of nice tents with food, lights at night, hot soup, hot dogs, and all kinds of treats! The smaller loop started with the last 3/4 mile of the first loop, so up for about 1/2 mile then down for about 1/4 mile before turning onto a trail that was rocky and took us up 1000ft in in about 1/2 a mile. This was a lung buster. It took us up to the ridge where it was often windy before it wound down the Comin Round the Mountain Trail. This was single track for a little over a mile, slightly technical before we hit a gravel road, where we climbed to more single track, which was runnable, back briefly on the road, back on single track then the rest of the way back on the road up and down (mostly down) back to the parking area. This turned out to be 9K instead of 10K and necessitated us to do 7 loops each of the big and small to give us 100.1 miles for the run. This loops was one of the few times that all of us solo runners would be together.

We loaded up again and headed out for big loop #3. A couple times because I had my hydration pack on, I forgot to grab my water bottles. Fortunately, I would realize that not far from the car. It was on this loop that my back started hurting. This has become pretty routine for me no matter what pace I go out, fast or slow. It does hurt more if I go out fast. But I felt we were not pushing the pace and I still was hurting. I do know that up and down is more of a factor than the pace. We ran with Lorie some of this loop and she told us about her Javelina 100 run. She kicked a cactus plant with one foot into the ankle of the other. It logded into her and caused terrible pain, especially when she tried to walk on it as the barbs on the cactus thorns dug and twisted. Another runner and her tried to pull it off with sticks or whatever they could get to grab it without their hands. But nothing worked. Fortunately, a hiker who frequented the trails happened on them and had a pair of pliers. He said the only thing that can remove those thorns were pliers. He removed 28 of them Lorie said. I think she said she went on to finish 100K but Barry's family had health issues and she stopped to be with him. Lorie is shooting for 52 Fifty milers in a year. She is on track and plans on completing her quest.

Jess and I started small loop #2 with my back killing me. She was having problems of her own too. Her right foot that she rolled was talking to her but in addition, she was having plantar fasciitis problems in that same foot. We hiked up the steep hill, which made my back worse. For some reason, we decide to do another short loop after this one to even out our count of 3 loops each of big and small. The consecutive short loops did us both in. My back was on the verge of spasming and Jess's IT band at the knee was starting to flare up, something she had not dealt with for over 2 years, the last time being at Where's Waldo where it flared up early in the race at 30 miles. It took her two weeks to get over it. Here it was flaring up not long after the 50K mark and we had so far to go. I finally decided to take one ibuprofen pill, something I avoid at all costs. But I was peeing a lot and just had some solid food. We both agreed that doing two short loops made our problems worse. There is quite a bit of downhill in that small loop and that usually will aggravate IT band and back problems.

So we got back to the parking lot and had 3 long and short loops each under our belts. It was time to grab a flashlight for the next long loop. I put on capris. This was one of our longer stops. We headed out and I started to notice that my back was not killing me. Was it the long stop or the ibuprofen or slowing down as the sun was setting? Who knows. I was just glad I was feeling better. Jess' IT band continued to get worse, however, where every step on a down was jabbing pain. I briefly had the same problem about mile 20, but thankfully, it went away. I also had some shin pain that came and went. The route is overall pretty runnable, with lots of downhill running mixed in with short, steep ups. This is a recipe for disaster if you have IT band pain. We were about 1/3 through our loop when we needed to turn on our lights. Jess had put in new batteries, but her light was very faint. She did not understand why. Were her replacement batteries old? I thought maybe the bulbs in her flashlight were wearing out. She had that light for over 2 years. There were parts of the trail where it was smooth double track and I could shine my light for both of us to run. But there were enough areas with single track that it was impossible. Running behind Jess didn't work because the shadow that my light casted was annoying for her. So she tried to stay close behind me but still stumbled along. She was pretty mad at herself. I noticed that her breathing was getting more labored too. We finally made it to the end, now over half done.

Jess had already made up her mind before we finished that loop that she wanted me to hook up with the other runners even if it meant that I ran another long loop again. She was planning on doing two short loops to give her over 100K. I asked her if she was sure, and she was. She knew that she would be moving too slow for me. I didn't have to wait too long for the others to come back from their short loop and joined them for a long one. Jess headed out on her own for a short loop, bundled up in case she was moving very slowly. I got more food and caught up with Karl, Lorie, Dan, and Barry, who was I don't know where in his mileage. He ran some in the morning but didn't finish his 50K then. Perhaps he was finishing it off now. I asked Dan how he was feeling, and he said pretty good. So we hooked up and ran ahead. I was still feeling okay and my back didn't protest at our pace, which I felt was faster than I wanted to go but I didn't want to lose Dan and run by myself. He was always a few steps ahead of me. I was content to just let him lead and keep him in my sites. We ran all the down, flats, and some of the gradual inclines.

I noticed that on the steep upill techinical climbs, he was swaying back and forth. I asked him if he had trouble with night vision. He said no. It was all the caffeine he had taken to stay awake for the drive up and for running in the night. Caffeine affects his balance. Did it ever! I was worried he was going to fall of the trail or cliff or back onto me! But somehow, he was able to get to the top of these climbs without toppling over. We talked about how his shoes froze at Arrowhead 135mile run when the temps dipped to 27 below. He is a pretty strong runner, finishing well before me at Cascade. I knew I would have to work hard to stay with him and was worried that my slower pace would make him get cold. But we were moving along well. It was only when we stopped at the end of each loop that I really got cold.

We got to the parking lot and I saw Jess. She was done. Her breathing was really difficult and she didn't think she could make another climb up the steep section in the short loop. She said it took her forever to finish that loop.She ended up with 57+ miles, a huge disappointment for her. I felt bad for leaving her. I just imagined her mind going back and forth on that last short loop of whether to continue for one more, but when you can't breath, there is not much you can do. I've been there before. My first DNF was at Where's Waldo in 2006 because I couldn't breathe, and I had to be hauled off the mountain on horseback. Actually, I could have made it down on foot, as long as I was going downhill instead of up higher. That was quite an experience. Jess kept consoling herself by saying she had a great year of running and was bound to have a difficult one, but that doesn't always make things better.

I was getting really cold and decided to put on my windproof pants over my capris. Jess cheered me on as we started our short loop. Again Dan swayed around on the climb but moved strongly on the rest. I overheated on the climb and was almost regretting the wind pants but was thankful to have them for the rest of the run. I was comfortable in them for the remainder of the night when it got very cool, especially in the valleys. We made it back in decent time. Each time I got to the parking lot, I would put on my robe and eat something substantial, which was often a hearty soup by the relay runners. Jess was there and told me that they were going to pack up soon and not to expect them at the end of my next loop. I was so bummed. Seeing a tent with lights and people really kept me motivated. Jess was going to catch a ride back to the house with Barry, shower, and try to get some sleep. She planned on being back before I finished.

Now I had finished 5 big loops and 4 small loops. Dan and I headed out on the big loop, but I slowed down some more. Still, we kept moving. He told me about the Bear 100. He seems to like the challenging one. Bear 100 scares me. It's the altitude (and bears). I've done Bighorn 100 twice and struggled in both because of the altitude. We talked some, but mostly just ran in silence, which was okay with me. I didn't have much energy to talk and my breathing was starting to get more labored as my asthma got worse with the cold air I was breathing. My IT bands on both sides started to ache but did not prevent me from running the downhills. I had some hot spots but my feet have been worse. The bottoms of my feet were really starting to get fatigued. My back was still cooperating but started to feel our urgent pace. We both wanted to get this run done as soon as possible.

Another loop done, except this time, the parking lot was empty. This was discouraging. I grabbed some food and went to sit in the car to eat, thinking that Dan was going to take some time again to get ready to go back out. Next thing I know, he is standing outside my door. He wanted to get going because if he didn't, he was tempted to just crawl into the back of his truck and go to sleep. So I quickly stuffed the food into my pack pockets, took off my robe, and started up the trail with him. After the end of this short loop, I only had one long loop and two short loops to go. I spent about 14 hours of the run in the dark. The night seemed to last forever.

I started the last long loop optimistic, checking off for the last time each section of the trail. But I hit a low spot about halfway through and started to have negative thoughts like, so what if I didn't finish? I was tired, cold, unable to keep my eating up enough to create heat, and just wanted to stop. I told Dan that I was thinking of stopping after this loop and call it a day at about 89 miles. He would not have any of it. He was going to get me through the last 2 short loops, end of story. He said I would feel better when the sun came up.

We finished my last long loop and I didn't dilly-daddle at the car. I needed to just keep moving. Dan offered me his halogen head lamp, that literally lit up the entire parking area, but I told him that I didn't want to wear anything on my head anymore and prefered to just use my hand held for the next half hour before the sun came up. I felt bad. It look like he spent some time getting it ready for me and I declined it. As we were finishing this loop, Dan wanted to know if I wanted him to come with me in the last loop. I knew I wanted his company, since he kept me motivated to keep moving and made me feel safer, but that would mean that he would have to run by himself one last final loop rather than hook up with Karl. He wanted to help me finish.

We came into the parking lot and Jess was there. It took us 1hr38min to do that loop so I told her I'd be back about then. I dropped my hydration pack finally, took off my wind pants, ditched my I-pod, grabbed a bottle and 4 GUs. We booked along and I was running much more of the trail after the climb. Dan ran ahead realizing that I was running more now. I looked at my watch and realized that I could come under 27 hours and decided to push it. We were finishing our last 1.5 miles when a couple of women ran past me on one of the longer inclines with me walking. They reached the top and stopped to stretch. Dan casually dropped the fact that I was finishing 100 miles. I could hear them say OMG! So when I reached the top, I said to Dan, "Let's finish this!" and we took off downhill. I was sprinting now, but there were some little hills still to go. I started coughing from my asthma, realizing I was a little premature in my sprint. But I kept looking at my watch and knew I had to keep going. Dan had really taken off. I saw him kicking up his heels before he disappeared out of my sight. Finally, I saw the final turn and ran in to give Dan a hug. Jess was nowhere to be seen. We finished that loop in 1:21, so a lot earlier than I told Jess. Dan was right. I was glad to finish the 100 miles rather than stopping short at 89 miles. I jotted down my time and got into someone's heated van to change into my clothes. Just as I was coming out of the van, Lorie came in. She finished just a couple minutes behind me.

Dan took his own sweet time before heading out for his final long loop. He hadn't left by the time I left and Lorie told me he still hadn't left by the time she got back to her house and I had already showered. My time was 26:56, Lorie 26:58, Dan 27:03, and Karl 27:38. Even though we all ran within 45 minutes of each other, we all finished at different times in the day since Lorie and I started early on different loops and Dan stayed with me when was finishing, doing 2 small loops back to back. Karl has a goal of his own and wants to finish twelve 100 milers this year. So he is putting on a fat ass event the weekend of November 21st, but I told him Ken's brother was coming to town from Alaska and I would not be able to make it. Besides, that one is even worse with one 10K loop. I would get too dizzy!

I stayed on top of eating and drinking as best as I could. Admittedly, I started the run low on calories since Jess and I got up early and I didn't really have a breakfast. I had a small granola bar and spent a good part of the next few hours trying to catch up. I tried eating less GU and more solid food, and that worked okay until the end when I needed calories fast and GU was able to provide me with that. Backing off on the GU meant less caffeine, and I peed less but enough to know I was well hydrated (pretty much 1-2 times an hour and clear). I had left over pizza, which was good. I went through 12 granola bars. I took a Succeed every hour. I had bacon. I used hand warmers. The weather was completely dry-no rain or snow. My shoes stayed dried unless I was not able to control my urine stream. I had no stomach problems. I brushed my teeth at 30 miles and 60 miles and they were not sensitive after the run. So the run went pretty well except the mental challenge of running multiple loops.

Here are my loop splits:

Big loop (14K=8.7mi)
Loop 1=1:55 (night and day)
Loop 2=1:55 (day)
Loop 3=2:06 (day)
Loop 4=2:26 (day and night-Jess' light low)
Loop 5=2:20 (night)
Loop 6=2:41 (night)
Loop 7=2:56 (night)

Small loop (9K=5.6mi)
Loop 1=1:16 (day)
Loop 2=1:17 (day)
Loop 3=1:32 (day, clothing change)
Loop 4=1:39 (night)
Loop 5=1:51 (night)
Loop 6=1:38 (night and day)
Loop 7=1:21 (day)

We stayed and chatted for a little but hit the road as soon as we could. Jess and I grabbed some food. I also had my leftover Chinese Sesame Noodle-heavenly! She drove most of the way home as I passed in and out of consciousness. I only drove for an hour after we made a rest stop to the border and then to Bellingham. She then drove the rest of the way home-thank goodness she was there! I was glad I was able to grab some sleep. Taking a Celebrex kept the pain tolerable. After dropping Jess off at her house, I drove home with an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Somehow I was able to stay awake. I got home at 7pm, much earlier than Ken had expected me to be home. He was worried I'd come home at like 3am and have to get up to work. It helped that we were able to run an early loop and that Jess was able to drive most of the way after having been able to get little but some sleep after she finished. I know she would have rather finished 100 miles and be exhausted.

I had a full night's sleep and was in surgery for 13 hours the next day. Fortunately, I was not needed in the clinic on Tuesday and had my normal day off Wednesday, allowing me to catch up on rest. But I did go for a nice run at Cougar with Mary Hanna, Dean Kaylor, and Allison Moore for 11 miles. I felt pretty darn good. This was followed by another good run with Heather Nugent for 9+ miles at Lake Youngs on Friday and 17+ miles with the Seattle Running Company at Cougar on Sunday. I think my recovery went just fine!

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